I hope you are reading this at the right time. I am writing it in GMT which is of course the Proper Time of Day from now until whenever it is that the clocks spring forward again. Yes, BST is at an end; and we have all acted accordingly – but the weather doesn’t seem to have realised. There’s no sign of winter yet, and autumn seems like a duller, damper and less leafier version of summer. The more days we have without frost, the more anxious I feel about global warming. I have nightmares, as I walk the streets in t-shirt and cagoul, about ice-caps melting, polar-bears dying, flood-plains flooding, and all the horrid plagues of disease and overcrowding and rats that will precede our eventual demise.
And yet… and yet – there is still hope. Thirty years ago I was having similar nightmares about nuclear winter and the extinction of vast swathes of the planet – and that didn’t happen. Does this mean we can just assume that worst-case scenarios in general are paranoid fantasies? Can we carry on and laugh at the gloom-mongers?
Absolutely not. There were various reasons why all-out nuclear war didn’t happen, and the main one, I contend, was the realisation that whatever the differences between communism and capitalism, it didn’t – and doesn’t – make sense to address them in this way. Yes, there was the breakdown of communism and all that as well, I know. But the fact that we drew back from the brink gives me hope. Perhaps before long people will realise that everyone having a car is not sustainable; not only because it’s bad for the environment but because if everyone has a car and every car is on the road, no-one actually gets to go anywhere. Perhaps before long people will realise that having the central heating and a gazillion kitchen gadgets is not a Good Idea. Perhaps before long people will start to see reusing and recycling as positive options, not just necessary ones.
Things are starting to happen. They’ve been starting to happen for a long time; we just need to carry on with them. That way we can – at the risk of sounding like a hippy – live in harmony with the planet rather than being at war with it. Because the warm war, like the cold war, has no winners at all.