Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

On Good Friday 1613, John Donne found the direction of his journey on horseback in conflict with the duty of his soul. In his poem 'Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward', Donne writes that 'I am carried towards the West/ This day, when my soul's form bends to the East' (where the sun/Son will rise, and where Jesus was crucified). He says, though, that he prefers to face the other way, to avoid 'That spectacle of too much weight for me': it would be unbearable to see 'The seat of all our souls . . .Madedirtofdust'.Heimagnes his back, as he rides, being regarded by Christ, turned towards Him to receive punishment. This allows Jesus to 'Burn off my rust, and my deformity'. This done, 'Thou may'st know me, and I'll turn my face'. Did Donne literally make such a journey, or is that too post-Romantic a way of looking at his poem? I don't know, but I have just bought a new horse, so I shall ride westwards on Good Friday 2006, and think about it.

What a relief that at last there are lots of reports and articles in newspapers resisting the global warming scare. Like most people in this debate, I do not know what I am talking about, but I can tell that the climatechange alarmists are wrong by the character of their argument. They jump from 'Climate change is happening' to 'It is caused by man' to 'Climate change must be bad' to 'The planet is under threat' to 'Governments can and must solve it'. This is not reasoning: it is End Time talk -- the cry of woe, the denunciation of human wickedness, the approach of judgment, the call to repentance. When we hear the explicitly religious equivalent from the First Church of Jesus Christ Superstar in Eureka, Missouri, we all sneer, but when we hear it from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the government's chief scientific adviser we are expected to nod our heads in shocked agreement. It is very similar to the debates that used to rage about nuclear weapons. In the early 1980s, as the West tried to renew its nuclear arsenals to counter Soviet build-up, there was lots of talk about how the world would soon be destroyed. E.P. Thompson led the charge; women gathered at Greenham Common; Martin Amis wrote that he looked at his children and felt sick. Conveniently, science produced ever more alarming theories.

One said that a 'nuclear winter' would be caused by atomic warfare, making us all die of dark and cold as well as radiation. Denis Healey, a pro-Bomb politician in what had just become a unilateralist Labour party, seized on nuclear winter as his excuse for turning from hawk to dove. Once Reagan, Thatcher and Kohl had faced all this down and sited the necessary missiles, the apocalyptic talk mysteriously vanished, Martin Amis presumably stopped feeling sick, and we won the Cold War. The funny thing is that, in our present age of proliferation, Islamism and I.Q. Khan, there is actually far more danger of nuclear attack than there was 25 years ago.

But the apocalyptic caravan has moved on, so few people notice. Something similar will happen with the environment. People will gradually realise that the theory of climate catastrophe is drivel, and so, disillusioned, will pay inadequate attention to all the genuine environmental problems in the world -- clean water, desertification, the spread of ugliness.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn has recorded that when he was a prisoner in the Gulag he and his fellow inmates were wildly excited one day when Herbert Morrison, then a Labour minister, wrote an apparently uncensored article in Pravda. …

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