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It is the fire right now, not the fire next time

By Kole Omotoso
12 January 2020   |   3:48 am
In his essay The Fire Next Time James Baldwin quotes from a poem or wise saying: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign\No more water\The fire next time”.

In his essay The Fire Next Time James Baldwin quotes from a poem or wise saying: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign\No more water\The fire next time”. This essay was proclaimed in 1963 and deals with the progress of black liberation on the centenary of Abraham Lincoln’s declaration concerning black liberation. It is a good thing to borrow Baldwin’s idea to raise the matter of climate change. The commonest definition of climate change is as follows: “a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.” Scientists have determined that unless we change our ways of producing energy we would burn the earth and ourselves with it.

Over the years climate change advocates have preached the message of climate change. They have produced convincing evidence that the earth is getting warmer, that the ice in both the north and south of the earth is melting. As a consequence, water level in the oceans are rising. As a result low lying areas of the earth and the islands will be reclaimed by water.

As a result of this consequence some island nations have started experimenting with living inside water. The most spectacular outcome is learning to write while holding meetings inside oceans. There are those who believe the gospel of climate change and those who do not believe in climate change. The believers are doing things to replace fossil fuel like coal, petrol, fire wood burning with renewable energy source like the sun, winds and even ocean currents. Cars are being produced that use electricity. Countries which are doing things to replace fossil fuel are putting dates to the end of fossil fuel production.

The countries of the world are now divided into Believers and Non-Believers in climate change.

Politicians for a long time simply ignored the climate change advocates. The more they were ignored the more strident their advocacy became. Today climate protest is becoming as popular as protest for bread and butter matters as well as for greater and better democracy. Climate change advocates are lying in the streets of London, stopping traffic and asking for the immediate prioritizing climate change policies NOW!
Right now millions of square miles of forest are burning beyond control in California, in Brazil and in Australia. Large forest areas, houses and factories are burning. People are seeing what they have spent a life time acquiring burn in front of their eyes. Some have been burnt trying valiantly to save their belongings.
Others have accepted government rescue plans to forget their life savings and sail away to new beginnings.

Still others blame governments for not doing enough to help their situations. The prime minister of Australia was recalled from his holiday in Hawaii to come and put out the fire whether or not he believed in its cause.
Climate Advocates believe that these uncontrollable fires are caused by climate change. Unless something is done to reduce fossil fuel use the earth will burn along with us earthlings.

As the forests burn forest dwelling animals as well as domestic animals are burning too. Imagine the number of species great and small that are being lost as our earth burns.

What is our own in all these happenings in far away places like Australia, Brazil and California? Do we know that uncontrollable fires are burning in the most advanced countries of the world? Are we aware that the oceans are overtaking low lying and islands of the world? If we do not know, if we are not aware, the earth does not care. The effects of our actions in continuing to use fossil fuel will consume us. As one poster says at a climate change demonstration: WE NEED THE EARTH, THE EARTH DOES NT NEED US. So, what’s our own in all these?

As usual we enjoy the negative advantages of under-development. We do not consume as much fossil fuel as the developed world. We are burning our bushes to cook and warm our bodies in the cold. And when the changes come, like in the case of the cell telephone, we will throw away our under-developed land telephone system and join the developed world in the use of the cell phone. The question that we as fellow earthlings must ask ourselves is whether or not it would be as easy as the cell phone to move to non-fossil fuel consumption. In the first place the cell phone system did not need the infrastructure of the land telecom system. Its infrastructure was built as it was being introduced to the world. With fossil fuel change to renewable sources of energy, the electricity existing infrastructure will be needed. Where as a result of under-development we do not have the infrastructure of electricity how do we convert present petrol dispensing stations to dispensing electricity to electric vehicles of tomorrow? Imagine the cost of replacing our present roofs with solar panels across Nigeria? This at a time when to transform from thatch roof to zinc roofs is a matter of pride and joy. A huge hospital of many many buildings in Johannesburg has solar panels roofing every one of the buildings. This means that 90% of its electricity need is provided by the every day sunlight.

We need to wake up and smell the coffee! The next set of earth shattering changes are going to pass us by. Like the Christian song about keeping up with Jesus, changes consequent on climate change are to be ready for and prepared for. We need to prepare for the fires when they come to us. If the most developed countries cannot control these fires, how are we going to control them. Please do not talk to me about fighting these fires with prayers. If prayers could do it, the United States of America, Australia and Brazil would have tried prayers. The best we can wish for is our own hard work along with prayers. On our knees speaks to our defeat, not fighting our deprivations.

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