Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘the end of the world

“the biggest crisis facing the world”

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The first two stories I read in this morning’s Obeserver leave me depressed.

Gordon Brown is in Jeddah trying to persuade OPEC to open the taps a bit more. And that is his quote I used for the headline. He thinks the oil price is the problem and that therefore more oil coming on to the market to meet rising demand will solve it. That is, lower the price.

The second story is that “the majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans – and many others believe scientists are exaggerating the problem.”

So at least Gordon Brown is in step with his constituents. Although most of the analysis is what that means for his political future. Not,  what does this mean if the world does not have leadership that is prepared to tackle global warming. Brown was trying – unlike Bush and Harper.

There is a deal of debate about why the Brits are not convinced but the phrase “many people said they did not want to restrict their lifestyles” sums it up neatly for me. And that feeling is not confined to the British either. And the thing they like to do is point to Al Gore and ask how big his carbon footprint is, and though that somehow excuses them from actually dealing with the future that faces us all and in a much shorter time frame than was expected.

It is not as if any of this experience is actually new or different. Throughout my life there have been “end of the world as we know it” scares. The bomb, the hole in the ozone layer, DDT, the series of oil shocks, the rise of terrorism and so on.  Most of the world is poorer and sicker than us – and we have actually been cutting back on the aid we give them. The population explosion was always a problem but the religious convictions of a few US marginal seats mean we do not deal with that or AIDS/HIV in any way that might actually work. The tv screen fills with little naked black babies who are going to die on a regular basis – and floods and disasters seem to occur with monotonous regularity in all the poorest nations. Nothing is being done to help Haiti or the Sudan – or nothing effective anyway. It is no wonder that people in the rich countries turn their attention away after a while from huge problems that seem so intractable. And listen to pundits paid for by big business who will tell them comforting lies. And sell them a big screen tv to watch “reality”.

The biggest crisis facing the world is our own indifference to our fate – and the wickedness of a political leadership that will allow that to happen. The good thing about the credit crunch and the oil crisis is that both were long overdue and a correction to over consumption and wastefulness that had to occur if we are to have a planet we can continue to occupy. And I used to reflect on what I heard the elders say about how this will affect our grandchildren. But most of the people alive today will see the impact of changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, worsening shortages of basic necessities – food, fresh water, secure shelter – and sudden catastrophic events such as the floods currently devasting the American mid west. Becuase it is not only Bangladesh and all those islands in the Pacific that are at risk. We all are.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 22, 2008 at 8:30 am