Word watching

Friday 17th August 2012

“AT AN unprecedented rate of more than 100,000 square kilometres a day.”

The melting of the Arctic sea ice won’t mean anything to most people – especially now football is back.

That “the consequences of further rapid ice loss at the top of the world are of profound importance to the whole planet” is not going to make front page headlines when there’s a new series of The X Factor starting.

Some people have been expressing concern about the planet for a number of years. I wish I’d kept my copy of A Blueprint for Survival, which argued that, ‘if current trends are allowed to persist, the breakdown of society and the irreversible disruption of the life-support systems on this planet… are inevitable.’

It was published in 1972 by The Ecologist, whose official Facebook page has attracted 18,009 ‘likes’. EastEnders has 2.8 million.

The word ‘alarmist’ is often used of those who think it foolish to ignore things like melting ice caps: somebody who ‘raises alarm on very slight grounds, or needlessly; a panic-monger’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

But if I walk down the street and see a building on fire, would it be ‘alarmist’ of me to call the fire brigade?

If I hear gunshots and screaming coming from the corner shop, do I simply shrug, walk on, and pay them no heed?

And if, in the middle of town, I see an elderly person about to step out in front of a fast-moving vehicle, should I pretend it’s not happening and look the other way?

It is facile, in my opinion, to dismiss the evidence from the Arctic as ‘panic-mongering’.

Of greater concern, surely, must be the reaction of those who see the decline in the region’s permafrost as an opportunity to extract yet more fossil fuels with which to cause yet more irreversible harm to the fragile planet we call home.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘soap-box’ as ‘a wooden case… traditionally used as a makeshift stand for a speaker’.

That ‘soap’ can be ‘a melodrama’ and ‘box’ can mean ‘television’ is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to Word watching

  1. Anonymous says:

    Who is listening, watching, taking notice? I think of a line from Rilke’s Duino Elegies…Who if I cried would hear me among the angelic orders? Can’t think why that popped into my mind.
    Oh my. thank you Marcus for all your words….not alarmist, honest. Maybe time we got onto our soap boxes. I used to do that on dull Sundays at Speaker’s Corner way back then in the sixties but that was before commerce filled the Sunday void.

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