Welcome to my website. Please let me explain why I title it An Open Letter From Lucky Jim —
I was lucky enough to be born in Leith, Edinburgh, in January 1929, so now I am 87 years old, and I believe history will look back on the period from 1930 to 2030 as Homo sapiens’ brief sojourn in paradise.
When WW2 started in 1939, I was evacuated to Port Seton and spent a very happy and interesting year living with a delightful fishing-boat-owning family.
In 1943, aged 14, I left school with no qualifications and after spending about eighteen months odd-jobbing, in January 1945, I started a five-year apprenticeship as an engineer fitter in Brown Brothers, Edinburgh. After serving four of the five years, I joined the Merchant Navy as a marine engineer for a compulsory six years to avoid the alternative which was two years’ conscription in the British Army.
I left the Merchant Navy after six and a half years with a combined First Class Steam and Motor Certificate and spent one year as Chief Engineer of a 24,000-ton tanker. When I ‘Swallowed the Anchor’ in 1956 and came ashore, I went on to spend four years as a Power and Services Engineer Manager at the North British Rubber Company in Edinburgh, later joining the Leith Shipping company, George Gibson, as Engineer Superintendent in 1961. In 1967, I co-founded the engineering and gas-ship-owning company, Liquid Gas Equipment Ltd (LGE) and, in 1987, we sold the engineering part of the company to the Weir Group, who went on to sell it to the Babcock International Group for £23m in 2013.
By 2002 I reckoned I had been blessed with more than my share of good luck, so just in case that luck might run out, I hedged my bets by also selling the shipping company. I’m now happily retired.
With nine grandchildren, my attention is now very much focused on the type of world that we are leaving to them and their generation, and on the many problems which they will be faced with. With non-renewable resources being depleted faster than ever, and with a birth rate that will give us a population of nine billion people by the year 2050, business as usual is no longer an option for the next generation. With capitalism, the business community and the media all supporting our mad pursuit of exponential global growth, which can only speed us even faster down the Road to Armageddon, we will have cracks and fractures appearing in the fabric that holds our society together, with riots and mass migration on a scale even greater than we are seeing today.
But the biggest problem of all is Global Warming and that has the potential for a premature end for us all. There is now a growing body of scientific evidence and opinion telling us that CO2 emissions must be reduced but this will only happen if, and when, we leave much more of the fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. If we carry on as we are doing, then I believe our days are surely numbered.
Seven of my nine grandchildren are either through or still at university and they all tell me that Global Warming is now a major topic of discussion among the students and staff. With computers, blogging and social media now globally available, we can watch, comment and pass on our thoughts as the future unfolds. These are the reasons why I have decided to share my book A Letter to My Grandchildren online, and have taken to blogging to present my own thoughts and opinions on local history, and more particularly, just where our planet and future generations are heading if we can’t lick the big problem of global warming. Hopefully it will help us to eventually gather together a sufficiently large body of opinion which can, with the help of the media (?) pressurise all of the currently lethargic governments and make them sit up and take notice. Now, in 2016, with a family of three children and nine grandchildren, I am more than ever convinced that my generation is leaving them and future generations problems which, even on a best-case scenario, they will find very difficult to deal with.
Hopefully, I still have a few years left to find out if, in the short term, my thoughts and projections are correct or whether Grandpa Whyte turns out to be just an old merchant of doom who got it all wrong.