When in Antwerp

Cathedral in AntwerpBack home I think a lot about some pretty heavy subjects. I have spent the last year immersed in the minutiae of the so-called climate change debate. It is a fetid cesspool that swarms with disingenuous piranhas who manage the most extraordinary rhetorical gymnastics and impress only their own constituency.

If piranhas can have a constituency.

The point is that there are a lot of lies and a great deal of wasted breath spent trying to convince the public that continuing to burn fossil fuels is a perfectly acceptable way to carry on the human project. Along with so many others who disagree with this point of view, my colleagues and I have engaged in polite discussion with climate deniers in an attempt to shed some light on the issues.

It is an exercise in self discipline which has done me good. From that point of view I’m almost grateful. From the point of view of someone trying to offer solutions to what is surely the existential issue of our times, it’s immensely frustrating. And please note the muted tone…

However. I am in Belgium this week with my family and I feel pretty good. Europeans are all too aware of the risks to their small and vulnerable countries should runaway climate change happen, as predicted by so many of the world’s leading scientists. Belgium, much like the Netherlands, could lose significant territory to erosion and flooding. With large-scale migration away from coastal areas into increasingly crowded inland urban centers, the security and impressive cooperation that Europe has enjoyed for over 50 years will quickly become a fond memory.

Citizens are aware of these issues, not least because their leaders don’t obfuscate the way they do in North America. Watching the election campaign in the United States, with its absence of intelligent public debate on substantive issues (spelling that out is tiresome and probably unnecessary) is enough to drive a person crazy. All those hundreds of millions of dollars spent, and so little progress… Imagine though what America could do if its politicians were encouraged to lead rather than bicker and posture and fight off each other’s Super PACs Anyway…

Here in Belgium, people turn out the lights when they leave the room, they’re preparing mitigation strategies for climate change , and serving up the best beer and fries in the world. Engaging with reality, pleasing the palette. Stick a finger in the dyke and pass the waffles!

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