To adopt the fine old internet chestnut: “Somebody’s said something silly in the Guardian”.
It’s Andrew Simms of course, having his monthlies. He’s been repeating the same daft countdown-to- doom article every month now for 50 months, and is celebrating the halfway point to the end of the world by getting 50 other daft idiots to join in.
“First of the month, Pinch punch – Andrew Simms is out to lunch”.
He started off four years ago like this in an article entitled “The Final Countdown”:
“If you shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, when there is none, you understand that you might be arrested for irresponsible behaviour and breach of the peace. But from today, I smell smoke, I see flames and I think it is time to shout. I don’t want you to panic, but I do think it would be a good idea to form an orderly queue to leave the building.”
And Guardian readers did, in hundreds of thousands. The loss-making newspaper only exists on life support from Auto Trader.
He went on to outline a complex calculation based on the best science which led to the day of doom being fixed at a hundred months hence, and promised us an article the first of every month until the fatal date.
But his first article was not all gloom. In an echo of “Yes we can”, (“Yes we could – then”) he pointed out:
“Britain achieved astonishing things while preparing for, fighting and recovering from the second world war. In the six years between 1938 and 1944, the economy was re-engineered and there were dramatic cuts in resource use and household consumption. These coincided with rising life expectancy and falling infant mortality. We consumed less of almost everything, but ate more healthily and used our disposable income on what, today, we might call “low-carbon good times”.
And he quoted Churchill (better, he quoted Margaret Beckett quoting Churchill)
“In April 2007, Margaret Beckett, then foreign secretary, gave a largely overlooked lecture called Climate Change: The Gathering Storm. ‘It was a time when Churchill, perceiving the dangers that lay ahead, struggled to mobilise the political will and industrial energy of the British Empire to meet those dangers. He did so often in the face of strong opposition,’ she said. ‘Climate change is the gathering storm of our generation. And the implications – should we fail to act – could be no less dire: and perhaps even more so.’”
What Simms and Beckett seem to miss is that, when Churchill offered the country nothing but blood sweat and tears, it was in the context of hope for a better future thereafter. Simms is offering us a worse past (in fact, the darkest moments of a worst past), not because of what it led to (peace and ever-increasing wealth) but because of the spirit it imbued in people. The spirit that motivated people to… (kill Nazis? write the Beveridge report?) … No. To organise “dances, concerts, boxing displays, swimming galas, and open-air theatre – all organised by local authorities with the express purpose of saving fuel by discouraging unnecessary travel.” In Simms’ peculiar world, 1939-45 will remain forever in our memories as the years of “marches, processions and displays in every city, town and village in the country” to celebrate the National Savings Movement.
Simms immediately established himself as the daftest loon on the Guardian Climate Change page. Today he’s gone all out to excel himself. At
“One or other of us will have to go,” Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said on his deathbed to the hated wallpaper in his room. The perilous acceleration of Arctic ice loss, and the imminent threat of irreversible climate change poses a similar ultimatum to the economic system that is pushing us over the brink. For society’s sake I hope this time we redecorate.”
The Wilde anecdote is a remark by a dying man who valued aesthetic experience above everything, even life itself, and made a rather good joke about it.
Simms also values something above life itself – but what? Arctic ice? The thrill he gets watching old Pathé news films of National Savings marches? Who knows.
He goes on to list a selection of the fifty accompanying articles by fifty people who agree with him. They include people like Crispin Tickell and Barbara Stocking of Oxfam. So he’s not alone. The Guardian can stlll drum up fifty old climate hands to support the cause, though it’s not quite the mass movement Simms has been trying to ignite for the past four years.
He ends his article with the same link back to the same blog listing the same articles with which he ended the first article – and this inspiring paragraph:
What we do in the next 50 months is not a choice between what we have done in the past and what we are doing today. It is an invitation to embark on the most extraordinary, exhilarating and challenging adventure our society has yet faced, learning how to thrive without disastrously destabilising the climate on which we depend. Every step matters, and it matters most that we start walking.
He started with a deathbed anecdote, and ends with a call to learn to walk. Time to get back in the cradle and go bye byes, I think.