A Canary Dies…

Imagine something for a moment. Imagine you are a miner in times gone bye. You travel into the depths of the earth, to tunnels where invisible noxious gas can kill before you are even aware that you are in trouble. Your safeguard against this? A tiny yellow bird, a canary, who will feel the effects of asphyxiation first, falling silent as it slips into coma, its delicate constitution a harbinger of peril, giving you time, hopefully, to scramble upwards to safety, gulping the sweet, good air.

Now think about this. All around the world, the canaries that could warn us of peril on a global scale, one by one, are falling silent. The last canary which fell silent is called the Great Barrier Reef. This delicate, beautiful, miraculous wonder is in grave peril, and so, by extension are we. If we do not devote every iota of our collective beings to scrambling to safety we are doomed just as surely as the miner in the tunnel.

This is not going to be one of those articles with many a hotlink to prove the point scientifically. As has been said many times, the debate regarding the veracity of the claim is over. Whatever the myopic fools in the Trump administration profess to believe, climate change is real, it is happening now, it is increasing in rapidity, to the extent that we are in dire straits. And in the longer term, unchecked and ignored, that means only one thing for us as a species, along with a host of our animal cousins. It means extinction. Not hardship, not distress, not changed circumstances, although they will come too, it means extinction. The end. Fin. That’s all folks. The human species, after two and a half million years of being, and only some 70 thousand years since the so called cognitive revolution, which allowed the development of complex society, becomes history.

What is, or has been, very noticeable is the extent to which popular assessments shy away from such bald terms. People talk of ‘a very changed world’ or ‘challenging times for future generations’. It is understandable as to why even scientists do not want paint the picture of our plight too starkly, for fear of disengaging or scaring away a readership which feels helpless in the face of change.And yet. And yet… we are not helpless. The intensely frustrating thing is we are so tantalisingly close to achieving long term solutions to a whole host of CO2 generating activity, from transport to power generation through technology and innovation. Given a couple of hundred years we could easily achieve the goal of a carbon neutral planet, even given the rapacious destruction of the natural world that we are currently seeing.

Sadly, heartbreakingly, we do not have the luxury of such a time window. Without rapid action now, our cities will be ruins 200 years from now. Baked, flooded and ravaged by super-storms, and as empty as the cities of a hundred post-apocalyptic movies. Dystopia found.

So here is the simple truth and hopefully a truth that a spur to action, to protest, to lobby, to investment and to change. Combating climate change, to use the showbiz phrase, should be for every county, every leader the ONLY ticket in town. We are basically all out of time on this and everything else important as it seems is an irrelevance. Brexit for example; really just a massive distraction. The same is true sadly for Syria. The main focus for the whole world must be fixing this. Without a clear acknowledgment of this; We. Are. Toast.

In the short term the only thing that can resolve our difficulties is technology. Renewable energy is of course making massive leaps in sophistication, but this is not enough. Given the timescale we find ourselves in we need massive investment in the development of carbon capture technology and benign solar management tech also. This is the only thing which has any realistic chance of safeguarding our future survival, but everyday we delay the odds are getting longer, and another canary dies.

Tom Elliott. Scotland 2017.