Trump’s green de­nial is the most press­ing worry

The Pres­i­dent’s anti-cli­mate change agenda threat­ens us all, for­ever

The Wharf - - The Week - Giles Broad­bent

For the fa­mously short-lived mayfly a spell of rain last­ing a few hours is the hu­man equiv­a­lent of a 30-year storm. To Methuse­lah, the 5,000-year-old bris­tle cone pine tree in Cal­i­for­nia’s White Moun­tains, the en­tire in­dus­trial age is the equiv­a­lent of an elec­tion cy­cle.

Every­thing is rel­a­tive. Hu­mans, nec­es­sar­ily, cram the en­tirety of the uni­verse into com­pre­hen­si­ble units that can fit on a Post-It note. So a day is 24 neat hours, not 8.64x10^13 nanosec­onds. And the trip to Tesco is three handy miles, not 4.82x10^12 nanome­ters.

The timescale we adopt to mea­sure our span of con­cern stretches from “liv­ing mem­ory” in the past to “our chil­dren’s chil­dren” in the fu­ture. For prac­ti­cal pur­poses the rest is ir­rel­e­vant.

As an ex­am­ple, it is no co­in­ci­dence that peace has be­come a lazy as­sump­tion and the in­sti­tu­tions of se­cu­rity a tar­get of ire just as the last of the Sec­ond World War gen­er­a­tion dies.

So the legacy and lessons of a Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency will fade in about 70 years. A gen­er­a­tion will pass through bear­ing the scars and con­cede to a gen­er­a­tion who will re­peat the mis­take and call it progress.

Or let us hope. For Trump, uniquely, has the abil­ity to reach be­yond the bor­der of cul­tural mem­ory and en­ter the eter­nal pan­theon of hu­man stu­pid­ity – al­ready a very crowded place.

Fu­ture his­to­ri­ans may stare in won­der at the dis­tant calamity of “Amer­ica First” – but if Trump ob­structs the truth and work of cli­mate change he may be­come the ev­er­green epit­ome of sui­ci­dal self-in­ter­est.

The omens are not good. He is look­ing to dump en­vi­ron­men­tal agree­ments. Dis­miss the whole weight of sci­en­tific opin­ion as a “Chi­nese hoax”. Pre­cip­i­tate the cor­rup­tion of the planet in ex­change for votes from the rust belt in 2020.

But he is not wholly to blame. He is a symp­tom. Caught up in the present plea­sures of our lit­tle lives, we are mini-Trumps too, frankly. A green rev­o­lu­tion will never mass be­hind a hemp ban­ner while wa­ter still flows, cars still run and no-one can re­mem­ber or fore­see a time when they didn’t or won’t. It is as­ton­ish­ing that we leave the most press­ing prob­lem on the planet to the likes of Trump, or the Chi­nese, or in­deed any sin­gle per­son or group that pos­sesses the abil­ity to present a veto or un­der­mine a re­sponse. The Earth spent bil­lions of years cre­at­ing a min­eral re­source, only for hu­mans, in a speck of time, to hol­low out the planet, ran­sack its treasures, de­stroy its di­ver­sity and cast not a thought for those who will be left with­out. We would en­dure lim­it­less tor­ments rather than see our chil­dren suf­fer, or our chil­dren’s chil­dren. Yet we yield, with barely a mur­mur, to the mer­ci­less an­ni­hi­la­tion of our chil­dren’s chil­dren’s chil­dren. Hu­mans eh – whad­dya gonna do?

The Pres­i­dent is not wholly to blame. We are all mini-Trumps


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