Deccan Chronicle

Cabbages & Kings: Young ones whose opinions matter

Deccan Chronicle | DC Correspondent

Published on: April 27, 2019 | Updated on: April 27, 2019

One of Greta Thunberg's addresses was attended by Michael Gove, the UK's minister for the environment.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at the 'Friday For Future' rally in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: AP)

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at the 'Friday For Future' rally in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: AP)

"No peace, they say, for the wicked —
They are busy with orgies and such.
The virtuous are bored with their virtue —
Ahriman has decreed as much…"

From Chhaas Bhi Kabhi Cow Thi by Bachchoo

Gentle reader, I can’t declare myself a climate-change sceptic, but will resort to harsher terms. I am a climate-change ignoramus, a confusenik! My children and friends are adamant climate-change-disaster-wallas and blame human greed and blindness for the impending apocalypse — with accusing glances at my vacillating self.

They are part of a worldwide awareness that is now a satyagraha force. I plead ignorance through reading too much. Eminent scientists around the world say they have cast-iron evidence that emissions from the burning of petrol, coal and gas, the mass release of methane from farting cattle, the pollution of oceans with plastic and a hundred activities of uncaring humans are going to result in the destruction of the planet. Very soon.

Then there are the sceptics, some of them well-versed in climatology, in the significance of oceanic temperatures, etc who insist that empirical and historical evidence proves that the planet and the seas may be getting warmer but this is not caused by human activity of any sort but is caused by periodic nuclear activity on the sun or is in fact the expected up and down of climate in the solar system. These personages are not, as I have taken the trouble to check, paid by or in some way in the service of the petroleum and coal-burning industries. They appear to be objective, scientific observers.

They are today an isolated minority — but then so was Galileo.

Please, please don’t infer from the last phrase that I am a climate-change denier. My cry from the heart is that I just don’t know.

I have never been convinced by Zarathustra insisting that there was only one God, or that any virgin gave birth or that God dictated books. I have always regarded the Ramayan and the Mahabharat as mythologised history. Ever since I heard of his theory, I thought Darwin was convincing, even though the miracle of evolution, resulting in a googol of creations and in the ever-inventive intelligence of humans, entices the intelligence to believe, at least metaphorically, in a creator.

These ramblings, gentle reader are occasioned by the fact that thousands of climate-change protestors have gathered in Britain over the last few days to clog the streets, to lie down in protest over the bridges of cities and on tops of railway-carriages in an attempt to bring the movement of traffic and daily life to a halt. They are determined protestors. They demand that the government immediately legislate and implement policies to stop or limit carbon emissions and take other measures to save our planet whose end is nigh.

They have been very successful in drawing attention to the cause. One of the highlights of their protest was an invitation to the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg who addressed thousands of protestors on London’s streets and squares and was subsequently on all of the UK’s media and was invited to address MPs from all wings of Parliament. And so to shake hands with the Pope. It was a Malala Yousafzai global moment.

One of her addresses was attended by Michael Gove, the UK’s minister for the environment. He applauded her speech and her points of view and told the media that he was going to introduce legislation to deal with some of the obvious concerns Greta had raised.

We may ask why it took a Swedish teenager’s lecture tour to Britain to alert a minister of Her Majesty’s government to the dangers of global warming? Was he not analysing the issues and promulgating strategies before young Greta called attention to their necessity?

I suppose that’s political posturing. To be seen in the company of someone who is becoming known or even positively notorious for a cause and to endorse their contentions is what politicians in voting (Not "democratic" — that word is accompanied by many qualifications!) societies flock to do.

We cannot but agree that young people with strong, life-enhancing and widely publicised views such as Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg ought to be admired for their dedication and courage.

One can’t be so sure about the actors and "celebrities" who voice their political opinions. Malala was someone who escaped death from the bullets of fanatics who wanted to stop girls being educated. She survived and dedicated herself to opposing their bigotry.

Wah wah! Hurrah! And even Allah hoo Akbar, if you must!

Greta began a movement of school children who said our studies for a day matter less than our survival as a generation. Bravo! Whatever the scientific evidence in favour or against their contention.

Actors, pop stars, reality-show-fodder who pose for the media expressing this or that political contention? Hmmm. In free societies they can opine as they please, but should anyone care? Pop singers should sing tunefully and actors should, as Alfred Hitchcock said, learn their lines, come on time and not trip over the furniture. After all they spend their entire professional lives mouthing words that some impoverished and neglected writer (cut out this self-pity — Ed.) has penned, pretending to be someone else. This entails observing and reproducing the nuance of behaviour, expression and character which is certainly an art. As skilful as the writer’s, or indeed, in interpretation, as the painter’s. But should such a skill result in any attention to that actor’s convictions or views?

An extension of this question would be: Why in a democracy should anyone care for the opinionated stance of a newspaper, news channel or the views of a political journalist or even an ironic columnist? Democracies shouldn’t depend on voters paying heed to anyone or anything except their material and socio-political self-interest.

(Oh dear! Is this support for vote banks? I thought I was against them. fd. Yeah, yeah, so when has your column ever made sense? — Ed.)

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