Jenkins begins by saying that these stories can fall back on cliché and “tend to vanish into statistics”. He also wonders how “robust” those statistics are, but he then goes on to say that these stories are important nonetheless because they remind us that there is a problem, and it creates “awareness of my relationship to nature”.
I like Simon Jenkins. I’m a Guardian reader (If you’re from the US think PBS or C-SPAN, or more accurately, don’t think Fox). Of course we need to be aware of our relationship with the natural world, but knowing I share some DNA with an orangutan doesn’t give me any idea about what to do if that orangutan is under threat.
There are many global issues over which we are impotent (especially the ones where heavy artillery is involved), but there are things we can influence as consumers – if we have the information we need.
Action is far easier now than it ever has been. I get several emails a day from various campaigns, and all I have to do is click the link and I’m taken to a site where I can do anything from make a donation to join a letter-writing campaign. But being presented with a contact form, pre-loaded with my details, and a letter which I just ‘sign’ and Send is very different to the days when I had to find a pen, paper and stamp, write the letter myself and walk down to the postbox.
The problem is that I’m aware, and I care, but I don’t have to think. In the few seconds it takes to sign and send, the black and white photo of the malnourished child, or the denuded forest, or the post-earthquake city, which was the first thing I saw when I arrived at the site, is still fresh on my retinas, and that initial emotional reaction hasn’t worn off to the point where I’m thinking rationally about the issue.
Now, this may not seem so important when I’m donating to famine or disaster relief, but when the issue is more complicated; for social, political, or ethical reasons, or, for the purposes of this site, because there are multiple stakeholders, being able to act is not the same as knowing what will happen when we do act.
The access we have to the information we need is unprecedented historically (As a writer I have NO idea how I did research pre-internet). But being able to find exactly what we’re looking for also means we have no excuses for not knowing what the results of our actions might be.
We have moved beyond ‘awareness’. Between Avaaz, Change.org and a thousand Facebook groups, action is far more possible now than it was just a decade ago.
But knowing what the consequences of our efforts might be – for all the stakeholders - that’s where we need to be more aware.