There’s an urban legend dating from the 1930s that goes like this …
An English tourist was motoring round Germany when he drove round a corner and crashed straight into a German army tank. The tank disintegrated! It was made of papier-mâché. This proved that the whole Adolf “I want to conquer the world” Hitler’s German rearmament program was a media myth, and the Poms could go back to reading the Times and drinking warm beer. Because there was no danger of another European war.
As the Poms found out at Dunkirk and the New Zealand Division discovered at Ruwheisat Ridge to their cost, the German tanks were made of steel and there were lots of them.
The global warming debate shows similar characteristics. If the worst case scenario is true, the human race will be facing extinction by the end of this century, as the acidification of the oceans causes the release of enough methane to extinguish most life forms.
Even the more moderate predictions postulate sea level rise of almost a metre, which will dislocate hundreds of millions of people who will migrate by land and sea to higher ground. We will be faced with thousands of armed and angry boat people. The question will then become: Do we kill them at sea or on the beaches, or will they turn up in warships and kill us first?
The argument that we will all solve the problem amicably by holding international conferences is about as tenable as Chamberlain’s famous piece of paper, which promised peace in our time, shortly before the aforementioned Hitler broke all the rules and invaded yet another neighbouring country.
It is all pretty frightening stuff. But historically, when resources get scarce, the guns come out. It would be nice to think that since we are by far the most technically advanced civilization in the history of the world, we could get Bill Gates and Peter Jackson to produce a DVD showing how to solve all the problems of the world in thirty seconds flat. But we can’t even agree to take out Robert Mugabe, stem the AIDS epidemic or stop the Japanese from murdering the whale population just for fun.
So how do we get the entire population of the world to cut carbon emissions by 70% by 2050 is a very big ask. Even for a species that has invented the mobile phone and set foot on the moon. It is sad to think that in a couple of hundred years time the view from Te Mata peak will resemble the surface of the moon.
But what if you bestow free will on highly developed monkeys and they choose to believe in paper moons and papier-mâché tanks as they look for bigger and bigger sand pits in which to bury their heads? Really, what can a poor boy do except join a rock and roll band?!