Showing posts from March, 2021

Those scientific facts

  I've received a few emails recently in response to this column, all so far disagreeing with what I say. People send me long letters full of references to scientific 'facts' designed to persuade me that climate change is a hoax, or that fossil fuels are, in fact, renewable. I suppose you could say that oil is renewable - but you need vast tracts of undisturbed forest and a few million years for that, and I don't think we've got either.   So far my opinions are intact. I still think climate change is happening and I still think it is caused by the actions of humans. I believe, on the evidence available, that the human race is wreaking havoc on the environment. I think the timeframe within which huge damage has been done amounts to the wink of a planetary eye. It is my opinion that it is entirely possible for Earth to become largely uninhabitable within a few lifetimes. I also believe that the natural world has immense recuperative powers, which, given half a chance,

Time to accept reality

  In the foreword to the recently released United Nations Environment Programme report entitled 'Making Peace with Nature', the Secretary   General of the UN, António Guterres, writes 'Humanity is waging war on nature. The consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering, towering economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth. Really? Are we really waging war on nature? It is true that the actions of humans are causing the problems but I think it's a stretch to describe it as war. Waging war implies an intent to destroy. The reality of environmental collapse is more like attrition: 'the process of reducing something's strength or effectiveness through sustained attack or pressure'. Anyway, whatever you like to call it, and whatever is causing it - the world is in a bit of a pickle right now. These are dark and challenging times - but haven't they always been? If you put a timeline of the last few millenia on the wa

Going green by default

  Something surprising has happened recently in Switzerland. That in itself could be surprising; Switzerland is not generally known as a country to catch the world off guard. For a long time the default electricity offering from two of the country's energy suppliers was from 'a mixture of fuels'. Customers could, if they so desired, then make the choice to change to 'renewables only'. Under this system around 3% of consumers would choose to make that change. Then these two companies decided to try something different: They changed the default offering to 'renewables' so that customers would have to make a conscious effort to change back to the mixed fuels, which includes fossil fuels and, importantly, is cheaper. Four years on from this seemingly minor change, around 80% of the consumers signed up to these two power companies are on the more costly renewables option - a vast increase on the 3% who were on it before. At first glance I find that surprising, bu

Getting our priorities sorted

  There is a lot of hype about Harry & Meghan. This couple seems to be at odds with the very institutions which have given them the means with which to withdraw from it all. It reminds me of the John Bishop joke: His wife suggested to him that they take some time off to get away from it all. He replied 'But you are "it all"'. Harry met Meghan and they got married and then decided they didn't like the public attention. Given Harry's family background they might have seen that coming. Sure, the Royal Family are a bit stuffy and not great at moving with the zeitgiest but there is no doubting the Queen's devotion to her country. It's the family around her which often causes problems. The Duke of Edinburgh is famously quick to comment without engaging the royal brain, and one could easily point out the foibles in each and every one of the others. By and large though, they do seem to get on with it, and Britain holds a place in the world which is due, in

A jibe at the moaners

  When I took my driving test in England in 1979, one of the compulsory manoeuvres was an emergency stop. The gentleman charged with deciding whether to let me loose on the roads informed me, before we set off, that at some point he would slap the roll of papers he was holding in his left hand, onto the dashboard, like so. At that point I was to stop the car as quickly as possible, paying due regard to the driving conditions and, of course, any other traffic or pedestrians which may be nearby. The effect of this forewarning was that I spent the next ten minutes in a state of tense dread, keeping one eye on the road and the other on his left hand. At one point I began to slow down as we approached a pedestrian crossing to allow an old lady to cross the road. I must have applied the brake a little too strongly because the man with the roll of papers next to me reached out his hand towards the dashboard as if to steady himself. Noticing this movement I immediately   jammed on the brakes,