Some people don’t like it when the dimension of time is distorted. Yet, it happened at least once in Telford. A most unlikely encounter occurred when Günther, an EU bureaucrat in 2012, bumped into Derek Gross, travel porn mogul in 2030. Such things can occur in the Lost Password, Telford’s most chic public house …
This is what happened.
Günther was explaining to Archimedes the need for a 2100 emissions target.
“It stands to reason. We need a clear signal for investors. With a clear signal, a clear price will emerge. And once we have a carbon price – and I stress a global carbon price, a single carbon price – then all our environmental problems will evaporate like … like … well, like.” Günther was not a man of poetry and struggled with simile.
“Gosh,” said Archimedes in awe at Günther’s bold vision. “How do you know it will work?”
Günther purred with the pride of a well-read functionary. He even permitted himself a sip of lime and lemon before replying. Telford, the capital of England, was basking in a warm evening sun, and life pottered on slowly. Some of Osborne’s recently planted saplings wilted in the heat – they needed a good watering, but water was precious.
“How do I know it will work? Good heavens, Archimedes, do you never read the press? Time and time again the Financial Times and the Economist, as well as many leading economists, have all told us – in no uncertain terms – that all we need is a global carbon price, and all our woes will be solved. Well, for a carbon price, we need a long-term signal. And this is why I propose an emissions target for 2100.
“Now, let me bring you another ouzo. It seems that Osborne has been diverted.”
And as Günther rose, he pushed his seat back and straight into the path of Derek Gross who was looking, through his thick glasses, for somewhere to sit. Derek’s pint dropped and spilt over his trousers.
Later – introductions made, fresh drinks delivered – Derek sat with Günther and Archimedes and listened. He listened while Günther spouted the long-disproven economic orthodoxies of the turn of the century. He chuckled at the words “sustainable growth”; he choked on his beer at the word “competitiveness”; he sprayed Archimedes with foam at mention of “public private partnerships”; a beery hiccough leapt out like a London bus as Günther touched on globalisation and level playing fields. As Günther ploughed into his long-term vision of low-carbon Europe, Derek said:
“Fuck long-term, Ducky. Too late for long-term.”
“How’s that?” asked Archimedes, raising his hand to gesture Günther to hold his horses.
“It’s all about now. Instant grattyfication. You see, I know a thing or two about instant grattyfication. That’s why we started with meat. Because it’s instant.”
“No. Horror. Show’em horror films. Slaughter houses. It’s visceral. It gets you ‘ere. He jabbed at his stomach. We cut meat eating by 50% in three years. Should’ve seen the health effect. Obesity. Acid. Heart. Stumpy shorted the lot. Pharma. Meat. All crashed. Made a couple of billion.”
“Stumpy?” asked Günther, confused.
“Stumpy. My old mate, Stumpy. You might see ‘im around later,” explained Gross. “And,” he continued, “and then slow.”
“Slow?” asked Günther, even more confused.
“Where you been the last 20 years, Ducky? Slow. Stands t’reason. Meat collapsed so fast food collapsed and people got the hang of slow, didn’t they? It got them back into the present. Just being there and not worrying about stuff you can’t do anything about. Once you get the ‘ang of the present again, there’s no looking back. When you’re ‘appy dawdling about in the present you ‘aven’t got time for messing about with time-saving appliances and ‘ighfaluting technologies. You do it with your hands. As it were, as it were.”
“But what about growth? What happens to growth?”
“Growth? Who wants growth when they’re sorted inside, Ducky? Answer me that one.”
“But we need growth; without growth everything collapses … growth …,” stuttered Günther excitedly, like a frustrated child that can’t find the words to explain its thought. “It’s part and parcel of…” His voice tailed off as he noticed that everyone on the terrace had fallen silent and was looking at him. He noticed Osborne smirking in the background, bobbing up and down to ease his sore back. It was most embarrassing to mention growth in the 2030s, most embarrassing indeed. Günther, confused, looked around for an understanding smile and found none, while Archimedes pulled some dry leafs off one of Osborne’s failing saplings.