10 Billion problem children
Some of the reviews of 10 Billion, scientist Stephen Emmott's polemic on the stage of London's Royal Court Theatre until 11 August, highlight his failure to offer solutions to his apocalyptic vision of the perfect storm of environmental catastrophes that he sees as afflicting the world.
But the criticism misses the point: Emmott, professor of computational science at Oxford University, offers no solutions because he doesn't see any. As he says in his presentation: “I don’t think we will change. I think we are fu*ked.” His hour-long lecture takes a look at geoengineering fixes, such as averting global warming by dispatching an array of mirrors into space to deflect the sun's rays, but dismisses them as scientifically unsound. The only other possibility, he argues, is behaviour change, but he dismisses that, too, as unfeasible, particularly as politicians show no interest in pressing unpopular policies on the public.
Emmott doesn't mention the swift action taken by governments (hats off to Margaret Thatcher on this one!) to tackle the hole in the ozone layer - though perhaps it's not a useful example because it was a relatively straightforward problem that a handful of like-minded governments and corporations were able to deal with without involving the public.
Emmott is scientific adviser to UK Chancellor George Osborne. Perhaps Osborne's opposition to virtually all measure favoured by environmental activists comes from listening to Emmott: if we are all doomed by rapid population growth, water scarcity, food shortages and runaway climate change, Osborne could be thinking, I might as well carry on with the same obsolete, destructive policies that got us into this mess.
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