Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reflecting on No Impact Man Q&A at Wild and Scenic Film Festival

Colin Beavan is here for the festival, and spoke this morning in our City Council chambers about his book, his approach and his experiences interacting with the public.

He is a very appealing man, with a very appealing speaking style - in that he doesn't have one, he just talks to us, and not from a one-up position, it's as if he doesn't have an ounce of social dominance in him. And it's clear that his unassuming attitude, his disinterest in conflict, lets him touch people that head-butters can't.

(But in large part I think that this is because personal-action folks don't pose a threat to the fossil fuel status quo; I'm pretty sure if he became one, their PR machines could mount as effective an offense against him as they've done against others.)

His message: that the no-impact lifestyle enriched his family's life; that he's not encouraging people to be like him, he's encouraging them to be like his wife Michelle, who was willing to explore and be open to the journey; that the goal isn't to move forward not making mistakes, it's to act and to try.

But he was uncomfortably naive about the opposition, saying his blog was "one of the few places" where the commenters still argued about the reality of climate change; and he viewed it as a good thing, that they were doing so.

he's such a sweet guy, with such an appealing story, that you hate to tell him he's wrong, or throw spanners in the mental works. He'd fit in well here in Nevada City.

Qs I would have liked to ask - or rather, Qs I'd like to know the answers to:

* how he reconciles his encouragement to others to take personal carbon-footprint action, with the harsh reality of single-action bias - i.e., that the personal action risks being taken at the expense of the actions that are most needed, namely getting people clued in about the threat we're up against and about the curtailment of freedoms that we're laying in place, if we keep putting off the creditors. (and that what's most needed is govt regulations to shift the economic playing field to encourage&reward desirable actions.)

* whether it's more effective - in terms of shifting the cultural amoeba - to try to reach and redirect someone who's at the leading fringe of a pseudopod headed toward amoebic disaster, or whether it's better to cut your losses & marginalize his actions, tag them as alien/harmful/socially-deviant, immunize the rest of the amoeba against them - and perhaps even set him up as a stereotype of social undesirability.

(This being, of course, something that Beavan would never do...but I have a feeling something much like it sits in the pro-disaster folks' toolbox, showing signs of wear.)


Don Pelton said...

You would probably have enjoyed the session an hour later in the same room, conducted by the Global Exchange folks. Their view of the obstacles to change is completely clear-eyed and realistic.

Among many many other things, Kevin Danaher said, "The lesson of Copenhagen is that the solution will not come from on top."

He got applause when he said "The Titanic of corporate power has run into the iceberg of unsustainability."

More later (I'm gonna try to write up a summary).

Anna Haynes said...

Don's writeup: Notes on Some Wild & Scenic Film Festival Free Workshops