Being the Change
02 Mar 2010
Being the Change is “absolutely what it’s about,” as Sean Dagan Wood discovers in an interview with environmental expert and spokesperson, Chantal Cooke.
Attention: This article has been imported from our old websiteWhile we've taken every precaution to ensure that the content of this article remains intact, it may contain errors.
Chantal Cooke is an environmental expert and spokesperson, experienced journalist, broadcaster and a popular public speaker. Eight years ago, Chantal co-founded Passion for the Planet — the UK’s only environment and health-focused radio station. Sean Dagan Wood asked for her thoughts on the changing face of environmentalism.
How do you think public perception has shifted in recent decades towards environmental issues?
It’s definitely more mainstream and less stereotyped. When we started Passion for the Planet, the issues were regarded as alternative. Now it’s rare for people not to be considering them. The difficulty is with people who deny man-made global warming. What I say to them is that it’s irrelevant whether or not it’s man-made; these are just the right things to do.
What makes you feel optimistic about the future?
Lots of people are changing and that’s only been in the past four or five years. So, imagine what will happen over the next four or five years. Nobody used to wear seatbelts but today, we don’t give it a second thought. Likewise, people know to smoke outside. Massive public changes, like these, can happen quickly because people now understand that it’s about saving ourselves and not just the planet; they’re waking up. There’s a new movement for change and people can see it’s a good thing.
Do you have faith in the ability of the political process to achieve what is necessary to tackle climate change?
Politicians could do more. They should do it because it’s the right thing to do. The problem is, it’s always people against an issue that make the loudest noise. The media focus on them and they get the ear-space of politicians. I’d like to see government legislate harder and faster. If companies know what type of change is coming, they can plan ahead; it’s the not knowing that’s damaging to business. We need a clear message and timetable from the government.
What is the way forward for society to create a sustainable future?
It’ll find its own way. We can’t legislate every area of people’s lives but the government can give them a clear road map. More transparency in business would be beneficial; for instance, clearer explanations of what it means when companies claim to be ‘green’.
Humans are adaptable. I don’t believe technology has all the answers but it will play a role. I’d like to think that we can still do what we want but consume less. In my own life, I’m already doing this; first I reduced my car use and now I don’t own one.
I’ve also been downsizing the amount of stuff that I accumulate. We’re lured towards all the things we want to buy… but we can change. It is possible but it requires a bit of effort.
How much is it up to the individual to make lifestyle changes?
Our society isn’t made up of nameless entities. It falls one hundred per cent on the individual because government and business is made up of individuals.
If we all looked at what we were doing in our own houses, the necessary changes would become natural. It’s a cliche but being the change is absolutely what it’s about. We also forget how much power we have as consumers. Choices do make a difference. Writing to your MP helps too. How are they to know what we want if we don’t let them know? Over time, all of our choices add up and have an effect. We might feel small and powerless but the opposite is true.
Your radio station focuses on health as being a key area of sustainability. Why is this important?
Sustainability ought to be about everything. Our health is a resource as well. If we look after ourselves, then it takes pressure off the system. And if we muck up the environment, we will muck up our own health too.
How do you see the role of the media in the creation of a more positive future?
The mainstream media has a lot to answer for regarding people’s negativity about the environment and the lack of enthusiasm to take action. In fact, they have a lot to answer for when it comes to negativity in general: the recession, fear of crime and so on.
Although mainstream media is hugely powerful, I don’t believe the majority of outlets exercise that power in a useful, productive or empowering way. However, this is where Positive News and Passion for the Planet have an important role to play. Innovative media operators are the pioneers of positive information.
Contact: Passion for the Planet,
Zeal House, Deer Park Road,
Wimbledon, SW19 3GY
Chantal Cooke. Photo: © Passion for the Planet
If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation
Donating helps us keep reporting on positive news