Saturday, 29 December 2012

Bridging the Disconnect

One of the key issues of our times I think for many of us in the developed nations is disconnection. 

We are no longer the gatherer/hunters or even subsistance agriculturalists that our ancestors were and our food comes pre-packaged from who knows where, however this is not the disconnection I wish to rant about today. 

Mostly in the global North, we do not live on the front lines, we are not the Beaver Lake Cree or the people of the Niger Delta.  Even where I live, where there have been oil and gas fields opened up and a pipeline dug to bring gas onshore, mostly what we see and hear about are the workers and their occaisonal anti-social behaviour after carousing in Lerwick, or Total being asked to be a "good citizen" and fund the community officers whose jobs the council was going to cut. 

We are insulated to some degree from the consequences of our lifestyles.  And it is difficult for us to imagine, for example what the 14,000 barrels a day gushing up from the sub-salt field in the Santos Basin look like.  Yet oil saturates our lives, in our food, our clothes our gadgets and so many things. 

I think this "insulation" is wearing thin in places and we are starting to feel the consequences.  The many who have suffered the flooding in the UK, the victims of Sandy,those who felt the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill, to name but a few.  Extreme weather events are bridging the disconnection, food prices are likely to also bring it home to us. 
We cannot continue as we have. 

However, colloquilly, my eldest daughter (a teenager) reports that most of the kids her age at her (admittedly small) school do not think that climate change is real.  And I do sometimes wonder how the next generation (who seem SO disconnected to me) will cope. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Seasonal thoughts

At this time of year, many of us celebrate our various festivals.  Whether we are religious (in all our various ways) or secular, feasting and overconsumption and waste seem to be the (societal) norm. 

I think that this year there is a particular resonance.  So many around the globe are in poverty, and even in the global North many are feeling the financial strain this year.  As an example, it is expected that the number of people in the UK being fed by food banks this christmas will double to around 15,000. With three new food banks opening, on average, each week in the UK and the prospect of many more falling into hardship next year. 
And this does not even touch on the hardship of people in Greece or so many other places around the globe, such as those recovering from Sandy in the Carribean. 

With exreme weather events likely to become more common and financial hardship increasing, much of what we take for granted, especially in terms of food security may well be compromised. 

It is to be hoped that we will see many more community kitchens and community gardens springing up that more people will grow their own veg and share it, more gifting and more free-economy rather than more people lost and suffering alone.  If there is more Mutual Aid and an increase in community resilience and our food is locally grown with more people re-connecting to the land and to community then I would say that 2013 will be a good year at least in some respects.   

We must each do our bit, grow and share, contribute whatever we can towards building a positive alternative. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

On Re-skilling

Something which has cropped up recently in conversations with my friend Baya and others, is the issue of re-skilling. 
I feel that so many of us and many of my daughter's generation are "unskilled" apart from skills which depend on the current paradigm.  We may be able to deal with our car, our PCs or get a really high score on our Xbox or cook well on our stove but we often do not have the skills to cope outside this paradigm. 
I know that no one person can have all the skills and I think that this is where Mutual Aid and Community Sufficiency come in.  The Free Economy, Organisations such as the WI or websites like , or .  Other resouces such as youtube and paleotube are very useful. 
and if there is a time bank near you it is well worth "investing" in. 

I know personally that through books, and the internet (along with trial and error) I have learned several useful skills such as soapmaking, candlemaking, preserving, breadmaking, cheesemaking, basketmaking, primitive tech hunting,foraging, fishing and gardening.  I have found a distance learning introduction to medical herbalism and there are so many courses available from places like LILI

The best resource is local people.  "Gifting" helps form links and there are so many people out there with useful skills who are willing to share them.  I know that myself I have the offer of learning drystone walling (just through being willing to go out and ask a local dyker) and learning to work with Shetland ponies to pull a cart etc in 2013. I think it is so important for us to reskill, to become less dependant on the current infrastructure and to pass the skills on to our children and others who will be the ones facing the crisis full on.

 So many of our traditional skills will have a much greater relevance and must not be lost. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012


So Fracking is to restart in the UK.  Climate and Energy Secretary Ed Davey has lifted the suspension on Fracking operations which was imposed after 2 earthquakes last year.
With the recent tax breaks in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement it looks like we may see (however briefly) a boom in this technique.
It appears that the first site may be in Lancashire near wells close to the earthquake sites.
And there's also this...

Despite the promise of focused regulation from the new Office of  Unconventional Gas and Oil I am very cynical. 

I understand that this is in order to offset energy dependence as North Sea Gas declines and is meant to create jobs but I believe these arguments could equally be applied to adaptation and renewables.

With the well documented impacts of US fracking and the fact that this is still a fossil fuel, I see no real benefit and several major costs to this. 

How much longer can we afford to waste our time and resources?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Doha Done

Well there has been some good news out of Doha.
Despite initial US opposition the UK, EU, Norway and Australia have pledged to give "aid" to repair "loss and damage" incurred through the ravages of climate change.
This is hugely significant, despite being hedged so that no legal "liability" or "compensation" challenges are opened up.  
In another good thing from Doha, the 25 members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition have agreed to take action on black carbon (soot), methane and ozone.  When you consider the effect that black carbon is having on Greenland, this is significant.  The link for a crowdsourced expedition to investigate this further is here
And of course the extension of Kyoto until 2020.

For me (as I imagine for many of us)  one of the most memorable things from Doha was the impassioned plea of the envoy Naderev Sano, from the typhoon hit Phillipines

He says it so well.  "If not us, who? If not now, when?

Time is ticking on and our window of opportunity is closing fast. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Osborne goes fracking mental

So Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled his Gas Strategy and it includes tax breaks for fracking.  Despite the fact that this may well lock the UK into a carbon heavy future, in spite of all the clear warnings of the depth of the oncoming crisis and despite the warning from the Committee on Climate Change that the "dash for gas" is completely incompatible with the Government's own carbon reduction  targets and obligations under the Climate Change Act. 

While I agree with the need to switch from Coal and Nuclear power which is one of the stated intentions, surely it would be better to invest in renewables and not in gas which is still a fossil fuel.
I do not see how building gas fired power stations and fracking, with all the investment of resources that this would entail makes any sense when we need to be investing in renewable sources of energy and adapting to the future. 

It seems to me that this springs from wanting to cash in on the US type of fracking boom at the expense of our future wellbeing and resilience.  Another example of the triumph of the short-termist thinking and belief that somehow "growth will restart" which characterises this government and our current paradigm. 
I feel we have reached the limits of growth and that this attempt to "keep the lights on" is futile and an irresponsible waste of time and resources. 

We cannot afford this. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The recent deliberations at Doha seem to my mind to have been following a familiar narrative. 
While developing nations seek redress from the wealthy global North, those nations refuse financial redress and aim to preserve their economic and political hegemony. 

After Sandy hitting the US and with Obama being re-elected for his final term, I was hopeful that the US would actually start taking a real interest in dealing with climate change.  Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case, it may be premature but Obama's decision not to include US airlines in the EU wide aviation emissions trading scheme does not seem a good signal for the future.  It also makes it easier for other countries to opt out and suggests that the scheme may fail. 

While Greenland and Antarctica melt apace and scientists warn that methane emissions could push us over the edge.The Tyndall Centre warns that CO2 emissions are hitting a record annual high of 36.5 billion tonnes, which is 58% above the Kyoto baseline year of 1990.  The gap between the rhetoric and the reality, in reducing global emissions puts us on course for a 4- 6 C mean global temeperature rise .  

While much of the growth in emissions, seems to have come from the emerging E7 countries, it is worth remembering that much of China's emissions still come from manufacturing goods which are exported to the global North, and they seem to be expected to rise until 2030 

All in all I am not hopeful.....