So now we watch if our sloganeering Prime Minister and his Cabinet can 'keep 1.5 alive', which I naively thought was to preserve our only home and keep us and future generations alive. But never mind.
Already more undertakings and commitments are being solemnly signed (again), but there would appear to be much scepticism surrounding the whole affair (I wonder why?). Leaving aside the doubts surrounding the authenticity of the will to honour any such undertakings and commitments, many have pointed out that it will take a huge financial commitment to address the issues the planet, and we
are facing. However, I wonder whether now is the time to revisit some of the lessons learned from the last time large portions of the world worked together to rebuild and renew after the Second World War?
While that war was still raging, John Maynard Keynes, in a 1942 BBC address said: 'We are immeasurably richer than our predecessors'. Now, how much precisely richer we are will remain hotly, and uselessly, debated as we look at whether we should be using definitions such as 'narrow money' or 'broad money', and include or exclude stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, etc. I shall discretely draw a veil over the vexed question of the billions that may well be shielded from the gaze of the taxman in discrete and anonymous ways – all perfectly legal, of course, as tax avoidance is not tax evasion. Anyway, if you are unhappy with the less than technical term of 'squillions', then perhaps we can stick with Mr Keynes' statement as a starting point?
So, how should we use these 'squillions'… sorry, immeasurable riches, to save the planet? And use them we must, as we are well past the point where such quantities of 'dosh' (apologies for yet another less than technical term) can be amassed in huge piles of lucre that Smaug himself would find obscene.
Already there are the siren voices of traditional economists who talk of ensuring a fair return on investment and baulk at the cost of developing new technologies and other solutions. Well, here's the literally very hot news… we are in a struggle for our continued existence on our only home, so the fair return is our survival. Throw away the rule book and adapt your expectations away from solely justifying any enterprise via a balance sheet, and look instead at what it contributes towards our survival as a species. If we don't, then we will quickly find that you can't eat cash, it does not slake your thirst; it provides no shelter from storms and rising oceans, nor shade from blistering heat.
Similar arguments are forwarded about the danger of incurring debt which must be repaid as we struggle to survive. Well, again the simple, unvarnished truth is that without investment, some of which will inevitably incur debt, the 'returns' on such inaction is our extinction. Go figure. Returning to Keynes in 1942: 'Anything we can actually do, we can afford'. Now, more than ever, that is true.
In darker moments, I imagine that our solar system has been placed off limits by some Intergalactic Police, with warnings signs declaring 'Danger! Keep Out! Here be Numpties!' And yet there is hope. There were huge levels of co-operation to ensure post-war recovery. We need that attitude and much more to ensure our survival. However, let me repeat, we have done it before, we just need to do it again at scale.
And although the 'eyes of the world' are on the world leaders at COP26, we must remember that they are our representatives. Anything to which they agree will fall to us as individuals and societies to deliver. We can no longer act as modern day Neros, fiddling whilst the world literally burns, condemning millions of our fellow souls on this world to misery, suffering and death; their only crime being born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. None of us can choose the circumstances of our birth.
However, we in the developed world can choose how we behave and how we respond to this crisis. We can look at what we can do and what we can change to contribute to a positive solution. New technology has its part to play. But it will not ride like a knight in shining armour to save the day whilst we continue to enjoy a lifestyle that is incompatible to our continued survival.
Unless there is a concerted and unified response at the individual, community, societal, national, global, scientific, technological and financial levels, we will fail. And, as part of that response, we will need clear and focused communications to every part of our world at every level on what can
be done, is being
be done, and all of our respective roles in those efforts. Those communications will need a gravitas and a grit that is honest but inspires and motivates – reminiscent of some of Churchill's best wartime broadcasts – and that speak not just to this nation but to the world.
I have not given up hope… yet. As a species, we have achieved great things amidst some absolutely horrendous mistakes. We can fix this but it will be our greatest challenge on so many levels, and we dare not fail. If we do fail, then it will be the most monstrous of crimes to have set in motion, by our own hands, the processes that eradicate our uniqueness from the universe.
Ian McNeil worked in several sectors, including industry, Civil Service and HM Forces, before moving to the voluntary sector to promote the disability equality agenda and develop self-management workshops for people with long-term conditions. He is currently semi-retired