Man on a train

Source: "The Man in Seat Sixty-One . . ."

I was on an early train on Friday. Normally I try to work, or doze; occasionally it is nice to fall into conversation with fellow passengers. There’s something about trains that seems conducive to such behaviour.

About an hour from my destination a man sat down at my table, and I could tell from our initial acknowledgement that he was ‘a talker’. I was already prepared for my meeting, so when he said something I looked up, inviting more.

We talked about families, jobs and unemployment (he was a union rep.); debt – Greece, Ireland, the UK and the USA; politics, conflict and nationalism. He said he was a socialist, but as we talked about welfare, job creation and profit, we agreed more than we disagreed. Socialism was his badge and tradition but his thoughts and beliefs were his own and I thought if there are more like him, perhaps there is hope.

Then he said “Look what we’re doing to the planet…” Uh oh, I thought.

Catastrophic global warming, melting ice, polar bears… and Peak Oil. Oh dear.

Now a few years ago I might have ranted about how wrong all of this was, but I’ve learned a few things. You could say my scepticism has matured and the former zeal has mellowed.  I know now that sowing the seeds of healthy scepticism is not about providing information, or – as some would have it – ‘misinformation’. It is only necessary to encourage enquiring minds to ask questions.

So I asked about ice levels in Antarctica and polar bear populations. Then we talked about weather stations, heat in cities and how effects of city growth might be quantified and compensated for, if they are. I asked if he’d heard that climate might be cyclical. I said I used to buy the ‘catastrophe’ line and he asked what changed my mind. I refered back to an earlier part of our conversation and asked how he knew, when management said there was no money for pay rises and cutbacks were needed, that this was indeed the case and not just some line management was spinning that they wanted him to believe.

Open book” he said “we get to see the figures”.

I rest my case.

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