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EditorialsUpFront June 23

UpFront June 23

In our interview with Ben Jacob, ‘the Orchid Outlaw’, on page 22, Ben says that ‘saving nature for the future is time well spent’. His passion is for preserving orchids, especially those that may be destroyed by new development, and it has often put him in danger of incurring heavy fines or receiving time in jail if he is caught. However, he stresses the dangers of ‘eco-fatigue’ if people become tired of the climate debate—a situation that might suit many with a more inwardly focused agenda. While eco-fatigue describes a feeling of exhaustion from hearing about environmental issues, Ben warns that the environment ‘underpins everything—our societies, jobs, economics, food security—everything.’ Continuing on a path of ‘increasing human population and consumerist habits is simply not sustainable’ he says. But as environmental problems become more urgent, the amount of information and calls for action can become overwhelming and lead to apathy. Eco-fatigue is leading some people to ignore or downplay environmental issues. It’s no surprise that some people may stop paying attention to the warnings about climate change, or stop caring about the destruction of wildlife habitats. It’s a theme that is brilliantly portrayed in the film Don’t Look Up when Meryl Streep plays a US President who is given the news that the planet is facing extinction due to a 5 to 10 kilometer wide comet heading for a direct hit on earth. Told it is 100% certain she says ‘call it 70% and let’s move on’ and decides to ‘sit tight and access’. Between her and her Chief of Staff son they reel off a list of ‘world is ending meetings’ they have had that includes ‘economic collapse, loose nukes, rogue AI, drought, famine, plague, alien invasion and population growth’. What ensues is a battle between those telling the truth and those with an agenda that doesn’t benefit from the truth. The film had a Marmite effect on viewers but in a world where individual agendas initiate sophisticated lobbying and the use of elaborate marketing techniques to avoid scientific fact, it pushed home a valid point. The Orchid Outlaw may be as much a lesson on orchids as it is a memoir on activism, but it’s refreshing to read about one man’s small efforts to support the survival of a species.

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