In the night, silently

I started this poem in the early hours of 20 December 2009, inspired – if that’s the right word – by the abject and predictable failure of the Copenhagen Summit. The innumerable tales of so-called leaders pussy-footing around the prerogatives of nation states, of bullying and conniving, and of hopelessly inadequate organisation would have been outrageously funny in another context – an international symposium on the relative merits of “Marbles vs Conkers” for example. But with the future of civilisation as we know it at stake, my reaction was one of incredulous, despairing contempt. I’d thought that at the very least they would have made a better pretence of pursuing agreement.

At the same time the climate change deniers were out in force, peddling their pseudo-scientific half-truths and mendacious claptrap. One of them, Ian Plimer, author of Heaven and Earth, was thoroughly thrashed by George Monbiot in a live TV debate. Alas in Australia, and alas too late – thousands of copies had already been sold (but not nearly as many as Plimer claimed) and even The Spectator had lent him credence.

The Guardian though did not abandon the battle field, and that period was rich in thoughtful articles about the real science of climate change and in pertinent comment. Polly Toynbee sadly and reluctantly provided excuses for our miscreant leaders, pointing out that there wasn’t a lot they could do as long as most of us didn’t give a shit anyway. And Emily Apple was admirably angry at the way she’d been treated by those lovely cuddly Danish cops. They at least call a “kettle” a cage.


In the night, silently


Computer on my knees
repository of knowledge, art, philosophy
Hi-fi on the bookcase
ticking off the seconds of Rovetta’s “Vespers”
Intellectual comfort
Moral backing in a cup of Free Trade coffee
I’m warm and dry and fed
No one’s trying to harm me. What more could I want?
A glint of hope, my friend,
that we might yet survive our foolish childhood’s end

The planet that’s my home
has taken careless knocks galore yet always
shrugged and carried on
shedding species by the million in her wake
The Earth adapts, survives
Life forms tried to do the same but most are dead
And puny culture bubbles
–  “civilisations” we so vainly call them still –
never could adapt
They flare and fade, the merest wink of a cosmic eye

The times they are a’changing
The poet said it rightly forty years ago
Little could he know
how right he was, although he got the reasons wrong
But we have no excuse
The Earth is struggling for her balance – now we know
Yet knowing’s not enough
Collectively we don’t believe, we’re not convinced
So you and I – our kids! –
strut on heedless through the valley of the shadow of death

Planet does as Gaïa
can: defends herself, deploys her swift slow power
Snow and storm and flood
Parching winds that sear the waving prairie’s green
Remorseless rising seas
Swollen oceans rolling closer day by day
How long will it take
till melting Greenland mounts the Thames and London stands
knee-deep in piss and shit?
How long till Bangladesh and Florida go under?

Snail-paced institutions
cannot cope. Air-brushed politicians bicker
Random fundamental
change that won’t be gainsaid just ain’t in their book
They don’t know what to do
And, counting votes, they wouldn’t dare to if they knew
Counting votes – and dollars:
carbon trading! Bottom line philosophy
What price coffee futures
when the power’s out and Wall Street’s reached by boat?

Good old Polly Toynbee,
bless her hairy armpits, has probably got it right
The politicians will not
act – unless, until they have no other choice
‘Tis we who are to blame
We who love to stuff on strawberries in December,
who wallow all unheeding
in triple-wrapped unneeded stuff that we then bin
We who will not settle
for trains instead of planes, enough instead of more

Many there are who hide
from truth, and swallow whole mendacious media myths
of bigger, better, more;
sure-fire, super-sexy, built-in obsolescence
Oh God of ever more,
give us our daily fix of free and easy plenty!
Let us go on thinking
we can go on spending energy like water
Like water? Those days are gone
Bitter water wars will spring from desert sands

But we are many too
who know what science is and know it doesn’t lie
In our minds we know
we shouldn’t use the Aga, nor drive the kids to school
We really ought not buy
those lovely oranges with all their carbon miles
We ought to get a bike
and having bought it, use it – leave the car at home
Or even better sell it!
Buy smaller if you must, and damn the bloody Joneses

Many too already
govern thus their lives, and hope to break the mold
Their efforts count as nothing
So many sputtering candles where gigawatts are needed
They can no more save the
day than poetry keeps the universe at bay
Puny are their efforts
Worse than useless so much misspent time and thought
while the powers that be –
stubborn, blind or both – go on making money

Too few they are who know
enough to recognize the shameless propaganda
Too few who, understanding,
are revolted by the reassuring lies
Too few by far are they
who take the time and dare to march and gather bruises
Too few who care enough
to organise and be there when the batons fly
Too few prepared to scorn
the hatred and the terror in those coppers’ eyes

In the streets, my friend
That is where the battle will be, must be fought
Angry marching millions
rolling up the cops, refusing to be “kettled”
Refusing to be labeled
terrorist – extremist – communist – subversive
Implacable seas of protest
seething through the streets, demanding action now
“Subjects” loyal only
to the freedom of the dread-inspiring truth

Relax, my foolish friend
The revolution’s been postponed another week
Massive protest cannot
mobilize while Hampshire shivers ‘neath the snow
Anger and frustration
go no further than the ends of frozen noses
How will we do the shopping
for tomorrow’s party? Thank God we bought the Jeep!
Go on – roll out the carpet
Nero had a fiddle – you’ll make do with caviar

Mum was surely right:
“Don’t make a fuss. ‘They’ know better what they’re doing”
Or as The Mail would say,
A million mumsy mamas surely can’t be wrong
You bet your life they can!
And while you’re at it bet mine too, and your kids’
Be sure that I won’t weep
Powerless, I’ll sit and watch the wheels come off
Amid my creature comforts,
I’ll nurse my silent cynic’s anger, in the night

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