Friday, 3 December 2010

Don't Panic

Some of us manned a stand at an Energy Awareness day in Hethersett recently. My picture shows Erik standing in front of our Climate Change display and the words ‘Don’t Panic’ seem to be coming from his mouth. Well there was no sign of panic about Climate Change that day – plenty of concern about the effect of the cold weather on heating bills though. And I’ve not seen a mention of Cancun on the BBC News website headlines – you have dig deep into the Environment pages in order to find it.

There is no shortage of things to worry about – rising temperatures, rising sea levels, storms, food shortages – the pressure on all resources of kinds caused by a world population that has trebled in my lifetime and will double again in the next 50 - which is like having 24 people living in the 3 bed semi that I grew up in! So why no panic?

Three reasons that I can see. One is that humans are such a successful species because they prioritize and climate change is not a threat today. So we focus on the short term and live from day to day – the future will take care of itself. In this country we compound the problem with an electoral system that rewards politicians who provide jam today and punishes those who point to the storm clouds on the horizon.

We have all grown up with predictions of impending doom – nuclear war and nuclear power, Bird Flu, AIDS, volcanic induced crop failures, tidal waves across the Atlantic. So far none have wiped us out and they all get their five minutes of fame before being replaced by something more entertaining such as the latest celebrity gossip.

Lastly, it is a fact that most of the current world leaders will be dead before climate change becomes a real everyday problem and the Houses of Parliament disappear under the Thames. Of course many of us will leave children and grandchildren to struggle on in a more hostile world but it does not exactly focus the mind if you don’t believe you are going to be around to face the problem.

So Climate Change – like waste - is a difficult subject to get the average person to take much interest in. I think that we will do best to focus on the positive aspects of Transition that lead to a world that does not squander its resources. Local production of food and durable objects, less time spent commuting, less taxes to pay for wars and the effects of deprivation – more time to build the resilient society that Transition promises. If we can achieve that then we may yet avoid the need to panic.

Population chart from US Census Office - well worth a read!


  1. Great post John.... I assume you have read the Hitchhiker's Guide!...hence title?

  2. Haha brilliant post. I interpreted your blog as being skeptical of the reasons not to panic? I agree that none of them are particularly convincing. But I do believe that we shouldnt panic, because it wont help. A sense of urgency is a great motivator, but panic is often paralysing. So don't panic, just get on and find yourself some solutions!!!

  3. Actually I listed to the HG when it was first broadcast in the 70s. It helped pass the time as I slaved over the renovation of a decrepit old house that had no plumbing, wiring or insulation – but lots of fire places for burning fossil fuel!

    Certainly Panic will not help but if we were more rational beings then we would be taking a much closer look at our priorities. Especially those of us who have gone to such trouble to raise children. It will be a sad irony if we can’t conserve the very world that we have educated them to live in.