thinking about archaeology

Copenhagen isn’t everything, but my god I hope it delivers

I grew up with the double fear of nuclear annihilation and ecological catastrophe, and while the former brought a sort of horror entertainment (and in Dr Strangelove, one of my favourite movies of all time) the latter encouraged more thoughtful engagement. Famines, pollution, deforestation, over-fishing and the tearing of a new motorway through ancient fields and woodlands, such things were about us and our lifestyles, things as an adolescent you could get your teeth into and protest about.

We didn’t know about global warming then, but all the issues we did think about are embodied in the present crisis. I first became convinced of the real danger of the warming climate when I happened to come across a US-based scientific research ship in Tahiti some 15 years ago. She was sampling the Pacific in huge transects, plotting temperature changes through plankton patterns. I interviewed a scientist who told me what they were doing, and he memorably said to me, the only disagreement about the human-driven climate warming theory was amongst people who were not climate scientists; the latter, he said, knew it was happening.

If the politicians and diplomats in Copenhagen can agree on real action, not only can they set the world on a track where we still have a part on it, but they can earn themselves respect – and surely they need that as much as we need action on climate change.

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