Despite all the warnings we go on acting as if everything is normal. I suppose there is always a tendency to hope that if we simply wait it out, then climate change will not happen. In this mood we are on the lookout for some good news and fall upon it like manna from heaven.
I am reminded of the famous moment in 1938 when Neville Chamberlain returned from the Munich meeting with Hitler, waving his piece of paper and declaring ‘peace in our time’. He was received with enormous enthusiasm. Who wanted another war? But there came moments, not long afterward, when people began to realise that everything might not turn out well after all. The poet, Louis MacNeice, for one, living in London, suddenly understood that something serious was afoot when soldiers began to fell trees on Primrose Hill. Here is the relevant passage from Autumn Journal.
The night is damp and still
And I hear dull blows on wood outside my window;
They are cutting down the trees on Primrose Hill.
The wood is white like the roast flesh of chicken,
Each tree falling like a closing fan;
No more looking at the view from seats beneath the branches,
Everything is going to plan;
They want the crest of the hill for anti-aircraft,
The guns will take the view
And searchlights probe the heavens for bacilli
With narrow wands of blue.
And the rain came on as I watched the territorials
Sawing and chopping and pulling on ropes like a team
In a village tug-of-war; and I found my dog had vanished
And thought ‘This is the end of the old regime’.
We need moments like that, here and now, at the end of 2018. We may not be facing another world war, but who is to deny that something looms on the horizon that threatens our facile optimism? ‘Peace in our time.’ No, not then, not now. Everything cannot go on as normal. It is time we faced up to it.