In the build up to COP21, religious leaders have come out in support of action on climate change. Of course, not every religion shares the faith.
One early autumn evening in Melbourne, when the chill was still novel enough to brave a backyard barbecue, my associates assembled for a bender. It was a troubled, not-altogether hygienic bunch who rallied their inner beasts for revelry that Saturday.
The partying progressed along productive lines until Toddy the dog-breeder took offence at something somebody said. A tad touchy was Toddy. Dog breeding is a crooked game and, knowing that, players tend to be wound tight.
The offendee dealt out a hammer-blow that crumpled the offender like an aluminium can. Immediately, a rough-head firebrand leapt to the can’s defence, barbarian eyes burning wild and wasted. Toddy flipped the pretender head over tail, then drove knee into midriff with a sound like a puncturing tire.
Then the men stepped in. One produced a length of two-by-four and swatted Toddy to the skull. It would have knocked me cold, but Toddy merely dipped a little and sprang back into place like a button. She turned on her assailant, tore the weapon from his hand and walloped him with it, sending him reeling, hands pinned to a broken nose.
I can’t recall exactly what happened next, only that it lacked dignity, but we ended up bruised, bloodied and bunkered inside, cowering with cops on the way. As her boyfriend tried to calm her down, talking through the bleeding, Toddy prowled the backyard like a Doberman.
Perhaps it sweetly illustrates the caliber of the people I was among that some wag, disgruntled at the turn his evening had taken, ripped open the door and bellowed into the wilderness, “Party pooper!”
And thus, just as a length of two-be-four connected with Toddy’s skull, we connect with the theme of this article: No matter how hot the party, some people just have to pour cold water on it.
In September 2015 Pope Francis addressed the UN, cautioning against the “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity.” He warned that man “can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”
Thank God for Pope Francis. He’s one of those stalwart optimists all good parties need — the charismatic chat-smith entrenched next the heater, radiating good cheer even while the barrels run dry.
And thank God for the Dalai Lama, too. He and other Buddhist leaders have signed a statement urging the use of wisdom and compassion in reaching agreement at COP21. What an elevating presence he is, bringing to mind one of those impish pranksters who buzz about shoving firecrackers into peoples’ pockets. Sister Chan Khong, another eminent Buddhist, says, “We must take action, not out of a sense of duty but out of love for our planet and for each other.”
Leaders of the evangelical movement, also, have made clear their views. John MacArthur of Grace Community Mega-Church in LA says, “The environmental movement is consumed with trying to preserve the planet forever. But we know that isn’t in God’s plan…I’ve told environmentalists that if they think humanity is wrecking the planet, wait until they see what Jesus does to it.”
Don’t rely on him to bring the melon balls, then.
On the bright side, if the nut-jobs are the only ones resisting action on climate change, clearly there is hope. As more and more leaders of wisdom and compassion come to the party, it seems more and more likely COP21 will succeed.
In a best-forgotten epoch of life, I escorted a blond uptown for a high-end version of a down-market dish, fish n’ chips. I had expected to pay but not to spend the rent. One dead sea-creature and chips stiffed me for seventy smackers. I don’t remember what she ordered, only that it stiffed me for significantly more, of course.
Up there among the bright and beautiful, spirits were soaring. This was the late nineties, and all about us the benefactors of Internet IPOs were celebrating with the abandon of those who believe they deserve it.
Unfortunately, at our little airstrip the plane couldn’t get off the ground. Time and again the blond would angle her head and frown at my witticisms as if they did about as much for her as cancer.
Then, suddenly, she burst into life. Had I somehow unknowingly done something right?
No. I hadn’t.
Who had was a table of chisel-jawed financial types with the glint of Audi key-chains in their eyes. Clearly, the blond and the money-boys were buds, and she took off to reconnect. Laughter and joy erupted. By the time she returned, her chips had hardened.
I signed the mortgage and we left. At my offer of a ride she claimed to need exercise. At my promise to call, her head exercised a refusal so brutal it sent me spiraling backward into the gutter. My shoes filled with stormwater, and the blond skipped off in the direction from which we’d come.
Later, with my socks drying on the radiator, I poured my heart out to my best mate, a big-bearded sage known as ’Zin (short for Ama-zin’). As he emitted a sympathetic Om, I confessed disappointment that the woman I’d thought of as my soul-mate, my wings on the flight to fame, fortune and … other things beginning with f … had wielded the ejector seat.
And that’s when he uttered the most profound question ever asked of me, anyone has. “AJ,” he said. “What did you expect?”
And so, just as fantasy met reality over one hundred and sixty dollars worth of deep fried fat, we encounter the theme of this article: Be wary of expectations.
This December, heads of government meet in Paris to discuss action to tackle climate change. Previous attempts, Kyoto and Copenhagen, achieved not much.
News in the run-up has been positive. The EU’s climate-change big-wig, Miguel Arias Cañete, is astonished at the positive progress. “There are many, many reasons to be cheerful,” he says. One hundred and forty-nine reasons, apparently. That’s how many countries have bought tickets to ride the “finally-do-something” balloon.
Even the captains of carbon are jumping onboard. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative represents ten of the world’s biggest oil companies. “Our shared ambition is for a 2C future,” the CEOs say. “Over the coming years we will collectively strengthen our actions and investments to contribute to reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the global energy mix.”
Patrick Pouyanne, of Total, says, “Sometimes in all these discussions you have the impression that all fossil fuels are the bad guys.”
In the year since the EPA proposed new regulations on emissions from power plants, the fossil fuel lobby in the US alone spent 502 million bucks fighting action on climate change. What impressions should we have from that?
Leopards. Spots. Change. Don’t.
The captains of carbon are serving us smiles while hijacking the plane. Paris looks like being a success, but if these people are involved it would be wise not to get our hopes up.
Duplicitous. Behavior. Expectations. Meeting.