Those were the words of Ena Sharples, during an episode of, “Coronation Street”, back in November 1978.
Ena was an old woman then, grown wise with age. She lamented the way folk were hungry for money and material things, with little time for helping others, or displaying sensitivity for those worse off than themselves.
American readers will doubtless not have heard of, “Coronation Street”. If they have, they’ll likely be familiar with the present day version of this long-running, and once loved, soap-opera depicting working class life in northern Britain. Today’s version, filled with nonsensical drama – as far from real life as it’s possible to get without filming on the Moon, or Mars – bears little relationship to the down-to-earth, every-day story of real people, with all their suffering and joys, that was the wonder of the original.
Ena Sharples was echoing the lament of generations gone before her, each one convinced posterity would be damned by the young duly inheriting this planet.
Now, for the first time, there’s a change taken place with the latest generation. We don’t blame them for the state of the world; they blame us. I’m not quite as old as was Ena Sharples in 1978, but still sufficiently mature to realize today’s generation has a point. While US politicians huff and puff about the legacy of debt over-spilling onto our children and grandchildren, and European ministers desperately fiddle the cash till receipts of affiliated nations in a vain attempt to balance the books, they all fundamentally ignore the real issue facing our offspring in the not-too-distant future.
Climate change isn’t your fault, or mine. When politicians were first warned thirty-odd years ago, not only did they do nothing, but they accused the climate scientists of fabricating evidence for their own financial gain. That’s hardly surprising. After all, politicians have been doing just that for so long, it would seem to them the logical conclusion.
Fortunately, science isn’t as bent as politics. The scientists have been proved right. Weather patterns throughout the world leave us in no doubt that man has pushed the planet too far, and we’ll all be paying a high price for the oil man’s riches and the freedoms bestowed on corporations to pollute our atmosphere at will.
Mass media has given us the ability to recall things people said and did twenty or thirty years ago. Hence, it wasn’t too difficult to dig up that segment of “Coronation Street” from thirty-five years past. But folk easily forget. To most, climate change is a relatively new phenomena. The computer, though, can jog memories just like television.
Here’s a segment from the US National Academies Press, from an article in 2010:
The commitment of the United States to a national research program on climate began with the passage by Congress of the National Climate Program Act in 1978. The act was designed to establish a comprehensive and coordinated national climate policy and program. The following year, the National Research Council released ‘Strategy for the National Climate Program’ (NRC, 1980c), the first of a number of reviews and advisory documents prepared by the NRC on the program…
The “National Climate Program Act 1978”. How many of us, I wonder, remember that? 1978 was the same year Coronation Street’s Ena Sharples made the little speech that commenced this post – all of thirty-five years ago.
So you see, climate change is no new event the politicians have still to get to grips with. It’s a problem known about for more than half a century.
Remember the Kyoto protocol of 1997 – sixteen years ago? Attempts to reverse climate change have failed miserably since then. It wasn’t until 2009, at Copenhagen, that world powers eventually agreed voluntarily (that is, with no legal redress when they failed) to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees centigrade, but they’ve done absolutely nothing to bring it about. The release of GHG (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere has increased by approximately three percent year on year.
Since 2009, global temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius. The effect has been shattering. Drought, floods, violent storms, are continuously sweeping the planet. Economic devastation is just around the corner. What are our leaders doing about it? Not a bloody thing.
Given the marked shift in global climate, scientists now believe the 2 degree mark is way too high. Yet, all the major studies conclude that GHG emissions will continue to grow at 3% per year. At that rate, in just sixteen years, the atmosphere will be so saturated with GHGs that, in the words of Fatih Birol, the International Environment Agency’s chief economist:
“The new data provides further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close…When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.”
A rise in global temperature of six degrees centigrade would almost certainly cause the annihilation of life on the planet. Certainly, civilization as we know it would cease to exist. Scientists have labelled the six degree figure, “the Doomsday scenario.”
The previous post on Sparrow Chat referred back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Funding for the National Climate Program Act of 1978 was cut-off by Ronald Reagan when he came to power in 1981. He didn’t believe in climate change. Thatcher was way too busy sinking Argentinian ships to give it any thought at all. Their monetarist policies helped establish the society we have today. Just the kind Ena Sharples was complaining about. A society where folk don’t give a fig about anyone else as long as they’re doing alright themselves. Hard and ruthless, a society where you never seem to meet a gentle person anymore.
That’s the society our leaders and politicians have forged for us over the last thirty years. Honesty, integrity, honor (apart from the false honor of the battlefield), morality, are words fast falling from our vocabularies.
There was a time we would have banded together as nations to combat this dire threat to our planet. Not any more. In March last year, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson announced his company would be spending $100,000,000 every day between now and 2016, in the search for more oil and gas.
Tillerson doesn’t even attempt to deny climate change. He freely admits global warming is real, yet he dismisses it as an “engineering problem” with “engineering solutions”. It is such hard, ruthless, arrogance that will assuredly condemn us all.
On December 26th 1983, Violet Carlson, whose name became forever synonymous with Ena Sharples, died peacefully in her sleep. One day, she may be considered one of the lucky ones.
 “APPENDIX E
The United States Global Change Research Program” National Academies Press 2010
 “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” Bill McGibben, Rolling Stone, July 19th 2012*
*Note: Bill McGibben’s 2012 article in Rolling Stone was referenced in detail for this post. Though long, it is essential reading for all but the most obtuse among us. Below, I have reproduced the first paragraph:
“If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe…”