A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and a Highway of Diamonds by Bob Dylan

March 10, 2008 at 9:51 am | Posted in Bob Dylan, Climate change, Diamonds, Economics, Environment, Highways, Lyrics, Music, Rain, Storms, Sustainability | 2 Comments

Here you go, matt. I alluded to the dangers of defining sustainability either in exclusive economic or limited environmental terms yesterday. Just now, I stumbled upon a recent speech by Andrew McNamara, Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation that expands on the ‘s’ word. Perhaps our selective use of the word ‘sustainability’ tells a lot more about us and the future we may either dread or embrace:

Highway of diamonds

by Hon. Andrew McNamara (Queensland MP)

…Tonight I want to talk about capital S Sustainability.

By that I don’t mean the usual narrow environmental concept of sustainability in agricultural production and land use.

I mean the future of our society, our economy and our environment; the structure of our cities, their energy and water sources and demand profiles; the treatment of these sources of our wealth; the imminent peaking of world oil supplies; our use of finite resources like gas and coal; and the way we dispose of those resources when we’re finished with them.

I will begin by considering what sustainability means to me.

It’s a word that means different things to different people and is a word used in connection with everything from nappies to mining companies.

I will look at sustainability in the context of today’s hottest issues – the crouching tiger of climate change and the hidden dragon of peak oil.

We can’t talk about sustainability without talking about waste and resource efficiency.

We talk a great deal about becoming a more efficient economy, but we really need to ask what we are becoming efficient at when we throw away more and more.

And finally I want to touch on the problem of population distribution.

Until we start talking about population distribution, we can not honestly claim to have the whole problem on the table.

And that I suspect will well and truly fill the 18 minutes I have left!

In 2002 the US national Academy of Sciences concluded that humanity’s collective demands first surpassed the earth’s regenerative capacity around 1980.

Today, global demands on natural systems exceed their sustainable yield by an estimated 25 per cent.

That means we are meeting current demands by consuming the earth’s natural assets, setting the stage for decline and collapse.

With a population expected to top 9 billion this century, sustainability is the crucial social, economic and political issue facing the world today.

With some notable exceptions, policy makers have been guilty of allowing sustainability to be cast as a peculiarly environmental issue, marginalised from the main game of economic development.

In 1949, Australia’s greatest economist, Colin Clark presented the keynote paper “World Resources and World Population” at the UN Scientific Conference on Conservation and Utilisation of Resources.

He noted that the “conservation of soil, forests, stream flows and natural biological equilibria is certainly one of the most important and urgent tasks which faces us today.”

Sustainability is the ultimate whole of government – indeed, whole of society – issue.

(more … in EnergyBulletin Peak Oil News Clearinghouse)

Although I only included an excerpt, the entire speech is definitely worth reading. McNamara is a clear thinker, and expresses key issues succinctly and directly.

Naturally, sitting here with the hard rain falling all around me, listening to Bob Dylan, I cannot resist offering you the song whose lyrics Andrew McNamara chose for the title of his speech:

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan iTunes album cover

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall Lyrics from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan © 1963

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, that roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burnin’
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where the souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

😐 Prescient and poetic.



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  1. P.S. WordPress reformatted the entire text of my post after I went back in to edit the lyrics. Sorry if you saw a splurge of unformatted text! WordPress does that from time-to-time. Hmmm …

  2. I couldn’t agree more that sustainability is a word referring to practically everything; can something be sustained? It is as McNamara says.

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