To Extinction Rebellion

With gratitude for placing the poor people of our cities under even greater stress, and for your relentless efforts in alienating the rest of us to the entire concept of climate change.

Can you take comfort, when you exercise in synthetic clothes, drink from plastic bottles instead of the tap, when you drive a car the battery of which is a disposability nightmare akin to that of nuclear waste, in the unwelcome truth that your contribution to ‘saving the planet’ is approximately zero?

Yes you can.

Please, recognise two simple, fundamental truths.

The sun is getting hotter.  There is nothing we can do about this, it is just a fact. 

There are too many people.  We can do something about this; we can say “miss out a generation”.  We can, but we won’t.  Think of the clamour!  The weeping protests!  The gnashing of teeth!  (I always fancied a bit of teeth gnashing – never tried it).  

We can recycle, we can:

  • Reduce our dependency on fossil fuels,
  • Harness the power of the wind (goodness knows we’ll get enough of it in the next ten years)
  • Empty our Jacuzzis and our hot tubs,
  • Stop wearing our clothes with once and throw away extravagance
  • Control our fetish for foreign travel,
  • Stop making unnecessary journeys
  • Retire to our energy-neutral pods. 

We can, and should, exploit the extra heat that is coming our way and re-deploy it:  after all, exploitation is something we’re good at.

But the bottom line is, my friends, we are a frail species when it comes to dealing with stuff like this.  

The megalomaniacs will still seek to take control, to conquer; the ‘not-what-you-know-but-who-you-know closet class will still fill the vital positions of management and mismanage them, the rabble-rousers will stir up insurrection when we should all be working as one, and the religionists will do much the same.

“Not my god’s fault, bro.   We kept telling you, didn’t we?  Your god should have listened!”

Personally, do I think our species will be wiped out? 

No.   We have reached a hiatus, that’s all; a much greater one, I think, than most of us understand.  Some of us will survive, just as the crocodile survived the extinction of the dinosaurs.  And if the planet has not been enveloped by the sun as a red giant, perhaps the ornithologists of fifty thousand years hence will be able to point out that we were probably warm-blooded and had feathers.

So this is my recommendation:  live life as though tomorrow is The Big Day.  

Do the sensible things like recycling; prefer natural fibres and wear clothes for longer, eliminate plastics as much as you can, perhaps travel a little less.   But beware of exploitation, because your fear is a fat contract that pressure groups and governments will seek to finance from your pockets, not always – in fact very rarely – with beneficial results.

The first rule for survival is – Be Wise.  

Logic has no Conscience

I can’t be the only one bemused by the COP25 discussions in Madrid, discussions which had the savour of ‘Rescue the World’ about them.

The Madrid conference appears to have ended with agreement that everybody will turn up next year in Glasgow, to talk about the same issues again, suggesting, to me, that they failed to agree about anything.

Not that it matters.  While we wrangle fruitlessly over emissions, while we play at politics where East meets West, South meets North, while we gamely sort our tins from our plastics and recycle everything we can, the kids are still being born.

The kids are still being born!

Because there really is only one solution to climate change, and we know it, all of us.  Yet we dare not speak its name.

We have to control our population growth, reverse it, even, before Nature takes action on our behalf.   In the 20th Century, the world population nearly quadrupled, from 1650 million to 6008 million.  The population of India grew from 802 million in 1986 to 1339 million today, Mexico 77.74 million to 129.2 million in the same period.   These are not unique, merely examples, and although ‘First World’ countries do better, they are by no means immune. By 2050, world population is forecast to reach 9.8 billion, by 21001, 11.2 billion.

If that isn’t scary enough, forecast figures are cast on a prognosis of reduced fertility, and the assumption that ‘peak child’ (a curious term for the highest point in the growth curve) is already past.  Is it?

Few really believe a world population of 11.2 billion is sustainable for any duration.  On the road to 2100 species extinctions will be so damaging the fly-blown, disease-ridden life that results will not be one any of us would wish upon ourselves.

This isn’t pleasant, but logic has no conscience, and although defeat of logical argument is the genius of the human spirit, this one won’t go away.  It is, truly, the elephant in the room, yet we seem able to virtually ignore it, step around it, clamber over it while we bicker about a new coal mine and argue carbon footprints; stop-gaps and patches – laudable in themselves, but letting the real damage be wrought unchecked.

I suppose we ignore the problem because we are unwilling to countenance the solutions, but we are running out of time.  Unacceptable as this seems, the age of free choice is past – a family and children must become a privilege earned rather than a right; old age an option, not an inevitability.  This opens all sorts of doors of course, releases all kinds of demons – no-one wants to see promotion of a master-race, or some form of murder of the first-born, but where there is a will there must be a way to curb fertility without such excesses.

If the challenge can be met humanely, it will require us to think deeply about our religious beliefs and reset some of the foundation stones of our philosophy.   Our own and the next two generations will play a vital role. If we fail, the second half of this century will descend into chaos.

I hope by the time the climate-change roadshow hits Glasgow next year they will have evolved into a more progressive way of thinking:  I hope, rather than believe.  Personally, I’m pretty certain we are destined to go ploughing cheerfully on into the abyss, But then I would be, wouldn’t I?

Because there’s a great novel in it.

 

 

Tomchik’s Ornithology

Tomchik reaches for his bag, which sits between us on the bench.

“I like it here,” he says.  He produces a thermos flask from within the bag’s khaki canvas depths, and proffers it.

I refuse.  I am meant to refuse, he is hoping I will refuse, “Me, too.”  I acknowledge, as he pours himself a shiny metal cup of tea.  “You’ve gone environmental, then?”

“This metal thing?”  He glances at the thermos, shrugs his shoulders; “Is alright, I guess.”

“Is it biodegradable?”

Tomchik turns his grey eyes on me in that analytical manner of his.  “I don’t know,”  He replies.  “I am.”

The wind sweeps down upon our backs, riffling through the heather and chattering my teeth on its way to more important business in the valley below.  “Sooner rather than later if you stay here,” I tell him.  “Or am I the only one who’s freezing to death?”

“Sometimes it is worth a little bit coldness to enjoy,” He waves expansively over the view before us.  “You see whole village from here.  Is worth it, no?”

I have to admit our situation is ideal.  We are sitting beside a path which cuts along the side of Carter Fell above the churchyard.  We have an unobstructed view of the squat grey roofs clustered three hundred feet below, of the winding snake of water that needs a few rushing miles yet to become the River Wenly, and the narrow road that follows it.  I can identify my home among the roofs, and I can see Tomchik’s too.  We are neighbours, he and I.  In a small village, everyone is a neighbour.

“How long have you lived here, Tomchik?”

“Why you ask me?  I am immigrant, yes?”  He takes a paper package from his bag and unwraps it thoughtfully, exposing sandwiches.  “Cheeses and pickles; you like?”  Again he makes a token offer and I respond with a token refusal.  “Many years.”  He nods, selecting a sandwich and dunking a corner of it in his tea.  “You think I shouldn’t be here, yes?”

The question surprises me.  I have known him for all of those years.  “No, of course I don’t think that.  Are you sensitive about it?  If we have to look at it like that, you’re one very good reason I approve of immigration!”

“Ah.” Tomchik munches solemnly.  There is silence.

I say:  “I can’t imagine the village without you.”

Tomchik points.   “You see the Harry Tulliver’s house?”

“Plainly.”   The cottage where Harry and Jane Tulliver eke out their fairly meagre existence is easy to identify.  “It’s sad to see the weeds, though.  Harry used to be such a gardener!  He doesn’t seem to do much now; I guess he is getting too old.”

“No, no.  Not too old,” Tomchik corrects me.  “You are right to say sad.  I am right to say tired.  Harry is tired man,   That is why he is sad.”

Sometimes Tomchik’s crooked logic leaves me behind.  “Alright then; why tired?”

He allows himself a tolerant sigh, “Tired two ways.  The bay tree is still prospering, you agree?”

I agree.  The tree in Harry’s garden is his pride and joy.

“One way tired.  The goldfinches, they used to nest in this fine bay tree – now is gone.   Two way tired.  Tell me another way you recognise house of Mr and Mrs Tulliver?”

I do not understand him at first.   Of course I recognise the house!  What is Tomchik driving at?  I decide to stoke things up with a little amusement.  “Well, their roof is a slightly different colour.  White polka dots!”

“Bird droppings, yes?”

“Yes,”

“So!  Two ways!  Sparrows!    Sparrows squabbling, mess all over windows, all over back path.  Sparrow fledglings in a row on the fence, squeaking to be fed.  Sparrows nesting – six nests in the bay tree already.”

“So, why the feeders?”  I wave a hand to indicate the three feeders filled with seed that are distributed about Harry’s blessed plot.  “They wouldn’t come if the spoils weren’t so readily available.”

“Exactly!  Mrs Jane, she tells Harry, put them out!  So Harry puts them out, and sparrows come.  Starlings, they come, seagulls, they come.  They eat everything – seed, Harry’s peas, raspberries, strawberries, everything he plant, they eat.  Every time those feeders empty, his wife she puts out more seed.  Those goldfinches, they leave, the bluetits, the chaffinches, the wagtails…”  Tomchik shakes his head,  “all birds Mrs Jane like, are gone.  She thinks she can feed them all, but she just get more sparrows.  Just sparrows.”

“Harry should tell her.  Harry should put his foot down!”

“This I say to him.  I say to him, Harry, you must take back your garden.  He say no, if he tell her she say without her food all sparrows will starve.  She is responsible, she say.  More and more money she spend on food for the birds.  Tullivers, they are not rich.  Harry’s vegetables he grew were food for them.  Now…”  Tomchik shrugs fatalistically, “No vegetables!  Nothing!”

“I don’t understand Jane…”  I begin.

“No-one!”  Tomchik cuts in,  “No-one understand Jane!”

“Have you asked her about it?”

“I do.  I ask her.  You know what she think?  She think without her these birds, they are dead birds.  She likes the pretty birds.”

Tomchik grasps my arm to gain my full attention.  He stares at me.  “You like the pretty Tomchik?  Chirp, chirp!”

 

© Frederick Anderson 2019.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.