I finally watched The Simpsons Movie last night. No-one told me it was about environmentalism – I would have seen it sooner!

It raised in my mind a serious problem in climate change perception: climate change appears in two, fairly minor places, and is equated with general greeniness rather than given what might be considered the respect it is due as a social issue! Although I’m always keen to connect climate change to wider environmental issues as a different head of the same hydra of ecological limits to human society, in the context it feels like it’s shoved in as a concern of the terminally earnest (in this case Lisa Simpson, her love interest Colin and guest stars, punk band Greenday).

Colin, Lisa's love interest. Irish guitarist/multi-instrumentalist environmentalist. Speaks with a roguishly charming Irish brogue

Your blogger. English guitarist/multi-instrumentalist environmentalist. Speaks with annoyingly posh English drawl

For those who haven’t seen the film, here’s the premise (no spoilers here, I promise). Springfield and the national government deal with a local environmental degradation issue: the pollution of a local lake, and is gently sympathetic to environmentalist causes, though treats the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a crack, highly militarised force for environmental rough justice. Though the EPA were the villains of the film, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to look at this and think “if only”.

The first reference is when Lisa meets her beau, and they finish each others sentences, exchanging statistics on environmental degradation, climate change and oil dependency. All shoved in together. This is, I think, what is wrong with much of how climate change is perceived, as something environmentalists get excited about in a somewhat nerdy fashion, but doesn’t need any further comment.

The second is in the fantastic spoof of An Inconvenient Truth, in which Lisa tells the town about lake pollution using a lift to show rising levels. The lift breaks, the town unanimously elect to buy a new lift, ignoring the key issue. The fact that it is seen as logical to parody a global warming presentation with a local pollution presentation backs up this sense that all environmental issues can be treated as one undistinguished mass.

Linking climate change to wider environmental concerns is important. We need, however, to distinguish between this and marginalising climate change as just another pollution issue for the tree-huggers to worry about. Many a polluted lake undoubtedly has its share of social impacts, but climate change should be treated on a whole other level of concern.

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