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BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY


This I had to write but really it’s no more than an extended moaning session. And be warned that it includes some vernacular that some might find either baffling or offensive, I make no apology because it’s how I feel.

I just sat through a documentary about an Oasis-class cruise ship called Symphony of the Seas and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that it is very impressive, mostly for the following reasons, but also for a few more which I shall go into shortly. Built in France in 2018, it is 361 m long, 48 m wide, 73 m high and has a draught of more than 9 metres, it weighs about a quarter of a million tons, and produces about 85 MW of power. Crew number 2200 and it will carry a maximum of 6680 passengers. The ship is huge, obviously, but depending on one’s viewpoint it is not elegant, at least not so in the way that older ships like the Queen Elizabeth or the SS Normandie were. In fact to me it looks like a giant floating council estate. According to Wikipedia, as of 2021 there were 323 cruise ships operating worldwide with a capacity of 581 000 passengers, and six of these ships are included in the ‘Oasis’ class which happen to be the largest of them all. These huge ships cater for a certain very numerous type of holiday maker; mostly those with families I suspect as they offer such goodies as water parks, basketball courts, ice-skating rinks, theatres, rock-climbing walls, smurf simulators (whatever they are), and a zip line that is ten decks high. And the ticket includes all the grog and nosebag they can handle. Paradise surely? Abject luxury, eh? But in terms of what we do in order to relieve the boredom of everyday life this is only the tip of the iceberg. Imagine adding all the pointless air miles spent on both leisure and business and we have some very serious damage being done to our dear planet.

I find it difficult to appreciate the holiday experiences of some of my colleagues who tell me that over the course of two weeks at some or other idyllic and usually Mediterranean holiday resort they hardly ever, if at all, leave the hotel. Often just off the plane, taxi to the hotel, change and hit the bar or restaurant, and then repeat ad nauseum until the taxi to the airport arrives. All food and drink included so who would go out and pay more? And a swimming pool and disco! And, I kid you not, sometimes not even remembering the name of the hotel or the country in which it was situated, and as for being able to point to it on a map, forget it. And this two or three times each year. These are mostly the people who spend their evenings and weekends shopping, drinking, gambling or glued to the television.

I also find it difficult to appreciate something I heard from a colleague I have the unfortunate luck to sit opposite on a regular basis. So she tells me one morning after arriving at ten o’clock that the traffic was terrible and that it was just one hold up after another. I hesitated to tell her that she could easily walk to work in fifteen minutes and probably less by taking short-cuts.

Of the many examples I could give of things that I find difficult to appreciate I think the following ranks among the most pathetic and feeble-minded from my colleagues. I regularly visit the kitchen at work to make coffee, and when I do I usually need to wait while other people are using the kettles. No problem here as, while I am usually an intolerant sort of person, I do appreciate that everybody needs to take a break. But one very common example of pig-ignorant cuntishness really winds me up i.e. somebody looking at the kettle which is boiling its guts out but is yet to switch itself off, and the observer telling everybody how annoying it is that it takes so long to boil. I often suggest simply flipping the switch but am always told that it needs to boil properly and switch off by itself before it’s hot enough to use for tea or coffee. There really is no point in trying to explain the concept of boiling point because they really are so very stupid. Furthermore there are several people who must fill the kettle to the top before switching it on, even when it has only just boiled and is still half full. On the other hand I find another aspect of our coffee breaks hugely satisfying; our company supplies several very nice-not to mention very expensive-coffees for the staff, gratis and help yourself as often as you please, but at eleven o’clock every day a mobile coffee van turns up and people flood out to pay a fiver for a coffee because I am told it’s much nicer than the company coffee. How thick can you get?

Ok, so it might be just me getting old and grumpy but I see so many examples of how we damage our environment, often through ignorance and often simply for our amusement, that I seriously doubt that this present cohort of humans are capable of leaving the planet in a better shape than when they arrived. And, for all their shouting and protesting, from what I see it’s the younger generations who do the most damage. It really is pointless trying to list the many ways we are abusing our environment because I see new examples every day, it’s just a matter of observing and thinking about what’s going on.

At the time of writing (28/5/2023) there is an article on the BBC news website about more than 1500 Extinction Rebellion climate protesters having been arrested after being dispersed by police using water cannons because their protest blocked a major motorway in The Hague. Obviously there are some people who take climate change very seriously and who are prepared to do something about it. A larger number of people I suspect are just like me, they accept it and try to live without causing unnecessary damage. But it seems that the majority of people, whether they understand it or not, whether they accept it or not, simply do not care and place their own comfort and affluence before everything else. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that so called intelligent people such as academics and teachers are environmentally aware and living in a way that helps the planet because nothing could be further from the truth-ever see them striking for more money in order to increase their affluence; to buy bigger houses, drive bigger cars or go on better holidays?

And what has this to do with beetles?

We all know that the climate is changing, and we also know that we may well have something to do with it. Many people deny this. Fair enough, and when our modern education system is factored in hardly surprising. We are doing a very good job of producing generations of experts in the fields of media studies and commercial arts. Not so hot on the sciences though. Many people are either not interested or completely baffled by the science. So while southern Europe slowly turns into a desert, and this desert slowly creeps north, it is inevitable that Mediterranean holidays will become more expensive and less comfortable. And with the glaciers melting you can forget about planning future skiing holidays. These sorts of things will genuinely piss many people off, but still the penny will not drop. Already in March 2023 we see record temperatures in Southern Europe and massive woodland fires in Canada and Russia. A real taste of things to come I think. Lots of animals will gradually move north, and those that can will hop the channel and take up residence in the UK. Our present southern fauna will be displaced north and a new mix of insects and birds will replace them. Which sounds really good if you like the idea of finding species new to the UK, and indeed it would be really good if this happened and then after five or so years things began to stabilize as we started to live more responsibly . But they won’t, more likely that things will continue to warm up, and so much of our present fauna will be lost forever. So what? Surely we will have a new and more diverse fauna and that can only be good right? Some people really believe this. But we are very quickly changing the southern part of our fair isle into a mass of high-density and very expensive, albeit very cheap, complexes of concrete flats and housing estates, and there seems to be no shortage of takers. And as the procurement of such hutches is generally facilitated by the lending of large sums of money, I suspect it’s one of the things propping up our economy at the moment. But for a while maybe the occupants will be able to see some very interesting beetles and butterflies about their shrub beds, at least until the climate gets too warm and the insects are displaced even further north. Such northern displacement will not be an option for the endless poor bastards tied into the financial minefields associated with procuring newly-built dwellings. These people will see their investments evaporate. And it is coming for sure. Maybe we are too well equipped to allow our woodlands to be consumed by fires, maybe we can divert rivers and aquifers into reservoirs, and maybe we can generate enough green power to keep us comfortable for a while. But for fuck sake, can people not see what is happening? Can we not see the damage we are doing? The answer is yes, we can, but we would rather say ‘fuck it’ than do something about it. And that’s because we are self-centred and extremely greedy. For example, those supposedly intelligent people such as teachers and university lecturers are striking for more money, and it doesn’t matter that the country cannot afford it, they simply want more money and fuck everybody else. Let the country borrow more money and let everybody else, including genuinely low-paid people, pay for it through increased taxes. And is it any surprise that the rest of the public sector follows suit? And what sort of message is this giving to our young people? Just keep striking and throwing tantrums until you get your own way, that’s the way to go. This- the never ceasing quest for affluence, respectability and idleness- is the mentality that will prevent our doing anything about climate change. It is real and it is happening, and if you deny it or doubt the science, then simply lie back and enjoy it. And if you get bored book yourself a cruise or a holiday in the south of France.


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