‘You know how these things go; no one else has clocked the obvious disaster ahead.’

Jamie Wrench writes about the climate nightmare in the ‘Thought for the week’

A banner at a climate protest. | Photo: Markus Spiske / Unsplash.

I don’t know about you, but most of my bad dreams seem to involve helplessness. Here’s one: I’m on a coach going down a motorway. I’ve got the seat just behind the driver, with plenty of legroom, and I’m comfortable, even serene. Then I become aware that in the distance there’s a pile-up. The driver hasn’t noticed, indeed he’s accelerating a bit.

I do nothing; I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. But as we get closer I see it is quite a big pile-up, and he still doesn’t seem to have noticed. I wonder whether I should speak up. In the end I say, in a conversational tone: ‘Looks like there’s a bit of a prang up ahead.’ He makes no reply. I repeat myself a bit louder, and two things happen. He says ‘It’s just a bit of congestion’ and one of my fellow passengers nudges me and points to a sign saying: ‘Do not speak to the driver while the vehicle is in motion.’ ‘Please be quiet,’ she says, ‘it’s not safe to speak to the driver and you’re upsetting my friend.’

You know how these things go; no one else appears to have clocked what is becoming a really obvious disaster up ahead or, if they have, seem oblivious to the danger. They go on chatting and reading and sleeping, and when I try to get their attention they just look at me as if I were a television. And the coach continues to accelerate…

I’m screaming now, pointing ahead: ‘For God’s sake, stop! Brake! Brake hard!’ One or two of the other passengers are looking at me with mild, bovine interest, but most are remonstrating with me for disrupting their journey. And then, with about a hundred yards to go before we pile into the destruction ahead, the driver takes his foot off the accelerator, and we start, slowly, far too little and too late, to slow down…

This is where I wake up, to that overwhelming feeling of relief that it was just a dream.

I usually ask myself what led up to that dream. Often there’s a logical explanation, based somewhere in reality. When you’re asleep, your brain sorts stuff you’ve been dealing with, re-runs it and pigeonholes it while you’re offline. I went on a coach to London recently for the last People’s Vote march, and I’ve been reading a book about climate breakdown, so that explains that.

Except, of course, that isn’t really a dream. When I wake I don’t get a surge of relief, just a feeling of despair at the reality: the clear and unanswerable fact that we are on the brink of irreversible climate breakdown; the knowledge that, in their anxiety not to be alarmist, our scientists understated the danger; and the ongoing complacency of our politicians, even when faced by the reality of fires in California and Australia, famine in South Sudan and floods in Fishlake. And I wish I’d pushed the driver out of the way and taken over the steering wheel myself earlier.

Everything I have done over the last decade or so has been Reasonable and Proper. I’ve joined a climate action group, written articles for the Friend, had polite meetings with my MP, written letters and signed petitions. All to no avail. So, I fear, perhaps it’s not time to stay polite, but get arrested. And dare to dream of a hopeful future.

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