Things Fall Apart
From time to time I used to suffer from what doctors call "anxiety" - I guess a form of mild depression, which I've learnt how to manage over the years. I'm now feeling something rather different and rather more alarming; a sense of foreboding. We're in one of our favourite places - Italy - for a few days. I'm writing on a sunny terrace with glorious views of violet hills, against a soundtrack of sparrows. There are clouds of butterflies about and - later this evening - a mob of unruly swifts will close the day. We have lost all these things at home. We have the odd swift, the odd sparrow. A hot dry summer will be good for our beleaguered butterflies, and I can hear people saying now that they seem to have turned the corner where they are, etc. etc.. Nature friendly farmers tell me how much they're doing for wildlife. Enthusiasts click on online campaigns. The numbers remain pretty awful though. Biodiversity has collapsed in the UK and many species numbers are still in sharp decline. The short story is that there is still no concrete strategy in place to reverse this.
I'm sure, too, that many will say that the recent weather - all over the world - is just weather, and nothing to do with global warming. In any event, people still don't care enough about global warming to even list it in their top 10 concerns at the ballot box. As one who has canvassed with spectacularly poor results around Langport in the Somerset Levels this is something I know at first hand. The U.S. Administration, of course, doesn't even acknowledge climate change exists. My concern about these two things - mass extinctions and catastrophic climate change - have, to be honest, marked me out as a bit odd among my friends. Even more bizarre for them has been my trying in a practical way to do something about them in the UK over the last 10 years. This has been very depressing.
It's not too much of a stretch to see people's lack of reaction to the rise of populism (is this the right label?) as similar. Right wing extremists are murdering our MPs, elements of the Press are calling the senior judiciary and our Prime Minister "traitors". Both Left and Right are polarised; it's a type of politics familiar from the Europe of the interwar years. The current struggle in politics is not between Left and Right; it's between the Centre and extremists. Our political class is manifestly failing us - not just in the UK, of course - and destroying public confidence in our institutions.
Doubly concerning, this is coming at a terrible time to deal with the consequences of climate change, which will fuel extreme political views. Why do I have to be an eccentric / snowflake if I am doing things about stopping climate change, mass extinctions and neo-fascists/Stalinists? There are (some, at least!) bright, well meaning people in parliament, of different political persuasions, who need to completely refocus their agendas. We ALL have to get involved. In a hurry.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.