Something struck me for the umpteenth time when watching the BBC’s News at Ten a few nights ago.
Tennis star (we are using that term reluctantly) and vaccine hesitant Novak Djokovic’s one-man battle against the Australian Government was the top story brought to us by Huw Edwards.
The evening saw a piece on how the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, set against a montage of clips showing the devastating global effects of climate change during that period, bumped into third place.
That’s right. Further evidence of the single biggest threat to the future of our planet played third fiddle to a story about a Serbian man trying to enter a country on the other side of the world to play only the world’s fourth most popular sport (and we say that as tennis players ourselves).
We have had the same thought many times when listening to or reading the news in recent years and it reminded us of a quote from Meryl Streep’s character in the new Netflix film ‘Don’t Look Up’, which uses the threat of an approaching asteroid to parallel and satirise the real world’s approach to the climate emergency. In the film her character, the chain-smoking President Orlean, says: “You cannot go around saying to people that there’s 100% chance that they’re gonna die.”
An article discussing the film, that we read last week, listed the five biggest challenges we face in tackling the climate emergency. Number two was: “Disturbing realities, as described by scientists, are too difficult for the public to accept.”
People don’t want to hear bad news, many would argue. Yet, for the best part of two years we have endured little else, but faced things head on, shown a remarkable resilience and pursued solutions to the many challenges faced. “We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth,” Sir David Attenborough proclaimed at COP 26 in November.
As long as broadcasters and news editors continue to push the climate emergency down the agenda, so too will everyone else. Our collective response to the mounting threat we all face is akin to repeatedly hitting snooze on the bearer of bad news many of us call an alarm clock.
Right now, for many, the issue simply feels too big to accept or to process. So it gets filed away somewhere in the brain, in between doing the weekly food shop and going for a run.
However, not so long ago the same would probably have been said about a global pandemic that has disrupted every aspect of our daily lives and sadly contributed to the deaths of 5.5 million people. Way back during a fun-filled Christmas (remember those?) in 2019, who would have thought that leaving your home more than once per day or sitting on a park bench were soon to become illegal?
Similarly, who would have anticipated the incredible unity and compassion that the majority of people in this country have demonstrated or the herculean efforts of so many NHS and frontline workers, at times faced with the impossible.
As Sir David went onto say at COP26, humans have “the impetus we need to rewrite our story” in order to “turn this tragedy into a triumph.” Time will tell whether we sit up and listen and seize that opportunity or if our story goes on to look more like the script of a Hollywood disaster film.
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