Surviving a threat has a way of focussing the mind. For the past few days, the question of priorities has been uppermost. What is important, what is not needed? What and who do I care enough about to invest time in, having been made aware that time is the defining resource limitation?

The heart attack has served to remind me of what might be considered my core philosophy, the essential, buck-stops-here points. Which, at the same time, serves to remind why I thought, a year or so back, that pursuing the questions posed by climate change, and switching occupations, were worthwhile.

Being enagaged in an enforced idleness at home, sat on a day bed contemplating the options of computer chess or daytime TV, I am reminded that, for me, the meaning of being, the purpose of existence, is tied intimately and inexorably to the well-being and happiness of others (you, if you like). A person’s life in and of itself, self-contained and complete (all false imaginings, I promise you), is a very little thing, of small significance. What makes a life big, what makes it full, what gives it meaning and value, is the manner and extent of its interactions with other people.

And here is the connection with climate change and the current state of discussions. Notwithstanding the few who insist otherwise, by and large we are aware that there is a sickness, a malaise, a problem with our world (our home). Whilst one or two will dispute the causes, of more concern is the disagreement over the solutions; how should we treat the patient?

I suspect that it is going to be difficult to decide the best treatments, though, unless we first establish the priorities for governments and industry. Beyond that, we need to establish the priorities for communities and social groups; beyond that, the priorities for families and micro-communities. Which also means establishing our own, individual priorities.

I have established, to my own satisfaction, my list of priorities for a happy and fulfilling life. It goes: People (here and now and present); people future; place/world (environment)[home] and all that it contains; the Future; the rest.

Here is an arrogant suggestion, then. Let’s try this as a template for good decision making about climate change, about adaptation and mitigation, about policy, ,investment and cost.

First priority goes to the problems which need dealing with now; Darfur, Timor, Zimbabwe, poverty, unnecessary death, AIDS, water, food…

Then there are the problems which need dealing with to secure the future for people; food, water, medicine, peace, justice, liberty…

The next priority are the problems which, if they have not already had to be addressed because of the above, relate to the environment, the world, etc; conservation, preservation, protection from exploitation, biodiversity… (though, not unsurprisingly, many of the problems of the first two sets of priorities also involve an attitude to the third set).

The next priority is to resolve the potential longer-term problems; sea levels, water supply, agriculture, resource exploitation…

And, finally, we can invest time, effort and money into to dealing with the other shit.

This set of priorities should be usable to guide us to making first decisions about where effort is needed and how important it should be compared to other issues.

More on that, later.