‘Changing Times’ Column 2006 – 2007

I flew to Goa to touch my ancestral roots; and help my parents convert a concrete shell into a cozy retirement flat. Surrounded by workmen and an early, global-warming heat-wave, temperatures rose, tempers flared and things noisily dragged on. Unused to prolonged parental proximity, I was shocked to realize that they were not being difficult, but they are simply not as sharp as they used to be. My memory isn’t what it used to be either and London has hardened my heart and shortened my fuse.

Their decent sans-tourist location provided constant electricity and water a-la government minister neighbours. Clean, uncontaminated water is now a commodity. Only a fraction of the world’s water is fresh. Pollution, over-population, climate change, mismanagement, war and unregulated corporate privatisation all restrict access for poorer people. Lucky us!

If I were born into an oil family, we’d soon be making trillions! “Extensive oil and gas reserves have been discovered in Alaska along the Beaufort sea coast … offshore oil exploration and production are likely to benefit from less extensive and thinner ice.” Reads the International Arctic Science Committee’s report. Norway’s oil industry, traditionally one of the world’s biggest, will also benefit, as marine access to oil, gas and mineral resources will improve as sea ice retreats.

If we were in shipping, we’d be quids in, as treacherous sea routes, such as the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route, would open opportunities for oil and commodity shipping and resource exploration. Travel time between Europe, America and Asia would shrink by as much as a third, as would fuel costs. Oil and natural gas industries would have improved access by sea.

Tourism, fisheries and mining may be industries worth marrying into. Experts predict the passage would be open for year-round travel within a decade.

To play safe, there’s always politics. A healthy slice of taxes, backhanders and ‘partnership programmes’.

My girlfriend didn’t come to Goa, as carbon footprint consciousness overtook personal wants. I recycle, turn the heating down, turn water and lights off, compost and even bought 50 ‘Hippo water bags’ for friends’ cisterns; though I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t yet had trees planted in the wake of my airline vapour.

I’d fly (offsetting-my-carbon-emissions) to the ends of the world for those I love. Love flows through our veins. Hard to pollute. Impossible to truly buy. With an endless supply. Clean water, oil and money all have their place too. A lot of people are going to make a lot of dirty money out of this mess.

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