Power to the people

At COP14 in Poznań, Poland, a remarkable thing happened. A friend lost her mobile phone. The next day I got a call on my phone in Polish. Something like: sywszzw sssz scysrzsłs rzwysz szyszs słsz taxi szrz. I put two and two together and agreed with the taxi driver that he would return the phone he had found to the hotel reception from where it would be picked up by the owner.

Something similar happened in Mammut shopping centre, Budapest just before Christmas. I mislaid a scarf in the Advent scrum. By the time I realised it was gone it was nowhere to be found. Next day off chance we asked at the information desk, and, shockingly, the scarf had been handed in.

The robust morals of the people of Central Europe as exemplified above stand in sharp contrast to those of our politicians.

Even as the Polish taxi driver defeated the temptation to take the phone over to his mate’s to make it sim-free, his political leaders were hacking away at Europe’s climate policy with the gay abandon of a coal miner on LSD.

If we are serious about addressing climate change we have to realise and accept that politicians and politics are irrelevant. Their susceptibility to lobbying of short-term interests, their relative lack of calibre, their narrow world-view, their insatiable pockets, and the overriding priority of achieving re-election above anything else, means that they are unsuited to tackling a long-term, complex problem such as climate change.

Instead, we must look to the people. We must ring church bells loudly and awaken the men and women slumbering in front of their tellies; we must fill them with dread of what might be; we must ruthlessly exploit their deepest instinct of protecting their offspring; we must give them supreme, unshakeable, confidence that we all can and do make a difference. As George Orwell told us: “If there s hope, it lies with the proles.”

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