Time to despair
We’re all aware, aren’t we, of the strenuous efforts made by oil and gas and coal extractors over the decades to shut down and twist debate on their own research findings that burning their products on a vast scale is causing the planet to overheat dangerously, by promoting false narratives and sponsoring willing deniers.
A new polemic from George Monbiot writing in The Guardian today, for instance, reveals that while many environmentalists are cosying up with apparent gratitude to the Shell oil and gas company for diverting $300 million to reforestation and other climate-change mitigation schemes, they are at the same time spending $25 billion on exploring for and exploiting new oil and gas reserves that must, according to scientists, absolutely be left in the ground if we are to stand any chance of avoiding an extinction-level event this century.
When that event – more of a process – might happen is still unfortunately for the scientists a matter for some conjecture, as they are not in the chicken-entrails business. Some indeed fear it could be within the next decade if certain feedbacks already observed start to accelerate out of control.
So, I feel we really need to despair more, as it’s not only the fossil-fuel energy corporations that are still cynically denying the evidence of their own research in the name of shareholder greed and even ramping up their output, knowing perfectly well the murderous, ecocidal effect it’s having on our oceans and atmosphere.
Led by their example, despite international accords the governments of increasing numbers of oil-and-gas producing countries are following suit, so that there is now realistically zero possibility of achieving goals and targets set out in recent agreements, feeble though they have been.
A BBC series that concluded last week investigated the plastics industry, which depends on oil and gas for its feedstocks, and found that producers expect to double the global use of plastics in the next ten years; while at the same time doing little or nothing to mitigate the effects both of greenhouse gas emissions from its production and of pollution, both by plastics waste and by nanoplastics particles we (and by extension every other species on the planet) are eating, drinking and breathing all the time, whose health effects are as yet unknown.
While, BBC News today reports on the upcoming G20 summit in Japan that the climate emergency rates barely a mention.
“A draft of the closing communiqué mentions climate change as just one issue among many and omits to use the phrases ‘global warming’ and ‘decarbonisation’. Critics believe that Japan is trying hard to win favour with the US on trade issues by downplaying the scale of the climate question and possible solutions to it.”
Yes, that’s the same Japan that has endured anomalous heatwaves for the last few years, that have been killing their citizens by the hundred. And days of tumultuous rain last week that led to deaths and a million people having to be evacuated on Kyushu, for the second year running. The lives of ordinary Japanese are as nothing, compared with Premier Abe’s pathetic sucking-up to the corrupt*, degenerate old monster in the White House; and the exigencies of “trade”.
The same BBC report says, too, that countries such as Saudi Barbaria – how many of those lazy Arabs have in the past two centuries made any contribution from their artificially created “kingdom” to world peace, science, art, agriculture, music, philosophy? How many Nobel prizewinners have they produced? They live their worthless, gluttonous lives on free money from the ground and get indentured Pakistani labor to do all the work – are holdouts against even last year’s pretty anodyne warnings from the IPCC, refusing to endorse the conclusions of the report.
But neither can the supposedly Green EU agree on future emissions targets, in the face of atavistic opposition from the coal burning, rutted feudal demesnes in the east.
There is nothing really left to say.
No-one in their right mind seriously believes the crisis is not real. But as politics is showing across the world, magical thinking has taken over; a form of reckless, Devil-take-the-hindmost hysteria infects the ruling elites. I suppose we can take heart from another narrow electoral victory of the center-left, this time in Denmark, from the growing popular protests against government inaction on the issue, and from the progressive wing of the hopelessly divided Democrats in the USA.
But it’s really not enough, and it’s already way too late.
It’s a good thing too, if true, that the UK of all countries, where the crisis began 270-odd years ago, has reached the point where almost half of our annual energy production comes from renewables; while outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has promised – not that she will be around to deliver – a commitment to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.
But as the CO2-equivalent atmospheric burden of heating gases passes 562 ppm, these small gains are massively offset by the insane rush of other, much larger nations to industrialize on a broken, 20th-century model that threatens the future of all life on earth. And nothing, it appears, not even the massive economic cost of climate breakdown already being felt (see below and numerous GW diaries passim), is going to stop them.
*the latest example of Trump’s corruption: his Environmental Protection Agency is expected shortly to be licensing a controversial mining project in Minnesota to a company owned by a billionaire Chilean businessman who just happens to be the landlord of the rented $4.5 million mansion where Jared Kushner, wife Ivanka Trump and their brood live when they are in Washington.
Ethics violations? Breaches of the emoluments clause – profiting from office? Conflicts of interest? Not a bit of it, we’re the Trump gang, he’s the president, we can do whatever the fuck we like, and no-one can stop us!
Sorry, mate, you’re talkin’ foreign. Ph what?
A leading UN organization, UNESCO has joined other international institutions in saying it will no longer support conferences in the UK because of the blatantly racist policy of the Home Office to deny temporary visas to so many visiting academics from black and asian backgrounds, that it makes organizing events an unacceptable financial risk.
At least, racism is the interpretation one has to put on the numbers of University-accredited and fully funded delegates, with families back at home, who are being told, with no appeal, and despite being able to show their invitations and name their sponsors – no, mate, you can’t come in here because we believe you intend not to return home and you don’t have the resources to support yourself.
The quasi-fascist policy has led to some truly horrendous gaffes, such as the conference on International Development sponsored by members of the UK Parliament having to be cancelled because so many overseas delegates were refused visas.
Clearly, only the natives should be discussing International Development. It’s our money, after all. And we know what’s best for you.
Is it a deliberate act of self-sabotage, I wonder? Because if it weren’t so serious it would be a huge joke, wouldn’t it? Assuming that BEM visitors can’t possibly be academics on their way to a conference, I mean. Because of their color. Or perhaps it’s just the uneducated stupidity of Border officials failing to understand the meaning and purpose of an academic conference or exchange visit, and the paperwork involved.
But it looks more and more to me like Little Britain pulling up the drawbridge.
The no-visas approach has been adopted by a Home Office that is clearly out of control: dysfunctional, authoritarian, administratively incompetent, racially biased and certainly not fit for purpose. Its spokesmouth responded predictably to complaints from serious quarters about the no-visas policy by saying, in its inimitable, tongue-in-cheek, “Yes, Minister” style: “We welcome international academics and recognise their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector.”
Clearly, no, they don’t. Because they’re not part of it. So they’re destroying it.
Alison Phipps, UNESCO lead on refugee integration, was quoted as saying:
“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money and given the irresponsibility and erratic nature of UKVI decision-making, it’s the number one item on my risk register and we cannot, with any integrity, allow that kind of finance risk to the projects.”
Phipps, reports The Guardian, is particularly frustrated by the refusal of the Home Office to issue visitor visas to academics taking part in the government’s own Global Challenges Research Fund – a five-year, £1.5bn fund that uses UK aid money for research on intractable global challenges.
“The fund’s purpose is to hire and pay overseas academics to work with the UK on a range of government-funded projects,” said Phipps. “But even though we’re using the government’s money for exactly the purpose we’ve been given it, academics we sponsor are being turned down with no appeal rights.”
The Home Office has obviously gone rogue when its nationalistic, isolationist, Kafkaesque policies are working against the government’s own intentions. But the government itself is in total disarray and cannot be expected to sort out problems like this one. The Secretary of State has been far too busy with his failed bid to be selected to lead the party, to actually do his job. The actual Prime Minister is a ghost, haunting No. 10 until that fatuous Old Etonian nincompoop moves in with his soon-to-be ex-bit of totty.
(That’s a doomed relationship if ever I saw one – and I’ve had a few. Party girl meets midlife crisis? Forget it!)
It is as if Sajid Javid, first-generation-born son of immigrants from Pakistan, son of a bus driver, is so ashamed of his lowly origins, so hates who he is, that he has been instructing his Home Office officials to go in hard on anyone black or brown since, obviously, they can’t be bona fide academics, living as they do in mud huts and up trees. Just more illegal immigrants, takin’ the piss.
What are the fans going to think, when global football stars are being denied visas to play for their beloved clubs, I wonder? Musicians from other countries, including America, are already refusing to tour in Britain because of difficulty with visas. And still nothing has been set in stone, as regards EU citizens’ residency rights post-Brexit. People are still being wrongly interned or deported, or denied access to employment, housing rentals and health services they’ve been entitled to for decades.
It’s bad enough that the number one worry of UK universities is that Brexit will virtually end exchanges with European researchers and turn off the lucrative tap of foreign students, especially from China and the Indian subcontinent, already turning to the USA and Australia for their degrees rather than suffer at the hands, both of the Home Office and of our home-grown racist street-thugs. It’s getting harder to tell the difference.
But it’ll be great, won’t it, when the whole of white Britain can finally dumb itself down to the level of the daytime TV morons who voted for this omnishambles and who still refuse to understand what it is they’ve done because, well, “there’s more of us than you so we won’t be told”.
Great, when the feckless oaf, Boris Johnson, the domestic abuser and prime narcissist, a man who treats women like internet trolls use Kleenex – who apparently declines to practise safe sex or self-control – and who couldn’t even manage the job of Foreign Secretary without constantly putting his size-12s in it, becomes Prime Minister next month, and the role model for every gormless prat in the country.
I’m 70 this year, I don’t have many years left on the rockpile. Why, dear God, do I have to spend them trapped in a rotting prison hulk moored in mid-Atlantic with this bunch of useless bastards carousing on the bridge?
“All our Buddha’s are made by us using the best materials available.”
Tell me, what is wrong with this commercial announcement? (Yes, I’m looking for a large stone Buddha head for my little garden. I’ve actually found one, my local garden centre sells quite nice ones, only the staff are not allowed to lift them, for reasons of Health & Safety, one gathers, which might explain why they don’t appear to have sold any.)
There, their dear: some pointers for trolls
I’m rapidly going bald, reading too many readers’ comments beneath articles written by journalists who, if not always right about things, and lacking the professional eye of a subeditor, that extinct species, so that mistakes often of omission of entire words are becoming increasingly common, are nevertheless qualified to set down coherent thoughts in writing.
But you seldom find a misplaced apostrophe in the Washington Post, or the New York Times.
For fuck’s sake, morons, what makes you think your crapulous opinions can possibly carry any weight if you can’t even put an apostrophe in the right place? I’m tearing my goddam hair out. It just goes on getting worse.
It’s its! ITS!! That’s if the subject belongs or attaches to something neutral, an object, a statement, it’s its! If you wish to abbreviate “it is”, which is good practice in writing, then it’s it’s. Got it? If you wish to abbreviate can not, it’s can’t. Will not = won’t. Should not = shouldn’t. And if you’re trying to say something belongs to it, then it’s its.
Christ on a BMX, it’s not that difficult, surely?
(A longer version of this article will appear somewhere, maybe next week.)
Donald Trump’s bill to the US taxpayer for his 3-day weekend golfing trips has now topped $106.9 million since he took office in January 2017. Twenty-one per cent of his time as president – 186 days – has been spent on the golf course. (Farron Cousins/TYT). Mr Trump has claimed he works harder than any president in history.
Sunk like a Stone
Collectors of gems should hie themselves to an obituary in The Guardian, 25 June, of the historian Norman Stone, who has – probably mercifully, by the account – died at the age of 78.
It does seem something of a miracle he lasted so long.
It’s not done to speak ill of the dead; except that nowadays it is, and all the more fun for that. Although I’m not sure what Stone’s three sons will make of Prof. Richard Evans’ cooler than cool appraisal of their wayward dad.
I wonder actually what my own kids might make of my record? Not being in the slightest bit famous – or notorious – I guess I’ll just have to self-obituarize. I can be quite excoriating about myself, if it helps. I’m only intermittently a nice, kindly bloke with an optimistic outlook and a good word to say about anyone. I try to be unpleasant and kind on alternate days; balance being all, to a Libra. But – this bogl apart – I’m not the most communicative person you’ll never reach on the phone.
Though a minor celebrity Stone, Evans reckons, was a fairly lousy, lazy historian who got by mostly on one good book, a ton of literary flair and flashes of personal charm. I can relate to that, I relentlessly sent up the A-level exam questions as I’d done no revision, let alone prior work, yet managed somehow to get an A in History, presumably A for Amusement. Marking is such a chore. My teachers were not amused, however and it took the precocious gift of a bottle of whisky to placate my form master, who had written me off entirely.
Glasgow-born Stone, fee-paying-educated on an airforce scholarship granted after the death of his father in a training accident, also Norman, managed to get into Cambridge. London-born me didn’t, so there we part ways. And from there, like the Duke of Wellington, when he was up, he was up… you know the rest.
Evans – regius professor of history at the University of Cambridge, president of Wolfson College, Cambridge and Fellow of the British Academy for Humanities and Social Sciences – starts as he means to go on:
“One of the specialities of the historian Norman Stone, who has died aged 78, was character assassination.”
And goes on brilliantly to assassinate Stone in almost every paragraph; although if the accounts are true, Stone didn’t need much assassinating; at least, not in the literary sense. His morose drinking habit was enough to kill most people off, but apparently not whatever he had come to detest in himself.
“At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of…”
One wonders, though, how seriously he took his habit of using his modest academic platform to hurl invective at real politicians? His blasting of Ted Heath as “a flabby-faced coward” was, incidentally, plagiarism: Private Eye magazine had been successfully sued some years earlier for using the same flame-thrower on Tory Chancellor, Reginald Maudling.
Evans lovingly details how, following the publication of his well-received (if, in Evans’ opinion, somewhat Edwardian) magnum opus on “The Eastern Front, 1914-17”, Stone then subsided into a career marked by the publication of a succession of poorly researched potboilers. Having been an editor of history books, I am aware of the notion that infects publishers’ marketing departments that the mere mention of the name Hitler in a title will increase sales by 15 per cent. Needs must.
Posted by a relieved Cambridge establishment over to Oxford where, with the help of a doubtless polished reference from Sir Geoffrey Elton, he became Professor of Modern History, it seems Stone hardly ever turned up to work, frequently expressing his total contempt for his colleagues, all of whom he dismissed as “Marxists”.
“As a teacher Stone could be inspiring, often winning over his pupils with his charm, which on occasion could be quite considerable, but he became increasingly undisciplined, neglecting his duties, and spending increasing amounts of time playing poker and drinking himself into oblivion in Soho. … On the occasions when he did appear in Oxford to do some teaching, Stone became notorious for groping his female students … and annoyed Worcester College by sub-letting his rooms to make a bit of extra money. “
You kind of warm to him.
Eventually sacked, his considerable language skills came to his rescue, and having briefly been an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, who ignored his perfectly sensible view of the reunification of Germany – she saw it as a threat – but also generously ignored the occasion on which, pissed, he passed out in her presence, his career gently declined with a succession of middle-European academic postings, supported by increasingly rightwing views – he was a fan of the embryonic dictator, Viktor Orban.
There’s a little resonance there too. My father had been a “Soho rat” in the war years and after: an actor, director, globetrotting TV reporter and documentarist who self-exiled ino France for the last 30 years of his life, where he posed as an intellectual admirer of the rank, anti-semitic ultranationalist, Jean-Marie le Pen; whom he found personally charming. I don’t think it meant anything, quite honestly, it was mostly for show: he had run unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate for Twickenham in 1964, inspired after interviewing Jo Grimond.
Evans’ obituary of Stone ends on an unnecessary note of rancour, quoting a Trumpian rejoinder from Heath:
“Many parents of Oxford students must be both horrified and disgusted that the higher education of our children should rest in the hands of such a man.”
Must they, Sir Edward? It must be a comfort, knowing what people nowadays think of your Prime Ministership. And now you two lovebirds can discuss it together.
GW: underwater climate news (and overground too…)
France: Dozens of people have been evacuated in northern France after thunderstorms and torrential rain caused flooding and mudslides on 24 June. A month’s worth of rain fell in 6 hours. Severe flooding and mudslides were reported in Lisieux, where streets were under 1.5 metres of water. Cars were swept away, schools and roads closed. The Le Cirieux river broke its banks, flooding the village of Malicorne. Local fire crews responded to over 150 incidents. The train line between Paris and Caen was closed by a mudslide. (From Floodlist)
Meanwhile, as heat starts to build from the so-called Spanish Plume (actually it’s coming up from North Africa), Météo-France is predicting peaks of 45C (113F) in the southern towns of Nîmes and Carpentras by Friday. That would be almost 4C hotter than the notorious 2003 heatwave, that killed 70,000 people across Europe. And that was in August, not June.
Wunderground adds: “Wildfire danger is predicted to steadily increase during the week, reaching the “Extreme” level by the weekend over portions of France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. The European Union is already well above recent norms for hectares burned & number of fires ignited in 2019.”
While, the WHO warns: “Heatwaves occurring early in the summer have been shown to be associated with greater impacts on mortality in the same population than later heatwaves of comparable or higher temperatures.” Something to do with adjustment. And watch out for Saharan dust, warns Severe-weather.eu, there’ll be a lot of it blowing about.
UK: Hours of heavy rain on 24 June caused flash flooding in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh and other parts of the country. Firefighters worked throughout East and Central Scotland to protect communities and property as torrential rain caused widespread localised flooding. In Edinburgh, tram services were temporarily suspended after flood water covered tracks. According to the Met Office, Edinburgh saw 44.4mm of rain in 24 hours. 14 people were rescued from a flooded building in Stirling. (From Floodlist)
Balkans: Croatia and Serbia were both hit on 23 June by extensive flooding. Rivers broke their banks. In Croatia houses were flooded, roads were blocked and crops and farmland damaged. Fire crews carried out over 60 interventions, pumping water or clearing flood debris. While areas of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, saw over 100mm of rain fall in less than 2 hours, the equivalent of more than a month’s worth of rain. Images on Social media showed swamped roads and stranded cars along streets of the capital. (From Floodlist)
Poland: “The interior ministry said 90 people have drowned so far this month trying to cool off in lakes or rivers, and in Lithuania 27 people were reported to have died in similar circumstances as temperatures in the Baltic state soared above 35C. In Germany (38.5C) officials imposed a 120km/h speed limit on stretches of the Saxony-Anhalt autobahn as the road surface began to deteriorate, while rail tracks buckled near Rostock on the Baltic Sea. With temperatures in Italy forecast to hit 40C, charities were preparing to distribute 10,000 bottles of free water, while 33 of Spain’s 50 provinces will be facing record-breaking temperatures, which could reach 44C by the weekend. (Guardian)
Columbia: 2 people have been killed and several are injured or missing after deadly landslides cut the highway between Florencia and Nueva, in Huila province Sunday. Again, heavy rainfall is to blame; orange alerts are out for rising river levels. (Floodlist)
Ecuador: “Severe flooding and landslides have affected central areas of the country since 20 June. At least one person has died, 1 is missing, 1 injured and 145 evacuated due to landslides and floods. Rivers broke their banks. The heavy rain also caused a landslide in Río Blanco which destroyed at least 4 houses. Three bridges were destroyed and several roads damaged. Several communities (have been) cut-off since 21 June. Local authorities have declared a state of emergency.
Australia: It’s not unheard of for nighttime temperatures to drop below freezing in the desert, and this winter has generally seen high pressure bringing cold nights to Alice Springs, where residents’ lawn sprinklers have produced pretty shows of icicles. However, my earlier point about subeditors being an extinct species is born out by this fascinating sentence in the report of “Ice cold in Alex” (my title. It was a movie!) on Sky news.au:
“In winter, this process is exacerbated by the sub bing far too the north and therefore less heat reaching the found.”
I think we can loosely translate that as “it’s colder where it’s not sunny”. Vital science information… My friend Harry has just seen his granddaughter off to her new life as a lawyer in Australia… Doesn’t look like she’ll have too much trouble getting on there.
Brace for impact: The Taurid Resonant Swarm is an occasional encounter the Earth has with a cluster of meteors in orbit around Jupiter that arrives every few years at the end of June along with the Taurid shower – a twice-yearly phenomenon that normally produces no more than a pretty display of shooting stars – not that we’ll see them here as the forecast this week is for cloud cover thick enough to reach 30 thousand feet, where the commercial jets fly.
Severe-weather.eu writes: “there are some seriously big space rocks in there. In 1975 seismographs on the Moon left by the Apollo mission astronauts, detected a flurry of seismic activity, most likely caused by large Taurid meteoroids impacting the Lunar surface. The last big encounter with the Taurid swarm was in 2015. In the last days of October and first two weeks of November, bright fireballs from the Taurid stream were noted across the world, many lighting up the sky brighter than the Moon!”
Typically, the Swarm produces rocks from 1 to 3m in diameter, but in 1908 one 50m across flattened a large part of Siberia and a few up to several hundreds of meters, big enough to have astronomical numbers and create an extinction event, are embedded within the swarm. As the bigger stuff is blackened with soot, astronomers may not see them approaching until it’s too late to send Bruce Willis up with a nuclear bomb. Happily, it’s only necessary to paint an asteroid white on one side to get it to change course.
Telling it like it is: “The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.” (Guardian report)
Insectaggeddon: Perhaps due to the mild, wet winter there seems to be something of a minor revival in insect populations this year where I live, especially flies. I tried to keep a few alive during the winter, fearing the worst. I’m actually starting to find them quite annoying again.
I’m watching a tiny, golden wasp, less than half an inch long. It is burrowing into a hole in the ground, through the dirt between the concrete flagstones of the patio. I notice there are several holes, with little mounds. Is it hunting ants, their eggs maybe, or is it a wasp that lives in holes in the ground?
I have no idea, so I look it up. It may be a Sphex wasp, of which there are 150 species. Who knew? They are harmless and prey on aphids, of which we have a glut again this year, infesting an annoying Elderflower tree growing through my amazing privet hedge. I would cut it down, but now I know the tiny wasps eat blackfly, I’ll leave them to their lunch.