Opinion: conflicted emotions

No Planet B

By Peter Matthews

Many years ago a lawyer said to me that the most tiring thing about being a lawyer in his line of work, which was the family court, was permanently being in a state of conflict.

It’s a bit like that today for those of us who endeavour to make ethical choices, ensure that our Ps and Qs are sufficiently PC, and just generally be good citizens of the global village.

Ride the bike or drive the car? Take an extra few minutes in the shower after a hard day at work? Buy that thing you want even though you know it has an environmentally irresponsible amount of packaging? Choose pork belly from the menu when you know there’s a better than even chance that the pig never saw the light of day? How to react to a joke, told by a friend, which was mainstream 20 years ago but definitely dodgy by today’s ever-evolving standards.

We met some friends for a drink last weekend, and afterwards went back to their house in the country for another – no I wasn’t driving.

So there I was, sitting outdoors by the pool, with a locally brewed beer and great company, as the evening light faded from the hills east of Cambridge, happy to be there in an idyllic setting.

Then I caught a glimpse of a milk tanker winding along Scotsman Valley Road and the question of the long-term sustainability of intensive dairy farming turned up uninvited in my mind. I managed to banish the thought before it took hold. And then the conversation turned to the hillsides away to the left of our panoramic view. The pines which had been growing there for 15 plus years had recently been harvested and you could see the tracks up and down the slopes. The general consensus was that the land would soon be back in pines. Here come those thoughts again: ‘Not ideal, but better than being bare – that would mean erosion problems and at least the trees will catch some carbon.’

Night fell and the stars came out, like they don’t where we live in town, and a very pleasant evening was had by all.
I just can’t help feeling a sense of lingering nervousness about the future of the planet. It’s an actual thing you know – you can read about ‘climate-anxiety’ and ‘eco-anxiety’.

Will we be OK? Are we doing enough? Are the people in charge doing enough? Many times each day I find myself checking my actions against some sort of planetary barometer – and often coming up short. Sometimes I think it’s going to be all right, and sometimes it seems hopeless. By all accounts the next 30 years will determine the outcome.

Just at the moment it seems to me that it could go either way.

The lawyer? Well he’s now a judge so I guess he spends more time resolving arguments than fighting them. I wonder if he spends any time feeling conflicted about environmental choices.

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