Saturday, 1 January 2011

Deep Freeze Alert

In the last few years, a pair of frogs had chosen the pond behind our house as their annual breeding ground. But there’s not going to be any happy new year for them in 2011. Last December, the pair went into the pond, assuming perhaps they would once again secure their favourite location ahead of spring’s arrival. Unfortunately, with their insensitivity to gradual changes in temperature, the two frogs stayed put in the water as it cooled degree by degree, until they were literally frozen to death.

Are we going to be any better at spotting and dealing with imminent danger? As the civic temperature continues to fall around us, why do the majority of people still look on passively, seemingly unaware that the collective infrastructure, which has taken decades to build up to protect us, is now at risk of disintegration?

Every gauge of the conditions for public wellbeing is showing an alarming drop. Job security is plummeting; the safety net for the vulnerable is lowered and made less effective in cushioning those in freefall; privatized utilities (from energy to railways) deliver less value for much higher charges; all public funding for university teaching (except for a small minority of science subjects) has vanished; the provision of not-for-profit health service is not keeping pace with growing demands; and people seeking to redress unjust treatment are increasingly left to their own impoverished devices.

Perhaps some people don’t yet connect the signs of deterioration with a sense of personal peril. They see and hear about radical changes in the abstract, but think that they would somehow escape unscathed. Others may recognise the threat against them and their communities, but are numbed by the assumption that there is nothing they could do about any of it. What is certain, however, is that if we remain adrift in a state of inaction, life for those of us outside the privileged realm of the corporate elite is going to get very bad indeed.

So while we still have the chance, let’s make this our collective resolution for 2011. We are not to let fear or apathy overwhelm us. Spread the word, sound the alarm, and unite in defence of our common good. It’s time we raise the temperature.

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