So a few days ago a satellite photograph is published showing that for the first time in 125,000 years, we can now circumnavigate the North Pole. It is a moment of genuine tragedy – another stake in the heart of life as we know it. Far from having to wait until late in the century to see the Arctic ocean ice-fee in summer, it could be any year now. Some scenarios even suggest 2013. Bearing in mind that practically every environmental worst-case scenario turns out to be the best-case scenario, even that may be optimistic.
But what is the media story that goes along with this moment of dreadful pathos? That politicians everywhere finally come to their senses? That we take some real steps to stop and reverse this trend? Not at all. Yesterday John McCain appoints as his running mate the incumbent governor of Alaska (of all places!), who tells us that the scientific jury is still out on global warming. And even the Independent on Sunday – the newspaper in which I read this story, and generally pretty conscientious about the environment – goes on to report that this means that shipping companies trading between Europe and Japan will be able to cut 8000 miles off the round-trip – which will no doubt encourage more long-distance trade, bigger carbon footprints and still faster melting.
I hope someone up there is laughing, because I doubt that anyone down here is.