Ketchup, Global Warming, and Why I Love Heists.

litbonanza.jpgI am ketchup. I was first produced en masse by the Heinz Company in 1875. They wanted to make bland American food taste more delicious. I was perfect for the job. I was poured onto meat, potatoes, bread… and that’s it. I did not invade the meals on which I had no personal expertise. I made no appearances next to broccoli, or on noodles with cheesy sauces. Unlike now. Now the food world has made me its virus, and I have no control over which culinary masterpieces I preside. I was an innocuous condiment, content with my limited circle of meal friends, and now I am ruined, squirted atop poutine, and tacos, and ice cream. And macaroni and cheese. Wasting me atop inappropriate foods is a trendy thing to do, and since the world loves its trends, I have been ruined. No longer a precious or important sauce. Soon, I will be forgotten.

Trends have an aptitude for following this pattern – years of quiet development, a boom of popularity, and then a silent denouement as they are forgotten. One of the biggest trends of today is concern regarding global warming. And although it is a legitimate cause, the trendy-ness of ‘caring’ about the world’s temperature is making it a sketchy subject. Global warming is just too cool to be true.


At this point, it’s pretty much generally accepted that something wacky is happening to the world’s climate too monumental to be blamed on El Niño. It’s also pretty much a fact that it’s sort of our own fault. But the forerunners of the campaign against carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses often don’t seem to be in it for the good of the world or out of sheer personal interest. They seem to be hypocritical crusaders in it for a good public image. Take Al Gore, former US presidential candidate, and snooty star of An Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar-winning documentary that conventionalized carbon emission worries. Kudos to him for making climate issues a mainstream concern, but why did he drive around in a giant SUV whenever an ‘in transit’ shot was required?

An Inconvenient Truth also epitomizes what so much of anti-global warming propaganda is guilty of: pushing the proverbial big red emergency button and then neglecting to discuss how to avoid catastrophe. At some point, the scientific community has to stop with the PANIC and usher in an attitude of ‘we’re not doomed; here’s how YOU can fix it’. It’s all fine and well that 2006 was world-wide the hottest year on record, that according to the U.S. Geological Survey predictions, Glacier National Park will have no more glaciers by the year 2030, that 400,000 square miles of Arctic sea ice have melted in the past 30 years, and that 15 to 37% of plant and animal species are at risk for extinction by the year 2050 because of global warming [1] . However, I fail to see how taking shorter showers will save the world. I fail to see how donating 50 cents to a telephone surveyor will save the world. I would love it if someone could explain that to me.

I also fail to see why media commenting on political policy has decided to scapegoat individual country’s leaders for a global issue. Politicians, although in our country held accountable for their own actions and elected by the people to make decisions that reflect the people’s values and concerns, are not really the ones responsible for the people’s problems. Whether Stephen Harper legislates changes or not, Canadians will alter their energy-consuming and carbon-emitting habits in favour of normal weather patterns if they understand exactly why and how they’re to do it. The people who occasionally go to demonstrations on Parliament Hill – en lieu of a workday – to aid the legislating process, although driven by the best of intentions I’m sure, would do more good by infiltrating the system from the bottom up – by influencing their co-workers and peers, instead of attempting to change the mind of a man who, above all, really just wants to be re-elected at the end of his term.

The 2007 federal budget does have changes for the environment listed in it. More than 100 new environmental enforcement officers will be hired, and a performance-based rebate program will offer up to $2000 for the purchase of a new fuel efficient or efficient alternative fuel vehicle. There are also plans for an extra $36 million to be set aside to help get older polluting vehicles off of roads. But those extra environmental enforcement officers only double the national population: a rare species indeed. And apparently, the only car on the road eligible for that $2000 award is an unnamed Toyota that is marginally more fuel efficient than other cars in its class. Legislation for change only makes a difference when the people affected by the legislation truly follow it. The United States justice system declared in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that separate was definitely not equal, opening up a whole new world of equal treatment in the southern US and starting minorities on an anti-racism spree of demanding equal rights. Yet racism still exists, because as much as people campaign and governments legislate, attitudes don’t change unless every last person views the issue from the same perspective, working in perfect unity to change a bad thing.

So. If we can’t eradicate climate change by making documentaries or having our political leaders do it for us, how is the human race to survive the next 50 years? There is an element of internalization that needs to be adopted by our country’s population; a learning of values that is incorporated within us instead of passed down from our leaders in the form of sheets of paper and complicated laws. The solution is a mass scale heist… on a personal level.

Heists are wonderful because they’re no nonsense. The people doing the heist are non-apologetic, fearless, impassioned, ingenious wonders. They don’t wait for a higher power to hand them the money they’re after, nor do they simply accept their jealous situation by sighing and waiting it out. The reality is, Canada’s population has the power to change their energy consuming and carbon emitting habits all on their own, and there are countless organizations that essentially give money away to people who are willing to do so, never mind the money saved by cutting energy use. Wrapping a water heater in an insulating blanket saves electricity, as does situating furniture in places other than on top of heating vents and in front of radiators. Painting houses light or dark colours depending on the environment they’re in can save up to 2.4 tonnes of carbon emissions per year [2]. A business owner in the UK claims that by turning equipment such as printers, computers, and microwaves in his office off over weekends and other holidays, he saved £6,000 per year, equivalent to just over $13,500 Canadian [3]. These are all things the average person is capable of doing.

When someone is going to steal valuable objects from someone else via heist, they’re not euphemistic or diplomatic. They say to the victim: “YOU ARE A TOOL, WE WANT YOUR MONEY, HERE’S THE HELL WHY.” Then they take it. No concern for the victim, no concern for the police, no concern for ANYONE but themselves and the people they’re working with. We all have to become fearless and don’t-mess-around heist performers, with complete disregard for everyone except ourselves and the people who will also benefit from our actions. We have to realize that our future kids and grandkids will be toast if we don’t change now. We have to say “LISTEN EARTH, YOU’RE BEING A DINK. WE DIDN’T MEAN TO RAISE YOUR AVERAGE TEMPERATURE AND POLLUTE YOU, AND WE’RE SORRY. PLEASE WORK WITH US AS WE ATTEMPT TO RIGHT OUR WRONGS SO THAT OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS MAY ENJOY YOUR FORMERLY HOSPITABLE AND ENJOYABLE NATURE.” Instead of letting global warming be a forgotten trend, a piecrust promise easily made and easily broken, we have to steal back the way the world used to be.

Footnotes

1. http://www.environmentaldefense.org/article.cfm?contentID=4981 Today is February 17, 2007.

2. http://www.powerscorecard.org/reduce_energy.cfm

3. http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/energy/startsaving/top_tips.htm

Related Topics

terryman

Rebecca Blakey is a product of this fine nation’s capital, and proud of it. She is currently enrolled in the Coordinated Arts Program at UBC in the Faculty of Arts hoping to someday be given the privilege to be referred to as Doctor in the discipline of Media Psychology. On occasions when she is not accomplishing tasks in the most efficient way possible, she enjoys activities such as skiing, swimming, people-watching, adventuring (cross-town or through-wilderness), and curling up - a novel in hand and a good view out a window – inside on Vancouver's all-too-often rainy days.

41 Responses to “Ketchup, Global Warming, and Why I Love Heists.”

  1. Alexandra

    Incredibly enticing from the opening phrase until the end.

  2. Jackie

    Very, very well written, and an interesting tie between things that really don’t have anything to do with eachother… there’s a literary term for that but I don’t know what it is :p

  3. Erin

    Wow this girl really knows how to write.
    It caught my interest, made me laugh and question my previous views of such matters.
    AMAZING
    good job becca!!!

  4. Mike

    This was a very interesting and informative read. Most importantly though, this makes me want to actually DO something about the problem. You know, we can sit around and read about these issues, hear the news, and have a nice little chat, but in the end the only thing that truly matters it the action we take. This short rant/article not only was a joy to read, but really inspires me to take action.

    Thanks!

  5. Stephanie

    WHAT A GENIUS THIS GIRL IS SHE SHOULD DEFINITELY WIN A MILLION DOLLARS

  6. James

    In the words of Captain Planet “the power is yours”. Great grass roots approach.

  7. Annelies

    Awesome work!! I was very impressed with this piece and would love to see this young woman be rewarded for her talent.

  8. Rachel

    This is really good… I think she should totally get credit for this.

  9. Ali

    becca,

    your writing is wonderful as per usual (i seem to remember a certain media studies class back when you were just a young’un) and you deserve as much credit and recognition as the world can throw at you. times a skillion.

  10. paul

    if the library of Alexandria was still around this should go in it.

  11. Megan

    Bee, I bailed on ketchup entirely two years ago because I didn’t love it anymore. I fear for mamma earth.
    On another note: you are cool for writing about heists. They are excellent. I will now make an effort to not only heist the environment back, but also to use the word heist for non-terrorizing things. Thank you for this awesome concept.

  12. Lizzy

    intelligent arguments (most of the time 😉 ) delivered in a highly amusing fashion, nice work.

  13. Dave Semeniuk

    Great article!

    But with respect to…

    At some point, the scientific community has to stop with the PANIC and usher in an attitude of ‘we’re not doomed; here’s how YOU can fix it’.

    …the “scientific community” isn’t panicking. This gives the impression that all scientists are responsible for the doom-sayers and general bleak outlook on our planet’s future. This is hardly the case. I’ve spoken with a number of climate scientists, all of whom have not been involved in media hype campaigns. Only a handful people on either side of “the debate” are opinionated enough to bother giving a 30 second sound clip, or a few token sentences.

  14. Lilly Burr

    wow, that was amazing….i really enjoyed a smooth s read and a few chuckled. award and credit well deserved!

  15. Tamara

    A highly entertaining yet didactic read. A winner, surely.

  16. Sarah Ul-haq

    Pretty spectacular piece of work: it’s creative, it’s intelligent, and it’s certainly worded with excellence. Great work. I agree with the post above mine: “A winner, surely.” 🙂

  17. Allison

    Becca, you are a genius. And ketchup on “noodles with cheesy sauces” is horrifying.

  18. Sara

    Amazing!!! Definitely a winner. She had me at “Ketchup”.

  19. Papadad

    She has read the chronicals. We need her help. Only she, with her caustic wit and perceptive observations, can save us now. We shall never surrender

  20. Nancy

    It’s entertaining and it really makes you think. I think it’s excellent. Good luck!

  21. Erin

    Wow, that was an amazing read. Catchy from the beginning to end. Loved it.

  22. Keegan

    Fantastically put, great tempo throughout, a truly captivating piece.

  23. Kim

    That’s so insightful!! I love the diction. As if the subject matter wasn’t interesting enough, the way it’s presented is delightfully witty and fun. You go girl!

  24. Eli

    Interesting approach to a topic that would otherwise be regarded as old news. Refreshing…thanks!

  25. Rebecca Blakey

    Thanks for the positivity, all.

    Dave, what you brought up actually leads into another subject area that I’m interested in. I, and quite a few other I know, obviously try to stay in the know when it comes to significant scientific concerns of the day. However, (and this question has also been fueled by the amount of time I’ve been spending with my nose in a scientific journal recently) how is it that there’s such a huge discrepancy between what primary research is concluding and what the popular press is concluding? Is either one of those sides to blame? I mean, clearly there are many media outlets in the world interested in the truth and not sensationalism (or so I hope) and there are also members of the scientific community, who, as you say, ‘are opinionated enough to bother giving a 30 second sound clip, or a few token sentences’… but does it bother the earnest constituents of each side to see their research ignored or grossly misrepresented?

  26. Marjorie Downie

    As a college professor in the Bahamas, I wish I could get more of this type of thoughtful, well-researched and well expressed writing from my students. Excellent job, Rebecca!

  27. Dave Semeniuk

    Hey Rebecca, I’ve also been thinking long and hard about this very problem (perhaps there’s some sort of collaboration to be had).

    Regarding…
    …how is it that there’s such a huge discrepancy between what primary research is concluding and what the popular press is concluding?

    There are two problems:1) the popular press is a business first and foremost, and no one should forget this – they sell information and entertainment; 2) it is an intrinsic trait of journalists to provide balanced reporting. As such, when the climate pseudo-debate became a hot press topic a few years back (although its been on the minds of climate scientists for decades), reporters gave equal value to both proponents of climate change, and the denialist scientists they managed to find (most of whom have practice questionable scientific practices). This likely resulted in the ugly, misshapen public opinion on climate change.

    Regarding…
    …but does it bother the earnest constituents of each side to see their research ignored or grossly misrepresented?

    Here’s the thing – most scientists are very happy sitting in their ivory towers. Like anyone with a career, they want to keep it – they work 9-5, they have families, etc. As a result, the public debate that wages on below their ivory windows is so far away they can’t hear the yells from either side. I asked a climate Prof. that I will refrain from naming why it is that the 1000’s of proponents of “climate change is happening” aren’t speaking up in the public sphere? To paraphrase him, “Because those who are most opinionated speak the loudest. The rest of us are more concerned with the problems at hand, you know, the real science.” Arguably, this is a terrible way of looking at science – a profession disconnected from public discourse. Of course, as modern scientific discoveries begin to pervade our everyday life and the way we perceive life itself, this disconnect obviously becomes illusory.

  28. Annelies

    I love the powerful ending. Although less formal and eloquent, it has a great impact on the reader, and makes for a compelling conclusion.

  29. victoria

    good job at creating context for discussion. citation nicely incorporated. relevant sources. i enjoyed your higher abstractions.

    sorry, after ASTU i can’t read anything the same way again.

    all in all, EXCELLENT 🙂

  30. Stacy St.Rose

    Absolutely brilliant! This type of provoking journalism should not go undetected or unnurtured.

    It is absolutely refreshing and promising to see a young mind produce well researched, witty, thoughtful work.

    Excellent job young lady. Keep on writing, make us think and fully realize your dreams.

  31. Emily

    You are onto something and definitely going somewhere in life. I love your originality and comedic writing style. Awesome.

  32. Kim Scott

    you rock Rebecca! I saw this future for you years ago!

  33. Kate

    Dave and Rebecca – I want to jump in on your discussion –

    Dave, I’d have to disagree with your claim that “most scientists are very happy sitting in their ivory towers.” I DO agree that there are problems with the communication of science outside of the academic/research community, but I’m not convinced it’s always because of insular academics who are dismissive of the role of public discourse (there are some, but I don’t think they represent the majority of scientists).

    First, the framework of the media is such that it rewards pithy soundbites, looks for easily summarized arguments, and simplified explanations – much of the climate change science (or science in general, really) doesn’t fit that model very well. To communicate the findings of science often requires much more space – it can be made accessible, but not often in thirty-second clips, or two-line summaries.

    Second, the structure of the academic world (to be able to continue research under the umbrella of universities) is such that peer-reviewed publications in academic journals are rewarded while public outreach efforts are not. In the tenure process, popular media does not count towards publication counts, time spent communicating to the media is time not spent publishing, and so it is not encouraged (and is actively discouraged).

    I think this needs to be addressed not only by individual scientists making the effort to communicate more effectively (although that part is definitely important!), but also through structural changes in the academic and journalistic worlds.

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