Sunday 22 September 2019

Fiona Ness: 'Climate fear - let them eat plastic...'


Undated handout photo issued by WWF of a Loggerhead turtle trapped in a drifting abandoned net in the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Jordi Chias/WWF/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by WWF of a Loggerhead turtle trapped in a drifting abandoned net in the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Jordi Chias/WWF/PA Wire
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

Children can be so cruel. "Why do we have to be the future, when all you've left us with is a dying planet?" the nine-year-old asks me with an accusatory tone.

And I have to admit, when it comes to the planet, we Generation X-ers haven't covered ourselves in glory.

In the years since we were born, we learn this week, humanity has wiped out 60pc of global wildlife populations.

The news comes just weeks after a UN report on climate change warned global temperatures are rising at a rate that will cause devastation by 2050.

And let's not kid ourselves we're treating the evidence the mercury is rising as a call to arms, and fighting climate change on the beaches.

No. We're sitting in swapping energy providers, liking other people's kids' synthetic Halloween outfits on Facebook, and ingesting plastic.

But not the nine-year-old and me; we are zooming back to the beginning of time to experience the primeval forces of nature as they shaped our planet.

We've gone on a break to Edinburgh, where the city's Dynamic Earth exhibition allows us to digest the story of the universe in less than an hour.

It allows us to consider that it's taken man a mere 50 years to destroy what it took nature 13.8 billion years to create.

Despite this, Dynamic Earth tells us that we are all stars, the atoms that make up our bodies having travelled to our solar system on intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars.

Well, maybe not all of us. Across the road from Dynamic Earth, the eejits in the Scottish Parliament are busy legislating on truly important matters: bilingual town signage.

A dead language for a dead planet.

Save the planet - but leave our SUVs alone

Edinburgh makes me nervous, with its complex tram and bus routes across higgledy-piggledy streets.

I err on the side of caution, approaching every green man as if leading a SWAT team into a "situation".

The pedestrianised area of the Royal Mile is so crushed that it's hard to know whether you're more likely to lose a child in a crowd or a road accident.

But good news for tourists - Edinburgh is set to become a largely traffic-free zone under a radical new proposal to limit emissions.

It puts Dublin's jettisoned proposals to create a College Green plaza in the ha'penny place.

Of course, now the World Health Organisation has said that 90pc of the world's young people are breathing toxic air, the pressure is surely on to pedestrianise all of our cities, whether it makes it impossible to get a bus to Rathmines or not. Now citizens everywhere will no doubt be demanding action is taken to protect their children, pushing government to take cars off the streets as well as slashing waste and emissions.

As long as they can continue driving their kids to school in an SUV.

Going back to old days isn't much of a future

"It's a shame about plastic being so bad for us," my mother says, "because it's really useful."

She's catching herself having to think hard before she uses one of those nice Ikea bags I've brought.

"So much progress in the past 70 years," she sighs. She comes from a generation who knows how to wrap up a sandwich in the greaseproof paper from the batch loaf wrapping.

She began life in a single room with a box bed for her and her sister.

She fell asleep listening to Radio Luxembourg, the heat from the range keeping her warm. Returning to such radically reduced consumption might not be a seismic shift of the sort that formed continents 200 million years ago. But it doesn't really sound like much of a future either.

Irish Independent

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