Last Friday’s Briefing garnered more than its share of response, mostly positive. Since there were no death threats, let’s take the topic a bit further. And then I’ll leave it alone.
To get perspective, consider three stories-- the first two of which will be familiar, the third not so much. Yet it’s the most important.
Recently the US Supreme Court, on very narrow grounds, ruled that in the specific circumstances of the case, a baker was justified in refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Gallons of ink were spilled, the Religious Right danced in the streets, the American left went into mourning.
Even more recently, the Red Hen restaurant refused service to Sarah Sanders, expressly because she is the official apologist for Donald Trump and everything for which he stands. Now the liberals celebrated while the Republicans went to the barricades. And media types interviewed each other for days.
Two stories that consumed the public discourse, yet are in the scheme of things inconsequential. Shiny distractions. Because down on the seventh or eighth search page there are many stories which should be in the centre of public discourse, but aren’t.
One such story is Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a canary in the coal mine in which we all live. With a population greater than that of Russia, two-thirds of the country lies less than fifteen feet above sea level. The twenty percent which is at three feet or less is disproportionately crowded because it is disproportionately fertile, or at least it was fertile before rising sea levels began to contaminate groundwater.
For Bangladeshis, dreams of escaping third world poverty evaporate as more and more of the national budget goes to a losing battle against the rising sea and increasingly violent cyclones. Their country, for the most part, may become uninhabitable.
The country has always faced flooding-- in 1970 a twenty foot storm surge killed at least 300,000. But as global warming heats the Bay of Bengal, that body of water becomes the perfect cyclone generator, with higher water and winds driving unprecedented surges. Expect repetitive tragedy of horrifying proportions.
Soon enough, the rest of the world may face a stark choice: let the Bangladeshis drown or accept refugees on a scale we can’t imagine. In particular, large empty countries like Canada, Australia and Brazil may have some hard decisions.
And Bangladesh is just one of scores of such stories we push aside while we snipe at each other about David and Charlie’s wedding cake or Sarah’s dinner.
I promise that next Friday I’ll move on to lighter and more traditional communication topics. But not more important.
Norman Bowley is a communicator by passion, a lawyer and educator by profession. Thirty-six years of legal practice after ten years as an educator have equipped Norm to teach professionals how to communicate effectively and with power.