Copenhagen: the little mermaid is warming up!

The Shooting Star (1942) - Page 05

Tintin.com has made no less than 27 reports on the environment and ecological issues. This is no surprise, considering that recurring themes in Hergé's adventures are the dangers that human beings face. Once again we are scanning this particular horizon, on the occasion of the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Climate change  -  as old as the World itself

The Copenhagen conference is numbered 15, as 14 such events have preceded it. The first ever World conference on climate was held in Geneva in 1979. Although it was thirty years ago, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) was already warning governments to, "anticipate and foresee man-made climate change, which could have harmful effects on the well-being of humanity." The fear of rising temperatures stretches back further still: in 1824, physicist Joseph Fourier proposed that the Earth's atmosphere serves to warm the planet, keeping heat trapped on the surface. He repeated the claim in a paper in 1927, and is thus credited with the discovery of the greenhouse effect.
The Shooting Star p.5
The discovery of CO2 dates from 1859

It was an Irishman, John Tyndall, who first identified carbon dioxide (CO2) as one of the major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, in 1859. For more than 100 years since, no one has lost any sleep over Tyndall's discoveries: several wars have been fought, all of which played their parts in global warming; industry has developed rapidly, notably in Europe and the United States, creating unprecedented levels of pollution. The World would have to wait until the 1970s for mankind to begin to talk about the "well-being of humanity"  -  and in the meantime nothing was able to stop the wars, relentless industrialisation, deforestation, waste of water and pillaging of fossil fuels.
The Blue Lotus p.42

One thing is for sure: although our climate doesn't bear us any ill will, it is very unpredictable! There have been many ice ages and periods of global warming in the past. On each occasion, these climatic upheavals have altered the face of the planet and had a major effect on life on Earth. Species have become extinct, and new species have evolved. Oceans have spread, and then retreated. The nature of these past phenomena is such that they would be completely outside the sphere of human influence. Such changes happen due to the Sun's activity, so there is nothing we can do about them! Does this mean that we should just sit back and do nothing? Obviously not, as we must also consider the greenhouse effect. There are certainly things that we can do about this problem. Unfortunately we have been completely mindless for the past two centuries, living with a laissez-faire attitude. In this way, we have been directly responsible for an acceleration of the warming process.
Cigars of the Pharaoh p.12
It's time to do something!

There is a more conscious attitude we can take towards our planet. This is what the organisers of these World conferences are trying to get governments to understand. The countries doing the most polluting are those in possession of the industries responsible for the most pollution. It's important that those responsible for these industries are obliged to set a good example. If they don't do anything, pollution will simply increase, yet the leaders of the international enterprises responsible for such pollution aren't showing their faces at the conference in Copenhagen... All too often, governments shy away from forcing the hand of industry, worried that companies will leave to set up in countries where there are less constraints  -  often dictatorships  -  and which do not care about curbing pollution.
Flight 714 p.58
Tintin and Hergé have said it all before...

What? Tintin and Hergé predicted what we would be living through today? Perhaps some of you think that the writer of Tintin reports has been blinded by admiration for the work of a certain Georges Remi? Maybe, but then consider the following: "Despite everything, I want to remain confident. People are now alert to the danger, and so big efforts are being made. Pollution of water and air, and the destruction of the environment, are all terrible things! But I'm convinced that it is going to change. Solutions are being sought in the United States, in Sweden, and all over the world. Taking cars as an example, I am convinced that we are heading towards electric cars; I'm sure that they already exist, and that engineers already have realistic projects on the go. But while there's still petrol..." That was Hergé, speaking during the famous interviews he undertook with Numa Sadoul in 1975 (Tintin et moi, entretiens avec Hergé, Casterman, p.60)! Hergé was speaking four years before the first World climate conference.
Tintin in America p.28
Graphic examples

The Shooting Star (1942) is doubtless one of the most prophetic adventures: declarations of the end of the World, unexpected and dangerous atmospheric heating, scenes of flooding (already seen in The Blue Lotus in 1935)...Land of Black Gold portrays a petrol crisis and the lengths to which people will go to control oil, at a time (1939 was the year in which the story first appeared in Le Petit Vingtième) when everybody thought that oil supplies were inexhaustible. To go back even further, Tintin in America (1931) has a scene stigmatising the wasteful nature of consumer society, and promoting recycling. It is amazing to think that Hergé was addressing the problem in 1931, while in 2009 we are still just coming to terms with it!
The spirit of Tintin

Nicolas Hulot, along with ecologists from all over the world, deserves the title ?modern Tintin', which he has been attributed by the general public. It should be remembered that Hergé was a fervent adherent to the scouts, a movement which has, since its very beginning, advocated a healthy outdoor life, and respect for nature and fellow living creatures. He suffused Tintin with these values. These virtues have already been outlined in previous reports  -  for the moment, let's gather them under the term "humanism". It is through the development of humanism that human beings will manage to find their way out of the climate crisis in which they currently find themselves. In the end, it's all about respect: respect for nature, respect for the life of others, respect for animals, respect for the environment and, last but not least, self-respect. So there are lessons to be learned from reading Tintin after all!
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