Full Steam Ahead!

Full Steam Ahead!

Ploughing through the ocean
her decks ablaze with light
the mighty ship sails proudly on
through the frozen night
The Captain at his table
entertains important guests
resplendent in his uniform
laughing at their jests

All the first class passengers
are dressed up to the nines
stewards wait at table
and serve the finest wines
They know they are the envy
of all on decks below
they laugh and say
First class, it’s the only way to go!

Down in the engine room
the stokers work like dogs
to feed the mighty engines
which turn the mighty cogs
Now she’s claimed the destiny
for which she was designed:
the finest ship afloat
the pride of all mankind

At the Captain’s table
the officers take bets
will this maiden voyage
break every record yet?
Dignitaries make speeches
as fine champagne is drunk
we have no need of lifeboats
on the ship which can’t be sunk!

Only the for’ard lookouts
feel a sense of dread
is that just a patch of fog
or is there ice ahead?
The officer on duty
won’t believe his crew
when I see it with my own eyes
I’ll believe it’s true

Reports reach the Captain
who says no cause for alarm
this ship is unsinkable
we can’t come to harm
If we were to change our course
much time would be lost
profits would then suffer
and growth would be the cost
Not upon my watch
will I ever hear it said
I doubted the Titanic
it’s full steam
straight ahead!

The band was bravely playing
as they sank beneath the waves
no-one would believe
that they were bound for watery graves
Every class of passenger
on the finest ship afloat
found out in the end
that they were all in the same boat

Stockholders are happy
confidence is high
growth must surely hit the roof
the only limit sky
Profit’s being calculated
like money in the bank
stocks are reaching record heights
the night Titanic sank

The Captain shouted loudly
just as the ship went down
This ship is unsinkable
don’t panic, we can’t drown
Not upon my watch
will I ever hear it said
I doubted the Titanic
it’s full steam
straight ahead!

from the album – Beautiful Place

Der Untergang der Titanic

 I wrote this song in 2005 in the midst of the Howard government in Australia’s climate change denial-at-all-costs. The Titanic story seemed to me to be such a potent and tragic lesson in human arrogance and over-confidence: that here was a ship no longer at risk of sinking because technology had risen above the need for caution and commonsense.

What I find incredible in the position of the climate change denialists is that by the time it is possible to prove irrefutably that 97% of the world’s climate scientists are right – that we must change our mindset of constant growth, using up the resources of the planet as if there will be no tomorrow and damn those generations who must follow us – it will be too late to do anything.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since I wrote these words in 2005 (no pun intended). Australia went to the forefront of nations taking responsibility for their carbon emissions, with the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. As I write this in 2015 we are back to the future with a denialist conservative government, beholden to powerful mining lobby groups, that is methodically dismantling clean energy targets, removing incentives for the development of renewable energy, and getting rid of the carbon tax, which, despite its flaws, was actually reducing Australian CO2 emissions.

Democracy as we know it is proving to be totally unable to deal with the global problems of accelerating human-induced climate change.