Sitting on Their Hands

by A.M. Bell, New Zealand

At first we raised the issue,  
but the people in power were dismissive:  
"Trouble-making hippies, never done  
a decent day's work in their life."  
So they kept digging coal out of the ground  
to fire their power stations and  
drive their economic growth and  
they sat on their hands.    

With Australia shovelling coal into  
China's and India's economic engines  
as fast as you could say:  
"Show me the money!"  
the clouds kept belching out  
of the developing world's smokestacks,  
but they said: "Well, you've had it good all these years,  
now it is our turn!" and  
they sat on their hands.    

Hippies and greenies we were labelled with 
barely disguised contempt for trying to stop "growth".  
Growth was their god and they worshipped it at  
every opportunity.  
They did not look to Nature and the cycle of the seasons.  
They did not see that growth goes hand in hand with decay,  
that it is a surging and a falling away
like the tides, like the moon, like the harvest.  
"Growth at all costs," they cried and  
they sat on their hands.    

And then the hurricanes grew more intense  
and they went further north to wreak havoc  
on the financial powerhouse of New York,  
and the cyclones drove out of the tropical Pacific  
and reached further into the southern ocean  
and the flooding grew more frequent  
and heavier than in times past  
and the big insurance giants began to shuffle uncomfortably  
while they still sat on their hands.    

And then the moguls and the newspapers  
began to grow a little wary that the damn climate  
wasn't behaving itself and costing them production  
and their wallets were responding though they had not been  
and they said to the scientists: "We still don't believe you  
that we are affecting the climate,  
but just in case you are right,  
can you keep the rise within 2 degrees Celsius  
and buy us a little time?" and then they went back to  
sitting on their hands.    

And the scientists organised conferences  
and talked a great deal about the problem  
and the media wrote articles about it  
and had television debates,  
but no one in power wanted to get off their hands  
and so, as the years went by,  
they still sat steadfastly and resolutely on their hands. 

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