The environmental movement didn’t start last week – I just thought it was worth mentioning it because Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” was published in 1962, that’s 57 years ago, and ever since then, we’ve been pushing back at the problem with very little apparent success. Was it Thomas Kuhn that wrote that science advances as scientists die? He wasn’t being harsh, but simply pointing out that vested interests rarely go away because a better explanation has been found. Billions of pounds/dollars have been spent on defending the indefensible as the evidence of environmental damage has mounted up year by year and decade by decade.
But this week I’ve suddenly felt a bit more optimistic. When Kuhn wrote about ‘paradigm shifts’ it always seemed that they mostly involved obscure corners of particle physics where there was no immediate impact on the way we do things round here. This week it’s been astonishing to see the public response to the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. On TV and on the radio – or wireless as we ancients prefer – there have been an increasing number of programmes explaining new approaches to the crisis that’s engulfing us. What’s different is that ‘common sense’ seems to be changing in the incredibly swift manner of a paradigm shift. Everwhere I looked last week there were pieces on do-dig and no-till systems. A short walk to any bookshop will demonstrate the level of interest in ecology and climate change. The Microsoft TV advertisement extolling yet another technological solution to the moral and ethical problem of intensive farming seems suddenly out of date, and although the prophets of Baal with their endless expensive technologies are dancing vainly around the altar of progress the fire never comes. [That image comes from a very funny Old Testament story] After decades of fruitless handwringing, our young people have siezed the initiative and it feels good.
Something has shifted under the surface and the belief that change is possible is gaining traction. Alleluia!