It’s been reported that this summer in Europe has been the hottest on record since records began. We were there at the start of it and it was stinking hot!
The Arctic and Amazon are both burning, and so is Kalimantan and Sumatra. Fires from the South East Asian region create a gargantuan cloud called the Haze, which has landed planes, closed schools, caused acute respiratory illnesses and granted several cities in the region the title of the Most Polluted on the Planet. We were there just weeks before and missed the haze, though the fires had probably been burning at that time.
We travelled towards Beijing by Bullet train and saw evidence of the massive replanting programme, where countless trees over hundreds of kilometers were feet first in the earth. China is one of two major global landmasses that is becoming more visibly green from space. We walked in streets silent of combustion engines, electric vehicles are everywhere and ordinary. We saw blue skies above Beijing.
We calculated our many journeys, the greatest distances often by plane, and felt accountable for our personally insignificant addition to the global carbon calamity. Its a conversation with many opinions. Many say its pointless, many say it’s the apocalypse. Heres how we decide what to do.
Hyperobjects is a phrase coined by Timothy Morton. Its a concept that helps to consider the role of these world-affecting phenomena “…that are so massively distributed in time and space as to transcend spatiotemporal specificity, such as global warming, styrofoam, and radioactive plutonium”. We’d would suggest that Humans-Traveling-In-Planes-All-At-Once-And-Over-All-Time is a Hyperobject. Small Me is insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but add small me to the entity Humans-Moving-in-Planes monster and the contribution of ‘I’ becomes part of a greater force that then becomes significant to the grand scheme of all things.
Recognizing the negative impacts of flight its confounding that we still can’t deny to wanting a future where humanity remains able to travel widely. Travel as a human endeavor has ultimately enriched and benefited the human condition. Travel and exposure to the ‘other’ is mentally nutritious, a great teacher of tolerance, the recognition of shared-similarity such as the universal love of food, music, touch, color, art, adventure, access to things Wild, and the deep sensory satisfaction of being an active participant IN & OF the world. Travel helps to dismantle that toxic notion of ‘other’.
This argument in NO way attempts at all to negate the massive negatives that have unfolded as global travel expanded – the white supremacist advance of colonization, the massacre of countless human and non-human lives, the decimation of Primary Rain Forests, water ways and other diverse habitats for the exploitation, avarice or greed.
As we have done before [and here], we documented and discussed these plans with an organization called Ekos. “Ekos is a non-profit enterprise that develops carbon projects to grow and protect indigenous forests in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. ekos connects carbon offset buyers with these projects by measuring business and individual carbon footprints, supplying certified indigenous forest carbon offsets, and providing zero carbon certification. ekos carbon projects deliver climate resilience, waterways protection, erosion control, biodiversity protection and community economic development.”
We are pleased that our Orange Time tour has been certified as Carbon Friendly with ekos. We compiled the info about our flights (including radiative forcing) and we estimated the emissions relating to taxi and train travel. In total we offset 20.66 tCO2e with certified carbon credits. These ekos offsets grow and protect indigenous forests in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and help to deliver climate resilience, waterways protection, erosion control, biodiversity conservation and community economic development.
This seems like a positive contribution, despite the personally tiny scale.
In no way are we suggesting that planting trees is enough. But equally, its not going to harm anything, and if done in significant number will make some impact to the overall carbon budget. It is but one strategy in the tactics of mitigation. The questions remains for now though on that hot topic of the continuity of contemporary civilizations and life – human AND non-human.
People who make stuff, sing, write or have access to any other platforms available have an ability to step into the flood of conversations that aim to inspire inertia. The recent deluge of abuse and digital shouting at Greta Thunburg is a perfect example. To use honed skill-sets and creativity to distract, redirect, refocus and reorientate conversations and narratives is a particular opportunity worth exploring. And if you have any sort of platform, perhaps an imperative. Say nothing and the right-wing, or left-wing, wackjob rhetoric thrives.
Some say Carbon offsetting is a scam. Maybe some aspects of it are, when its managed from a corporate agenda. But a bigger scam is the promoting the belief that doing nothing counts as something, often suggested from some lofty cynical pseudo-authority. Someone much smarter than us once said “By any means necessary”. A creative platform is simply one aspect in the Any Means available to us in the differing tool kit we have to use.
Our recent tour was called Orange Time. It’s also the name of one of our newer songs. The words riff on the idea that there is wisdom in paying attention to the obvious warning sign that surround us, in many different forms. And also the inherent foolishness of the act of avoidance of attentiveness. We are already practiced at observing a multitude of Orange signs, from road cones, traffic lights to the stop/go signs of construction workers. We just have to continue to keep an eye on that Orange ball.
All inside in the orange bright, can you feel the pressure.
Fair enough to feel the fear, we can call this air depression.
It’s a measure of your trust, present with this strangeness.
Struggle strange in troubled times and live with pending danger.
It’s all around and everywhere, a warning writ in orange light.
On all fronts and on all borders, burning into sight.
Hit the road and here we go, one way into orange time.
High-viz bright in white hi-beam, shine on warning signs.
That nearby near here danger looms. Or somewhere near here just from sight.
You think we should race the red? We gonna jump the line?
Uncertain is the only way. Certain has been compromised.
Somethings breathing on our neck, it’s the future of our lives.
Have you got the post-truth blues. Try post-natural selection.
Everything has signs of use, thanks uneven big H human.
Observe, record those bigger views, beauty scored for Mr Darwin.
Now digging wells, exhaustive fumes next to a rising plastic mountain.
Clingfilm wrapped the Holocene in carbon, and forever isotope.
The past has passed us like a dream. It seems the futures been rewrote.
Once green for go, was safe in green, now Orange warns of on the ropes.
Orange as Anthropocene, beyond the noisy Hollywood tropes.
Orange cones on slips and cliffs, there’s danger waiting if you stray.
Orange with a stop/go stick, the folk who stand and show the way.
Orange vests to float and drift, to ride upon a deepest wave.
Orange lines on bugs to make you sick, a lick of poison you might taste.
Orange hands wrapped round the helm with a captain’s worse than rabid drunk.
Orange flush but hint of flame, an orange sky has panics hush.
Orange rain to strip the skin. Orange ropes control the rush.
Orange lights on running red but we don’t seem to worry much
Have you got the post-truth Blues.
Under clouds that spell ‘Confused’.
Everything has signs of use.
Use-by-dates in question to.
Worldly-hurts a bitter prove.
Hold on tight though getting bruised.
In borrowed light of Orange Time
Hi-vis shines to guide you through.