For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
The Revelation V1 17
To fall down a hole in the dark is possibly unfortunate. To fall down a similar hole in broad daylight is not. Covid was just such a hole which caught the human race by surprise. In dealing with it, mistakes were made and remedies sought. But more importantly, it is to be hoped that lessons were learnt. Two things quickly became clear – individual nations would have to put aside their individual agendas and each of us would have to accept some level of restriction on how we lived our daily lives. If this is true of a virus, it is even more relevant as we confront the far greater elephant in the room – the inevitable result of ever-increasing global warming.
The solution is simple and generally agreed upon – collectively, stop using fossil fuels to create energy and individually, at least in the short term, to limit the use of the alternative sources of energy to what is essential to keep us warm and fed. Then, once a sensible base line has been reached and alternative sources of energy established, to design a society that allows us to live a satisfying life without harming the planet. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that either of these two courses of action will be followed. No doubt global resolutions will be made but some if not most nations will try, in its own way, to game the system and even if the rest of the world were to condemn such behaviour, there is no international ‘police force’ to ensure law and order. In the same way, individuals will baulk at their freedom being restricted and will have little difficulty in finding a leader willing to espouse their popularist cause. Similarly, no Government is likely to ban holiday flights or unnecessary car journeys if it threatens its hold on power. But the greatest danger of all is the seductive arguments that appear to offer a scientific solution, an ecological vaccination, so to speak, that will allow us to continue as we are while the boffins in some unspecified way produce a solution out of the hat. Such a solution might be possible if we could lower our current expectations, buy less ‘stuff’, walk or cycle more miles and return to the life style we followed in the 1950s, but that seems improbable. What is more likely is that the current Capitalist model of continuous growth funded by personal debt will prevail, adding fuel to the fire.
Of course, from the point of view of Life as a whole, the collapse of human civilization might turn out to be a good thing. We saw during the lockdowns that the rest of life began to flourish and providing the ecological damage is not beyond repair the Amazonian rain forest and Great Barrier Reef will probably return to their former state. In which case, the haunting sound that can be heard is not so much Tennyson’s fanciful ‘moan of doves in immemorial elms’ as a sigh of blessed relief.