A bunch of problems needs a bunch of people and they need to work together


As I said in my last blog we need to see connections and then be connected. Just to mention (again) all those worrying and distressing items that we watch on the news or read about in the papers, and which are now so familiar to us: climate breakdown disasters, famines, wars, failed states, huge amounts of money spent on weapons including weapons of mass destruction, bad government, corruption, refugees and people trafficking – and I am only making a selection. Obviously these all belong together. Start at any point in this list and your journey is likely to take you on a pathway that visits the other items. Climate breakdown leads to food shortages, which lead to conflict and refugees and bad government and so on.

But those who oppose these things also belong together. If you put together the people who, at different times and in different ways, have felt they wanted to react to these conditions, we would have a mighty army. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to work quite like that. It appears that, at the moment, many individuals have not even seen the possibility of linking with others; similarly, many small organisations, while doing a great job, are scarcely talking to each other.

I used to work at an international school in India. Most of the staff were expatriates like me. On the wall of the staff room there was a picture of a sailing ship and under it the comment: ‘We may have all come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now’ (a quote incidentally from Martin Luther King). It was so true. It was no use pretending that there was another ship that we could go to, or that the crew of the ship was likely to change in a hurry. No, we were stuck with what we had got and had to get on with it.

What we had to do was to work better together. This applies to many life situations – a school staff room, an office, a rugby club, a hospital ward. It also applies more widely. Our neighbourhood, our city, our nation: it’s what we’ve got and who we have, and working better together will always help. In the end it applies to our world. I suppose one day some of us might live on Mars (not a happy thought!) but for the time being this planet is our home. We are going to have to do better at looking after it together.

Time to stop arguing about climate breakdown


(c) Gloucestershirelive.co.uk

In a recent London Review of Books article (LRB 39/10) Thomas Jones mentioned some familiar information.

The World Meteorological Organisation reported in March (2017) that last year was ‘the warmest on record’ with ‘exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat…Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.’

He also suggested, in the same article, a surprising response to this situation.

There is nothing to be gained from trying to persuade the likes of Pruitt and Tillerson (Head of the US Environment Agency and US Secretary of State respectively) of the reality and seriousness of climate change. It’s exactly what the deniers want. The longer ‘that debate’ goes on, the more those who profit from the status quo can plausibly deny the need to do anything.

I think he is right. There comes a moment when a situation is so serious that the talking must cease.

There are two points here. Firstly, the obvious one, that in an emergency there may not be time for much talking. We might use a simple example from the past. Walled cities were built in part to provide a safe place when an enemy army was advancing on the land. The herald’s job was to warn people in the countryside that they must get inside the city as quickly as possible. This was not a time for discussion. If they lingered they might find the city gates shut and the enemy upon them. A second point (here I am referring to an interview with Salman Rushdie in the Guardian 2.09.17) is that evidence is evidence. Denying it does not change the evidence. As Rushdie says: ‘Let me put it to you this way: if you say the world is flat, it doesn’t make the world flat. The world doesn’t need you to agree that it’s round in order to be round, because there’s this thing called evidence.’

So I am not sure that we need to win the argument any more, in the sense that we want to put time and resources into arguing the case for climate breakdown. Instead, we must simply get on with the job of doing everything we can to save the planet, while helping as many of the already-victims (currently people in the southern United States, large areas of South Asia and the Caribbean) as possible.

If we are going to do any arguing, perhaps it should be about connections. Climate breakdown and natural disasters and food shortages and communal wars and bad government and the increasing flood of refugees (just to make a selection) are all part of the same picture. Saving the planet is one thing and saving ourselves, I mean our whole civilisation, is the same thing. They belong together. ‘