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News Commentary: This Green and Pleasant Land

Those with (very) long memories may remember a BBC TV drama called The Tripods. It wasn’t especially successful, three series were commissioned but only two, as far as I can recall, were broadcast as viewing figures fell so sharply that it was deemed not worth completing.

Nominally a science fiction tale, The Tripods was actually a very far-sighted idea, set in a rather dystopian future in which the earth was ruled by an alien species, never actually seen face-to-face as it were, since they spent their time encased in a sphere some height off the ground, each sphere moving by virtue of three very long legs – hence the name Tripods.

What made the series interesting was the state of the human species. Earth had been invaded by The Tripods because we, collectively, had made such a mess of running ourselves that we had regressed back to a time when we had no electricity, no energy supplies, had run out of properly built, solid homes and lived as our long-ago predecessors did, in mud huts and had returned to hand-run agriculture to grow all our own food - no ready-made TV dinners here. There was no TV anymore either.

What makes this failed TV series interesting is that part of the reason for the regression of humanity was our obsession with killing each other and our equally obsessive misuse of natural resources. In the story behind The Tripods, weapons had long since been banned and our failure to use and work with nature made the planet ripe for the Tripod takeover. Humankind had become a defenceless species, readily subservient and compliant.

Global Warming, or to give it its current title, Climate Change, had not been thought of back then - which is where The Tripods came in and what makes the series so relevant now.

The recent report by a very influential quango, the Committee on Climate Change, says that people in the UK must turn down our heating in winter, dump gas boilers, eat 20 per cent less meat and stop using air travel. People must also stop using cars and stop using fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal). In other words, live as those people featured in The Tripods ended up having to.

Whether or not there is an alien race waiting among the stars to invade and ruthlessly subjugate the planet is another matter of course; there has, as yet, been no evidence to suggest that there are aliens out there, although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the possibility does exist. Regardless of any other-worldly influence however, one fact is apparent; and that is that if this committee (along with protest movements like Extinction Rebellion who brought London to a halt recently) have their way, we will indeed live in mud huts and never see any other countries. Unless of course, we either swim or go by boat.

The immediate question, should we go down this road, is what happens to global trade? A further question: do you know how many of the things you take for granted and use on a daily basis, things you feel you need, are actually made in other countries? No? Didn’t think so. You might be very surprised just how reliant the UK is on imported goods. A lot of these things arrive here by sea, so from the eco-warriors point of view, that’s great. Is it? What powers the ships that bring these goods? Engines do - engines that need fuel. So the much vaunted sea trip isn’t quite so ecological as it might seem to be. And what of those things that are urgently needed or that would be useless, having gone ‘off’ in the time it takes to get here by sea? They come via air, to places like Heathrow Airport. That is why airports and seaports exist – not just so one can have a couple of weeks in Benidorm but so we can have access to all the things we not only need, but things that, for one reason or another, we can’t supply ourselves with.

That we, as a species, are making a mess of the planet, misusing and abusing precious natural resources is undeniable. That the UK needs to do something to prevent it becoming a less green and a more unpleasant land is also undeniable. But the Climate Change Industry - for that is what it has become – does not have all the answers. That aside, one should be a little wary of a movement that changes its name because the original moniker (Global Warming) is proved to be somewhat questionable.

The real answer the undoubted problems we, as a species globally, are storing up for ourselves, will not come from living as we did centuries ago. The answer lies in using the technological advances we have made (including air travel) to live our lives and do what we humans do, in a better way. To make engines, be they aircraft, ships or cars, more fuel-efficient and less polluting.

One of the points raised by the Committee also suggested that the planting some 3 billion new trees (covering an area the size of Yorkshire) will be needed. Trees of course, play a vital role in the natural cycle of the air, as does all other plant life. So let’s take a recent example, that of the fire that devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. What was it that burned – the roof, a roof made of wood and lots of it. There has been much talk of the number of trees needed to rebuild it as it was, perhaps understandably. But are we not capable of using an alternative material, one that, once completed, will look like the original but one that will be less costly in terms of the number of trees that will be required otherwise (and one that won’t burn either)?

And this is the biggest point of all, one that the average eco-warrior seems not to have considered; let’s say we do shun modern life. Let’s say we do regress to the way we lived all those eons ago. Yes, we might well be able to grow enough food and yes, we might be able to produce enough ecologically-friendly material to clothe ourselves. But the only natural resource available for so many of the things our forefathers did was wood. So we are still going to be cutting down trees. And burning them to stay warm.

Oh, and one other point; the biggest producer of pollutants is animal life, including us. Wales will not be able to meet a net zero target of emissions because there are more sheep there than there are people. There are a lot of cows too, not just in Wales and both break wind often. Just as we do.

So since we need to all become vegetarians, do we kill off all the sheep and cows too? Having done that, we must then freeze in winter and stop f*****g. And once the plant attrition rate has become critical – keeping in mind the role played by plant life in our ability to breathe – we obviously will have to stop being veggies as well.

There are no quick, simple, easy answers. But those answers will not be found in giving up modern life in favour of the past. Even if The Tripods do arrive.

© Kevan James 2019.

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