In response to a rather cynical article by Catherine Beard published in the Dominion Post, Robyn Maclolm has replied with the following article pubished in the same paper this morning. Go Robyn!
Celeb, mum and kiwi speaks out
By Robyn Malcolm, actress and Sign On Ambassador
I was interested to read Catherine Beard's article discussing the support given by well-known New Zealanders to Greenpeace's Sign On Campaign.
Sign On is a campaign aimed at allowing New Zealanders to get behind our Government at the international climate talks in Copenhagen in December; the ultimate goal being that John Key commits to a 40 percent by 2020 emissions reduction target. This target is not a Greenpeace target, as implied by Beard. It's a target based on what the world's leading climate scientists tell us is necessary if we're to avoid runaway warming of the planet and generally unknown territory.
I am one of this group of celebrities. Beard lumps us together as if we're one and the same. The simple fact is that we are just a group of Kiwis - business people, chefs, mothers, actors and scientists - who all care deeply about the country and world in which we live and were prepared to use our profiles to attract attention to this campaign.
Beard states the obvious: that celebrities are not physicists or politicians. But she goes too far in implying that we lack any intelligent sense of the argument we're backing. Her bid to label us as big consumers and big spenders in order to discredit the campaign is a predictable cheap shot.
This part of Beard's article has nothing to do with the science or the campaign itself, which is surely the issue. It strikes me that I could respond with similar cynicism and say that here is someone representing the industrial sector on climate issues taking a swipe at the Sign On campaign because we've made some useful noise around it . Let's face it; industry and emissions reductions sit cautiously with one another.
Beard asks if celebrities have thought how to reach the 40 by 2020 target. I cannot speak for the others, but yes I have, as have many thoughtful concerned Kiwis. The figure proposed is a challenging and ambitious one. Beard uses the word unrealistic. This is a matter of perspective. In my view it is unrealistic and arrogant to disregard scientifically undeniable facts: that the planet is heating up faster than we thought, and we haven't even begun to reduce emissions, let alone by the required amount.
Obama didn't win his election with " No we can't". Martin Luther King didn't begin one of the most famous speeches in history with "I had a dream...but it was a bit unrealistic". Beard is right, we do have serious issues to contend with: the fact that agriculture and transport account for a huge amount of our emissions, and that other areas are simply not big enough to make a huge impact. My understanding is that if we reduce our use of coal, gas and oil products by 50% our emissions drop by about 25%. So it's not an easy task but it is imperative that we try.
At the core of Beard's argument (and at the core of most "no we can't" arguments) is a resistance to accepting and acknowledging the unthinkable: that the globe is in far greater trouble than we thought and that not only we do have to look at what car we drive, but how we all live and function as a whole. She says with regards to celebrities: "Are they really prepared to give up all air travel, sell the second car and the second property?" She's being glib and cynical once again of course, but this is surely a question for all of us to consider and ask of ourselves seriously; what are we prepared to give up?
By committing to meaningful emission reduction targets we are committing to changing our lives. I am reminded of the powerful image in Al Gore's film of the set of scales with the earth on one side and the bar of gold on the other. The point being made by Greenpeace in this campaign, most leading scientists across the world, and increasingly by politicians is that this is not an easily achieved goal and it's not a comfortable one. But we have no choice; we have to find the balance and the time to prevaricate is over.
I do what I can: I've consciously reduced my energy consumption around the home in a range of ways, I've insulated well, I heat my water with solar, I drive a small hybrid car (incidentally if more people invested in them, demand would increase supply and there would be more around, contrary to Beard's prediction) and I'm always looking for ways to reduce my personal footprint. But these days as a voting New Zealander the most important thing I can do is lobby the government to legislate and represent us well on the world stage. Governments now have the unenviable and old-fashioned task of leading from the front on climate change, and in some cases risking their survival in office by introducing tough and unpopular legislation.
Finally Beard seems to have an issue with the fact that celebrities speak about wanting to preserve the resources we enjoyed for our children and grandchildren.
Not being a scientist or a politician, I cannot speak like a scientist or a politician. But I can speak as a mother and a Kiwi. It seems to me that preserving our world so our children may enjoy it is as about as meaningful as it gets isn't it?