Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,It is the world's poor who suffer the first ecological consequences of over-consumption by the rich.
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!
The opening line of this dark parable announces its theme: the relation of economics ("sixpence") and food production ("a pocketful of rye"). The second line then introduces the problem: excessive or extravagant consumption. Once we have correctly identified the industrial capitalist ("the king"), the western consumerist ("the queen") and the worker from the two-thirds world whom they keep in subjection ("the maid"), then the tragic moral of this biting social commentary becomes clear.
Innocent children's nonsense song or a devastating critique of contemporary economics? You decide.
Of course, we could go on and identify the potent warnings and analyses found in other eco-parables from Mother Goose:
• Jack and Jill - rising tensions over dwindling supplies of fresh water.Although I've indicated that points are currently on pause, I'll offer up to twenty for the best suggested readings of the hidden ecological messages encoded in other traditional nursery rhymes.
• Doctor Foster went to Gloucester - climate change and de-globalisation, or the re-localisation of economies due to shifts in precipitation and sea level rise.
• Hey Diddle Diddle - the deleterious effect on food security of astronomical beef production and excessive numbers of domestic pets.
• The Grand Old Duke of York - indecision at Copenhagen.