Peter Rhodes on middle-class drug abusers, a biblical life-span and good news as the glaciers melt
Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.
MY oldest brother is 70 today. I have a septuagenarian sibling. I'm surprised how old that makes me feel.
SEVENTY is the life span we can expect, according to the Bible. The old couplet "Three score years and ten / Is man's allotted span" derives from the 90th Psalm. And if that seems a bit short, the psalm goes on to suggest that, if you're fit and healthy, you might see 80. Yet this psalm was probably written around 2,500 years ago when, assuming you survived infancy, you might expect to live until your mid-50s. Why, in those grim, disease-ravaged and famine-ridden times, the psalmist suggested a span of 70 or 80 is a mystery. Maybe musicians are naturally optimistic.
NEARLY 4,500 people died from drug abuse last year, the highest figure since records began. Many are the pitiful, rough-sleeping no-hopers we see on our city streets. They may rob, steal, beg and prostitute themselves but you have to have some sympathy for these wretches who have tumbled through the tattered safety net of a generally uncaring society. But a growing number of deaths involve educated, well-heeled, middle-class professionals. They know the risks. They are fully aware, too, that at every stage in its journey from Colombia to their smart living rooms, cocaine is steeped in misery, murder and the unspeakable exploitation of children. According to Scotland Yard, many knife deaths in the capital involve drug gangs supplying cocaine to middle-class parties. The selfishness, hypocrisy and stupidity of some people who ought to know better is beyond belief.
THERE are two rarely-challenged beliefs of our time. Firstly, Donald Trump is a dope. Secondly, climate change, no matter how or where it strikes, is an unmitigated disaster. There was certainly much gloom in the air in Iceland a few days ago when locals sorrowfully unveiled a plaque to the island's first glacier to be lost to global warming.
BUT there are two ways of looking at glaciers. The first is that they are magnificent, ethereal, spiritual things, to be admired, climbed and recorded in a million selfies. The second is that glaciers are a waste of good land. When a glacier melts, it exposes soil simply bursting with ancient nutrients and offers all sorts of possibilities from forestry to farming, from tourism to mining. Only three years ago, when climate-Armageddon was not as fashionable as it is now, the Guardian ran an upbeat feature headlined: "Greenland: the country set to cash in on climate change." In 2009 the BBC reported: "For Greenlanders . . . the long-term prospect of being able to 'grow their own', from tomatoes to timber, is little short of intoxicating."
INTOXICATING? I bet. Greenland is covered in glaciers. Who knows how many trillions of dollars' worth of raw materials and opportunities may soon see the sun for the first time in tens of thousands of years? Donald Trump reportedly wants to buy Greenland. The world guffaws. But maybe he's not such a dope, after all.