By Nick Lyth
If only that was all. It would have been the least of our problems. I write to bring you the GAS Christmas Newsletter, but with the gathering number of industries set to strike in the coming days and weeks, it will be a wonder if it gets through.
And nothing is worse than the mounting furore over Climate Change. Biodiversity COP15 is currently running in Montreal to the stark recognition that if our inability to control biodiversity and eco-system loss is not corrected now, there is little if any hope of long-term survival. Meanwhile, UK Government approves the opening of a coal mine in Cumbria, to gasps of disbelief, accompanying the mendacious justifications from the Ministers concerned.
The chaos we are facing in our economic and political lives right now has, to some extent, obscured the problems we are confronting with Climate Change. But they have not gone away. The consequence of the distraction posed by the political and economic crises seems to make our leaders even less willing to grasp the nettle and address the enormous problem posed by Climate Change. As a result, it is getting worse. Ukraine alone is generating an acceleration of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions that is exponential for the region.
In her 1985 masterpiece, The March of Folly, historian Barbara Tuchman defines folly as “the pursuit by Government of policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives.” Tuchman chooses spectacular examples of self-destruction, by way of illustrating her thesis. Japan declaring war on the US in December 1941, a war they could only lose. The US invading Vietnam after France had given up the Western cause, a war the futility of which grew more and more obvious, as the destruction became worse and worse. The conduct of the Vatican under the Renaissance Popes, which ensured the Reformation, is another astonishing example.
Brilliant though her account is, it is in the end extraordinarily damning. There is no explanation for the March of Folly, beyond the obvious. We are fools.
Sadly, the story of global warming and climate change fits the pattern. Part of our folly is our inability to learn. We could learn the lessons of previous mistakes. We could have learned the lessons of climate change itself. But do we? Opening a coal mine in Cumbria provides an answer that makes anything I write redundant.
In all cases, Tuchman’s examples resulted in changing the course of history. Climate change is no different. Our failure to control the catastrophe that has been looming for so long means that the scale of the catastrophe has expanded and expanded. The wave that is breaking over our heads has now reached Tsunami proportions while we have been paddling carelessly along the shoreline. But even now, we are not looking up and seeing it coming.