by Geoffrey Chia, a cardiologist in Brisbane, Australia
My favourite author, the much loved and much missed American Humanist, dear old departed Kurt Vonnegut, was a masterful practitioner of the poignant and ironic turn of phrase. His essay “Cold Turkey” decried our addiction to fossil fuels and mourned the parlous state of American politics during Bush junior’s time in office. “Only a nutcase would want to be President”, Kurt said. Indeed, only a nutcase would want to be a human being. And here we are, nutcase human beings making a mighty mess of things.
“We are terrible animals and I believe the Earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.” Kurt’s mind remained so sharp and incisive to the very end, you’d swear he ate razor blades for breakfast.
It is a really, really bad parasite that kills its host, if only because, in so doing, it kills itself. And so, long after we have wrecked the very ecosystem which sustains us and we ourselves have turned into fossil fuel gloop to be used for combustion by the next industrial species, what will be the best thing that could be said about the human race? That we were a really bad parasite?
Kurt said that the 51st state of America was the state of denial. Global warming is all a greenie conspiracy, don’t you know, fabricated independently by thousands of poorly paid scientists all round the world in a diabolical plot. Much better to believe the views of a few oil, coal and gas baron billionaires and their media cronies, who only have our best interests at heart.
So here I am, little old me on my metaphorical soapbox at this ecospeak gathering. Maybe we should call it “ecosqueak”, because our tiny voices will hardly be heard, being drowned out by the deafening cacophony of the corporate media and their internet trolls. Loudest of all the loudmouths by proxy is Chris Mitchell, editor of the Australian newspaper and shameless promoter of global warming denialism, as outlined in Quarterly Essay by Robert Manne in September 2011.
Now we are told that coal mining magnate Gina Rinehart, richest woman in the world and well known bankroller of global warming denialists, has come to the financial rescue of Fairfax, our only remaining commercial counterpoint to the Murdoch press. According to the redoubtable Tony Rabbit, she is a white knight who only wants to save jobs and uphold the journalistic integrity of this nation. A fable worthy of Wonderland, talking caterpillars and magic mushrooms. To this tall tale, let me add my own pathetic and clunky poetic commentary, such as it is:
No one is meaner
Than corpulent Gina
Who won’t hesitate at all to sue
Non-entities like me and you
To tighten Rinehart’s corporate reign.
Saviour of Fairfax
Much better than anthrax
Her good intent let’s not deny
She’ll make us think that pigs may fly!
(In truth, she gets around by plane)
Lewis Carroll described his epic poem The Hunting of the Snark as an “agony in eight fits”. I wrote my own “agony in ten pages” earlier this year, an essay I titled The Brisbane Institute is a Brisbane Prostitute. I described my dismay as to how the supposedly honourable Brisbane Institute had become a paid mouthpiece for the fossil fuel lobby, highlighting the views of Christopher Monckton and Ian Plimer. They also imported a morbidly obese fossil fuel professor named Michael Economides to lecture us on how wonderfully beneficial unrestrained overconsumption was for us and how terrifically great the coal seam gas industry was, with no adverse effects whatsoever. In my essay I of course apologised to any prostitutes who may have been offended by the comparison with that reprehensible Brisbane Institute.
“Don’t publicise your Brisbane Prostitute essay”, I was warned by certain individuals. I would be a damned fool to set myself up as a target for litigation, even if every single thing I wrote was true. Yet here I am again, making a damned fool of myself once more. I guess some people never learn.
So what can I hope to have inscribed on my own gravestone when I myself have turned into fossil fuel gloop to be used for combustion by the next industrial species? Perhaps the best thing that could be said about me is this: “He tried his best not to be a bad parasite.”
This essay was presented verbally on 25 July 2012 at the University of Queensland’s Ecospeak session.