Last Thursday, 3 September, marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities that began World War 2. SBS showed a brilliant documentary outlining the series of events of that horrible day in 1939 when Great Britain declared war on Germany.
The documentary, called Outbreak, detailed events as they unfolded hour by hour. As the viewer was taken through the day and shown (colour) footage, you could imagine the sense of anxiety that people felt as their worst fears were being realised. You could almost feel it.
Many in the environmental movement refer to World War 2 when they talk about the need to be on a war footing in our fight against what our Australian Prime Minister has himself called the great moral challenge of our time. They refer to the fact that, in the early years of the war, defence spending accounted for 33% of total Government outlays, and this increased to 70% by 1942.
If we could respond to such an emergency with such speed 70 years ago, there is no reason why we cannot do it again. Such an impending disaster as climate change will deliver demands nothing less than a response the likes of which we have not seen since that terrible war.
The issue is though, do we see the urgency? On 3 September 1939 there was no denying the danger that Europe was facing. Climate change though is a much slower mover than war and so we in the West don’t see the urgency just yet. However, if you live in parts of Africa, where you are already seeing the effects of a changing climate, you will be filled with not only a sense of urgency but quite probably a strong sense of despair and anger as you realise you are not only powerless to make real change, but that you also see the nations who really can do something about it continuing along their merry way as if there was no problem. It really does seem like we in the west are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
As we remember the mood of fear and anxiety that prevailed on 3 September 1939, let’s also remember how quickly we were able to respond and, with that in mind, continue to work tirelessly to convince our leaders that the changes to our climate are our moral responsibility in these times. We owe it to our sisters and brothers around the world, we owe it to our children, and we owe it to the good Earth that God created.