Hotter than ever: capitalism, the Leap Manifesto and This Changes Everything

Hotter than ever: capitalism, the Leap Manifesto and <em>This Changes Everything</em>

So now we know that global temperature in February and March shattered a century-long record – and by the greatest margin ever seen. Annual heat records are fallling like ninepins, with 2015 demolishing the record set in 2014 for the hottest year seen, in data stretching back to 1850, while the UK Met Office expects 2016 to set a new record.

Prof Michael Mann, climate scientist at Penn State University in the US, was shocked by the data, saying it is ‘a reminder of how perilously close we now are to permanently crossing into dangerous territory. It underscores the urgency of reducing global carbon emissions.’

It’s a year now since the Guardian published two lengthy extracts from Naomi Klein’s enormously important book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate, to kick off their Keep it in the Ground campaign. Since then I’ve read Klein’s book in its entirety.  It is probably the most important book published so far this century; as the New York Times observed:

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable, the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring.

The book, plus the powerful and inspiring film based on it which I watched last night, continues to send shock waves around the world. This week Canada has been convulsed with debates over the bold and radical Leap Manifesto which takes its name from the title of the last chapter in Klein’s book and dares to call for ‘a Canada based on caring for the Earth and one another.’ Continue reading “Hotter than ever: capitalism, the Leap Manifesto and This Changes Everything

Adam Nicolson, the Shiant Isles and the crisis in seabird populations

Adam Nicolson, the Shiant Isles and the crisis in seabird populations

Recently, I watched a pair of films on BBC Four presented by Adam Nicolson. In The Last Seabird Summer? he took us to the Shiant islands in the Outer Hebrides, given to him on his 21st birthday by his father, which he said ‘have been the most important thing in my life’. Every spring sees the phenomenal spectacle of a sky thick with tens of thousands of puffins, guillemots and razorbills as they arrive on the Shiants from far out in the North Atlantic to breed.

But there’s a crisis that threatens to end this remarkable show: although the numbers on the Shiants are holding up, in the last fifteen years in Scotland alone, 40 per cent of the seabird population has been lost. In The Last Seabird Summer? Nicolson explored the reasons why this is happening, and how in places like the Shiants there has been long history of dependence on seabirds: thousands of years of collecting eggs and hunting the birds for meat, oil and feathers.

Watching the programmes, I was reminded that for some time there had been a copy of Adam Nicolson’s book Sea Room in the house, in which he told the story of how he inherited the Shiants from his father, his love for these lonely, uninhabited islands, and his exploration of their geology and history, and of the lives of the people who once lived and made their living on these remote islands. I decided to read Sea Room. Continue reading “Adam Nicolson, the Shiant Isles and the crisis in seabird populations”

Climate change: living with cognitive dissonance

Climate change: living with cognitive dissonance

Spring flowers are blooming as the mercury rises into the high teens: midwinter in the era of global warming. Meanwhile, the delegates to last week’s climate change conference in Paris shuffle off home, congratulating themselves on a job well done.

It’s curious, this air of satisfaction with the conference outcomes.  After the Copenhagen Conference in 2009 failed to agree a legally-binding treaty to slow global warming, it was generally agreed that that is what it was: a dismal failure. This time, however, politicians and the mainstream media have been pushing the narrative of a job well done: an agreement hailed as ‘historic, durable and ambitious’. Continue reading “Climate change: living with cognitive dissonance”

Autumn 2015: mist, colour and unnatural warmth

Autumn 2015: mist, colour and unnatural warmth

Reading Paul Evans’ Country Diary in the Guardian this morning in which he describes autumn leaves ‘fiery as metal blades in a blacksmith’s forge’, I was reminded that in recent posts I haven’t mentioned the extraordinary autumn we’ve been having this year. After an indifferent few months, summer burst upon us late, and from the last week of September through the entire month of October the weather was governed by a large area of high pressure that remained motionless over much of western Europe. Continue reading “Autumn 2015: mist, colour and unnatural warmth”

This bitter earth: the campaign to stop Shell’s Arctic catastrophe

This bitter earth: the campaign to stop Shell’s Arctic catastrophe

A superb long read in the Guardian today by Rebecca Solnit describing a week-long expedition she took at the end of June through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a timely piece, as Charlotte Church and other Greenpeace protesters have been gathered for days outside Shell’s headquarters in London along with musicians performing a Requiem for Arctic Ice (inspired by the string quartet who continued to play as the Titanic went down) in an effort to persuade the company to abandon plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Continue reading “This bitter earth: the campaign to stop Shell’s Arctic catastrophe”

Spring: sunshine and glory. But: What is wrong with us?

Spring: sunshine and glory.  But: What is wrong with us?

A cloudless sky, the sun warm on my shoulders – one of the first days when it’s felt as if the long tramp through winter’s cold is over. Gardening this morning, then walking my dog in Sefton Park in the afternoon, seeing all this glory in the natural world, brought to mind the question – What is wrong with us? Continue reading “Spring: sunshine and glory. But: What is wrong with us?”

The Sixth Extinction: humanity busy sawing off the limb on which it perches

The Sixth Extinction: humanity busy sawing off the limb on which it perches

Though it might be nice to imagine there once was a time when man lived in harmony with nature, it’s not clear that he ever really did.

Elizabeth Kolbert is a journalist who writes on science matters for the New Yorker. She has written two books, the first being Field Notes from a Catastrophe: A Frontline Report on Climate Change. I’ve just read her most recent book, The Sixth Extinction, which is only partly concerned with climate change: travelling across the world to report on the latest of the mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth in the last half billion years, she reveals how this sixth and most devastating extinction is all down to human impact – but climate change is only a part of it. Continue reading “The Sixth Extinction: humanity busy sawing off the limb on which it perches”