Irish Examiner View: Dodging our way to the next crisis

We seem to hope that the Sugar Plum Fairy might provide a solution before rationing begins, before vital industries close.
Irish Examiner View: Dodging our way to the next crisis
If we cannot agree on how to protect and share one of life’s essentials, how can we expect to agree on how to confront the challenge of the age — climate collapse? File pcture.
If we cannot agree on how to protect and share one of life’s essentials, how can we expect to agree on how to confront the challenge of the age — climate collapse? File pcture.

EPA renews water warning.

There is a correlation between the difficulty of resolving an issue and the importance of resolving it — how else does an issue become a conflict?

The Black Lives Matter protests are a perfect example.

Those righteous protests are the latest expression of outrage at the racism staining the ‘land of the free, the home of the brave’. Those protests have been all too necessary in US life since that country’s civil war ended in 1865, yet they persist. The conflict, the hate, the violence, and the failure to resolve the core issue endure. They continue despite the witness of social media showing citizens, far too many police officers, and ethnic pressure groups behaving appallingly.

That the US president is today’s racist’s cheerleader does not augur well, nor do the suicidal gun laws.

As Brexit negotiations broach another red line, the same ticking intransigence is in play.

Britain expects the impossible, while the EU, for doing the only thing it can do, is excoriated by those who have undermined the UK more dramatically than the collapse of Britain’s empire.

Brexit might not have divided Britain as racism divides the US, but a hard Brexit may well. Hardly an endearing prospect for a smaller neighbour.

A subplot of the collapse of Britannia plays out in Ireland. Conflict over social distancing, or its absence, at a funeral in Belfast last week beat the old tribal drums so loudly that the parity of esteem needed to build a lasting resolution was again damaged.

That those who organised and attended that funeral-cum-rally know this all too well pointed to the unchanging forces, and force, that sustain poisoning tribalism.

It is hardly surprising, even if disappointing, that these headline faultlines — racism, nativism, and this small island’s divisions — persist.

Our reluctance to concede, to look reality in the eye because of heartfelt emotions, sustains them. We accept ongoing conflict as the price of some distant notion of purity.

That may be understandable on grand issues, but it is an unnecessary embrace of vulnerability on secondary ones.

One of those was highlighted this week, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that 20% of this country’s population cannot be guaranteed drinking water. Some 52 treatment plants, supplying 1.1m people, “are vulnerable to failure”, says the EPA.

“Increasing uncertainty in Irish Water’s planning and delivery of critical improvements... posing a risk to the health of a large portion of the population,” concludes an EPA report published yesterday.

This report is more an update on a theme than anything novel.

The agency has made repeated warnings about water security and the reasons we are so exposed.

Yet we refuse to address the issue in a way that might resolve it.

We seem to hope that the Sugar Plum Fairy might provide a solution before rationing begins, before vital industries close.

This is disheartening, but it raises a far greater question.

If we cannot agree on how to protect and share one of life’s essentials, how can we expect to agree on how to confront the challenge of the age — climate collapse?

It’s time to stop delusionally kicking the can down the road.

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