By William J. Furney
His reference to a frog puppet may not exactly have been ribbiting, but Boris Johnson surely sent many people hopping mad with his lecture at the United Nations General Assembly urging the adult population of the world to act like that — adults — not children pretending that the most pressing problem of our time doesn’t even exist and we can all carry on as normal while the world around us crumbles.
“It’s time for humanity to grow up,” the ebullient British prime minister chided the annual gathering of world leaders in New York, later declaring that “when Kermit the frog sang It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green, I want you to know he was wrong — and he was also unnecessarily rude to Miss Piggy”.
Describing humanity as “collectively a youngster”, given that we’ve only been around for about 200,000 years, Johnson hit out at people’s greed and gluttony for the climate change catastrophe that’s evidentially becoming worse by the year, leading to extreme weather events like storms that are growing fiercer and more devastating, floods that deluge entire towns and villages and blistering heatwaves that are hard to bear and oftentimes deadly, such as those that struck parts of the US and Canada in July, killing hundreds of people.
“We still cling with part of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure, and we combine this narcissism with an assumption of our own immortality,” said the prime minister.
“We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make, because that is what someone else has always done.
“We trash our habitats again and again, with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far and therefore we will get away with it again.
“My friends, the adolescence of humanity is coming to an end.”
Along with his hectoring and goading, the premier was also attempting to build momentum for real and profound change at yet another UN Climate Change Conference, being hosted in the UK from Halloween to November 12 and organised by the British and Italian governments. It will seek to “accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” so that carbon emissions are dramatically slashed to arrest the rapid warming of our planet and drive temperatures down.
The amount of unbearably hot days when the mercury rose above 50C has doubled in recent decades, a BBC study published earlier this month found, with 26 such stifling 24-hour periods annually from 2010 to 2019 compared to 14 between 1980 and 2009. The alarming leap in global heat “can be 100% attributed to the burning of fossil fuels”, Dr Friederike Otto of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford was quoted by the BBC as saying.
Climate-deniers are fast becoming their own version of flat-earthers: people who refuse to accept the reality of the world, even when the facts, figures and pictures are staring them right in the face.
Johnson’s entreaties come at a time when more countries are looking to invest in renewable energy resources — wind, water, sun — and ditch such filthy fossil fuels as coal and diesel. China, the world’s manufacturing centre, is still heavily reliant on coal to produce electricity — almost 57 percent of its power generation last year, according to Chinese officials, and ranks No. 1 in the world in coal usage — while the UK has largely phased it out.
“When I was a kid, we produced almost 80 percent of our electricity from coal; that is now down to two percent or less and will be gone altogether by 2024,” Johnson said.
“And I know that we are ambitious in asking the developing world to end the use of coal power by 2040 and for the developed world to do so by 2030, but the experience of the UK shows that it can be done; and I thank President Xi (Jinping) for what he has done to end China’s international financing of coal and I hope China will now go further and phase out the domestic use of coal as well, because the experience of the UK shows it can be done.”
Electric cars are, meanwhile, surging in popularity, and there’s even hope that the equally polluting aviation industry might soon become “Jet Zero”, by creating carbon-free airplanes.
What no one is talking about, and what are two of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, are the meat and dairy industries. Every choice we make in the supermarket, and every forkful of food we put in our mouths, makes a massive difference to not only our health but that of the planet. A plant-based diet is increasingly being viewed as the salvation of mankind and the Earth, not to mention avoiding all that unnecessary slaughter of animals.
And if we really want to grow up and become real adults, we can also consider that the pandemic we still find ourselves in was caused by eating meat. Think of what we could collectively achieve if we also phased flesh out.