A pale white sky

The limits of hubris

Featured in

  • Published 20180206
  • ISBN: 9781925603293
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

I REMEMBER A severe drought in 1964 when I was a child. First the grass became crisp and brown, as it always did in the summer. Then the soil cracked, as if there had been an earthquake. Slowly, the grass died in irregular patches, revealing the earth beneath. I watered the grass with used dishwater, but there was not enough. I heard the grown-ups talking about something called cloud seeding and I imagined a cloud with a small plant growing inside it. Some of my parents’ friends were all for the cloud seeding, but others said the rain, perhaps, would be too heavy. A few months later, I heard that although the seeding had been done, the clouds had dropped their rain over the sea. Or, maybe, had caused flooding in Haiti. The drought in Jamaica eventually broke, the cracks in the lawn closed and the grass reached out to itself. Cloud seeding was no longer talked about. I am sure no one on my parents’ veranda had heard the word geoengineering.

I have been an environmental activist as director of the Jamaica Environment Trust since its formation in 1991. My job, my vocation, is to address the way we humans have treated our homeplace at every stage of our history. I am therefore familiar with the word geoengineering, ‘the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change’. That is one definition; another might be hubris – the human arrogance found in Greek tragedy, the kind that brings ruin and catastrophe.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

About the author

Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay is a Jamaican writer and environmental activist. She is a founding member and the chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust....

More from this edition

Empire of delusion

EssayANYONE INTERESTED IN power must visit Persepolis. Its ruins stand defiantly in a parched valley in southern Iran, the ultimate statement of humans’ capacity...

When Chifley met Nehru

EssayIN A LONDON hotel, two prime ministers sit down to breakfast. One is tall, lean, white-haired and speaks in a raspy, unmistakably working-class Australian...

Imperial amnesia

EssayTHERE IS A statute of limitations on colonial wrongdoings, but none on human memory, especially living memory. There are still millions of Indians alive...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.