A very, very bonkers theory comes into my head and does a little dance.
The bonkers theory is that Mr Trump has been doing a massive double-bluff all this time. I think he might be the greenest President ever. All the years when people thought he was merely living in golden towers and building vulgar resorts and pissing off the people of Aberdeenshire, he was in fact secretly hugging trees and reading Silent Spring.
When I first heard all the nonsense about Pittsburg not Paris and the bizarrely plaintive and oddly Freudian question ‘At what point do they start laughing at us?’, I felt the cold stone of despair sink in my stomach. There go the polar bears, I thought. The ice caps are buggered. Everyone had better start learning to grow their own food and begin stocking up on tinned goods. I put on my end of days hat and wondered where I had stashed the strong liquor.
But then I watched as the internet started to reveal a startling festival of defiance. Everywhere I looked, on the news, on the online newspaper sites, on the social media, people were standing up and saying no. It was like the iconic scene in Spartacus. Everyone was Spartacus.
What was so extraordinary was that it was not just the usual suspects. It was not the hippy dippy cohort in their beanie hats who think that Big Business would like to flood The Maldives with their bare hands. It was Big Business. It was stiffs in suits, the kind of people one would normally assume do not give a damn. It was China, for goodness’ sake. It was old school Republicans and rampant capitalists. The governors and mayors were digging in their heels, because the states and the cities would have their say. Newly minted President Macron stepped forward and had a dazzling moment in the sun.
I suddenly thought that poor old Bono and Leonardo di Caprio must be weeping into their tea. They’ve been trying to rally the troops for years, but they could never achieve anything like this. No concert or campaign or publicity stunt that they could muster would come close to uniting the entire world in a resolution to save the world. In one master-stroke, an elderly, incoherent, orange gentleman had brought the globe together. Donald Trump, madly, was teaching the world to sing. No other individual could get Mark Zuckerberg and Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil to read from the same page. On one side was Bashar Assad and some die-hards in Nicaragua and the American President and the mysterious entity that is Steve Bannon, and on the other side was everyone else.
The environment can feel very demoralising. What is happening to it can seem so big and inevitable and unstoppable that one puny human can feel powerless in the face of it. The moral conundrums are twisted and legion. Are you really going to tell a developing country that it can’t burn fossil fuels as the rich nations rest on the power that those very same fuels have provided for decades? Some of the renewables are beset with boondoggles and dodginess as subsidies reward those who need the money least. The local environment can feel at odds with the global environment. Good intentions get lost in the maze of politics and money. The head begins to ache, and many people retreat into a despairing apathy. However many eco-friendly lightbulbs I use, thinks the baffled human, I can’t save the polar bears.
The latest galloping Trumpism has galvanised those despairing humans. If the Chinese and the CEOs and lovely Justin Trudeau and the Mayor of Pittsburg are all in it together, maybe the planet is not doomed. The saving of the planet is suddenly at the front of a billion minds, and those minds are defiant and determined. Trump has turned worries about climate change from the low hum of background noise to the headline act.
I am an irredeemable optimist. This sounds perfectly charming, but in fact it’s very tiring. I hunt for silver linings like a pig hunts for truffles, and often my silver linings turn out to be made of lead. If you believe in the best – of people, of the world, of the human heart, even of history – you court an awful lot of disappointment. There is a great deal of picking oneself up and dusting oneself off and starting all over again. I may have gone too far this time. Perhaps, after all the kerfuffle, everyone will return to their default mode, which is sticking their heads in the sand like a flock of tired old ostriches. But I think this might be a sea change. The sight of the most powerful man on earth saying he does not give a bugger has made people realise that they really do give a bugger. They have woken up to find some surprising bedfellows. A furious cussedness is spreading, everywhere you look.
Perhaps this is an utter disaster, and that’s all she wrote. But I think there is a much more interesting and hopeful story. I think there is something shining and galvanic and surprising, between the lines. Perhaps, bizarrely, Mr Trump has made Thracian gladiators of us all. Perhaps this is the moment when millions of souls realise they have nothing to lose but their chains.