At this time of year I’ve often used this column to reflect on doom-laden prophesies about what to expect in the year ahead. After all, It’s that magnificent time when we can wallow in the short dark days and add to the gloom with blood-curdling predictions of disasters.
A couple of weeks ago, notwithstanding that we are still wrestling with our current pandemic, Dr Jenny Harries, the head of our UK Health Security Agency -what Stalinist mind thought up that nomenclature? – warned us that the next pandemic could be much worse.
Well, she could be right, but equally she could be spectacularly wrong: There is no scientific basis for her supposition. Whether her speculations were designed to be helpful, or simply to terrify us, is a matter for conjecture, but a number of people have been suggesting -from the outset- that our fears of the current pandemic were overblown. Personally, I was well ahead of Dr Harries: right at the start, I warned in the Commons that one day there may be a disease that will threaten our very survival; but that Covid certainly isn’t it – and that future generations will wonder at our collective acts of self-harm in our response to it.
For those of us who wallow in predictions of the dreadful prospects that the future holds, I recommend my favourite book of all time: The Coffee Table Book of Doom, which was published a few years ago by Art Lester and Steven Appleby. Here is a flavour from the advertising blurb:
“…with the apocalypse at hand, don’t fret about dying uninformed. The Coffee Table Book of Doom is a revelatory, brilliantly funny, superbly illustrated and erudite compendium of all the 27 doom-laden horsemen we need to worry about – personal doom, gender erosion, asteroid impact, pandemics, super storms, sexual ruin – and much more besides.”
I can’t speak for all 27 doom laden horsemen but surely we’ve had enough of pandemics and aren’t tired of the continued interference in our enterprises, personal choices, and our way of life from politicians who believe that they are best placed to make decisions on our behalf, rather that treating us as adults capable of assessing risks and acting sensibly?
Anyway, there is still plenty to worry about: there is a volcano under a lake near Naples rumbling away and if it blows it will make Vesuvius look like a camp fire. The lava lake under Yellowstone Park could go at any moment, taking most of the USA with it…but then the volcanic cloud it might darken the skies, cool the planet and save us from climate change. Alternatively, it might reduce harvests to the extent that we all starve….
Every generation since we were expelled from the Garden of Eden has speculated that it might be the last, but we’re still here.