Your attitude towards climate change depends to a large extent on how old you are and how gullible you are. If, for example, you’re in your mid-fifties then a prediction that Antarctica will melt and turn Johannesburg into a seaside town by 2050 isn’t particularly scary. If the timeframe was ten years things would be very different and I would already be talking to estate agents about selling my seaside house. If you’re under twenty though you might want to start making for the high ground.
Then there’s the gullibility factor. In the past I believed the advert that told me to go to work on an egg. Then research found that too many eggs were bad for you so I stopped eating an egg a day. Then scientists said too much butter was bad and I ate tasteless margarine until other scientists found that rats got cancer from eating too much margarine. So I switched back to unsalted butter because salted butter was bad for my blood pressure. I turned on the radio a moment ago and an advert told me that snoring could be an indication of far greater health problems like the possibility of an imminent stroke. And there was my wife thinking it was all the result of too much red wine and cigars over dinner. I can now tell her that I might be really ill and hope for a bit of sympathy.
We have to believe what we are being told about the planet because few of us are in any position to argue with the experts. But there’s a cynical part of me, the part that watches programmes on the Discovery channel, that can’t help feeling that we are being taken for a huge ride by politicians who have failed to provide enough energy and water for future generations. Blame global warming, give yourself a huge bonus and buy yourself a gas guzzling car is the usual solution to the problem.
The planet is in a state of perpetual change and it’s handled it pretty well without our help in the past. When the dinosaurs started to become extinct did man rush around and light fires to try and warm the planet up? Not a chance. Did groups of “caring” bearded cavemen grunt at one another at Earth Summits and try and get people interested in saving the dinosaur? Of course they didn’t. In fact they didn’t like the dinosaurs very much because they ate their children and 65 million years ago the general view was that the sooner the dinosaurs were extinct the better it would be for man. It was a sensible, non interventionist policy and it worked.
So should you reduce your carbon footprint by buying a hybrid car or should you put solar panels on your roof and use less of Eskom’s scarce commodity? If it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy by all means do it but don’t think it’s going to make any difference to the planet because we’re going to get hit by a large asteroid sooner or later and all that sorting your rubbish into tin cans, plastic, newspaper and toxic waste will have been futile. Evolution always has the last laugh.