14 Feb 2007
An Outbreak of Post Petroleum Stress Disorder on the Archers.
This post might be a bit lost on our overseas readers, but it appears that a case of Post-Petroleum Stress Disorder (or something rather like it…) has broken out in Ambridge. Ambridge is the fictitious village which is the home of BBC Radio 4’s long-running soap opera The Archers, an unfortunate addiction passed on to me by my parents many years ago. While the storylines are usually focused on fairly mundane tales of everyday rural lives, (escaping sheep, droopy wheat and bell ringing practice) sometimes it rises above that to embrace topical issues of the day. It did after all originate during World War 2 as a vehicle for getting ideas and information to the farming community. On last night’s programme, however, one of it’s main characters, Nigel Pargeter (played by Graham Seed, below), ‘got’ climate change, and underwent his dark night of the soul, in what was quite a powerful piece of radio.
Quick background for those of you new to the Archers (where have you been?!); Nigel is the wealthy landowner who inherited Lower Loxley, a splendid country ‘pile’, where they run weddings and conferences and so on. He is married to Elizabeth (Lizzie) and they have twins, Lilly and Freddie. Nigel is one of the most green-leaning characters, he has a passion for rustic woodwork and green furniture making, and recently planted grape vines in order to start making Lower Loxley’s own wine.
He had just spend the morning with Mike, his forester, observing some die-back on some of the beeches on the estate, and Mike told him when selecting what to replant, he might consider something other than beech, as it isn’t suited to a warming climate. As Mike was leaving, Lizzie returned home. While not quite Post-Petroleum Stress Disorder, Nigel’s Damascus-moment about climate change shows many of the same symptoms….
**E.** So how did it go, did you have a nice morning? I know you normally enjoy your excursions…
**N.** You know how one always wants better for one’s children?
**N.** I mean a better life than we’ve had…
**E.** Yes, of course, isn’t that natural?
**N.** What if we can’t do that for Lilly and Freddy?
**N.** What if, you know, that’s it… we’ve had the best of everything?
**E.** What are you talking about? The estate’s in a much better state than when you inherited it?
**N.** No, that’s no what I mean.
**E.** Well you’re going to have to help me out darling, you’re being a little vague…
**N.** Mike and I were looking at the beech trees. He was talking about global warming, maybe not replanting them, and perhaps using varieties that are better suited to drier conditions. That’s what he said.
**E.** I see. Well then, perhaps Lilly and Freddie will be basking underneath palm trees!
**N.** I’m serious Lizzie! We’ve got no idea what sort of world we’re giving to our children.
**E.** Are you alright Nigel?
**N.** You know, sometime I think we’ve been fortunate in the time we’ve lived.
**E.** I wasn’t aware it was over yet.
**N.** No… but I haven’t had to fight in any wars… I’ve benefited from medicine and technology.
**E.** Well, there was the Cold War…
**N.** Yes, but I mean in everyday life. We live like Emperors. And at what cost?
**N.** We can travel anywhere we want, eat food from anywhere…
**E.** Let’s go inside and have a cup of tea…
**E.** Nigel I don’t know where you’re going with this… I agree with you it is very worrying … where are you going now?
**N.** I’m going down to the vines, at least they might have a chance in the future… (exit stage left)
What next? Will Lower Loxley go carbon neutral? How long before Transition Town Ambridge starts up? Will Brian Aldridge realise that biofuels are deely unethical, and instead alleycrop hemp and spelt between rows of chestnuts? How long before the Green becomes allotments? Might Eddy Grundy see the potential in selling knock-off solar panels? Will Oliver Sterling’s local milk delivery scheme also become a urine collection service in order to reduce his nitrogen inputs? How long before the word ‘mulch’ is used in the show? Who will build the first strawbale/cob hybrid house in the village? Will there be heated discussions in the pub about the pros and cons of butternuts over heartnuts? Who will be the first character to mutter the words ‘peak oil’? Watch this space…. the powerdown of Ambridge has begun.
PS. The concept of Post-Petroleum Stress Disorder is explored in more detail here.