Not waving, drowning: Ten years of ThinkOrSwim

This evening, exactly ten years ago, I tentatively pressed the ‘Publish’ button on my brand new blog, and released the first ThinkOrSwim posting into the wild. Titled ‘Wind of change finally reaches Ireland?’ it foolishly opined that the new government was at last getting real about climate action, “after 10 ten years of inaction and rising emissions”.

Then Environment minister, John Gormley had just earmarked €15 million for a public awareness campaign on climate change (remember those?), which was due to kick off in early 2008. “There is a mountain of disinformation and ignorance (both wilful and genuine) out there to be scaled before this issue can be tackled in earnest”, was how the younger, ahem, greener me summed it up on that November evening 10 years ago.

Those dagnabbit climate targets that the IFA and friends insist now have the country banjaxed were then but a twinkle in Gormley’s eye: “New EU targets to cut emissions to at least 20 per cent below 1990 levels are to be discussed at a global conference on climate change attended by Gormley in Indonesia. Considering that Ireland is currently running at least 25 per cent over our 1990 levels, the changes needed in this country are going to be quite dramatic.”

Ha, bloody ha, wrote the older, grayer, infinitely more cynical me, just moments ago. That’s what 350-plus blog posting running to somewhere north of half a million words will do to a soul. I could list off any one of a score of apocalyptic prognostications that have come ever more sharply into view in the intervening decade, but this one example, as reported on Climate Central yesterday, will suffice.

Headlined ‘Monster heat wave reaches Greenland, bringing rain and melting its ice sheet’, the article confirmed that temperatures across much of Greenland were 54ºF higher than normal in late November. Yes, 54ºF. Translated into centigrade, that’s around 30ºC above normal, which means large areas of Greenland, in the depths of winter, are now well above the point at which ice turns into water.

If I’d even suggested 10 years ago that such a scenario could come to pass in such a short time frame, I’d have been decried as alarmist (ok, that has in fact happened a few times along the way since then). Then again, when this blog kicked off, the truly awful George W. Bush was still in office. Who would ever have predicted that Bush would by now have so spectacularly relinquished his title of ‘worst US president in a century’.

My own kids have turned from tots to teenagers in the same short time frame. My hopes and fears – ok, mostly fears – for their future were close to the top of the list of reasons I finally got off the fence and into the fight back in late 2007. The last 10 years have given me some of the very best and worst moments of my professional life.

Then innocent as a lamb, I truly had no idea just what a filthy scrap lay ahead, or how many people and institutions I would come to radically reassess as my journey into environmental journalism, communications and, later, activism progressed.

On the plus side, I have soldiered alongside some truly inspirational people, folk driven on the whole by a profound concern for the future, care for the wider natural world and dismay at our seeming inability to respond to the overwhelming imperative to act, and act now, that the science sets out so clearly.

Making their acquaintance and learning so much from them has been perhaps the richest and most rewarding part of this ongoing journey. In November 2027, assuming the grid and internet are still up and running, will an even greyer, even crabbier version of me be back here berating: “yet another 10 ten years of inaction and rising emissions”?

Let’s see.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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8 Responses to Not waving, drowning: Ten years of ThinkOrSwim

  1. Alan Moran says:

    Keep up the good work, John. It’s tough, no doubt, but your blog is where I get most information about climate change and Ireland’s part in it.

  2. Conor Kelly says:

    Thanks John. Keep up the good fight. This is a very important blog.

  3. Paula Downey says:

    I second Alan’s remark, John.

    I’ve no doubt there are many many readers who, like me, don’t comment but value the work and all the effort. Know that what you do matters.

    And… thank you.

  4. John Gibbons says:

    @Alan Many thanks for the feedback and glad you find this blog useful. JG

  5. John Gibbons says:

    @Conor Much appreciated! JG

  6. John Gibbons says:

    @Paula Cheers, that’s very nice of you to say. I’d be telling a lie if I said there weren’t times (OK, definitely more than once!) over the last 10 years when I felt like pulling the plug on ThinkOrSwim, walking away saying: ‘that’s it, I’ve done my bit and yet, it wasn’t anywhere near enough, but it’s the best I could manage’. Then I get over the self-pity (!), remember what’s at stake, and just try and get stuck back in, one more time. I’ve had a few moments, including one very recently, where I’ve found out I had an impact on someone sufficient to have perhaps nudged that individual from indifference into active environmentalism. I know one is not a lot, but it’s still something, and precious little nuggets like that keep me going where angels fear to tread!

  7. dave kiernan says:

    John, thank you very much for your blog posts.

    You are the only ‘environmentalist’ who is speaking the truth on the current Global environmental catastrophe caused by humans, too many of us.

  8. John Gibbons says:

    Thanks Dave. No question that human numbers are placing an intolerable strain on the world’s ecosystems and resources, but greed and overconsumption among the richest 1% of the population probably does as much damage as simple numbers. The world’s 8 richest people today control as many resources as the poorest 3.7 billion. Blaming the poor for destroying the world is, at best, only half the story. If we can – somehow – manage to both rein in human numbers and also reverse chronic inequality, we might well be on the road to avoiding catastrophe. There’s a couple of very big ‘ifs’ in there…

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