Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Instagram hasn't heard of climate change

'Cause everybody hates a tourist
Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh
– Pulp, Common People 

The paradox is that it is much easier to imagine the end of life on earth than a much more modest change in capitalism.
– Slavoj Žižek

As I pointlessly scroll through Instagram once a month I am amazed to see people are still travelling on long haul flights posting pictures of their moronic grinning selves in far flung parts of the globe*. Mainly, it seems, in order to make other people jealous. Which is generally praised with 'likes'. The hedonists don't look like they're too bothered about the state of the planet.

I would have to deduce that Instagram, and its one billion users, are climate change deniers. That's okay, it's apparently a weakness in the human brain; we're unable to conceive of (or do anything about) the global catastrophe as it isn't happening immediately right in front of our eyes. Climate change is slowly but surely inexorably coming but because it's gradual and not immediate our brains can't envisage it. We're both unable to look too far into the future (beyond the next holiday) and innately selfish – it's hard for humans to forego life's pathetic luxuries – cars, shopping, the next holiday – let alone admit or think about how they are destroying the environment and what the massive ramifications will be for merely living a very selfish life.

(I got very bored of Neflix's The Good Place but waded through it. When it was realised no human had got into heaven for 500 years, it made perfect sense – even the apprently good act of buying roses for your grandmother has become fraught with political and environmental issues – the flowers were ordered from a cellphone, which was made in a sweat shop, the flowers were grown with toxic pestisides, the migrant flower pickers were exploited and the flowers travelled thousands of miles, leaving a huge carbon footprint.

As I've occasionally written in this blog – and will do until the electricity goes out – the best thing anyone can do for the planet is absolutely nothing.)

Humans respond to threat or danger in essentially three ways – what is known as the fight-flight-freeze response. Since the dawn of humans this has been true, and it's still evident in animals (pet cats are great at doing all three) and humans today – though the danger is no longer saber-toothed tigers or bears, it's more likely to be some kind of social anxiety. In regards to climate change, we're still mostly in the freeze category – either we deny it or ignore it; it's too big, we can't do anything about it. Parts of the world where it has been immediate – flooding or the fires in Australia, for example, people have made flight. If we want to do anything about it, we will have to fight – i.e. tackle it.

The zoonotic COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus, is an example where humans have gone into fight mode (with a fair bit of flight) and taken immediate action, declaring it an emergency as it's a grave danger to human life. Action has been so over the top (as of today the death count of coronavirus is fast approaching... the annual amount of people who drown in their own bath) that I can only say it's the best thing to happen to the environment for a long time.

Flights are being cancelled. Coachloads of Chinese tourists have disappeared. Thousands of journeys, events and conferences (along with meetings, the most pointless and painful thing humans have invented to fill their vacuous, pointless lives to make themselves feel important) have been cancelled (meaning people aren't flying all over the world to attend them).

All precautions taking immediate effect because of coronavirus – quarantines, lockdowns, grounding flights, closing factories, roadblocks, cancelling events and conferences, advice not to travel or socialise – all these things (and a lot more besides) should be happening anyway to prevent climate change. 

So we've sort of half-heartedly declared Climate Emergencies here and there. Cornwall Council did, then immediately announced a Space Station and Heliport, apparently without irony. In fact, every day in Cornwall I see large tracts of fields and woodlands chopped down to make way for car parks, retail parks, houses and business centres (yes, I had a good moan at Cornwall Council recently so I won't go on). 

Reading news about the environment over the past month has been depressing reading indeed. 'Coronavirus wrecks havoc on global tourism' is the most positive headline I have read in a long time (you know what it is, Venice was up in arms last year about the hoards of tourists they get, threatening to ban them; now they're crying to their mamas about the lack of them). Otherwise, it's been something like this: 'Murders of monarch butterfly activists stun Mexico'; 'Thousands of sheep drown'; 'UK does not have clear vision for last ditch climate talks'; 'Loss of EU protections could imperil UK hedgerows and hedgehogs'; 'Sea levels rising in the U.S.'; 'Boris Johnson “doesn’t get cilmate change”'; 'A small government agency is supporting fossil fuel projects abroad with estimated carbon emissions of a country the size of Portugal'; 'Trees on commercial UK plantations not helping climate crisis'; '1,000 ancient woodlands at risk of destruction by projects like HS2'. You get the idea.

The world has become like The Matrix. Everything is shit, in particular the environment (yeah, and that virus I guess, and Brexit), yet we’re all pretending we're oblivious, still driving around in our stupid cars, Watching shit on Netflix, doing dumb pointless jobs so we can afford to go on dumb, pointless holidays and take moronic selfies for Instagram. Climate anxiety is an actual condition that Instagram users are immune from.

Travel sure has gone luxury since my day, when the only two essentials were a passport and a toothbrush. According to selfish website, which ask questions like, Is “whelming” the new “negging”?, their list of 37 "travel essentials" includes slippers, 'microplane' (apparently a mini cheese grater), extension cords, mini steamer, facial sprays and eye drops. What. A. Bunch. Of. Complete. Wimps. Their shop sells books of cliched crap such as Paulo Coelho (when I went around SE Asia everyone was reading Alex Garland's The Beach, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Celestine Prophecy – probably no better than Coelho) – why do travellers still pretend they're doing it for 'meaning' and 'enlightenment' when they're obviously just hedonists showing off?

Tiny Atlas Quarterly is a photography-led lifestyle travel brand and social community that brings personal travel to life: in their magazine, through events and products and on immersive adventures. Meaningless bollocks. There are loads of sites like this now.

I half-read an interview with the apparently 'Phenomenal Woman' Emily Nathan (founder of Tiny Atlas) where she states, 'Everyone who cares about travel should care about climate change', even though air travel and tourism are a major cause of climate change (I actually commented as much on the post), and Instragram travel I would say is ruining the true spirit of travel. The travel of Tiny Atlas is the travel of cliched travel brochures – pretty young smiling white people being hedonistic in foreign countries.

Nathan was interviewed on, a site which "promotes female travellers with less than 10,000 followers" (I honestly think this should be a charity and that society is overlooking such a deprived sector of the population. Oh, hold on – what about men like myself with less than 100 followers?).

What gets me is these Instagram travel women always look like they're travelling with a professional photographer, a makeup artist and a wardrobe assistant. I mean, where's the dirt and the sweat? It's not proper travel. It's an illusion. She, looking stunning with a flowing Persil white dress, mock-contemplating the sunset from Machu Picchu, tranquil and at one with the world, as the photographer takes the same Instagram shot a million other people have.

(I had an argument with the ex-head of environment for Cornwall Council, who blamed her parents generation for climate change – you know, those ones who never knew it existed until a few years ago, like the rest of us. I blamed millennials, perhaps the most innately selfish generation ever, growing up as they have with mobile phones and the internet and crushed avocado on toast and brands and travelling – and thinking it's all okay. I mean, they don't question anything, right? Just crazy for those likes, and working for some shithole like Google. I don't just have a grudge against millennials – hedonists, capitalists, the rich and the poor are all equally useless when it comes to the environment.)

Talking of capitalism: neoliberalism justifies the world by Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest – well, his theory is flawed. Nature actually works best collaborating, when species help each other for the greater good. It's called symbiosis and there are millions of examples of it in nature; for a start, human bodies have thousands of species of symbiotic microbes inside them.

Unfortunately, due to human interference, the balance of nature is being destroyed. Sometimes humans are capable of symbiosis to each other and to nature – when they're not being moronic or selfish (stockpiling toilet paper and pasta is both) – and I'm not quite sure they yet realise that we rely on nature for our very survival (ants and bees are more important than humans). Anyway, the coronavirus is showing us that we can change our patterns quickly and easily if we want to survive.

Previously on Barnflakes
Letters of complaint
The cult of personality vs saving the planet
Boycotting buffoons
The world's top ten environmental problems (and how to solve them)
Barnflakes on Instagram 
Aspire to be average
In 100 years everyone in the world will be dead
Busy bein' busy
Blight of the plastic bag
Water as it Oughta
Gullible travels (*yes, I did a lot of travel in my younger days, from hitchhiking in the Sahara desert to getting caught up in a revolution in Jarkarta, at a time when we were all pretty unaware of climate change)


Caspar said...

I agree with practically everything you say, all of which is expressed in language that makes even me look liberal in comparison. So coming here gives me the double gratification of seeing my more unfashionable opinions supported and making me feel virtuous. Great work - keep it up!

Barnaby said...

Thanks for your support, yeah, maybe my language is a bit un-PC! Luckily no one else is reading. I just find social media a pointless joke. Meanwhile, the destruction of the planet. Blah blah blah.