Monday 19 August 2013

There be Dragons!

Everybody loves a bogeyman. In the face of a good old yarn about fire-breathing monsters tearing up the earth, eating whole villages alive and leaving behind the stench of brimstone, logic has no hearing. We’d rather thrill to tales of an evil Frankenstein who can create dangerous life from spare parts, than address the likely-impossibility of the science. In the past humans have been led to perform blood sacrifice on an industrial scale to assuage the dread caused by unappeasable forces of nature.

The ability of the human imagination to conjure up fear is so powerful that the shaman who stokes the fires can tinker with a crude fundamental unease to dream up ever more outlandish versions of the threat – add glowing eyes here, a touch of acid there. Invent an earth-shattering narrative and bingo, wait for the tributes roll in. In fact, draw up a detailed enough myth and you can make a living from it for ever more; ask the Vatican.

It seems that, even in the twenty-first century, we are no more able to overcome our irrational instincts than were our forebears and while we may not, beyond the age of ten, believe in demons and dragons any more, some of us are all too ready to invest our ancestral fear-seeking in other fripperies. Billions are spent in holding back the waves of time as the age and beauty industry peddles its outlandish claims. And it appears we’d rather accept a constructed conspiracy theory based on an unlikely series of sinister events than the much simpler explanation that the driver was a bit drunk; he crashed, she died.

But not everybody is that stupid. Oh no. For those who care not for their appearance and hold no reverence for the memory of princesses spurned; for those who see through the mountebankery of the eternal-youth racket there are bigger fish to fry; at least there would be had they not seen through the blatant lies of the protein production industry and turned to veganism instead. For them, the big evil is oil and money, money and oil. The two go hand in hand and the modern-day crusader knows that where there is money, there is evil. They’ve never forgotten the Sheriff of Nottingham

The pragmatic approach to the extraction of oil and gas recognises that we have been digging, drilling and demolishing for centuries to extract the materials we want. Mountains have been flattened or cut in half to bring roads and rail and waterways have been diverted to create canals and reservoirs. Whole settlements have been abandoned – but more often because the resource has run out or become too difficult to extract than because of the adverse effects of the industry. But that’s too prosaic for the fracking protesters.

Suddenly, in an age of unprecedented wealth due largely to the harnessing of cheap energy, we have to flagellate ourselves in penance as a new religion comes of age. After fifty years of myth and legend they claim the perverse narrative that doing the thing that has brought all the benefits of progress is a palpable evil as dread as any dragon, as powerful as any volcano. Whipped into froth by their own high priestesses they will brook no argument. Feed Gaia or die in her vengeful flames, they believe.

Right on, sistah! 

The Anti-Gas movement is no less an industry than gas itself, with its own lies and legends. There is even some credible suspicion that its furtherance is funded by the inefficient and unsustainable-without-subsidy wind power industry. What is certain is that the convinced anti-fracker is a believer and not a critical observer, quick to deny others the known benefits of cheap energy in support of an unproven ideology. I do hope they don’t hypocritically employ the fruits of the industry they so fervently oppose. But, of course, pointing that out would spoil a good story.

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