The Good Ship Earth

In case you‛ve forgotten, my premise for this blog was  “to see if what bugged me, amused me, challenged me [in the late 1980s], is still around today?  If it is, then what might that say about the evolution or otherwise of our society?”

This week the media  are focusing on two stories.  One is  Attawapiskat and related conundrums and the other the Durban Conference on Climate Change.

I‛m not going to wade into the Attawapiskat story except to say that my feelings haven‛t much changed since a visit in 1959 to a reserve near Churchill, north of the treeline on the shores of Hudson‛s Bay.

 I have been to Native communities before, at places as remote as God’s Lake, Norway House, and Indian Lake, but this time is different. Perhaps it’s because now it is midwinter, with sub-zero Fahrenheit temperatures. In this weather it is not uplifting to visit families living in wooden shacks where newspapers are used to block open cracks. There truly is a third world in Canada and the knowledge of it is deeply depressing.  ♠

“Not uplifting.” That was an under statement if ever there was one.  And it is still depressing more than half a century later.

But hey, let‛s cheer up and turn to the UN Durban Conference on Climate Change.  It‛s depressing, too, but it reminds me of a time when the big environmental concerns
had to do with simple things like acid rain and a massive hole in the ozone layer.  In those good old days the dire prophecies about coming global climate change and associated calls for preventative action were neatly deflected by those in power claiming the need to acquire more facts.

So here, in honour of those by-gone fact-finders, I am sharing a little ditty originally dedicated to Earth Day.

                 The Good Ship
She was booming along with her sails full spread,
Her cargo snug and her crew well fed
When a seam up forward opened wide
And was sucking water on the starboard side.

The First Mate answered the Captain’s call
And offered a guess at the cause of it all.
“A keg of acid has sprung a leak
And eaten a hole through the forward peak.”

“Perhaps,” said the Captain, “but let’s be sure.
Go study the cause before the cure.
She might have ripped on a jagged reef
Or rammed a shark with saw edged teeth.”

“Could be,” said the Mate with a little frown,
“But I’d say by her tilt she’s going down.”
The Captain growled, ignoring tact,
“No guessing here! Go gather fact!”

Along came the carpenter, bless his soul,
Said, “Use the mains’l to plug the hole.
We lower it smoothly over the rail.
Sucked in like a cork it cannot fail.”

“That sail,” said the Captain, “makes her go.
Without it we’re drifting to and fro —
The owner goes bust — we lose our pay —
We’re all on pogey by the end of day.”

As news from the bow got worser and worser
A report from the stern came in from the purser.
“I’m happy to say we ride higher and higher,
The air is much clearer the nearer the sky we are.
I really don’t see why all the suspense —
My ledgers are dry and the view is immense.”

“You see?’ said the Captain to quavering Mate,
“The more we learn the safer our fate.
A loss at the bow but a rise at the rear
All averages out, we’ve nothing to fear.
We’ve heard from a man who floats loans and debentures,
And mortgages, bonds and similar ventures.
The least we can do is have faith in his skill.
Your mariner’s instincts are worth less than nil.”

An hour or so later the ship was at rest,
Her keel on the bottom her flag at the crest,
And up where the mast is so skinny it wiggles
The Captain was sending out semaphore signals:
“She’s steady and level, I’m certain at last
She’s no longer leaking, the danger is past.
She’s firm as a rock, remarkably stable,
I’ll bring her on in as soon as I’m able
Because, I assure you, I’m ready to act —
I’ve studied the case and a fact is a fact.” 

Yep, a little more than two decades ago the call to accumulate more facts was the preferred way to appear to be intellectually engaged while postponing real action.

So – have we evolved or regressed?

Well, given the Harper Government‛s emasculation of the national census, its resolve to destroy all long gun registry data , its hope to cure crime by more incarceration, its virtual non-presence at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, and its obdurate role now at Durban where we appear to be dedicated to the position that although the boat is leaking we won‛t take remedial action until all the other passengers join in, it seems amply evident that even the pretense to be gathering facts is no longer of any interest  to those who govern Canada.

And by the way, when Harper came to power in 2006 he managed to block ratification of the Kelowna Accord.  It had taken two years to build and , in itself, would not have prevented Attawapiskat but would at least have provided a foundation upon which to create solutions.

I trust that all the members of the Harper cabinet are brushing up on semaphore signals.  It won‛t do them, or us, any good but will make them feel prepared to be relevant.

♠ From: Always an Updraft — a writer remembers
by Munroe Scott
Penumbra Press 2005

The Good Ship
From: Down Paradox Lane
Lindsay This Week, April 25,1988
[Copyright © Munroe Scott]


About Munroe Scott

Munroe Scott is a veteran of the freelance writing world.
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5 Responses to The Good Ship Earth

  1. mark finnan says:

    Reminds me of much of what we were engaged in concerning environmental and social issues back in the 70s.

  2. lionel strange says:

    I agree with you Munroe, and I love your ditty. I would submit that we now are faced with the curious and frightening dilemma that the democratic form of government of which we in the west are so proud ensures that the innate short term personal self interest of electorates makes it impossible for any government to take the steps necessary to avert eventual climatic catastrophe. If they wanted to do so, the dictatorships that we spend so much effort combating, could make the sort of drastic adjustments to the lives of their citizens that could trigger a worldwide move in the right direction. Our form of government, as you so aptly point out, will be content to continue establishing the facts.

    • Munroe Scott says:

      Interesting, Lionel. You seem to be saying that dictatorship with vision could achieve more than our democracy can. You may be correct, given the sad shape our democratic system is in. There is a paradox for me in that we currently have a de facto dictatorship — at least for the next three years — but it lacks vision. It is looking in the rearview mirror thinking it’s the windshield. I’m glad you liked the ditty. I know you’re a good hand at ditties yourself. Writing a ditty is a good way to vent steam.

  3. Lionel Strange says:

    I agree Munroe, that we have, at the moment, a virtual dictatorship. However I would suggest that the present government is not necessarily unaware or averse to the strong measures that should be taken to stave off climate disaster. It is well aware though, that if it did take such measures, it would be out of power at the next election. With our system of automatic elections at defined intervals, no government will risk certain defeat . Only full blooded dictators prepared to hold office by force could manage to make their subjects submit to the sacrifices that are clearly necessary. I frankly see no solution to this problem. Lionel

    • Munroe Scott says:

      You may be correct, Lionel, but I read the tea leaves slightly differently. I suggest it’s the powerful big corporate (i.e. oil etc.) ideology that drives our government. The electorate would put up with a lot of “sacrifices” in exchange for real climate action if they felt that the greed of the super-nationals, banks, etc., was going to be equally ruthlessly regulated. The Occupy phenomenon is for real.

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