I had a pretty techno-urban weekend. Saturday morning saw me visit Madrid for an MRI scan to check out a back injury that’s been bugging me for a while now..the scan was quite the electroniko-industrial rock concert in a coffin scenario, throbbing hammering deafening pulsations in a claustrophobia inducing hi-tech imaging tunnel. Very techno. And Sunday morning meant another visit to the capital to take part in the mass demonstration of public support for action on the climate issue at the Paris conference starting on November 30.
Looking up Calle Alcalá from Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid, the march getting under way.
The climate issue? James Hansen spelled it out for us in the US Congress in 1988. Climate change was happening. Global temperatures were rising. Humans were almost certainly responsible for it. Burning fossil fuels. The greenhouse effect. Anthropogenic global warming. That was almost thirty years ago and since then what have we managed to do?
Most people with access to information have done very little..other than bury their heads deeper in the sand and hope that all this nasty global warming business will go away. It’s true that a massive reaction on the part of the conservative oil and gas lobby in the 1990s, particularly in the US, has managed to confuse public perceptions of the science and generally obfuscate the issue by politicizing it and creating us versus them scenarios. Even though climate science has continued to reinforce Hansen’s original projections to the point where there is really no doubt that we are responsible for global warming, and the effects of climate change are more and more visible not as future scenarios but in the world around us in the present..we still see the same kind of fantasies offered by industry people daily on the internet and in the media: “not only is the planet not warming, it’s actually cooling”..”human impact is so insignificant it couldn’t possibly affect global temperatures”..”the climate scientists are inventing the facts, it’s all a huge conspiracy to increase taxes”..etc, etc, etc. Shill, baby, shill. Get your head deeper still into the sand. It’s probably not so surprising that the public -and its representatives- are so confused in the US, in a country where prevails the weird dichotomy of the planet’s most advanced technological society alongside the most willful ignorance, rejection even, of science..where possibly 40% of the population believe that the planet is not much more than 6,000 years old. If people can’t dig evolution, anthropology, geology, all relatively straightforward sciences, how can we expect them to grasp the more arcane complexities of climate science?
But that’s how it is..we need people to get it. Due to the paradox of democracy which means that elected political leaders have no vision beyond 4-5 years, absolute maximum 8-10 years down the line, with the result that solutions for longer term problems are impossible to develop. This is what we have seen over the last thirty years, even representatives with some kind of ‘green’ credentials cannot focus beyond the immediate issues of the economy, international affairs, local conflicts..this year, next year, two to three years from now. This is where the great challenge of the climate question lies..getting people to see that the consequences of climate change will impact almost everybody powerfully and negatively..economically..in terms of quality of life. It’s not about us versus them. All those old guys who are executives and managers in the oil and gas industries, and in their many dependent industries, and in their dependent political spectra..they too, at the very least thru their children, will be affected by the changing climate. You have to be a fool or an egomaniac not to see it. We have to get our heads out of the sand.
The human animal is of course not characterised by use of intelligence or rationality. We are emotional animals, often acting in defiance of reason, slaves to our ego. Greed and selfishness are terrible corrupters of human will and intelligence. Can we rise to the challenge? Can we overcome our collective ego, irrationality, selfishness and greed? Can we learn to act with more sense of consequence?
Sometimes you wonder. In Sunday’s demonstration in Madrid there was a considerable presence of helium filled balloons – as can be seen in the foto above. Balloons are colourful and perhaps add some gaiety to an event..some people would even consider it a wonderful spectacle to see hundreds of them floating up into the sky. Dozens, if not hundreds, of balloons certainly floated up and away during the march. Up and away to where? ..to the country, to the mountains, to the sea. To the unsuspecting mouths and bellies of birds, animals and fish. And this was a demonstration made up mainly of eco-minded people. We humans are slow to learn.
On the subject of us versus them..another human contradiction is the opposition between “conservatives” and conservation – at least in the English tongue! Conservatives usually want to conserve things..traditions, position in society, power, wealth. They don’t want things to change too much. Though things tend to change all the time, they generally resist change. Others among us are concerned about the conservation of the natural world, of Nature. Something which is changing quite rapidly and for the worse. Here, many conservatives are apparently not too worried about the changes that are going on, or they just don’t see them. They are surprisingly liberal when it comes to change in Nature. They don’t seem to care at all about climate change, or simply refuse to believe that it’s happening..in the face of massive and mounting evidence to the contrary. Probably they are more concerned with maintaining the tradition of humans doing as they please with Nature. But i’m afraid that tradition will have to go. Either we learn to conserve Nature..or perhaps we will conserve nothing at all.