Ashley left the office at 5pm on Friday and went out with some friends. They drank a lot, ate a kebab and went home late. Ashley moped about all Saturday with a hangover. On Sunday, Ashley went shopping for Christmas presents but ended up buying new shoes instead. Ashley ordered a takeaway on Sunday night and sat down to watch the final of the X-Factor. Olly should have won in Ashley’s opinion, as he had a greater stage presence, more of a fun attitude and was generally a livelier entertainer than Joe, although Joe did have a nice voice. Ashley woke up Monday morning to discover that Ryan Giggs won BBC Sports Personality of the Year. This was a surprise to Ashley, who admires the Manchester United veteran’s longevity and ability to stay at the peak of his game long after his prime, although felt that perhaps Andrew Strauss deserved to win it for his unsung triumph at the Ashes just months after the England side crumpled in the Caribbean. Ashley left the house and drove to a doctor’s appointment, running from the car park to the surgery through the rain. This was Ashley’s exercise for the week. Sat in the waiting room, Ashley realised in annoyance that the new shoes had got wet and dirty in the rain. Ashley was called into the doctor’s office for the results of the tests. It wasn’t good news. The doctor told Ashley that the results pointed to an illness that, if left untreated, would be fatal within a decade. The doctor stated that the illness was almost certainly caused by Ashley’s unhealthy lifestyle, although it was also possible that predetermined genetic factors could have played a part in its manifestation. The doctor explained that although there is no specific remedy for the illness, if Ashley could change and live a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, the effects of the illness could be reversed.
Should Ashley . . .
A) Change for the better as the doctor suggested – join a gym, eat well, live healthily and continue to check in with the doctor; accept responsibility for past lifestyle choices, try to turn things around and hope the illness abates?
B) Make promises and plans to change, but keep putting them off because it seems so hard; live in hope that the illness is not as bad as the doctor predicted?
C) Ignore the doctor’s advice; Seek second opinions that reinforce the doctor’s suggestion that the illness is genetic and uncontrollable and then continue to live as before, until certain death in the near future?
Option A offers hope, option C doesn’t and option B seems depressingly pathetic. We would hope that Ashley chooses option A, although you probably couldn’t give a shit, because Ashley is an androgynous, make-believe character who is neither well developed nor appealing. Nevertheless, we should all care about Ashley’s fate, because despite the fact that Ashley is a faceless imaginary character and the unnamed malady equally fictitious, the tale is an allegory of our collective fates which isn’t faceless, unnamed or fictional.
Ashley, or at least the notion of Ashley as a potentially doomed human being, is every human being on earth; the decision he/she must make is in the hands of a clutch of representatives from governments around the world; the unnamed malady is climate change.
I can envisage our generation as old people of the future, and I can envisage the grandchildren and their questions.
“Grandma, why didn’t you or anyone in your generation do anything to stop global warming?”
“Well, when they were deciding what to do I was talking to my friend about the X-Factor – that was a show where people sang old songs like karaoke and if you liked them you phoned up and voted to keep them in – or, come to think of it, it might have been the other one . . . There was another one about dancing where newsreaders and soap actors danced the waltz and one with celebrities eating maggots in a jungle and umm, sorry, what were you asking about?”
“GLOBAL WARMING! Look around you. The water’s up to my knees you stupid bitch!”
“Susan Boyle! SuBo, the papers called her and there was another one JedWard. Susan Boyle was from Britain’s Got Talent. That was a show where. . .”
Although spliced with humour to keep you from crying, it is a bleak vision. But most of my visions of the future are pretty bleak – especially if I appear in them as my future self, who is even more sardonic and miserable than my present self as a result of the ever nearing Armageddon.
Obviously politicians don’t have these visions or they wouldn’t behave with such staggering indifference when it comes to confronting the most pressing matter to face mankind. Or perhaps they do, but all their visions are of drug fuelled romps in the newly built chalets of the post Ice Age ski resorts of Bristol. Whatever the case may be, the fact that they aren’t all madly agreeing immutable treaties to stop the inevitable demise of the human race makes me want to weep into my cheap mass produced clothing, although I can’t for fear that the tears may damage them and the poor, low-land dwelling residents of the Bangladeshi factories may be wiped out before I can buy any more.
For all the belligerent rhetoric at Kyoto in ’97, essentially fuck all has changed and, what’s more, most people don’t care, or at least don’t realise the gravity of the situation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gas emissions will need to peak and begin to decline with the next 20 years if the average global temperature rise is to be limited to 2C – a rise that, fingers crossed, shouldn’t provoke a massive catastrophe such as the halting of the gulf stream, which would instigate an Ice Age. If we are to manage this then developed countries need to agree an emissions cut of at least 25% by 2020.
Still, with Barack Obama’s hands tied by Congress and Senate and the hackers responsible for ‘Climategate’ identified as probable Russian secret service, it seems that, despite these dire warnings, it is quite possible that little more than well meaning rhetoric will come out of Copenhagen. We are still somnambulistically staggering towards our collective doom, with the hope that if we keep on ignoring the issue, option B will turn up trumps. Perhaps our only hope of raising awareness and making a change is a Climate Change reality TV show. Who would have thought that Simon Cowell would be mankind’s last hope? The visions get worse.