Posts Tagged ‘BBC’
Staying with the terrible news that we are now above 400 ppm atmospheric CO2.
If there is anything of comfort to be drawn from the news that we are above 400 ppm CO2 it is that the mainstream media are running with it. I shall focus on the reportage from the BBC News website.
First, there was the news of the passing of that “symbolic mark”.
10 May 2013 Last updated at 11:39 ET
Carbon dioxide passes symbolic mark
Daily measurements of CO2 at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.
The station, which sits on the Mauna Loa volcano, feeds its numbers into a continuous record of the concentration of the gas stretching back to 1958.
The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago – before modern humans existed.
Scientists say the climate back then was also considerably warmer than it is today.
Carbon dioxide is regarded as the most important of the manmade greenhouse gases blamed for raising the temperature on the planet over recent decades.
Read the rest of the news release here.
Then David Shukman, Science editor BBC News added this further background, that I am going to republish in full:
Near the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano, the carbon dioxide monitors stand amid one of the world’s remotest huddles of scientific instruments. To reach them you have to leave the steamy Hawaii coast and climb through barren lava-fields.
At the top, above 11,000ft, the air is thin and the sun piercing. During my visit, I watched rain clouds boiling in the valleys below me. Charles David Keeling chose this otherworldly spot because the air up here is neither industrial nor pristine; it is “well-mixed” which means it can serve as a useful guide to changes in the atmosphere.
Despite their global significance, the devices he installed back in 1958 do not look impressive. But he battled bureaucratic objections to fund them and his legacy is the longest continuous record of a gas, linked to much of global warming, that just keeps rising.
A day later, the BBC released this:
1 May 2013 Last updated at 03:52 ET
Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels
Scientists are calling on world leaders to take action on climate change after carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere broke through a symbolic threshold.
Daily CO2 readings at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.
Sir Brian Hoskins, the head of climate change at the UK-based Royal Society, said the figure should “jolt governments into action”.
China and the US have made a commitment to co-operate on clean technology.
But BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said the EU was backing off the issue, and cheap fossil fuels looked attractive to industries.
The laboratory, which sits on the Mauna Loa volcano, feeds its numbers into a continuous record of the concentration of the gas stretching back to 1958.
‘Sense of urgency’
Carbon dioxide is regarded as the most important of the manmade greenhouse gases blamed for raising the temperature on the planet over recent decades.
Human sources come principally from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.
Ministers in the UK have claimed global leadership in reducing CO2 emissions and urged other nations to follow suit.
But the official Climate Change Committee (CCC) last month said that Britain’s total contribution towards heating the climate had increased, because the UK is importing goods that produce CO2 in other countries.
Rest of that news article is here. But I can’t resist the picture and quote from Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.
“A greater sense of urgency was needed.“ I’m going to be emotional! Frankly, those wishy-washy words are pathetic.
We need the sort of words that George Monbiot penned a few days ago. Those I will share with you tomorrow.
A real pleasure and privilege to republish this article from Mr. Monbiot.
For some time now I have subscribed to the articles published by The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. From time to time references have been made to PRI articles here on Learning from Dogs.
Recently, I read a PRI essay that had been penned by George Monbiot. It was called The Great Unmentionable. It blew me away. So I took a deep breath and dropped George M. an email asking if I might republish it here. George was very gracious in giving me such permission.
First some background to George Monbiot for those who are unfamiliar with his work and his writings. As his website explains:
I had an unhappy time at university, and I now regret having gone to Oxford, even though the zoology course I took – taught, among others, by Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and John Krebs – was excellent. The culture did not suit me, and when I tried to join in I fell flat on my face, sometimes in a drunken stupor. I enjoyed the holidays more: I worked on farms and as a waterkeeper on the River Kennet. I spent much of the last two years planning my escape. There was only one job I wanted, and it did not yet exist: to make investigative environmental programmes for the BBC.
After hammering on its doors for a year, I received a phone call from the head of the BBC’s natural history unit during my final exams. He told me: “you’re so fucking persistent you’ve got the job.” They took me on, in 1985, as a radio producer, to make wildlife programmes. Thanks to a supportive boss, I was soon able to make the programmes I had wanted to produce. We broke some major stories. Our documentary on the sinking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Cork, uncovering evidence that suggested it had been deliberately scuppered, won a Sony award.
Anyway, to the article in question that was published on the Guardian Newspaper’s website, 12th April 2013.
The Great Unmentionable
April 12, 2013
We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions
By George Monbiot
Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable.
Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be a tension between green and growth.”
At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded, “oh I agree, the environment is so important. I’m crazy about recycling.” But the real problem, she explained, was “people breeding too much”.
I agreed that population is an element of the problem, but argued that consumption is rising much faster and – unlike the growth in the number of people – is showing no signs of levelling off. She found this notion deeply offensive: I mean the notion that human population growth is slowing. When I told her that birth rates are dropping almost everywhere, and that the world is undergoing a slow demographic transition, she disagreed violently: she has seen, on her endless travels, how many children “all those people have”.
As so many in her position do, she was using population as a means of disavowing her own impacts. The issue allowed her to transfer responsibility to other people: people at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It allowed her to pretend that her shopping and flying and endless refurbishments of multiple homes are not a problem. Recycling and population: these are the amulets people clasp in order not to see the clash between protecting the environment and rising consumption.
In a similar way, we have managed, with the help of a misleading global accounting system, to overlook one of the gravest impacts of our consumption. This too has allowed us to blame foreigners – particularly poorer foreigners – for the problem.
When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.
While this is an issue which affects all post-industrial countries, it is especially pertinent in the United Kingdom, where the difference between our domestic and international impacts is greater than that of any other major emitter. The last government boasted that this country cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19% between 1990 and 2008. It positioned itself (as the current government does) as a global leader, on course to meet its own targets, and as an example for other nations to follow.
But the cut the UK has celebrated is an artefact of accountancy. When the impact of the goods we buy from other nations is counted, our total greenhouse gases did not fall by 19% between 1990 and 2008. They rose by 20%. This is despite the replacement during that period of many of our coal-fired power stations with natural gas, which produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity. When our “consumption emissions”, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.
There are two further impacts of this false accounting. The first is that because many of the goods whose manufacture we commission are now produced in other countries, those places take the blame for our rising consumption. We use China just as we use the population issue: as a means of deflecting responsibility. What’s the point of cutting our own consumption, a thousand voices ask, when China is building a new power station every 10 seconds (or whatever the current rate happens to be)?
But, just as our position is flattered by the way greenhouse gases are counted, China’s is unfairly maligned. A graph published by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee shows that consumption accounting would reduce China’s emissions by roughly 45%. Many of those power stations and polluting factories have been built to supply our markets, feeding an apparently insatiable demand in the UK, the US and other rich nations for escalating quantities of stuff.
The second thing the accounting convention has hidden from us is consumerism’s contribution to global warming. Because we consider only our territorial emissions, we tend to emphasise the impact of services – heating, lighting and transport for example – while overlooking the impact of goods. Look at the whole picture, however, and you discover (using the Guardian’s carbon calculator) that manufacturing and consumption is responsible for a remarkable 57% of the greenhouse gas production caused by the UK.
Unsurprisingly, hardly anyone wants to talk about this, as the only meaningful response is a reduction in the volume of stuff we consume. And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.
The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.
By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.
But at least in a couple of places the conjuring trick is beginning to attract some attention.
On April 16th, the Carbon Omissions site will launch a brilliant animation by Leo Murray, neatly sketching out the problem*. The hope is that by explaining the issue simply and engagingly, his animation will reach a much bigger audience than articles like the one you are reading can achieve.
(*Declaration of interest (unpaid): I did the voiceover).
On April 24th, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue.
I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?
So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end. But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.“
Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th. particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:
At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.
Maybe this is why we seem unable to have the conversation because to do so means we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. Each one of us, you and me, has to address something so deeply personal. Back to Prof. McPherson and page 177 of his book (my emphasis):
It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?
For my money, Mr. Monbiot is yet another voice of reason in the wilderness; another voice that deserves to be followed. I say this because by way of introduction to his philosophy, he opens thus:
My job is to tell people what they don’t want to hear. That is not what I set out to do. I wanted only to cover the subjects I thought were interesting and important. But wherever I turned, I met a brick wall of denial.
Denial is everywhere. I have come to believe that it’s an intrinsic component of our humanity, an essential survival strategy. Unlike other species, we know that we will die. This knowledge could destroy us, were we unable to blot it out. But, unlike other species, we also know how not to know. We employ this unique ability to suppress our knowledge not just of mortality, but of everything we find uncomfortable, until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.
“… until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.”
I sense the growing of this threat to the point where maybe within less than a year the vast majority of open-minded, thinking individuals know the truth of where we are all heading.
Lifting one’s eyes to the far heavens.
Coincidentally, I also saw something on the 19th that was just as breathtaking as those pictures of Planet Earth. Here’s the picture that took my breath away.
That image comes from the ESA Space in Images website, from which one learns:
- Copyright: ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE/N. Schneider, Ph. André, V. Könyves (CEA Saclay, France) for the “Gould Belt survey” Key Programme
- Description: Stunning new view from ESA’s Herschel space observatory of the iconic Horsehead Nebula in the context of its surroundings. The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red), and covers 4.5×1.5 degrees. The image is oriented with northeast towards the left of the image and southwest towards the right.The Horsehead Nebula resides in the constellation Orion, about 1300 light-years away, and is part of the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex. The Horsehead appears to rise above the surrounding gas and dust in the far right-hand side of this scene, and points towards the bright Flame Nebula. Intense radiation streaming away from newborn stars heats up the surrounding dust and gas, making it shine brightly to Herschel’s infrared-sensitive eyes (shown in pink and white in this image).To the left, the panoramic view also covers two other prominent sites where massive stars are forming, NGC 2068 and NGC 2071.
Extensive networks of cool gas and dust weave throughout the scene in the form of red and yellow filaments, some of which may host newly forming low-mass stars.
Don’t know about you but I found that description a little dry, so to speak.
The BBC had a much friendlier version:
By Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News.
Europe’s Herschel space telescope has imaged one of the most popular subjects in the sky – the Horsehead Nebula – and its environs.
The distinctively shaped molecular gas cloud is sited some 1,300 light-years from Earth in the Constellation Orion.
It is in a region of space undergoing active star formation – something Herschel has been most keen to study.
The Hubble space observatory has also returned to the Horsehead scene, to celebrate 23 years in orbit.
Together, these two great facilities give scientists a much broader insight into what is taking place in this familiar patch of the heavens.
“You need images at all scales and at all wavelengths in astronomy in order to understand the big picture and the small detail,” said Prof Matt Griffin, the principal investigator on Herschel’s SPIRE instrument.
“In this new Herschel view, the Horsehead looks like a little feature – a pimple. In reality, of course, it is a very large entity in its own right, but in this great sweep of a picture from Herschel you can see that the nebula is set within an even larger, molecular-cloud complex where there is a huge amount of material and a great range of conditions,” the Cardiff University, UK, researcher told BBC News.
To provide a sense of scale, the Horsehead Nebula, also known in the catalogues as “Barnard 33″, is about five light-years “tall”.
Hubble sees the Horsehead in near-infrared light. Herschel, on the other hand, goes to much longer wavelengths. This allows it to see the glow coming directly from cold gas and dust – the material that will eventually collapse under gravity to form the next generation of stars.
Scientists are particularly keen to understand the mechanisms that drive the production of the biggest stars – objects much more massive than our own Sun that form relatively fast, burn bright but brief lives, and interact strongly with their environment, influencing the next round of star formation.
Anyway, that’s more than enough to copy directly from that BBC article. Read the rest by going here. All I will add is Jonathan’s last sentence, “A scholarly paper describing Herschel’s investigation of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex has been published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.“
Oh, and ponder on how far away from Earth is that Constellation Orion. Remember it was stated as 1,300 light-years.
Well, one light-year is just under 10 million, million kilometres (or about 6 million, million miles). Apparently defined by the IAU, or to give its the full name, the International Astronomical Union, a light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year.
So brace yourself! 1,300 light-years is just under 13,000,000,000,000,000 kilometres or in old money, 7,800,000,000,000,000 miles.
Rather puts pottering to the shops in Grants Pass into perspective!
Have a wonderful Sunday and be reminded of how valuable dogs are.
On the 2nd March, the BBC published a news story about the life of a small girl being saved by a dog. Here’s how that story ran:
Dog ‘saved life’ of missing Polish girl
Firefighters in Poland say a small dog probably saved the life of a three-year-old who went missing from her home overnight in freezing temperatures.
The child, Julia, vanished on Friday and was found lying in marshes several kilometres from her house on Saturday morning, with the dog by her side.
She is now in hospital in western Poland, suffering from frostbite after temperatures fell to -5C (23F).
Firefighter Grzegorz Szymanski said the dog kept the child warm enough to live.
“For the whole night the animal was with the girl, it never left her. Remember, it was 5 degrees below zero and the child was wet,” he said, adding that the animal was the most important factor in the girl’s survival.
Someone uploaded this news clip to YouTube.
Back to the BBC news item.
More than 200 people had searched for the child overnight. It is thought she spent hours wandering through the forest near her home in the village of Pierzwin.
Her parents had last seen the three-year-old playing in the backyard with the small black mongrel.
She was eventually discovered by firefighters after she was heard crying for her mother.
Something else we really can learn from dogs.
I’m not sure that I should admit that my dearest Jeannie is my 4th wife! Long story that goes back to when I had just turned 12 years-old, back in 1956. I suffered an event that I interpreted as emotional rejection and promptly buried that deep into my subconscious where it stayed for over 50 years.
Then brought to the surface in 2007 (thanks Jon) after the failure of marriage number 3. I met Jean some 6 months later, in December 2007, and we were married in Payson, AZ in November, 2010. Being with Jean has been the happiest days of my life!
Inevitably, while being married to Jean seems such a natural relationship, one is curious about what makes for a happy, lifelong relationship. Let’s face it, divorce is not uncommon. In fact, the Divorce Rate website reveals that in 2012, the divorce rate was 3.4 couples per 1,000 population in the USA; the sixth highest in the world.
So it was fascinating to listen to a recent radio programme broadcast under the BBC’s Point of View series. Just 10 minutes long, this particular programme was a talk by Adam Gopnik: The secret of a happy marriage 29th March 2013. (Adam Gopnik is an American commentator and writes for The New Yorker.)
You should be able to listen to the programme by going here. Or you can download the programme by going here, and following the instructions. (Not sure how long the programme will be available to listen/download, so don’t delay.)
The programme was also featured on the BBC News Magazine Website. From which I quote:
A Point of View: Is there a secret to a happy marriage?
Nobody can explain the secret to a happy marriage, says Adam Gopnik, but it doesn’t stop people trying.
Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn’t have one. There’s a truth universally acknowledged, or one that ought to be anyway.
Just as the people who write books about good sex are never people you would want to sleep with, and the academics who write articles about the disappearance of civility always sound ferociously angry, the people who write about the way to sustain a good marriage are usually on their third.
Nonetheless (you knew there was a nonetheless on its way) although I don’t have rules, I do have an observation after many years of marriage (I’ve promised not to say exactly how many, though the name “Jimmy Carter” might hold a clue).
Later, Adam Gopnik speaks about Charles Darwin whose marriage to Emma he describes “as something close to an ideal marriage.“
So what is it we learn from dogs?
So, marriages are made of lust, laughter and loyalty – but the three have to be kept in constant passage, transitively, back and forth, so that as one subsides for a time, the others rise.
Now Adam writes about the special form of loyalty that dogs offer us:
Be lit by lust, enlightened by laughter, settle into loyalty, and if loyalty seems too mired, return to lust by way of laughter.
I have had this formula worked out – and repeated it, waggishly, to friends, producing for some reason an ever more one-sided smile on the face of my beautiful wife.
Until, not long ago, I realised that there was a flaw in this idea. And that was that I had underestimated the reason that loyalty had such magnetic power, drawing all else towards it.
For I had been describing loyalty in marriage as though it were a neutral passive state – a kind of rest state, a final, fixed state at the end of the road of life.
And then, against our better wishes, and our own inner version of our marriage vows, at our daughter’s insistence we got a dog. And this is what changed my view.
“The expense and anxiety of children” indeed. Our daughter’s small Havanese dog, Butterscotch, has instructed us on many things, but above all on the energy that being loyal really implies.
Dogs teach us many things – but above all they teach us how frisky a state loyalty can be.
Dogs, after all – particularly spayed city dogs that have been denied their lusts – have loyalty as an overriding emotion. Ours will wait for hours for one of its family, and then patiently sit right alongside while there is work to be done.
Loyalty is what a dog provides. The ancient joke-name for a dog, Fido, is in truth the most perfect of all dog names – I am faithful. I am loyal. I remain.
Dogs are there to remind us that loyalty is a jumpy, fizzy emotion. Loyalty leaps up at the door and barks with joy at your return – and then immediately goes to sleep at your side. Simple fidelity is the youngest emotion we possess.
The loyalty of a dog. No more to be said.
A trip down memory lane with the BBC That’s Life programme.
Sent to me by Neil Kelly from South Hams in Devon.
That’s Life was a BBC television programme that ran for over 20 years. Difficult to attach a precise lable to the format but this is how the programme is described on WikiPedia.
That’s Life! was a magazine-style television series on BBC1 between 26 May 1973 and 19 June 1994, presented by Esther Rantzen throughout the entire run, with various changes of co-presenters. The show was generally recorded about an hour prior to transmission, which was originally on Saturday nights for many years and then on Sunday nights. In its latter days, in an attempt to win back falling ratings, it was moved back to Saturday nights.
Anyway, the following video from That’s Life goes back to 1986 and involves three German Shepherd dogs and a soda syphon. The video was ‘borrowed’ from a Dutch TV show called ‘Zomergasten’, hence the Dutch sub-titles.
If you ever find yourself in Castle Cary, Somerset, then do drop in to the George Hotel; it’s still going strong.
It really is an obvious statement!
I am indebted to my son for dropping me an email with a link to a recent BBC Radio programme. It was from the long-running programme series In Our Time, presented by the consummate broadcasting professional Melvyn Bragg.
The WikiPedia entry details, The Rt. Honourable The Lord Bragg no less,
Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg, FRS, FBA, FRSA, FRSL, FRTS (born 6 October 1939), is an English broadcaster and author, best known for his work with the BBC and for ITV presenting the The South Bank Show (1978–2010). Since 1998 he has presented over 550 weekly episodes of the BBC Radio discussion programme In Our Time.
Bragg was born on 6 October 1939 in Carlisle, the son of Mary Ethel (née Park), a tailor, and Stanley Bragg, a stock keeper turned mechanic.He attended the Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton and read Modern History at Wadham College, Oxford in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
This particular episode was called Ice Ages; the link will take you to the programme page which includes the ability to listen to the 43 minutes long episode. (Alternatively, you can go straight to the recording via the BBC iPlayer.) The programme page explains:
Jane Francis, Richard Corfield and Carrie Lear join Melvyn Bragg to discuss ice ages, periods when a reduction in the surface temperature of the Earth has resulted in ice sheets at the Poles. Although the term ‘ice age’ is commonly associated with prehistoric eras when much of northern Europe was covered in ice, we are in fact currently in an ice age which began up to 40 million years ago. Geological evidence indicates that there have been several in the Earth’s history, although their precise cause is not known. Ice ages have had profound effects on the geography and biology of our planet.
Professor of Paleoclimatology at the University of Leeds
Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University
Senior Lecturer in Palaeoceanography at Cardiff University.
Producer: Thomas Morris
LINKS AND FURTHER READING
Now the programme requires careful listening as the conversation ranges rapidly about the number of ice ages, the intervening greenhouse periods and where we are at present. It would be easy to end up thinking that we are in a cooling phase (we are not) or that it’s only a matter of time before we are back in the next ice age (in geological terms, yes).
Go to the programme blog and read this from Melvyn:
It was a close call. After the programme Jane Francis and Carrie Lear continued to talk about the climbing count of CO2 which was pumping up global warming, in their opinion, which would lead most dramatically to mass flooding. On the programme Richard Corfield did not join in very enthusiastically, pointing out that the CO2 count had been at least twice as high quite recently (geologically speaking) and even higher than that a bit before recently. The situation was beginning to develop into a relevant, contemporary conversation about climate change and the final bell was a merciful release. There was no thought of the ingenuity of men and women combating what would be a gradual increase (if it happens) of rising sea levels – we could have looked at the Dutch in the sixteenth century onwards. But I strayed from my task.
The grim conclusion of Jane Francis was never to buy or rent a house on a flood plain, always to buy or rent a house on a hill, or take a tent, or anything, as long as it’s on a hill and, I think Richard Corfield added, fortify it. Well, well. [my italics]
As I wrote yesterday, either Jane or Carrie, don’t recall whom, said on air just at the end that a CO2 level of nearly 400 ppm (January 2013: 395.55 ppm) is way above the range of levels where the Earth’s atmosphere has traditionally behaved in a stable manner.
In the end it really doesn’t matter geologically.
Our planet is approximately 4,540,000,000 years old. As WikiPedia explains,
There have been five known ice ages in the Earth’s history, with the Earth experiencing the Quaternary Ice Age during the present time. Within ice ages, there exist periods of more severe glacial conditions and more temperate referred to as glacial periods and interglacial periods, respectively. The Earth is currently in an interglacial period of the Quaternary Ice Age, with the last glacial period of the Quaternary having ended approximately 10,000 years ago with the start of the Holocene epoch.
This graph shows the history of ice ages and the fact that we are close to turning upwards towards a hotter geological period.
So we live on a planet that is 4.5 billion years old, towards the end of the current ice age that started 2.58 million years ago.
Contrast that with the age of homo sapiens.
Early man evolved from hunting and gathering into the domestication of plants and animals, in other words farming, about 10,000 years ago. In these short years, from a geological perspective, we have lost total sight of the intimate relationship we had with the planet when our very survival depended on hunting and gathering.
In so little time!
Just reflect on the last 100 years of so-called modern agriculture. It has been characterised by enhanced productivity, the replacement of human labour by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, selective breeding, and mechanisation. It has been closely tied to political issues such as water pollution, biofuels, genetically modified organisms, tariffs, and farm subsidies. All of which explains the backlash against the external environmental effects of mechanised agriculture, and increasing support for the organic movement and sustainable agriculture.
One might say that we have been farming the planet in the most broadest of senses; as if the planet is nothing more than a bottomless pool of resources.
Chief Jackie Thomas at the recent Forward-On-Climate rally talked about the toll that tar sands are already taking on her neighbors in Alberta, and promised that First Nations communities and their allies in Canada will never allow a pipeline to be built west to the Pacific.
Such peoples still in tune with their ancient heritage understand that humanity is first and foremost in and of the land.
But do you know what?
Nature doesn’t care!
The very strange ways of man!
I am incredibly grateful to be living in the USA as a legal resident. The circumstances that lead to Jeannie and me living here in Merlin, Southern Oregon are the stuff of dreams. Which is why writings on Learning from Dogs that could be seen as critical of a US administration leave me rather uncomfortable.
However, a recent news item on the BBC website struck me as so utterly incongruous that I couldn’t resist today’s post. As is said, “I can resist anything except temptation!” Here’s that item.
US Congress bans word ‘lunatic’ in federal legislation
6 December 2012
The sharply divided US Congress has been able to agree on one thing at least – that the word “lunatic” should be banned.
The House of Representatives voted 398-1 on Wednesday to strike the term from all federal legislation, after the Senate did the same in May.
The measure is designed to remove language that has become outdated or demeaning from the US code.
The bill will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Senator Kent Conrad, one of the sponsors of the measure, said: “Federal law should reflect the 21st Century understanding of mental illness and disease, and that the continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the US code.”
The only “no” vote came from Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, who said it was madness for lawmakers to waste time on such a measure when more high-profile issues loomed, such as the federal debt.
“Not only should we not eliminate the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy,” said Rep Gohmert in a statement.
“We should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”
Now don’t get me wrong. In and of itself that measure is fabulous removing, as it does, any official labeling of those with mental health problems.
However, surely the following demonstrates that madness is still alive and well.
LAW PROHIBITS UNFAIR EU TAXATION OF U.S. AVIATION
November 27, 2012
Washington, DC – The President today signed into law a measure to stop the United States’ participation in a costly European Union (EU) scheme to impose an emissions tax on American and other nations’ aircraft operators and air carriers. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) were among the primary sponsors of the bipartisan companion bill in the House of Representatives.
In 2011, Mica first led a Congressional delegation to the European Union to convey opposition to the EU’s plan. Mica also led a subsequent delegation to Montreal to meet with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) leaders, representatives of the EU, and other officials regarding U.S. opposition to the ETS. The original “European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011,” authored by Mica, Petri, and other House leaders, overwhelmingly passed the House on October 24, 2011.
John Mica was quoted as saying “The law signed today is a clear signal that the United States will not accept the EU’s go-it-alone attempt to impose emissions taxes on other nations for activities far outside the EU’s own borders. This European emissions trading scheme is an unlawful infringement upon U.S. sovereignty, and the sovereignty of numerous other nations.“
Now I don’t know the rights and wrongs of this but one thing is clear to me. If trying to reduce carbon emissions represents ‘unlawful infringement upon U.S. sovereignty‘ then don’t even ponder on the infringement that not trying to reduce emissions would risk!
Which neatly leads to the Yale forum on Climate Change & The Media that recently reported,
Forget About That 2-Degree Future
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Dec. 5, 2012 — Renowned British climate scientist Sir Robert Watson pulled few punches today during a talk about the warmer world humans will face in coming decades.
Watson, who was IPCC chair from 1997 to 2002, all but dismissed the possibility of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a temperature rise that corresponds to an atmospheric concentration of CO2 of 450 parts per million. It now stands at about 390 ppm.
“Fundamentally, we are not on a path toward a 2 degree world,” Watson told a packed hall at Moscone Center for a talk entitled: “A World Where the Atmospheric Concentration of Carbon Dioxide Exceeds 450 ppm.”
If the international community wanted a world in which the rise in average global temperatures this century peaked at 2 degrees C above pre-Industrial levels, CO2 emissions in the developed world should have peaked in 2010, Watson said. Globally, they would need to peak by 2014.
Instead, CO2 emissions in 2010 were up 5.9 percent relative to 2009 — and that was in the midst of an economic downturn for most industrialized countries. Total carbon emissions as well as carbon intensity (often described as the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of a nation’s GDP) have gone up.
“It’s totally clear we’re changing the composition of the atmosphere …” [but] “politicians have not listened to the scientific message,” Watson said. [my emphasis]
Average global temperatures could rise 2 to 7 degrees C by the end of the century, driving a litany of environmental changes, Watson said. Already, the climate of the 2020s and 2030s is locked in, or as Watson put it, “pre-ordained.” “Therefore, we must adapt,” he said.
You can read the full report here.
As Isaac Newton is recorded as saying: “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.“
With thanks to Martin Lack for forwarding this item.
As reported on the BBC,
5 December 2012
A charity in New Zealand is teaching rescued dogs how to drive a car.
The canine driving school is aimed at proving how intelligent the animals can be.
Monty the giant schnauzer is among the novice drivers who have learned to control the brakes, gears and steering wheel.
Bill Hayton reports.
Prepare to be amazed!