I don’t want to start too doomy, but flying on holiday in an aeroplane is now pretty much gambling with your children’s chance of having a reliable food supply when they’re old. Though if you did fly over northern Europe for your summer holidays, you might have noticed that the countryside from here to London is now just different shades of brown and yellow. The view from your plane window will have shown that the only green fields left are the ones being irrigated for agricultural use. Anything that is not economically viable is left to burn.
Of course, catastrophic biomass death is mainly an aesthetic concern for most of us. I never liked the countryside much in the first place. For me, the prospect of being accidentally burned to death or blown up by World War II bombs stored in a forest is way down the list of hundreds of reasons not to go camping.
I’m a reporter, and I’m lazy, too. There are all kinds of reasons you have to write a non-story once in a while.
Also, in Germany we won’t notice this disaster affecting our lives because we live in a rich country that, for now, can buy its way out of food and energy shortages one way or another. Sure, poor people will suffer, but then they always do. That explains why the German government’s current climate plan includes lowering the temperature in public buildings by one degree and refusing to impose a speed limit on the Autobahn. One step at a time.
We all need ways to cope with the dread. Denial, distraction and/or pointless incremental changes are well-tested methods for making yourself feel better. The liberal German media has also come up with its own coping strategy. Obviously too sophisticated to distract us with celebrity news, Die Zeit hit on a new idea last month: publish an irrelevant hit-piece on one of Germany’s few public thinkers willing to address ecological collapse. This article in Germany’s big intellectual weekly was about Maja Göpel, the political economist whose 2020 sustainability book Unsere Welt neu denken (‘Thinking our world anew’) was a big hit. Die Zeit claimed that it had been written by a ghost writer, to which Maja Göpel and her ghost writer Marcus Jauer responded: “Yes, we said that – did you read the book?”
Catastrophic biomass death is mainly an aesthetic concern for most of us. I never liked the countryside much in the first place.
I’m a reporter, and I’m lazy, too. There are all kinds of reasons you have to write a non-story once in a while: you’re hungover, you panic in the editorial meeting, say the first thing that comes into your head, and the editor takes it because they need a story that can be whacked out in a day. Germans hate plagiarised PhDs, and a book is a bit like a PhD. So, get a couple of quotes from outraged academics and then head back to the pub after the deadline.
I don’t know if Göpel’s book is any good. No one likes a show-off, and other sustainability economists probably don’t enjoy the way she’s the one who’s always on TV. But I do know the countryside is being fried, and that something fundamental will happen soon to the way we run the economy. So at least come up with a creative hit-piece.