My chimney sweep came today to clean out the stovepipe of the pellet stove in the kitchen. He’s not just a chimney sweep, but a plumber and a heating engineer, also.
I see him at least once a year, unless I need some plumbing done in the meanwhile. He’s English but has lived in France for nearly twenty years.
He enjoys coming to me because he says, not only does he get a good cup of coffee, but he also gets my prophecies of what will happen in the world over the next twelve months.
“Well, go on, then,” he insisted, taking a swig of coffee, “what’s going to happen to us by this time next year?”
I grinned rather sheepishly. “Sorry,” I said, “there’s just too many variables.”
He looked mildly disappointed.
Not only do we have the war in Ukraine which is certainly going Ukraine’s way at present, but what will Putin do to change that? Tactical nuclear weapons are certainly on his table. He has already managed to put the biggest nuclear power station in Europe out of action and in a highly dangerous state.
Then there is Africa and the power struggles there likely to reach a flashpoint as crops die and water becomes ever scarcer.
In the United States it is perfectly possible Trump will become President again in 2024. Okay, that’s two years away, but will his tribe of faithful right-wing Republicans gain control of the House and Senate in November? Who can say at present? There do appear to be some flaws in the ranks, mainly due to the overturning of Rowe v Wade by the Supreme Court of Trump appointees, but nothing is certain there.
Right-wing politics is rearing it’s ugly head again in Italy. Does this mean a split in Europe? Italy’s right-wing have roared before to little effect, but we have an energy crisis on our hands and a possible winter of discontent, which can turn politics on its head, and there’s nothing the political right-wing enjoys more than public disquiet and possible rioting.
This week in Uzbekistan Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Erdogan, and a rash of Iranian leaders are meeting in a ‘summit’ intended to show, (according to the Kremlin) an “alternative” to the Western world.
Over all of this hangs climate change: millions homeless in Pakistan after the worst floods in living memory; near continuous wildfires in the U.S. and the worst drought in living memory. “In living memory” is fast becoming such a norm that people hardly take notice any more.
Huge wildfires engulfed the south of France this year as the whole country suffered the worst drought “since records began,” which makes a change from “in living memory” but means much the same.
Bolsonaro’s Brazil has now brought the vast and glorious Amazon rain forest to its tipping point. This vast carbon sink, once one of the great lungs of the world, is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is sequestering, as Bolsonaro and his brothers rape and pillage and murder, destroying habitat and habitation not only for the animals, birds and insects that rely on it, but also the indigenous human population who called it home.
The melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet will now raise sea levels by twenty-seven to thirty centimetres, inevitably, even if we reduced carbon emissions to zero tomorrow. Twenty-seven inches will devastate coastal areas of the world and make millions homeless. It is a very conservative estimate, because of course we will not reach net-zero carbon release tomorrow or next year, or in any foreseeable future.
These are just some of the bare bones of what is happening right now in the world we inhabit.
Given all these facts, and facts they are, I would be arrogant in the extreme to attempt to prophecy what was going to happen in the next three months, let alone a whole year ahead.
“Yes, but things are going well in Ukraine, aren’t they?”
At this moment my chimney sweep’s brush got lodged somewhere high up in the stovepipe, and the next ten minutes was given over to such heaving, sweating, and occasional swearing, that it was not necessary for me to answer him. Eventually, it was released and the job was done.
After he left, with a cheery, “See you next year, then,” I pondered on what I may have said to him had not his brush problem intervened. Are things going well in Ukraine? I doubted the thousands of dead civilians, the grieving relatives of those killed, the suffering of the many with permanent injuries, tortured, beaten, electrocuted, homeless, would be likely to have agreed with him.