In the last few minutes of the final episode of the TV series ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, Blackadder and his Company are poised to go ‘over the top’ from their trench to charge the German lines. In the background, artillery guns are shelling the enemy trenches; it looks like the end for our boys. Suddenly, the firing stops. Silence. Birdsong. Private Baldrick dares to suggest that the war may be over, and for a moment we start to think that the series might just have a happy ending.
George: Well, hurrah! The big knobs have gone round the table and yanked the
iron out of the fire!
Darling: Thank God! We lived through it! The Great War: 1914-1917.
And at that point you realise that it’s not to be, and our chaps charge forth in to TV comedy history.
Over the last few days I’ve been willing the ‘big knobs’ around the various tables at Copenhagen to bury their differences and come away with some sort of legally binding structure that will at least help my God-daughter, niece and all other rug-rats known to me to grow up in a world that is not an ecological disaster area. I guess that deep in my heart I knew it was likely to be a hard job – a few weeks ago I attended a ‘Climatewalk’ event and expressed the view in debate that Copenhagen was unlikely to deliver, and at the time of writing it looks like I was right.
And so it goes on. Politicians and non-Governmental representatives make statements about returning to discuss a binding deal in 2010, and then you know what it will be – 2011, 2012, and so on. And all the time the global climate systems get closer to the ‘tipping point’ beyond which we cannot predict, let alone influence, what will happen. Perhaps the task is too big for our elected representatives – maybe they’re holding out for some sort of miraculous intervention, or even hoping that something will happen in 2012 to remove the problem. Some Governments are no doubt relying on being out of power in a year’s time, and thus leaving the problem for others. And others do probably care more about keeping their own national interest sound than anything to do with the wider picture.
And anyway, for most people involved, when the coastal plains flood, when there are wars over water, when we have vast tracts of forests burning every summer – never mind. They’ll have their bolt holes and armies to protect them on a personal basis.
So….a Modest Proposal.
We live in a world stitched together by incredibly effective communications. There is no longer a need for, for example, the UN to be in New York, or negotiations like this to be held in nice cities like Copenhagen. I propose that we find a suitably sized, low-lying island or atoll in the Pacific – one that will basically drown in the next decades if we don’t get things sorted. One where the food supply is governed by the climate, and that would best be in an area that gets a few typhoons. We then build a massive conference centre with living accommodation on this island, and choose by lot people of senior executive level from Government, Non-Governmental and Business organisations to go there and stay there until deals are sorted out.
And just to concentrate the minds of politicians, we send their families there as well. Visting rights would be arranged – we’re civilised. Put the beaurocrats there from places like the UN, and let ’em negotiate. Because they’re not coming home until it’s fixed.
Perhaps the world’s leading polluters could send the families of their leaders to this paradise – no expense would be spared in making it a beautiful and safe place to live. It’s just one that will drown in a few years, along with everyone on it, if we don’t sort things out. Maybe generations of people will grow up there whilst the big knobs try and sort things out.
I know, it’s a crackpot, harebrained scheme – mad. And, as Edmund Blackadder might have commented were he around today, who’d notice another mad scheme in a world full of them.