Sunday, 20 February 2011
The ultimate reality game.
I am not an animal lover. Those rumours are untrue. Past pets have extended to a hamster called LHB (little hairy bastard) who hated me, a budgie who never bothered to fly and had a seed-gut that hung over the perch, and various forms of fish. The budgie was vicious too. He would look away when you poked your finger into his cage until you were well enough in that he could get a grip on the side of your nail with his beak. He never missed. Leave the cage open and he'd climb out and sit on top of it and hurl abuse in budgie-speak. He went back inside when he was ready.
No cats or dogs, even though my parents always had one or the other and sometimes both. Bigger pets need a lot of attention and exercise and I have no time for one and no inclination for the other.
None of my pets ever died of passive smoking. Last winter, my entire pondfull of fish died of climate change but not one pet has ever coughed, wheezed, or lived a shortened life. The nasty little swines I take in always exceed advertised lifespans. From my experience, climate change has killed more pets than smoking.
Many years ago, I read about an Aberdeen woman whose budgie allegedly died of passive smoking. The budgie was eight years old, and she was 93. Eight years is a good age for a budgie, and that assumes she owned it from hatching so her assessment of its age was accurate. Besides, Health and Safety should demand that every smoker keeps a canary. If the bird keels over, it's time to open a window.
I'd say 93 is a good age for a human too, never mind a smoker. How can there be so many smoking pensioners around when the medical profession tells us we'll all be dead by thirty? How come smokers' pets aren't toppling over like coal-mine canaries all the time? Could it be that it was all lies?
All forms of life, including humans, become acclimatised to their environment and adapt to fit it. Not necessarily by evolving into a new species, but through natural selection (an entirely separate thing from evolution). With natural selection, the species doesn't change, but the individuals best suited to the environment survive. Those that can't hack it die out. If you capture a whole load of budgies in the wild, some will die of panic but some will adapt to becoming pets and of those, some will become tame. It's a new environment and not all members of the species will take to it but those that do will thrive.
Inhaling smoke isn't 'natural' in that we don't actually require it to live. What happens is that continual exposure to small amounts builds up a tolerance. Overexposure will still cause damage - even a 100-a-day Capstan habit won't let you survive in a burning building. Even so, a continual low dose will let your body adapt, and those who can't survive in the presence of smoke will die. We would end up with an entirely smoke-tolerant population.
Does it sound like I'm advocating killing antismokers? Well, they have long advocated killing me so it would really only be fair. Actually, I'm not talking about smokers at all. Nor am I talking about tobacco. I am talking about smoke.
One of the smoky-drinkers has only recently switched from an open fire to central heating. In this part of the world, global warming is somewhat colder than we were led to expect. Most of those reading this remember coal fires or log fires. There is an entire generation growing up now to whom the idea of a deliberate fire within their house is terrifying. They are not normal. They are the very first generation of humanity, ever, to not have fire in their homes.
That smoke-tolerant human race is not some tobacco-company dream of the future. It is what we are right now. We have lived in the same room as fire since we learned to walk upright and expanded our vocabulary beyond 'urgh'. We are, all of us, acclimatised to a continual low level exposure to smoke. The latest generation is the first in the whole of human history to grow up knowing only metal radiators and heat that comes on before anyone is awake. The first to grow up in the tinder-dry and particulate-free atmosphere of the central heating system.
It will take the human race many generations to adapt to this new environment, assuming it gets the chance. If the oil and gas run out, what then? Modern houses don't even have chimneys. Meanwhile, those future generations will find smoke so offensive, so terrifying, that they will delight in the banning of bonfires and any source of flame. Then, when it all falls apart as it eventually must, there will be none who know how to set and light a fire and none with the courage to try. Any who make the attempt will be silenced by the offended noses of the feeble and even if they succeed, nobody will be able to tolerate being in the same room as the source of heat.
Our pets, likewise, have travelled with us through all those log and coal fires, all those smoke-filled rooms that existed even in nonsmoking homes and which might explain past tolerance of a little bit of burning leaf. It makes no real difference in a room where several kilograms of burning coal are roaring in the fireplace. Those pets, like us, have acclimatised. They are not troubled by a cigarette, their ancestors spent many hours lying in front of the fires we built in our living rooms. Do dogs and cats sprawl in front of radiators now? Somehow it doesn't seem the same.
Take away all atmospheric particulates, take away all sources of smoke, take away every speck of dust and dirt, and what happens? The immune system is left with nothing to do. Nothing to practise on. So it turns on itself and autoimmune diseases become common. Then, the isolated individual leaves their purified habitat and visits the real world - where traffic and factory exhausts vie with pollen, bacteria and viruses for their pristine bodies.
That real world is still out there and always will be. Climate will change whether we use our heating or not. There will be ice ages and there will be droughts. Bacteria will continue to develop new strains and new diseases. Viruses will change hosts. Forests will burn and grow back, deserts and seas will expand and recede. The world changes all the time.
In one generation, the human race has forgotten this. Now, a mere few degrees away from 'normal', as defined by 'in my lifetime', and they panic. Mention harmlessly minute traces of a possible carcinogen and they shriek in terror. Consider lighting the smallest of fires and they curl into a foetal ball. They can no longer adapt. Everything must stay as it is now. Everything must be kept exactly the same forever.
Well, I'm afraid Nature has other plans. Everything is going to change. Everything. Species that refuse to adapt to those changes will become extinct. It's how the world works. Humanity? The world doesn't really need us. It'll soon come up with a replacement.
This species is in its death throes. Frantically trying to keep every environment, every animal, every detail long after Nature has finished with them all. The human species believes that if it can keep the world in stasis then it will endure forever. We used to let the world change and we'd change with it. There are villages at the bottom of the sea between the UK and Europe because it was once dry land. The sea rose, we moved. No problem. We survived ice ages and hot spells, rainy times and dry, by adapting to them. No longer. Now, the human race cannot adapt. It must force its environment to stop changing.
This is, of course, impossible. The environment is going to change. No matter how many million tons of concrete we put under thousands of tons of steel windmills, no matter how many toxic lakes we create in the production of windmill magnets, no matter how much silicon we slab onto solar panels, the environment will change. Nature will do a much better job of it than the Greens, incidentally. Adapt or die. There is no other game in town.
Our pets adapted from the wild life to the tame. Many have adapted back the other way - I believe there is a population of parrots in London now and haven't there been worries about various pet rodents and even piranhas surviving and breeding here after escaping or being dumped? They didn't meekly return to their cages after finding the world outside was hard. They adapted to it.
Humans will not. The Green Dream of a pure world powered by wind and sun conveniently ignores all the ore mines, the foundries, the concrete and copper producers, the maintenance vehicles (and their roads, and the oil to run them) and all the toxic waste that results from producing Green power generators. To them, those things just don't exist. They believe they plant windmill seeds and the things just pop up and magically transmit power without the need for cables. They demand that the world stay the temperature it is now, when it has never done any such thing in the past. They cannot adapt to change so they must prevent change.
Fire is already a distant memory to the new generation. It is, to them, a cancer creator and a terror to be vanquished. They cannot make use of it when their oil runs out and their heating stops working. Adapt or die. This species has made its choice.
But they will not die of heat, as they think. They will die of cold.
Will any survive? Only those with matches and lighters...
Posted by Leg-iron at 02:52