"Earth Hour" or "The Emperor's New Clothes"

(Scroll past the story for the point.)

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, 'The King's in council,' here they always said. 'The Emperor's in his dressing room.'

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colours and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

'Those would be just the clothes for me,' thought the Emperor. 'If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away.'

He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest gold thread which they demanded went into their travelling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

'I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth,' the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbours were. 'I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers,' the Emperor decided. 'He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better.'

So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.
'Heaven help me,' he thought as his eyes flew wide open, 'I can't see anything at all'. But he did not say so. Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colours. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. 'Heaven have mercy,' he thought. 'Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth.' 'Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it,' said one of the weavers. 'Oh, it's beautiful - it's enchanting.' The old minister peered through his spectacles. 'Such a pattern, what colours! I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it.' 'We're pleased to hear that,' the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colours and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor.

And so he did.

The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever. The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything. 'Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?' the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern. 'I know I'm not stupid,' the man thought, 'so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though.' So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colours and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, 'It held me spellbound.'

All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials - the ones who had been to the weavers - he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms. 'Magnificent,' said the two officials already duped. 'Just look, Your Majesty, what colours! What a design!' They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff. 'What's this?' thought the Emperor. 'I can't see anything. This is terrible! 'Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people!' 'Oh! It's very pretty,' he said. 'It has my highest approval.' And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything. His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, 'Oh! It's very pretty,' and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. 'Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!' were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of 'Sir Weaver.'

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, 'Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him.' Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, 'These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle,' naming each garment. 'All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine.' 'Exactly,' all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see. 'If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off,' said the swindlers, 'we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror.' The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train'-'as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass. 'How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!' He heard on all sides, 'That pattern, so perfect! Those colours, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.'

Then the minister of public processions announced: 'Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside.' 'Well, I'm supposed to be ready,' the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. 'It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?' He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest. The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, 'Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!' Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

'But he hasn't got anything on,' a little child said.

'Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?' said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, 'He hasn't got anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on.'

'But he hasn't got anything on!' the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, 'This procession has got to go on.' So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.

I loved this story as a child because the thought of the embarrassment of the naked emperor made me laugh. I also had the Roald Dahl version in Rhyme Stew, which merely served to add to the hilarity. I haven't thought about this since childhood, and only now do I understand the allegorical nature of the story, of a lie propagated by those who would benefit from it, and which in many ways is blindingly obvious, although nobody is willing to say so for fear of ostracism or being labelled as stupid, so the charade continues.

I hope regular readers will forgive this quite uncharacteristic post. I try not to be too controversial on matters not directly related to faith but I make the exception here because I truly feel that it is right and proper for me, as a Christian, to call people to question the rightness of what is happening in the world as a result of the scaremongering surrounding the state of the planet.

There has been much hype in recent weeks about Earth Hour, which is an international event scheduled for tomorrow. It seems that we are all supposed to switch our lights and other electrics off for an hour in the evening in order to do our little bit to save the planet. Even if I were to accept the "problem" of global warming, I'm afraid that I would still struggle to see just how much of an impact a few bulbs being switched off for one hour out of one day each year would have. Still, in some strange way I suppose it gives people something to feel superior about, in the same way that some people berate others for doing something so heinous as to eat a tuna sandwich or a nice piece of cod, (yes, somebody did this to me, without first bothering to find out that I ensure that my fish comes from sustainable fisheries. 'I want my grandchildren to know what tuna tastes like', I was told). I don't know what it is about us human beings that makes us so enjoy a good game of moral one-upmanship, and beam with delight when we find some more ammunition to make ourselves feel self-satisfied at the expense of others, but I digress.

I occasionally read the weblog of Priest John Whiteford of the ROCOR Eastern American Diocese. Some of you will probably know him from his excellent website, which is a treasury of liturgical resources. I use it to compile our services week by week. Anyway, in December, a post appeared on this blog, containing a collection of Youtube videos showing Lord Christopher Monckton - a not uncontroversial character - expressing what to me sounded at first like quite ridiculous ideas about global warming, which were completely contradictory to the received wisdom. However, I was impressed by his clarity and animation so I stopped and listened to what he had to say, and watched all of the videos.

His general point was that the hype surrounding global warming is a scam. However, he was able to give some more specific examples. Among them:

  • It is indeed true that the polar ice caps decreased by 27% in 2007. However, they had increased by 24% by 2009.
  • There has been no global warming for approximately 15 years.
  • There has been slight global cooling for the past 9 years.
  • Some of the data in support of global warming are fabrications.
However, what caught my attention was this:
  • Because of all the ado about global warming, there has been a sudden increase in demand for biofuels and the redirection of the use of grain, which has led to a drastic increase in food prices. To those of us in wealthier countries, this may be an inconvenience, but to those in the world's poorest countries who cannot afford the higher food prices, it literally is the difference between life and death.
Now I should admit here that, until having seen these videos, I just accepted the "common knowledge" that global warming was a fact and didn't really pay much attention to the goings-on in the world. It was the stories of food riots, largely unreported in the western media, and people starving to death that made me take notice. It really touched my heart and I was ashamed of my previous indifference.

As for the other points, well we know about the fabrication of data because this hit the news headlines when it first came to light. On the other points, Lord Monckton says that we should not believe him but should go and check the facts for ourselves. So I did.

Satellite images have been taken of the polar sea ice cover since 1979. I compared the images for dates in 2007 to the same dates in 2009 and, surely enough, the ice cover had been restored in that time. Not only that but I compared various dates over the past 30 years and, lo and behold, such increasing and decreasing of the area and thickness of the sea ice cover appears to be perfectly normal. That's just what happens. The fuss about the depletion of the polar ice cover a couple of years ago seems to have been much ado about nothing.

At the time, I was also able to find independent websites with data and reports supporting everything that he said. I am sure I could do the same again if I were to go searching again. It all left me a little confused. Here are some of the videos. I urge you to watch them.

If it were just Lord Monckton saying this, some would perhaps dismiss the whole business as an eccentric gentleman making a bit of noise but some more googling revealed that he is not the only one who is expressing these concerns.

Here, for instance, is one Mr Peter Taylor, sometime Environmental Advisor to the United Nations:

And Dr Patrick Dixon:

I don't really know where all of this leaves us. I am no climatologist. I have no qualifications in this field. I only know that what I have been able to find has brought me to the point where I am somewhat skeptical of the generally accepted wisdom surrounding climate change. As things have reached the point where people are dying in their thousands simply because they cannot afford to eat, I do not believe that we fortunate ones in more affluent countries can casually lend our support to things such as "Earth Hour" in order to make ourselves feel good, without first taking a serious look at the facts behind the claims of global warming.

For my part, I can offer no definite conclusions but something does not seem quite right and I cannot help but wonder whether it may truly be just the sort of situation to which the story of The Emperor's New Clothes was written to call our attention. In a climate where those who do not bend over backwards to do their bit to save the planet are treated with disdain, dare we stand up and say that things may not be as they seem?

'But he hasn't got anything on!'

2 responses:

Anonymous said...

I do think as Christians though it is worth questioning how we steward the natural resources of our economy. For me, the question is not so much related to climate change as it relates to responsible and simple living.

Michael said...

I agree, practisinghuman. (And welcome!) It is what saves us that ought to be our primary focus, and this must be how we open ourselves to the energies of God through our manner of living, sheding those things that are extraneous and seeking an almost monastic simplicity. I believe that, in many ways, this can then have a wider effect on how we understand the world around us and our place within it.

Post a Comment

Comments from unregistered users are welcome but please do identify yourself so as not to comment anonymously. Thank you.

©2009 All of Creation Rejoices | by TNB