If it is natural to look away from challenges that seem almost beyond resolution then a price for that evasion must always, eventually, be paid.
This is not a novel idea but rather a recognition of the bargain we often make with the future so today might be less grim, so we might enjoy the accumulations of our labour for another while at least.
One of those challenges was underlined in the most harrowing terms this week when 39 Chinese nationals were found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex.
They were caught in one of the darker plots in today’s migration crisis. As those unknown lost souls climbed aboard that truck trailer another Irish town united in protest against the establishment of a direct provision centre.
That town argued with credibility about how that scheme is delivered. However, the endurance of that indecent scheme should not surprise us. After all, four Fine Gael MEPs shamefully voted with the hard right in the EU parliament yesterday to oppose a measure to help Mediterranean countries support and rescue migrants.
Mass migration is a reality, the consequences grow relentlessly. In a rich society with more than 10,000 homeless citizens it may seem odd to suggest we need to prepare for tomorrow’s immigrants by building houses that will make direct provision centres redundant and at least encourage assimilation.
No matter how loudly some shout that “we must look after our own first” more and more migrants will arrive on our shores. The real question must be how can both problems, domestic homeless and imported homelessness, be resolved.
The clock has been running on this for some time.
It has also been running on climate collapse for quite some time but, entirely predictably, our response to that known known is as half-hearted — and the bill is mounting all the while.
Provisional figures from the EPA for last year show we exceeded our annual greenhouse gas emissions allocation by more than 5m tonnes, confirming that we are not within an ass’s roar of meeting obligations to decarbonise our economy.
We pledged to push emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by next year but the EPA suggests we are likely to exceed that target by up to 6%. We face substantial and recurring penalties, estimated in the hundreds of millions, from next year because of this failure.
In purely economic terms this is not rational, in terms of modifying our behaviour so the worst excesses of climate collapse might be averted it is insane.
So too is the fact that, in 2019 one of the world’s water-rich countries, some 600,000 people in the greater Dublin area must boil tap water.
The mantra of the anti-water charges protesters — “no way, we won’t pay” — never sounded more wrong. Administrators have warned for decades that water infrastructure is falling apart but, it seems, we imagined they were crying wolf.
Yesterday’s report that Dublin’s housing appetites continues to consume its hinterlands, and all of problems that will bring, must mark us down as slow learners too.
Yet, we argue passionately about one half issue, one side issue after another while the bill for our inaction on the two great questions of our time grows and grows, heading towards a point where we will not be able to pay it.