Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oliver Postgate

For those of you not from the UK, I’d better explain who Oliver Postgate is. Oliver Postgate is best known in the UK as the maker of some classic kids TV programmes from the 60’s and 70’s including Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, and The Clangers.
But more recently he has come to public attention through a couple of large advertisements he has placed in the Guardian newspaper. His first advertisement attracted a lot of comment – people asked “what right have you, an ignorant old person in a basement, to tell the government that it must do what you tell it to do, or everybody may die?”

Here is his reply :

I do apologise most sincerely for that. I have no such right. What I have is a duty. Let me tell you a story about it:

“I am walking along the path behind the cliff and I see, over the fence, that a small child, not more than two years old, is blithely toddling straight towards the brink of the cliff. Now the ground inside the fence is private property, with stern notices, so I have no right to enter on to it. But all the same, I have a duty to jump over the fence, run across, pick her up and carry her, bawling blue murder, to safety.”

Human society is that child, that happy, greedy, outraged moppet, totally self-centred and lovable, but it too has no grasp of its situation and now it is also toddling towards the brink.

Is this our fault?

Not particularly. In our civilisation, in which a nation’s economic success is measured by its “growth”, consumer-spending is a vital component. It is a competitive commercial world in which, for the economic health of our nation, we are honour-bound to over-eat, over-spend and over-waste. As units of consumption that is our function.
The side-effect of this function – global warming, was recognised long ago, and successive governments have worked hard to avoid coming to terms with the inconvenient fact that our “conspicuous consumption” has been slowly poisoning the whole climate of the world.
Now we have run out of time. Global warming is on the brink of becoming irreversible!
If the human race is to avoid having to face slow, irreversible extinction in a disaster torn world, it must, as a race, take immediate draconian action to reduce carbon emissions to a level which will not only eliminate the green house effect but also cause the planet to cool away the vast heat charge it has already received during the years of neglect.
Personal economy is necessary and can help, but the bulk of carbon emissions come from larger sources which only government legislation can deal with.
The present government has been making a show of tackling this, but the task it has given to its scientists is not simply to find a way to end global warming – they could do that at once – but to do so “without cutting either our economic growth or our living standards”.
As these are the two main causes of global warming, this task does, as they say: “present some difficulties” in that, from among the many different speculative predictions on offer, the scientists are being expected to seek and select, as definitive, the most “politically practical”.
To do that is potentially suicidal. As nobody can pretend to know for certain what is going to happen to the climate, the only safe and sensible thing to do is to deal with it now. So GLOBAL WARMING IS A GLOBAL EMERGENCY – Our duty is to see that it is fully dealt with, now.
Oliver Postgate
October 2006.


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