You might have the impression that I wasn’t worried about the fate of Planet Earth, because I had my nose in a book. That impression would be erroneous. I was scared for our planet. I lived in abject terror that at any moment, Life As We Knew It would explode, and anything left alive would wither and melt in clouds of radioactive poison. It was the Cold War, and teenagers like me wondered when those heartless, power-hungry fingers would press those shiny red buttons of destruction.
Dr. Helen Caldicott galvanized our collective fear for us in the short film If You Love This Planet. The film included footage from the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nothing was left to the imagination. Melting skin, body parts fused together, gaping facial holes, piles of discoloured bodies. Caldicott neatly encapsulated the political climate of the day, and we understood that it was “three minutes to midnight”, and we were on the Eve of Destruction.
I don’t remember when I stopped being afraid of nuclear war. Caught up in the tender, youthful years of hope and optimism, I planted trees, attended university, played guitar. I got married, had children. Many years of busy naiveté followed. The earth would continue to spin around the sun, flowers blossom in fertile green fields, and birds would twitter merrily, winging their way across blue blue skies. My daughters would frolic in the bosom of nature, examine caterpillars, eat grass, get stung by an ant or a wasp. And they would never own a Bug Catcher. We would examine insects in their natural habitat, respecting the life force in everything.
A pleasant hiatus of ignorance, which came to an abrupt and permanent halt with the publication of An Inconvenient Truth.