Sunday, March 29, 2009

Let's be awkward!

You asked me to tell you about the Climate Change seminar organised by the Council.
Oh . . . where do I begin . . . ? It was only yesterday, but I’m still feeling overwhelmed.
Perhaps the act of sharing it with you will help me to sort out my own feelings.

The speaker was Dr. Stephan Harrison, a scientist and university lecturer who has been researching the subject for twenty years. There was no doubting his research, his commitment, or his conclusions. And they were grim. We were all prepared for bad news (after all, we consisted of delegates from ‘green’ organisations and action groups), but you could tell that we were still clinging to unwarranted fragile hope. The children in our schools, we told him, were all highly motivated, with more information they would lead us in the right direction.
He scoffed at our naivety. If we left it to the children, he replied, we had no hope. Either we saved the situation ourselves or there would be no situation to save. This really made us sit up.

Climate change, he told us, was under way. There was no way it could be halted. We had delayed too long. At the very best we could mitigate the effects. To merely try to adapt would be self-defeating, the changes would be too great.
We flinched when he told us that the rise in temperature would not necessarily be gradual. History proved that there could be a sudden, dramatic increase over a matter of a few years. Nor was the rise in sea levels likely to be evenly distributed. A rise in height of twelve metres could take place in one part of the globe with little or no advance warning. We shuddered.

The solution, he said, was up to us. By now we hardly felt empowered, but we kept listening. Governments, he told us, wouldn’t save the planet. They couldn’t be expcted to. They had their own agendas. The only solution came not from the top, but from the bottom. It would be the ‘awkward squad’, those who asked questions, those who demanded energy saving measures, those who, in their own communities, practised sustainable living and care of the environment, who could still avert the worst possible scenario.

We looked at each other. Did he mean us? Were we suffiently ‘awkward’? And, if not, just how awkward should we be?
But the Council representatives hammered home the message. There would, they predicted be elderly people dying of heat-stroke in high-rise flats. There would be unprecedented flooding.
We took a deep, collective breath . . . and made our way home full of good intentions but wondering what, just what, we could possibly do?

Wriiting this account for you has given me time to reflect, and it strikes me that there’s another way of looking at the whole situation.
Let’s look upon ourselves not as burdened down with an impossible responsibility, but as an enormously privileged generation.
For the first time since the human race evolved on this planet, we are in a position to choose whether or not we stay. We are in a position to put right what, in all innocence, our ancestors did wrong. They didn’t know what they were doing when they started burning coal, what they were doing when they put pollutants in the rivers, what they were doing when they slashed the forests, what they were doing when they took to the air.
We know. What's more, we know what we need to do to put things right.

Yes, it is scaring . . . worse than that, it is terrifying. Our grandchildren may well be unable to survive the temperatures and the flooding that our thoughtless actions have created. It is already too late to stop the levels rising. But, if we put our minds to it . . . no, if we put our hearts to it . . . we can prevent the worst of those temperature rises, the worst of those encroaching seas, from making our planet uninhabitable for future generations.

Looked at in this light, it could be seen as a golden opportunity. How often do we really get an opportunity to say ‘sorry’ and amend our way of living?
This is our chance . . . our enormous chance . . . aren’t we the lucky ones!

Now . . . it’s just a question of getting others to help us . . . over to you . . . and remember, there's only one qualification needed to join the squad - the world-saving ability to be awkward!