Climate change or establishment change protesters? ‘Go on, then.’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ ‘What’s the matter? Anyone would think you were scared.’ ‘That’s equally nonsensical – I’m a celestial body, and you are a by-product of my activity. The very idea of entering into competition with each other is laughable.’ The North Wind looked at the Sun and then at the man walking on the Earth’s surface below. He puffed at the man’s cloak and it flapped open. ‘Tell you what. I’ll shift some of these clouds out of the way to give you a fighting chance. What could be fairer than that?’ The Sun sighed. ‘The only reason you can even do that is because of me. You’re nothing more than an aspect of the weather. You might as well challenge the rain to a race.’ ‘I did – and the snow, too. But the harder I blew, the faster we all went. Dead heat every time. Thunder and lightning were the same, just more dramatic.’ ‘Yes, I’ve noticed you’ve all become more active recently. You do realise the occupants of this planet have to put up with the damage you cause?’ The man appeared about to undo the clasp on his cloak, so the North Wind moved the clouds back again. ‘Well, what do you expect? Forget your activity; if it wasn’t for man’s, the weather wouldn’t be getting stronger and keen to prove it. If you have a problem with that, then it’s human beings you should be blaming, not us.’ The clouds evaporated. The breeze was picked up in response. ‘Are you saying man can influence you more than I can?’ ‘What other explanation could there be? In some parts of the world the rain has never been heavier, the snow deeper or storms more violent – I can exceed well over 200 miles per hour these days and all thanks to man.’ The Sun reflected on its activity. The man with the cloak would be experiencing the latest effects of solar radiation in a little over eight minutes. ‘So, let me get this right. You think a creature that, in cosmological terms, has existed for less than a blink of an eye is more powerful than the force that created it?’ ‘And you say I’m being ridiculous. It’s got nothing to do with who’s stronger. You may have spent billions of years producing life here, but it’s all finely balanced. You’re too slow – in a blink of an eye man has changed the environment for the worse, but if it’s going to take you billions of years to fix, who’s the more powerful?’ The North Wind blew harder. To its annoyance, the man responded by pulling the cloak around him. Seven minutes before it would be removed by other means. ‘More nonsense, Wind. When it comes to the weather, Water and I have an excellent relationship and have done for the last four billion years – whatever you or your friends decide to do will be balanced out somewhere else. We might be slow, but we’re not stupid.’ ‘But what are you going to do when that’s no longer possible?’ The North Wind increased the breeze to a gale. It affected the man’s progress but not the grip on his cloak. Six minutes. ‘What do you mean?’ said the Sun. ‘Man-made greenhouse gases. No managing the effect of those by shifting the problem elsewhere – unless you consider turning arable lands into deserts fair compensation for melting icecaps – you’re going to have to reduce your output.’ ‘That won’t be happening anytime soon, and anyway, it’s not as if we haven’t been here before. Life on the Earth is constantly evolving and has done since the beginning of time.’ The Sun looked at the other planets in its solar system. ‘A healthy balance between Water and me would appear to be essential, I grant you, but even if humans were to find themselves unable to exist, there are plenty of other creatures happy to take their place and if there aren’t, natural selection will soon produce some – look what happened after the dinosaurs.’ Five minutes. The sky was now cloudless, but the speed of the gale and the direction it came from ensured the last thing the man wanted to do was sunbathe. He pulled the cloak even tighter. The North Wind tutted to itself. ‘But that was caused by something out of the dinosaurs’ control. What’s happening now is unique in the Earth’s history; one of its species is wiping itself out and taking all the other animals and plants with it.’ Four minutes. The strength of the gale was increased to force nine which caused trees to shed their branches. The man gave up on his journey but not on his cloak. Much to the North Wind’s chagrin, the man sat in the lee of a rock and held the two halves of it together. ‘Well, that’s the beauty of nature,’ said the Sun. ‘You never know what you’re going to get. Who knows, maybe in as little as a hundred thousand years a new species will spring up out of nowhere and with an ability to correct everything man’s done wrong.’ ‘A hundred thousand years? Look around. Human beings have irreparably damaged the atmosphere in less than a century. I told you, you’re too slow. Pretty soon both the air and water will be so toxic, nothing nature can produce will be able to survive. It’ll be like going back to when the Earth first formed.’ Three minutes and gale force ten. The trees stopped losing their branches but only because they were being uprooted. ‘Is that what you’re saying?’ said the Sun. ‘Man is so powerful, he can not only end his own existence and the life of every creature and plant but even evolution itself?’ Two minutes. The gale was now a storm, but the man managed to hold on to both himself and the cloak. The North Wind considered producing a hurricane but guessed that would end in blowing the man and his cloak away together. It gave up. One minute. The man peered from behind the rock. He’d never known weather like it – a raging tempest one second and dead calm the next. Maybe he was in the eye of the storm? He stood up to survey the scene while he thought he still could. The detritus of uprooted trees and branches lay all around. It was a miracle he hadn’t been struck by one of them – mayhem as far as the eye could see. He smiled at the Sun’s reassuring presence before reaching up to his neck. It would be the last conscious thing he would do. At tens of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit and a speed of over 500 miles per second, he would never know whether it was the solar flare’s heat that finally removed his cloak – or its blast.