Do you suffer from eco-anxiety? I’m sure I do to some extent. Apparently, the story appeared in some newspapers that children are being treated for anxiety caused by fears of eco-disasters e.g. climate change, plastic waste, etc. Some had even been prescribed drugs. An article in New Scientist magazine followed this up noting that children and young people were indeed becoming anxious about the future. This wasn’t, however, an illness but a sensible and proper response to a real danger. Perhaps if a few more people, particularly those in positions where they could something about it, felt the anxiety something might yet get done. Unfortunately the response in some parts of the media was to say “there, there, don’t trouble the children” and accusing message bearers like Greta Thunberg of causing harm.
The aim of Extinction Rebellion is to bring home the seriousness of the position the whole world is in. The “12 years left” message has been misinterpreted, we will survive longer than that, but that is the amount of time we have left to reverse our plummet into catastrophic warming and its accompanying severe weather, food shortages, extinctions etc. Putting out the message softly has failed to get governments to act. On the contrary, increasing numbers of populist leaders are deniers who are acting against the policies that are needed. So, it is understandable that the eco-protests have to get bigger, longer, more-dramatic in order to make their point. Unfortunately that opens the door to people who either misguidedly think that violent disruption is a way forward and those who want to discredit the eco-movement. I can only assume that it was the latter that had two activists on the roof of a tube train causing disruption of commuter transport. The fact that they were attacked by angry commuters was probably what some sectors of the media wanted to see – the public turning against the eco-protesters. Disrupting public transport is a foot-in-mouth action.
The organisation of Extinction Rebellion is famously obscure but thy have to tread a narrow path between getting the message out and losing public support. If the protests seem to cause more discomfort than is promised for the future, then the message will be forgotten and the activists become the enemy. The problems facing the world are far too important to let that happen, but that is just what the Trumps, Johnsons, Bolsonaros and others in power want. It is enough to make me very anxious indeed
This week’s theme for the writing group was “Tower”. That conjured up several images from super-skyscrapers to medieval fortresses. One that popped into my mind was the simple and popular game which is described in my short piece below. I hope that I have taken a slightly less obvious tack with it.
Fall of the Tower
She leaned forward in the high-backed chair. Like a hawk seeking its prey, her rheumy eyes focussed on the tower. Her thin arm stretched forward and a crooked finger extended to caress the surfaces of the edifice. By some mysterious means she made a decision and a horny fingernail tapped one of the blocks. It moved a millimetre. Tap, tap, the block edged out of position. The structure wobbled and she paused then resumed, tap, tap, tap. At last, she reached with bent finger and arthritic thumb to slide the block from its slot. She raised it and ever so steadily, calmly and precisely rested it on the top of the tower. With a sigh she relaxed back in the chair and surveying her handiwork a smile spread across her creased and wrinkled face.
“It’s my turn now, Mum,” Emma said. She reached across the table to the tower. Her cuff caught on a corner; a block shifted. The tower toppled and blocks scattered. Mum cackled with glee.
Joy, the carer, looking on, commented, “Well, that’s the end of that game. You win, Shirley.” She placed a cup and saucer in front of the old woman. “Here, you are. Have a nice cup of tea.”
Shirley’s gaze was elsewhere; her eyes dull; her mouth open; jaw slack; a raised hand shaking from side to side.
Emma stacked the blocks. “When she played with us as kids it was always this game. I don’t know what she saw in it, but she never lost. She was always able to find that one block that could be slid out if you were really careful. I don’t understand how she can still do it. Look at her now. She’s not there.”
Joy shrugged, “It’s often the earliest memories and oldest skills that remain when everything else has gone. It’s not usually playing Jenga, mind, but in your Mum’s case it’s what she’s holding on to.”
The column of wooden blocks was rebuilt. Emma leaned down to her mother and said loudly.
“Do want another game, Mum?”
Shirley’s eyes sparkled and her finger moved straight as an arrow towards the tower.