Opinion: our changing world

By Peter Matthews

It seems trite to moan about recycling soft plastics in Cambridge New Zealand when across the world people are dealing with such crises as the earthquake in Haiti, unprecedented rainfall and flooding in Japan, and of course the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul.

I can’t help thinking of the people of Afghanistan who have, over the past 20 years, become accustomed to a level of freedom which now seems unlikely to continue.

A spokesman for the Taliban called the BBC this morning and said there would be “no revenge” on the people of Afghanistan and went on to say that they are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power as “servants of the people and of this country”.

That would be the power they have just taken by force from the elected government… or would have done had government forces not evaporated in the face of their advance.  I certainly do not claim to understand the intricacies of the situation, hardly even the overview. It is a complex one with religion at its core, and that is seldom simple. One can perhaps forgive the residents of Kabul for feeling that this spokesman may not be being entirely genuine or truthful, given that the previous installation of this regime featured public executions, stonings, and girls being banned from school.

Yes, it is undeniably an unhappy situation, but there is a lot of it about. And now that the latest report from the IPCC has been every bit as unequivocal as expected on the extent, immediacy, and causes of our planet’s climatic predicament, any and every news story will necessarily be coloured, or even overshadowed by it. Even good news headlines will carry the unwritten subtitle: ‘By the way, the world is burning up’. Just the other day I made a comment about how pleasant the weather was, and my mind was instantly host to an uninvited question: ‘Is it because of global warming? – It’s meant to be winter’. Can we ever again revel in a warm spell without suspecting it of being a harbinger of doom? If we get caught in a bout of heavy rain, will we instinctively wonder whether it is going to be what used to be known as a ‘100 year event’?

In this last week alone, my son bought himself a computer gaming chair which came in a huge box containing more non-recyclable packaging than chair, and my daughter called me to say she and her husband have just bought a Ford Ranger. Both occurrences prompted the niggling doubts. I wasn’t complicit in either action and both of these people are old enough to make their own choices but I still felt a bit uneasy. If members of my own family are apparently unmoved by the issues about which I write every week, how effective am I?

Mind you I’m not sure that anyone in my immediate family, apart from my mother, actually reads this column on a regular basis. I’m glad you do.

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