One way or another

Sometimes I walk my dog with a very kind and very large man with a very kind and very large dog. His is not a frivolous mind, far from it; he does a great deal more thinking than most people I know. And of course, as can be expected of a man who thinks a lot, he has some opinions, a couple of which I disagree with. However, I’ve stopped shouting at him (he has never shouted at me) because he is not motivated by greed, and he is certainly not callous.

One of the issues we disagree about is “climate change”. I was stunned when he quietly said, “actually, I’m not really sure it is all that anthropogenic”. I thought that in this country, at least, there was wide consensus about the devastating impact of greenhouse gases on the planet. After all, the level of education here is generally high, and there are scientists in almost every family.

I still think my friend is an exception in a way, yet, in a way not. Although most of us here agree about the effect on the planet of greenhouse gases, we are doing hardly anything about it. We talk a lot, to be sure, but according to official figures in 2018, emissions of greenhouse gases here have not (!) decreased since 1990, and there is no sign of their doing so in the immediate or less immediate future. Why? Well, for one thing, who is going to pay for the reduction? The tax payer? The rich? You and I by forfeiting air travel and by shivering through the winter months? And what about the other countries? Why should my country pay the price if your country lives as though there were no tomorrow?

And yet, we all see it coming, the dreaded tomorrow, when even my part of the planet, not to mention yours, will no longer be a nice place. Actually, it hardly bears thinking about, and in my country, more and more women are saying to themselves: I cannot bear the thought of bringing children into tomorrow’s world.

Meanwhile, with fewer and fewer babies inhabiting my country, we live just like you do, as though there were no tomorrow, because the thought of tomorrow does not bear thinking about. But since my friend is quite incapable of not thinking, he has taken the alternative approach: he thinks that whatever is happening to the planet is through no fault of ours, so there is really nothing to be done, and the planet will survive as it always has.

When you get down to it, both he and I – in spite of our different viewpoints – are like a terminal patient I once knew: With shining eyes, he would speak about buying a little sailboat and sailing to an island he knew of. He would pitch a tent there, light a campfire and fry the fish he had caught himself. He radiated when he evoked skin-diving in the clear waters around the island, or listening to birds singing as the sun went down, or watching the sunrise from his sleeping bag. Just thinking about him, I long for summer and I’m already planning …