We live in curious times. In the UK we have been enduring an insane paralysis brought about by Brexit, something that has irreversibly divided the nation. In the United States, the most powerful man in the world, President Donald Trump, sets an uneasy tone which resonates globally as his uncompromising ‘business man’ approach to politics destabilises all around him in his efforts to deliver an America first agenda. And yet all this pales into insignificance in the light of two of the most pressing issues in human history… climate change and biodiversity loss.
In such moments unlikely heroes arise, and none more unlikely than sixteen year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. This incredible painting by Bristol’s Jody, part of Upfest’s Summer Editions programme, is a worthy tribute to a young girl whose voice speaks for millions and whose direct messages have contributed to a change in how governments listen to this narrative. Of course listening and acting are two different things, but Greta seems to be in no mood to stop campaigning just yet.
Jody spent a couple of weeks creating this piece and I saw him on a few occasions while he was painting it. We chatted briefly, and I was rather pleased to find out that he has read some of my posts on Natural Adventures. He said that my reviews of his work were kind, and I rather foolishly said that I was kind to everyone, which then made me feel like I was saying that his work was not special. Well let’s put that straight right now… his work is exceptional and of the highest quality and this will I’m sure become an Iconic image of Greta. I believe that pictures and stories about it have already gone global.
It is funny how Greta Thunberg has become a world leader in taking these issues to governments and citizens and bringing climate change up the agenda. Of course, other campaigners have been banging on about this for decades, but somehow her arrival and campaigning came just at the right time, following huge public opinion shifts around the issue of single use plastics, themselves probably prompted by the amazing work of the BBC and Blue Planet 2 and of course Sir David Attenborough.
We have reached a crossroads, and nations must decide how they are going to meet the challenges of Climate change and biodiversity loss. I would say at this point (and I apologise for pointing this out) that there is a strong correlation between Brexiteers and Trumpists (small ‘c’ conservatives) and climate change denial/apathy or even charges of conspiracy. What these people have not registered or acknowledged is that climate change and biodiversity loss will not discriminate against those people they impact upon, nobody will be immune.
We will all lose unless something is done. Large businesses and their shareholders will lose money and maybe collapse; coastal cities and towns will become battered by increasing frequency of storms and rising sea levels; insurance companies will struggle to operate models that can cope with the claims made; more people will go hungry as crops ruin, trade collapses and selfishness protects the rich.
A bleak future for all of us, and the ‘flat earthers’ who don’t want to face up to these challenges put all of us at risk by their deliberating and self-protection. Fools. Look no further than the man-made islands in Dubai and the most fantastic monuments to human folly – built on funds from fossil fuels, these islands will inundate as sea levels rise. You couldn’t make it up.
Here endeth the rant.
I thank Upfest for making this happen. I thank Jody for choosing to paint this outstanding piece. I thank Greta Thunberg for giving me hope and inspiration. I have dedicated my life to the environment personally and professionally and at last I feel we might be approaching a tipping point where public opinion influences public policy.
Let’s hope that this iconic piece and iconic young woman continue to inspire us all (even those who disagree with their message, in fact especially those who disagree with their message).