By Stan Stewart.
Occasionally I ring my friend of 70 years. Usually, we laugh about our life as teens and young adults. Last time it was different. He is in a care facility quite a distance from his home. There was no talk of past girlfriends or our adventures. After a minute he said “I’m just waiting to go to heaven. I’ll go now”. He hung up.
Our teen and young adult life was lived in a religious setting. But over the years much of what we heard, experienced, and read made less and less sense to me. My friend stayed on as a true believer. These days I’m certainly not waiting to go to heaven.
However, I am concerned about the future here on earth. Some portents for the future are worrying in particular, climate change.
I had heard and read many different views about climate change. My old friend I mention above sent me photos of Australian historic floods and droughts that were more severe than what has been recently. A couple of years ago he told me, “It’s all a beat up. Nothing to worry about.”
But I wasn’t convinced. My feeling is something serious is happening – but ‘how serious’? I know that international politics and big money shape the way news is reported. Were they packaging the global heating news to suit their own ends?
Last time I visited Auckland over coffee I had a chance encounter with an interesting person. His job is to advise international governments about the coming effects of global warming and how to prepare for them. No kidding – that is his job. I asked him would he talk frankly with me about what he knew.
By now he knew I wrote things. Immediately he was on the back foot. I said, “I am not wearing a wire and I won’t mention your name in anything I write”. With these assurances he agreed to talk person to person about climate change.
I had formed my own views regarding climate change. These can be summed up in 3 points. 1. Climate change was happening, but we (NZ) would not feel any significant consequences of it for 50 years – a reassuring thought for someone planning to live well past 100. 2. Sea level rise can be negated by rock walls and man-made coastal contouring. 3. Warming seas might benefit NZ by bringing more sea life into the oceans around our shores.
BUGGER – he did not tell me what I wanted to hear.
What he told me in hushed tones was much different than my fantasy 3 points. Sea level rise was coming much faster than anything I imagined. He talked about once in 100 years weather flooding disasters coming annually. Properly engineered rock walls can stop erosion but usually create erosion in other places – unintended consequences. The cost of preparing NZ coastline, 15,000K, to combat encroaching waters is beyond the budget of any present or future government.
I looked at this earnest man across the table. I believed him. Here was the truth I did not want to hear. His demeanor told me he did not enjoy being the bearer of this news to our country and to the corporations he worked with.
I asked him how he lived with this depressing news. He said daily exercise was keeping him positive.
Now the question that faces me is can I keep positive in the face of this scenario? My lifestyle to date has been based on my three points above. What next? How do I live?
My vegan relative says – “Stop eating meat”! And she wants NZ to turn from dairy to oat milk. I can’t see it this second point happening for any time soon. And of what value can my minuscule contribution be to an unstoppable global phenomenon. My relative says it will be worthwhile and count for good. Hmm!
My thoughts went to a classic book that has helped millions to face hard times and make difficult decisions. ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl - a physiatrist who survived Auschwitz Nazi Concentration camp.
Here’s one quote that comes to mind. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
What does this mean to me? I accept I am facing a new reality. I will try to do my best to be a positive contributor.
Victor Frankl’s book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ – available on Amazon, (new and secondhand copies – and digital) – bookshops - it is never out of print. Occasionally in the Whitianga Library.