There’s an irony in Bob Dylan, at 76, still touring relentlessly, still singing The Times They Are A-Changin’, a song he debuted 54 years ago. The real irony is, it’s still true:
“Come gather round, people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown...”
He may have meant it figuratively in 1963 – in 2017 it’s literal truth. For the afflicted thousands in Texas, certainly. Even more so for the millions in Bangladesh. One of the world’s most densely people countries, now largely under water. A human catastrophe on a far greater scale than the disaster in Houston.
Yet which have you heard and seen more about? No change there, then. Calamities in the USA are always much bigger news than calamities in poorer countries. We can expect plenty more of both.
The appalling monsoon floods in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are a catastrophe no less devastating to the lives of its victims for having been entirely predictable, and indeed predicted. By those scientists whose science some entirely unqualified people still insist on denying.
The time for arguing about climate change – whether it’s happening, whether it’s man-made – is long over. It’s time – long past time – to start dealing with the effects. Urgently.
And there’s another change I have to report. This was my last column for the Eastern Daily Press. My four-year run in Norfolk’s morning paper is over, which means this blog too will become less regular and probably less frequent.
EDP readers won’t hear from me – as they might have – about the extraordinary life of the fulmar. For that uplifting story, full of adventurous travels, they will have to consult Adam Nicholson’s wonderful book The Seabird’s Cry.
I won’t be there in print to analyse the end of the surreal Trump presidency or the shambolic May premiership.
I won’t be there to pick apart the law of unintended consequences. How Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the worldwide web enabled a new era of global empire. How Google, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon rapidly became the new world superpowers, wreaking destruction upon traditional journalism, retail and other industries in the course of acquiring powers no mere emperor or national government has ever wielded.
If anyone is to report in those pages on how much of East Anglia will be permanently flooded, and how soon, it will have to be someone else. I won’t be the one to reveal there what plans there may be to prevent Sizewell from becoming another Fukushima when the sea erodes the cliff it stands on. As it will.
Not having to write all these things may mean I sleep better. Now perhaps I shall discover whether it’s the business of composing a weekly column, and hoping I remember my words of wisdom until morning, that keeps me awake at night. Or whether that’s just what I do to amuse myself while not sleeping.
And there’s this interesting idea to add to my recent piece on insomnia. It may be a matter not of modern life but of evolution.
In primitive communities it’s good if there’s always someone awake. Someone in the group alert to danger, whether from wild beasts, rival tribes, forest fire or flood. Rather like watch duty on board ship. Having people awake at different times of night was an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors. So there’s a thought to console you next time you’re trying to go back to sleep in the small hours.
This was my parting shot to my EDP readers, borrowed from an old friend’s translation of an even older Chinese or Japanese poet. (Li Po, perhaps? I forget. He was dying; I’m not.)
“It is goodbye.
Over the hills I go today,
so, happy am I.”