Black Swans

“In an interview, Karin Kneissl, Austria’s Foreign Minister, said that the horizon is full of black swans, portents of trouble and the nascent west-east split in the EU is much more troubling then Brexit,” I quoted, as I sat down with Camp who arrived at our watering hole at exactly the same time as I.

“She is probably right. England’s first Brexit happened when Henry VIII pulled the church out of Rome because the pope wouldn’t grant him his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s ex-wife, so he could marry Ann Boleyn. Britain survived that Brexit and prospered,” Camp said.

“Thanks to their piracies and colonies,” I said.

“There is a lot of trouble in the world, a lot of black swans gathering over the horizon,” Camp said glumly. “Just look at Venezuela, once the most prosperous South American country, now a failed state in the clutches of a despot and his menacing wife. Or Mexico where 90 people burned to death last week after a pipeline they punctured blew up. Stealing gasoline by syphoning off pipelines and then selling it on the black market is Mexico’s latest organized criminal activity cloaked as poor people stealing out of necessity.”

“There is one white swan on the horizon”, I said, “her name is Greta Thunberg and she is the 16 year old climate activist who was the superstar at the WEF in Davos last week. She also suffers from Asperger’s syndrome but that doesn’t stop her from her activism. She now has millions of young followers. When a journalist asked her what she would change her answer was: Everything!”

“Yes”, Camp said, “she is the inspirations for thousands of school kids to strike and hit the streets instead of the class rooms. What’s the point of going to school if the world is going to hell? It’s what they’re asking. Is there hope for the future? Is the bigger question.”

“As long as a real change in attitude, policies and direction are coming to a neighbourhood, or an ocean liner, or a coal or diesel power plant near you, there is hope. I’ve read that the average cruise ship uses up to 250 tonnes of bunker fuel per day, which is the residual crap from refining diesel and gasoline. It’s what cargo and cruise ships run on. The worst and filthiest polluters.  Clare and I recycle plastic bags and try not to drive when we can walk, in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Kind of like watering the desert with an eyedropper. If nothing changes, hope is just another word,” I said.

“It’s been 3 million years ago, during the Pliocene, when the carbon dioxide levels were as high as today’s 410 parts per million. The oceans were 30m higher. We, the people, today, are transferring 10 billion tonnes of carbon from the earth’s crust into the atmosphere every year, in the form of combusted fossil fuels, about ten times faster than at any other time in the past 300 million years, which includes several mass extinctions due to cataclysmic volcanic eruptions.” Camp said, taking a long cool draught from his beer.

“Black swans on the horizon indeed.” I said. “Considering that the earth’s atmosphere is like an onion skin, about 100km thick but most of it contained in the first 20 km.“

“You two are having a good time?” Vicky asked, hand on her hip, looking like Pippi Longstocking, with her blonde hair tied into two ponytails above her ears. “Enjoying the moment I hope,” she added with a hint of sarcasm.

“Well, yeah, in geological terms now means within a few thousand years,” Camp said, trying a bit of humour on our pretty server.

“Good, I’ll bring you a refill within the next couple of hours,” Vicky said with a wink and a smile as she sashayed away.

“Now you did it,” I said, laughing, trying to chase away those black swans. Life is there to be enjoyed without loosing sight of the big picture, which I had to admit, looks rather gloomy.




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