An Even More Inconvenient Truth

Sometime in the last century -about 30 years Before Gore I think it was- my wife and I spent a holiday on the west coast of Scotland. Ever been to a place called Gairloch? It’s a fantastically beautiful part of the world and we would have had a wonderful time were it not for the fact that it rained heavily the entire month of June, night and day, with only the occasional ten minute dry interval. These intervals were obviously designed to instil in us hopes of better weather; hopes that were then cruelly dashed almost immediately. At times we thought we heard hollow laughter coming from the sky. Here we were, on a coast caressed by the Gulf Stream, a coast where palm trees grow and warm waves lap the shore, getting wet to the very marrow. In June! What the hell was going on?

“It’s the coos”, a local type told me. 

The coos?!

“The cattle”, he explained patiently, “they fart.”

At the time -I told you it was about 30 BG- the link between cruel, unusual weather and farting cows was not an obvious one to make. Acid rain, yes, we knew all about that. Trees in Sweden losing their foliage because of coal-fired power stations in England, it was a familiar complaint. Only ten years on we would marvel at seeing cesium-137 trickle down from the sky, courtesy of the Chernobyl power station. The dangers of radioactivity have been known to the general public since World War II. But farm animals letting rip in a field? It was enough to put you off oxtail soup forever.

Now, of course, we know that methane, the gas animals expel after a good feed (yes, humans too!), is an especially nasty contributor to the greenhouse effect. Nastier, it seems, than the CO2 that Saviour Al holds up as the likely cause of Armageddon. I’m still unreceptive to the Gorean argument that, by not leaving my TV on standby when I’m asleep, going on cycling holidays to the Turkish Riviera and washing my underwear at minus 3 degrees Celsius (forget that one for a start) I will make a meaningful contribution towards saving the planet. Not with all these cows breaking wind all at the same time, enveloping Earth in a noxious layer of methane.

Did I say ‘saving the planet’? My arse! That’s not what all this is about. The planet, as Al Gore also knows, can look after itself perfectly well. Imagine yourself standing on the Moon, say: 500 years from now, looking towards the Earth. What you would see is exactly the same blueish cloud-enveloped orb that can be seen today or indeed could be seen 500 years ago. No, let’s keep the discussion pure. What we’re talking about is ‘saving mankind‘ and, to a lesser extent, the flora and fauna without which life would be, if not impossible, then at least a whole lot less fun. Never mind that the human race is responsible for just about everything that the universe would be better without, from organized religion and shock ‘n awe to shellsuits and New Labour, it must survive at all cost. Not only that, it must survive to enjoy beautiful sunsets in the Caribbean, Häagen-Dazs ice cream in Puerto Banus and the Monaco F1 Grand Prix. To tell you the truth, my feeling is that we’ve amply outstayed our welcome in this solar system. Ask any animal, apart from dogs, cats and goldfish, whether they’d prefer to see us come or go, and then wait for the answer.

It is, of course, all part of the same self-delusion. Man is the crown of creation, with dominion over all else on planet Earth. So strong is our belief in the superiority of the human race that we cannot accept that there are things over which we have no control. Not only must global warming (read: weather) be the work of Man; it’s also Man (and Man only) who can do something about it. No good leaving this one for the gods we worship to sort out.

The more I think about a Planet Earth unencumbered by a race of murderous, gluttonous animals that will blow anything to bits or tear anyone’s throat out for the sake of its own survival the more I like it. Let’s all die out and give someone else a crack at it. Mice, maybe, or earwigs. But then: could I bear never seeing the west coast of Scotland again? I think I’d better think things through some more. 


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