Another Titanic, only more titanic …
In the early hours of April 15, 1912, the White Star Line's massive new superliner, RMS Titanic, with about 2250 passengers and crew, was pedal to the metal bound for New York City from Southampton , just four days into its maiden voyage.
Captain Edward Smith was under pressure to flaunt the Titanic's unprecedented speed and luxury, and establish White Star as the premier trans-Atlantic carrier.
Everything was going swimmingly until reports were received of maverick icebergs afloat in the area, almost invisible in the still, moonless night.
"Whoa," ejaculated Capt Smith, "this changes everything! By jingo, I'm not going to risk my ship and passengers a minute more. We'll hove to until daylight."
In due course, the Titanic arrived safely at New York, with no dramas, disasters, or drowned or traumatised passengers. No inquests or inquiries were needed, nor subsequent movies made, and Oscars awarded. If only.
Such is hindsight. But also absent foresight. It shouldn't have overly strained Captain Smith's imagination to foresee the dire consequences of the irresistible force under his command smashing at high speed into an immense immovable object in the dead of night.
Climate change is the new "this changes everything" scenario. Overwhelming scientific consensus is that we super-industrialised earthlings now have to "hove to", or become a planetary Titanic.
"This Changes Everything" was the title astutely given to a book published in 2014 by politico-economic commentator Naomi Klein. As irrefutable evidence accumulated that man-made emissions underpinned the unerring course we've inadvertently set for climatic collapse, Klein neatly corralled the evidence, and nailed the crux of the matter with her title.
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The information is now out there, but the existential issue is the extent of pan-governmental response. Explicit in "this changes everything" is that practices that once characterised "growth" now have to be reclassified as the new anathemas. That's a bigly bigly call, but "progress" pell-mell into Armageddon isn't a sane option.
And short term that may be very painful on the pocket.
Take petrol, diesel and coal. It's now in our interests that they become as expensive as hell, to reduce levels of their lethal end-product carbons. "Growth" now necessarily revolves around global sustainability requiring culling of primary carbon culprits involved in manufacturing our plethora of stuff, and moving both it and ourselves around the planet. Trucking, air travel, carpet, cladding, jet-skis, and multitudes of plastic gewgaws all.
It could mean back to the future in a million everyday ways – hello again the tea towel, wetback and house water-tank.
It means limiting populations and the exponential infrastructure they require. It means clamping down on all that iron, steel and concrete production - and the huge amounts of energy required to make them.
But instead, legions of leaders are pussyfooting around on pinheads spraying platitudes for all they're worth: "There's the mother of all icebergs dead ahead, but if we all blow enough hot air it'll melt by the time we get there."
It's axiomatic that major-nation participation is crucial, but so too for lesser players. The Australian PM was fiddling in Hawaii while Australia burned, and he's not going to stop Oz being a fossil fuel mega-quarry any time soon because he knows most of his voting constituents are indirectly mainlining mining's export dollars.
Therein lies the nasty fishhook. OECD-type politicians need voters to even get to sit at the VIP tables – and voters struggling to pay next week's rent are a lot less likely to be focusing on the long game.
Same applies in Kiwiland. An auction website has just released figures for the year's most-viewed items. Featuring in the top 10 were a couple of male genitalia look-alike tubers (kumara and potato), a Bunnings straw hat "perhaps" worn by one of the feral Brit tourist family, and a 60-year old McDonalds burger bag.
If the popularity poll is indicative of voter priorities, the planet's well and truly rooted.
• Frank Greenall is a Whanganui based contributor and columnist.