The Big Issue : Edition 469
THE BIG ISSUE 10 – 23 OCT 2014 29 ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH IT’S IRRITATING WHEN PEOPLE SAY “KIDS THESE DAYS...” BUT THE THING IS, KIDS THESE DAYS... Try Hard I recently met a climate change activist who runs survival courses. He notes that when he holds regular weekend workshops, about 20 people enrol. When he promotes them as ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ survival courses, the numbers shoot up to 90. This is not the attitude of a can-do populace. At the conclusion of training, during which he instructs people how to hunt humans and roast their flesh over an open fire*, he informs punters that most of them have a snowball’s chance of surviving, so they’re better off working towards averting climate catastrophe in the first place. In the hope of becoming fractionally more useful to society, about a year ago I attended an all-day first-aid course. I can’t remember a damn thing about it except a) When giving CPR, the best way to get the timing right is to sing ‘Staying Alive’ or ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. Oh, and b) Don’t sing either of those songs out loud. My aged mum, Norah, 91, had three near-death events one recent weekend. She’s had chronic heart failure for a decade, and I’ve had plenty of hushed conversations with doctors assuring me her final hours have arrived. But as a woman who went through the Blitz, ran a bush hospital in Africa and knows how to kill with a forceful thrust to the pertinent bit of soft tissue, she has the fortitude of a piece of a gristle, and continues to prove medical science wrong. As she was shipped out of hospital once again, I had a chat with the latest doctor. “I think it’s her generation,” I said. “They’re made of different stuff.” “Correct,” the doctor replied. “I see it all the time. You should hear the noise younger people make over nothing.” She rolled her eyes and mimicked someone whingeing. We’re soft. Too scared to help out with Ebola. Outsourcing our refugees to Cambodia. Sulking if our coffee’s not single origin. Definitely too soft for climate change. What say we try prevention instead? *Probably not actual course content. GROWING UP IN what, I see now, was a highly strung little unit, I had an ‘emergency’ shoebox hidden under my bed. Inside were a couple of candles, a box of matches, a torch, spare batteries, some string, elastoplasts, a penknife, and a tin of Heinz baked beans pinched from the pantry. And also, because I was a forward-thinking eight- year-old, a can-opener. I would check the box frequently, reverently fingering the contents, satisfying myself that I was prepared. For what, I didn’t know. It was ‘just in case’ and, along with my security blankie and imaginary friend, I found it a great comfort. These days, I feel prepared for almost nothing. This is partly because I phased out the emergency shoebox in my early twenties, and partly because I’ve begun pondering what relevant skills I have for the forthcoming climate change apocalypse. A brief survey of my resumé is not encouraging, unless wedding DJing and snippy column writing remain in demand once the oceans rise and start to boil. The trouble is, if the global temperature passes its tipping point, surviving extreme weather will entail more than heading to the cinema on a hot day for the latest Pixar offering and a choc-top. We may have to get by without electricity, predictable coastlines and salted- caramel wagyu. I’d feel more confident that this was possible if we weren’t a generation so soft that you could spread us on a cracker with a butter knife, add cod roe and call us a canapé. Yes, some people still have pertinent skills: commandos and B-grade celebrities who made it through the tribal councils on Survivor. Most of us, though, have the resilience of pavlova and throw our hands in the air when our iPhone runs out of battery power. We are allergic to everything and our skill-set pretty much consists of yarn- bombing, expressing ourselves in 140 characters or less and being able to turn out a world-class latte. Come the apocalypse (which will not be gluten-free nor podcastable) we’ll be just like that annoying character at the climax of the horror film who trips over a tree root, twists her ankle and lies helplessly on the ground saying: “It’s too late for me... Save yourselves!” » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.