Friday, 3 April 2009
Bristol in the Age of Stupid
At the Watershed for the last few days, 'The Age of Stupid' takes as its theme the desperate urgency of tackling the climate change crisis, and the failure of the people who rule the world to do anything about it. A frightening film, all the more so because it's not just cinema, this is for real.
Just up the road at the Council House, Bristol City Council has been doing everything to prove the film-makers right. It's weird. Most councillors are no more or less rational and responsible people than anyone else - but give them a corporate identity and they can do irrational and dangerous things that they wouldn't otherwise contemplate. This IS the Age of Stupid.
The appalling debate - or lack of it - on Tuesday over the intolerable increases in greenhouse gas emissions that go with airport expansion was brought to mind as I watched the film. Charlie Bolton (for the second time in three years) had asked his fellow councillors to oppose expansion - and this time he was joined by the LibDems, brave enough to stick their heads over the parapet. I'm sure that many (I hope most) Labour members, and even some Tories, will have felt just the same. But they didn't let it show. They fell right in behind their spokesmen, Helen Holland and Peter Abrahams, and together forced through a 'wrecking' amendment. With the party system and the whips, no-one has to go to the trouble of putting persuasive arguments, and on this occasion neither Labour nor Tory tried to put a credible case for their position. There was just a bit of the routine cross-party baiting, plus a plea from the local CBI, relayed through its spokesman Peter Abrahams, that a bigger airport is vital to regional prosperity. (And to global warming, Peter.... but neither you nor your backers mentioned that litle disadvantage, which was what the motion was all about).
The Evening Post is equally in denial; it barely mentioned climate change in its report. This IS the Age of Stupid.
Earlier in the week I was working my way through the loaded consultation documents and background reports about the new South Bristol Ring Road (or should I say 'the South Bristol Link' or maybe even the South Bristol Orbital Transport Solution). One thing's clear about every one of the different options they're putting forward - every one adds to our output of greenhouse gases, over and above what they expect to happen anyway. But is there anyone within the council, or the regional authorities, or our MPs and MEPs, saying 'no, we can't do this, we've got to CUT emissions, not add to them' ? Well, there's Charlie, of course. Anyone else?
Denial rules. This IS the Age of Stupid.