Last week I spent several days with my Roz Roams podcast co-host, Vic Phillipson, and his family in Kristiansand, Norway. Regular listeners to the podcast will have heard Vic talking on occasions about the Kanonmuseum where he works as a volunteer, and he took me up to see it as a possible venue for a speaking engagement (details of Norwegian speaking tour forthcoming once things are a bit more definite).
Natural pacifist though I am, I have to say that there was something pretty awe-inspiring about the sheer scale of the cannon. And the museum in the bunker beneath was equally fascinating – although I felt a little guilty about being so interested in a system that was, really, designed to kill people. I was impressed by the analogue computer they used to calculate the firing angle, and some ingeniously designed equipment designed for loading shells.
Vic told me just how swiftly the Germans were able to set up an extensive network of cannons and bunkers all along the Norwegian coast, a huge infrastructure conjured into existence by sheer force of will and the mobilisation of a massive workforce. Ignoring for now the not-so-nice objectives of this operation, it really is amazing what human beings can achieve when they put their minds to it.
This theme of massive human mobilisation tied in with a book I am reading at the moment: The Great Disruption: Why The Climate Crisis Will Bring On The End Of Shopping And The Birth Of A New World, by Paul Gilding. You can probably tell from the title that this is right up my street. In the book Paul Gilding draws a parallel between our response to climate change and our response to a war situation. Apparently the warning signs were there for some time before war was declared on Germany. The invasion of Poland was just the last straw. There was a huge shift in attitudes between the slowly-building awareness of a malevolent power in Europe, and an open state of war. Suddenly all the power of human innovation and creativity was unleashed to confront the enemy.
Paul Gilding believes that our response to environmental damage will – eventually – be equally dramatic. I haven’t finished the book yet, but it’s great stuff so far. Too optimistic? I don’t know. But it cheers me up immeasurably to believe that humans will eventually respond appropriately to the growing crisis, and that it won’t be too little, too late. It certainly makes it easier to get out of bed in the mornings, and to carry on fighting the good green fight. No cannons required.
I am now in the Canary Islands, on my way to see the start of the Atlantic Rowing Race on Sunday. I’m watching, NOT rowing! I was due to be on La Gomera by now, but had a bit of a planes-trains-automobiles day yesterday. All was going well – walk 15 mins to station in Utrecht (Netherlands), get train to Amsterdam, catch plane, change planes in Madrid, land in Tenerife, get bus to Los Cristianos to catch the ferry…. except that the bus arrived 5 minutes after the last ferry of the day had left at 7pm. So here I am, still in sunny Los Cristianos. I’ll head over to La Gomera later on today. Watch this space for the news on the crews!