Climate grief, climate anger

June 25, 2019

Young people suffer from climate grief, Daisy Wyatt, 19, told the People’s Assembly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency, in Greenwich, south-east London, on Saturday.

Climate grief is “coming to the realisation that you will not live the life that your parents have lived, or the life that our parents have told you that you will live”, Daisy, a nursery worker and nanny, said.

Of all the points made at this event, in which more than 100 local people took part, this seemed to me one of the most important. The world Daisy’s generation lives in is, in many

School climate strike in London, Friday 21 June. Photo: Guy Smallman

ways, darker and more forbidding than the one we older people grew up in. It is hard, but necessary, to admit this to ourselves.

I am in my early 60s. I have an optimistic outlook, and young grandchildren. I fervently believe that, in their lifetime, people may change the world for the better, in all sorts of ways we can only vaguely imagine now. But in the near term – the next decade or two, when first those of Daisy’s age, and then my grandchildren, will be living their adult lives – things could get very rocky, in a way that they were not when I was growing up.

The effects of climate change – heatwaves such as the recent one in India, for example; Read the rest of this entry »

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What does “climate emergency” mean? Let’s define that OUTSIDE parliament

May 2, 2019

Strikes by school pupils, and civil disobedience by Extinction Rebellion, pushed the UK’s House of Commons into declaring a “climate emergency” yesterday. The government is so weak and divided that – having said one week ago that it would not make such a declaration – it caved in and lined up behind a motion put by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories’ weakness really is part of this. The prime minister, Theresa May, lost the ability to tell her MPs how to vote on anything, during repeated breakdowns of their traditional

School pupils on strike in Australia. Photo from #climatestrike on twitter

discipline over Brexit. And the “climate emergency” vote took place on the day that she fired her defence secretary Gavin Williamson for breaching security.

And the movements outside parliament made the difference. The Labour MP Faisal Rashid pointed out during the debate: “We are not here because of an international effort co-ordinated by world leaders. […] We are here because a small group of schoolchildren decided to walk out of school to take a stand against climate change, and they have inspired a global movement.” It is “an indictment of our global political leadership”, he argued.

Another reason the “climate emergency” motion passed is that it committed neither the government nor parliament to do a single thing. It could be, and was, supported by many total hypocrites as a way of co-opting and defusing people’s anger.

Anyone who thinks that parliament actually meant what it said, when it voted for Corbyn’s motion, should bear in mind that:

■ Parliament believes it can declare a “climate emergency” while supporting a third runway at Heathrow Airport. That will help ensure a global expansion of aviation, which is Read the rest of this entry »


Climate change must be a thing. It’s on prime time TV

April 23, 2019

Key effects of global warming were reported bluntly to millions of TV viewers in the documentary Climate Change: The Facts, on BBC One on Thursday 18 April.

“It may sound frightening”, the super-popular TV naturalist David Attenborough said, introducing the show, “but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic

The Renew Rebels theatre group, performing on Waterloo Bridge on Friday 19 August during the “Extinction Rebellion” protests. Oil (in black) confronts wave power (in blue), wind (in white) and the sun (in orange)

action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”.

The press loved it. “A call to arms”, The Guardian said. Would it “wake up philanthropists, investors and governments to act?” Forbes asked.

I wondered: why now?

The BBC hasn’t exactly rushed to portray global warming accurately. In 2011, two decades after the international climate talks started at Rio, scientists were slamming the BBC for giving air time to climate science deniers. In 2014, a BBC memo told journalists to stop pretending “balance” was needed between climate science and its deniers – but the practice continued, leading to another edict in September last year. By that time, researchers had started refusing to come into BBC studios to debate deniers.

But high-profile BBC journalists still felt compelled to interview anti-science nutters who are paid by the fossil fuel industry to advise Donald Trump. In October last year, when the Read the rest of this entry »


The climate fire raging under the international political system

October 8, 2018

Review of Climate Leviathan: a political theory of our planetary future, by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright (London: Verso, 2018)

What are the real political prospects, as the world hurtles towards global warming? Not our hopes or desires, but really possible changes – good, bad and horrible – starting from where we are now?

Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, researchers of political theory who have been actively

Photo: Mikael Miettinen, creative commons

engaged in the “climate justice” movement for many years, address these questions in this thought-provoking book.

There are two fundamental ways to divide the options, they argue (pp. 28-29). First, whether the future economic order will be capitalist or not. Second, “whether a coherent planetary sovereign will emerge, that is, whether sovereignty will be reconstituted for the purposes of planetary management.” By “planetary sovereign” they Read the rest of this entry »


Prisoners of a frack-friendly establishment

September 27, 2018

The British establishment is stepping up its deranged assault on anti-fracking protesters. How else can we interpret the 15-16 month jail sentences handed out yesterday at Preston Crown Court to three peaceful protesters?

Simon Roscoe Blevins (26), Richard Roberts (36) and Richard Loizou (31) were convicted in August of causing a public nuisance. They took part in a four-day direct action that blocked a convoy of tricks carrying drilling equipment from entering the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool, operated by Cuadrilla.

The judge, Robert Altham, made clear the political nature of his decision in court yesterday. He said he thought the three men posed a risk of reoffending, and could not

Anti-fracking protesters (l-r) Rich Loizou, Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe-Blevins, outside Preston Crown Court with supporters before sentencing

be “rehabilitated” – because “each of them remains motivated by an unswerving confidence that they are right.”

He added: “Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions. Given the disruption caused in this case, only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.”

The judge’s vindictive sentencing is squarely in line with a small section of the UK Read the rest of this entry »


Still bigger mountains of plastic on the way

March 6, 2018

Oil, gas and petrochemicals companies are responding to public revulsion about plastic waste in their own special way: by investing billions to INCREASE plastics production.

Thanks to their efforts, global output of ethylene and propylene, the two main raw materials for plastics production, is expected to RISE BY ONE-THIRD in the next seven years.

I am all in favour of campaigns to cut down the insanely wasteful use of plastic bottles, bags and

Plastic waste in Mumbai, India. From the India Water Portal web site

packaging. But let’s also make sure we understand the root of the problem: systems of production and consumption that aim only to raise output, and the mighty corporate interests that control them.

The trail from gas, oil and coal production, through petrochemicals plants, to manufacturing and trading companies thatgorge on needless mountains of plastic, has been well researched by campaigning NGOs, lawyers and journalists. Here is People & Nature’s handy guide:

Production: the US shale gas boom

Nearly all plastics are made from coal, oil or gas (see “Quick chemistry catch-up”, below). The recent boom in shale gas production has caused US gas supply to outstrip demand. That in turn has triggered a wave of investment in petrochemicals plants that make ethylene, the key raw material for several types of plastic.

In other words, it is the availability of cheap raw material – not any obvious human need – that is driving plastics production growth.

The US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report last month that three new ethylene plants (called “cracking” plants) had started up in 2017, and another six are due Read the rest of this entry »


The Earth and us: ways of seeing

February 13, 2018

Review of: Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: the Earth, history and us (London: Verso, 2017)

Think again, and differently, about the relationship between human society and the natural world. That is the challenge offered by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz.

They question accepted ideas about “environmental crisis” and “sustainable development”, and urge

A visual representation of geological time. From the Smithsonian Institution.

us to subvert the “unifying grand narrative of the errant human species and its redemption by science alone”.

But this is not an iconoclastic rant. It is a scholarly discussion of the science behind the Anthropocene concept, and its implications for history, for the study of society, and for our ideas about the world in the broadest sense.

A central theme is the reflection of the terrifying accumulation of damage to the natural world by human activity over the past two centuries in the history of ideas. The dominant trends, to divide natural history from human history and to push the natural world out of economics, have been resisted.

The fact of the Anthropocene, Bonneuil and Fressoz argue, requires a new synthesis of forms of knowledge. They avoid offering any simplistic, pat “solution” to the disastrous rift between human society and the natural world. Instead, they point to new ways of looking at it that, collectively, may help us to change it.

This review summarises the authors’ explanation of the Anthropocene concept; considers their points Read the rest of this entry »