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Gloomy but cheerful

January 14, 2010

Last month Third Way magazine published an interview with Franny Armstrong to coincide with the BBC screening of her film The Age of Stupid (which has rightly caused a flurry on this blog). The film makes a very strong statement; I found it helped a lot to read the interview alongside it.

One of the most striking things to discover from this media attention is that Franny Armstrong isn’t miserable. Her interviewer commented:

“You come across as very cheerful and very positive… and yet you’ve got the gloomiest message in history.”

Armstrong went on to comment that all her ‘climate-change friends’ are cheerful too. She puts this down to a sort of consolation of honesty – better to look at the full face of the truth than to hide in a corner with a “huge monster over your shoulder”.

You can see the sense in it. It reminded me of some reading I did years ago about the experience of people who are dying. Silence and evasion are the perfect prescription if you want to depress the terminally ill. Carers and families can form an unspoken pact that they won’t mention the ‘D’ word, and patients who never speak their fears go through a suffering beyond the influence of morphine. Conversely, people who address the issue sometimes find that suddenly they feel unburdened.

I know a new year becomes a peg for all sorts of things, but this is a significant decade. If we haven’t made a difference to the climate by the end of it then we’ve missed our best – probably our only – chance. But now could also be a good time to face the mess we’re in as fully as possible, because, oddly, it might actually make us feel better.

By the way – contemplating our ruin, searching for the truth, honesty the only chance for salvation – what does all this remind me of?

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