Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Message in a Bottle

This is prompted by a call from Getup to contribute a message for a time capsule. Here is my contribution:

Greetings, from 2011,

Part of the invitation to write this message included, in part, a request to 'show future generations you cared enough to speak up in an era when fear and cowardice almost won the day? '

Well, speaking from the time, it does not appear to be *quite* that dramatic! Nevertheless, I think I can time the moment I became more engaged with what was going on around me to that crisp, clear, autumn day in New York, when a horribly beautiful sargasso plume of flame and smoke blossomed from the side of the World Trade Centre. In fact, the local time was about 10:45pm, and I had just gone to bed, missing the first confused reports coming in the late News by a matter of minutes. I awoke the next morning thinking that whoever was talking on the radio about the 'greatest day of infamy since Pearl Harbor' was laying it on a bit thick... until the early estimates of over ten thousand casualties was mentioned.

And reports of a crash in a field, as passengers of flight 93 tried to wrest control back again.

Thankfully, these estimates were halved over time, but I would think that '9/11' still resonates after fifty years... it has certainly defined the political landscape of the last ten.

As it happened, my daughter was conceived at about this time. As the details of what Al Qaida stood for coalesced, I felt it behooved me to ensure that she would not have to suffer at the hands of such a misogynistic mindset.

There was an initial outpouring of worldwide support and commiseration. It could have been handled so much differently! Without the panic. Without a protracted and ruinous occupation of a country which had no links to Al Qaida (Hussein preferring to brew his own brand of international nastiness). America the Nation could have been shown at its most enlightened.

Unfortunately, it became the Age of Spin and Denial.

The US government of the time had its own agenda, which it managed to fuse into the ongoing crisis. There are various accounts of how big that agenda was, ranging from simple vengeance, to opportunistic racketeering up to acts of shadow puppetry on behalf of another government.

The War on Terror! Huh! For all that they were diligent and meant well, I think that the renewed flight searches by airport security did more to instil a sense of terror and helplessness in the populace than a dozen blown up passenger flights ever could!

In the midst of all this, off the coast of Australia, a Norwegian cargo vessel was left stuck in limbo, carrying a huddle of refugees it was now popular to vilify as potential terrorists. Such people were, so we were being told, not above throwing their own children into the water to force authorities to take them in.

Except, they weren't, according to the coastguard officers and crew who were on the scene.

This message is prompted by the pending passage of the 'Clean Energy Bill' which is, in turn, prompted by a concern about what the CO2 levels were doing. For much of the past ten years, governments have been oblivious, indeed, actively censorious, of this threat. I am afraid that this is what you reap.

I find it ironic that two arrogant governments of recent times were shown to be lacking by acts of climate.

Cyclone Tracy's destruction of Darwin in 1974, and Hurricane Katrina's 2005 impact on New Orleans and the Louisiana coastline as a whole showed, in their lax handling of the aftermath, that the governments of the day were made of straw. Those 'extreme weather' events may not have bought the edifices tumbling down, but they set the stage.

Whitlam and Bush may have shared an overweaning arrogance and hubris, but I think that Whitlam would, at least, have been applying his overweaning arrogance to tackling a problem such as climate change.

For Bush, as intricately as he was bound into the oils and fossil fuel industries, it took an obscure PNG spokesman at a 2007 Bali summit to ask 'If you don't want to lead, then get out of the way'

Bush may have gone, but his backers remain, and seem intent on maintaining the status quo. Governments may have been moved, reluctantly, from dismissal, to denial, to grudging acceptance, but they have remained paralysed by indecision, and by a lack of resources in the wake of the crash of 2008. This inaction, even after changes in governments, has led to much frustration, as is evident in the umbrella 'occupy' movements that have been springing up in the last month. However comforting the status quo may be, change is afoot (as it happens, I just started writing a story that attempts to weave all this together. If it ever makes it to print, and is still in publication, I hope you enjoy it, as outdated as it will probably appear to you!) .

Of course, you will have your own perception of the events of the last decade, and it is pointless for me to speculate on whether what I say can be dismissed as paranoid ramblings, or a rueful shake and a muttered 'you didn't know half of it!' (It is possible that I will still be alive, and join in!)

At the time of writing this, we 'know' (as well as any scientific theory can know) that human activity has been causing undue warming of the Earth, and that this will have profound consequences (you are quite possibly experiencing them as you read this) How profound these changes will be is still a matter of debate. That they *will* have profound changes within a generation has only become evident in the last 5-6 years. For that reason alone it is, perhaps, unsurprising that so much resistance to the idea has been encountered.

It is a hope that the Clean Energy Bill will precipitate a rush to develop renewable energy sources and this will show the way forward internationally! It is a hope that this action will mitigate what you experience.


Governments remain paralysed by lobby groups. We may have to rely on individual efforts to remind us of our basic humanity. In telling my story on the War on Terror, I alluded to a few such examples. We are only just beginning to realise that Humanity has been de facto custodian of the planet for a lo-o-ong time. We are still not very good at it. But we're learning.

So, what of me? Having made a commitment to making a better less troubled world for my child, I have found that raising that child took up more of my time than saving the world. I suppose this is as it should be, and I think it has paid off (as with a lot of such things, you will be a better judge...!).

My contributions to getting a sane policy to tackling climate change on the table have been very modest and peripheral. I have read, observed, and generally borne witness. I write of what I see. I have occasionally offered words of advice, support, and solace to people far more active in trying to bring about a better world than I have been.

Even that little would have been impossible without the advent of the improved online interaction made possible by what is now known as Web 2.0. It allowed me to start blogging, to start reaching out and reading of other people's concerns and hopes.

You will be opening and reading this some forty years after I have written it. My concerns for you are that you live in a world which is beginning to show the scars of a profligate civilisation. My hope is that you see a way forward from wherever you are; that we acted in time.

A little while ago I wrote: "Bridges start out as a means of establishing links that weren't there before. Bridges are important. They need to be built. They need to be maintained.".

I think holds true in time as well as space (do you still watch Dr. Who?). It occurs to me, on this rather cold November day in 2011, that someone writing this forty years in the past would have done so with a very real concern that nobody would ever have read it; that the capsule would have been destroyed, or lie amid an ashen, barren landscape.

We're still here, so we must be doing something right!