According to my calendar, and the doodle on Google’s front page, today (22nd April) is Earth Day. I would direct anyone who wants to know more to the link.
It’s interesting that, as I was thinking of writing something here about it, I wandered how I could frame my words in a way that didn’t make me seem too much like a bleeding-heart, tree-hugging liberal type (part of me is, another part of me isn’t). This is the automatic response for any contentious issue, I think, when supporters of one side don’t want seem too much like credulous enthusiasts, and when supporters of the other side are more than comfortable mocking the base suppositions of their opponents. It’s easy to be cynical, I thought – but then it isn’t, in the face of climate change; it’s actually very difficult to be cynical. It means you have to wilfully ignore the evidence, even the evidence of your senses as you look at the weather outside your window. Even more so, you have to be perfectly comfortable with the idea of the extinction of your species. In the abstract, that’s almost too big a concept to grasp. In the particular, it means condemning your children and your grandchildren to a miserable, short existence. (I often think this as I’m met with a spittle-flecked response from people who refuse to pay 5p for a plastic bag at work. On the one hand, not taking a plastic bag is actually the point of charging for them. On the other hand, I know that one less plastic bag in the world is not going to make that much of a difference, but it will still, incontestably, mean one less plastic bag in the world.)
Anyway, rather than write an ill-informed rant about the subject, I thought I would turn to the words of William Golding. When James Lovelock developed the ‘Gaia’ hypothesis, it was Golding who gave him the name, from the Greek goddess of the earth. In a review he wrote of a book of aerial photography (collected in ‘A Moving Target’), Golding departs on a wonderful flight of fancy, speculating that in much the same way human brain activity is a sequence of electrical discharges, lightning might be evidence of a planetary consciousness, and auroras and tropical storms the spark of awareness in a vast, global mind. Moving upwards on a scale from the aerial to the interplanetary, ‘[S]urely,’ Golding writes, ‘eyes more capable than ours of receiving the range of universal radiation may well see her, this creature of argent and azure, to have robes of green and gold streamed a million miles from her by the solar wind as she dances around Helios in the joy of light.’
Not strictly scientific, I grant you; but a perspective that is an awful lot more interesting than the joyless stance of the right-winger, who would see in the whole concept of climate change nothing but a cynical ploy to scam funding out of gullible governments.