On Friday last week I did my first media interview. One of the two guys who formed TTB in the first place had been contacted by BBC Three Counties Radio as they were running a broadcast from Berkhamsted. They’d found TTB on the web, and wanted to include us in their show.
Danny wasn’t available, and put them in touch with me.
So I found myself in The Lamb, a real ale pub at the north end of the Berkhamsted high street, talking to a friend while DJ Nick Coffer and the BBC team were getting on with their broadcast. My stint was to be 5 minutes long, and the rather attractive producer Emma was to call me over when my slot came up. There were live bands playing to give a bit of atmosphere, and to promote the second Berkofest that will be held in September.
Emma waved me over, and I went up to the part of the pub where they were set up. Nick was standing up at the bar had his headphones on and was holding a massive blue microphone. He had his back to me, and was evidently talking to the main studio in Luton while some music was playing on the station (you couldn’t hear that in the pub). I waited patiently for him to say hello before our interview, and took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Emma about the radio business.
All of a sudden Nick turned round and started talking about TTB into his mic, getting some of the facts messed up, and without much warning I was live on air. Once I’d jokingly cleared up his error, we got on to the serious business of describing TTB to the masses who listen to BBC local radio.
My first mistake was mentioning a low carbon future. What is that, asks this stranger with a massive microphone. He had now produced a pen to wave in the air occasionally while I was talking, for what purpose I could only guess. I felt like I was playing lead violin while the conductor tried to correct my wayward tune.
I had a go at describing that, and I was then asked what we are doing in Berkhamsted. For some reason, probably nerves, the question slightly threw me. I half thought he meant what are we doing wrong in Berkhamsted that was causing problems. I realise with hindsight he actually wanted to know what we are doing in TTB. So I started talking about austerity and peak oil. “We are finding ingenious ways to get oil out of the ground” I said to describe peak oil. Listening back to the show later it seemed very much that I was inadvertently suggesting that the transition movement in Canada were good at boiling sand and bitumen to get the oil out.
We moved on, or rather Nick did. Next question was a difficult one – “What’s the worst case of what could happen, for the people in Berkhamsted?”. What could I say? I said that the worst case I’d heard of was the oceans boiling away, but I didn’t think that would happen. Of course I don’t. But I said it in the heat of the moment (no pun intended). With a bit of time bought I then described another possible outcome, where extreme weather gets worse, commodity prices go up and life generally gets more difficult.
At home later I thought – that doesn’t sound too bad really, as a worst case. Why would anyone want to change their lives particularly with that as a worst case? I’d avoided talking about mass migrations, food and water wars, mass extinctions, global starvation because I didn’t want to alarm. I would have said these things if I had felt confident. It has crystalized my opinion that without an accessible and trusted place for people to go to and to refer to in conversation or writing about the size and seriousness of the climate change issue, we are always going to be running up hill.
What is it that makes me think this issue is serious enough to spend a lot of my life dedicated to fighting it? I was worried about abrupt tipping points and boiling oceans a few months ago, but no longer think that is likely. When it comes down to it I am worried that we are seriously tampering with something that we don’t really understand, and what we do know is that we have pushed the climate system into a new and wholly man-made position, from which it will not recover. The longer we continue burning, the less we know about the consequences, the more damage we do.
It scares the hell out of me. But I imagine to others “we’re permanently damaging the climate” sounds quite benign.
Back to the disastrous radio broadcast, I did at least finish with a flourish, coining a new phrase “Fair Future”, which I compared with Fairtrade. With Fairtrade you are being fair to others on the other side of the planet – with Fair Future you are being fair to the inhabitants of the future. They may seem distance, but actually they are the people you packed off the school this morning.
The show is available to listen to for people in the UK on BBC iPlayer for the rest of this week. Fast forward to about 1 hour 14 mins into the programme to hear the whole thing in gory detail.