Climate Agonistes

‘The world is in a mess, politics and taxes and people grinding axes, no happiness; zoom, zoom, zoom.’  Slap That Bass, performed by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film, Shall We Dance.

Like most people I’ve been zooming about like a rocket; on screen life-drawing, portrait painting, church and neighbour meetings, and as like many middle-class women I’d like to save the rainforest, when I saw a local group offering discussion on how to ’make a difference’ to the planet, I decided to join in. The host was woman about to get her PhD from a respectable university with a thesis on, ‘The effect of Climate Change on the emotions.’

In a nearly half hour peroration she didn’t offer a single fact, not on green-house gasses or dying coral, instead asserted that the public are not involved with fighting climate change, ‘because of their grief.’

‘Yeh,’ she said, frequently, ‘Yeh, grief about climate change reminds them of other griefs, so they can’t face it.’

Based on her research with ‘Green’ groups she aims to create, ‘mindfulness-based interventions,’ and ‘Grief tending,’ through ‘co-counselling and ‘Buddhist and mindfulness practises.’

The Buddhism was described with the old platitude of changing oneself to change the world. Using the wonders of new technology, we broke up into small groups to consider our, ‘Gratitude,’ and for, ‘owning and honouring the pain of the world,’ so that we could all, ‘Alchemise that sense of loss into passion and deep determination.’

We were also warned against the perils of ‘burn out.’ This is something terrible that happens if you get too determined or too hurt by your commitment to, ‘Trauma informed practices,’ such as climate action.

 ‘Yeh, there is a really need for safety when you explore Climate Change,’ she told us, nothing to do with the Yanomami tribe being murdered by the Brazilian government in its drive to tear up the rainforest for mining and cattle farming, but about ‘being kind to yourself,’ by not getting too upset by the emotions you may feel in your ‘group research’ into how thinking about climate change makes you feel. 

‘You must pull back from even inklings of burn out,’ she warned.

Was this discipline sociology, psychology, surprisingly she said it was, ‘Human Geography.’ Boring old geog, where we learned about rivers, towns and coastal erosion, once taught by men with leather arm-patches and egg stained ties, has been transformed.

In school and university regional geography has been replaced by emotive, ‘critical’ or ‘radical geography,’ even ‘feminist’ or ‘cultural geography’ aiming to provide explanations rather than factual description, studied without detachment and objectivity, which have been called ‘a tool of capital.’

Touchy, feely and kind they may be, but these geographers have an agenda. The soon to be doctor believes that there are not a lot of Greta Thunbergs about, not because of economic deprivation, poor education, or different political views, but because ‘no one has enough collective agency.’

Our Zoom group agreed that ‘our whole system’ has to change, firstly to end the unpleasant confrontational nature of parliamentary debate. No more shouting. She wants ‘Members of Parliament using ‘Mindfulness’ in the chamber instead.

Considering the economic forces now busy destroying the planet, these ideas seemed as useful to me as putting on a cardigan for world peace. But it’s sadly the campaign to save the planet is dominated by the Left and the new culture where objectivity has been replaced by emotion.

‘This is a very dangerous situation,’ said a young woman on BBC Radio 4 this week. Was she speaking about the virus in UK care-homes, the imminent collapse of the economy, the North Pole moving four times faster than it ever has before, or the burning of the Brazilian rain-forest? No.

‘People can no longer hug each other,’ she warned grimly, believing that an essential mechanism for our survival has been stripped away by ‘social distancing.’

This was followed by another report about the soothing hymn, Abide with Me. We were told that it’s very important at cup finals because singing has always been, ‘The only way that working class men could show emotion, hug and touch each other,’ as they were obviously desperate to do.

Showing emotion as an act of respectability even mental health, first emerged with the death of Princess Diana. Suddenly it was not just good to blub, it was obligatory if you were a decent ‘feeling’ person. It’s now de rigueur to well up. Interviews with public figures usually have that little pause where the interviewee almost breaks down and says, ‘excuse me. Sorry,’ before pressing on through tears. Even blasé, Humbug hating Boris did this recently describing his struggle against the virus. In public life only the Queen has held onto her stiff-upper lip, only letting it wobble in 1994, on seeing her holiday home, the Royal yacht Britannia being put out of action.

To object to any of this is as taboo as calling someone a foreigner; it just ain’t done anymore. Belief in the morality of showing emotion has now invaded almost every area of our lives and must be one of the biggest cultural changes in the last fifty years. We now have a drug culture and the hug culture; if people are not weeping, clapping or singing together there must be something wrong with them. The BBC has just set up a national movement, with over a hundred musicians to encourage people to ‘Get creative,’ not to perform exquisite music but to get everyone in the country to sing ‘You Got the Love,’ a 1986 disco hit.

There is no area now free of this. In the arts it’s called inclusiveness and collaboration, both widely seen as female characteristics. There are no more lonely artists in garrets pursuing an individual vision, their work will only win applause and funding if it’s seen to be collaborative; one of the virtues cited for sending Sonia Boyce to last year’s Venice Biennale. Anyone entering art school must show the collaborative nature of their work. Rodin used to hug his models, these days he’d be restricted to kissing other sculptors.

Ironically the true leader of all this touchy-feely radicalism is Donald Trump who has set up an economic model based on emotionalism and spontaneity; short term, trigger reactions that feel good and right at the moment of feeling without any analysis based on fact. His emotions and impulses based largely on greed, may not please middle-class tree huggers but are literally meat and drink to the people who want ready meals in buckets and corn-syrup with everything. The kind of people that the soon to be doctor and her followers never meet.

That’s the trouble with the emotions, everyone has them, even people you don’t like. People who ditch objectivity and reason may see ugly emotion spiralling out of control, and perhaps one day there may be a national crisis when we will need rational, incisive, organised minds to help us all stay alive; let’s just hope that never happens.

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15 Comments on Climate Agonistes

  1. To add to my comment ‘from what I can gather, there is actually more forest cover worldwide now than there was in the 1980’s’ I refer interested persons to a 2018 study in the journal ‘Nature’: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0411-9
    This does not mean to say that I think deforestation in the Amazon is not a serious problem, and my main point was that it is not correct to make sweeping and simplistic statements of blame, when it is a very complex issue.

    • I don’t agree that ‘blame is a complex issue’. That sounds like the kind of phrase used by the Left to excuse crime and criminals.

  2. In the 19th century, men objected to women getting an education because they considered them too emotional and illogical to do objective science. The modern “lady novelist” – or rather PhD – seems hell-bent on proving them right after all.

  3. Following on from Rafael Riani’s comment, I would also take issue with accusing the Brazilian government of murdering the Yanomami tribe ‘in its drive to tear up the rainforest for mining and cattle farming’. This is a very generalising and potentially misleading statement, and the subject is far from being black and white. The deforestation question is also not as clear cut as many seem to believe. From what I can gather, there is actually more forest cover worldwide now than there was in the 1980’s. There is much nonsense in the mainstream media about this, sometimes even with the best of intentions.

    • But who can deny the terrible damage being done to the Amazonian rainforest? Surely we’re not expected to believe it’s a hoax?
      As for ‘increased forest cover worldwide’ – even if true – that is an entirely different matter.

  4. I’m Brazilian and I really feel curious to know where this lady received the information that the national government is killing Indians. The Brazilian left has spent the last 20 years surrounding indigenous areas to call their own, the current government has given back the freedom that the Indians have always asked for. It would be better to question what the true intentions of those who spread these lies around the world would be. This type of mechanistic mentality harms the Indians who can no longer bear to live as museum ornaments.

    • My knowledge of the state of the Brazilian rainforest and its inhabitants is confined, I admit, to what I hear and read in the British media. That said, there seems little doubt that vast areas of the rainforest has been, and is being, destroyed. Within a generation it will all be gone, and the life of the various Indian tribes whose home it used to be will have vanished. Therefore, Jane Kelly is, all sophistry aside, surely quite correct.

      • Is your knowledge of Brazilian forests confined to what you read in the media and, at the same time, is the author certainly correct? The truth is what is convenient for many.

        • Your reply is difficult to decipher and sounds like the sophistry I mentioned.
          So – does the Brazilian rainforest stand unharmed? Yes or no?

        • Rafael Riani
          Your only qualification to opine on this matter appears to be your pompous declaration, ” I’m Brazilian”, accompanied by a moody looking photograph. (“It’s all about me”). Are you sure this is the right forum for you?