Humanity faces great challenges, from climate change and energy production to how we produce food to feed our billions. Yet public outcry is focused on big, bad corporations, sluggish governments, and ideological opponents that just don’t get it.
Little attention is spent on individual action that would affect our personal lives.
For example, the Canadian government recently declared a climate emergency. If it’s an emergency, it’s not one we’re taking seriously.
The best selling vehicle in North America is not a gas-sipping subcompact. It’s the Ford F-Series pickup truck. Ford’s offerings are closely followed by Ram and Chevrolet full-sized pickups, in second and third place.
There are no activist protests against manufacturers of pickup trucks. There is enormous public outcry about pipelines and oil sands.
Likewise, in agriculture, neonicotinoids seed treatments are under fire, somewhat justifiably, for their impact on songbirds. Yet there is little attention spent on the greatest killer of songbirds: the domestic cat. Another major cause of avian demise is tall buildings, specifically how we light our cities at night - including our own homes.
Keeping kitty inside and rethinking illumination are actionable on a civic and personal level. Yet activist campaigns focus on neonicotinoids and other products to protect our food crops from pests. Meagre attention is given to the issue of light pollution.
More than 24 years ago, in his book All the Trouble in the World, American satirist P.J. O’Rourke wrote, “Everybody wants to save the Earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.”
Moving the needle on issues that matter may involve bugging your local councillor. You might need to run for civic office to get some bylaws passed and priorities changed. You might have to keep kitty inside, and put volunteer time into causes that will actually have an impact and perhaps a personal cost.
All of us may just have to fill up the sink, grab the wash cloth, and give Mom a hand.
I'm a science writer based in Saskatoon, Canada. While I write on a wide range of topics, I most often find myself exploring life and environmental sciences as well as the social science aspects of science communications. Examples include agricultural biotechnology, food and water security, and public response to innovations in genetic engineering and energy production.