DAVID NICHOLLS. We are the lobster

An increasing feeling of unreality is pervading the social environment. It has an almost dreamlike feel to it. Or perhaps one should say should say, “nightmare-like”.

As it has been for the past few decades, the 24/7 news cycle media are preoccupied with the daily stupidities of politicians, business, wars, accidents, crime and the feats of the sporting elite.

The weather is treated as a transient nuisance – whether to take an umbrella, drink more water, etc. Sometimes when they have footage, they feature tropical cyclones. It’s all just news-fodder. The news cycle rules everyone’s consciousness. The world is progressing as it always has.

Or not.  Since the 1970s, scientists have been warning of the impending climate catastrophe. But the sociopathic energy corporations – and all corporations are sociopathic – have ensured that no legislative action is taken to prevent them from mining coal, drilling for oil and tapping gas reserves. And we in the “developed world” remain in our comfort zone, burning their lethal products. The politicians who could take action are preoccupied with their short term re-election prospects, with defeating the other side of politics, and generally grubbing around, throwing mud at each other, in a dysfunctional kindergarten. Nobody takes a view longer than the profit- reporting cycle or, at best, the electoral cycle. Even in the scientific community, it’s the research grant cycle. Unless, of course, you’re a climate scientist or a futurist.

Lobster in warming environment

No doubt the lobster when it’s placed in the cooking pot takes a similar short term view of things. As things slowly change its fate is sealed.  And it looks like ours is, too.

It’s a sad fact that the lack of scientific and mathematical literacy in the population at large means that few can read a graph or an equation, and understand its implications. If they could, we might not be where we are.

If you think about the next twenty years and not just the next three weeks, the news fog clears a bit and the full danger of our position becomes more obvious. Then the day to day routine of business and politics, war, crime and sport, takes on an air of unreality. The actors participating in the drama are, in true Greek tragedy style, unaware of what is actually happening around them. The world is changing. The weather is turning against us. The benign conditions of the past ten thousand years are about to end, and end abruptly.

When national budgets are framed each year, they make spending promises in the “out years” that make the headlines but mean nothing. They mean nothing, not because the political opposition may change things, but because the condition of the nation is likely to change dramatically over the span of these “out years”, something that is just not taken into account by the government’s economic advisers.  Of course, our political masters pay lip service to climate change to assuage communal insecurity and blunt the strident calls of the environment movement. “Australia will reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 28 per cent by 2030”. …. Blood Oath it will, and a lot more besides. The entrenched collusion of mining unions and the mining industry has worked to stop any sensible action to anticipate the catastrophe that is already on the horizon. They all want to continue what they are doing, fighting the familiar battles and maintaining the status quo.

Well, like the lobster in the cooking pot, or the actors in the Greek tragedy, they have no control over what’s happening. It is starting to happen, it will happen, and it will suddenly dawn on them that it has already happened.

What then? One can speculate. Some things are bleeding obvious. Hundreds of thousands of boat refugees from places like Bangladesh. Tell Tony Abbott and his mates to “stop the boats” when that starts. Other details are still shrouded in the future. Wars, famine and pestilence provide useful headings.


Dr David Nicholls is a post doctoral fellow at ANU and an  active astronomer/astrophysicist, with a great deal of respect for and understanding of scientists working on climate change. This article was first published on his Facebook page on 23 February. Reposted with permission.

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