Ugly Puggly 29
Ugly Puggly stared into space. Dave stroking the back of his neck, brought him out of his reverie. ‘I need the money,’ he said, ‘to place a bet.’
‘Whit on?’ I asked.
‘The end of the world.’
Dave slithered off the seat and stood up, ‘Whit you talkin about?’
‘Better if I show yeh.’
We followed him outside to the front of the house and stood in the lane. It was a bit too cold for my liking and I thought of nipping back inside for a jacket. Dave was shivering too and clutching his arms tight to his thin chest.
Clad in a dirty white T-shirt, khaki shorts and bare foot Ugly Puggly didn’t seem to notice. ‘Whit dae you see?’
‘Fuck all,’ I said.
‘Eh, trees,’ said Dave.
‘Whit is this?’ I cried. ‘The Magic fuckin Roundabout? Get tae the point.’
‘Cars,’ Ugly Puggly said.
‘You’re buyin a car?’ squealed Dave.
‘No, I cannae drive,’ Ugly Puggly looked at Dave the same way I’d often looked at him. ‘The world doesnae need mair cars. But you might have a point.’
‘Oh, for fuck sake,’ I groaned. ‘I’m goin back inside tae watch Naked Attraction. If there’s anythin’ stupider on telly, I’ve no seen it until noo.’
‘I love Naked Attraction,’ said Dave.
‘That’s because you live it,’ I replied. ‘It’s Naked Attraction every night for you. And you don’t even huv to be naked.’
‘Cars all be electric in five or ten years,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘Look about you. How many cars there on the street? When we were growin up, yeh could put a couple of jackets doon on the road and you wouldnae need tae move them for hours as you played a game. Nae cars. Noo every family’s got one or two or three cars. There’s no enough room to park, but they’ll all need charging points.’
‘You didnae play fitba,’ I pointed out. ‘Unless we were a man doon and stuck you in goals. Even then we’d have been better putting a traffic cone in goals. You were that hopeless Celtic would probably have signed yeh as their first-choice keeper.’
‘I’ll go and get my phone,’ said Dave. He’d that panicked look that he hadn’t been beeped for a minute.
‘That’s whit I mean,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘How do you charge yer phone?’
Dave shook his head. ‘Wae a charger.’
‘Aye, yeh plug it in. And it will be the same wae cars. And there’ll no be enough charging points, which means is whit ye’ll have is a giant electronic paperweight on wheels. People are gonnae want to charge their cars from home. And to dae that properly they’ll need tae generate their own electricity. You don’t say a ship is off grid. You say it’s a sea. We need a sea change in thinking about how we create energy.’
‘Fuck me,’ I said. ‘You want tae attach one of yer windmills tae every car?’
‘Not quite,’ Ugly Puggly admitted. ‘Although that might be an idea worth pursuing, but if we take it as a given that we’ve already lost the race to develop the most energy-efficient batteries, we need to acknowledge, worldwide, sunlight as our best chance of developing clean energy. And tae dae that we need to look at first principles and admit solar cells are shite.’
‘They cannae be that bad,’ said Dave. ‘They put them on new buildings.’
I took the position that anything the playboy said, I took the opposite viewpoint on principal, but I tended to agree with him.
‘Let’s imagine that to offset the Arctic and Antarctic and to compensate for the albedo effect we painted ever house in the world’s roofs brilliant white. We’ve lost the world’s most important cooling systems that reflect ninety-percent of radiation from the sun. But why not create another amorphous mass that does much the same thing?’
‘Because yeh wouldnae huv enough white paint,’ said Dave.
‘Aye, that’s true,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘But yer missing the point. Solar panels don’t take in ninety-percent radiation from the sun. Nowhere near that, but a paltry amount. Hardly a trickle of energy. Antarctic sea ice is not the same as Arctic ice structurally, but we work on the assumption that solar panels are much the same. We need to create a roof tile wae the organic properties of ice, but no ice, inert, but somehow alive.’
‘Fuck me,’ I cried. ‘Yer sellin yer house to create a giant pokey hat wae raspberry for a roof in the hope it’ll save mankind?’
‘Something like that,’ said Ugly Puggly. ‘We already know the lungs of our planet, and creator of our weather patterns, the Arctic is gone. Rather than a carbon sink, an emitter of greenhouse gases. We also know that fossil fuels accounts for three-quarters of global warming. And to have any chance of keeping it below two-degree centigrade, we’d need to leave them in the ground. But the big energy companies are spending over $100 million a day in creating facts on the ground before any sanctions can be applied. They’re like an alcoholic buying a brewery and telling you he’s going teetotal.’
‘Now yer talkin,’ I said.
‘Aye,’ Ugly Puggly’s head dropped. ‘I’m kiddin myself on. I did a few calculations, but £80 000 wouldnae even touch the sides of the things I’d need to look at.’ He slapped his knee. ‘As Nikolay Chernyshevsky asked, ‘What is to be done?’ ’
‘Wasn’t that Karl Marx?’ said that.
‘Nah, Lenin. He stole the idea from Chernyshevsky’s novel. But one of my favourite stories about belief is from the splitting up of the Russian Orthodox Church at the end of the seventeenth century. The Old Believers broke from the church because they believed they were too liberal and modern. About 20 000 burned themselves to death rather than face the Antichrist they thought would appear in 1669.’
‘Fuck sake, that’ll no exactly fill me wae cheer when I’m tryin to get a sleep the night.’
‘Don’t worry, you don’t believe in anythin. And you’ll no need to burn yersel to death. The planet will dae it for yeh. Water, water, everywhere, none to drink. Whit people don’t realise is nae water, means nae food. And nae water means nae electricity as all those hydroelectric dams stutter to a halt. Nations like India and Pakistan launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes to defend a cupful of water in the rivers which they both claim God gave them. The Old Believer might just have got their dates mixed up. Hundreds of millions of refugees, and the partitioning of America to keep citizens from its poorer regions out.’
‘I’m away to get the van and stock up on toilet roll. You never know when you’ll next get the chance.’