Always look on the bright side of life. For people of a certain age and sense of humour, that line will forever be associated with the end of Monty Python’s Life of Brian film, when the Eric Idle character gets a singalong going among the unfortunates being crucified.
Ludicrous, yes, to belt out an optimistic ditty when all hope has long since been abandoned. Yet I always find the scene strangely moving, as well as very funny.
Things are nothing like that bad, but I think we’re all struggling to be cheerful just now amid the economic doom and geopolitical gloom, including the ongoing uncertainty about where the UK is going as a country. There isn’t even certainty about the UK continuing to exist as a country, at least in its present form, though people in Scotland break fairly evenly as to whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
Britain’s political system and economy have taken a series of shocks since that narrow but fateful vote to leave the EU back in 2016. The fact that 10 Downing Street should be fitted with a revolving door (given the frequency in turnover of its occupants) is symptomatic of the UK’s problems, rather than yet another new prime minister representing a solution to its woes.
Nonetheless, we need to recognise and celebrate progress when we see it, if for no other reason than to encourage more of it. Pessimism engenders paralysis, and turns a presentiment that ‘the end is nigh’ into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So let’s not get carried away, but last week’s findings by the International Energy Agency that the expansion of renewables has at least kept a lid on the rise in global CO2 emissions shows that human ingenuity and planning does make a difference. The EU’s emissions, for example, are on course to fall this year. Referring to the energy crisis caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the need for many countries to replace Russian gas supplies, the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, notes: “The encouraging news is that solar and wind are filling much of the gap, with the uptick in coal appearing to be relatively small and temporary.”
In my view, the environmental movement has been prone to undermine itself over the years be deploying campaigns and messaging that have created a sense that it’s ‘too late’ to save the planet, leaving people dispirited and thus demotivated.
I’m far from being a Pollyanna, particularly on an autumn Monday morning, but let’s hold fast to the fact that each of us has agency and we can move the world in the right direction.