In yesterday’s Financial Times Patti Waldmeir writes of China’s discovery of its “inner tree-hugger” (http://ow.ly/f9O7E) and efforts to encourage Chinese children to get outside and see nature. Have the Chinese been secretly reading Climate Change for Football Fans, chapter 53? If so, we can soon expect a global shortage of purple fabric dye.
For those who have forgotten, here is the second part of chapter 53…
The Professor looked down at his whisky sheepishly. “Well, if you think that the government should do something about it – not just stand there and wait for Greenpeace and their friends to take the lead.”
He was quiet for a moment. Then Doris spoke. “Perhaps there’s another way you can make your bond with nature, Professor. Look at Joe and Frank. They were born with Claret blood. In the first few years all they got was Burnley football club. And that bond has stuck with them all their lives.”
“Hey, that’s right,” said Joe. “Forever. It’s a watermark in our souls.”
“It’s a bloody fire brand,” said Frank proudly.
“You see,” said Doris. “What happens to a child in the first few years of its life – that sticks with them for ever. So, in the first few years, give them nature. Just flood them with nature.”
“Put shrubs in maternity wards,” said Joe. “No, you’ll need live animals there, too,” he added.
Frank said that they’d shit on the floor of the hospital.
“Someone’ll clean it up. There’s your unemployment sorted,” replied Igor.
“School visits to the countryside. To farms. To zoos,” said Doris.
“Nature reserves. Safari parks,” added Joe.
“Parks. Beaches. The seaside. Forests. Mountains,” said Doris.
“Rivers, woodland, and moors,” said Joe. “Even get them to National Trust gardens. And doing a half day on the allotments.”
“Oh yes,” continued Doris. “Definitely allotments and garden centres, butterfly centres, marshes, wasteland.”
“Send them to the bloody jungles,” smirked Frank. “Or ship the buggers off to the desert.”
“Wonderful,” said the Professor enthusiastically. “Then there’s naming, of course.”
“It’s obvious that if something has a name, you feel closer to it and treat it better. We don’t worry about Africans because we don’t know their names. It’s the same with nature.”
Doris giggled. “You mean-“
“I do. We’ll have naming days … when the children are taken out of their schools on trips to name trees. Once trees have a personality, people won’t want to cut them down.”
Joe shook his head. “This is nutty.”
“Not at all. It’s a great opportunity for economic growth. Imagine you could only receive state benefits if you visit natural sites regularly. Each child would have a record of natural exposures like its medical records. Imagine the business opportunities around that, Frank. You should be rubbing your hands.”
“Bloody bonkers,” muttered Uncle Frank. “Sheer bureaucracy. A massive social experiment.”
“Exactly that. So we’d better start as soon as possible. Space needs to be made in the school curriculum for it. It’s not an intellectual topic. It’s purely emotional and spiritual. Superficial subjects such as information technology and media will have to make way. Children must emotionally feel the spiritual bond with nature and also understand how their actions affect nature and how we depend on it. This must become such instinctive knowledge as that when you turn a tap on water comes out.”
“You’ll have a bloody generation of veggie freaks. We’d be taken over by the Chinese in a trice.”
“Did I say we would disband our armed forces?” said the Professor with surprise. “Don’t forget that our friends in the jungle have poisoned spears. Death ensues within seconds. We’d surely keep our Trident missiles.”
“All right, a bloody generation of veggie freaks armed to the teeth with Tridents. That’s even more scary,” said Frank. “We’d be a society of lunatics.”
“Lunatics with calmness of spirit, balance of mind and self-confidence. Not like the millions of distressed, violent and frustrated urban men. These children would have a far greater chance of contentment than us.”
“But what about adults?” asked Doris. We all thought for a while. Then Joe said: “Once I heard that when someone recovers from cancer or comes close to death, it’s like there’s a reset button. They start their life again with a fresh view. They know what’s important again.“
Igor clapped his hands. “Exactly! We need to simulate that reset button in the mind of urban man. A country-wide programme of mental detoxification to reset our world-views. With quiet … solitude … proximity to nature and animals…”
“Zoo holiday,” said Joe. “Sounds good.”
“Right. In bloody Scarborough,” said Uncle Frank. “Sounds bloody brilliant.
“I like this,” said Doris. “All this would make us less fussed with shopping and whizzing about. More time for you boys to watch football. Frank, what’s your problem?”
“I’ll tell my problem,” said Frank. “It’s bananas. Plus we can’t wait twenty years anyway. I thought you said we need action now not wait another generation.”
“Twenty years? Why twenty years?” asked Igor back. “We are only talking about the first few years of a child’s life. By the age of five or six it would be done; the whole process would only take a few years. And in any case, it’s quicker to put people through school than to build nuclear power stations. Don’t you believe that schooling works? It must work, otherwise it wouldn’t be compulsory, would it now?”
“You know what I mean” retorted Frank. “If you want change, you need to focus on the here and now. Just like us. We’ve a big match tomorrow, and if we don’t win it we’re right up Shit Creek.”