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Ban Ki-moon's Arctic stand

By Judy Cannon - posted Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A lonely, huddled, hooded figure stands on the great expanse of the Arctic terrain. He is freezing but the polar ice under his feet is melting. So what is he doing there? Who is that crazy man? Who in their right senses would do such a thing?

It is the UN Secretary-General. He is desperate to attract attention. Ban Ki-Moon is trying - yet again - to shout: Wake up World.

It is not the icy blasts or Arctic winds that will prevent his message reaching the great majority of people; nor a lack of him trying to tell us how it is. It is the wants and ambitions of listeners that make them deaf. That, and the threat that everyone might have to accept a lower standard of living. What is the better option: a lower standard of living or widespread destruction, even for some, death?


Those who have it all want to keep it all. Those who have not, hardly surprisingly, seek to continue to press for the standards they see others enjoy. They don’t want to heed the climate change warning either. We have all forgotten what we learned in science at school: nature is the powerful force that in fact rules us all, however much we want to put our heads in the sand.

This generation has its own way of not hearing bad news. In the western world at least, it has learned to “move on”, as they say, and do their best to avoid facing up to life’s nasties. They lull themselves by watching a silly quiz game with its infantile laughter, or occupy themselves in some other mindless activity. Escapism won’t help when cyclonic winds howl, rivers flood in torrents and bush fires rage out of control.

The global climate change call has been led, among others, by Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California whose state has suffered so dreadfully this year from bushfire, climate change expert Lord Stern and now UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, together with several European leaders. There are hopes US President Obama shortly will wield heavy support. But while politicians can display the necessary knowing nods and murmur words about cutting emissions, in reality they remain focused on the next election and voter numbers. Rather like following the money trail, or not. They apparently feel there is time left to indulge in party politicking.

The armaments industry, multinationals and the miners will not hear the UN Secretary-General’s call at all, insulated and safe as they are (for the moment) behind profit barricades and in counting houses. And politicians remain acutely conscious of the revenue streams these giants of commerce produce and the loss to government coffers if, say, mines closed down. The miners in Australia have spent much time and effort in promoting their “clean coal” research plans, attracting huge sums of government money. 

The burning of coal has been shown to be one of the principal causes of climate change and global warming, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Clean coal is seen as a solution to climate change and global warming by coal industry groups; environmental groups believe this is misleading and inaccurate. Source Watch Encyclopedia says it is has been estimated that it will be at least 15 to 20 years before any commercial "clean coal" power stations could eventuate. 

Recently a number of scientists have argued that we have underestimated the scale and speed of climate change impacts. Climate Institute Australia has stated there are signals that climate extremes are increasing in scale and frequency. The impacts are likely to be more serious than previously thought. The scientific consensus is that it is necessary to make cuts of at least 60 per cent in emissions by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.


Some scientists seem to have gone quiet. Perhaps their throats are sore with shouting so many warnings, or they despair at public lethargy and its focus on immediate self-interest. Or could they be busy digging bunkers in the garden to try to protect their own? We need them to start shouting again.

The main hope for world action on climate change - the Copenhagen meeting in December - is fast approaching. The consensus at the moment suggests the summit’s hopes of achieving worldwide measures to protect the world are not at all promising. UN Framework on Climate Change Committee officials have described progress as “too slow”.

The people who are to attend the summit need to know they are backed to the hilt on what they are trying to achieve by the people they represent. They need to know people, particularly those enjoying a high standard of living, would accept a life with fewer goodies as a better option than being struck by storms, flooding or fire; or death. They need to realise they are dealing with our future life and those of our descendants and we have to trust them. We have no other option.

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About the Author

Judy Cannon is a journalist and writer, and occasional contributor to On Line Opinion. Her family biography, The Tytherleigh Tribe 1150-2014 and Its Remarkable In-Laws, was published in 2014 by Ryelands Publishing, Somerset, UK. Recently her first e-book, Time Traveller Woldy’s Diary 1200-2000, went up on Amazon Books website. Woldy, a time traveller, returns to the West Country in England from the 12th century to catch up with Tytherleigh descendants over the centuries, and searches for relatives in Australia, Canada, America and Africa.

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