Friday, 18 December 2009

Taking the Long View (in a Short Time)

Today's BBC Radio 4 "Thought for the Day" was COP15-focused, as these fascinating negotiations draw to a close. Abdal Hakim Murad's topic was, states the BBC's website, the claim that "Humility is needed to heal the environment." The scope of his short piece was of course considerably wider than that summary suggests, despite its compression into a strict 3 minute slot. Acknowledging climate change as "the defining topic of our times," Murad notes that politicians at the summit have been forced to extend their historical range, despite the fact that they are "not always famous for taking the long-term view." Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has pointed out that COP15's historical significance must be borne in mind, since this cohort of negotiators will be "blessed or blamed for generations to come." On the way to a point about humility, Murad has struck upon one of the defining features of cultural commentary on climate change - a fascination with various, often competing, temporal models. When he claims that the world is now divided not so much into "haves" and "have nots" but into "those that take the long view" and those that put off change, he suggests that it is attitudes to time that really make the difference in these negotiations, and in shifting (or failing to shift) attitudes to human responsibility in the face of our changing climate. If only Murad himself had had longer to expand on this interesting point.