As winter’s grip tightens on our farm, all one hears about on TV is how global warming is fast destroying our planet. Ice is melting at the poles, raising sea levels by metres which will sink island communities and force them to move to higher ground. Coastal cities will flood. Once-fertile lands will turn to arid deserts as the rains no longer come. Carbon emissions are clogging up our atmosphere. Life on mother earth is doomed to oblivion. And it’s all our fault, the scientist boffins declare, appealing to us to take heed before it’s too late. Do they mean a thousand years or is our demise imminent? The scaremongers forecast the latter.
“How long do you think we’ve got?” I asked neighbour Jan over morning coffee on my stoep. “Well, we’re nearly 2 000m above sea level so getting drowned by rising tides is hardly likely. We’ve had good rains this season and haven’t seen a serious drought for many years,” Jan retorted. “But surely all these scientists can’t be wrong? There must be something we can do to contribute to our planet’s survival?” I asked.
“Sure there is, Townie,” said Jan. “We could sell all our methane gas-farting cattle and sheep, plant canola instead of lucerne and run our vehicles on biofuels, replace Eskom power with solar panels and wind turbines and live on vitamin pills. Put a brick in our toilet cisterns to conserve water and drink more wine. This should guarantee our survival for perhaps a year. After that we’ll be bankrupt alcoholics, living on a state pension, if we still have a state, and die long before Earth becomes like Mars, or the next ice age sets in, which, incidentally, some scientists are also forecasting! However, an asteroid, weighing a trillion tons, could be hurtling towards us at the speed of light. On impact it will blow our planet to pieces and everything on it will float out into the universe and become part of the Milky Way. It all depends on whom you believe. For my part, Townie, I’ll take each day as it comes. Burn less fires, plant more trees, go easy on the water and, blissfully, drink more wine.”
Gazing up into the star-filled night sky, I reflected on Jan’s survival philosophy. Maybe he was right – there’s very little we can do to save our planet from disasters, natural or man-made. But if the political bullies of the world stopped threatening – our nuclear rockets are bigger than yours – it may buy us time to avert atomic annihilation. A meteorite streaked across the sky, its vapour trail incandescent. An omen, perhaps, to enjoy what we have, while we can, because do we really know what’s going on out there in space? – Derek Christopher |fw