#grinder… The Irish border question: What is an Irish border?… The Madness of King Donald… Music, history… GW: The weather here has been as nice as it can be

Hi, welcome back, me.

#grinder

Yes, I had a good time, thanks. Glorious weather after the first day, and a memorable meal at a busy Michelin-starred restaurant on the divine banks of the Loire. Chef/patron emerges: “Smell zis Caledonian peppair!” He’d personally gone to New Caledonia in search of an especially fragrant pepper to put in his little battery-powered machine and brought it all the way to our table to let us poor departing Brits (and one London-based American) smell it. That’s what it takes to get one star.

For a whole day since returning, despite another gruelling all-day train journey with improbably explained delays, during which I managed to wet myself when the valve failed on my leg bag while I was falling in love with the stunning blonde passenger sitting opposite, in tiny denim shorts, and ended up instead chatting helplessly with a dyslexic theoretical physicist about string-theory, as you do on our local sprinter train, a guy with several PhDs, I have a cautious and totally misdirected sense of jaunty optimism.

Fuck it, I thought. I am the Chosen One.

We should all maybe tell ourselves that more often.

Photo: Reuters

President Donald Trump with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and others in the background

“He who smelt it, dealt it!”

 

“It’s as certain as night follows day that in the event of a referendum the entire cabinet would agree in a heartbeat to restoring Irish unity, which would solve the problem at a stroke.”

As Johnson descends on louche old Biarritz for another pointless G7 meeting to be hijacked by Trump, his abusive tweets, his capricious nonsense and his insatiable neediness, we look at….

The Irish border question: What is an Irish border?

Technology exists to track your movements and mine. Do not imagine that someone, somewhere, with the right authorization, could not, if tipped off to certain worrying keywords, or simply because you bought some branded product, log-in to a system that is tracking your every movement, purchase and utterance; and, with access to 5G, will soon know to the nearest half-meter where you are standing or lying, robbing a bank or screwing your boss’s wife.

They are already doing it. You think your stuff is Off? It ain’t. Unless it’s dead (or you are) it’s still transmitting.

So, imagine you have a truck full of shivering sheep, baa’ing piteously on their way to meet the Inevitable. (Again.) Ahead of you is a separation between one customs tax regime and another. They levy different tariffs. Some official clearly needs to know that you have trucked your terrified sheep across this border, which has no physical barrier, but which divides a higher-priced region from a lower, thus attracting people who will profit by bending the rules.

He or she will need to register that you have transhipped 135 sheep from one jurisdiction to the other, in order for more officials to send the producer and the retailer their bill and claim the tax – plus VAT – for the Government. Assuming, that is, that your sheep have not been diverted into a quiet field somewhere.

Such a barrier would naturally encourage producers on one side to smuggle their sheep across to buyers at night, and buyers to move them on at low cost into a higher-priced retail and consumer market, pocketing the difference. Bad men with guns would exploit the higher price on one side, and be prepared to shoot when questioned; or when they think someone is telling on them; or, more pertinently, competing with them. I’m pretty sure they’re digging the auld Armalites out of their rural hideyholes as I write. There’s nothing the rural Irish like more than a good ambush.

The activities of these gangsters are masked beneath centuries of political, alcoholic and religious pieties, justifying their murderous ways. Their largely bogus “movements” have in the past set off bombs callously killing non-combatants, and even conducted two wars to retain their opportunities for profit. It’s called smuggling, and wherever it happens it’s a murderous business.

And then, imagine that the complicated geography of the region means that, in order to get from a low-tax regime to the higher one, goods have to pass through the higher tax regime from the lower, and then back into the lower and on to the higher.

Who the hell is going to keep track of that?

Packed on trucks, the goods leave the freedom of one set of customs taxes and standards, to pass through a different jurisdiction, the UK, with different customs taxes and standards, in order to enter once again the former jurisdiction, the Irish Republic; and then, possibly reprocessed (unless they are to divert hundreds of expensive miles northwards through the UK to Scotland) have to pass once more across this barrier, the border, to enter the UK once again. The process, of course, having attracted more tax liabilities.

I’m sorry, there are those who think this is a good idea, but I don’t. And I’ll happily kill you over it, when the gloves finally come off, because you deserve it. You’re a bunch of fucking ignorant, selfish, disinterested, determined klutzes who haven’t been paying attention, and in your infinite laziness you believe anything you’re told by bad people you think are on your side because they sell you pictures of very young women with big naked tits just like your mum’s.

And there we come on to people. People living or working on either side of this putative border will have different rights and degrees of citizenship. No barriers separate the people south of the border from the people east of the bigger island that separates them physically by water from the other jurisdiction to which they belong. But the borders between the continent and the smaller island to the west, and to the north of an arbitrary line drawn across the island in 1926, now create differential rights, rules, loyalties and responsibilities of citizens in the south from those in the north.

A major part of the decision by a very small majority of UK citizens to leave the EU related to their objection to the principle within the EU that people should have an automatic right to live and work in any member state. As soon as several poorer East European countries with quite alien cultures joined the union, voters saw a potential threat and panicked. In future, however, anyone will be able to get in over the new, invisible Irish border. The assinine slogan, “Take back control of our borders”, will be turned on its head. Fucking eejuts.

Their vote will substantially reduce the existing right of all EU citizens, however “acceptable”, to live and work in the UK, unless they meet stricter criteria, possibly than less qualified people from other countries the UK will be forced to make its own trade agreements with. But if there are no border controls between the south and the north of the island of Ireland, and the south is in the EU and the north isn’t, then the movements of people will need to be carefully monitored too.

I’m sorry this is all so boring. Blame the Leavers.

After all, I have just popped over to France for a week, and been biometrically analysed three times and presented my passport three times going out, and twice coming back, after enduring a lengthy spell in a restive queue, and the UK is still in the EU….

Lost control of our borders? How, exactly?

(If we have, I’m sure the lowering pairs of thuggish-looking Border Force goons hanging around every corridor and hall in their black uniforms with arms folded menacingly would soon reimpose it. Is Britain the only country that greets its visitors with Force? Every time I come home I feel sickened by this fucking country.)

Unless another delay is granted while British politicians pass their one greedy little brain cell around the table to try to find a ‘unicorn’ solution to what is a totally impractical geographical problem, by leaving the European Union without agreeing to open borders for customs tax and immigration purposes, in other words by retaining the existing regime but with even fewer controls and no say in what happens, the United Kingdom cannot remain united.

is this what these fuckwits wanted?

I do not imagine for one second that the fish porters of Sunderland and the demented Empire Loyalists of Tunbridge Wells thought about this problem for one second before seizing the opportunity to leave the European Union, an institution of which they were and remain entirely ignorant, other than suspecting it to be run by a cabal of garlic-munching foreigners bent on removing our hallowed right to behave as badly as we like..

It’s certain as night follows day that the entire cabinet would agree in a heartbeat to restoring Irish unity, which would solve the problem at a stroke.

Of excellent landscape value, and producing very good beef, nevertheless Northern Ireland is an ungovernable province. It hasn’t had its assembly government working for close on three years now, since the Catholic Sinn Fein party walked out on the pretext that the Protestant Ulster Unionist parties were blocking moves to institute an official dual-language policy (English-Irish, which practically nobody speaks) and other, frankly symbolic, issues, such as on which days of the week could the British Union flag be flown over Belfast city hall.

You might conclude, as most people do, that the Northern Irish are among the most stubbornly divided, batshit crazy people on earth.

Despite that, the British government has shown no inclination to revert to the old centralized rule from Westminster, while the terms of the Good Friday agreement that ended a vicious 30-year civil war never anticipated this rift known as Brexit and rather relied on not having to sort out the border issue all over again, removing, as it did, the border. Which is 300 miles long.

So, what could technology do?

Well, every sheep has its own “passport”. A sort of “baa-code”. All farm animals, every cow, pig, sheep or horse, have had to have individual numbered documentation tracking their progress from birth and vaccinations through to every movement off-farm and transhipment to slaughter, as part of the total traceability of foodstuffs imposed through the European Union since the late 1990s and the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE), that still has to kill many thousands of people who ate contaminated beefburgers at the time. (The gestation period is up to 50 years.)

One suspects Mr Johnson and several older members of the cabinet may well be coming down with it. (We are also waiting cynically for John Selwyn Gummer’s daughter, to whom as Agriculture Minister he force-fed burgers to prove they were fit for consumption, to succumb. Sorry, I just loathe Tories. I expect she does, too.)

So it is perfectly possible using GPS in combination with 5G, using implants, to track the movements of every member of the doomed livestock community, that we should not be eating for the planet’s sake, but which we could nevertheless tax to our hearts’ content, knowing exactly where they have been and when throughout their too-short lives.

Then, were I to walk out of my local supermarket with any inanimate object valued by the retailer at more than a couple of quid and bearing some kind of transponder, klaxons would sound and the large security man would pounce on me to demand restitution or, more probably, my imprisonment.

If it can be done cheaply in shop doorways, surely similar tracking of goods and people across invisible boundaries is possible? It would require vast computing power to track billions of movements of goods and people via GPS, and automatically debit their bank accounts, but it can be done. The cost would initially be terrifying, but by scrapping the silly £100 billion-and-counting HS2 vanity project and ignoring our £1.3 trillion national debt, it might be done.

There are surely enough investors out there with money burning holes in their pockets to make the lucrative practise of customs control a viable business proposition.

If we really have to.

 

So, Farewell then, David Koch, 79. Net worth $51 billion. In a special tribute, Granny Weatherwax writes: “Did you take it with you, you fucking greedy, hypocritical little piece of ecocidal shit? I hope you died screaming.”

 

The madness of King Donald

Departing this weekend’s G7 in Biarritz, Trump put in an impassioned plug for holding the next one at his Doral golf resort in Florida, insisting to world leaders: “I’m not interested in money”.

According to a new report by Citizens For Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, thanks to his refusal to divest from his business interests as required in the constitution, including his golf resorts, Trump has been involved in more than 2,300 financial conflicts of interest benefitting himself since taking office.

Trump has tweeted-out his approval of a comment by a conspiracy-theory-peddling radio show host that Jews in Israel regard him as their “King”, and believe that he is “The Second Coming” of the Christ. Pundits rushed to point out that, technically, real Jews are still awaiting The First Coming. He later informed the servile gaggle of journalists on the White House lawn that he is “The Chosen One”. No-one dared to question it.

On numerous recorded occasions, President Trump has, for whatever reason, told his dumbfuck supporters and even business delegates that “five or maybe even six years, even before I thought of running for President”, he was named Michigan’s “Man of the Year”.

There is no such award. Oh, and he first announced he was thinking of running for President in 1988.

Twice in the past week Trump has asked aides for input on “his” idea of dropping thermonuclear bombs on hurricanes as they form off the African coast, to prevent them reaching the USA. The NOAA has humbly responded that it might not be such a great idea for the rest of the planet, and wouldn’t work anyway. (The average hurricane generates energy equivalent to a 10 megaton bomb every 20 minutes.)

The White House rushed to clear up a statement he made at the G7, that Melania Trump had met with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and agrees with him, what a great guy the world’s most murderous dictator is. She never has met him. New spokesmouth, Stephanie Grisham explained, the President really meant that the First Lady just “feels like” she has got to know him well.

A photo of Melania at the G7, looking like she couldn’t wait to get her lipgloss around Justin Trudeau’s manly dick, has gone viral.

And, though it’s been widely reported, it’s worthwhile recording – lest we forget – last week, Trump proposed buying Greenland from the Danish crown. Rebuffed by Denmark’s young female PM, he went off on one, calling her “nasty” and cancelling a proposed visit to Copenhagen. Two days later, after a phone call between them, he described her as “a wonderful woman.”

In much the same vein, he flip-flopped twice in the week on tougher background checks for gun buyers and once on cutting payroll taxes to boost the economy, while at the same time asking in a notorious tweet, who is the bigger enemy of America, President Xi of China or his own appointee, Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powel? (misspelling Powell’s name). Leading economists described his tweet as “crazy”.

As Anderson Cooper commented, it’s one thing for a President to make policy reverses – another, when he doesn’t himself seem to know or care what, if anything, his own words mean, or what he has said, from one day to the next.

The wit and wisdom of Donald J Windbag:

“I think I know more about the environment than most.” (Spoken at a press conference at the G7 in Biarritz.)

 

White supremacists in Arkansas have cut down a tree planted to commemorate the Elaine massacre in 1919 of up to 800 African Americans across the state.

 

Jazz alert

Music, history.

Since returning from a full-on week trapped in an agreeable French location with a bunch of musicians – amazing professionals as well as stumbling amateurs like me – I’ve tried to avoid falling into the trap of telling myself, enough is enough, and kept listening to jazz since arriving back earlier in the evening than I had feared; despite the delay at Shrewsbury caused by a passenger claiming to have had their luggage stolen with their ticket in it.

Thus I have discovered the lovely Robert Glasper, to whom I am listening a lot.

However, last night I devoted twenty or-so minutes to watching the outstanding young Afro-British cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award, playing the Elgar concerto at the Proms.

I have to say, emotionally engaged though he always is, and technically superb, I found the whole thing a trifle perfunctory. Perhaps because there’s nothing much more anyone can do to flog new life into this old, post-First World War nostalgia-horse, but partly also because the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra all looked supremely bored. In particular, the violinist with a ginger beard seated immediately behind the soloist, who kept rolling his eyes and pulling disdainful faces, who should be moved or sacked.

Right now, however, I am writing with one brain while riveted on YouTube by the other to a filmed 1965 Belgium tour performance by the John Coltrane quartet, music of an octane so high I am writing this on the ceiling for safety. I had not come across the video before. It is, quite simply, whatever your level of understanding of music, whatever genre and Magus you believe to hold the One True Flame, spectacular and, indeed, magisterial.

The concert – only 37 minutes survives – is performed to a packed house. Wondering in passing what Sir Edward would make of it (I imagine his patrician old head exploding, the sound reverberating ominously around the Malvern hills – although, let’s remember, he lived on well into the Jazz age – perhaps not jazz quite like this), to the accompaniment of the unbearably suspended tension of a 396-bar (okay, I haven’t counted them. It’s several minutes long), positively heroic, symphonic solo by Tyner on what is surely Coltrane’s best-ever production of “My Favorite Things”, I was moved to post this Comment underneath:

“Belgium, 1965. The year the murderous kleptocrat (and reputed cannibal) dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko finally seized power in the African nation with the worst history of white colonial brutality of all, the Belgian Congo. The true “Heart of Darkness”. Not a single black person in the audience. And yet… they’re sucking this coruscating black anger up and owning it. Funny old world.”

John Coltrane (ts, ss), McCoy Tyner (p), Jimmy Garrison (b), Elvin Jones (dr).

 

Eat your little hearts out, Trump, Putin….

In 1970, supported by the Americans, the increasingly unhinged Mobutu held an election in the DRC to consolidate his rule. The only candidate, he won with a vote of 10,131,669 to 157. (Wikipedia)

 

GW: The weather here has been as nice as it can be

Okay, I am going to mention this. During the late June heatwave in which parts of France saw record 45 deg. temperatures, it was pointed out that the new record maximum, at 5 deg. C above the old, roughly, was in itself a record increase in the record.

Announcing the hottest ever August Bank Holiday Monday in Britain, the Met Office said today, temperatures had reached 33.2C (91.8F) at Heathrow by 14:16 BST, beating the previous record of 28.2C set two years ago. (BBC)

I think we can draw from that, that summer maximum temperatures in northern Europe are running roughly 5 deg. higher now than they were only a few years ago.

Buckle up.

(And today in Boglington-on-Sea it’s 15C. Brrr.)

China: “At least 9 people have died and 35 are missing after torrential rain caused flooding, mudslides and debris flows in Sichuan province on 20 August, 2019. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated , including thousands of tourists. Roads have been blocked and bridges damaged, making access to affected areas extremely difficult. Provincial disaster authorities were using helicopters to access areas and deliver relief supplies.” (Floodlist) And: “4 people were dead with 11 others reported missing after multiple mudslides hit Wenchuan County, SW China’s Sichuan Province” (citing People’s Daily).

Wunderground adds: “Severe flooding and landslides have killed more than 200 people within two months across China. More than 60 people are missing, and about 1.3 million people were displaced.”

Philippines: 2 people have died in landslides and floods in the Philippines, where Laoag City is under a state of “calamity”. and 1 in Taiwan after strong winds and torrential rain brought by Tropical Storm Bailu. 9 people were injured in further weather-related incidents in southern Taiwan, where over 750mm of rain fell in 48 hours. Thousands of households were left without power and transport was severely interrupted, including dozens of flights. (Floodlist)

Laos: Northern provinces have been affected by flooding after heavy rain. (Floodlist)

Nigeria: Flooding has been reported in numerous states since around 16 Aug., leaving houses and crops destroyed and causing fatalities. Flooding has also affected some central areas of the country, including near the capital, Abuja, and in Niger State where the city of Bida recorded 86mm of rain in 24 hours to 23 Aug. (Floodlist)

A large and potentially devastating series of fires is raging in Central and parts of Southern Africa. Among the regions at risk is the Congo Basin forest, the second-largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon, mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (NYT)

Spain: “The streets of Madrid have been turned into rivers as flash-flooding and hail inundate Spain’s capital. One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Arganda del Rey where cars were washed away in the torrents of water while huge piles of hail built up along some streets. The Spanish subway department declared several metro stations and highways closed.” (Guardian, 27 Aug. – video http://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2019/aug/27/piles-of-hail-flash-floods-and-a-tornado-hits-spain-video ) In other news, a “spectacular” and “brutal” tornado grazed the Andalucian town of Campillos, near Malaga, leaving residents and tourists shaken but unharmed. Yellow weather warnings are still in place for “torrential” rain. (Various media)

A severe storm hit the Valencia region on 20 August, 2019, causing flash flooding in parts of the provinces of Castellón, Alicante and Valencia. (Summer rainfall records tumbled.) Some areas recorded more than 40mm of rain in less than 1 hour. El Toro in Castellón recorded 41.8mm of rain in 20 minutes.” (Floodlist) The severe weather events follow another strong plume of N African heat pushing up across Europe.

Guatemala: Heavy rain has caused flooding and landslides in several departments over the last few days.

Bolivia: As fires continue to rage in Brazil, nearly a million hectares (6,200 sq miles) of farmland and unique dry forest have been destroyed by weeks of blazes across the border in Bolivia, where the flames have now reached the country’s Amazon region. Ironically, while Bolsonaro expresses contempt for threatened tribal peoples and encourages big business to destroy the Amazon rainforest, Bolivia’s President Morales, himself from a tribal background, thought he was doing the indigenous peoples of the forest a good turn by licensing them to clear more farmland. (Guardian)

Your Gran remarks, bitterly: All such squalid, greedy, pig-ignorant eco-criminals should be dragged out of their fucking palaces and hanged in the public square.

USA: The last week of August is likely to bring yet more heavy rain, lightning, big hail and flooding to the already rain-sodden Great Plains. (The Weather Channel). Lightning struck a flag-pin on a golf course in N Carolina leaving an interesting pattern of scorch marks around what locals are promoting as “God’s hole-in-one”. 6 people were injured by a lightning strike at a PGA tournament in Atlanta. Multiple homes were evacuated in Los Angeles on 25 Aug, after a wildfire started in Eagle Rock. 44 hikers were evacuated from a national park in Arizona because of lethally high temperatures. Rivers in Alaska are “too hot” for salmon to spawn, threatening the fishing industry. (Accuweather)

Floodlist reports (27 Aug.): Thunderstorms and heavy rain brought flash flooding to parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma from 24 August. Among the worst hit areas was Fort Smith, NW Arkansas, where police report that 1 person died when a vehicle was swept off a road by swift waters. Accuweather reported, the area received 8.5-in of rain in two days, 4 times the normal monthly total.

Barbados: “A tropical storm warning is in effect for Barbados in advance of Tropical Storm Dorian, a compact system that has the potential to strengthen quickly. Tropical storm watches have been hoisted for St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines. (The Weather Channel). Monday 26 Aug.: “Tropical Storm Dorian is headed toward the Windward Islands where it will bring heavy rain and strong winds later Monday into Tuesday, but has an uncertain future beyond that in the Caribbean Sea.” (The Weather Channel). An NHS forecast puts Puerto Rico in its sights as Dorian intensifies to a possible hurricane by the weekend.

UK: A new record temperature was set for the late August bank holiday weekend, with 33.3C recorded at Heathrow on 25th. It’s the second time in one day that the record has been broken after a temperature of 31.6C was recorded earlier – beating the 31.5C record set at Heathrow in 2001 (Independent). Monday is expected to go fractionally hotter still (BBC). The UK has experienced several new record highs this year. Most of eastern central and northern Europe is headed for 35C, 96F all this week, with the heat pushing up into Scandinavia by the weekend. (Severe-weather.eu)

Greece: “Hundreds of tourists were evacuated from hotels and beaches on the Greek island of Samos where a wildfire broke out Saturday, officials said. Nearly 70 firefighters and 13 engines were battling the fire in the east of the Aegean island. Around 1,000 people were evacuated to the nearby town of Pythagoreio from several hotels.” (Daily Sabah) “Over 50 fires have broken out nationwide over the last 24 hours, fanned by gale-force winds, the fire department said.”

Turkey: “Two people were injured in the Black Sea town of Terme, Turkey, on Monday, Aug. 26, when a city bridge collapsed after a period of heavy rain.” (Accuweather)

Poland: “At least four people died and more than 100 were injured in lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. The worst hit a group of hikers at the summit of Giewont, a popular peak in the Tatra range in the south of the country. A fifth person was killed in neighbouring Slovakia. At least one of the victims was said to be a child. The storm is said to have descended suddenly after a sunny morning.” (BBC)

Australia: “Firefighters were racing to tame an enormous blaze in southeastern Australia with officials warning it could merge with others to create a “mega-fire” if weather conditions worsen. Crews have been battling fires that flared in high winds and searing heat across the state of New South Wales last week with more than 200 homes so far destroyed and many others damaged.” (Telegraph, 27 Aug.) More than 40 fires have been burning across Tasmania, while more than 100 fires were burning in Queensland, 23 Aug, where 1 person has died. (9 News) Meanwhile the forecast is for cold fronts bringing heavy rain across much of the country. Fucking weird.

Australia has just experienced its third-hottest July (a late mid-winter month) on record, beaten only by records set in 2017 and 2018, as fire and water authorities in the eastern states prepare for a worse than average fire season. The year-to-date temperatures from January to July were the second warmest on record, according to a monthly statement from the Bureau of Meteorology. (Guardian) (Let’s recollect that midsummer in Australia is 21 December.)

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: While your Uncle has been away, a M5.4 earthquake under the Cosco volcanic field in SW California set off a new swarm of quakes over in the Yellowstone caldera. The Blessed Mary Greeley records the epicenter as being not far from the China Lake military base and geothermal pumping operations.

As news reports of a M2.9 quake triggered by fracking operations near Blackpool, England, were coming in, the biggest yet, renewing calls for a permanent suspension, there was a M4.5 beneath the Kansas fracking zone, showing that quakes caused by hydraulically fracturing substrata have a cumulative effect and tend to get larger over time. (Dutchsinse)

NASA reports, a 340-meters-wide asteroid called Apophis, after the Egyptian god of Chaos, will whizz by Earth at an altitude of just 19 thousand miles in 2029. (Express, currently obsessed with clickbaiting readers fearful of apocalyptic asteroid strikes, most of which happened millions of years ago – old news.) That’s within the margin of error for orbital calculations and brings this potential planet-killer inside the orbits of our weather satellites. But don’t worry, etc., plenty more out there.

Why we need to ban fracking now… The Ruling Class… Boris lays an egg… GW: As yet, there seems to be no weather

Boris Johnson holds a chicken at Shervington Farm near Newport, south Wales.

“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you…”

(alternatively: “Have you met my new Head of Communications?”)

 

“Spikes in toxic air pollution accompany fracking wherever it goes. Drinking water is destroyed. Earthquakes are triggered. Abandoned wells leak. Pipelines explode. Climate-killing methane escapes from every component part. And nearby residents are suffering health problems consistent with their exposures—including newborn infants.” – Sandra Steingraber, PhD, of Concerned Health Professionals of New York (commenting on PSR report, March 2018)

New York State, which has no known gas reserves, banned fracking in 2012. In March 2017, Maryland became the first state in the US with proven gas reserves to pass a law banning fracking. Britain, however, continues to welcome the industry with police dogs.

Why we need to ban fracking now….

I wonder, does anyone now not imagine that whatever our government says about anything it is responsible for – the effects of austerity policies on poverty and educational standards, for instance – it is lying to us?

A spokeswoman from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Independent climate experts have recognised that natural gas has a role to play as we meet our 2050 net zero emissions target – now firmly set in law.

“Exploring the potential of a new domestic energy source is not only compatible with these world-leading climate goals, it could also deliver substantial economic benefits, through the creation of well-paid, high-quality jobs.” (Guardian)

Thus, the civil service in its scientific pig-ignorance and lazy habit of dissimulating dismisses Jeremy Corbyn’s request that the government should reverse-ferret their craven policy on fracking – the hydraulic fracturing – Americans can’t pronounce fracturing – of underground shale deposits to force “natural” gas to the surface.

A toxic cocktail of chemicals dissolved in a large volume of otherwise drinkable water is pumped at high pressure into the brittle layers of rock formed from successive seasons of ancient floodplain siltation, to crack them apart and drive out the trapped gas. Not all of it is captured; excess is generally flared off.

“Natural gas (also called fossil gas) is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, but commonly including varying amounts of other higher alkanes, and sometimes a small percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or helium.” (Google)

At this point, one should emphasise perhaps that, no, dear Government spokeshitter, “natural” gas – a fossil fuel – is not “new”, or different from, or better for the environment than the carbon dioxide driven off by burning anything – coal, wood, charcoal, garbage – briquettes from the garage. That it might be, is a lie promulgated by the PR boys of the energy industry.

It is simply a matter of relative management efficiency as to how much risk is created.

As your unscientific Uncle B. explains, based on superficial “research” (generally, reading the first paragraphs of articles on Wikipedia):

Methane – CH4, a compound of carbon and hydrogen – decays relatively quickly in the atmosphere. The single carbon atom binds with two oxygen atoms to make carbon dioxide (CO2). During the first ten years of dissipation, CH4 is up to 150 times more efficient a reserve of latent heat than CO2, a “greenhouse gas”, which remains in the atmosphere for a hundred years or more. Contrary to popular belief, vegetation does not absorb it all; and when vegetation dies, the CO2 is released once more to the atmosphere.

While we read that the average concentration of free CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from 280 to 415 parts per million since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the “carbon equivalent” of all the so-called heat-retaining greenhouse gases, including CH4 – as well as oxides of nitrogen and various chlorine compounds (e.g. CFCs), sulphur dioxide and even water vapor – is now over 560 parts per million; it having been calculated donkeys’ years ago, that a doubling of the CO2 content (which this is) would produce 5 degrees Celsius of heat-forcing – recognized now as probable extinction level for most species on earth.

Of further concern to us, at least for now, is that beyond 5 degrees, runaway heating rapidly extrapolates to produce an atmosphere that no longer supports any kind of life. Nothing like this has been experienced in the history of the earth, that was not caused by cataclysmic seismic events and, in the past, has not been recoverable over periods of millions of years.

So here we are.

Journalists continuing to parrot the “official” IPCC line that we face 4 degrees of warming possibly by 2100 and thus have ten years remaining in which to take remedial action; or the Paris line that an (already exceeded) 1.5 degrees is the limitation target to aim for by 2030, or that “sea-level rise” is the principal threat, are simply not looking where they are treading.

In all likelihood, not a few scientists believe, there is no drawing back from 5 degrees, possibly before 2030. Unless the “official” sources can all work from the same baseline and sing from the same hymn sheet as to the probability of outcomes, they have to stop playing this meaningless numbers game. It’s just confusing people.

As the atmosphere heats up, which it is doing alarmingly quickly now – remembering that most of the “global warming” has thus far been absorbed in the sea – CH4 release from various sources is also speeded up. The Arctic permafrost is one potential source of huge volumes – planet-killing volumes – of methane, which is detectably pouring out by land and sea from northerly regions where overland temperatures this summer have reached 35C.

This is known as a “feedback loop” – the more the atmosphere heats, the more greenhouse gases are released from natural carbon “sinks”. But there are many such feedbacks in play (and let’s not keep crossing our wires: global heating is not a cause of, or caused by, or even the same issue as, plastics pollution, the latest distraction.)

It is thus debatable that producing and burning more “natural” gas is going to have any effect other than to make it totally impossible to reach the already futile goal of a net zero emissions target by 2050 – by which time, at the present rate of emissions, we shall have ceased to exist for all economic purposes as a species.

It is bizarre, is it not, that while oil and gas frackers are forcing carbon out of the ground in this brutal way, willed on by governments, the same governments are speaking optimistically of technologies that will lock carbon from burning fossil fuel back under the ground.

The government knows perfectly well that to achieve zero “net emissions” implies carbon trading – offloading our own excess emissions totals onto less polluting – i.e. poorer – countries. It’s inconceivable that even becoming 100% reliant on renewables for electricity generation we could stop emitting carbon from all sources without the complete cessation of economic activity, including mechanized transport. Polite though it is to refer to relative “per capita” emissions rather than gross annual tonnage, industrialization of the developing world by any and all technological means, including fossil fuels, is not going to stop for us.

And when governments stress the economic and social importance of GDP, and of Trade, well, both depend on increasing energy-reliant production. There is no saving us from that.

But there’s more:

” A (2018) report by two leading health professional organizations—Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York—tracks and analyzes the rapidly emerging science that points to the increasing dangers to health, including respiratory disease, cancer risk, and low birth weight and preterm birth, both of which are leading causes of infant death.” (PSR website)

So, here is important research that, as far as I can determine, has been completely ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media since its publication, 17 months ago.

The two organizations conducted a meta-analysis of more than 1,300 peer-reviewed papers from the previous ten years on the health risks to local communities associated with fracking, finding that almost all raised serious concerns. “Substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health.”

What was that about “substantial economic benefits”? “Quality jobs”? (we already have nearly full employment, as people on minimum wage scurry about like ants, burning oil and delivering things to other people on minimum wage).

A 2017 article in Forbes magazine reported:

“An epidemiological study of more than 400,000 patients of Pennsylvania’s Geisinger clinic, done with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, found a significant association between fracking and increases in mild, moderate and severe cases of asthma. Toxic gases like benzene are released from the rock by fracking. … These noxious chemicals and particulates are also released by the diesel powered pumps used to inject the water.”

The author, Judy Stone goes on to excoriate the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump’s appointed energy-industry shill, Scott Pruitt, for deliberately downplaying the health risks of fracking to local communities. As far as I know, our own Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs has never even mentioned that there are any.

On shaky ground

Then there is the, as yet minor, problem of seismic disturbance. Over the course of 30 years or so, the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes in so-called fracking zones in US states like Colorado, Arkansas Texas and California where this method of extraction is extremely popular, and gas fields cover millions of acres with tens of thousands of pumping stations, heedless of whoever lives nearby, has been amplified a thousandfold.

The rule in Britain is that, if an earth tremor is recorded centered on a fracking site at M0.5 or more on the Richter scale, drilling has to stop for a survey to be carried out. This has happened many times, much to the annoyance of the Government-approved contractor, Cuadrilla. A M0.5 earthquake is barely detectable on the surface and causes no damage – other than to release more methane to the environment. No wonder they get cross.

Over the years, however, earthquakes in America associated with fracking operations have continued to grow in size. Colorado, for instance, would experience a M3.0 earthquake possibly three times a year. That figure is now over 800, and magnitudes of M4.0 are common (Janitch, citing USGS). “Each unit of magnitude represents a nearly 32-fold increase in the energy (strength) of an earthquake.” (Wikipedia).

There is no reason to suppose that the British substratum is any less faulted; although not, of course, anything like California’s notorious seismic instability, and that we are somehow immune to earthquakes. Actually, we get small ones all the time.

While the industry continues to deny it, their operations in the USA have polluted and overdepleted reserves of groundwater – the depletion of reservoirs is also a cause of earth tremors – depriving communities and farmers of safe drinking water and irrigation supplies, at a time when long-term drought is assisting the process.

Householders have reported adverse effects, such as methane leaking into their homes; famously, water coming from taps has been videoed, catching on fire. That the malignant Trump administration continues to rollback regulations governing fracking is surely in itself an acknowledgement of the dangers.

The British government’s line on fracking is pernicious nonsense, and they know it. They are lying to us, as usual. We need to wean ourselves off dependency on gas as a domestic fuel ASAP and not pretend that the word “natural” is anything other than a marketing ploy. There is nothing natural about fracking.

If there is the slightest possibility that once they got into power a Corbyn or other Labour government would stop it, we need to vote for them.

But don’t hold your breath.

http://www.psr.org/blog/2018/03/13/a-new-fracking-landscape-report-on-recent-science-shows-overwhelming-evidence-of-harm/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2017/02/23/fracking-is-dangerous-to-your-health-heres-why/#4161be995945

http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/ (“Smoke Covers Much Of Siberia” – 25 July)

 

The Ruling Class

(This piece first appeared in The Pumpkin, Issue 92. It has since undergone editing to make it more insulting.)

Puce-faced, bug-eyed, apoplectic, squirearchical Tory caricature, Mark Field MP, the biological equivalent of a “John Bull” Toby jug, a man reared entirely on bloody beef and claret, has been “pardoned” by Boris Johnson, who has called off an internal inquiry into a violent incident witnessed by millions, saying it was “a matter for the previous Prime Minister.”

Classic overgrown public-school sneering patrician bully-boy, Field was caught on camera at a black-tie do for the ruling financial elite, grabbing a peaceful young female Greenpeace climate protester by the throat and smashing her into a pillar, before frogmarching her by the neck out of the room, as the other hooray-Henries cheered. No apology has been audibly or visibly forthcoming.

Crimes of violence obviously ceased to be crimes at the stroke of midnight, the night Mrs May stepped down and “Minority Johnson” stepped up. The odious Johnson – Boris Notgodunov, as we continue to call him, with reference to the Mussorgsky opera –  is greenlighting violence against women, which is hardly unexpected, given the alarm of his former neighbours.

The monstrous dictatorship of the Bullingdon Club is rising.

We have been warned.

 

Boris lays an egg

“The new head of communications to the prime minister of the United Kingdom used to dress up as a chicken and heckle Tory politicians, his former employer has said. Lee Cain, who has been appointed as Boris Johnson’s chief spin doctor, was previously a Fleet Street (Mirror) journalist.” – Guardian, 30 July.

Needless to add, he also worked for Vote.Leave. Virtually the whole of Johnson’s administration is pro-Brexit, many the harder the better. That compares with just under half the people – 16 million – who voted in the 2016 referendum to Remain.

The 48% now has zero representation in government; while many Leave voters who did not anticipate leaving in complete chaos with no trade agreements or customs protocols in place and foreign employers abandoning the UK in droves, while Scotland secedes from the Union, Wales bleats and terrorism returns to Northern Ireland, and the Tories double-down on privatizing the NHS, also go unheard.

Democracy in action.

 

Well, fuck you too

A Reader asks, am I planning to make satirical remarks about Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the old story recently revived, that he has issued a grammar book of his own invention to his new staff at whatever blighted ministry Notgodunov has sent him to, presumably in a sedan chair borne through well-paid crowds chanting hozannahs.

As it is something I have frequently come to blows over with Commissioning Editors, the use of “due to” when you should say “owing to”, I would just like to mention that, if in the unlikely scenario the limpid Victorianist were to be standing mistakenly on the wrong platform, say Platform 9, at Paddington station, when the announcer informed him that “the train now due to depart from Platform 4 is the 3.25 to Minehead” and he were to throw a conniption fit, blasting the poor woman for saying “due to” instead of “owing to”, as per his grammatical instructions, people would think him an ill-mannered brute and a complete tosser who deserved to miss his train.

I made a similar point to the Grauniad only yesterday and was mortified to find my Comment had been blocked by the Moderator, even though I used asterisks.

Well, fuck you too.

(I can say what I like on my own site!)

PS – This is Post #799… Which means the next one will be #800! Another milestone passed! Cheers!

 

GW: As yet, there seems to be no weather

All I have to report as of today is a tropical ‘disturbance’ bringing heavy rain to Puerto Rico, that Accuweather says might turn into something more; twins, who may have died because they were left in a hot car in New York; more possible flooding heading northeast out of the midwest (yawn); a plague of locusts in Las Vegas; possible Tropical Storm Wipha organizing east of the Philippines; forests dying because of the long drought affecting Germany.

Wunderground has: “Two well-organized tropical storms are on track to become potent hurricanes as they head from the Eastern toward the Central Pacific. Hawaiians should keep an eye on both, although the second one—Flossie—appears to be the main concern. Meanwhile, the Atlantic continues to percolate (sic) with tropical waves that aren’t managing to organize into full-fledged cyclones just yet.” The recent heatwave in Europe is still moving warm air and water northwards into the Arctic, where it’s been warm and sunny all summer. Sea ice extent is only a little greater than the record low of 2012 (that was enabled by a subtropical cyclone) with two months to go before the September minimum, while its overall volume is already the lowest ever recorded.

Pip pip!

 

Do we not have laws? A BogPo supplement. Breaking things… Nature Notes… GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!… Get planting!

Do we not have laws?

An American author claims to have had two speaking engagements in Britain cancelled because his “Jewishness” might incite protests. Your cynical Uncle Bogler suspects some publicist’s dark hand in this, but we’ll respond anyway.

Dear Richard Zimler

I was sorry to read a report in The Guardian that you have been no-platformed as a visiting writer by two unnamed cultural organizations in my country, apparently because you are too provocatively Jewish; although your fiction is not specifically connected with Judaism.

I see too that you have been nominated for many literary prizes but never won. Hmmn.

But, like Salman Rushdie, you have apparently been a little controversial in your latest work, imagining a dialog between Jesus and Lazarus, which is sure to offend anyone who wants to find a target for their bigotry. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned they are both fictional characters and fair game.

It seems not only ludicrous to discriminate against you on religious grounds, but surely also illegal. We do have laws against this sort of thing, I think, somewhere. It must have been something you said! But seriously, which are these organizations? It’s normal to out them. Do they exist? Please, this is too serious to be something your publisher’s publicist has cooked up.

I’m sure there are many Jewish writers and intellectuals who have not been no-platformed here – except for Marika Sherwood, a holocaust survivor who was no-platformed at Manchester University in 2017 entirely at the insistence of Israel’s ambassador Regev, an insufferable little shit who objected to her likening the Likud party to Nazis.

As if she wouldn’t know.

Generally speaking, it is still the antisemites who cop for the most criticism here, so please don’t abandon us entirely. Of course, they exist. But we are undergoing a dark night of the soul, hanging on the definition of the word antisemite. The Israel lobby has been extremely successful in sowing division where little existed.

There will always be dimwits who desecrate cemeteries and places of worship, Jewish, Muslim, Christian. The point is the desecration, not the religion. The dimwits know nothing of religions, they merely delight in transgression; just as many so-called pitchside soccer racists use racist tropes as a weapon to unsettle opposing black players, but do not (probably) share the ideology. Of course, that’s no excuse. While the British can be bullish, even at times heartily cynical, we are seldom to be taken at face value.

(In a new survey, 90.3 per cent of those polled agreed that Britishness is no longer a matter of color.)

And there will be people like myself who are justifiably concerned by the emerging apartheid state in Israel, a formerly progressive, technically secular nation now seemingly ruled by gangster capitalists and backward-looking religious extremists. We have a right to be heard and we do not wish our dismay to be howled down by paid apologists for a corrupt regime; nor do we wish to be branded somehow as haters of Jews because of it.

If we hated you, why would we care? We oppose apartheid and support human rights and justice everywhere. It’s a salutary exercise to revisit David ben Gurion’s foundation address to the UN in 1948 and compare it with today.

Unfashionably, Richard, I would still draw a distinction between the race-baiters and the race-haters.

The former category may weaponise difference for their own advantage, but when the chips are down, will put community before difference and side with those of whatever creed or colour are considered community against outsiders.

The latter will regard all and any persons of difference as outsiders to be refused admission to the community, even to be ejected, and focus their hatred and whatever violence they believe is licensed to them specifically on target groups. They are a very small, sociopathic minority who sometimes gain disproportionate notice by breaking things.

Some will argue, what’s the difference? It’s all discrimination and to be decried. Others might prefer benevolent discrimination and communautarianism, to ideological, racially-based violence, hatred and exclusion. All people discriminate, it’s in our nature. You’re never going to end it. It’s the intent that matters.

I was frankly unaware that we have many cultural organizations left, now that Mark Rylance has severed connections with the Royal Shakespeare Company over their sponsorship arrangements – being indebted to an oil company is attracting fashionable liberal opprobrium here – and now the Sacklers have been withdrawing their opioid-funded sponsorships – but it appears from what you say that the last two may have gone. No-platforming is a negation of culture, once it’s practised you replace it with barbarism. Institutions should remain neutral and not adopt the prejudices and weakness of their officers.

So, I’m sorry for what has happened – I’m trusting your word that it has genuinely happened – and hope that it won’t totally colour your opinion of us, but frankly I’m not too hopeful about the future of Europe, let alone Britain, certainly the English part of which I washed my hands long ago. Although there are some encouraging signs that populism isn’t everywhere rampant.

I had hoped in retirement to emigrate to Portugal myself, but I’m grateful now that I wasn’t able to. I expect you’re getting used to the extreme summer heat and the wildfires, but up here on the balmy west coast of Britain it’s still hard to believe that the most important issue we face is biting us in the ass, and it’s not cultural, or religious.

Shalom, Richard, take it easy.

 

Breaking things

“China has accused protesters who vandalised Hong Kong’s parliament on Monday of ‘serious illegal actions’ that ‘trample on the rule of law’.” (BBC News)

I’m sure they have!

Why does it not occur to the media and the Hong Kong authorities that the most obvious way to discredit the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters marching daily against a controversial extradition agreement with mainland China is to infiltrate their ranks with 5th columnists and ratchet up the level of vandalism and violence?

Maybe to the point where a direct intervention by Beijing is justifiable?

 

Taking us all for a ride

Variety magazine reports that Garrett Camp, a co-founder of the Uber “ride sharing” dial-up cheap taxi business, and his parter, Elizabeth Nguyen, have bought a $72.5 million, 4.7-acre mansion estate in Los Angeles.

That’s despite the strange fact that Uber, whose drivers – not a few of them homeless people who sleep in their cars – are locked in a dispute with the company over low-pay and abusive terms of employment, has yet to make a profit.

Mr Camp (net worth $4.2 billion – Forbes) owns a “portfolio” of other substantial properties in California and New York.

In a parallel Guardian article today, social justice campaigner and environmentalist, George Monbiot reports, the billionaire press in the UK has launched a savage campaign of lies and vituperation against him and five others, for putting forward a plan to mitigate the astonishing inequality growing between the ultra-high net worth individuals – the 1%, who “own” more than half the wealth of the world – and the rest, through a process of land reform.

And from a further report, we learn that the top 10 per cent of working people enjoy a median income of $7,000 a month; the bottom one percent, just 22 dollars.

The billionaires are fighting back hard against any suggestion that they might like to give up some of their ridiculous wealth, that many of them have gained for almost no effort by cannily monetizing the growing size and data content of mass consumer markets, or by employing armies of zombie workers on skeletal wages to perform menial services for the marginally better-off.

It’s estimated that owing to high housing costs and uncertain employment in the low-wage economy from which vulgar, parasitic creatures like Camp have profited mightily, more than ten thousand Angelenos are homeless and living on the streets. Not far from camp Camp, are the camps of the underclass, many of them women with children, whom the authorities are continually harrassing. It’s a less contentious strategy than housing them.

Mr Camp’s mansion purchase seems to be a sign that the new billionairism is turning conventional economics on its head, since this individual’s obscene wealth – and he is not alone, there are more billionaires than ever – is based on nothing more than a stock market bubble that grew from a brilliant business “idea” that people could use their cellphones to call for an unlicensed taxi whose sleep-deprived driver would get 40% of the fare and hand the rest over to Mr Camp and his mates.

I suppose the brilliant flash of inspiration that led to all these poor people hiring out their borrowed or shared cars and precious time to Mr Camp and his ilk at varying rates set by an algorithm designed to benefit only themselves had to be worth something. Despite putting many licensed drivers out of a job.

It’s known as hire and reward, after all – but the wrong people are getting the rewards.

 

Nature notes

Again today in Boglington-on-Sea we have wall-to-wall blue sky all day, although don’t be fooled: there’s a fine haze of traffic pollution. Nevertheless, it’s an agreeable 19.5 degrees C in the shade, with a barely perceptible breeze, and it’s half-past ten in the morning. Global warming? Fie! (Oops – 11.15 and it’s gone over 20.4C.)

Yesterday on our walk I did a bee count, and the news was still not good. At one point there’s a stretch along the path by the river where half a dozen large Buddleia bushes splurged into spectacular flower a couple of weeks ago. The cloying scent of the panicles of purple flowers filled the air, even to my feeble human olfactory senses detectable from fifty yards away. Your average bee couldn’t help but detect them at half a mile. Yet I counted only one honeybee grazing among the lot, possibly two but it might have been a wasp or one of those false-bee hoverflies, of which there seem to be quite a few this year. My eyesight isn’t improving, but even extrapolating by a factor of ten that I must have missed, it didn’t seem like there are many bees around.

Buddleia is also attractive to butterflies. I spotted none anywhere among the bushes, although later crossing a small meadow where the ripening grass is approaching shoulder-high (I’m six feet tall) there were three browns, some whites and later a solitary tortoiseshell. Nevertheless, it has been such an amazing spring, mild and with just the right balance of rain and sunshine, masses of tumbling vegetation and wildflowers flowering early, that it does seem the insect population is recovering somewhat from last year’s disastrous start. There’s never a shortage of gnats here.

Who is it who keeps smashing down the two giant Fullers’ teasels growing beside the path? These amazing, self-sown annuals can grow to seven feet in a few weeks, their pale-green, serrated leaves on furry stems pointing upwards to the light, before putting out their multiple seed-heads, the familiar large burrs rustic weavers allegedly used in olden times to “full”, or comb the skeins of wool. Once ripened, they make interesting cut-flower ornaments for the vase. People spray them gold and silver for free Xmas decs. That’s if they’re allowed to flower. Every year, these two companions get to about four feet in height and some whistling moron comes along with a stick and bashes them down. If I ever catch them I will take a stick and bash them down.

The bee picture improved slightly when I took a glass of well-chilled Czech lager up onto the patio to contemplate my projects*. The tiny garden is bordered on one side by a magnificent privet hedge, whose top I cannot reach to trim even with the bloody awkward folding ladder thing, that gives your fingers blood blisters just looking at its stiff and snappy hinges. The privet is in copious flower and I counted half a dozen hive workers brunching on the nectar, their little legs stuck all over with pollen.

Another stripy hoverfly comes and stares at me for a while, wings going nineteen thousand to the dozen. It must take a lot of energy to perform that astonishing manoeuvre, of staying absolutely still like a hawk poised in mid-air for minutes at a time. You wonder why they bother? What are they waiting for? They rarely seem to land anywhere. I fancied it might be one of those new nano-sized military drones and that at any moment it would fire a tiny missile at my head.

 

*Huzzah! After all this time, the bricks to finish my half-built wall have arrived. The ones the yard sold on by mistake a year ago after I’d paid for them, and couldn’t get any more of. Until now. (Actually they’d had them in for months but it didn’t occur to them to phone me and say.)

Dimly sensing the throbbing of a heavy engine outside, I managed to changeover to my urine day bag and sprinted downstairs at a quarter to 8.00 this morning, just in time to stop the men delivering an enormous pallet smack in the middle of the path I share with the neighboring house, blocking it completely.

I’d spent half an hour yesterday clearing a space for them inside the garden wall, but they didn’t think the pallet would fit there and were nervous about parking on a bend. We could have been trapped for weeks! It merely required me to shift three bags of compost six inches to the right and they were able to guide the pallet into position for a perfect fit.

It’s no wonder the working people voted to Leave the EU. They all seem to be quite bereft of common sense.

 

GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!

Europe: Heat records at the weekend tumbled acoss a swathe of central Europe from Denmark in the north, to Switzerland in the south, as it was officially declared the hottest June month ever across the continent. In Germany, 34 all-time heat records were broken on Sunday, 1 July. At the river Saale in Bernburg, a scorching high of 39.6°C (103.3°F) was not only that station’s hottest temperature on any date in records going back to 1898, but the hottest June temperature ever observed anywhere in Germany. The previous record? July 2018. (BBC Weather/The Weather Channel)

Northern Spain continues very hot, recording temperatures in the low 40s C, 102F-plus. Firefighters are still battling two large blazes, one moving at 7km/h has burned 3,300Ha and is in the outskirts of the capital, Madrid. England recorded its hottest day of the year so far on 29 June, the temperature reaching 34C (93.2F) at Heathrow airport. In Scotland, people found their power sockets had turned black after a series of lightning strikes on their houses. Hundreds of homes were without power for almost 24 hours following the storm on Saturday.

Iceland too has been experiencing an “unbearable” heatwave, with temperatures in places rising to 22C (72F). Residents are more used to the average June temperature of 7C. (Euronews)

USA: “Alaska, part of which lies inside the Arctic Circle, is sweltering under a heatwave, with record temperatures recorded in several areas, including its largest city. Temperatures reached 90F (32C) in Anchorage on Thursday (4 July), shattering the city’s previous record of 85F.” (BBC News, et al

Russia: 18 people have died – 17 drowned and 1 as a result of hypothermia, in record floods in Siberia. 8 people are still missing. Emergency teams have evacuated 2,200 people from the disaster area. Almost 1,500 people have sought medical help, with 221 hospitalised. Flooding first began around 25 June after a period of heavy rain that caused rivers and lakes to overflow, including Lake Baikal. Over 6,600 homes have been flooded, affecting over 30,000 residents. 12 bridges have been destroyed, dozens of roads damaged, as well as around 40 public buildings, including schools and medical centres. (Floodlist)

India: “Dozens” of people are reported to have died in flooding and landslides in Maharashtra province. 18 people have died and 6 others are missing after heavy rainfall caused a dam breach which flooded a village. Houses were swept away as flood waters engulfed Tiware Bhendwadi village. Mumbai has had its heaviest rain for over a decade, with localized flooding, and there’s more to come. Usual transport chaos – road, rail and air – as 375mm (15-in) falls in 24 hours. 18 labourers died when a wall weakened by 2 days of continuous rain fell on them.

Japan: At least 20 people have died and more than a million have been advised to leave their homes as monstrous rains once again lash the south island of Kyushu. 1,000mm (39in) of rain has fallen since 28 June, and Japan’s Meteorological Agency forecasts the rains will continue into next week. A further 350mm of rain is expected in the southern part of the island and 300mm in the northern part by 04 July, with some areas predicted to get more than 80mm of rain every hour. The agency said a month’s rainfall could hit parts of Kyushu in just 24 hours. (BBC News)

Vietnam: 2 people were killed and 3 injured on 04 July after a bridge in Thanh Hoá Province collapsed due to the heavy rain. After passing over Hainan Island in southern China, Tropical Depression ‘Mun’ dumped 366mm (14-in.) of rain in 24 hours. Further heavy rain could affected northern and central areas, including the capital Hanoi. (Floodlist)

Pacific: Plain vanilla Tropical Storm Barbara metamorphosed overnight into a huge, 130mph, Category 4 hurricane. The Weather Channel reports, it’s just sitting out in mid-ocean, not going anywhere – but Hawaii is potentially in its path next week. Happily, cooler water should take a lot of the force out of it by then, but high surf and severe weather warnings have been issued for Oahu. This increasingly common rapid intensification of storms is a clear sign of adverse effects of a warming world.

Cuba: Sunday 1 July was the hottest day in recorded history for the Caribbean nation, which recorded an all-time heat mark of 39.1°C (102.4°F) at Veguitas. (Weather Underground). 2 people have died and 3 are missing in floods in nearby Haiti. It’s the second spate of deadly flash floods in the space of 4 weeks. (Floodlist)

Tunnel approaching…

Fracking hell: Following a meta-analytical study of over 1,300 peer-reviewed research papers, Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said, “Substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health. Further studies will continue to illuminate the full extent of those ill effects and to define causal pathways in further detail, but it is abundantly clear that the practice is not safe and that no set of regulations can make it safe.” (PSR – Physicians for Social Responsibility – website, 9 June)

California: A M6.2 earthquake off the coast at Vancouver last night (03 July) translated 12 hours later along a known fault into a M6.4 in a remote area of southern California, that was felt in Los Angeles, where buildings swayed. At a depth of only 8 km, it was the largest earthquake in California for many years and happened in an ancient volcano field next to a deep-well geothermal pumping station. As we reported recently, the laBrea tar pits in the LA basin have been bubbling over, and steam eruptions have been reported, pushing up manhole covers. There have been swarms of smaller earthquakes north and south along the coast, linked to major volcanic activity in the Aleutians. Dutchsinse reports too, there have been now 27 magnitude 6 or higher quakes around the Pacific basin in the past month, many more than usual.

La terra trema… the M6.2 Ridgecrest quake was followed two days later by a M7.1 in the same location. Casualties, damage. A statewide state of emergency has been declared. The epicentre is not far from the Long Valley supervolcano caldera. Dutchsinse (Michael Janitch) points to human activity – deep drilling, fracking, pumping – in the fracture zones as a contributor. He forecasts that if the force pushing down from the north Pacific doesn’t transfer to the east along the edge of the North American craton, a third major quake is likely. He had warned his viewers of the quakes days in advance – the USGS is saying they had only 48 seconds’ warning of the M7.2!

Yellowstone: In the wake of the 6.2 Ridgefield quake, Greeley reports the seismographs are showing a huge intrusion of magma under the park. The meltline is the highest anyone has ever seen.

Three days ago: Steamboat geyser has gone off 25 times this year, 7 times in June alone, set to smash last year’s record of 32 eruptions. The biggest geyser in the park, the Steamboat normally records two or three eruptions in a year, but has recently become hyperactive. USGS say they don’t know why. Old Faithful’s regular blasts are getting bigger too… new geysers, mudpools forming – more earthquakes, rising temperatures, ground uplift reported. (Mary Greeley)

 

Get planting!

Possibly the most futile piece of research this year has come from Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who has been looking into how planting trees removes carbon dioxide from the air. (Guardian report, 03 July)

Prof Crowther calculates that there is room to squeeze a trillion more trees onto uncultivated surfaces of the planet, that would remove two thirds of the CO2 – provided, of course, that we stop cutting down trees and burning more fossil fuels in the meantime.

Both propositions seem something of a stretch. A trillion is a thousand times a thousand million. The energy required for nurseries to produce and for foresters to plant that many saplings – the survival rate of heel transplants is quite low, about 15%, so perhaps five or even six trillion, pick a number – would be enormous.

Mr Gove, the Environment secretary, recently proposed planting 130 thousand more trees in British cities. There is no likelihood whatever of reaching even that modest target.

There would then be the obvious requirement to wait while the little trees grow into trees large enough to make a difference, perhaps ten to fifteen years – time we don’t really have. Meanwhile, Mr Bolsonaro’s friends in the Brazilian parliament are busy removing a hectare of the rain forest every minute of the day to graze cattle to make beefburgers for fast-food chains.

I don’t think, either, that Prof Crowther has taken into account that trees don’t absorb CFCs, methane or nitrous oxide, that are also increasing in the atmosphere and causing it to overheat; and that at least 1.5 degrees of warming is already baked into the system, mainly in the oceans.

But it’s a nice idea, well worth the grant.