Clive’s Last Rant. The Conversation Goes Sourdough


Clive Mason is a TrentU sustainable studies grad with a young family who turned to contracting after graduation. George Guessworthy is retired local volunteer for a Peterborough advocacy group, Climate Crunch.

They have met at Clive’s place a couple of times for Climate Crunch and now George is wanting to set up a third meeting, but not wanting more of Clive’s doom and gloom. He’s aiming to focus on solutions not problems. But during a phone call to set up an interview time Clive is not proving to be an easy subject.

GG: after intro….
…… Glad you read my write-up of our last session. I’d like to move from problem to solution for our next connection though. What say?

Yeah, George. I thought your piece was pretty accurate. You know how negative I can be. Still, I think in our last interview I understated the case.

Before George can stop him, Clive seems determined to get one more lick in, this time about overpopulation.

Y’know, George, the hardiest forms of life that have thrived since human destruction of nature began have been those in our guts and those of maybe 400 crops that we have cultivated or herded to sustain us. All the billions of other species through the ages – all that natural richness – has been ravaged or killed off altogether.

Having gotten that topic out of his system, Clive goes on to grudgingly acknowledge that he does, in fact, have some ideas of what might make for a brighter future. So now they are at Clive’s place in person.

OK, Clive. Get out from under that rain cloud of yours. How are we going to get out of this mess?

Well, as long as the sun shines and a few cells survive, evolution will happen all over again, but in very different incarnations. And if the ‘Seventh Rebirth’ blossoms, there will be wonderful life forms but, one hopes, without fingers, thumbs and brains that are too big for their own survival.
There’s lots of talk of “tipping points” and “feedback loops” that are going to heat the world to an unlivable degree. But all life’s urge to survive will save the day. Forests may burn and flatten. The oceans may be pillaged and wash away all of the cities. But millions of hardy life forms will endure. And ultimately, they will thrive in a reborn natural world.

That Kim Stanley Robinson guy who wrote The Ministry for the Future? He figures it’ll take about twenty million of our years for natural rebound. But against the backdrop of eternity that’s just a flash in the pan.

That’s a long view, Clive. But what about the next two or three hundred years?

I think the climate crisis is starting to hit home for many people who either didn’t understand the science or feel the direct effects, like global warming, habitat loss, deforestation, agricultural abuse, etc. But some are going to take more convincing than others. My cousin James is a Snowbird and recently sent this in an email from Florida:

“The Republicans here think it’s a temporary thing – climate change is another far-left conspiracy. So, based on that, the glaciers will likely freeze up again in a year or two, ocean levels will return to normal, and the Hondurans will want to stay at home instead of doing what they’re doing, all subject to Trump returning as supreme leader.”

OMG! But even if their homes washed into the sea, and they were clinging to the roofs for survival, I think they’d still be singing the same song. In other words, some people aren’t going to be convinced no matter what happens. And I get it. For a lot of people it’s just too scary to accept.

Yeah, George. Hard to face. But when the Earth has coughed up the last of the fossil fuels and the population has grown to unsustainable levels, humanity will manifest at vastly reduced numbers. Villages, right? Small subsistence pockets with, one hopes, the skills and wisdom to prosper in a local context. I’m guessing pueblo-style communities not all that different from those before the industrial revolution.

OK. Where does that leave human ingenuity? We haven’t come this far without being pretty inventive.

Technology to the rescue, George? Are we going to invent our way out of this? Some would say that’s what got us into this mess.

WWSG − Wind Water Solar and Geothermal. Some people throw oceanic wave and tidal energy into the mix. Maybe you can’t hold those things in a gas can but the potential is there.

Those may be options. And in some form or another, they could prevent future lives from being nasty, brutish and short. Financial and political movers and shakers are starting to get the message. The super rich are sequestered in their counting houses – counting out their money while Earth burns. But even they may come to their senses in time too.

Let’s hope so. The future’s a very big place. I’m old, Clive. And at my most guilt ridden, I have this fantasy: as everyone must, I exit the Big Black Door. And just as it slams shut, humanity and all the stuff that is concomitant with our existence on Earth collapses into a heap of smouldering rubble behind me. And I cringe because it was I and my gluttonous kind who lit the fire − we who basked in the early glow of affluence. But when it was time to unreel the fire hose and stop the conflagration, we ran not for the hydrant but for the exit. I lose sleep over it, and it drives my wife nuts.

Gettin’ a wee bit grandiose there, George.
Sure. Your generation wallowed in heedless luxury. But if I go into our kitchen now, there is perfectly good, three day old, sliced bread in a plastic bag. Some starving folks would kill for it. Maybe 80 years from now it will be parcelled out slice by slice. But I’m going to turf it for a fresh sourdough loaf that my wife just drove to get today from Easy Summer bakery.

It ain’t over till it’s over, George. And all my doom and gloom could miss the mark entirely. I’m a tad glad that your eco-sins are catching up with you and your demographic. All the pundits and seers may have it right when it comes to the climate crisis but totally wrong when it comes to how it affects humanity.
Que sera, sera, right? No crystal balls.

Clive stands up.
Wanna stick around for a slice of that great sourdough?

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