Thought for the week: Simon Tilley on the climate nightmare
I don’t know about you, but most of my bad dreams seem to involve helplessness. Here’s one: I’m a tall chap on a coach going down a motorway. I’ve got the seat just behind the driver, with plenty of legroom, and I’m comfortable, even serene. Then I become aware that in the distance just over the hill there’s a pile-up. The driver hasn’t noticed – indeed he’s actually accelerating a bit.
I do nothing; I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. But as we get closer, I see it is quite a big pile-up, and he still doesn’t seem to have noticed. I wonder whether I should speak up. In the end I say, in a conversational tone: ‘Looks like there’s a bit of a prang up ahead.’ He makes no reply. I repeat myself a bit louder, and two things happen. He says ‘It’s just a bit of congestion’ and one of my fellow passengers nudges me and points to a sign saying: ‘Do not speak to the driver while the vehicle is in motion.’ ‘Please be quiet,’ she says, ‘it’s not safe to speak to the driver and you’re upsetting my friend.
’You know how these things go; no one else appears to have clocked what is becoming a really obvious disaster up ahead or, if they have, seem oblivious to the danger. They go on chatting and reading and sleeping, and when I try to get their attention, they just look at me as if I were a television. And the coach continues to accelerate…
I’m screaming now, pointing ahead: ‘For God’s sake, stop! Brake! Brake hard!’
Amazingly no one seems to hear. One or two of the other passengers are looking at me with mild, bovine interest, but most are remonstrating with me for disrupting their journey. We reach the prow of the hill and I notice break fluid escaping onto the road…the hill starts to send quickly…..And then, with about a hundred yards to go before we pile into the destruction ahead, the driver applies the brake but they are soft and spongey, we start to slow but far too little and too late………….
This is where I wake up, to that overwhelming feeling of relief that it was just a dream.
I usually ask myself what led up to that dream. Often there’s a logical explanation, based somewhere in reality. When you’re asleep, your brain sorts stuff you’ve been dealing with, re-runs it by and sorts out my emotional response while you’re offline. I went on a coach to London recently for the last People’s Vote march, and I’ve been reading a book about climate breakdown, (There is No Planet-B by Mike Berners-Lee) so that explains that.
Except, of course, that isn’t really a dream. When I wake I don’t get a surge of relief, just a feeling of despair at the reality: the clear and unanswerable fact that we are on the brink of irreversible climate breakdown; the knowledge that, in their anxiety not to be alarmist the media often sits quiet, our scientists understated the danger and the ongoing complacency of some of our politicians is obvious, even when faced by the reality of fires in California and Australia, famine in South Sudan and floods in Fishlake. And I wish I’d pushed the driver out of the way and taken over the steering wheel myself earlier. The prow of the hill and the leaking brake fluid must have represented a tipping point beyond which we can not retreat. These are approaching but we don’t know when.
Everything I have done over the last two decades in Hockerton Housing Projector have been Reasonable and Proper. I’ve written articles, spoken to the media, talked with friends and family, had polite meetings with my MP, written letters and signed petitions. All to no avail. So, I fear, perhaps it’s not time to stay polite, but get arrested, to make the point. And dare to dream of a hopeful future. Nonviolent direct action is starting to turn the tide, but we don’t have long.
Every action we take counts, where we bank, where we shop and for what, how we vote and what we choose to eat, how high we have the heating and how far we travel. A better future can be envisaged but we need to act and act to make it happen now.
If you want to find out about some practical steps you can take especially if your interested in low energy housing, environmental education and or renewable energy please contact me. Or if you’d like to look at our new videos on sustainability please click here.