“She said it’s six feet high and risin’.” Thus sang Johnny Cash about the river down the road apiece. During the drought, he could’ve sung a second version about the reservoir : “How low’s the water, Momma ?”. Her answer would have been “Two feet low and fallin'”. Too much water, which we don’t want, floods, tsunamis, deluges and rising sea-levels will, in the near future, kill tens of thousands, in both under-developed and developed countries. But too little drinkable water, which we need, will probably be the cause of the extinction of our race.
Trump has chosen a climate-skeptic to head – if not to destroy – the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama has made an eleventh-hour effort to prevent drilling for oil in the Arctic Sea north of Alaska : a unrescindable ruling set in stone; Trump, we hope, will have to live with it. But the new President will continue to protect the polluters whose self-interest is killing the country from sea to shining sea. He is intent on annulling Cop 21 and other treaties which constitute our last hope for the planet. The ice at the poles will continue to melt, the weather will continue to be as erratic as it is devastating, urban smog will continue to choke us, the ozone barrier will continue to diminish, and when we are not threatened by floods we will face the depletion of our reserves of drinking water, the white gold the scarcity of which could well provoke nuclear wars and Armageddon.
Greed and credulity will be the twin causes of our collective environmental suicide. The insatiable appetites of the rich and powerful have blinded politicians and businessmen who exploit the credibility of sometimes sincere but mistaken scientists, and the credulity of the uninformed masses, to make us all passengers on a “Titanic” already beginning to flounder.
“Fluctuat nec mergitur” ? The defiant optimism of the motto of the city of Paris – “The ship may rock but will never sink” – will continue to reinforce wishful thinking and the conviction of many that God would never allow such a disaster to happen (“In God We Trust” . . .). But when our streets begin to turn into Venetian canals, when only the wealthy can afford the water we all need to survive (“Man does not live on Scotch alone”), there will be war, despair and death, accompanied by a religious fervor as the condemned turn to God as their last resort.
Blindness to both the vulnerability of our environment and the folly of religion can be cured. But we are running out of time. When will we ever learn ?
In spite of all this, Happy New Year. There is Trump, but there is also hope – if we act now.