Channel hopping while Rome Burns

This post was drafted at the end of July after a two month spell of hot, dry weather. It has been sitting around since then, waiting to be posted but always being pipped by something else. By coincidence, I finally published it on the same day as the Stern Report, which blows my argument out of the water rather.


Is this it, do you think?I spent a lot of my early teenage years reading the apocalyptic Science Fiction of John Wyndham, in fact reading a lot of apocalyptic Science Fiction altogether, and pleasantly dramatic and terrifying stuff it was too. In the 1980s Ben Elton did a more modern version of the same thing.

And now here we are, where we all knew we would eventually arrive, though we all hoped that we’d somehow manage to change trains before we got here; on the verge of the apocalypse.

It’s ok, so long as you don’t look down.

  • War – check
  • Death – check
  • Famine – check
  • Pestilence – not quite,
    though Pratchett and Gaiman updated him quite brilliantly to Pollution, in which case – check.

You see, what none of the writers of apocalyptic SF got right was the tone of the times. They predicted mass hysteria in the face of global catastrophe in the style of a hapless citizenry fleeing invading Martians in Welles’ War of the Worlds, but we are mundane little creatures and no-one correctly predicted the banality of our current news reporting.

Orwell would have managed it. A lot of the dystopia in 1984 gets its power from the mundane banality of the world he describes, but he was looking at politics not climate change. If Orwell had been 15 years younger, and had an engineering or scientific background, he would have described just the sort of news reports we hear every day: Scientists say that we are on the verge of the 6th exinction, but first, the Cricket.

The cold wet August this year, September’s rush towards the autumnal equinox and October’s mild storminess means that most of us have forgotten just how hot and dry the summer was. However, I got an extra frisson of helplessness late in July when I heard something new on the radio: for the very first time I heard a prediction of a food-shortage in the West as a result of global warming. Un-nerving enough, you’d have thought, but the thing I found really disquietening was that it was not presented in those terms. As it turned out, normal service was resumed in August when it rained for most of the month. So that was all right then.

You see, in the news broadcast there was no drama at all. Blink, and you’d have missed it. It comprised the last two lines of this online report from the BBC on that most English of subjects the weather. It was entitled UK heatwave subsides for weekend which ends:

Current conditions combined with a cold and wet spring mean production of some crops has fallen by up to 40%.

Broad beans, potatoes, baby carrots and peas could be some of the produce in short supply over the next few weeks.

But remember that you read it here first, in those two lines about peas and baby carrots: maybe not this year, maybe not next, but there will be food shortages here in the West because of global warming. We are all doomed.

And next, Celebrity Love Idol.

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3 responses to “Channel hopping while Rome Burns

  1. Depressing I think.

  2. Surprisingly well timed though, given that Blair has suddenly said “oh, gosh, we should – er – you know – um – do something about Climate Change. This report says we’ve only got 45 minutes to save the planet”

  3. Surely the line you’re after is

    ‘Flash, I love you but we only have 14 hours to save the earth’

    I’ll get my coat…

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