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Radio review: Mother, Nature, Sons, What Really Happened in the 90s?, and The Story: Hidden sport

13 May 2022


In Mother, Nature, Sons (Radio 4, 29 April), Nell Frizell contemplated the contemporary dilemma for women of child-bearing age

In Mother, Nature, Sons (Radio 4, 29 April), Nell Frizell contemplated the contemporary dilemma for women of child-bearing age

BACK in the day, children were “an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord”. Now, apparently, they are no more than “a chink of light in a gloomy future”, and, at worst, the distributor of 58.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere already saturated with the stuff. The contemporary dilemma for those of child-bearing age is whether selfishly to indulge in complacent, child-filled domesticity, or put the planet first and desist from procreation.

At least, this was the dilemma as expressed by Nell Frizzell in Mother, Nature, Sons (Radio 4, 29 April), who is so churned up about it that she feels “like a raw egg in a tumble drier”. Framing her discussion with advocates from various standpoints was the conviction that the world is heading for environmental catastrophe, although it was surprising not to hear in the mix of arguments the emerging evidence for future population decrease. It fell to Dr Matt Winning, of University College, London, to rationalise the numbers: discussion of population numbers is a distraction; whether they are going up, and will eventually come down, it’s too late to worry.

The more powerful angst expressed by Ms Frizzell’s witnesses was the conviction that it would be cruel to bring children into a world that was already “pretty bleak”. All of this smacked of a contorted narcissism posing as altruism.

In some instances, one could detect a regression to a point before that crucial stage of human development when a baby begins to recognise the world and itself as being independent of its mother. In the talk of the dysfunctional world into which these as-yet-unborn would be delivered, there was no sense that they would be anything other than extensions of the parents’ consciousness of the world rather than beings who would become independent entities. This recognition might be useful, not least because these new people might have a better idea than their parents of how to clean up the mess that they have inherited.

Presumably, each generation harbours some guilt about the mistakes that it has left for its children to sort out. What Really Happened in the 90s? (Radio 4, weekdays, beginning 2 May) has devoted ten episodes to a selection from the decade that brought us Cool Britannia, New Labour, and the internet. Some of them just make us cringe, and others make us shiver: the episode on the negotiations over the expansion of NATO is particularly apposite.

A useful corrective to the hell-in-a-handcart paradigm, however, was provided by The Story: Hidden sport (World Service, Saturday). We were introduced to the sport of drone-racing. Drones do not get a particularly good rap nowadays, but, with a headset that gives you a drone’s-eye view, the experience of competitive flight engages “every fibre of your being”. And if, like the presenter, Kim Tserkezie, you are wheelchair-bound, the out-of-body liberation represents the profoundest form of therapy imaginable.

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