#13 post-2015
Tim Röing

Disrupt Climate Change

The movie “Disruption” was part of the mobilization for the People’s Climate March in September 2014. It leaves no doubt: Climate change is a social issue.

“The earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space” transmitted one of the astronauts from Apollo 8 back in 1968 as he was taking photos of the earth from the moon. The movie Disruption notes: “The earth seen in these pictures does not exist any longer”. Instead we now live on a planet that has already been greatly affected and altered by climate change, and will become even more so if we fail to act now.

Climate change and its consequences will inevitably disrupt humanities’ existence on the planet, as long as there are no drastic changes to the ways we live, consume, and think. We can only stop the disruption by disrupting our way of life so to speak.

“When it comes to climate change, why do we do so little when we know so much?”

The documentary addresses two possible interpretations of the term disruption: It aims to make viewers aware of the possible adverse consequences of climate change, as well as mobilise the audience to become active agents in the fight against it. The film poses a central question: ‘When it comes to climate change, why do we do so little when we know so much?’ Over the course of 50 minutes, Disruption bridges the gap between information and an urgent call for action. Framed with impressive images taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Disruption strings together clips from interviews with climate scientists like Dr Heidi Cullen and Dr James Hansen, and activists like Naomi Klein, Right Livelihood Award laureate Bill McKibben, and Ricken Patel from the Avaaz online activist community. Avaaz and McKibben’s 350org movement are the organisers behind the Global People’s Climate March, an event it is hoped will serve as a wake-up call for global leaders. The movie focusses on the planning process and shows activists in the United States and other places as they prepare for what they hope will be the largest climate march in history. Disruption describes the fight against climate change as the biggest social movement of our time, equal in scope to the civil rights and decolonisation movements. The difference is that despite a large quantity of freely accessible research, mobilisation and interest continue to be devastatingly low. The People’s Climate March is intended to change this. Though the movie seems made specifically for an American audience, its message is indeed global.

Disruption makes it clear that climate change is not something that was discovered recently. In fact, its effects were first established in 1959 and the greenhouse effect was identified even earlier. In 1988, climate change was first officially demonstrated scientifically, as researchers confirmed that global warming between two and six degree Celsius is possible in the near future with completely unforeseeable effects. Yet political action on a global scale has not followed.

Though the film presents well-established facts that do not come across as novel, the portrayal is dense, to the point, and frightening. It is cut short by images from the 2013 typhoon on the Philippines that killed more than six thousand people and displaced thousands more. If global warming continues, disasters like this will probably occur more frequently and with even more dire consequences that affect the global poor in particular. This is Disruption’s main achievement: Analysing and presenting climate change and its consequences not as mere technical facts, but as a social issue intertwined with economic marginalisation, global inequality and racism. Disruption gives a voice and a face to the people affected the most: The Philippine ambassador whose voice trembles during his UN speech, the families made homeless by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The common issue these examples illustrate is that the effects of climate change are very unequally distributed. The immense negative consequences of fossil fuel use affect already economically marginalised people inordinately more, reproducing social injustice through environmental injustice. The people most severely affected are usually the ones who contribute least to the problem themselves. In the words of one activist interviewed in the film, their homes and their lives are viewed as disposable, while the idea of unlimited economic growth fuelled by oil and gas is not.

“The fight against climate change needs to become a pressing issue for everyone, as it is the biggest crisis of our time, affecting us all.”

This is where Disruption issues an urgent call for mobilisation. Echoing the tipping point concept, which posits a point of no return after which the damage caused by global warming will become irreversible and its consequences wholly unforeseeable, Disruption calls for a social tipping point. This requires a change in perceptions. In the words of its makers, the fight against climate change needs to become a pressing issue for everyone, as it is the biggest crisis of our time, affecting us all. Since a different economy is technically possible, all that is lacking is the political will. To change that, public pressure and awareness is needed. Accordingly, Disruption takes a strong stance for activism, calling on people to build a global movement. It encourages viewers to join events such as the People’s Climate March and to share the movie to drive the movement forward. The first step was taken this year on September 21st when more than 300, 000 people gathered in New York on the occasion of the 2014 UN Climate Summit to show that the fight against climate change is indeed a pressing issue. In addition to the New York march, 2,646 other events took place in 162 countries in response to Avaaz’s call for action. The task for the march’s organisers and for the makers of Disruption will now be to use this momentum to create a lasting, global social movement. Their cause is an urgent one that deserves all the attention it can get.

Further Information

Watch the movie online: Disruption

Photo: “DRY” by DraconianRain
2007 - licenced under Creative Commons Attribution (2.0)

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