Tracks of change

The man who put his body on the line – a tale of one man’s courage and stand against climate denial and inertia in the face of the escalating danger of runaway climate catastrophe.

In a small, picturesque town nestled among rolling hills, there was a single railway line that cut through the heart of the community. This line, long unused, had become a symbol of forgotten times, overgrown with wildflowers and grass.

But one evening, the townspeople heard a distant rumble, a sound that steadily grew day by day. To their astonishment, on their television sets they saw images of a train slowly barreling down the tracks towards their town from the mountain in the distance. Its carriages were emblazoned with melting glaciers, raging forest fires, and devastating storms. A thick black smoke billowed out of chimneys and darkened the sky.

This runaway train, unlike any they had seen before, was a glaring idiom for climate change – a relentless, powerful force that was heading directly towards their town. Strangely, this threat occurred in the same week when the world for the first time went over a 2°C average global temperature for an entire month.

However, the train’s potentially catastrophic arrival did not spark the flurry of activity in the town that one might have expected. A few people started talking about quickly relocating to a safer place up the hill. The rest went on with their daily lives. The residents talked about some flashy colours of a new dress design, and about who would win Saturday’s football match. They passionately shared the latest gossip about who was dating whom.

“There’s no rush,” the town’s Mayor said. “Still plenty of time to do something. We’re currently investigating whether the train might derail itself. There are many possibilities of stopping it that we don’t yet fully understand. But not to worry — we’ll figure something out. So stay calm,” the Mayor said.

A 55-year-old former engineer stood at his window, his eyes tracing the billowing dark smoke in the distance. At this time the distant rumble had turned into a thunderous roar. Memories of his childhood spent playing near these very tracks, now a harbinger of doom, flooded his mind.

Unlike others in his town, the man couldn’t dismiss the impending disaster. Images of the training Iis carriages were a nightmarish canvas of a world on fire, constantly haunting his thoughts. The approaching runaway train, a roaring beast on iron tracks, was a harbinger of an unknown, terrifying future.

Quickly, with a resolve born of desperation and a lifetime of understanding machinery, the engineer made a decision that shocked his neighbours.

“I’m putting my body on that line,” he declared with a tremor in his voice, revealing his plan to his wife. Together, they walked down to the old railway track, where the man lay down on a sleeper, resting his head on the cold metal track.

The man appeared fearless, but his heart was a tumultuous sea, waves of courage and fear clashing within.

He could feel the closing vibrations beneath his feet, a foreboding drumbeat heralding a decision he never thought he’d face.

“Is this my moment?” he wondered, his mind a battlefield where fear fought bravery. The thought of stepping onto those tracks, an attempt to halt the unstoppable, was daunting.

A distant train whistle could now be heard — a sharp, urgent reminder of reality. The man closed his eyes. In that brief moment of darkness, he found a new clarity. He saw not just the train, but the faces of those it threatened — his neighbours, his friends, the children playing their innocent games on the pavements in his street.

With newfound resolve, the man opened his eyes, his decision made. The fear remained, a constant companion, but it was now overshadowed by a sense of duty — a call to protect what he cherished most. He stepped forward, a solitary figure against the advancing giant, ready to face his fate.

His eyes were resolute, his voice steady.

“I will not move or eat until our Mayor acknowledges this crisis and devises a real plan to confront this runaway train”, he stated, his gaze fixed on the horizon.

His wife, torn between fear for her partner and admiration for his courage, placed a hand on his shoulder, her voice barely a whisper. “Are you sure?”

He nodded, his eyes not leaving the tracks and the smoke now becoming just visible in the distance.

“We have to wake up. The time is now — for all of us.”

Next to him, he placed a hand-written sign that said: “Wake up – we’re out of time!”

The news of the engineer’s act spread rapidly in town. The least apathetic among the townsfolk started gathering at the tracks. Whispers turned into urgent discussion, and the discussions rapidly escalated.

The thing was: Some people at the local pub claimed the train wasn’t real. “It’s only a mirage,” they said. And even though people could hear the rumble, they quietly hoped it wasn’t a runaway train. Maybe it could be something else?

But more and more scientists and thought leaders in the community joined the feverish discussion — and they supported the man on the line by visiting him and spreading selfies on social media.

First one, then a second, then lots of people sat down at the tracks as they continued their discussions.

Lying steadfast on the tracks, the man had ignited the first spark of a response to the imminent danger.

The Mayor initially refused to make any contact.

“I’m not going to be blackmailed by this single resident. If I give in to his demands, ten other will be doing similar stunts next week,” he said.

The man on the track kept talking with the people who had gathered around him.  “We must wake up,” he kept saying. “There’s a massive threat hurtling towards us. We need to understand it and act!”

His friends and family, who came to see him, still tried to convince him this was a silly idea. Obviously such a massive runaway train would not stop just because he and a few others had put their soft bodies on the railway line.

“That is not the point,” the man said. “The point is that we as a community need to come together, and we have to convince our Mayor that action is necessary. Derailing the train at this late stage will wipe out our town. We need to build an entire new track that can lead the train over the plain and up the hills on the other side, until it eventually stops by itself.”

The man on the line, with his dramatic and insistent message, became a rallying point for urgent action. The once dormant railway line was now a vivid reminder of the urgent action needed. It became a unified call for emergency action.

“This man on the line is right”, the scientists said: “The runaway train is approaching faster than most of us had expected according to our measurements and calculations, and it will be catastrophic if we wait for it to hit the town.”

The townsfolk recognised that it was better to stare the danger right in the eye than to try to keep pretending it was a mirage.

The man on the line inspired the community to come together. People crowded at the city hall steps with ‘Body on the line’ signs. They demanded immediate resources from City Hall to join them in building the bypass line.

The Mayor could see that this had become an election issue, and surprisingly quickly, the bypass plan was turned into action. 

Commitment to the bypass strategy spread just like the wildfires. Residents rolled up their sleeves to help, and persuaded their friends and neighbours to join them. Their decisive action saved the life of their courageous engineer, whose clarity of vision, and courage and leadership, saved his town.  

The news of this remarkably successful community action soon spread around the world on radio and television, in daily newspapers and on all the social media channels. A new ‘can do’ awareness was sweeping the planet.  

The old railway line itself, once a symbol of the past, had transformed into a beacon of active hope. The man on the line had reminded everyone that even in the face of a fast-approaching danger, it’s never too late to be the difference.

This tale is not written in stone. It is an analogy which each and everyone of us is co-writing. What did you think of the story line? How do you think it should end? Do you have suggestions for improvement? Something missing? Consider it ‘open source’ and add your suggestions and comments below.

Meaning of ‘Body on the line’

The phrase “put your body on the line” doesn’t normally refer to a “railway line”. The “line” in this expression is more metaphorical. It symbolises a point or situation of risk or potential harm.

When someone “puts their body on the line,” they are metaphorically crossing into a zone of danger or risk. This could be a physical risk, like in emergency situations, or a metaphorical one, where someone is taking a stand or making a sacrifice for a cause they believe in.

The expression “to put someone’s body on the line” is often used to describe someone taking a significant physical risk, typically to protect something or achieve a goal. It implies a willingness to endure physical harm or discomfort for a cause or responsibility.

The origin of this phrase is not specific to any single event or time period, but rather it evolved from the literal idea of placing one’s body in a vulnerable or dangerous position. It’s a metaphor for extreme commitment or bravery.

ChatGPT’s analysis of this ‘open source’ fiction story.

The image illustrating the story was generated by ChatGPT.

“I’ve read the short story titled tracts of change from the website you provided. It’s an engaging tale set in a small picturesque town focusing on the theme of climate change.

The story starts with the townspeople noticing a train symbolising climate change approaching their town. This train is adorned with images of melting glaciers, forest fires and storms signaling the escalating climate crisis. The main character, a 55-year-old former engineer, decides to take a stand against this threat. He lays on the railway tracks, resolving not to move until the town’s mayor acknowledges the crisis and devises a plan to confront it. His act of defiance sparks a movement in the town with more people joining him on the tracks.

As the story unfolds, the townsfolk begin to realise the severity of the climate threat. The mayor, initially dismissive, eventually acknowledges the crisis due to the growing public pressure. The community unites to build a bypass line, diverting the train and averting disaster. The story concludes with the town’s transformation into a symbol of hope and action against climate change.

The protagonist’s courageous stand inspires not only his community, but also people around the world, highlighting the power of collective action in the face of impending crises. It’s a powerful narrative that uses the metaphor of a train to illustrate the urgency of addressing climate change.

The story emphasises the importance of community action, and the impact one individual’s courage can have on motivating others. Addressing climate denial is a crucial aspect of the story. In Tracks of change, the metaphor of the train not only represents the imminent threat of climate change, but also highlights the issue of denial among people, including the town’s mayor. Despite the obvious signs and warnings, there’s a reluctance or refusal to acknowledge the trends approach symbolising the denial of climate change.

This element adds depth to the narrative showing how overcoming denial is an essential step in mobilising collective action against climate change. It’s a poignant reminder that recognising the problem is the first step towards finding a solution. It’s an important part of the story’s message.

The real life story of Gregory Andrews’ hunger strike in Canberra, Australia, offers a poignant and powerful real world context to the fictional narrative in tracks of change. Gregory Andrews, a former high commissioner to Ghana and a prominent Canberra, staged a hunger strike outside the Parliament House. He was protesting against the Australian Government’s continued support for fossil fuel subsidies and inadequate action on climate change.

His protest aimed to push the government to end fossil fuel exports in subsidies. He was motivated by a desire to safeguard the future for children and the planet stating, “I’m doing this for kids and our future”. Andrews’ commitment was such that he declared he wouldn’t end his hunger strike until Australia established a timeline to stop exporting fossil fuels.

The parallels between Gregory Andrews real life protest and the fictional account in Tracks of change are striking. Both stories highlight individuals taking drastic attention grabbing actions to combat climate change, and government inaction.

Andrew’s hunger strike, like the protagonist’s lying on the train tracks in the story, serves as a powerful symbol of the urgency and desperation felt by those who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis. These narratives underscore the importance of individual action and the potential impact such actions can have on public awareness and policy change.

For Gregory Andrews to effectively approach the Prime Minister regarding his climate concerns, a strategic and multifaceted approach could be beneficial.

Andrew should consider writing a formal letter to the Prime Minister outlining his concerns and objectives. This letter should be concise fact based and convey the urgency of his cause.

Garnering public support can add weight to his message. He could use social media, public speeches or interviews to raise awareness and encourage others to express their support.

Media can be a powerful tool. Andrews might seek opportunities for interviews, or write opinion pieces for newspapers to reach a broader audience.

Partnering with environmental NGOs could provide additional resources and expertise strengthening his campaign, engaging with other politicians who are sympathetic to the cause, possibly from different parties could help in bringing the issue to the forefront of parliamentary discussions.

Presenting clear evidence based arguements about the impacts of fossil fuels and the benefits of alternative strategies can make his case more compelling.

Continuing peaceful protests or hunger strikes can keep the issue in the public eye. Maintaining pressure on the government, instead of only highlighting problems proposing viable alternatives and solutions for reducing fossil fuel dependency could be more persuasive.

Remember, each approach has its own strengths. And a combination of these strategies might be the most effective in getting the Prime Minister’s attention and fostering change.

If you have any more thoughts or questions on this story, or anything else, feel free to share. Have a great day.”