Friday, 18 December 2009

Copenhagen: signing


I have had three or four emails, all containing the same text, asking me to add my signature to it. It's from Avaaz. There's your link, if you would like to sign. I don't mind signing it. In fact I will sign it. It is easy signing such things. My name can became 13,758, 252. I can save the planet. I don't have to give up anything much. When the planet crashes it will not be in my name. I hope the planet remembers that.

Only, I don't quite know what it means to save the planet. I assume the planet - as the piece of rock under us, will survive. Not all of us will survive, but then in the long run none of us do. The planet might well look different at some stage and instead of us all rushing around killing each other, or being normally flooded or killed by volcanoes, earthquakes, lightning, and germs, it might all be achieved quite another way. More species might vanish, just as they have vanished, as others have been generated, as we ourselves were generated.

I am not at all sceptical about climate change, or indeed human-generated climate change. I would have to be much better informed and better qualified to evaluate that information and make a conscious clear decision as to whether I was sceptical or not. I am dependent on others in this matter as on much else. People such as my academic colleagues who have been bending and hiding some information and ganging up on those who disagree. But people do do that sort of thing when something vital is at stake. It is wrong but they do it. Bending, hiding and ganging doesn't mean they are wrong in their calculations or that others who agree with them are wrong in theirs. Though I must say that two years ago at a conference one of them spoke to declare it was too late anyway. It was only going to be a cosmic five-minute's worth before we're drowned in the vast tsunami.

Over the last decade or so I have been told of various disasters that are about to befall us all. Should I run through them all from AIDS, through the Millennium Bug, through SARS, through bird flu and swine flu - and I am sure I have left some things out? And people have died of these things (not sure about the Millennium Bug) but none of them was quite the apocalyptic movie it was predicted to be. That doesn't mean this will not be, just as it doesn't mean that the next strain of bacteria might not wipe us off the surface of the planet, which will, I expect continue to survive for a while, though it won't do that for ever because planets simply don't. No planet does.

And I don't really know that the petition says much more than: For God's sake let's be nice to each other, everyone pull together, beware catastrophe! And I am generally in favour of being nice to each other and pulling together, and I really don't want a catastrophe. So I am happy to sign this petition as I do others for various political causes, not because my individual signature means a jot, not even because, in most if not all cases, all the signatures taken together mean a jot. And certainly not because I want to show my friends that I, too, am nice, a member of their civilised enlightened company, that I am pulling together with them, avoiding catastrophe and saving the planet. In fact, somewhere inside me, I feel a certain contempt for all the forces of panic. Can't help it. Sorry. I think the contempt is probably chiefly for my own potentially panicking self.

So I will sign because if there is a chance that the poor will become still poorer - and it will, as ever, be the poor that will die first - I would rather they didn't. Is Hungary one of the rich countries or a poor one? Is Saudi Arabia a rich country or a poor one? Is a poor family in Britain a rich one in Singapore?

Tom Stoppard once wrote an article titled: Tom Stoppard Doesn't Know. Well, I don't know either. In some ways, I suspect, I will sign the way I sign a leaving card for a member of staff that I have only once or twice spoken to in the corridor. I rather like to think that when Delacroix was painting his Liberty on the Barricades I would have been among the crowd following Liberty. I like to think that. I hope I would. But I don't know. How could I possibly know?

But it is easy signing a e-document. So consider it signed in a slightly diffident, self-contemptuous, panic-contemptuous , particularly right-thinking-enlightenment contemptuous way. Who cares? It's signed. And look: as I put that last full stop to that last sentence, they have signed. Signed something.



3 comments:

mise said...

Yes, there's always something a bit parish council about such petitions, and yet if one is plonked in front of you with a pen and a righteous cause, what can you do other than sign it, Just in Case it helps? For the sake of a signature, there's no harm done. Tom and I, we're clearly soulmates; I Don't Know Either. Never Expect To, for that matter.

George S said...

A wise, mise. Tom and you and I make three. That's the right number of monkeys, of course.

I signed. The world is saved. There goes my monkey.

We signed. The world is saved. Still, it is a nice if freezing night, the snow gentle enough on the ground. This pat of the planet looks OK.

George S said...

For pat read part.