The Blood Moon and the case for optimism.
As I write, in early October, the weather is noticeably cooler. There is ice in the evening wind. Great Thule from the north is stirring. The last of the swallows have fled south. The Robins now sing in the hedgerows, and the birds gather their caches for the coming winter.
Yet, in the sunlit moments, the weather is still warm. Crisp, but warm. And we have seen a rare occurrence in nature – the Blood Moon! (I caught a glimpse of it at half three in the morning and, if I were in the ancient world ruled by gods and priests, I might have thought that it portended something horrendous).
But the sad truth of it is that some people still do believe in such omens. The Daily Mail quotes a Christian pastor who believes that this Blood Moon (the last in a cycle known as a Tetrad), heralds significant change in the world. The implications are that not any of it is for the good either.
And yet, as I watch a Nuthatch raid a peanut feeder and fly off to cache its find in the bark of a pine tree on a sunny afternoon, or the Goldfinches squabble in their queue for the Niger seed (haven’t they had a good year?), I can’t help but think the doom merchants have called it wrong again.
In fact, even the BBC is coming round to my point of view. They had a recent survey on the site, put together by renowned statistician Hans Rosling. It asked seven questions and offered multi-choice answers. Questions posed were along the lines of: “What proportion of primary school aged girls are in education?” or “How many homes have electricity?”
I answered them as I thought best, and found that in many instances I was wrong. I was, in nearly all cases, too pessimistic in my worldview – which I found somewhat surprising. It seems that the world is doing better than I had thought. To me, this kills the narrative that ‘capitalism is evil’ that we have heard time and again over the last five years – for it does seem as if the quality of life, for the majority of people on the planet, is indeed improving. As a small businessman who runs my own landscape gardening company, that is a big relief.
Take the survey for yourself – but remember that my comments might have biased your answers: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34312879
But I am prepared for the counter-argument. With a Tetrad of lunar events ushering in a new era of global chaos, shares in tin foil hat manufacturers look like a good bet. With an El Nino year upon us, the usual predictions of dire climate events are beginning to appear in newspapers.
But even this is not so one-sided as it appears. The world has constantly changed its climate long before any human-looking being first emitted a methane discharge. And the truth is that it is not always a bad thing.
If we examine the Sahara’s history, for example, you might be surprised to discover that up until recently (in geological time), it was in fact a surprisingly fertile area that was home to nomadic hunter-gatherers. For reasons that aren’t yet clear (the favoured theory is that the earth’s orbit changed very slightly and altered the amount of solar energy in North Africa), this fertile area failed over the course of a millennia, and the human beings at the time were forced to migrate to the Nile delta, where they were amongst the first to build cities over four thousand years ago.
Writing, art, science, and religion followed as cultures learned to live in closer proximity than before. New ways of doing old things were discovered. Agriculture became more refined and more widely practised. In other areas of the ancient near east, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon became legend.
No species on earth is as adaptable as the human being. And as I sit in my office and watch the birds of Worcestershire store up their larders for the coming winter, I think someone needs to make the case for optimism in the world today. People are at their best when they are part of a positive movement, and not when they are cowed into a corner.