Monday, October 29, 2007

fear III

This time it’s personal…

A different station, Saturday morning. Many police about, as it’s a match day. About half of them have the blue square panel in their yellow jackets - Forward Intelligence Team colours. Spotters and snoops. Cameras. Photo albums.Trouble. The lowest, poorest trained and least respected rung of the architecture of a police state in waiting. Full of adrenaline, speed and an inferiority complex resulting from their place at the bottom of the food chain in the wonderfully oxymoronic world of ‘intelligence led policing’.

My hackles rise, my awareness ramps up a few notches. I scan the station to fix their locations, and those of their quarry as well as the exits. There’s only a few home shirts about as yet, one group of pudgy short-hairs with bulging carrier-bags straining to contain the stella cans are keeping their distance and have formed loose circle round a mate at the cashpoint, while another is busy on his phone. Move along. Nothing to see.

But I’m also on a low level adrenal rush now, so I get out of the station by the most direct route, keeping to the pace of the general flow. They check me out, I check them out. We both decide no further action is required. I head to my usual cafe bar for a quick belt and some free wifi, but it’s a film set for the morning. No, really. it's full of cameras and earnest student types with clipboards and sheaves of paper. it takes them five miuntes to realise i'm there, after which they politely ask me to piss off. So, it’s back to the station for chain caffeine and more twitching.

I assume everyone has the same, or at least similar, reaction to the cops. The fact I can id their roles and rank probably has little effect on that. Thing is, the last 15 years of my life probably has. Is my reaction more so, of maybe even different? And can they tell? Or, is this paranoia? And, do I / should I actually care?

Things improve greatly once the surprisingly good coffee hits my system and I get onto the platform. At least the twitching is now related to a reasonable cause. But, along with the bitter aftertaste of the coffee, another lurks, just below the surface, down in the place were I keep the fear, right next to the anger.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

fear II

Same station, last train, late night. I’m on the way back from a fairly ridiculous round trip that ate most of my afternoon and evening. And, I’ve had no tea. There’s a woman a few seats down, facing me. Makes a fair bit of eye contact, but nothing full on. She’s probably about my age, is well dressed, hair very well maintained, well but fairly heavily made up. She has a nose stud, and a big luggage trolley. As we approach my stop, she gets up too.
she gets off, I follow her, she moves slower than me, on account of the trolley, but takes up all the space on the overbridge, so I have to think back to my womens self defence awareness training thing at college to remember which is the least threatening position to take. So I hang back and walk slowly, but stay in the light.

However, the light at the far end of the bridge is out, and its dark, and frosty, and the white lining on the step edges is worn off. She has some trouble with the bag, I offer to help, she says thanks, but she’s got it just about sorted. We briefly chat about the state of the bridge on the way to the car park.

In the car park, she has a taxi pre booked - you have to round here. Very organised, i think. I walk on, the cab takes a while to load and get going, and passes me half way down the station road. Then, in a way that takes me back to my hitching days, the twin flare of brake then reversing lights. The driver drops the window, and asks if I want a lift anywhere. She is leaning forward in the passenger seat, looking directly at me. Eye contact, a quickly flashed smile.

I ask where they are going, turns out they are off to the second next village the other side of mine, i.e. the wrong way, but will be passing the turn where I leave the next village, and take my new more scenic route home. I tell him where I’m going, and we agree it’s not on his way. I thank them, they pull away, she is still looking at me, then looks to the the road ahead.

I walk home through a crisp autumn night of bright hard stars and a waxing gibbous moon, through the quietly busy woods, passed the mist hung lakes. And I think about the encounter. It contrasts so much with the guarding mum from the previous day, and to be honest with general experience, that I regret not taking the lift as far as my turn. You should always accept hospitality. Especially if it serves to reduce the fear we are constantly provoked to by the stream of media messages and images we are fed. In the brief time the ride would have taken, an equally brief but powerful little connection between three strangers could have been made. Who knows, it could have ended in a pint in her hotel, and a lifelong friendship. Or wherever.

I round the summit on the lane home, and the moon is lined up right down the road, picking out my path in silver between the trees and their falling leaves. I remember I'm hungry.

Monday, October 22, 2007

fear

It’s half seven in the morning, at the station for the early train to work. At the station, again. It’s chill, but not cold, the dawn is just gilding the hilltops and the ash have all dropped, but the sycamores are clinging on to summer. I arrive at the station just as a big car disgorges a young woman with a big portfolio. She is well dressed, and the big car is new and clean. Inside mum, I assume, waves her off and as she settles into the drivers seat, notices me.

Now, I’m not scruffy - could do with a shave, but not rough by any means. However, and again I assume, mum stays in the car and the car stays where it is as I walk onto the platform, where the daughter greets me with a cheery ‘hi!’

I go down to the end of the platform where I know the end of the train I want to be on will stop. This puts me about a carriage length distant from the daughter and in full view of mum. Who is sat tight with the engine running. After about 5 or 6 minutes of this, the train is a bit late, daughter pointedly waves bye bye to mum again, obviously embarrassed by the chaperone. She looks early twenties, college rather than school. Mum waves back, but the car stays as is. A few minutes pass, as does the airport train ours is stuck behind. Another commuter, one of the regulars, turns up, as does a lass for the later train off the opposite platform. Mum and car are still in place, engine running. Daughter is now pointedly ignoring her.

It occurs to me at this point that this is a useful illustration of how we deal with risk, and fear. Mum is staking out the car park on account of her daughter. I assume, once again, that she judges her to be at risk in some way from the rest of us. She fears what could happen if she where to go home and tuck into her Waitrose orange juice and fresh baked croissant. She didn’t look a muesli type. It has not, however, occurred to her to switch off her engine. She is not afraid of the effects those emissions will have on her daughters future.

OK, I admit that the impact of her emissions is minimal to the point of incalculability, and that the risk of random attack on a rural railway station is actually real, and completely appalling for those it happens to. I have no issue with mum if she wants to sit in a car park for 10 minutes of her life to protect against a real, but very unlikely, possibility. But why leave the engine running, and why stay in the car? Comfort? Convenience? More fear? I can only conclude that mum just isn’t even considering the impact of the engine, a real and actual effect, it’s just not on her radar. She’s a happy frog in her pan of water.

Far too happy to consider actually getting out into the cold and talking to the daughter she is willing to spend 10 minutes af her life mutely guarding, it seems.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

folly

Middle of the Observer, a few weeks back, round at a friends parents house. Splash page on the top technofixes to stop climate change. Basically, terraforming our own planet. Stuff like chucking sulphur into the atmosphere, mirrors in space and iron filings into the ocean. Carbon sucking fake trees. Oceanic heat pumps. That kind of shit.

Now, some of this stuff may even, in a very narrow, engineering sense, work. It is possible that we could suck enough carbon out of the cycle or heat out of the process to avoid catastrophic climate change. I doubt it, though, as the energy required to actually make this stuff happen is colossal - I mean, space mirrors? But that’s not the real problem with these Bond Villain plans, it’s the side effects. Trashing the oceans with geological scale algal blooms or spraying the whole planet with acid rain will have massive consequences, especially as we’ve already degraded most of the earths habitats to the point of near collapse.

Worse, it proves we just aren’t learning. We’re willing to contemplate highly risky, completely experimental and ecologically catastrophic plans that we don’t even know will work, rather than turning a few plugs off, not flying to Paris for the weekend and getting to like the taste of warm beer again, etc. Our greed and comfort come first. Like some toxic toddler, spoiled beyond recovery, stamping our feet and screaming in the supermarket untlil our parents buy us more chocolate so we can bolt it down and throw it up. We want it all, we want it now, and then we want more. Because we’re worth it, because we want to, because we can. And fuck the hindmost, the future and the reckoning.

Well, tough. The trip ends here and it ends soon. Either way. Enjoy, you’ve earned it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

fatter

This gem today from the BBC, you can read the whole thing if you like. But here’s the, ehem, meat.

‘Obesity 'as bad as climate risk'
Alan Johnson said a "cultural and societal shift" was needed
The public health threat posed by obesity in the UK is a "potential crisis on the scale of climate change", the health secretary has warned.’

Well, that’s a worry. A plague of fat people is as bad as a mass extinction event. Then I suppose he has a point - all that extra weight could sink land-masses, and their uncontrolled appetites could consume whole species. Which, in some ways of course they are and, in just about every way I suspect is not what Alan Johnson is actually worried about. Just a guess, but, I won’t flog this one. It is it’s own satire after all.

However, there is a solution which could just deal with both of these pressing threats to our continued viability as a nation. Get all the fat, and potentially fat, people out of their cars and give them bikes. Impound their televisions and play stations. Get them on rationed food, turn down their heating, get them walking everywhere and working in the garden or allotment to grow their own healthy food.

And, of course, lest any of you smug thinnies out there are cackling at the thought of enjoying this spectacle, this actually means all of us.

Which, on second thoughts, may actually be exactly what he had in mind all along. Body image as a driver for saving the planet (sic). Loose a stone, or the polar bear gets it. Less cellulite for more icecap. RDA vs PPM. Hmm.

Excuse me, i think i'm just going to be sick...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

intermission

in the form of a few words from Philip Larkin.

Toads

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison -
Just for paying a few bills!
That's out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts-
They don't end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
they seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets - and yet
No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that's the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don't say, one bodies the other
One's spiritual truth;
But I do say it's hard to lose either,
When you have both.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

corroboration

As a rider to the last two posts in the ‘Future has six legs ‘ trilogy, a postscript. From a scientist. Just picked it up going through the backlog of In Our Time Radio 4 podcasts from the summer. This quote comes from a really good one on the Permian Triassic boundary, the biggest mass extinction event the world has yet seen clocking in at an awesome 96% species loss. Now, that’s mass.

Basically, my roach thing is now peer reviewed.

"The one character, or range of characters, that does ensure survival at all times is to have a broad diet and a broad distribution, so cockroaches will do well in normal times and in mass extinctions. But, other than that, being large is also not a good thing".

Mike Benton, Professor of vertebrate palaeontology, Dept. of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol.

All together now -

Six legs
The future has….

Monday, October 08, 2007

exoskeleton

To expand on the last post, whilst simultaneously diminishing it for a few cheap jokes, it’s probably going to be a straight fight. Us, the rats and the cockroaches. We’re everywhere, clever, ruthless and adaptable. The rats are everywhere, clever, ruthless and resilient. The roaches are everywhere, turn over a generation a month, eat anything and are driven by a single-mindeded, unsentimental survival instinct that your average tyrant can only envy.

My money’s on the roaches.

The high turnover rate allows fast roach evolution, thus they can respond quickly to selection pressure with change, even if millions of them don’t make it through the field testing. There’s plenty more where they came from. We tend to respond through engineering. It’s the opposable thumbs, I suppose. We don’t like somewhere, we knock it through, fit some fire and start making tools. The rats just move house. And they’ll live anywhere. Especially our houses, if they can get one.

Roaches will find and eat every scrap of food, including each other when comes to it. We’ve become fussy, and deskilled. How many of us would eat rat, even if we knew how to kill and prepare it? The rats have done well on our wastefulness, and will have to find new food sources when all our squander and store has gone, probably by eating us initially. But they’ll get by on soap if needs be.

Roaches are hard to kill. We’ll kill each other for a loaf of stale bread in the right circumstances. Which is about a week after the supermarkets run out, I reckon. The rats are pretty tough too, what with those plague carrying fleas and the ability to live in sewers and landfills.

So, when push comes to shove in the recently flooded, burned and looted cities of the world, back the arthropods, the future has six legs, not fur or those opposable thumbs. I’m still taking outside bets on the rats, though, at an attractive 100:1. Then, you won’t be around to collect, and I won’t be around to pay out.

And the roaches will have eaten the money anyway.

succession

There is an ecological theory that ecosystems have what is called a climax state. Stop sniggering at the back. Climax is, to grossly oversimplify, that state at which an ecosystem will arrive if left to it’s own devices. Setting aside issues of if and when human activity is to be regarded as part of an ecosystem, and whether climax is a static or a dynamic equilibrium (it’s dynamic, to my mind, by the way), the idea is that there is a path, or series of identifiable and categorisable states, that any system, all other things being equal, will follow on the way to climax. The process of moving through these states is known as succession. I did say it was a gross oversimplification.

Now, the key phrase here is all other things being equal. They aren’t. And never where. Go back far enough, and where I am now was a warm shallow sea. A bit nearer our time, and it was under a bloody great ice sheet. That’s why the place I live is made of gritstone hills with the tops shaved off, exposing the limestone made from the reefs that grew in the warm shallow sea.

It’s been a fashion in conservation to try and achieve and conserve climax vegetation, and thus the fauna it suports, as it is regarded as the best and most stable habitat. This leads to things like the pumps that have to run to keep Wicken Fen wet, and the removal of sycamores from woods. Bottom line is, Cairngorm possibly but very debatably aside, there is not one habitat in the UK that is in any way as it is without human activity. We have no wilderness. Even cairngorm is less than wild, due to the lack of wolves, and all the other stuff we exterminated to make this island more comfortable. Even the deep dark lakes that hide the relict populations of arctic chard are changed, chemically and now thermally by our influence.

Our environment is based on arrested, or manipulated succession. This is where we live. However, the rules are about to change. The other, non equal things are going to get even less equal. Climate change is already pushing species further north, some faster than others, and the subtle webs of interdependence that keep the whole shebang together will warp and deform, some strands will snap, and some new threads will emerge. Holm oaks in Kew Gardens, a mediteranian species that actually does quite well in the south west, are taking a kicking from a moth, because it has migrated north faster than it’s predators. And before you start banging on about survival of the fittest, that moth is going to last about a week if all the oaks die. I won’t labour the metaphorical potential of that point.

We’ve made a good living out of a fairly stable system we have amended, controlled and fostered for about 4000 years, in some shape or form. And all the while we have been increasing the level of control, making life easier. I’m not so sure we can remeber how to be flexible enough to deal with what comes next, we’ve had too long a ride. When we have to get along with left overs, and each other, I don’t see us cutting it. The process of succession will kick in, but with a changed substrate, and a new set of variables, the climax will be different to those we’re used to.

It’ll take a bunch of critters with more flexibility, short generational turnover, big populations made of small individuals and a wide ranging appetite to succeed us. Things that are hard to kill, and willing to do what it takes to get by. You can probably see where I’m taking this by now. Think very small swarms of Daleks. But without the individuality. Think Insects. Arthropods. Roaches.

Under the fridge, the future!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

pasta

Hm, seems it’s starting bite, eh?

The news, all the stuff that’s fit to broadscat, has turned up a few gems of late. Here's a few from memory. Drought in Australia has trashed the wine harvest. Greece is devastated by forest fires following a heat-wave. The price of chips is set to soar as the UK spud harvest rotted in the summer floods. Bread prices are predicted to follow suit. And, pasta prices in Italy have been hiked following a record poor harvest. You know where I’m going to take this, so I’ll sidestep the obvious, and muse off leftfield.

Now, just because we have supermarkets rammed full of stuff our Grans had never even heard of, let alone regarded as food, and that the stuff turns up at the end of a very clever just in time distribution chain that limits our food waste to a mere quarter of what hits the shelves, doesn’t mean it didn’t come from the same place it always did. The ground. Ultimately. OK, the ground may be 1000s of miles away rather that a cart ride, but it’s still basically grown somewhere, or fed on something that was grown somewhere. Unless you eat processed cheese.

And, as stuff goes haywire, there will be less of it and at the wrong times. It’ll get less predictable, and predictable is what very clever just in time systems demand. All this has consequences. As the cliché goes, any society is three meals from a revolution. It’s amazing where a bread riot can take you. And not all of the destinations are utopian. In fact, I doubt many of them are even close.

When shit hits fan, and the streets are full of hungry folk who are used to four different flavours of bagel but have no idea which way up a spade goes, I’m willing to bet the majority of them will fall in behind the first half way credible guy in a tank who chucks loaves at them. And, well, we never really got on with the old neighbours anyway.

How’s that line form Pans Labyrinth go? ‘This is our daily bread in Franco’s Spain, kept safe in this mill! The Reds lie because in a united Spain there’s not a single home without fire or bread.’ If the fear or, more potently, the actuality of the loss of fodder and fire drives people to assail the state, the provision - or control of provision - of the same in times of crisis is a potent tool for it’s consolidation. People will trade freedom for food, shelter and warmth, at least in the short term. And by then it’s to late. Pasta price peaks today, tomorrow the tapas of tyranny.

So, you’d best stock up on your Hunter Valley Chardonnay and your artisanale pappardelle, and get ready for your ration book. And, remember, hoarding is next to looting - share you stocks, Friend Citizen, or the Millitia may have something to say….

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

tipped

Every so often, you have one of those days when you fall off the path. A day when everything collapses, and falls into a state of flux, a disaster of chaos beyond control or influence. Usually, we’re stable and well enough to deal with it, usually we have enough in our lives that sits outside the whirlpool to keep us upright, till it settles down into a new, albeit dynamic, equilibrium.

I have just had one of those days. I won’t go into the details, but in the space of a few short hours, three of the most important things in my life have become precarious, as has, to cap it all, my exit strategy from work. All at once. What to do.

Well I still have a home, food and an income. So that’s basically my whinging over. It’s not like the Army are about to kick my door in, rape and kill my family, hang me upside down and beat me with electric flex until I betray a list of completely innocent loved ones to the same fate, and then kill me - and just because an acquaintance passed the wrong text message to the wrong person at the wrong time. Which is probably what a whole load of Burmese have got coming. They certainly haven’t got 3 Para and the U S Marines coming to free them from tyranny and bring them democracy, that’s for sure.

So, my point is? Firstly, that I overuse that expression. Secondly, that trivial my concerns may be when compared to some, my guts are still knot of desperate, well, desperation, and I find myself vacantly starring at the tracks, standing on the edge of the platform before the train arrives. I find myself just randomly stalled, like windows xp, as I go about the remains of this dogs breakfast of a day. I find tears swilling close to the surface of my eyes. And I’ve lost the ability to spell, a problem my powerbook can at least insulate you from. Trivial troubles as they may be, they are real, and they are mine.

But I’ll get up. But, would I if tomorrow was as bad, or worse? And the day after that?

Friday, July 06, 2007

bust

This turned up in my weekly bus service registration amendment report, which I get a copy of as part of the day job. The report is a summary of the service alterations as reported to the Traffic Commissioner, which anyone running a bus service has to submit by law, it’s pretty much the only form of regulation that now exists for bus services, over and above the laws and regulations that specify your bus must be roadworthy, not dangerous in any way and, by 2112, fully accessible. There was a few this week, but this one caught my eye.

Start Date - 03/09/2007
# - S6
Operator - Notts & Derby
Services - Kings Newton - Sinfin Asda shoppers' bus
Details - cancelled
Comments - Commercial decision.

For those of you with too much of a life to be bothered to interpret this, basically it means-

Starting on the 3rd of September, the Notts and Derby bus company has decided to stop running a service specifically designed to get shoppers to the ASDA in Sinfin (a satellite community of Derby) for ‘commercial reasons’.

Now, commercial reasons means it wasn’t making any money. Generally, this is because not enough people are using it. In the week that the Archbishop of York stumbled round Hull comparing the flood damage to the havoc wreaked by Katrina on Louisiana, a bus designed to get people to a supermarket is cancelled due to under use. Crassness of the comments of the Archbish comparing flooding in Hull to the depopulation of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans by death or evacuation, etc. asside, this says something to me.

Now, I’m pretty sure that the Sinfin ASDA is still doing very well. I bet the car park is full. Unlike the bus. Bottom line is, even when the folks down the road are getting flooded out, and even the Daily Star is talking about how this fucked up weather is probably due to climate change, we still can’t change our habits enough to even get on a bus to go the fucking Wal-Mart, let alone think about going to Sound Bites, the excellent ethical grocers in the middle of Derby, or starting to, perish the thought, maybe use less stuff.

The only thing that has come close to getting a load of my mates to even consider quitting smoking is the thought of being exiled to the pavement out side the pub, and having been to Dublin last weekend (and, no, I didn’t fucking fly) this won’t stop them either is the Irish experience is anything to go by. And they all know smoking is almost certainly going to kill them. But you can always quit tomorrow. It’s always a day away…

But it isn’t. It’s now. If not yesterday. If all we can manage is changing light bulbs, and leaving our stereos on standby turning power into heat that came partially from wind energy instead of nukes, then we’re stuffed. I know I’m starting to sound like a stuck record, but so is the world outside my window. I can’t see anything changing except the Met Offices record books. Oh, and the loss of a bus service, and the appointment of new ministers who support airport expansion. The price of convenience is extinction.

But, don’t worry, you won’t need to catch a bus or anything, extinction does home delivery.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

wet

The kitchen is full of wet newspaper, soaking up the water pushed up by the pressure of a months rainfall (old reckoning) in a day soaking through the limestone. Down the hill, it’s worse. They were giving out sandbags for the first time since the big flood alleviation scheme was finished a few years back. Down river, it was much worse than that. Cities flooding, power and transport gone. Helicopters. Evacuated people. Dead people. Sounds bad, eh?

Well, put like that it does. I suspect a few of you instantly, internally thought ‘that's exaggerating!’ Well, no. I’m not using the standard detached tone of news speak perhaps, but the facts are pretty bald. Chunks of Leeds and Sheffield inundated, power cuts and cancelled trains. Four people are dead.

Nothing, of course, compared to sub-saharan African droughts, to Katrina, to Philippino mudslides. Nothing compared to tomorrow. Look at the news, and it’s measured, if breathless tones. Look at the pictures. Think on the chaos, disruption, misery - and death - of a months rain in a day. Think. What does a years rain in a month look like? What does a years wind in a day do? What does a decades tides in an evening do?

And what are you going to do about it?

And when?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

fat

A while back, I saw “Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei” a German film about a bunch of anarchos who brake into rich peoples houses and rearrange their furniture as a piece of art activism. As part of this action, they paint a slogan on the walls, either 'Du hast zu viel Geld' - ‘you have too much money’ or ‘Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei’ literally ‘the fat years are over’. This should be engraved above the door of every office, bank and government building in the ‘developed’ world. And every school, hospital, pub and club. Because they are. And we do.

Climate change is not only happening, it is now probably beyond us, no mater what action we take or what activities we choose to cease, to prevent it being catastrophic. Many projections give us 40 years more of cheap, plentiful energy (in economic terms) energy, irrespective of where we’re getting it from, and that includes nuclear. And renewables. The rate our economies are projected to grow at, and indeed are required to grow at to maintain our lifestyle, let alone permit the rest of humanity to get close to having that lifestyle, ensures we’ll be lucky to get even that. We’re overdue a 1918 level ‘flu pandemic. Many of our oldest microbiological predators are already resistant to the antibiotics we use to control them, we have only a few left that still work on some organisms, in some cases only one. The cases of TB and and post operative infection are already climbing.

We are about to enter a new world, one more like the one our grandparents grew up in, where scarcity, uncertainty and upheaval are our handmaidens and death stands constantly at our shoulders. In short, the world where the vast majority of humans already live. We were not kind to them on the way up. I doubt they will be particularly helpful as we fall. Even if they wanted to, they are not in any position to be. We’ve seen to that. And I don’t suppose our children will be very happy with the situation either, and as for their children…

I’ve said before that we are living through the last days of Rome, and I stand by it. We live in a bubble, artfully constructed and rigourously protected by a lot of hard and dirty work conducted out of sight. Like them upstairs in an Edwardian country house, we have grown completely used to a way of life we have no idea what it takes to maintain. We shall be known as the generation that peaked. 50 odd years of growth and plenty, security and comfort, give or take the odd blip. And before you start banging on about how hard it is / was for you or someone you know, yes some of us have had it tough. But try a year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Darfur. And that’s the position for whole populations; that’s the norm, not the extreme, for a huge number of our fellows.

I’m not interested in a misery contest though, or some sort of liberal guilt fest. Just a sober, accurate recognition of our position, and our probable future. A society that thinks not being able to get enough play station 3s for Christmas is a crisis is suddenly going to have to realise what a real crisis is. And we’re not going to like it. We’re not going to cope. And it won’t matter how much money we throw at it, or how clever, or brutal, we are. We are running out of stuff, out of space and out of time. The film, which I liked, by the way, was called The Edukators when released in the UK, the name the group gave to themselves on their missions to unsettle the rich. Well, we’ve all got a lot to learn if we’re going to hack it where we’re going. We’ll have to relearn the cycles of famine and plenty, the uses for rubbish and the virtue of old things. And the ways of living on lean pickings. The fat years are over, and with them the Empire of the Fat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Roach Hotel

Keep your new pyrethroids
Keep your DDT
Keep your fucking Lindane
They mean nothing to me

We evolve
We breed
We evolve
We breed
We evolve
We breed

When you apes go under
We’ll be in charge round here
So keep that carbon spewing
Our hour is drawing near

We evolve
We breed
We evolve
We breed
We evolve
We breed

When the earth is warm and damp
As it was once before
We will take a rightful place
Feasting on your corpse

We evolve
We breed
We Evolve
We breed
We evolve
We breed

Six legs
The Future has
Six legs
The Future has
Six legs
The Future has
Six legs

Thursday, April 05, 2007

ten years

There is a song by David Bowie 'Five Years' and its been frequently stuck in my head recently in that vague half concuss kind of way for a while now... and it finally surfaced as I connected it to the fact I keep hearing from many people around me that to stop runnaway climate change we have 10 a years.

Ten Years.

Ten Years?

TEN YEARS

As part of the Rising Tide US Tour I am currently on I explain feedback loops which are the damnedest scary doomsday part of climate science. Its freaky stuff and its real.

The facts are all there, and as people working actively on climate we speak about them every night. Live with them every day. It so often feels like we are breaking the 'bad news' to people which, when you think about it, its really absurd that with all the structures of so called 'education' and 'information' that this vital to the continuation of life on earth, message is not getting across..

So what about those structures eh?

Many peoples of the world know things are broken, their lives, communities and ecosystems have already been torn apart to support our fragile bubble of wealth & consumerism. But the privileged world needs to move on from collective denial - a manipulated, anaesthetised by tv, media & consumerism, controlled collective denial we are stuck in.. but how would the news be broken?

Bowie wrote 'Five Years' in 1972. I doubt climate change specially was at the forefront of his mind back then.. But I sat today and really listened to the song that had been bugging me, that I've heard many times, and never really listened to. I realised that so much of it resonated with me and individual lines that had sounded like Bowie randomness suddenly became sharp & clear about human reaction to despair and powerlessness. "Five years - "And I thought of ma and I wanted to get back there" "I never thought I'd need so many people".

How would the privileged word take the news? Can we visualise a day like bowie did 36 Years ago when the Newscasters all announce the earth is really dying - and we have 10 years. Would denial jump straight to despair? Is it better that this news flows from person to person, community to community so everyone can have that moment to wonder why we don't know this? Why this news has been suppressed or ignored? To not hear it from the governments & corporations and then turn to them for false hopes and answers? To challenge those systems that have been repressing reality?
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The big difference for me is with the 'Ten Years' is... yes we have 10 years.. Ten Years to halt runaway climate chaos. Ten years to save the planet.. Ten years of work to do before its really to late. Better get busy then.

How about starting with that structure?

xx cookie

pssst.. 'Ten Years - pass it on'

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

deposition

I was walking passed the new water feature at the railway station in Sheffield today, a big piece of public sculpture, carrying on the theme from the previous ‘regeneration’ of the peace gardens. It’s a stepped series of shallow pools that follow the contour down from the road to the station. Each pool empties out over its brim into the pool below, before the last pool ,which contains a fountain, empties into a gutter below it. I, in an uncharacteristic bout of trusting idealism, suppose that the water is recycled round the system. I also suppose the water pumped by electricity and the stone all came fresh from a big hole in the ground somewhere, all at great cost and effort.

It is a luxury, an unnecessary edifice placed to beautify a public space, it speaks, nay shouts, of our wealth, the stone we can spare, the water we can waste, the power we can fritter away. As new clothes go, they are well cut.
And, I have to confess, they are well cut. If we lived in some Iain M Banks style post scarcity utopia, it would sit very nicely in some space on a Culture GSV. But it doesn’t, it sits in Sheffield, product of a culture that seems to have no real grasp of scarcity, though constantly surrounded by it and it’s consequences.

And then I see the silt, graded by the flowing water into light and heavy sediments, large and small grains. Silt that has come from I know not where, blown or washed in, from the feet of paddling children or the hands of the homeless grabbing a quick wash before the City Centre Guardians move them on. But it’s there. Accumulated, deposited buy the eddies and surges of current into sinuous skeins and shoals of sediment. Mapping out the invisible dialogue between water and gravity, a glimpse into the world as felt by fish.

And accumulating. Left to its own devices, and it won’t be, someone will notice and clean the stuff out, it would steadily accrue, slowly forming sandbars and banks. These would slow the flow of water, releasing still more sediment, finer sediments, form the streams fluid grip. Eventually, the banks would break surface, and grasses would take hold, rushes, shrubs, and then tress, willow and alder would come, and all those roots would gently work themselves into the blocks and slabs, and the water would flow freely. Well, until someone turned off the tap, or the tap ran dry.

We arrest succession. We hold the world in an infancy that suits us and our purpose. It wants to grow up, and the way we’re behaving, it could well get its chance. Very soon. There may be a beach beneath the paving stones, but there is also a forest between the skyscrapers.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

bleak

Last night, I cycled to the station to get a train into the big city for a night out. I got to the station a good five minutes early. The train never arrived. In fact, after about twenty minutes, nothing had gone through at all. This, I know, is not a good sign. The most likely explanation - engineering, that all purpose railway label for SNAFU. ‘Security’ is becoming an equivalent in everyday life here in the UK, as it was in the North of Ireland twenty years ago, as ‘Insurance’ is in the States. The label for ‘circumstances beyond our control imposed by the Authority.’

So far so normal, there is no special timetable up for the replacement bus service, which will probably not take my bike anyway. After an hour and a half, a number of things happen. Two busses arrive, none of them going the right way. A group of walkers arrive from a minibus, and a bloke and his two kids turn up. The walkers are venture scout types, lead by a Striking Blonde who makes a point of subtly getting the names of everyone she doesn’t know, and orders all the information to hand and prioritises her options for action. I like her despite myself. The bloke is one of those old Scally types who tries to be everyone's mate, laughs at all his own jokes, chain smokes and looks like a shaved weasel. His kids complain how it’s ‘mental’ that the local pub has started letting gay people in. I keep an eye on me bike.

To cut a long story with no narrative short, a bus does show, but it’s too late for me, and I’ve sort of got hacked off enough to bail anyway, so I go home, drink wine and play yahtzee in French with the Neighbour. That’s what passes for fun round here. Striking Blonde has spent ten minutes on her mobile, getting names and details, making mental notes on who to complain about, and to whom. She gets the ages of Scally’s kids, to attempt to speed the bus situation up. Scally considers going down the pub, and getting the last bus to a village down the road where he has a mate.

The key things here are ,however, only just being got round to. Firstly, my two years in public transport have been a complete waste of time, and continue to be. I doubt if the nine people who shared the damp hour in the station car park will be trusting the railway again in a hurry to get them home. And secondly, public perception of climate change is woefully behind the truth, as illustrated when Scally commented “Well, look on the bright side, if it wasn’t for that global warming, we’d all be dying of hypothermia.” The point being, we have, it seems, about 9 years.

9 years to develop the infrastructure and lifestyles that let us - not some future, perfect generation, but us, here and now us - live a life we feel happy with in a way that lets everyone else in this world who wants to , which will be the vast majority, live to the same standard. And my public transport job, where it takes six months to get two bus stops that hardly anyone uses fitted with solar lighting while, in that six months, thousands upon thousands of cars have passed those bus stops, is not going to do that, not in nine years, not in ninety years. And while most of the population are thinking, through no direct fault of their own, the way Scally was, they aren’t going to make the changes themselves. Not In a million years.

We’re fucked, plain and simple. Change is, now, one way or another, unavoidable. And we aren't going to get of our collective arse and meet it head on, we’re going to sit about until it smacks us in the face, then cast around for somebody to blame. Anyone but us. The great festival of scapegoating that will mark our civilisation’s descent into oblivion will consume the weak and the difficult, but not I suspect the rich and greedy. They have friends and structures, police and guns, prisons and extraordinary rendition. They will cling on to their comforts and hug them close as the end slowly laps at all our feet. While we fight for the dwindling scraps on the ever shrinking land, in our Resettlement Camps and Controlled Areas, under Special Provisions and Temporary Measures, and whatever other labels the Authority can think of for “stay in your box and do as you fucking told, or else.” Scally will cop it first, as he’s to old for the army, and too dodgy for the police, but Striking Blonde will not be far behind, unless her dad owns half of Cheshire and she is actually a Captain in signals. In which case, I’m glad she only got my first name.

Not that it matters much about the order. The rich and greedy will go too, deprived of the labour to provide them with the fruits of surplus value, and the resources to feed their appetites. You can’t buy your way out of a mass extinction event. Some of us will cling on and make do out on the bleeding edge of getting by, as will those with even less in more unfortunate parts of the world, they’ve had more practice. But it’s going to be messy, and it’s going to be soon. Not some future, cursed generation, but us, here and now us. Here I am facing the Last Days of Rome, and I am wasting my time.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

floodculture

This is a rough text i produced a while back, for a flyer to try and get people involved in a collective “floodculture” project.
The earlier post is a random fragment, written with this project in mind.
i don’t really know where it is all going…

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

“notre espoir ne peut venir que des sans-espoir”
[our hope can only come from the hopeless]
graffiti, paris 1968

punk did not die.
it got old instead,
had babies,
got a job,
got a pension plan...

...and now...?

no hope.
no future.

and not much time left to get angry...

everything i try to write
reads like a disaster movie trailer.
humankind is hitting the last slippery spiral to irreversible climate change

genocide :: ecocide :: suicide

and we are watching it in t.v. as entertainment in between commercial breaks…

peoples reactions are deadened.
we have collective compassion fatigue
and we have a couple of years to take action before it is too late.

government is no solution.
corporations are no solution.

so this is the challenge.
apocalyptic psychotic
from bombculture to floodculture
stop believing in the future.

this is not a joke
this is not an art project
what the world needs now is anger

the leader of the most powerful country on earth, with an unquestioned faith in his divine right to rule and the absolute power of the centralized state, was the namesake for louisiana.

when he died in 1715, louis xiv had built france into the dominant power in europe, but he bankrupted the nation. most people lived in poverty while the king built an empire.

during the empire’s demise his great great grandson louis xv ruled france and its possessions, which included the colonial city of new orleans. he lived for indulgence and luxury as his people descended further into despair. it is said that near his end he uttered the words

"après moi le deluge"
after me come the floods.


après moi…le deluge

// art // writing // music //
// information // action //



:::: as the waters rose ::::

the end,
when it came,
came slowly.

by then it wasn’t even news

we were drowning in the bullshit
we’d known what was coming for years
some people changed a few lightbulbs
and most learned to silence their fears

keep on saving money
keep buying the latest clothes
mining coal, watching tv,
recycling, voting green
they kept on making babies,
as the waters rose

you can close your mind
and hope for a future
emotionally and financially secured
the world will still end on tuesday.
destruction, mutually assured.

you can keep your life insurance
lock your doors
paint your windows white
hurry past, look away, look embarrassed
…don’t walk the streets at night…

we will stalk the streets with our madness
our ability to conceive of disaster,
even when it is manmade...
we will wear our masks as a warning:
the end of the carbon age


NO HOPE
NO FUTURE
and we are coming for your children.





dad kept on lying.

he lied about the war
he lied about oil terror
he lied every night on the news
he lied about climate change
and you are the ones left to lose

beginning. middle. end
hope. stops. here.

and you have only got a few years left
to get angry





"it is no longer success that counts
people will have to know that there was resistance"
[claus schenk von stauffenberg :: 1944 july plot to kill adolf hitler]

Monday, February 05, 2007

heresy

One thing (OK, one among the many) that pisses me off is the way that the ecology / environment debate has become a good vs. bad issue. It's been made a moral or ethical thing. It's all 'green' products and ethical consumerism, choices packaged by how bad for the planet they are, like some karma supermarket. It's the Environment Movements own fault, and the hair-shirt puritan faction within it. You know, the beards from the 70s who went to hide in Wales in teepees and make their wives weave their clothes from the wool the sheep left on the hawthorns. They have consistently pushed morals rather than the science. A matter of 'Save the fluffy ickle baby seal' rather than 'removing the major food source for a top carnivore in an energy restrained ecosystem is going to result in serious destabilisation.' And you can see why. Cheap guilt trips and appeals to aesthetics are much easier, especially when much of the public and most of the media are getting on for scientifically illiterate.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of this now almost completely entrenched moralistic attitude to the environment, we now have the situation where, religion like, people are motivated to 'do the right thing' by guilt, rather than reason. Which, of course, has the consequence of breeding resentment and making the 'bad' choices guilty pleasures. How absurd a society where spending hours cooped up in a metal cylinder breathing recycled air full of 'flu viruses and screwing up your internal clock is regarded as some kind of decadent naughty but nice transgression. Further, the moralism breeds a new load of 'holier than thou' puritans who declare themselves a superior elect and constantly decry everyone else, which is especially nauseating if the puritans also happen to be rich and/or privileged. This is not only a complete turn off, but, like most self satisfied religiosity, a recipe for theocratic oppression and tyranny. None of which i am a fan of. Worse still, perhaps, it leads to a confessional style of dealing with our relationship to the environment, the whole 'I got a smaller car and don't have a dishwasher, so I'm allowed a massive plasma screen telly' approach.

And it's all wrong. In the factual sense of the word. There is no moral imperative to our interaction with the rest of the environment, or at least none that matter. We will not be judged on our conduct by a buxom Earth Mother at the end of it all. If Gaia does exist as Lovelocks 'super-organism' like planetary self regulation system, it's a blind idiot Goddess, with no consciousness or conscience. Any judgement will be the cold, thoughtless outcome of nutrient cycles, climate systems and energy flow, of entropy and thermodynamics. And they do not respond to prayer, sacrifice or philanthropy. The 70s beards' sheep are still full of PCBs and Chernobyl fallout, because you can't retreat from ecology, no matter how 'right on' you are. Ecological sustainability is not about salvation, it's about survival. You walk on the pavement not because walking down the middle of the road is wrong, but because it's stupid and will get you killed.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

panic

Now I'm worried. I've noticed the signs for some time, and been aware it was probably coming for about 20 years, as a result of my education. However, this 'Winter" has really done it. Willows in full leaf at the end of December. The grass still growing, strawberries for bonfire night. And today, the First of February, and everyones out in shirtsleaves. in Sheffield. Well, not everyone, I'm not, I'm dressed for Winter, and suffering. It is properly warm. Even my generally unaware mates have twigged. It's really happening. Which almost certainly means it's too late, whatever that means.

Well, my guess is it means trouble. The years of plenty are over. Our freeloading days are over, it's time to pay the rent and fix the place up, or it's eviction without our deposit. We either do it now, the easy way by mutual agreement and co-operation, or the hard way later, when the sea comes in and the guns come out, when the flood drives the refugees across the shrinking land. And I'm not talking about generic Sky News refugees, distant and, well, not white (although there will be millions of them), I'm talking about a fair chunk of the populations of Hull, London and Liverpool. Amongst many, many others. I'm talking 'Resettlement Camps', resource allocation and ration books. I'm talking 'Unity is Strength'. I'm talking about the plans that are sitting on various hard drives, encrypted Top Secret that the State has in case they where wrong and the Green Scaremongers where right. The tools are already being assembled, in various Criminal Justice and Terrorism acts (read them if you think I'm been paranoid), in various new Agencies and National Police Units. In ID cards. DNA databases. Lists. Photographs. Names. Addresses. They will decide who poses a threat, who can be offered co-option, who ends up in the football stadia. And the last people they are going to want around are those who can say we told you so, especially if they have a track record of being organised, stroppy and anti-authoritarian. I'm talking my mates. I'm talking my family. I'm talking me. Maybe even you.

Goodnight, this is the Voice of Fate, live from London. England Prevails!