Rug-up, dear readers, for some of today's column is set in bracing Norway.
We think we may have caught glimpses of Canberra and Canberrans while reading in Robert Manne's essay Diabolical in the new, Summer Issue of The Monthly, of a study of a Norwegian town.
On to this Nordopolis in a moment, after we have made the observation that Canberrans are famously well-educated and well-informed. And so any probing survey of Canberrans' knowledge of, and belief in, climate change would surely show that (other than a few deniers who show up in the fossil bed that it is this paper's Letters page) Canberrans believe that scientists are right and that climate change really is happening and really does matter.
And yet, enlightened Canberrans, do you notice that there is precious little everyday discussion of the issue and its potentially planet-menacing, great-grandchildren monstering ramifications? Does it ever crop up as a topic around the barbie, or in any discussions among your workmates and playmates? Do our MPs ever pipe up about it? If the subject never, ever comes up, and this among a people (Canberrans) famously educated and worldly, does this phenomenon strike you as passing strange?
This columnist had sort of noticed it but, shy and self-effacing, had thought it might be just me being eccentric. But now in Manne's essay, which agonises about what a baffling thing it is that our species has failed to address the climate change that threatens to bump us off, we read of Kari Marie Norgaard's Living In Denial. It reports her findings after "one year's close observation of a single Norwegian town at a time of baffling weather patterns".
It is one of Manne's sub-themes in Diabolical that our species' failure to deal with an issue, climate change, that threatens to rub us out, has more to do with "psychological denial" than with denials based on ignorance of the scientific facts. Norgaard's townsfolk are an illustration of that psychological denial. Bonsaing her findings, Manne sums up up that "Norgaard found that while the townspeople denied neither the reality nor the gravity of climate change, it played little role in their daily life."
"Climate change was rarely discussed. When it was it proved to be a conversation stopper. The townspeople thought it an inappropriate topic for the education of their children. They felt the need to protect themselves from its reality, for, if confronted, it filled them with a sense of helplessness, dread and personal guilt. Climate change undermined the townspeople's ... vital need for confidence in the continuity of their community's life."
Canberrans, does this Norwegian cap (a beanie, really) fit us? If so, is it a comfortable or a discomfiting fit?
Meanwhile, still in notion-provoking Norway, Monday's column reported the big-hearted proposal by some Norwegians that Norway might give Finland, as a present, one of Norway's mountains. We invited readers to imagine, at this time of peace and goodwill to all men, ways in which Australia and Australians might imitate Norwegians' generosity.
To recap, Norway has a superabundance of mountains but Finland, in spite of having an abundance of other blessings, is unflatteringly flat. Now some Norwegians, some of them in high places (no pun intended), are harvesting support for the idea of giving Finland one of its (Norway's) mountains as a prezzie when, in 2017, Finland celebrates the centenary of its achievement of independence.
One Finn has enthused that if this happens, "The Norwegians would make history and become heroes not just in Finland but in the whole world!"
Yes, this columnist was touched by what a grown-up contrast the gesture makes with a world in which nations are usually always so warmongeringly territorial about every scraggy little atoll or dreary paddock they lay claim to. As we write the Japanese and Chinese are being bellicose and childish about the ownership of the small, nondescript, uninhabited Senkaku Islands. Why not, Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, do the Norwegian thing and just give the Chinese the useless islands? The Japanese would thus become heroes in the whole world.
Australia is not, as a island, able to give another nation something Australian in quite the same way that Norway can give Finland a mountain. But we could do it symbolically and one reader wonders if, as a nation blessed with a superabundance of beautiful beaches, many thousands of them seldom if ever used by anything but turtles, we might give some poor landlocked nation a beach. Switzerland, say, or Bolivia or dear Kyrgyzstan (the latter a place worth buttering-up because our federal government is said to want to send our asylum seekers there) would be deeply touched by and forever grateful for such a gesture, and we would become heroes in the whole world.
Another reader, not quite in the Christmassy, present-giving spirit we are trying to encourage with this issue, thinks that New Zealand must be embarrassed by its unfair share of the world's mountains and should be conscience-stricken enough to give us one of them.
Like the pancake of Finland we have almost no mountains and our tallest, Mount Kosciuszko is at 2228 metres just a hillock, just a pimple on the vast, trim, six-pack abdomen of our continent. Meanwhile God (no wonder He gets so many grateful mentions in New Zealand's national anthem) has in His infinite wisdom vouchsafed New Zealand 37 named summits of 2900 metres and more.
Which one of them will you give us, Mr Key?