By a concerned but ultimately exasperated individual
For those of you whom do not know, “Waiting for Godot” is arguably Samuel Beckett’s greatest play, revolving around two characters Vladimir and Estragon, who wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never actually arrives. They are told that Godot will not arrive today but surely tomorrow, the implication being that Vladimir and Estragon have been waiting for Godot for quite some time, and likely will continue to do so.
This is where I feel we are in the world today when it comes to climate change. We’re constantly waiting for something to happen or for someone to come along and prompt us into action but what we’re waiting for never arrives. Most recently we’ve seen the destruction wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Houston, the Caribbean and in Florida. Actually, you can include Hurricane Maria too, which there was little warning of. Storms can grow in strength and size much more quickly than they used to, precisely because of global warming. And despite all the evidence proving that these storms would not have been as large, as powerful or as destructive if not for the effects of climate change, there is still no shortage of people who will deny this entirely. Perhaps what is worse is that those same people, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, civil servants etc. will deny it all. They will cherry pick individual pieces of evidence, or one specific scientific study to support their views, despite no corroborating evidence, or will deliberately ignore a mass of evidence pointing to the contrary. Yet we call some of these people “leaders” (US, Canada, Australia and Russia are the leading countries in terms of climate change deniers in terms of political denial or inaction on climate change, primarily due to lobbying from various groups or industries). The most damming and frustrating thing, however, is that none of this is new – how many decades have we been warned of global warming? How many record breaking years for global temperature rise have we lived through, yet some continue to ignore it (16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, in case anyone was wondering). We’ve watched the ice caps melt and shrink in size, we’re slowly watching global sea levels rise (according to NASA, Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century; the rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century.) But even more shockingly we’ve seen the effects first hand, through the huge increase in the number of extreme weather events, not just in the US and elsewhere around the world, but even here closer to home, with stronger storms and massively increased rainfall levels which have resulted in mass-flooding (remember the flooding of cork in 2009 and even more recently both here and elsewhere?).
Despite all of the evidence, all of this extreme weather, we continue on as if climate change is still a long way off, or something that will affect our children more than it will affect us, but that’s simply not the case. We’re already feeling the effects and will continue to feel them every day as time goes on, as we continue to pollute our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, as we have people who continue to deny the evidence in front of their eyes and as we have one unwilling or ignorant politician after another, who refuse to make the hard and tough but ultimate right choices and decisions. I often wonder what would it take to prompt them into serious action; would they act if their house was destroyed by a hurricane or flooding? Or would it require even more? Low lying areas to become permanently flooded? Places around the planet to become uninhabitable? Even then I’m doubtful. You wouldn’t have to search hard before finding one who would put it down to an act of God or some other weak excuse. But of course, things are being done, it’s the main issue at this year’s United Nations general assembly, with numerous world leaders calling for action and mitigation measures, and even here in UCC, there is a big push to become more environmentally friendly, (look at the library for example).
But even then, I’m doubtful. Words at the UN general assembly are simply words if there is no action to back them up, and likewise I’m doubtful over whether we will do enough to really effectively combat climate change, as other issues like the economy or more immediate crises will take priority and we’ll ultimately lack the political will to do anything substantial.
I feel like the world is now Vladimir and Estragon; we’re waiting for something that will never come, or if it does we will likely very much ignore it. Like Vladimir and Estragon, I fear we’ll say some words, make some decisions but ultimately take no action, and stand there waiting as we will for our much-hastened end, when we’ve effectively ruined the planet both for ourselves and for any future generations.
Part of me hopes I’m wrong, or that I will be proven wrong, but again I’m doubtful I will be.