Gardening Gloves by Celine Dion

The latest chapter in a a grimly unfolding drama is trailed in an article in The Guardian titled ‘Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst’, wherein respected climatologists agree that ‘carbon emissions (are) soaring out of control’. The piece opens with a description of the scene at a recent climate conference when Kevin Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, tells his audience about certain current findings that left ‘Even committed green campaigners …terrified.’
Anderson had every reason to be gloomy but there is a chance that, if he had purchased for his archives a copy of The Guardian containing the report, he might have had his mood pleasantly lifted. Folded round the paper’s G2 supplement is a sheet of wrapping paper for Christmas designed by Sienna Miller. It is the latest in a series of wrapping papers designed by people who are very famous today. Such as Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp designed a sheet of wrapping paper only the other day. Another famous person who designed wrapping paper on another day was Kylie Minogue. Kylie’s had ribbons on. Sienna’s had red lips on. They were probably her lips, there is no way of knowing for sure. And Victoria Beckham. She did one.
These wrapping papers. They are all shit. They are a disgrace. They are mad. I wouldn’t wrap my bottom in them.
When you are very famous there is a kind of light that shines all around you. The light means that you have so much value that it comes out of you. The light will light up everything that you do and give it value too. For example suppose you have had no training in anything. It doesn’t matter. Suppose for example you had had no training in graphic design or illustration or drawing or photography. Suppose you had no skills in these fields despite not having been trained in any way. That wouldn’t really matter.
I think Johnny Depp would be a very good surgeon. He is certainly very attractive. I think Victoria Beckham would be a good middle distance runner in the Olympic Games in London in 2012. She is certainly very well dressed.
It’s quite possible that training is overrated. And skill. You just need a sort of light that shines all around you.

In The Road

‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy is the most scaring novel I’ve read in years. Although regarded by most critics as a ‘post-apocalyptic’ piece – there are brief hints that bombs have gone off – it’s hard not to see this particular apocalypse as an effect of global warming rather than nuclear holocaust. The landscape through which a father and his young son trudge is unremittingly ashen and whenever forests, buildings, cars, a train, even people, are encountered, they have been burned to a crisp. The original catastrophe is several years in the past when the book opens and no plants or animals have survived. What is probably a very small number of desperately dilapidated survivors roams the freezing continent searching for food in houses and shops that were thoroughly looted ages ago. Sometimes the wanderers shoot and eat each other.
Throughout my reading of the book I assumed that the fictional holocaust was modelled on the almost annual Californian brush fires – dramatically chronicled by Mike Davis here – and extended to a situation in which climate change had created ‘perfect fire’ conditions across at least the whole of North America. This may, on reflection, have been an excitable reading at odds with the evidence produced by the author. But the timing, the tone and the terror resonate compellingly with all that I am concluding about the climatic climax to our days.
Echoes of other ‘post-apocalyptic’ works abound in the book. ‘The Road’ conjures up any number of recollections of its genre predecessors: a less well known one, perhaps, would be Stanley Kramer’s ‘On the Beach’ (1959), a Cold War gloomer in which Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins deal with a world in which only Australia is left habitable. A submarine, submerged when the bombs went off, docks in a deserted New York, drawn by an erratic Morse code message the crew is picking up from somewhere in the city. After tense search scenes, the sailors burst into a room from where the message is being transmitted. With a mixture of regret and relief they find that the cord of a window blind, flapping by an open window, has become caught around a toppled Coca-Cola bottle and is bouncing it up and down on the key of a Morse device.
While certain inevitable associations will insinuate themselves, mostly from genre forms (with the exception of ‘Robinson Crusoe’), one of the remarkable things about the book is that its proximity to genre only serves to emphasise that it is not a genre work. Closest, in these terms, to science fiction, it describes, albeit speculatively, a horizon that was once a fictionalised place of titillating adventure and character-building survivalism and is now simply the future. I think it’s the only book I’ve read that made me, towards its dreadful conclusion, suddenly break down and weep.

Bummer

Climate change deniers are like those kids back in the playground who were obedient, conventional yet routinely and obstinately confused provocation with being like their Dad. They disapproved of the various models of rebellion displayed by other kids, such as the hard case, the early smoker, the incipient gay or bohemian and, as they neared school leaving age had already begun assembling a wardrobe of corduroy, scarlet or mustard waistcoats, brogues and cravates (we’re talking the 50s here but every generation produces them). At university, having had heard about bons mots from their reading of the classics they would, prematurely quinquagenarian, foist feeble and unworldly attempts on their less demonstrative followers, who would bray. Some years down the line they would receive a few hundred pounds a pop for writing in newspapers what their Dad would have said about climate change.
The ‘debate’ has, mercifully, moved on in the last few months. The focus now is on identifying those countries whose emissions estimates are deeply flawed and whose reduction proposals are, therefore, devoid of realism.
After that will come the Bans. Nobody talks about them yet. The banning, for example, of driving, apart from essential services. The banning of international travel, apart from those journeys of international importance. The rationing of national travel. The electricity curfews – equivalent to war-time blackout regulations. The ‘lodger’ quotas, wherein households with spare rooms will be required to take in climate refugees. The rationing of foods and liquids whose scarcity can no longer be managed by mere astronomic price escalation.
Bit of a vote-loser. Sternness may have to be applied.
Bicycling will be allowed.