Climate change of thrones

Planet Earth sits in the doctor’s office nursing a high temperature. “You’re very sick,” says the doctor.

“I feel fine,” says Planet Earth. A hacking cough follows. “Okay, I admit I’m a bit under the weather. I’m working on it. Changing light bulbs and stuff. It will sort itself out.”

The doctor studies her notes on the computer screen. “No, it won’t sort itself out. The tests are all saying the same thing. You have the worst carbon problem I have ever seen.”

“Don’t panic, Doc. I’m definitely aiming for a low carbon future. I just need to make sure it’s a smooth transition.”

She shakes her head. “You no longer have time for a smooth transition.”

Planet Earth coughs again. “It’s under control. I just have to set a credible long-term emissions reduction target.”

The doctor sighs. “That’s a long-winded way of saying you’re doing not much at all. Where did those words come from?”

Planet Earth says, “Got it from one of my governments’ websites. New Zealand, I think.”

“And what is New Zealand doing to reduce their carbon footprint? Are they showing political leadership or are they mostly leaving it to individuals?”

Planet Earth shrugs. “They have some nice roads. And a pretty flag.”

“That’s the problem right there,” says the doctor. “More talk and no action. When I meet patients who are on the brink of a heart attack I tell them they need to change their lifestyle today, not next year.”

Planet Earth leans over and starts scratching a leg. “Blasted rash.” The doctor peers in for closer look. “And now you’ve got another case of activism. Look at them, protestors climbing all over your parliament buildings. Not surprising, the way you’ve been carrying on as though the problem doesn’t exist.”

“The protestors are no bother. I just brush them off. It’s easy enough when they’re breaking the law.” Planet Earth spits into a tissue.

The doctor is silent for a moment. “Do you watch Game of Thrones?” she asks.

“One of the most popular shows on Earth,” says the Earth.

The doctor says, “A political scientist called Charli Carpenter once suggested that Game of Thrones can be seen as an allegory for climate change. In Game of Thrones there’s that army of zombies, the White Walkers, gathering strength in the north. They represent the impending climate disaster that no one takes seriously because everyone else is too busy with their politics.”

Planet Earth shrugs. “I like Game of Thrones. The little guy is funny.”

“You’re still not taking this seriously. What do people do when there’s a massive storm coming? Every decision revolves around limiting the impact of that impending storm. This carbon crisis you’ve got should be no different. Why are you so complacent? Climate change should be woven into every facet of decision-making at the highest levels.”

“I told you, I’m working on it.”

“Vague references to carbon reduction targets are not enough. Look, I don’t run a country. I can’t fully appreciate the tensions that governments of the world grapple with to keep their economies afloat.”

The doctor sits back in her chair. “But I am looking at a beautiful planet that is rapidly killing itself. Climate change should warrant more priority, don’t you think?”


First published in Bay of Plenty Times 3 July 2015. Reproduced with permission.