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Code red

August 18, 2021

I have a friend who is the editor of an environmental magazine. Whenever we get together (which hasn’t been for a while now) the evenings generally unfold the same way: we drink a fair bit of beer and put the world to rights.

The last time I saw her, a few years ago, climate change was high on our list of things in need of sorting. We came up with a great idea – not that we had the money or the contacts to pull it off, but maybe someone could.

This was the idea: A series of PSAs with famous people who had for whatever reason failed to reproduce. The basic message was: “Thank god I didn’t have children. I don’t have to do anything about climate change. I’ll be dead before the worst happens.” Then, straight to camera: “Do you have children? Grandchildren? What the hell’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you rioting in the streets?”

It is a question that begs to be asked. What the hell is wrong with people? Why aren’t they rioting in the streets about the abysmal failure of their governments to do anything meaningful? (Well, some are protesting, but more often than not it is the children, not their parents or grandparents.)

As the most recent IPCC report (dubbed ‘code red for humanity by UN Secretary-General António Guterres) makes clear, we’ve past the tipping point. We’re fucked and we only have ourselves – and our useless bloody governments – to blame. The forest fires and the floods are here to stay. 

Yes, as the report makes clear, it is possible to ensure things don’t get even worse, that slowly, but eventually the climate could begin to recover from humanity’s assaults, as Rebecca Solnit details in this piece in The Guardian. But that would require an unprecedented level of commitment from world governments. 

Can you see Vladimir Putin giving up oil and gas, the only thing generating revenue for his country? China may be at the forefront of manufacturing solar panels, but they still have a shitload of coal power plants. Are they going to close them all down next year? Is Biden going to genuinely get with the programme and stop pretending natural gas fracking is a legitimate halfway measure? Is Justin Trudeau, assuming he’s still the prime minister after the election, going to tell Alberta to shut down operations in the tar sands? 

Let’s see what happens in Glasgow in November, shall we? But don’t hold your breath. 

Thank god I don’t have children.

From → Columns

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