What will we do when sea level rises by 7 metres?

15 February by Mark Shayler


Guest Blog by Mark Shayler, Director of Ape - Public speaker, business coach, strategy advisor, brand provocateur, teacher and STEM advisor!
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I saw Stuart Lee last week. I’m his core demographic: a middle aged, quiff-sporting, left-leaning, middle-class bloke. We are broadly the same age and both listen to great music (you know The Smiths, Stone Roses, Public Enemy, Run the Jewels, Young Fathers – that kind of thing) and read the same paper. The difference is that he was surprised by the Brexit vote and the Trump election and I wasn’t (he was brilliantly funny by the way).

But the state(s) we find ourselves in are not brilliantly funny. The problem with giving people the most important socio-economic and political decision of maybe a century is that you also need to give them the information to make that decision. And that's where we failed. We failed to communicate the benefits and the facts. Indeed, we always have. The right-wing press (that’s nearly all of them) take great delight in feeding us a diet of celebrity junk and comedic statements about the lunacy of straight bananas, that crazy working-time directive (what's wrong with forcing people to work 60 hours a week eh?), and fears of immigration.

Add to that the fact that our education system is regressing to rote learning and the manipulation of the facts by fantasist ‘politicians’ like Farage and it's no-wonder that people weren't equipped to make this decision. Here's a real conversation I had in my corner shop.

Me – how are you voting?
Shopkeeper- they’re all the same.
Me – who are?
Shopkeeper – politicians. Only one that's different is Farage. He seems okay. Got our interests at heart.
Me - he's xenophobic.
Shopkeeper – I don't know about that but I don't want all them immigrants coming over.
Me – what immigrants?
Shopkeeper - there's billions of them. Queuing up. I saw it in the Mail. And they all have millions of kids.
Me – sorry, you say there are billions of them? Like a quarter of the world’s population?
Shopkeeper – yep and they all want to live here.
Me – in Donisthorpe?
Shopkeeper – no, but they would if they could.
Me - it's not that nice here. Billions of them? Really?
Shopkeeper – yes and their millions of kids.
Me – millions of kids? That's around one kid per thousand people. That doesn't seem right.
Shopkeeper – well I'm not sure of the figures.

And there we have it. No one was sure of the figures.  But hey what does that matter in our post-truth, alternative-fact world. The thing is that fear won the day. The irony is that as we step away from Europe and as America steps away from sense, the likelihood is that the environmental legislative base in the U.K. will be eroded and the USA will pull out of the Paris climate change agreement. This is really scary. 

Think migration is a problem now? Wait until sea level rises 7 metres. That's when it will all get a bit scary. I guess the problem is that it's hard to differentiate between short and long term impacts. Between what's good you the individual and what's good for society. What's the European Union done for us? Apart from cleaner beaches, waterways and air – nothing. Apart from kick-starting the waste revolution and introducing producer responsibility – nothing. Apart from accelerating the move to the circular economy – nothing. I know it wasn’t perfect, that TTIP was a nightmare, that it was inefficient, but voting out in protest rather than fixing it is crazy.

As Stuart Lee says voting UKIP/out as a protest is like “shi**ing in your hotel bed in protest at bad service then realising you’ve got to sleep in a shi**ed bed”.