Armenia and Global Issues

Last night I revisited the venue in Yerevan where Andy and I gave a presentation back in February. Common Ground is the project of a local NGO to provide an open forum for interested people from all backgrounds to discuss today’s issues and attend presentations in English. The organiser, an Armenian woman who grew up in Manchester, England, introduced the event for this evening — a showing of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

However many awards it did or did not win, I think this might just be one of the most important films ever made. If you’re living in the England and you haven’t seen it, you might be surprised to hear that to view this film is now a formal part of our children’s education. I learnt only yesterday that a copy of the film had been distributed to every state-run school in the country. If you are a parent, and you haven’t seen it, maybe you should, so you know what your children are talking about when they come home talking about it, and so you don’t regret in the future what you are doing today.

Though I’d seen it before, I really wanted Tenny to see the film. I was interested to see what she thought of the issue which Gore has dedicated the last 30 years to propounding — global warming. It’s a frightening film. If you aren’t frightened by it, you probably don’t understand it. This is not a film that you sit around and talk about afterwards in the usual way (“The cinematography was nice…” “I really liked the music…”). This is a film that will lead to a lot of extremely serious discussions about the topic at hand, not the film-making itself. Most importantly, this film represents the best chance most people will have to understand the problems facing the world today, and to say “Yes, I can do something!”

After viewing the film, the 15 or 20 people in the small conference centre sat and discussed the issue. “You know, the most important thing is that people should learn to live basically,” whispered Tenny to me. I thought she had a very good point. Previously in these blogs, I’ve made the observation that it has been the people who live basic, rural lives, and have what they need to live simply — but, importantly, don’t suffer from the eternal desire for more — who have been the happiest, most welcoming, and most generous with what they do have.

In reality, the Western world (which is largely to blame for the present-day CO2 levels) would have a hard time reverting to a subsistence-level existence. And I think that most people’s biggest fear is that their relatively comfortable, stable lives would be turned upside down. This is simply not the case! Most people would be able to reduce their personal contribution to the global problem — and we all contribute — by making a few small changes to the way they live. And you can read about these changes right here at the WWF’s One Planet Living website, designed specifically to help you make these changes as easily as possible. Believe me, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, you’ll be glad that resources like this are already out there.

On the way home, I talked with Tenny about everything that this journey represented to me regarding this immense global issue. Most people won’t be looking to reduce their carbon footprint quite as close to zero as I have done by choosing my current lifestyle of bike travel and bare-necessesities living. More realistic for the developed countries would be something like Masdar City, soon to be the world’s greenest city, being built by the government of the Arab Emirate of Abu Dhabi, a tiny pocket of affluence in the Arabian Peninsular. In the UK, BioRegional and the WWF are working on similar projects to demonstrate exactly how the developed world can operate in the future if global warming prevention measures are taken on board now.

So don’t be afraid to rent An Inconvenient Truth next time you go to the movie store. Better still, buy a copy (all of £5 from Amazon) and show it to everyone you know. I have a copy of my own which I am taking with me on my future travels to show to all those who I can convince to watch it. It’s not often that something like this comes along, when a serious worldwide issue is presented in such an accessible, even enjoyable way. You’ll finish watching it, feeling great that you can be part of the solution to the greatest threat that the human species has faced, since… well, ever.

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4 responses to “Armenia and Global Issues”

  1. guess who avatar
    guess who

    A very thought provoking blog.
    A life of plenty creeps up on you. Being brought poor up in the 50/60’s we were encouraged to use our educational opportunities to better our selves. This probably meant getting ourselves a career with prospects but this inturn encouraged aspirations of livng a better life than our parents with a home with more material goods.
    I was brought up in a rural environment where pleasures were simple. Was I happy? Yes. I now have many material goods and assets. Am I any happier? Probably not.
    However, sometimes one has to have been there (i.e. have achieved the trappings or have been brought up with them) to appreciate how a simple life is quite attractive.
    As I get older I sometimes think my life is too hedonistic. I search for a niche to give more to the community in which I live or to help those more needy than myself. This blog has made me think I must do something about it.
    I will watch ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and see if it directs me to a way forward. And I will let you know.

  2. Also, I meant to say that this idea of going back to a simpler way of living is far too easy to romanticise — I am probably more guilty of doing this than probably anyone I know!

    You have reminded me that I need to watch an Inconvenient Truth again. I’m going to buy it from Amazon now.

  3. Really interesting points you made here Tom. Its something I’ve been thinking about how recently; how would we, in our comfortable western lives actually deal with having a simple life once again.

    Personally I think it might well be a wonderful thing, which makes me think that I should simply do it, give up the trappings of 21st Century living… but then I also wonder what would it actually achieve? Ok, it might mean I feel some kind of relief, leading a less complicated and stressful existence, but in doing so I would be ducking out of this society and generation that I have been born into. And with it possibly any opportunity to make some kind of inroad in influencing society in some way (in my case being able to make a documentary.)

    So I think we do need to live simpler lives, but it should not and cannot be about simply going backwards. We need to use the technology and knowledge and mastery of our surroundings in a responsible way, with a great deal of WISDOM in order to start redressing the balance that at present is so woefully out. And before we can begin to do that, we need to take responsibility for our seemingly endemic human GREED that seems to me to be our biggest flaw as a species.

    I came across a famous quote by Gandi the other day, you may have heard it before, which I think says it all really:

    “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”

    Hope you’re well.

  4. I showed an Inconvenient Truth to my 10th graders, and it really made them stop and think. Their class teacher liked it so much that he decided to show it to all the other classes in the high school. Great film!

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