This is how it works

There is a drinking game we used to play, in tan-bricked pubs with washable floors and on coffee tables piled with ashtrays and takeaway containers. You pull a paper napkin tight across the top of a glass, balance a small coin on it, and take turns to burn holes in the paper with a cigarette. If the coin falls through on your turn, you lose.

Peering into the vortex of world events streaming through the internet, that’s what it feels like we are doing now on a much bigger scale, singeing safety nets one after the other, eating away at the surface we exist on until gravity has enough, resolute in the delusion that it will be someone else that takes the fall. At the same time, we are close to solving more and more problems – it’s our species USP, after all, if you can draw a veil over how many of them we have caused in the first place – but something is still very clearly wrong when anyone on the planet who isn’t an eight-year-old can suggest that a robot army is a good idea.

Having all the necessary knowledge acquired through history on dealing with epidemics (rule one is ‘close your borders’) and having ignored it anyway, we seem to be stuck in a weird mixed economy of forbidding huge tracts of everyday – often instinctive – human behaviors, and carrying right along with things that we already knew were probably a bad idea. Cognitive dissonance, but for entire nations; a whole species.

A few miles from here, the local authority just green-lit yet another logistics centre. Yes, it was a shame about the Roman site, but some archeologists could probably have a couple of weeks to dig through it before the concrete slabs were poured. Bit of a pity about the biodiversity and habitat loss which would definitely happen, but the developer would give money that would make other biodiversity (magically?) appear somewhere else, so that would be fine. Or even if it wasn’t, the priority was the economic benefit to the area ( a couple of hundred low-skill, low-pay dead end warehouse jobs and a few IT and manager roles, that might even survive the looming recession).