About me ... why I care about the climate problem

I used to practice medicine in Ipswich and teach at the University of Queensland, but now I’m retired. In 2005 Tim Flannery wrote “The Weathermakers”, a book on the climate problem & when I read it a while later, I began to understand that we live in a time like no other. I have a bunch of young grandchildren who will most likely live to see the last few years of this century. Long before then, as Tim showed, all our doubts and hesitations about the climate issue will be gone, and those kids will look back on our current behaviour with disbelief and probably disgust & resentment. They will know that if we had started on a fix for this problem when we first knew about it 30 years ago, we could have avoided most of its worst effects - but we didn’t. And we seem certain to delay even more.

That’s why I created the website grandkidzfuture.com. It wasn’t long before the Copenhagen conference, and I thought if the delegates took a clear sense of the seriousness of their responsibility, this meeting might get the world started on what should be done. It didn’t. In fact, you could take a very dim view of what happened there and say it’s a sign that we’ll never be organized enough. But that would be the same as giving up, and that’s the one thing we can’t do.

I’ve come to see that, although the climate problem is very serious indeed, it isn’t really what has to be fixed. It’s a consequence of something else - something about the path that human society has taken, specially over the last three centuries or so. The fact is, as René Dubos used to say,

“Man inhabits two worlds ...

     One is the natural world of plants and animals, of soils and airs and waters which preceded him by billions of years and of which he is a part. The other is the world of social institutions and artefacts he builds for himself, using his tools and engines, his science and his dreams to fashion an environment obedient to human purpose and direction.”

Our imaginations, our creativity and inventiveness are such that we can make for ourselves civilized environments which are so compelling we can entirely forego residence in the first world - the ecological one - and devote ourselves to the many pursuits of the other; and that is what we have done, unaware of some very grave consequences accumulating fast during the latest century of our success.

So while it isn’t too difficult to prescribe a remedy for the climate problem, it looks as if we won’t be ready to take our medicine until we consent to something radical - changing our economic system to one that comprehends really sustainable ends. The age of cheap and plentiful energy persuaded us that economic activity could somehow grow for ever; but of course it can’t. We only have to decide if we want that impossible dream to crash, or turn into something durable under our good care. That’s why it’s important we all understand what’s happening and what’s at stake - so we can make the better choice.

John Price



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