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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Ruins of history – or history in ruins?

January 5, 2017 Leave a comment

pevenseycastleandtrees

January 5th: a day of glorious sunshine for me to stagger into on my rocky road to rehabilitation from my present illness. Lucky me has thousands of year of heritage to walk past on one of my local walks, and today’s photo shows off the impressive ruins of the Norman fort within the ancient Roman walls of Pevensey Castle. Always a great reminder of the rise and fall of empires, and within my own lifetime the British Empire has come to an end. Now the world apparently has superpowers, although what the difference is between ‘superpowers’ and ’empires’, I’m not sure! But of course, a superpower, no matter how strong, does not have the power to stop the natural world changing dramatically as a result of global warming, not even a superpower led by a reality TV superstar like Donald Trump.

But, it’s not just Trump who doesn’t understand climate change. A huge slice of the US population also doesn’t, including a large number of powerful politicians, who not only openly deny the findings of climate science but also launch attacks upon the integrity of climate scientists themselves, making all sorts of accusations about them without any evidence and even trying to withhold funding from essential climate research programmes. The attacks continue even though the latest research corroborates even more strongly the data climate scientists have accumulated over the last few decades, data which shows that global warming continues apace.

So it’s no surprise that the Arctic, that “giant refrigerator that helps make our world a viable place to live”, continues to show a record low amount of ice for this time of year, and that the Greenland ice sheet is continuing to melt at an ever faster rate. The loss of Arctic sea ice is now so great that the recently knighted sailor, David Hempleman-Adams, and his team, completed a sailing trip around the Arctic in about 3 months, a trip that would have taken up to 3 years some decades ago! And what does Trump now want to do in the Arctic? Team up with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to drill for oil in the Arctic, thereby exacerbating the very climate change that is leading to the destruction of the Arctic ecosystem in the first place, as well as leading to global catastrophic climate change if the Arctic oil drilling goes ahead unrestrained!

Walking past peaceful ruins – thinking of present ruins

Of ecosystems, climate systems, ocean systems –

Past blends with present and future concerns.

Everything passes away, even empires,

But now even history may pass away –

Strange, the urge to record the end of history endures…

 

 

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

January 4, 2017 Leave a comment

imag3380

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

romanwallandcafepevensey

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

peelingslane2jan17

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

imag3355

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 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”.