Many of us have witnessed the outlandish, chaotic yet mesmerising experience that is the circus. If not belonging to the privileged demographic who have received honorary pleasure of experiencing this first hand – maybe as a young child baring witness to the classical performative charade found within the heights of Blackpool Tower – it’s almost a guaranteed recognisable concept.
Familiarity is found through hearing of this phenomenon through books, media and tales of circus-goers. What with recent anguish directed at exploitation of circus animals, the circus environment portrays itself as a controversial leisure activity. Similarly to the circus, a speculating performance also appears in the world of environmental ‘wokeness’. Tricks and illusion exist delivered by governmental bodies and industry whilst unaware members of the public latch onto mis-directing practices of ditching their plastic straws and bowing down to alternative consumption claiming inclusivity and environmental protection.
Arguably, performances of attitudes prioritising ecosystems, revealing little transparency in the methods behind the madness, present an anthropogenic circus of government clowns, an overwhelming pressure to juggle ‘sustainable behaviours’ in view of an easily-swayed, unfairly uneducated audience. How has it come about that putting our planet first has led to such a large degree of manipulation encompassing behaviours that are suited to feed to ego and reputation rather than knowledge and community ability to do better?
We look initially to the ringmaster – those wealthiest not just in abstract concepts of monetary flow but also influence. Presenting minuscule consumption habits such as switching to ‘free-range’ eggs and paper straws over plastic as proactive. This is an illusive mask for externalities caused by macroeconomics (large-scale behaviours and decision making) such as mass deforestation instigated by the normalisation of animal agriculture. The fear of clowns is a common one – reasonably founded as there is arguably little scarier than individuals with evident skill, impossibility to ignore who are continually choosing to disillusion.
“A fine line is walked between falsely reassuring the public of environmental prioritisation yet ultimately ensuring the protection of financial assets and economic growth over natural and human capital”
Feigned ignorance from government bodies presents as similarly comical when claims of new green energy budgets reveal that two thirds of spending transpires from previous green projects that failed to utilise original budgets. We then look to our musicians and tight-rope walkers; those that drown out lack of governmental and industrial transparency with noise of fake news and distraction. This occurs largely through the weaponisation of media outlets. A fine line is walked between falsely reassuring the public of environmental prioritisation yet ultimately ensuring the protection of financial assets and economic growth over natural and human capital. Arguably, truth could also be considered a scarce resource in todays age. Just as those with a basic education in neoclassical economics would understand, it could be framed that there is no supply without demand. The majority of us are included in the audience; with perceived lack of influence yet without our ticket sales, evident interest and loyalty would stagnate and ultimately prevent circus antics from continuing.
Furthermore – social hierarchy within the audience, dictating perspective and consumer perks (harnessing wealth to comply with sustainable consumption vs succumbing to cheaper, most accessible yet damaging fast fashion outlets), the majority are faced with insufficient capacity to partake. The less privileged are scolded for inability to go along with the show through following the latest ‘green fads’. Circus animals have not been forgotten, the victims of performative environmentalism weep at hidden fossil fuel investments as further pollution drives all species from their homes and away from vital resources; voiceless at the expense of the rhetoric that ‘the show must go on’.
Just as the novelties of the circus transition into a relic of ‘better times’, so should theatrics of shallow environmental tactics. Bottom-up change can demand for this; us as the audience to a slowing decaying world have abilities to hold figurative ringleaders accountable. We must be seated equally where individual and community ideas and capacities are acknowledged. Upholding more equal wealth and resource distribution can be achieved through buying local and pre-loved goods – dismantling control and decisions enforced by a singular ringleader, representative of the 1%. This encompasses industrial leaders – companies and brands are responsible for reallocation of sustainable resource use rather than utilising recycling incentives as agent to consume further.
Through re-choreographing the discourse of ‘we are what we consume’ and prioritising community ties within our earths carrying capacity, little value lies in continuing to fund the circus of of false promise, hidden externalities and deception – the theatrics fall apart. However, it would prove to be further trickery to place the majority of burden and shame on individuals when true salvation lies in politics and governmental institution. Raised carbon prices simultaneous with green energy subsidies pushes global adaptation from a much more influential standpoint – the world stage.
Exposure and critique of governmental failure denounces comical patronisation; it’s time for our world leaders to stop clowning around. Media outlets must seek to inform rather than to entertain; underpinning environmental issues which are often true cause of war, poverty and contributor to the mass pandemic we are at present forced to speculate and actively perform in ourselves. Victims must be freed from compliancy – their rights to coexist equally with the western world upheld, demanding cohesion with justice amongst not only the human population but also amongst species. Collective thought and cultural change continues to evolve, proving perspectives of social norms and values to be infectious – herd mentality deciphers to the circus environment to now be largely problematic and outdated.
Could the same attitudes and practices transpire towards green washing continuing to mask disaster capitalism? Ultimately, performative environmentalism won’t reverse climate change – financial and egotistical gain will cease to progress without the ecosystem resources they so desperately depend upon.
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