Many, many years ago, when the Old man was a young boy, he had nice teeth. Like most children, though, there were occasional problems. Being the time when dentistry on the NHS was a primitive matter, with dentists being paid for each extraction, my experience was often unpleasant.
People often told me that I had to look after my teeth, to brush regularly and avoid too much sugar, such as sweets and fizzy drinks. Did I listen? Not wanting to think about my teeth, so loong as they didn’t bother me, I wouldn’t bother with them.
Then, when I was a bit older, I started having a few more problems with them. The advice then was to quit smoking, reduce the sugar, brush regularly, see a hygienist. Some things I did, some I didn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to avoid the problems waiting around the corner, it was more that they were, well, rather distant. They didn’t mean lot at the time; certainly not enough to cause me to take the proper measures to ensure a trouble-free tooth future.
So guess what happened.
In the past year, I have had eleven or twelve (it’s all a bit numb and hazy) extractions, of teeth which were causing agony for months, and were irretrievably rotten. It was like all the discomfort I had been avoiding came all at once, with a bit extra added on for good measure. Not only was is painful, it was depressing.
Now, the old man is the rather self-conscious owner of a new half-set of beautifully and carefully constructed new teeth. Except, of course, they aren’t my teeth (I suppose they will be when I’ve paid for them). This means I can’t feel or taste food in the same way as I am used to. I have a slight alteration in my voice (I am sure this will go away eventually). I don’t feel especially good about myself, right now, but I’m sure that will go away eventually, too.
So here we are, reaching the end of a year in which the prospects for the environment and for human society arising from projected changes in the future climate are fairly clearly defined and pretty well accepted by the people who make the noises. We are being warned, quite clearly, that our consumption patterns, our habits, our self-indulgences, are leading us to a rocky future. We are also being told that, if we are able to make some rapid, if slightly inconvenient changes to the way we do things, we could well avoid the worst of the problems.
This year, the Old man paid the price for not listening to good advice, because, well, because he didn’t really want to think about it. In this case, the only suffering caused was to me, so it’s not a huge deal. You might want to consider the situation with climate change as a sort of universal warning from the global dentist; get your acts together, or pay the price down the line. Sadly, as far as I know, we can’t replace the lost species of plant and animal with a new, artificial set (of course, this is what Philip K. Dick does, in ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?‘ Likewise, we don’t yet have the technology to provide us with replacements of any kind. So the price will probably be a bit higher than I had to pay, both in terms of suffering and in cash, relatively speaking.
It seems to me that, if I had been a bit more mature, a bit more sensible, about looking after my teeth twenty years ago, I could have avoided some of this year’s unpleasantness. I suppose this is what we need now with climate change, a more mature, sensible, realistic attitude to the advice we are being given. Because, like my teeth, the problems won’t go away, they’ll just build to a crisis.
Have a good weekend.