It’s not that I don’t like to think big, but the bigger your circle of attention – geographically – the thinner and more superficial your attention and knowledge is spread. It’s no wonder the vast majority of human beings don’t factor in the rest of the world when we make decisions – we just don’t have the capacity to do so.
Or perhaps I should just speak for myself for now. By most standards I’ve had a pretty international education and international work and life experiences. But the longer I work on ‘global’ issues at work, the more I realise how little I understand and how shallow my knowledge is. Take the EU 2030 climate target proposals that were announced yesterday, for instance. I was supposed to write a blog post responding to the (weak, unambitious, insufficient, sell-out) proposals from the European Commission. I struggled with it for four days before deciding to give up for lack of anything to say. All I was capable of doing was summarising the proposals and explaining in three sentences why they were insufficient. I had no angle, no interesting insights.
Then I read this article today: European tar sands imports set for steep rise, US study says. And immediately I found something I wanted to write about: how the scrapping of the current target of a 6% emissions reduction in fuel (by 2020 against 1990 levels) in the 2030 targets would give Canada another large market for its dirty tar sands bitumen; why this is a bad idea; how this would be hypocritical of the EU given their lip service for climate action; how multiple groups within Canada are opposing multiple tar sands pipeline proposals; etc. If it was for my own blog I’d even write about what this means for Canadian domestic politics and economy.
The reason why that would be a relatively easy post to write is because I’m Canadian and I follow Canadian news and politics very closely. I’m already familiar with not just the facts but also the context and history. I’ve already developed a personal narrative and opinion about this issue. The angle’s already there.
In contrast, I admit that I don’t know the implications of the EU 2030 target proposals for, say, the UN climate negotiation of 2015, on which the fate of the world essentially and non-hyperbolically depends. I know even less about the implications for the renewable energy transition in Europe and the rest of the world. I can’t think that big! It bugs me that my scope is as narrow as it is but I think it’s natural to be drawn to what we already know and what we’re already familiar with.