Where’s Captain Sheridan when you need him?

I’m sure 99% of readers are thinking “Who the heck is Captain Sheridan?” If you’re not a fan of the best science fiction series ever, by which I mean J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, then I guess it’s a fair question.

For many years, Captain Sheridan was the hard-nosed, no-nonsense Commander of the Spaceship after which the series was named.

Babylon 5 wasn’t small. It was 8kms. long and housed some 250,000 humans and aliens. Its purpose was to “prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully.” It was essentially a self-sustaining mini-planet, divided into sectors for habitation, commerce, recreation, engineering, and the fusion reactor which kept everything running and everyone alive.

In deep space, in a neutral area, it was essential that law and order be maintained. But, humans being humans, and aliens being aliens, it was inevitable that from time-to-time, on-board peace would be threatened, or the micro-environment in which they all lived would be affected by the desires of some individual or minority.

From 2259 to 2261 it was Captain Sheridan’s job to ensure that no one could do anything to endanger the ship, nor do anything to threaten the peaceful existence of all those on board. He executed his duties democratically, but forcibly when necessary.

So what?

Well, if you think about it, there is minimal difference between Babylon 5 and Planet Earth. Both are positioned somewhere in space, nowhere near any other life forms of which we are aware. Both have limited resources, and a population consisting of many races with many different ideals and religions. In both places people are born, they live and they die. At times, both are threatened by extremists whose self-interests threaten all.

And at times such as the present, one of those places is threatened by the apparent indifference of its population towards the long-term survivability of all those “on board.” Yes, I mean Planet Earth, and all of us who are using up renewable resources faster than they can be re-created, and using non-renewable resources at an accelerating rate. We are polluting the environment with non-degradable commodities made of plastic, and we are pumping gases into the atmosphere at such a rate that global warming now seems irreversible.

Not too long ago, it was hoped to stop the temperature of the Earth rising by more than 2°C. Even that would result in massive climate and lifestyle changes for a majority of us Earthlings. But now, it is generally accepted that limiting the rise to two degrees is no longer a viable goal.

And instead of doing something concrete to limit the disaster, governments send their highly paid Ministers to exotic places such as Kyoto, Montréal and Durban, where – once they’ve managed to tear themselves away from the cocktail parties – they hash out things called Protocols. What a farce. These things only become binding to a particular country when and if it chooses to sign the Protocol. There’s absolutely no mechanism to punish a country which doesn’t abide by, or removes itself from a Protocol. And so far, major polluting third-world countries like China are exempt.

Invitation to Cocktails

Oh, but maybe I’m being overly cynical. The recent climate conference in Durban, S.Africa was hailed as a great success. Well, at least by those who went to the cocktail parties. So, what did they achieve?

The conference agreed to a legally-binding deal comprising all countries.

Wow! Okay, good start. What is this deal? Ahh, well, errrm, this is a work-in-progress, and we won’t know the answer until 2015. Excuse my French, but WTF!

So, we can all go on using our 600 billion plastic bags a day, and continue pumping CO2 into the upper atmosphere for three more years, but everything will be fine from then on? NOT! When the cocktail drinkers have finally decided what rules to put into their shiny new Climate Agreement, it won’t become binding until 2020. Now there’s vision for you!

Not surprisingly, scientists and environmental groups have warned that the “deal” was not sufficient to avoid global warming beyond 2°C and that more urgent action is needed.

But what action? Who, on Planet Earth is running the show? Why isn’t the United Nations getting tough? It was their climate conference … didn’t they expect results?

Real or cardboard?

Whatever happened to the Secretary General? He seems to be almost completely invisible, even during the current tragic events in Syria. To handle that, his predecessor stepped in. It’s almost as if someone in the General Assembly shouted “Ban Ki-moon” … so they did.

If you do see him at a conference he’s indistinguishable from a cardboard cutout. Surely, he has to be the most useless Secretary General ever, and being older than the U.N., I can pretty-much remember them all. He needs to be replaced as rapidly as protocol allows, and with someone who will take charge of the planet to prevent its destruction.

The only good news in all of this, is that us habitants of Planet Earth seem to be somewhat smarter than the cocktail drinkers, and are starting to make lifestyle changes on our own. The changes are not dramatic, in fact almost imperceptible, but it’s a beginning. For instance, the Japanese are starting to raise the chances of survivability in their own country by reducing the birth rate to the point where the population is shrinking. The economists don’t like it, but surely it’s better to be alive and poor, than rich and drowned by rising sea levels? Young people in America are no longer buying cars. Sales to the under-25s have fallen dramatically.

Here in Malaysia people are using less plastic bags. Don’t laugh. Things like charging for bags, such as in Penang, and having plastic-free Saturdays like Selangor, do make a difference. If nothing else, it makes us think.

But, we have to be realistic. All this really tells us is that, by and large, we all understand the need for major lifestyle changes, and even though some of us oldies will kick and scream, we’ll go along with the deal. But who … which one of us … on this overpopulated planet of ours, is going to be the one to stand up and say “Enough”? “You will change, starting NOW.” I don’t see that that person stepping forward…

Which is why I ask “Where’s Captain Sheridan when you need him?”


...has been travelling the world for more than sixty years; having lived and worked in five countries and travelled to many many more.

He likes to write about his travels - present and past - along with his other main interests of Drones, Information Technology and Motorsport, and he adds a few general twitterings along the way.

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