If knowledge is a dangerous thing, like running with scissors, then foresight must be ten times as bad; running with scissors through a mine field. Cassandra knew this, which is why her story has survived for so long.
There is an ancient Greek legend in which the God Apollo, after falling in love with a mortal Cassandra, bestows on her the gift of foresight. After she refuses to marry him, Apollo, not being able to remove her new abilities, punisher’s her by ensuring no one will ever believe anything she foresees. Soon Cassandra commits suicide tired of being ignored when she can see the right path for her fellow mortals to take.
Apollo’s curse has the convenience of being an ancient myth; yet there are many of today’s climate change experts that are facing the same troubles. Some would say that in modern civilisation, interpreting scientific evidence and projecting trends, is a close equivalent to the role of sanctified prophecy in the pre-modern world.
They may see, through careful deductions or opium induced visions, the outcomes of continual environmental negligence, yet are condemned to live the life of Cassandra, ignored and ridiculed by those on the far right.
It’s not as if this ‘climate change’ topic is a new one, it has been discussed and re-discussed more times than anyone would care to admit. The UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), drawing on the work of thousands of climate specialists around the world, has concluded that the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, as a result of human activities, is almost certain to cause a disastrous level of global warming.
This would then produce, and is already producing, a series of even more disastrous effects on the planet that cannot be adequately explained by natural weather cycles: extreme weather; polar and glacial melting; droughts and flooding; ocean warming and acidification; desertification; destruction of coral reefs and fisheries.
But once again, like the Hellenic oracles, scientists are often seen as the minority in relation to politicians who are far less moved to action by risks that will not materialise for some decades, given the short cycles of political accountability that almost totally judges performance on the basis of immediate results.
“If it doesn’t happen during my term then I don’t care!”
But what do you do when it does happen during your term? Barack Obama is facing that question and so is Prime Minister Gillard with two horrific cases ravaging each country.
With Australia facing the decisions of becoming one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, second only to China, and the United States still reeling from Hurricane Sandy. Do the leaders of what is seen as more ‘left wing’ parties, bow down to the will of the majority right and like millions of other’s around the world, ignore the signs of an impending environmental end of days. Or do they follow the minority and begin the largely unpopular task of taxing high polluters, implementing environmental policies and researching necessary techniques to reduce waste in the hope of relieving the planet from a minute amount of human muck?
Whether you agree or disagree with the theories of the ‘enhanced green-house affect’ and Global warming, the toll that the planet is taking due to human involvement is apparent. Where we stand and who we listen to will either see Apollo’s curse continue or finally be broken.