‘Reality TV’ Trump versus reality of climate change: who wins?

January 4, 2017 Leave a comment

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January 4th: My illness rumbles on, restricting me once again to a short walk along the lanes of my village, lanes which take me past farms and small-holdings where willow trees glow golden in the winter sunlight and bare trees stand out starkly against the dark clouds rolling over the field slopes. All this natural splendour is precious, of course, keeping my spirits up despite my body feeling rotten, and gives me inner strength to think about what is otherwise very hard to think upon: climate change.

Not that Donald Trump thinks hard about climate change. His mind is apparently so against treating it as a serious subject that he’s contemplating slashing federal funding for climate research by agencies such as NASA. It’s quite mind-numbing to see the extent not just of Trump’s climate denial but the bizarre extent to which he goes to trash climate change as a valid area of concern for scientists to investigate. Yet Trump will have to deal with the reality of climate change impacts upon the United States, as there is a very high probability of several extremely damaging weather events hitting the US during his term as President. Obama had to deal with several such events, some of which went a long way to increasing awareness amongst US citizens about the growing impacts of climate change. Climate change is just nature responding in dynamic ways to what humans are doing to nature. So it will be fascinating to see how Trump handles the inevitable clash between his ‘reality TV show’ view of the world and the reality of the natural world itself as human-induced global warming plays itself out. There’ll be plenty of denialist spin from Trump, of course, but whether this will be enough to prevent demands within the US for more positive responses to climate change remains to be seen. The fate of the whole world partly depends on how this clash works out!

Meanwhile, right now in the Arctic, sea ice extent is the lowest it’s ever been for this time of year. The Arctic death spiral continues. The reason? Why, climate change of course! Evidence? It’s right here. And the consequences for us here in the UK and Europe? Lots more extreme weather events.

The USS President sails on sublimely towards the iceberg of climate disaster

Supremely confident that the ship is unsinkable, the captain dreams of

New walls, new deals, new ways of making the ship even greater than now,

And the band will play on as the dreams dissolve into the cold, uncaring ocean…

 

 

 

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preserving ruins in a ruinous time…

January 3, 2017 Leave a comment

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January 3rd: Despite a heavy cold, the brilliant morning sun, rare these last few weeks, was too inviting for me to resist going out for a walk around my neighbourhood. My photo today is of part of the Roman wall at Pevensey Castle. You’ll notice that there’s plenty of ivy growing on the wall at the moment, and that’s repeated at many points around Pevensey Castle. The ivy has grown tremendously in recent years as maintenance work on the castle by English Heritage has obviously been reduced, probably to save on costs as budgets for such organisations get ever more relentlessly squeezed by government austerity policies. There’s certainly a lot more ivy on the walls of the castle now compared with what was there when I first moved into the area about 17 years ago. But that’s a good thing in my view, as ivy is such a tremendous source of pollen and nectar for honeybees, especially in the autumn and early winter of each year. Goodness knows that honeybees need all the help they can get to survive these days as ever more of their habitats disappear! The ivy also adds a lot to the ‘romanticism’ that is part of the charm of ancient ruins and which was partly responsible for the 19th century movement to make such ruins regarded as so important to our national heritage that they needed expert restoration and preservation.

Talking of preservation, I watched an excellent video interview today in which climate scientist Michael Mann talked about the possibly huge negative impacts of a Trump presidency upon global efforts to preserve a stable enough climate system for human habitation. Mann has shown huge courage and determination in his attempts to highlight the science behind climate change, despite massive threats and intimidation directed against him by the climate deniers at all levels, including from within the US Congress. This kind of speaking truth to power is always inspiring but never more essential than now.

The best piece of writing I came across today was a post by Charlotte Du Cann from the excellent The Dark Mountain Project. The post was especially poignant as it chimed with so many of my own feelings as I walk the country lanes of my neighbourhood whilst contemplating the existential crisis we are all in. This quote from her post is something that could have fitted in easily with any of my cogitations on my recent walks, if I’d only been clever and wise enough to be as eloquent as Charlotte:

In spite of everything, I realised I wanted to go home to the lane. Though the Empire will keep telling me I do not belong, I know that I do. And no kind of politics will take that relationship away. I am not going anywhere else. I am not a nationalist, a flag waver, a patriot, I don’t know what ‘British values’ are, I can’t tell you the names of any football players or newscasters or the kinds of questions aspiring UK citizens are tested on. But I can love this place, these marsh birds, these oaks. I can cohere in a fragmenting time, I can remember in a forgetting time. We don’t need a grand vision, another story right now, we need to get through the nigredo, the seismic shaking of the jar, and allow the seeds we hold inside us to break open their coats.

In the winter sun, along a country lane,

All seems to cohere, to harmonise within nature’s song.

Yet what seems, seems also to jar with what is known,

with what is to come, with the gathering storms…

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Canute and the rising seas…

January 2, 2017 Leave a comment

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January 2nd: A day of brilliant sunshine, enabling me to go on a much longer walk than was possible yesterday, as well as to appreciate nature in its winter glory. My photo today shows my favourite part of the route I took today, underneath a canopy formed by a line of mature oaks. I look forward to the Spring when these oaks create cathedral-like arches of greenery, making a living roof for the lane.

But it was a bittersweet walk, though, because all the while I was contemplating the lack of a real winter in the Arctic right now, as well as thinking about what Paul Beckwith says in his latest post, which I read earlier today. His post also discussed the latest paper by climate scientist James Hansen and his colleagues, which not only points out the extreme urgency of reducing carbon emissions as soon as possible but also points out that even a drastic reduction in fossil fuel burning is not enough, because rapid extraction of carbon from the atmosphere also needs to occur if overall carbon levels are to be reduced sufficiently to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Meanwhile, the anxieties that many have about Donald Trump, now only 19 days away from the US Presidency, continue to grow, especially with regards to his lack of concern about climate change. Indeed, in a report today by the BBC, even a senior member of Trump’s own Republican Party – a former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency – has expressed great anxiety about Trump’s proposed climate and environmental policies.

Powerful politicians rise and fall, come and go. 

Like glaciers, they gouge out their paths.

Like storms, they blow through our lives.

Like trees, they grow tall then die.

But like King Canute, they cannot stop the rising seas…

 

 

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New Year’s Day mutterings on the gathering storms…

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

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On this New Year’s Day, I contemplate with bemusement the fact that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States in 20 days time. So cometh a climate denier who has appointed a cabinet full of climate deniers, all committed to the unrestricted exploitation of fossil fuel reserves despite the fact that the world needs to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

All this against a backdrop of climate change impacts worsening by the month, highlighted by the record low sea ice extent in the Arctic at this very moment (as I explored today by reading Paul Beckwith’s latest blog post on the subject). The Arctic death spiral accelerated significantly in 2016 and is continuing into 2017, making the prospect of an ice-free Arctic in summer within the next few years a very real possibility, with massive consequences for the stability of climate systems across the world whilst certainly accelerating the overall rate of global warming .

If I were a novelist, I couldn’t have made this scenario up: a climate denier becoming the most powerful man on Earth at the very moment that the world’s climate system has passed so many tipping points and is hurtling towards a rate of climate change impossible for humanity to control, or adapt to fast enough. So instead of writing a novel, I’ll just record, in diary-like fashion, each day of this wild ride that we’re all embarking on. Just being an unflinching witness and archivist to this awesome, momentous change in human affairs is a challenge in itself as indeed  – as W.B.Yeats would say – a “terrible beauty is born”.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and one ironic side-effect of my growing interest in climate change and its impacts is a renewed interest in nature and all its works, as well as a greater desire to immerse myself emotionally and spiritually within it and to express my feelings about it. So I shall endeavour to post one photo a day, taken on that day, of my interaction with nature and to write something creative about it. Today’s photo is of a scene along one of the lanes in my home village that I often walk along, looking across the hedge to the Pevensey Levels beyond.

Walking under dull, dour skies on this New Year’s Day,

I contemplate the destiny of the coming year, the world, and myself.

No clarity, no comfort comes, but I walk on anyway,

Lulled  and soothed by my rhythmic strides into the sodden dusk

Drizzling with thoughts of the comforts of home and hearth,

And shelter from the gathering storms…

 

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The Lost Garden of Pevensey

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

13646755_10207057607224003_321679271_oOne of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever been engaged in has been the creation, over this summer of 2016, of a new community apiary on land leased by Incredible Edible Pevensey & Westham from a  local utility company. Working with bees is always a pleasure for me, but working with other volunteers to create an apiary for the benefit of the local community on land that is already rich in biodiversity and a rare oasis of nature in a rapidly urbanising landscape is particularly rewarding for me. We hope to harvest honey, one of nature’s true ‘wonder foods’, from our hives next year to share with the local community, and in time to train some of our volunteers up to help maintain the hives under the supervision of our head beekeeper.

Surrounded by many tall, mature trees and shrubs, the site is well screened off from prying eyes, and the very narrow access path leading into the site makes it feel like a ‘secret garden’, a ‘lost world’, that allows a playful escape from the manicured lawns, parks and streets of the local area. The site is pretty wild, having been free of any management for many years, which is part of the charm, as our merry band of volunteers have had great fun clearing away dead undergrowth and fallen tree branches to create little clearings, in the process discovering abandoned sheds and equipment from the time when the site was full of allotments. The clearings are now home to five beehives, each one housing a swarm collected by our head beekeeper and lovingly nourished by her as they grow into full-strength bee colonies. The honeybees share their new home with the abundant bumblebees and butterflies already on site, together with the many species of birds that flit in and out of the trees and bushes there.

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One of the serendipitous discoveries we made was the presence of three mature apple trees that have survived nearly being swallowed up by brambles and ivy. Given that Incredible Edible Pevensey & Westham is partly about creating sustainable sources of organic foods for  local people to share so as to increase the food resilience and food sovereignty of the local community, these apple trees are manna from heaven for us, and we have already harvested quite a few of the apples from them. With judicious pruning of the apple trees over this coming winter to restore them to full health and productivity, plus the planting of a lot more fruit and nut trees alongside them, we’ll be well on the way to creating a true ‘forest garden’.

Nature is under severe threat in the UK and wildlife sites are precious oases of nature now, especially locally because so many of our nearby green fields are being lost to vast new housing estates nearby. So I and my fellow volunteers on the project feel a deep sense of responsibility for managing the site sensitively in order to protect and enhance the biodiversity there. We see this not only as part of doing our bit to help nature, but also as providing a place where local people can still experience a little bit of the wildness that makes being in nature so rich an experience. For, after all, we are animals within a nature full of other animals. Indeed, we are nature, not a species apart from nature, and there is an inner wildness within us all that resonates with the wildness we find in nature. There is something deeply healing about working within wild nature, and working with a team of local volunteers to build a community that treasures that nature as well as benefits from it is, for me, deeply empowering.

If you wish to volunteer with this project, please contact incrediblepaw@aol.com or the Lead Co-ordinator for the apiary on 01323 460338 or 07402321382.

Categories: bees, nature

The sacrilege of slaughtered nature

As today is the first day of the #30DaysWild challenge set by The Wildlife Trusts, I thought I’d publish one of my poems for the first time online. It’s a poem about the wildlife in my village that I’ve come to love over the years. In particular, the nature that is to be found along Peelings Lane, the only country lane still left within the village.

 

It is an ancient lane, still rich in biodiversity, but under constant threat from a myriad of housing developments planned for the village. I and many others in the village successfully saw off a very inappropriate housing development for the lane back in 2014 when the local planning committee was persuaded by our well-developed arguments to refuse the development In the afterglow of that victory I wrote this poem:

Peelings Lane

 

Grandiloquent, ancient oaks, their sun-shot arches of greenery

echoing to the peals of evensong

calling vergers to their vespers,

framing my regal peramble down the ancient sunken lane

limned by verdant wildflower verges,

sweet-smelling in the salty sea breeze

rippling tall meadow grasses beyond ancient hedgerows,

riotous with rumbustious bees, birds, butterflies.

 

If ever I have felt a sense of place,

it is here, now, in this lane

down which the Roman legions marched into Pevensey,

down which the Saxons sought their Sussex shore,

down which the Normans claimed their spoils of war,

down which the smugglers stole along,

down which the drovers and their livestock plodded,

down which I follow forefathers of yore.

 

T.S.Eliot, speaking of another lane in another time,

trumpeted “History is now and England”.

I say it softly to myself now,

in this lane, in this village, in this, my England,

and I pray, in my own secular way,

“let this ancient byway stay a heritage highway,

free from the menace of brick and mortar,

saved from the sacrilege of slaughtered nature”.

 

Connecting up the dots of war, austerity and climate change

November 30, 2015 Leave a comment

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This last weekend, there was a Stop the War rally in London on the Saturday to protest about the government’s plans to bomb Syria, which many members of Eastbourne People’s Assembly attended. Then on the Sunday, there was a People’s March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, also in London, to demand urgent action to deal with climate change, at which some members of the Eastbourne People’s Assembly, alongside members of Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, were also present. Why did so many Eastbourne people attend these protests? Because these two massive protests, back to back, at the heart of our parliamentary democracy, point to a subtler and deeper connection between war, climate change, and austerity in general: war, with all its fossil fuel guzzling weapons of death, has a massive carbon footprint, one which is, bizarrely, not taken into account in the emissions calculations upon which the UN climate negotiations depend, and bombing Syria only adds to that carbon footprint, piling stupidity onto the appalling barbarity of killing civilians through saturation, round-the-clock bombing of Syria already carried out by the US, France, and Russia, bombing which is creating ever more Syrian refugees, many of whom are trying to find sanctuary in Europe. The bombing in Syria is particularly bad because oilfields and oil trucks are often targeted, leading to huge increases in carbon emissions as those oil stocks explode.

So it is richly ironic that, at a time when the crucial UN climate talks in Paris are going on, the government is only focussed on its plans for bombing Syria rather than talking about the climate change that such bombing would exacerbate. The irony is heightened by the fact that at a time of supposed austerity and the need – according to the government – to reduce public spending (including reducing spending on the measures necessary to, for example, prevent homes from flooding due to climate change impacts), the government itself proposes increasing public spending massively by funding a hugely expensive bombing campaign that has no spending limits attached to it! In Eastbourne, which is in the front-line of climate change due to the rising sea levels and increasing severity of storm surges caused by global warming, we should be acutely aware of how important it is to prevent catastrophic climate change. So we should fight both the the austerity that will deprive Eastbourne of adequate funds for flood defences and climate change adaptation and the military spending that funds fossil fuel driven wars in the Middle East that only make climate change worse and reduces both our security from terrorism and our security from the impacts of climate change.

I and many of my friends and colleagues in the Eastbourne area are opposed to austerity in all its forms and that includes opposition to government proposals, such as the plans to bomb Syria, which are not only inhumane in their own right, but also contradict the basis of its own austerity principles as well as undermining it own public commitments to deal with climate change seriously. To talk of austerity for us taxpayers at home whilst urging unlimited spending on war abroad and ignoring the impacts of those policies upon the safety of our climate future both at home and abroad is deeply irresponsible and a dereliction of the government’s duty to protect its own citizens.

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