A dedicated Page for subscribers keeping climate catastrophe ‘notebooks’ ahead of the meetup on September 26th. 100 words maximum each individual entry seems a good idea, but subscribers can submit as many entries as they like. All entries to be dated and kept in progressive date order, please, so we can feel that a real conversation is going on.
Signed up : Ali Bacon, Verona Bass, Ama Bolton, Sue Boyle, Eileen Cameron, Ann Preston, Graeme Ryan, Janet Snowdon
18 January : First entry in my notebook: “every day that passes is a deadline missed”. Heard on the radio last week. Ama
18 January : Bath City Centre. Fast fashion and giftware clamouring for new homes. The road and air and sea miles wasted – to get the goods here, to move them and their shoppers on. ‘Goods’ is the worst of names. The shame of this trivial consumption and manufacturing. Bright lights make trashy goods look irresistible. A Facebook friend begs not to be shown another picture of a burnt Australian animal. Sixty brave cold children outside Bath Guildhall demonstrate against climate change with banners and protest songs. The bystanders are their problem, not their government. Sue
19th January: Last night the conversation turned to plastics: apparently fruit that’s wrapped lasts longer and is less wasteful; reusing a glass milk bottle consumes more energy than making a new plastic one. So our well-meaning decisions are wrapped around in complication. Today is frosty and everything is more clear-cut. I’m walking down the lane, still slippery with ice, the transparent blue of the sky scored by tell-tale plumes of vapour. Should we be making that trip for January warmth? Ali
24th January: I saw those children in Bath, Sue, and gave them a thumbs up. Went to a Rewilding/wildlife talk in Bristol on Tuesday (21st) run by a newly formed group seeking to understand what rewilding means and how they can contribute to bringing nature into cities and generally improve the biodiversity of the countryside. The hall was packed with enthusiastic young people seeking to play their part in creating the right sort of habitats to push back on species loss. Went home feeling hopeful. Then last night, listening to the World Service in the wee small hours, I heard that Trump has removed all of Obama’s clean water regulations. Farmers are once more free to dump chemicals into waterways and the coal industry can once again do what the hell it likes. Blood pressure going up must go and find something calming to do. Eileen
27th January : After reading how a Saudi visitor had been filmed tearing the wings and feathers off a live pigeon in a London hotel bathroom, I started wondering about Islam’s response to climate change. Or more precisely, how a muslim would be taught to think about man’s place in the world. I found this inspiring document on a website called Islamic Relief Worldwide, and wanted to share what it contains. ( As most of you know, I am deeply unimpressed by the anthropocentric world view embodied in the dreadful story of Noah’s Ark.) I especially like the sentence : We are but one of the multitude of beings with whom we share the earth and a miniscule part of the divine order, yet we have exceptional power, and bear the responsibility to establish good and avert evil in every way we can. We all despair about the impossibility of our individual actions having the power to avert catastrophe. This second sentence does something to de-paralyse that despairing thought : Then whoever has done an atom’s worth of good, shall see it. And whoever has done an atom’s worth of evil, shall see it.
31st January : Lit upon The Chicago Review of Books ‘Best Poems about Climate Change’ and was really disappointed they weren’t better. Daunting to face the task we have set ourselves, to write well as we agonise through this year…. Here is the link. Am I just being curmudgeonly on Brexit Day? sue https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/08/30/best-poems-about-climate-change/
I agree with you about the poems, Sue. I can’t continue reading a poem that begins “We were sat…” – Ama
3rd February: Back from a few days in the sun which did feel like a blessing in January. Reflecting on the Scots preoccupation with always wanting to be warmer! Across the blank grey background of the sky there’s a darker shape, a plume of cloud which looks like smoke and reminds me of the bush fires – which no one seems to be talking about any more. Have they died down? Or are we just not looking? Could this cloud have come all the way around the world to remind us? Ali
4th February: After gloomy days the glory of sunshine! I keep examining the new shrubs planted in my garden last week in an enthusiastic attempt to fill some spaces with plants that will add to the visual joy of varied greenery, and bring flowers in time. My helper dug substantial holes and we put in compost from the base of my bins, added bonemeal AND seaweed extract, firmed in the soil and watered. These were transplants from a neighbour’s garden. I mouth the words: Escallonia, Photinia, Euonimus, Ceanothus…like a mantra. Every one of them is an act of faith, hoping it will please the birds and bees, and prosaically be carbon absorbers. What I love, too, is the fact that this was an activity that is about sharing – the generosity of the gifts, the on-going conversations, the pleasure of seeing plants grow and respond to good conditions. Verona
4th February: I visited the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Holburne Museum the other day and was fascinated by the way he incorporates the written word into so much of his work. I recently heard a radio discussion about the difficulty of finding the right language to discuss climate change because it requires us to talk about things we may never have experienced and find difficult relating to. This quotation on an untitled pot from 1987 struck me as having a very similar message: ‘The more we know, the less we believe, the more we are shown, the less we imagine. Only imagination can save us.’ Ann P
20th February: Ali B
Ann, your quotation resonates so much with me. We barely know what we are dealing with and ‘only imagination can save us’ is a great call to action. Next problem, what action. I hear that our individual efforts are as nothing compared to the changes required of industries and governments. Do they know what they need to do? James Lovelock suggests nuclear energy is the safest way to go but others will contest that with equal vigour. This last week huge donations have been made towards ‘climate change research’. Is there even a single body responsible for this? Apologies for nothing more than muddled thinking. Where is the way out of the muddle?
20th February : Sue B
‘We don’t have to see ourselves as the divinely appointed stewards of creation to recognise that we bear responsibility for restoring the magnificent living systems we have harmed. And we don’t have to deny our bias towards ourselves to defend the lives of other beings.’
In Defence of Speciesism
20 February 2020
This painful, difficult post from George Monbiot is well worth reading. ( AND YES, he did pick up a gun and shoot a deer. )
29th February 2020 : Verona Bass
Leap Year’s Day draws to an end. The ‘i’ newspaper cartoon I saw today depicts the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, with face masks, one of them sneezing: Ah-Choo! The caption reads: ‘Floods, Wildfires, War, Pandemics!! Seriously guys, we’re smashing this year! ‘ by Ben Jennings.
Sometimes it takes an image to focus attention or which provides a summary of how things stand. The issues that occupy our immediate attention are fed to us though media channels, but mostly the individual’s response remains close to home. That is the recourse I take when I feel overwhelmed. I was encouraged by a poet last week who spoke wise words. A long-time campaigner and environmentalist, she reminded us of something Chris Packham recently said. It may be that all we have to do is ‘hold the space’, protect what we can, and do what we can in our own way, because what is possible is not yet clear, may not have been discovered or invented…
It is part of what I think of as the Black Swan theory ( see Nicholas Nassim Taleb)
1st March : Sue B
Please bear with me. I have a 500 word essay to post in little bits so that I can obey our 100 word rule. Nothing in this first extract will be saying exactly what it seems….
Thoughts about the Messianic Child. Part One
Greta Thunberg spoke in Bristol yesterday. What will be the outcome, other than the churning of the much-loved greensward on College Green? I call her ‘messianic’ because that is what she is – a small good person with a vast agenda who is asking followers to heed her message and support her cause. But she is also messianic in another way. Her brilliantly delivered feel-good speeches are entirely vacuous. They remind me of the closing sentence of one of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent outpourings to his adoring membership : TOMORROW IS A NEW DAY, he roared, AND IT WILL COME.
2nd March: Ann P I was about to comment on the way last week’s news was dominated by plagues of Biblical proportions when I saw that Verona had already made the same point. Instead I started to look for news of positive action to combat such calamities and came across this unique and rather endearing story. Apparently, in China ducks have been used for centuries to combat plagues of locusts. Pakistan is now suffering from such a plague and the Chinese have offered to send 100,000 ducks to gobble up the pestilent insects. I hope that after all their efforts the noble creatures will not end up on someone’s plate.
Thoughts about the Messianic Child. Part Two
I meant to break this post into little pieces to follow our 100 word ‘rule’, but Verona has asked to see the rest of what I had written, so here it is. ( I also feel that my thoughts about Greta Thunberg are looking rather outdated in the light of the pandemic sweeping through all our lives…..
Greta’s crusade is above reproach. It is perfectly suited to her young, target audience, who are not themselves responsible for the climate catastophe and not yet economically active enough to bring about anything other than small symbolic change. But what about the adults of the older generations who are so pleased to add their names and presences to Greta’s following? I wonder if her crusade plays the role of the confessional for some of them? Or perhaps of a displacement activity? In other words, can you join the marches, shrug off the winds and rain, give up some of your surplus income and a little of your time, post up the right approving reports and film clips on Facebook – and be seen to be on the side of these young angels without actually doing the things which every economically active adult ought already to be doing now?
Greta’s heroic appeal is directed at governments and international bodies and, in so far as they feel that they should be seen to placate her, it may perhaps be a marginally effective one. But ultimately the power for climate change does not actually reside with transient headline institutions, for all their pomp and apparent circumstance. The power for change lies with the generations of Greta’s parents and grandparents, whose elected lifestyles made this catastrophe.
Rather than joining the miraculous children on College Green, surely each one of us should quietly renounce leisure flying, use our cars only for absolutely necessary journeys and buy as few manufactured goods from foreign countries as we can? Those who still have the opportunity to decide on the size of their families should behave altruistically and help shrink the planet’s population back to the size where life was sustainable, for homo sapiens and for all the other precious, vulnerable species with whom we share the earth. None of these decisions require governments to act. They cost nothing. A person who cannot nip down to Tenerife for a long weekend is not bereft. A person with no children, or one child will not necessarily have a less rewarding or useful life than a person who has six.
Sunday March 22nd from Verona Bass
The Zenith of a Summer’s Day
Heather talks with the zeal of the newly converted;
She’s only just heard:
Speaks for the XR cause.
‘We need to rise! We must act!
We must do it together!
This is a Climate Emergency!
This needs the power of politicians!
This needs every citizen in a combined effort’…
We sit in a group of eleven, world-weary,
Sandwiches and cake in the shade,
Resting from work on a hot summer’s day,
Listen to someone who’s just woken up
To depletion and losses and risks,
The reality of runaway change,
Who thinks we should all do more,
Force the powers-that-be and polluters,
Wake up sleep-walkers, and doubters, and cynics,
The lazy and the ne’er-do-well…
‘What do they say we should do?’ asks Linda,
Who grows flowers by the yard, for bees,
Sweats over seedlings in searing heat,
Glass-house, polytunnel, vegetable beds,
Herb garden, orchard, diverse environment,
Testament to individual and communal efforts,
Which Heather and hubby have lately come to join.
We shuffle a bit and look shifty
As she outlines possible actions
The markers that many of us passed long ago,
(Light bulbs, boilers, insulation, diet, repair, recycling)
They’re part of our smug lexicon;
Yet even in the sympathetic silence
We privately wonder : ‘Is it enough?
I’ve made no difference, even in teams,
But I really cannot give up my car,
I need the love-miles that flying affords me,
I’ll off-set the carbon with money to schemes,
I’ll try harder next year,
I’m not ready to reduce any more,
I’m already right on the floor:
It’s too difficult to share,
I can’t do it.
It’s not good for my health…’
And so by stealth, our excuses add to the poll,
While the bells toll,
and the climate effects roll.
I think this sums up how it is for a lot of us Verona. Eileen
Sunday 22nd March, Ali B
I feel rather differently to Ann and perhaps all of you but here’s my only prevalent thought, made as concise as I can. In my head it’s more wide-ranging and involves previous wars, pestilences and general economic meltdown.
And at the end of this will climate change even be an issue? In the lagoon there are dolphins, the skies are wiped clean of human grime. Maybe this is the world’s way of telling us we’re not in charge.
The world is in charge of us.
I have just left the under noted, goodness knows where. Fortunately, I had made a copy, so very quickly, here I am writing out my responses to your blogs again.
Tuesday March 24th
You are right Sue when you say that we all need to do things differently, but that isn’t going to happen easily or quickly enough without strong leadership from the top. Many of us have been working with or supporting organizations like Green Peace, Friends of the Earth, Trees for Life to name but a few for many, many years, but unfortunately, as you say, turning around the Titanic isn’t easy. Change is happening – more and more people are beginning to get their heads around exactly what global warming means – but it isn’t happening fast enough to stop catastrophic global warming. Greta doesn’t have all of the answers any more than anyone does, but she is telling our world leaders and the rest of us to listen to the science and perhaps even more importantly, she has inspired a generation of young people to demand climate action now. I was at the rally in Bristol with my grandchildren. We stood in the pouring rain for hours because we felt that it was important to let our leaders know that we cared and that we want them to not just talk about green deals while still investing billions in the fossil fuel industry, but to bring real energy and commitment to keeping the global temperature rise to below 2C.
Ann, I agree with you too. A great many world leaders, even those who talk the green talk, will be tempted to kick start their economies by ramping up business as usual. Let’s hope that after Covid 19 is under control, more and more of us ‘will rise’ to demand that it can’t be business as usual.
Ali, your piece intrigues me. You are right. If Covid 19, or anything else for that matter succeeds in wiping out many billions of us then the earth can indeed give a sigh of relief. Mind you, it will have to happen soon because we are already on a dangerous trajectory towards runaway global warming which would end up wiping out most other species too. Who was it who said that life began with worms? Perhaps it will end with worms. Personally, I don’t want us to be fatalistic. I don’t want us to abdicate responsibility for our actions. Eileen
Thursday 16th April, from Ama
I wrote this poem recently and published it on my blog. Imagine my surprise when the “first person” (Julia Wellner, Assistant Professor, Stratigraphy, Sedimentology, Glacial Processes. College of Natural Sciences, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston) got in touch to thank me!
in the Antarctic
a new island is laid bare
by melting ice
bacteria will waken
and hitch a ride
with the first person
to hammer a flag
into that virgin soil?
According to the US scientific agency @NOAA, for the first three months of 2020 the global land and ocean surface temperature ranked 2nd highest on record, just behind 2016.