Fiddling while Rome burns

Nero; anyone familiar with the name will, more likely than not, be familiar with the epithet applied to the Roman emperor to whom the name belongs; ‘fiddled while Rome burned’. The name rings down the ages, spoken with loathing and derision, rightly or wrongly going down in historical folklore as the epitome of selfish and hedonistic irresponsibility. Whether an accurate portrayal of historical events or not is not the issue here, what is of interest is the image of the highest government being synonymous with the grossest dereliction of duty to its citizens and to the citizens of its future.

Nero; anyone familiar with the name will, more likely than not, be familiar with the epithet applied to the Roman emperor to whom the name belongs; ‘fiddled while Rome burned’.

The name rings down the ages, spoken with loathing and derision, rightly or wrongly going down in historical folklore as the epitome of selfish and hedonistic irresponsibility.

Exactly what heinous crime did this person commit to be so reviled? As the citizenry of ancient Rome struggled to save their burning city, their homes and their lives, the very person whose role should have been to provide government and direction and assistance and succour in time of need was ensconced in his palace indulging in musical diversion.

Whether an accurate portrayal of historical events or not is not the issue here, what is of interest is the image of the highest government being synonymous with the grossest dereliction of duty to its citizens and to the citizens of its future.

To those concerned over the direction our planet is taking present day governments are appearing more and more like contemporary Neros. One of the most glaring examples is the recent failure of the Hague talks intended to consolidate the Kyoto talks on greenhouse gas emissions. It was hoped that the world would see a move towards curbing emissions and a consequent reduction of global warming with all its attendant disaster and catastrophe. Rather than comprehensive agreements on action, citizens were treated to a display of squabbling and discord and attendees departed without reaching an action consensus.

Just prior to the Hague summit the UN report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was sent to world leaders. Citing evidence of retreating glaciers, thinning polar ice, increased precipitation, and an increase in weather related disasters, the report concluded that global warming was taking place and that human pollution, especially fossil fuel consumption, was the culprit responsible. Predictions that the world would get hotter included a worst case scenario of a 6 degree C rise over 1990 levels.

Likely consequences of these changing conditions, according to the report, would include; an increase in the number of environmental refugees, already in excess of those displaced by war; increased crop failures, an event becoming more evident as the world’s population rises; increased occurrence of extreme weather conditions.

Who is responsible for these pollutants, according to the report? It comes as no surprise to learn that 25% originate in the USA while GB manages to account for 3% – equivalent to the total output by the whole of Africa.

Two weeks before the Hague talks climate scientists for the European Commission released a report which appears to corroborate the findings of the UN report. It predicted that deserts in the South will spread and that the North will experience more floods and storms. Rising sea levels will see the loss of many beaches while alpine glaciers will recede as temperatures climb. Forest fires are anticipated to become a more common occurrence as the decrease in summer rain allows the drying out of flammable matter. To add to the misery replenishment of underground aquifiers, already seriously challenged, will become even more scant. As conditions change people will migrate in ever increasing numbers in search of the means of survival.

The editor of the report, Professor Parry, has said, ‘ It is imperative that we take the first steps to adapting to the climate change now by factoring the coming effects into environmental and regional policies.’
Forewarned is forearmed.

The UN report, Global Environmental Outlook 2000, presumably available to environment ministers of all countries, gives three major causes for concern as we move into the new millennium. Global warming is again cited as one of the predominant influences on our living conditions, together with growing water shortages and nitrogen pollution from the excessive uses of artificial fertilizers. The latter is killing off rivers with algal bloom and affecting the productivity of the seas’ fisheries.

‘Full scale emergencies already exist’, states the report, as it tells us that a quarter of the world’s mammals are in danger of extinction and that half of all the world’s coral reefs, important eco-systems both for man and his fellow beasts, are threatened with destruction.

A man in the know, executive director of the UN environment program responsible for the report, Klaus Topfer, recommends cutting consumption by 90% in order to reverse the damage and that ‘The developed world has the technology to bring about the fundamental changes needed to save millions of people from hunger, thirst, and ill health. But there is no incentive to apply it because politicians are not forcing manufacturers to do so.’

According to the Red Cross ’99 World Disasters report there were 28 million environmental refugees in ’98. Examining the effects of several natural disasters such as el Nino on Indonesia, where the worst droughts in 50 years caused the rice crop to fail and increased incidence of forest fires, they attributed the increased severity of the disasters to the effect of global warming.

A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund and carried out by the Climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia mapped out a similar doomsday-like scenario. According to their findings global warming will lead to Mediterranean temperatures elevating to make current holiday resorts such as Greece and Turkey virtual no-go areas with the mercury going in excess of 40 degrees C. Alpine snow will become less common. Flash floods along the US coast are anticipated and the Everglades of Florida will come under threat as sea-levels rise. With increased solar exposure the number of people developing skin cancers will go higher.

In their 30 Year Report Card, covering the years 1970-2000, the World Watch Institute graphically illustrates the correlation between the increased burning of fossil fuels, rising global temperatures, the financial impact of storm damage, and increased CO2 emissions, (recent scientific research involving the analysis of fossil records shows CO2 levels to be at the highest for 20 million years). Their reports are sent to all world leaders.

And, while the expert witnesses are trying to wake our Neros, the world itself is bearing testimony to the advent of global warming. Damage is happening at both ice caps. The Arctic ice cap has decreased by 40% over the last few decades with Arctic sea ice thinning from 3.1m to 1.9m. Recent visitors to the North Pole found a 1km wide lake of unfrozen water and birds present. It has been 50m years since the ice at the Pole melted. Wild-life observers have become aware of increased contact between polar bears and man as ice floes melt and deprive the bears of their natural habitat.

In the south NASA confirmed that the size of the ozone layer over Antarctica has expanded to 3 times the size of the USA. Since this layer provides protection from harmful UV rays which cause skin cancers, locals living in towns and villages of southern South America are regularly instructed to remain indoors during daylight hours.
The harm to plants and microorganisms with whom we share the planet has yet to be assessed.

Rather than the apocalyptic one-off event that the idea of global warming may conjure up, many of the predicted effects are happening today and people throughout the world are feeling its effects. Changing weather patterns are contributing to the increased occurrence of forest fires, coastlines are threatened by rising sea-levels, crop production and farming has been challenged by the impact on precipitation, (and also by over-use and under-filling of the world’s aquifiers).

Meanwhile, the English and French ministers have temper spats at Hague and the US seeks to maintain its exclusion from any agreement which may compromise its economic and military dominance in international affairs. As long as governments are tied to the apron strings of finance and business their efforts on behalf of the citizenry will always be constrained by consideration of profits. Reduction of fossil fuel consumption is dependent on a radically revised perception of our human need, one which is not predicated on the fulfillment of every whim and desire magicked into being by an advertising industry to fuel the profits of an enormously rich minority. We have to learn to live with less material gain and find value in ourselves and others as living beings.

Our Neros do not want an intelligent and active citizenry who will challenge them to change and act. Their capacity to carry on as they do depends on citizens’ passivity and quiescence, hence the oppression at Seattle and subsequent protests. It is no surprise that one of the main environmental activist groups, Greenpeace, had its bank accounts frozen at the request of the British and French owned nuclear industry, BNFL. In order to pressure government into dealing with the damage of carbon emissions we as people need to take individual responsibility for our world. Governments and leaders of industry and finance know this and rely on turning citizens into little neros with the help of the controlled medium of a banal and sterile media which tells little and stimulates less. If, as anticipated by the Gorbachov Foundation in San Francisco ’95, we move to the 20:80 society the 80% will be kept complacent and pliable by what Zbigniew Bryezinski termed ‘tittytainment’. In that scenario the 80% will become the Eloi to the 20%’s Moloch and Ben Elton’s vision in ‘Stark’ will have become a reality.

Author: Graham Roylance

News Service: TheExperiment Network