Future present by Susan Grimsdell
The warnings we get about global warming always talk about the future – “by 2030 there will be….” or “in 5 years’ time sea level will….” But humans are not good at preparing for the future. We are a here and now kind of species. For example, most of us find it impossible to say no to a delicious slice of pizza or piece of cake, even when the old saying fills our mind – “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”. Oh what the hell, we say and in it goes. We’re also a species that is brilliant at rationalising. If we want something we can always find at least a dozen convincing reasons why we should have it.
Devastation here and now
But the time has come when we’re going to have to stop indulging ourselves in whatever we happen to want at any moment in time, and think of the future, unnatural though this may be. It has been made a wee bit easier for us here in NZ over the recent couple of weeks when we have had a dose of the future right here and now. We have seen catastrophic and unprecedented rain and then wind. Climate scientists have been warning that this is exactly what’s going to happen, storms like we’ve never seen before, droughts, fires, you name it – it’s coming, but this past month it was no longer coming, it was here.
It’s our problem
As New Zealanders we tend to excuse ourselves – we’re so small, there are so few of us, no point us doing anything, it’s up to those bigger countries to pull themselves in. Well, we are actually right up there with the worst producers of CO2 in the whole wide world. Out of 41 countries, including the USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Latvia, etc etc etc we are the 24th worst in gross emissions. This is despite the fact that apart from tiny countries like Iceland and Luxembourg, we are the smallest. Punching above our weight, and not in a good way. Per capita, of those 41 countries we are number 6. We have to stop thinking it’s not our problem. We are very definitely a major part of the problem.
If we continue as we are, self-indulgent to a fault, we will find that the future is here and now more and more often. The rains and storms will come back only worse. Can we possibly change human nature? Let’s hope so, or the past month, instead of being something we remember as “that terrible storm and flood” will be “that was nothing, half our country’s under water now”.