Thursday 4 July 2019

The shortest environment book!

I remember, quite a few years ago, there was a competition on Radio 4 for a novel to be written in 6 words.  A novel in just SIX words!?  This was staggering – how could a story be told in 6 words?

The winner, however, was amazing.  So amazing that I (who hardly ever reads a novel) can still remember it.  It read:
“For sale, baby shoes, never worn”

In just 6 words a whole story unfolded.  The author laid out a picture of family, hope, despair, poverty and resignation.  Incredible!

I started thinking…….  Can I write the environmental story in 6 words?  Can I capture our current environmental predicament so succinctly?  I had a go:

“The absolutely essential
   is completely impossible”

Maybe a feeble attempt against the novel that won the prize but in my mind, these 6 words are at the heart of environmental cause and conflict.  Maybe the fact that I am now going to explain myself means that it’s not going to win any prizes!

The absolutely essential is clear.  An end to fossil fuel use, large-scale restoration of nature across the globe, equitable distribution and sustainable management of the earth’s finite resources, an economic system based on sustainability rather than growth.  And so on, and so on.  These things are essential, otherwise civilisation is time-limited.  Anyone opposing these lives in a dream world.  Others, however, would be equally certain that this is idealistic nonsense.  These things are completely impossible, even if we had all the time in the world.  Simply mentioning these necessities opens one up to claims of living in La La Land (I speak from experience!).  These absolutely essential things are completely impossible to achieve.

This is where we are….
The problem is .... both sides are right!  A paradox of  an “irresistible force against the immovable object”.  

Are we going to do the absolutely essential, or be defeated by the completely impossible?

This is the scale of the task we’re up against, captured in just 6 words!