Go out into the snow now and don’t come back….

Posted on December 8, 2011


Having watched the final in David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet series I feel like wandering into a frozen wilderness, lying down and going into a warm, everlasting sleep.  Attenborough presents a vivid narrative about the diminishing of our polar regions through climate change.  The calving of the Antarctic ice sheets, the speeding of the Greenland glaciers as they melt far more quickly, and the potential of the Antartic glaciers themselves forging into the sea once the ice sheet has gone is a terrifying prospect for sea level rise.  The melting of the Arctic ice  presents additional impacts on a level never seen before in recorded human history.  All of this most of us have probably heard before.  Putting it together in a single visually overwhelming hour of television is deeply confronting.  So, what are we doing about it?  Oh that’s right!  It’s Durban isn’t it?  Where COP (out) 17 is happening.  Of course!  How silly of me to forget…..Durban….Durban….must remember one of the biggest non-events in history……..(is that like proving a negative? oh well, moving on).

And if that weren’t enough to make us all end it quickly, UK residents are meaner, more self-righteous and arguably more deluded about UK society now than they were in 2000.  The UK Social Issues Survey results are out and while most agree that the division between the rich and the poor is too great, nearly double the number of people than previously think child poverty is caused by bad parenting, while more people than previous also think benefits are too generous.  People are also lessing willing to personally pay more for public services or to support charities or environmental improvement.

There is much chatter about the results – ‘the squeezed midlle’ is at work – Britain’s middle classes feeling angry and resentful about the super-rich and the ‘underserving poor’.  The Tories are crowing because the survey supports some elements of the Big Society agenda – the idea that communities will grow stronger through helping themselves rather than waiting or wanting governments to do it for them.  But I can’t help thinking this shows how quickly communities turn on themselves and what a nasty boil is brewing.

It is timely actually as this past week Channel 4 to their credit, are running a campaign about the number of homes in the UK that not occupied.  They claim it is as high as 1 million spread across the public and private sector and including shop-top housing.  The number of families requiring housing in the UK is 2 million while the number of rough sleepers is 350,000.  They ask the simple question: why are these homes unoccupied and why are we not doing anything to ensure that are of habitable standard?

When there is no work, a massive shortage of housing, and a sharp roll-back in public services provision it’s hard to see how any of this Big Society agenda is going to turn into some kind of virtual village fete with the Luciens and Samanthas of this world  hosting a wonderful high tea to raise money for the under-privelaged, while their frightfully precocious children teach the ragamuffins from down the road how to read (and sit properly at the table).  Meanwhile mummy and daddy Raggs help out by sweeping out the stables now that they are working for their benefit.

Apart from anything else, the Big Society line is that  ‘it is for local communities to decide what is best for them and how to prioritise their own spending and actions’.  So, Sammy and Luc won’t be doing any such thing, having been given moral permission to raise funds for the polo team rather than the poor team.  Following this logic to its conclusion it is easy to see that more disadvantaged communities will simply become further bogged down while rich, powerful and highly functional communities surge ahead.

So, now to find some long stretches of snow and ice in which to get lost in….oh that’s right….they’re nearly all gone!