As a teacher I have long inhabited a world of deadlines and grudgingly bestowed extensions. But I was used to these things being confined to the classroom and its cast of recalcitrant teenagers. Today, the language of deadlines and extensions has spread much further. As deadline day approached for Brexit back in March, I could not help but see in our government the same bouts of inertia interspersed with frenzied panic that is the classic hallmark of a teenage procrastinator. I was not surprised, therefore, when the government was forced to ask for an extension.
Now it is easy to laugh at our hapless politicians. But the malaise has spread much further than Westminster. With all this talk of Brexit, it is easy to forget that the we are in the midst of a more profound crisis that threatens not just our politics but the very viability of life on earth.
Just today the Global Commission on Adaptation, headed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, released a report stating in no uncertain terms that we can no longer regard climate change as a prediction: “The climate crisis is here, now: massive wildfires ravage fragile habitats, city taps run dry, droughts scorch the land and massive floods destroy people’s homes and livelihoods. So far the response has been gravely insufficient.”
I am afraid that, in this regard, we have all put off our homework again and again. The problem here is that we can’t ask for an extension.
This weekend I will be travelling across the country to the Ocean 2019 Festival in a bid to find out how life in our oceans is under threat and how a range of organisations are working to protect it. I will be looking for practical suggestions on how I can change my own behaviour. There will be talks and workshops covering topics that range from the UK’s hidden trade in threatened sharks to community projects aiming to tackle plastic pollution.
I have always had a bit of an unhealthy obsession with sharks. When I was younger this mostly revolved around visceral fear, but it has become more nuanced. I now sea these awesome creatures not simply as a danger but as a key part of ecosystems that are struggling to survive. So, I am particularly looking forward to hearing from Shane Wasik from Basking Shark Scotland who will be talking about the effects of microplastics on these extraordinary filter feeders.
There will also be workshops for children (which I may try and crash!) and an interesting looking talk from an Extinction Rebellion representative. It will be interesting to hear the kinds of radical responses to ocean degradation that these guys are proposing.
So, if you are also worried about the future of the oceans and of our planet in general why not follow me to Bristol for what promises to be a fascinating day!