At the height of the Falklands War in 1982, Elvis Costello penned the lyrics of the song Shipbuilding. The song reflected on the moral conflict that arose because the war saved some of the jobs in Britain’s fast declining shipyards. The song asks us to consider whether our need to create jobs is greater than the lives of those who are sent off to fight.
Two stories making headline news in Wales over the May Day weekend suggest that we face a similar moral choice today. The first was the First Minister’s pledge to protect jobs at the beleaguered Port Talbot steelworks (a cynic might point out that five days out from an election he would say that, wouldn’t he). Second was the occupation of Britain’s largest open cast coal mine near Merthyr by the Reclaim the Power group.
Reclaim the Power are campaigning to get the UK government to meet the climate targets that it has signed up to by leaving the remaining coal in the ground. In response to the protests Neil Brown, managing director of mine owner Miller Argent South Wales, said:
“It’s a local industry, it’s Welsh jobs, people don’t realise we support the steel industry and we support affordable generation.”
No doubt many of us would choose to put today’s jobs above a habitable environment in the future. But with recent data suggesting that climate change is accelerating, the likelihood is that anyone under 30 today will experience the destruction of our coastal towns and cities in their lifetimes. We might also consider that if sea level rise projections are correct, the Port Talbot steel works is going to be below the high tide level by 2050 anyway.
In reality we do not have a choice. We either change our way of life starting today, or nature will change our way of life for us… and we are not going to like the result if we leave it to nature.