jesus saves…

Been having trouble lately reconciling a long-standing dislike for overblown rhetoric with genuine concern for climate change. The problem? All these exhortations to save the planet.

I have so many ways of getting annoyed with with this it is hard to know where to begin. It is daft (the planet is pretty much impervious to anything we can imagine doing to it with current technology). It creates a sense of urgency which will wear thin. (There was an organisation in the UK for a good few years called “Save British Science”. It eventually got through to them, after a couple decades, that if British science had not yet been saved, people would probably conclude that it wasn’t going to be, and move on. They carried on campaigning – scientists always moan about lack of funds – but changed the name.)

Soooo…   Inveterate disaster-monger Bill McGuire’s punchy new book, Seven Years to Save the Planet, while full of good things, sets my teeth on edge a bit. As does Chris Goodall’s otherwise admirable Ten Technologies to Save the Planet (published tomorrow in the UK). OK, I know that Ten Technologies to Help Reduce the Chance of Some Really Bad Things Happening Quite Soon Which Would Make Life on the Planet a Lot Less Comfortable for a Whole Lot of People wouldn’t fit on the spine, but there must be a more succinct formulation… musn’t there? And since Meyer Hillman told us How we Can Save the Planet in the book of that title in 2004, how come we haven’t done it yet, eh?

I guess use of the phrase is too deeply engrained in the environmental movement –websites and all – to be challenged effectively now. Even Obama speaks of the planet in peril. But there are more objections worth noting aside from the fact that it is such a shopworn notion.

One is that saving things in peril seems to imply heroic individual action (think Bruce Willis in Armageddon). And that title gives a clue to the other objection. It’s all too damn biblical.

Saving the planet is cognate with saving lives. But that itself is a misconstruction – a carry over from saving souls. Souls (I suppose) can be saved, eternal life in the hereafter being their reward, some say. Lives, though can merely be prolonged.

Mere pedantry? I think not. Though I admit that when I once put the point to everyone’s favourite crusading epidemiologist Richard Peto, thinking he might sympathise – being a red-hot statistician and all – the atmosphere got distinctly frosty for a while…

I suppose one just has to suppress an allergy to evangelism…    but there’s so much of it about

(Why this blog?

first post explains)

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