Friday, 13 March 2015

When Real Life Sounds Like a Conspiracy Theory

Last month, my good friend Jono stayed with me for a few nights a week.

He's a super smart, good natured and fun loving guy who also loves thinking through a good conspiracy. I looked forward to chewing over an interesting new theory each night he stayed. One night we would be discussing the real origins of UFOs and the next we were talking about American hegemony and how corporations were taking over the world (well, they are, that's not really a conspiracy, but just how much is malicious conspiracy was the hot topic).

In the opinionated soup that is the online world, it's hard to know what to believe any more. No wonder it's easy to find "evidence" for any viewpoint you care to call your own. It's probably why I had trouble believing a lot of what my guest was trying to sell me. Germans inventing UFO's? Ok. 

A month on, I am preparing to write my first essay for my newest subject at uni, Sustainable Cities. Most of the course work focuses on cars and transport, and how to plan cities better so we don't get stuck in traffic jams smogging up the atmosphere. As part of the essential reading, I had to watch a documentary that, had I been told about by Jono instead, I would have dismissed as a conspiracy theory almost immediately. It's called Taken for a Ride, and basically runs through how General Motors systematically and purposefully destroyed the post war public transport systems in the capital cities of America so that car ownership would increase. Crazy? Yeh, I can't quite believe it either.

                                                   Watch Taken For A Ride Documentary

Destroying a public good for personal profit is not a new story then. GM were buying up tram lines all over the US in the 1950's . There are p-l-e-n-t-y of examples of corporations destroying public goods all over the globe right now (ahem Adani). What is new for me is coming across a story that is indeed true, and so evil I don't want to believe it, yet because cars are so ubiquitous now, it sounds like a truly fantastic story most people would scoff at. As if GM purposely got rid of trams, right? They just fell out of fashion - or something. If I was ever mistaken for a lunatic and locked up, I imagine that yelling "you've got it all wrong" at the head nurse would not help me set the record straight one bit. That's kinda how I'm feeling right now, desperate for someone to listen and believe me.

Ok, more than desperate. Do me a favour, watch the video?

Great, thanks.

It has finally dawned on me that the degree I am steadily grinding away at will qualify me to earn a living from trying to convince corporations with lots of money that they are doing really dodgy things and should stop. They should also pay me to implement a better way for them to earn money and kill  the planet more slowly. I already get depressed watching the news.

Depressed or not, I had to return to researching my essay last night, and instead of more gloom, I happened to stumble across a much better video. Just in time too, I was already reaching for another glass of prescription wine to numb the pain of getting an education in sustainability.

Slowly, slowly, lots of little groups are realising that there are lots of other little groups out there working towards similar sustainability goals. We are becoming a majority unseen. And with that comes a sense of power and ability. I am working alone, but I know I am not alone in my efforts.
According to Paul Hawken in the second video, the world is waking up. People are mobilizing and paying more attention to environmental issues. It's not a particularly racy conspiracy theory I'll admit - green-tree-hugger types peacefully and completely change the world for the better. No big money made there. But it is the type of conspiracy plot that I want to be part of. I think it's going to come down to power, and undermining the power of others in order to succeed in our plan. Come to think of it, I was pegged as the graduate most likely to take over a small country when I graduated from officer training school, so maybe I can get behind this world domination plot after all.