Monday, November 06, 2006

Vonnegut's Epitaph for the Planet


Only he didn't say "doggone".

There's never a bad time to read Kurt Vonnegut, but I came across this particular gem this week and thought it quite apposite. In light of the publication of the Stern Report and politicians suddenly jumping on the big green bandwagon, it's interesting to find someone who was making the same points years ago. The quote is from his 1990 novel, Hocus Pocus, which is my current bedtime companion. To those who aren't familiar with his work: if you think American life (or indeed any other life) is a ceaseless parade of absurdities, then Vonnegut's the man for you. A kind of South Park for people who like books.

The Stern Report prompted several articles about what we should do to save the planet. I quite liked John Humphrys' piece in the Sunday Times, but I think the good intentions may all be in vain. To quote Hocus Pocus again:
"He told me, to cheer me up, that 1,000,000,000 Chinese were about to throw off the yoke of communism. After they did that, he said, they would want automobiles and tires and gasoline and so forth...Can you imagine what 1,000,000,000 Chinese in automobiles would do to each other and what's left of the atmosphere?"

Rather than waiting for the inevitable privations and international squabbles of the low energy future, why not go out with a bang? According to the Independent on Sunday, a tsunami will strike the UK in 2060. I'd rather not suffer the indignity of evacuation in my eighties (assuming I'm back home by then), so I propose a different solution. Every man for himself! Let's leave those lights on, and drive the big cars ("One Chelsea tractor please, with extra grunt"), and fly to Pernambuco for lunch. Let's carpe the old diem while we still can. If we're really wasteful, we can finish all the fossil fuels by 2020. It'll be like the decadent decline of the Roman Empire all over again. The person who uses the most energy wins. The prize: a trip on the world's largest rocket to a clean corner of space to start all over again. Better that than holding on for the war with China over who gets first dibs on the last coalfield, or the pathetic attempts to make a new pair of sunglasses out of a few dry twigs and a handful of sand.

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