When I was around 10 years old we were shown this film at school that still gives me nightmares today. In fact, looking back it probably was a little too graphic to show to children but we certainly all got the message.
It was basically an anti-rubbish short film, probably the only real green message we got through school in those days. It showed a young boy who every day throw one piece of rubbish on the floor rather than in a garbage bin. The film then showed what would happen if every young boy in the world threw a piece of rubbish on the floor every day. Basically we were all drowning under a sea of waste. And yes the young boy died, suffocated under chocolate wrappers and Coke cans. Told you it was graphic. They even showed his funeral. But it worked. From an early age I was aware of the dangers of polluting the planet.
Forty years later and how times have changed. Instead of adults teaching children we have children teaching adults. The speed at which attitudes to climate change have evolved is lightening pace.
I grew up in a time without recycling bins. In a time when solar powered gadgets were cool because you got free electricity, nobody mentioned saving the planet from fossil fuels. But as we got supposedly more advanced we actually were taking an environmental step backwards. We drank our drinks from glass bottles that we took back to the shop and got 1p off our next drink. We bought our milk from a milkman. I am not sure if you had this concept before here. But basically a milkman would deliver every morning milk in glass bottles to your door. At night you would leave the glass bottles on the doorstep and in the morning fresh full ones would appear. And just as a cherry on top of the ecological cake, the milkman would drive an electric vehicle.
Now we drive our cars, polluting the environment, to the shop were we buy milk in plastic bottles. Then when we have drunk the milk we again drive to the recycle bins to dispose of them. And then a lorry, again polluting, turns up to pick up the bins. We stirred our coffee with real spoons, in fact drank coffee from real cups without a plastic lid, my father used a real razor in the morning and not a plastic disposable one and my backside was wrapped in a real Terry nappy and not a one with a Pampers logo on it.
Of course it has to be pointed out that we weren’t doing these things to be “green.” We were doing them because we had no choice. It just turned out that they were in fact eco-friendly. And over the next forty years, from me watching that horror pollution film to today, society went disposable. It was supposed to be change the world forever. It did but certainly not the way that we had imagined.
My first real experience that I can remember of climate change and pollution came with acid rain. That was a scary headline to read in newspapers, yes we read newspapers in those days. We imagined acid rain biting holes in our umbrellas. In a short time, we had travelled from milkmen with their electric vehicles and glass bottles to mountains of plastic. A disposable society was born. Gone were the days of fixing a part in your car, overnight mechanics became salesmen for car manufacturers and would simply change the whole part. TV repairmen were left without work as we dumped the old TV when the guarantee ran out. Instead of fixing and repairing we dump our white technical goods and buy another one. Whilst this might keep the cogs of capitalism running it also destroys the environment. Try finding somebody today in Dubrovnik who can actually repair things, who actually has the skills, the logical thinking, to find the fault and fix it and you have found the Wizard of Oz. How wrong we were. How naïve. Like a fish we all grabbed the bait of a better, easier life, and found ourselves on the hook.
And now we need children to tell us where we all went wrong. And now we need to change. “Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster,” Elon Musk.