The climate crisis forces us to reflect on what future we want.
Less than a month ago, I read a discouraging phrase.
“Currently, we are systematically exterminating all non-human living beings,” said Anne Laringauderie, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
I still have a hard time assimilating those words. Well, underneath them I infer everything that is not being done to protect the environment. The truth is that the thirteenth sustainable goal of the United Nations, which is to take urgent measures to reverse climate change and its impacts, will not be fulfilled in 2030, unless something wakes us up.
This sustainable goal should have been the first for the UN. But we face a huge obstacle: misinformation and apathy.
No media outlet is willing to cover the climate crisis urgently, even as millions of acres of forests have burned on the West Coast. Once it is published on the front pages, days later we read another piece of news that makes us forget the climate crisis.
Social media platforms offer information, but only in ways tailored to our user profile, which companies carve out from all the choices we make when we socialize, search or buy something online. The product of this, we see in our “feeds” with different versions of reality for each user profile.
If it is true information or misinformation what we see, if we decide that we like it and it leads us to carry out a positive or destructive action, it is not the responsibility of the media companies. Or is it? Some tech industry experts say it is, and they show it by talking about climate change. Whether some information label is true or false, news has a lot to do with what these companies offer us.
The Google search engine offers a version of reality based on our online decisions and where we are. If that’s so, what can be said about the practices of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others?
Justin Rosenstein, the co-inventor of Google Drive, Gmail Chat, Facebook Pages, and the Facebook Like button explains in the Netflix documentary Social Dilemma, “when you go to Google and type ‘climate change is,’ you’re going to see different results depending on where you live. In certain cities, you will see that [that sentence] is automatically populated with ‘climate change is a hoax.’ In other cases, you will see that ‘climate change is causing the destruction of nature.’ And that does not depend on the truth about climate change…”
Rosenstein links our ignorance as consumers with corporate greed to explain these versions of reality that are affecting our sense of responsibility with the planet.
“We live in a world in which a tree is worth more financially dead than alive, in a world in which a whale is worth more dead than alive. As long as our economy works that way and corporations are not regulated, they will continue to destroy trees, kill whales, mine the land, continue to extract oil from the ground…”
“This is short-term thinking based on this profit-at-all-cost religion, as if somehow, magically, every corporation acting in its own selfish interest is going to produce the best result. This has been affecting the environment for a long time. What is terrifying, and what is hopefully the last straw, to wake us up as a civilization to how flawed this theory has been in the first place, is to see that we are now the tree, we are the whale. Our attention can be undermined,” he says.
If so, should it surprise us that investments in fossil fuels are still higher than investments in climate activities? Massive forest fires, droughts, hurricanes, and floods are natural disasters exacerbated by climate change that affect more people in the world and in more severe ways are not going to go away, unless we do something.
At least we have to acknowledge our situation and see how the media widens the gap between those who think one thing and others who think another about the climate crisis. If the goal of the UN is to protect the environment and all beings that are disappearing as a consequence, it has to pressure governments to limit disinformation on digital platforms with laws and educational campaigns regarding the actual reality of the climate crisis.