Sunday 15 June 2008

Civilised? You're only three days from being a murderer!

My head sits heavy on my mountainous shoulders, as I drive down Grattan Road, wondering what peculiar wee beasties we are.
Pumped up with ridiculous levels of our own self-importance, we imagine ourselves civilised, and walk around as if we own the planet.
A driver coming towards me pulls out from the parked cars alongside Whitestrand, and I swear and gesticulate angrily as he passes by.
Is this what makes us civilised? Sitting in little metal boxes, leaving behind a trail of noxious gases as we nip from obvious A to inevitable B?
Is it really civilised to supply the car with petrol so that we can take it to work so that we can afford the petrol?
Hoh yuss, we are the bees knees, that’s us, and what we say goes. Can’t touch us, ‘cos we are in the driving seat.
I mean, do you see any other species driving around in cars? Stands to reason, then, that we are the number one, Top of the Civilised Pops, as far as this lump of rock in space goes.
Unless, of course, all the other species are shuffling through the undergrowth looking at us and calling us plonkers.
Brrrroom brrroom.
It seems absurd to think of driving a car as in any way civilised. We have grandiose notions about how we might be destroying the planet, as well we might, but also, with delusional hubris, we imagine we might be able to cure the planet.
We might be able to invent safe fuels, or build ‘Carbon Scrubbing’ machines to remove the greenhouse gases. We might build huge mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays back into space.
And a shaft of pure white light might shine out of my backside singing the hallelujah chorus.
This planet that we are so concerned with saving was born somewhere around 4,700,000 years ago, and Homo Sapiens, our bunch, have only been on the scene for the last 160,000 years. If the history of this planet was a mountain, we would barely be a pebble upon it.
Every day this living breathing pulsating lump of rock, pumped by an internal engine of swirling molten rock and trapped gases (think Uncle Mikey after Sunday dinner), hurtles through space being pummelled by all manner of other lumps of rock.
We might be hit by a massive meteor, like the one that hit Mexico 65 million years ago, leaving a 170 km-wide crater and releasing gases and dust that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Or that lump of Canary Island might finally slip into the Atlantic Ocean and send a mega-tsunami to the eastern seaboard of America, which will rebound and wash up on Ireland’s shores, causing total devastation an unbelievably short matter of minutes later.
Depending upon the whim of our planet, our deaths might be delivered from the Super Volcano that lurks under the vastness of the United States’ Yellowstone National Park. The size and power of this baby only came to light relatively recently, when vulcanologists realised that sections of the park’s pine forest were slipping into a lake, which then turned out to be part of a crater that was phenomenally and terrifyingly massive.
When that blows, the jet stream carries the blast and dust storms east, wiping out half of the United States, and again, probably the rest of us under the ensuing clouds of sulphur.
Don’t get me wrong. I‘m not standing on my soapbox giving hellfire and damnation diatribe.
Anything but, in fact. All I am saying is that we are so far from being the rulers of this planet, it is laughable to pretend to be civilised. When the Earth farts, scratches an itch or wets itself, we puny types are engulfed in disaster.
We can try to ascribe the evils of Global Warming to some natural phenomena, but equally, the weather only tells part of the story. When the ground moves or explodes, as it does with alarming regularity, all the lobby groups and self-help books in the world don’t help a damn.
Equally, it is hypocritical and pointless to talk of trying to ‘cure’ Global Warming in any kind of context that expects economic growth to continue. Were people, governments, our species as a whole truly concerned about how we might be harming our environment, then we would, as one, stop our insane desire for more; for material goods, for cars that take us from A to B.
We have no idea what will get us in the end. According to the ecological doomsayers, we might just die in any number of cataclysmic natural events.
Maybe the unprecedented level of permafrost melting all over the Siberian tundra will release so much methane that the Earth with flash into flame and disintegrate in a cosmic botty burp.
Perchance the ice melt going on in Greenland will finally hit critical mass, and flood the oceans.
Just up the road from us the ‘Conveyor Belt’ that brings the warm air and water to our west coast and transports the cooler air and water down south has been shaky for ages, and when that stops, as it has done already for short periods, our climate in Ireland will become Arctic overnight and not much fun at all.
Whether it comes from something we started, or another thing that the planet just produced, the only sure thing about the apocryphal ‘Big One’ is that it will be unexpected, instant and in the course of the history of the planet, nowt more than an irrelevant blip.
So yes, in our plush posh motors we might dare to feel civilised, and believe that we own the planet, and can save it. And then in our folly, we grow Palm Oil to run our cars, and cause food shortages and rice riots in South East Asia.
But we are all only 3 days from becoming murderers.
Whenever catastrophe strikes, time has proven certain types of human behaviour.
Whoever you are, however much you have right now, come disaster, you are the same as me.
Day One we forage, hide and await help.
Day Two we leave our shelters in search of food. At this stage, we are willing to steal to feed our families.
If we have not found food by Day Three, we will be prepared to kill another human being if they have food and our children do not.
Civilised? You tell me.

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