To Devon in England’s West Country, where seventy-eight year old grandfather of five Jonty Calabash remains unaware his willingness to believe in the concept of climate change alters depending on local meteorological shifts. His approach means that, depending on the levels of clement weather in the sky above his neighbourhood, from one day to the next the grandfather might believe it’s “all rubbish” or “there is something in this global warming malarkey after all!” “Unfortunately Mr. Calabash is typical of the fickle thinking on environmental issues we find in most pensioners, along with the large majority of right-wingers and other people who have problems understanding things.” Climate change Scientist Yahweh Smith told Home Defence. “For example, two weeks ago Mr. Calabash pooh-poohed global warming to his neighbour because, and I quote: ‘It’s gone a bit nippy again.’ In fact, that cold spell he was referring to turned out to be the early onset of winter. The seasons will continue to arrive, no matter what the human race does to this planet.” The following week, as a spell of high pressure led to an unseasonably warm period, Jonty mentioned to one of the ladies at his local Post Office (right) how he’d “best start doing some more of that recycling” as there “seems to be
something in this climate change business after all”. Indeed, several of the elderly men and women queuing for
their pensions behind Mr. Calabash expressed surprise at the grandfather’s statement since, just days before,
the sky was overcast enough to require a second cardigan, and on that Tuesday Jonty roundly dismissed any
notion the world’s environment could change very much at all.
Although the field of climate change studies remains in its infancy, contemporary science has progressed far beyond the ignorance of forty years ago. Back then badly thought out views such as a grandfather saying “surely global warming will give us a bit more sunshine?” might have been given credence. Now much of the population understands that a vast and complex network of factors are at play. Baldly simplified, the risk to humanity derives from those emissions we pump into the earth’s atmosphere, melting the global ice caps, precipitating extreme weather events, and leading to the rise in sea levels. This results in floods, like the one last year when Mr. Calabash had to sandbag his back door.
Since then the grandfather has watched a BBC special on the threat of climate change and discussed the
matter with his most patient grandchild, Megan (22). Despite this research, which friends and relatives say
should have led Jonty to a greater depth of understanding, recent months have seen Mr. Calabash continuing
to show a propensity for uttering whatever half-formed thoughts come into his head. In 2008 so far he has
attributed more than a dozen transient phenomena to global warming, including Barnstaple’s late summer
thunderstorms, a particularly virulent strain of flu he picked up in February, and the fact that his tomatoes
ripened surprisingly early this time. Whenever his granddaughter tries to expand on the subject and
correct her elderly relative’s simplistic view of environmental cause and effect, Mr. Calabash simply changes
the subject to his son-in-law’s new conservatory or the failings of their local G.P.
“Like many individuals who refuse to acknowledge the realities of global warming for reasons of fiscality, convenience, or simply
because they’re in denial, Mr. Calabash is going to have to change his views in the years to come.” Yahweh Smith continues. “Most scientists are now convinced that, within a hundred months, the results of our cavalier disregard for the planet’s well-being will become irreversible. By then we’ll be so far past the so called ‘tipping point’ that any action to belatedly put right what we’ve done can only be in vain. All we’ll be able to do come 2015 is prepare for extinction. But try to explain to Mr. Calabash that his grandchildren’s children will be forced to live like beasts, scraping whatever kind of life they can through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic planet, and he’ll just reply; ‘maybe it won’t be so bad if it leads to more nice days like this,’ then go and Indeed, Mr. Calabash, who is fast approaching his ninth decade on Earth and, by his own account, ‘has seen some changes’ is regularly willing, particularly on rainy days,
to dismiss the entire environmental movement as some kind of misguided fad. To support his case he will
cite the space race and free love as other transient examples of hype he has endured during his lifetime,
none of which Jonty was convinced by at the time. From the comfort of his semi-detached home outside
Barnstaple (right), where the elderly man has lived with his wife Doreen for the past fifty-two years, the
grandfather told Home Defence: “When you’ve lived through a world war, that gives you a bit of perspective.” Laying a reassuring hand on our shoulder as we expounded on the damage done to our fragile ecosystem over strong tea and a piece of Battenberg, Mr, Calabash pointed a finger toward the frosty day outside his living room window and said: “Not much has changed while I’ve been alive and it’s not going to now. Not unless we get another summer like the one we had a few years back, then I might be convinced. Now make sure you wrap up warm before going back out there. Global warming my foot!”