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This week …

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm


… as a Kiribati man failed in a bid to New Zealand courts to make him the world’s first legally recognised global warming refugee, global warming deniers continued to scrabble for something vaguely sensible to say – a task which seems to be getting harder. Specifically, the so-called debate continues over the warming pause – the apparent fact that the pace of warming seems to have slowed over the last decade or so. Setting aside the rather obvious consideration that any such fluctuation is meaninglessly trivial either way, given the vast timescale of the changes involved, some are now suggesting that the whole idea of a pause is an illusion, created by flawed measurement of temperatures around the Arctic. The related problem of methane gas escapes is prompting some of the direst warning yet on global warming blogs. The denialists, meanwhile, are claiming that global warming is a ruse cooked up by poor nations to bully money out of rich ones, and, for such people, fracking is part of the fightback. UN talks on climate change have been just about hauled back from the brink of total collapse, but remain essentially stalemated.

Still, it’s not all bad news for planet earth, and those of us who choose to live on it. One whole country – Denmark – has spent one whole day running on wind power. Another whole country – Tokelau – runs permanently and entirely on solar. Another – Bangladesh – is installing 1000 solar power systems per day. Britain, meanwhile, obtains one-sixth of its energy from renewables – that’s half as much again as a year ago. A crowdfunded wind turbine in the Netherlands raised 1.3 million euros in 13 hours. There are many such hints that a quiet revolution of practical common sense may be taking place around the world – unnoticed by the news media, for whom, it seems, that there’s no story without at least one of the two C’s – conflict and crisis. The option to join the quiet revolution remains open

Not that everyone wants to join in. In Britain, plans for a big windfarm were turned down. Energy companies tightened their stranglehold on consumers, to sometimes lethal effect. Such sobering facts remain only one symptom of an ongoing plutocratic stranglehold on Britain, which involves keeping the rest of us poorly educated, harrassed in some cases apparently to death, and fully occupied managing our own poverty, against a background of pevasive media snobbery which usually passes without comment, amid an ongoing assault on the resources of what’s left of the labour movement.

Still, the plutocracy may not last – in its current form, at least. Britain’s ruling Coalition continues to show more cracks than a melting ice-sheet, with Conservatives and Liberals split on green taxes, and David Cameron having to edge away from what he notoriously called green ‘crap’ in order to appease his own party’s right wing – a Coalition-wrecking job for which Boris Johnson seems better suited than Dave. But Labour’s still edging ahead in the polls, and the mood in Britain remains sullen but restive, with protests spreading from campus to parliament.

On the international stage, the headlines have moved on from the ongoing horror in Iraq, but there are emerging reminders of why the Americans in 2003 were so keen to secure airbases in the Middle East for forward operations against the Far East.

Finally, a more progressive new pope seems to be drumming up trade for the Catholic church – and an art historian has proposed an arresting theory for the origin of the Turin Shroud. He suspects it’s the world’s oldest extant photograph.



In Uncategorized on November 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Publishing its annual Web Index, surveying worldwide use of the web to promote human rights and prosperity, the World Wide Web Foundation surveyed 81 countries and warned that “a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy,” with “one in three countries” “conducting ‘moderate to severe” blocking or filtering of legitimate dissent.” The problem extended from affluent to majority-world countries and included democracies. Britain helps fund the Index and held third place, after Sweden and Norway.

Two reports into ocean acidification left the liberal capitalist weekly magazine The Economist with the impression that “this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, though worryingly little is known about it.” Oceans seem to become more acidic as atmospheric carbon levels rise; in the distant past, similarly dramatic changes have drastically unbalanced ancient ecosystems, and the worry, so to speak, is that prehistory might repeat itself. Meanwhile, the Economist’s target readership of management-cadre capitalists seemed to be struggling to achieve their own stated goal to produce greener, more forest-friendly goods; they find it hard to keep track of their own complex supply chains. In an action somewhat eclipsed by the high-profile release on bail of Greenpeace activists, accused of hooliganism for their action against Arctic oil drilling, other green campaign groups staged a walkout from the UN climate talks in Warsaw, amid squabbling between member states. The EU has accused coal-friendly Poland of fudging its duty to draw up a schedule for work towards new, binding carbon targets. This remains a stubbornly elusive hope, with the current deadline for agreement set for a Paris conference in 2015, and concrete action by 2020. If you want to know more, this seems to be the book to put on your Christmas list:

The UK government’s privatisation agenda continued to play as a farce, with favoured subcontractor Capita attributing its piss-poor performance running army recruitment to the lack of wars, and prison privatisation being held up because top bidder Serco is itself the subject of criminal investigation for fiddling their own books, taking money for prisoners who were dead or who never existed at all.


In Uncategorized on August 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm

The British parliament has voted not to start a war, against the wishes of a British prime minister.

I literally cannot believe I just typed that.