Climate change hell is near, but don’t expect Gwede and Co to care
If I am blessed with a very long life, I will gather the village’s little children around a fire, hand out delicious roasted crickets that are only slightly radioactive, and tell them tales about a time when water came out of taps and, if you had enough of something called “money”, you could eat whatever you wanted, even mammals.
“Mammals?” they will cry in horror. Yes, I will reply. Pigs tasted particularly good: we used to eat pigs for breakfast. The youngest children will burst into tears and their parents will rush over to scold me for giving them nightmares, especially because they will all need to wake up at 3am to be strapped onto the air-filtering treadmills.
As the little ones are sprayed with leopard repellent and packed off to the sleep-hole, I will poke at the coals and chew on a cricket and remember the early 21st century, and how climate change happened very slowly and then all at once.
Here in 2019, all at once seems to be dramatically closer – and closer to home – than it was a year or two ago. Southern Mozambique is still reeling. Durban was inundated this week: at the time of writing 23 people had been killed. Cape Town is on track for its driest April since 2015. You don’t want to see the graph, updated daily by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, tracking the extent of sea ice around the poles. (Spoiler: if you want to move to the coast, maybe just wait a year or two. You might not have to move as far as you thought.)So where do our politicians stand on climate change? Exactly where most of their voters want them to stand, which is nowhere, fiddling as the tundra burns.As Durban tried to mop up on Tuesday morning, journalist Ranjeni Munusamy tweeted a map showing intense rain in the east and no rain in the west, and wondered aloud why climate change didn’t feature prominently in parties’ election manifestos.
If the children of the future ever wonder why nobody did anything back in the day, the replies to Munusamy’s tweet should provide a glimpse into the paralysis and inevitable short-termism that defines the issue of how we’re going to save ourselves.
Someone who called themselves an activist tweeted that “we got more serious issues to sort out first”. “We need food 1st before we can move to climate change topics,” replied another. “Too poor for that to be an issue,” said another, before an outraged tweeter asked: “Are u seriously suggesting that rain is now a climate change?”
To its credit, the Western Cape branch of the ANC stepped up, declaring that climate change was an important issue, but apparently not as important as scoring political points, which it then tried to do by blaming the media and Helen Zille for, well, who cares?
Certainly not mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe. On Tuesday, the Daily Maverick reported how, while attending the opening of a new colliery in Mpumalanga, Mantashe bent over and invited the energy industry to slide its entire arm up his backside to play him like a sockpuppet. The short version: beautiful, clean coal! Fake news from loser environmentalists! Sad! Wrong! Make the Apocalypse Great Again!
This was par for the course: politics is the art of talking about other people’s future in order to bankroll yours. Of course Mantashe and all his colleagues don’t care.
Perhaps, if we had time, they might be made to care. If we had time, I might be able to do all of this carefully and calmly, easing myself into less convenient but less monstrous ways of living in the world; fully weaning myself off those damned delicious animals in a way that doesn’t feel like a response to a terrible, terrible emergency.
If only we had time.