A view from the Rhondda Valley

What is the difference between an environmentalist and an earth destroyer. I believe (I suspect all environmentalists believe this too) that we are not just a part of the natural world. We are the natural world. I think at times it’s as if we want to cut an umbilical cord to Earth and stand on our own feet. Full of pride we turn on her and try to destroy her. We in the environmental movement intrinsically know this. When we see our planet harmed it harms us too and we feel the pain. I have always felt this way.

I remember when I was a child of about five being fascinated by a picture of our Earth on a cover of a book, Earth was depicted with a human face. Continents were arranged to look like features. There was smoke stacks and aeroplanes flying. Ships sailing her seas. The Earth was smiling.  I have always felt deep inside me that Earth is a living organism and we are her Children. I’ve always felt protected by Earth. Even when we go through the darkest of times she gives. She protects and feeds every living creature on the planet. The sun is her heart.

A preconditioned notion of how living organisms should look and feel like blind us to the most incredible organism in our solar system. Maybe in our Galaxy. Our living breathing planet. We are not the most superior beings on Earth. We are beyond doubt the most destructive. I didn’t have to look at a cover of a book to feel this connection. It runs too deep in all of us.

I believe we can avert climate breakdown. Now I do thanks to Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. Before XR I think inside I was giving up. Been too hard and long watching our planet destroyed. Too many petitions. Too many marches. All to no avail. Too much greed. I watched us become addicted to consumerism as we started shovelling food into the giant’s mouth. Earth has protected me all my life and when I die I will be with her again in her streams and trees.

I also believe the very best human traits come to the surface when we are at one with Earth. She speaks to us through music and poetry. Our songs are the birds and our symphonies are the oceans and the wind. These are Earths words and songs. We are conduits. Our planet speaking through us, she helps us transcend base emotions.

Billionaires spend hundreds of millions on Art that depict a beautiful natural scene and these same people hungrily destroy all the beauty in the World. We are a species that was born from Earth. The connection we have can only be pure if we live in harmony. If we don’t live the way we are supposed to live then we kill Earth, ourselves and all life. I think if we are to survive we will of at last learned to live in harmony and a new dawn will rise. We will have grown up and come home.

We Have the Facts, We Will Have Climate Justice

In a world where governments care more about money than the environment, it has been left to the people to decide which shade of green we want for our planet! With an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste entering the world oceans from coastal regions annually and Donald Trump looking to re-open coal mines in the USA, it is now down to the people to make the change. But we need the support of the government, we need them to wake up and take responsibility and write legally binding agreements to cap the global temperature rise by less than the tipping point! 2 degrees is not good enough, because at 2 degrees mountain glaciers and rivers will start to disappear, 10% of the world’s population will be displaced due to sea level rise and A THIRD OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH WILL FACE EXTINCTION! As a population we need to band together to pressure the officials to enforce a mandatory cap in temperature rise at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and become carbon neutral by 2030! Because by the time we reach 2050 it will be too late.

In 2014, just 5 countries accounted for 70% of global CO2 emissions, including: China, the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation and Japan. This sparked the launch of the “land mark agreement” to combat climate change in 2015 – COP 21, The Paris agreement, which THE USA HAS NOW PULLED OUT OF! China is so far the only country to make a major difference, announcing plans to invest over $3 Billion in renewable energy! Whist the EU’s aim is to become carbon neutral by 2050 and cut energy use by 20% below business-as-usual projections by 2020. This is NOT good enough! We are the 3rd largest contributor to CO2 emissions globally and our member states are among the wealthiest countries in the world. With these stats, there is NO EXCUSE for not making more of an effort to become carbon neutral! Because of our governments idleness we are now on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees C, 0.7 above the tipping point.

Despite all these statistics, there has still been no legally binding agreement to combat climate change since 2009! And there are still countries refusing the latest agreement (Katowice 2018), including the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Knowing this, how can we rely on governments who are not willing to make a sacrifice to save the planet? If the temperature continues to rise there will be no trade, there will be displacement of people and there will be extinction!

We have the facts. We have the power. We will have Climate Justice.

Works Cited

Howard , B. C., Gibbens , S., Zachos, E. & Parker, L., 2019. A running list of action on plastic pollution. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/ocean-plastic-pollution-solutions/
[Accessed 19th February 2019].

news, s., 2018. What Will Happen As The World Gets Warmer?. [Online]
Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/what-will-happen-as-the-world-gets-warmer-10336299
[Accessed 19th February 2019].

United states enviromental protection agency, n.d. Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data. [Online]
Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data
[Accessed 19th February 2019].

 

 

 

 

THE METHANE BOMB

It was probably more hope than expectation, but in the early years of the 21st century, it looked as if atmospheric concentrations of the hyper-greenhouse gas, methane had pretty much stabilised. This was good news as the gas has the capability of sending planetary heating into overdrive. In the short term – say a decade or two – methane is capable of warming the planet up to 86 times more rapidly than carbon dioxide. The gas doesn’t hang around in the atmosphere for much more than ten years or so, but then it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water – both greenhouses – which means that its warming influence continues. Even after 100 years, in fact, the global warming potential of the gas is still more than 30 times that of carbon dioxide.

 

Now, both the hope and expectation seem short-sighted as new research reveals that methane levels in the atmosphere are on the rise again. A new open access paper published by the American Geophysical Union (1) provides evidence for atmospheric methane levels starting to climb once more in 2007 and accelerate significantly for the period 2014 – 17. Such a hike is unexpected and was not factored into the calculations that came up with the emissions reductions framework for the Paris Climate Agreement. Consequently, the probability that global average temperatures will rise far above the 2°C dangerous climate change guard rail is now even greater.

 

A big concern is that it is not clear where the methane is coming from. There seems to have been an especially significant increase in the gas across the tropics and sub-tropics and at northern mid-latitudes, and more intensive farming and the warming of methane-hosting swamps and bogs have been fingered as possible culprits. Far more worrying is the possibility that chemical changes in the atmosphere, as it warms, might make it more difficult to break down methane. If true, this would be very bad news indeed, because it would mean that this extremely potent greenhouse gas would hang around for longer, thereby significantly increasing its global warming potential.

 

And there could be plenty more methane to come. Trapped beneath the vast tracts of permafrost at high latitudes are colossal quantities of the gas. The geographic region of most concern is probably the submarine permafrost that floors the East Siberian Continental Shelf, where an estimated 1400 billion tonnes of carbon, in the form of methane, is lurking beneath a frozen carapace that is thawing rapidly. According to one research team as much as 50 billion tonnes of this is available for sudden release at any time, which would – at a stroke – hike the methane content of the atmosphere 12 times. A discrete methane ‘burp’ on this scale could, it has been estimated, advance global warming by 30 years and cost the global economy USD60 trillion – a figure close to four times the US national debt. The occurrence of such an outburst is far from certain and there are other issues to consider, including how much methane is absorbed by the ocean as it bubbles upwards. Nonetheless, this cataclysmic scenario provides yet another reason – if more were needed – why we must slash our own emissions to zero as soon as we can.

 

(1) Very strong atmospheric methane growth in the four years 2014‐2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018GB006009

 

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

 

 

Respite Experience

I’ve just had my first experience of offering respite relief to someone who has been working really hard towards making XR work. I originally offered to host someone because I love where I live and it has been very healing for me living here. I also have spare space at the moment, so it makes sense to use it for something positive rather than leaving it empty.
I was afraid that a stranger coming, even someone from XR, might be difficult, so I started by being very clear about what was being offered. The offer was for self catering accommodation with a wood burner, gas cooker, mattress (but not necessarily bedding because we’re off grid except for mains water and we’re short of electricity at the moment) and some fresh vegetables (we have a market garden so it was easy to add an extra veg box to the list) and a few other basic food items. We have had a lot of Workawayers and WWOOFers over the years, so we realise how important it is to be clear at the outset what you are willing to offer and not to offer too much. The key thing for us was to emphasize that we would not be cooking for the guest and we would not necessarily be around for socializing – this was important to us as we tend to have a lot of people around and we need our space. Also, there was no expectation of them needing to do anything other than stay in the accommodation and rest.
What actually happened was that our guest was really thoughtful and interesting and I ended up spending a few hours working with her on the first day and talking A LOT, and then we invited her to eat with us each evening because she was so awesome! It was so much more rewarding than I expected and feels like we have made a new friend.

Stop the clocks, planetary version

Stop all the clocks, put away your mobile phone

Take a good look at your loved ones

Silence the noise and think for a moment

Take heed of the fact, this world is done.

 

Note the aeroplanes with jetplumes,

Tracing white lines in a bright sky

The stars and the planets whose beauty belies

The fact our home will soon be gone.

 

It is our north, south, our east and west,

Our place of birth, our place of rest,

Your source of all eternity, and so much beauty

We thought the world would last forever: we were wrong.

 

The planet will not last long now, with what we’ve done

Behold the sun, the moon the stars,

We’ve poisoned the ocean and burned up the woods

And seize what chance to try to save what’s good.

IS IT ALREADY TOO LATE?

Despite the fact that ITV once broadcast a fly-on-the-wall documentary about me called Disasterman, I have always had a fairly positive outlook. Staying optimistic in light of the environmental bombshells published this week, however, is not easy. At times like this it is difficult not to wonder if, whatever action we take, we may already be doomed.

The first bombshell exploded at the weekend, when the results of a major new study (1) revealed that the global population of insects of all types was plunging by 2.5 percent a year. Should this rate of decline continue – and there is good reason to think it could even accelerate – then a quarter of all insects alive today will be gone in a decade. Before 2070, half will have vanished and none will survive to the end of the century. It is impossible to play down the scale of this blossoming catastrophe. Without insects we will starve. Full stop! This would be as near as it gets to an extinction event for the human race, and not one that happens in the dim and distant future, but one that will increasingly impact on our children and their children. As ever, this should not really come as a surprise. We know the cause – a conspiracy of climate change and industrial-scale intensive agriculture. The solutions too, are clear; a complete rethink of our diet, how we grow our food and how we manage our world – for the good of all life, not just our own.

On Tuesday, hard on the heels of the insectageddon bombshell came another, this one in the form of a new report by the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research (2). This flagged up how the accelerating impacts of climate change and other environmental problems, threatens a collapse of the world’s social and economic systems. Once again, this is hardly news to those of us who have eyes and use them, but the report draws attention to a number of key points; not least the fact that mainstream political and policy debates utterly fail to recognise the problem. It is off the radar and kept there by Brexit, trade wars and comparable issues that pale into insignificance against climate breakdown and environmental degradation. Not only can most policy makers not see the elephant in the room, they are not even in the room.

These two reports are simply the latest in a near continuous torrent of bad news that acts to sap the will. In the face of this mind-numbing deluge, it would be all too easy to throw in the towel; to turn our backs on the environmental crisis that threatens our survival; to plead that it’s just too hard to tackle. But we can’t afford to do this. It is too late now to prevent dangerous, all-pervasive, climate change that will affect every one of us and make the lives of our children and theirs a real struggle. It is going to be tough anyway – that’s now a certainty – but the longer we delay and the slower we are to take serious action, the worse it will be. This is why Extinction Rebellion is calling for a net zero carbon world by 2025. However bad the news gets, this is still something worth fighting for. What choice do we have?

(1) Worldwide decline of entomofauna: a review of its drivers

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320718313636

(2) This is a crisis: facing up to the age of environmental breakdown

https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/age-of-environmental-breakdown

 

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Rainbow Grey

Snow blind?

No, snow kind

snow softs

wafts gentle in overnight

transforms my world –

no, not with white

(too stark, too bright)

 

the landscape’s stilled by

innumerable flakes of small

an infinite, invisible fall

away from noise

from angry reds,

grassroot greens and rusty blues –

all turn to grey and yet retain

a trace of all these hues

 

my vision IS for system change

but how?

today it takes an awestruck bow

to nature

wonders if we could witness a gentle miracle –

immense but no less radical

can I relinquish all the safety of my past belief

allow snow melt to wipe out grief

and find a vision grey drawn from this sky

which blankets all the bleak of ‘’will we live or die’?

to find the colour in the snow

leave space for many miracles to land

in that expanse which lives in ‘I don’t know’

 

it may be a fairy tale at best

but grief responds to this immediate request

and effects an inner system change

gruesome future stories rearrange

themselves and drop into a humble silence

which allows for being at peace

as the metaphor of many flecks of grey

prompts release

of the thought that many tiny unseen actions hold the power to change the view

for some cold feathered one – for me or you:

 

receive this muff of grey which wraps itself around the sun

embracing system change which dignifies and includes every one.