Opinion

Paul McNamee: If it’s climate chaos you’re selling, I’m not buying

It’s not just a sour, sneering trill from people who claim they know better, it’s politically and financially incoherent

Greta Thunberg

One of my favourite useless pieces of information relates to Greenland. You can quiz your family and friends with it after reading this and annoy them for hours.

Greenland is the only nation in the Americas that uses its indigenous language as the official language of state. All others use the language of the conquering nation – whether that be English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. For a long time it was Danish in Greenland but the nation has been self-governing since 2009. And don’t write in to tell me it’s not wholly independent yet. I have Wikipedia too.

Greenland is not just useful in pub quizzes, it also feels like a barometer for the state of the planet. If its big glaciers are melting, then we’re all in trouble. And there is a melt up there.

However, rather than see that as a problem, Donald Trump views it as an opportunity. He wants, goes the story, to buy Greenland in order to tap into the natural resources that melting ice opens up. This sounds both outlandish and immediately believable. It fits into a pattern of certain rich nations seeing climate change as a positive for economic expansion rather than a crisis.

Russia and China are licking their lips over the retreat of Arctic sea ice, something scientists warn has been at an unprecedented gallop since 2000. There is an estimated $35 TRILLION of untapped coaland gas up there, not to mention minerals like titanium, gold and uranium.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Australia is falling out with neighbouring Pacific island states over its refusal to commit to fossil-fuel reduction targets. Those states, like Tuvalu, don’t want to become a historical footnote, as rising sea levels swamp them. Australia says the reduction targets would damage their economy. The irony that parts of Australia are being ravaged by the effects of climate change appears to be lost on them.

Yet to draw attention to these things, to ask that we seriously sort out the climate crisis we’re running into, is to fly smack into the culture wars. You’re a damnable leftist pinko lentil-munching commie who doesn’t know what’s good for business, an innocent who is better weaving wicker baskets and leaving the real stuff to the grownups.

More wind to your sails Greta, and all who think like you

To which I say, catch yourself on you clowns. And that goes for all those tough-guy smart-alecs sending tweets – TWEETS I tell ye, that’ll do it! – to Greta Thunberg as she stands up and tries to do something

It’s not just a sour, sneering trill from people who claim they know better, it’s politically and financially incoherent. How come the idea of one nation state buying a smaller one in order to exploit its resources and damage the planet is not to be condemned, or a super-power hoovering up natural resources that in reality belong to nobody is acceptable, but we, as a state, need to focus on taking back control at
all costs?

The other question frequently thrown out is what difference can a few people make, especially in the teeth of multibillion-pound pan-international business interests.

A lot. In fact, all the change. We hold the cards. If we don’t buy what they’re selling, if we don’t want our financial interests, our savings, our pensions put into areas funding things we feel aren’t right, then things will change quickly.

And also, some of us are a lot older than those making the noise. We’re going to be gone and it’s those much younger who’ll have to find a bigger boat.

So, more wind to your sails Greta, and all who think like you. I’m going to learn how to say that in Greenlandic.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue  

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