Sunday, 6 January 2008

Smoke on the water

It's amazing how people perceive certain things.
Australia is currently in global warming dire straits: Massive storms are bashing the Brisbane - northern New South Wales area, with the effects felt all the way down in Sydney. Melbourne, on the other hand, is frying and we're recording record temperatures inside our house. Our air conditioner is way too weak to make a dent in the heat, so we spent most of the last week directly underneath the ceiling fan.
Ask most Australians, and they'll tell you that the government is now doing lots to combat global warming: after all, they've just signed the Kyoto Protocol. They don't realize that in order to comply with said agreement Australia doesn't really need to do anything extraordinary and that the only value in Australia signing is in putting the USA in a corner.
TV ads tell you to turn lights off or to switch into energy efficient lights, and indeed according to most people's perceptions the fight against global warming starts and ends with switching some lights off and not running the air-conditioner as much as they used to. There is, however, zero understanding that things go much further: that anytime you use anything but manual energy you're contributing to global warming or that anytime you buy something that used up energy for its creation (read: anything you buy) you're contributing to global warming. Or, for that matter, that even manual energy and having people around are probably the worst contributer to global warming.
Thus you have phenomena such as having people that are generally aware and really want to contribute to the fight against global warming, but on the other hand you have the same people admiring the lights in the city's office buildings at night or the fireworks shows that Melbourne and Sydney now host on a yearly basis. To put another way, you can see why when the orchestrator of the Sydney New Year's fireworks show says on TV that this year's show was the biggest ever in terms of fireworks quantities and in terms of the mass of explosives that were detonated, that statement is perceived as a positive thing. I wonder if things would be the same if people were able to see the clouds of smoke resulting from such massive explosions as opposed to them being camouflaged in night time's darkness.
The exact same story has taken place in Victoria with regards to water savings. The State Government has managed to make it seem as if those that water their gardens are criminals, but in effect anyone can waste as much water as they want under all other circumstances. And that's what most people do, and worst - that's exactly what the biggest consumers of Victorian water are doing, only that they're big companies and only that the government will not disclose their details. Still, most people perceive things as if the government is fighting the drought.
I just find it amazing how the big corporations, coupled with their massive influence on the government, can have such a massive effect on people's perceptions, whether it is to do with global warming or with saving water.

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