I wrote a blog post – a poem, really – about watching the planet from a distance. We sometimes think that what we have around us is of utmost importance, but it’s probably not, it’s just a jot in time.
Well, as I read the book, Against the Grain, and I see that civilisations fall almost as often as they spring up from the sweat of their subjects. I am feeling less attached to this one we are currently living in.
The history of our planet is basically people doing bad things to other people and species to keep themselves in the lap of luxury if at all possible.
The last century is an anomaly in giving any power (superficial though of course it is) to the common man (or woman, if she’s really lucky.)
If we see all the stuff written about past civilisations, all dug up from the ruins, often when those now living in those places have no idea about them, no memory, no stories, just some stones they might have found and used as foundations for their own houses, we see how fragile, how faint is the mark of these societies, really. They disappeared most of the time.
So what if we disappear too?
In the past, the people subjugated by these states didn’t all die – many or most escaped back to a former type of life, and were probably happier for it, definitely better off in terms of diet and health. So why lament the demise of the rulers?
I live in this world, of course. I am dependent upon it. If it were all to disappear tomorrow – as I said back on New Years Eve 1999, when we wondered if the Year 2000 bug would stop the world – then I’d be dead in a matter of months. I can’t just walk away from the status quo, go and grow beans and catch animals. I am attached to the technology for life, and though I teach my children about wildlife which might help them when the cities are destroyed, my daughter is equally diabetic and unless I learn how to distil insulin from dead deer and rabbits, we’ll be as dead as anyone else when the disaster hits.
But people will survive.
Some will walk away, south or north where the weather is better. Humanity will continue, just as it did after the collapse of other societies. Some people will remember how to live outside the shelter of our cities and society. Apart from the plastic everywhere, this small snapshot of history will become as forgotten as the rest.
Our descendants, if we have them, will build their cities on top of ours, like we have on others, so our buildings will be discovered accidentally some day like we find the remains of the Roman walls and medieval castles when we dig out subterranean car parks.
The beech trees will survive, shifting north and south, possibly all the way to Antarctica, where they once grew before during a time when the world had a similar atmospheric CO2level to today. Most of the other plants will probably struggle on, too, though much of the fauna will die out, to be replaced eventually in time by other species.
It’s a real fucking pity, a goddam waste, that we allow this to happen. It’s stupid, stupid, stupid, to quote some fuckwit from the annals of insurance fraud. The age of stupid, like the documentary.
We could keep the world looking the way we want it if we move our asses.
To allow it to change from how it suits us is like letting the house burn down because you’re too lazy to pick up a fire extinguisher.
I remember visiting Niagara Falls years ago, and being told that the quantity of water allowed to flow is much reduced not just to produce electricity, but to ensure that erosion doesn’t move the falls upstream – which would mean having to move the viewing platforms from where they are now. And that would be silly.
If that kind of sense was applied to our current problems, we would see a lot more action on the climate change front.
Our society might have a sea-change in our economic activities, but it will be unnoticeable on a grand scale, just like the difference between agriculture in England growing turnips in the 18thcentury is indistinguishable from growing grain in Egypt two thousand years ago.
But moving London, Alexandria, Miami and all those other seaside towns kilometres inland will be a major change that will be seen clearly in the archaeological record of our planet.
And because we won’t be around to explain it, they’ll be confused as fuck as to how stupid we were. Stupider than Easter Islanders.
I wrote this poem ten years ago now. I didn’t think it was that long ago. But boy, has a lot happened in those ten years. Well, actually, no. Regarding the subject of the poem, sweet F A has happened. Except that the problem has gotten 10 years worse, and will take us longer than ten years more to fix-slash-reverse the effects of those ten years.
So why am I posting this now? Well, you’ve probably all heard about the new findings showing that the western Antarctic ice sheets are going to melt. Going to. No might, no perhaps, no could or even will, if we…. They are going to melt. And Meghna, the last stretch of the Ganges, will then become the shallow harbour of Bangladesh. And there will plenty of shallow harbours around the world, it seems. And also shallows where once there were islands. There are calls to action. But will we act?
The Shallow Harbour of Bangladesh
Standing upon the rise, beard growing icicles in the wind,
Eyes weeping from it and the fields falling frozen before him,
Drifts against dead hedges, reindeer shelter in lees,
Eking out the existence once thriving life with sheep,
When the warm rain came.
Crouching on dry gravel, shaking stones in fist,
Scatters, shaking head at emptiness,
Lizard skitters across pebbles, scavenging scarce parched seeds,
Sun beats upon neck back and all before, years,
Used to draw grains and vines once sustained by winter snow,
And spring showers that sprinkled flowers,
Now storms wash out ravines of dust and dried husks.
A man stands proud upon a prow, poling into treacherously turbid estuary
Drowned mangroves threaten to mire like the lost tiger,
Channel shallows past the Sundarbans, showing signs of past life,
Here and there stilts stick up that once held houses,
Where one would watch the Ganges disgorge slowly,
Switched around to see the sea swallow,
Several names of river back to the border,
Splitting into a harbour a hungry nation awaiting huddled upon the bank,
The man sailing over rice paddies,
Fishing upon his former fields.