- 09 Aug 19
“Blues are falling like showers of rain / But I don’t feel like crying / Death is abroad this day / But I don’t feel like dying / I learned how to sustain myself / How to sustain myself in storms.”
Thus the Waterboys on 2007’s ‘Book of Lightening’. Rivers of poisoned water have surged under the bridge since.
It’s a dozen years since 2007. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have another dozen left before the onset of environmental end-time. Swollen seas, baked earth, burbles and plumes of sulphur, blizzards of brimstone scorching rock, ice winds scouring continents. Past the point of no return, no point looking back. What’s left will be a smear of ash.
“The crabs are crazy / They scuttle back and forth / The sand is burning / And the fish take flight / Scatter from the sight / Their courses turning.” (Phil Ochs)
But not to panic. We know what’s needed. Stop burning fossil fuels. Reduce waste to zero. Ban plastic. Switch investment away from roads and cars towards rail and public transport.
Rinse the rivers, sweeten the sea, cherish dappled things.
Persuading others is easy-peasy. Suggest a climate emergency and drastic action to a parliament, city council, union branch, student body, gaggle of drunks, giggle of stoners, and only dunces will give you grief. Everybody knows what needs to be done. And yet…
The 2015 Paris Agreement saw 174 countries pledge to cut CO2 emissions sufficiently to limit temperature rise to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. The achievement reflected significant change in how people everywhere see the world. Many countries and major companies have, some more enthusiastically than others, bowed to the scientific consensus and begun to think of cleaning up their act. But huge contradiction looms over all.
In the years since the Paris accord, bank financing of fossil fuel industries has risen from $612 billion in 2016 to $646 billion in 2017 to $654 billion in 2018. These dizzying sums fund expansion of fossil fuel extractions, development of tar sands, the hunt for oil and gas in the Arctic, fracking, the sinking of deep-water wells, etc.
The banks most deeply involved are not obscure rogue outfits but solidly-established household names – JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America, all or almost all headquartered in the US. Barclays is somewhere in there, too.
This is the main reason Trump pulled the US out of the Paris pact. It is the reason Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at a meeting in May of the Arctic Council, insisted on redaction of any reference to climate change from the final declaration. It isn’t that Trump “doesn’t believe” in climate change. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. But there’s no maybe about his avid overriding belief in the pre-eminence of US capitalism. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that it is the iron logic of capitalism, blindly driven by furious, competitive pursuit of profit, which dictates we go to the end of the earth rather than extirpate the evil at the heart of our ills.
Anger and enthusiasm for direct action now will make the world a better place than otherwise it would be. But unless we slay the beast devouring the planet, we will never be free of fear of extinction.
“When we watch the children play / Remember how the privileged classes grew / And from this day set out / To undo what won’t undo… / Every breath justifies every step that we take / To remove what the powers that be / Can’t prove / The children will understand why / Bring on the revolution / Don’t want to die for nothing / When we hear the children sing / Freedom will ring / Freedom will ring.” (Chrissie Hynde) So it will, too.
So I’m watching the news on CNN when it comes to the weather report. Good tips, usually, on ski conditions, outlook for sports events and so on. But tonight’s report consists of a 60-second compilation of news clips, captions scrolling across the screen.
“Wild fires out of control in Portugal.” “Flash floods submerge India and Bangladesh.” “Extreme heat-wave triggers fires in Jerusalem.” “Drought continues in France.” “Palestinian children seek relief from heat.” “Pakistan: Floods destroy homes.” “Conditions ideal for European balloon fest.”
Fair dues to the editor who attached the last item.
None of the profiles I’ve read of the knob now dwelling in Downing Street came close to James Woods’ diary observations in the London Review Of Books. Woods has an advantage, being himself an Old Etonian and contemporary of the beefy Bullington blowhard. “(He) looked pretty much the same at 15 as he does at 55, and was a familiar sight as he charged and flapped his way around the college lanes. The bigfoot stoop (he was known as ‘the Yeti’), the bumbling confidence, the skimmed-milk pallor, the berserk hair, the alarming air of imminent self-harm which gave the impression that he had been freshly released from some protective institution: all was already in place.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg was there, too. Of course he was. “He wandered around the school gazing blandly at people through his windscreen spectacles and clutching a gigantic briefcase, in which, it was rumoured, resided his ‘stocks and shares.’”
Where will it all end?
“Perhaps the thousands and the hundred thousands will march some damp October dawn / Find a Lenin waiting at Victoria Station / Muttering incandescent incantation.” (Alan Sillitoe). And stomp in fierce array across Westminster Bridge.
Impossible? No. “Because there are always impossible dopes / Keeping a-hold of impossible hopes / Impossible things are happening every day.”
(The Fairy Godmother, Disney’s Cinderella).