2007 - 2021

The Amazon Destruction Zones of Brazil and Dunfermline

I get my lockdown hairdo and the hairdresser explains to she’s going to Thailand for her holidays. Phucket? Pun intended.

“I mean who wants to be in Scotland?”

Neither the thought of a global pandemic nor the climate crisis seems to have given her pause for thought.

I mean, why should it if no-one in any position of leadership anywhere is suggesting she – or any of us should? The golden rule of responses to climate change is ‘nothing must change’. Even as parts of Europe see infrastructure collapse the level of self-delusion and commitment to shopping and holidays is mesmerising. Hyper-consumerism must be paramount until the actual malls collapse, at which point online delivery will be available (by RIB if you’re flooded).

This was the week that the realities of climate change burst into European capitals, including Edinburgh which saw Princes Street Gardens flooded with sewage. On July 4, the equivalent of two thirds of the average monthly rainfall fell in parts of Edinburgh in just one hour, putting immense pressure on the city’s drainage and sewerage systems. A spokeswoman for Scottish Water confirmed crews were investigating damage caused by surcharges from the sewer network, adding: “At times of severe heavy rainfall the network can be overwhelmed and anything in that sewer could be contained in the localised flooding.”

As SKY news interviewed the mayor of Pepinster in Belgium he was interrupted by the sight of a flooded building collapsing and people escaping on the roof. The world is literally collapsing before our eyes, live on TV. In other scenes a stream of water rages down a street in the Belgian town of Pepinster as the death toll from floods across Germany and Belgium rises to more than 110. Water burst through a drain in the unfortunately-named Belgian town of Spa, a caravan is carried away in Rech, Germany, and in the Rhineland towns of Bad Neuenahr and Dernau in Germany lie submerged in these photographs shared on social media.

The freak weather caused by climate change is killing people in Europe, right now. 125 in the last few days.

What do we do? Mostly nothing.

Will the arrival of climate chaos into the heart of the developed north, into the heart of Europe change minds and provoke action?

Maybe. But even if it does it’s twenty or thirty or forty years too late. The reality is that no G20 country is on track to meet climate goals.

According to a major new report released this week by “risk intelligence company” Verisk Maplecroft, which warned there is “no longer any realistic chance” for an orderly transition for global financial markets because political leaders will be forced to rely on “handbrake” policy interventions to cut emissions. The report stated that investors will face the “increasingly disruptive” impact of severe weather events – made worse by the global climate crisis – which are expected to take a heavier toll on the global economy in the years ahead.

Will Nichols, the head of environments and climate change at Verisk Maplecroft, said: “Major economies like the US, China, the UK, Germany and Japan will need to yank the handbrake on emissions to meet agreed climate goals – at the same time as dangerous rises in extreme weather events play an increasingly disruptive role in the global economy.

“These conditions will leave businesses in carbon-intense sectors facing the most disorderly of transitions to a low-carbon economy, with measures – such as restrictive emissions limits for factories, mandates for buying clean energy, and high levies on carbon – imposed with little warning.”

The intensity and scale of the floods in Germany this week apparently shocked even climate scientists, who did not expect records to be broken this much, or this soon. After the deadly heatwave in the US and Canada, the deluge in central Europe has raised fears that human-caused climate disruption is making extreme weather far worse than predicted.

In Brazil academics and activists warned that the Amazon rainforest ‘will collapse if Bolsonaro remains president’. That would be hiccup. Since Bolsonaro took power in 2019, deforestation and fire in the Amazon have risen to their highest levels in more than a decade.  Given conditions in many parts of the Amazon, there are fears that the usual peak of the fire season in July and August could be worse than usual. “The main thing this government has done is to undermine the capacity of the state to tackle illegal deforestation,” said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a network of 50 civil society organisations.

According to Astrini, Bolsonaro is so exclusively focused on domestic politics that he is indifferent to international reputation or global markets. “He is the first Brazilian president who has an overt agenda of destroying environmental protections for political gain. He is not concerned about the country, only his re-election. It’s all about the electoral base,” Astrini says.

But Astrini sees Bolsonaro as a catalyst for change. Since he took power, the Amazon rainforest has moved to the centre of debate. Several candidates in next year’s presidential election now have zero-deforestation commitments in their manifestos.

“Even Lula is saying deforestation in the Amazon can no longer be supported by any Brazilian government. He never said this before,” said Astrini. “It is now clear that a solution for the Amazon can only be possible if we change government. There is no hope if Bolsonaro is re-elected president. It is either the Amazon or Bolsonaro. There is no space for both.”

In India Narendra Modi’s plans to fell ancient forest to create 40 new coalfields.

40 new coalfields in some of India’s most ecologically sensitive forests are to be opened up for commercial mining. Among them are four huge blocks of Hasdeo Arand’s 420,000 acres of forest in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which sit above an estimated 5bn tonnes of coal. And, yes this is the plot to Avatar.

The lesson from Verisk Maplecroft is “your too late”, the change is happening now, it’s here right now. The “just transition’ timeline is gone.

What are we going to do about to?

Mostly nothing.

But to even frame the problem as a question of individual action is absurdist.

But to give ourselves a glimpse of how deluded we are and how inadequate our response is the SQA, up until just a few days ago was issuing students in Scotland with an exam paper for its National 5 Geography which asked them to outline the benefits of climate change such as “increased tourism to more northerly latitudes” and “improved crop yields”.

The delusion is wide and deep and nurtured by those who are making themselves rich on omnicide (the death of everything).

This week saw Richard Branson jet off into space, like a sort of beardy 80s James Bond. Branson, follows fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk off to the stars. It’s hard to fathom their motivations but each spells it out. Musk, argues rather vaguely that in becoming “multiplanetary”, humans might gain “failsafe” protection from the risks of extinction or planetary collapse, while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos speaks of “saving the Earth” (whilst also presiding over the destruction zones of Amazon warehouses), neat eh?

If civilisation perishes on one planet, these billionaires seem to think we have a backup elsewhere. I don’t think they’ve thought this through. But whether the Amazon destruction is overseen by Bolsonaro or Bezos doesn’t really matter now does it? The billionaires are like my hairdresser, “I mean who wants to be on Earth?”

I don’t blame her I blame them.

 

Comments (31)

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  1. Robbie says:

    Neros fiddling was child’s play compared to today’s ba- heeds ,loads of Boris Johnson’s in the world today.

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    The Amazon is already a carbon source, and no longer a carbon sink.
    https://news.mongabay.com/2021/07/brazils-amazon-is-now-a-carbon-source-unprecedented-study-reveals/

    When a senior scientist tells the BBC we are in deep, deep shit!:

    “The obvious acceleration of the breakdown of our stable climate simply confirms that—when it comes to the climate emergency—we are in deep, deep shit,” Bill McGuire, a professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, told the BBC. ”

    https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/07/16/we-are-deep-deep-sht-climate-experts-shocked-severity-floods-germany-and-belgium

    The European flash floods may have caught some scientists unaware but they obviously hadn’t been taking notice of those derided as “alarmists” and “doomers.”
    Keep shopping till you die. Or the electrics die. Apparently the freedom to consume and make already rich people even richer is more important than the existence of life. If you want to carry on consuming, to carry on being able to fly abroad for your holidays, this is the price you’ll have to pay.

    In the interim I’ll give you an entertaining paper to read. This is written by an economist of all things, one that actually understands collapse is going to happen , shock horror.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328719303507 “Our hunter-gatherer future: Climate change, agriculture and uncivilization” John Gowdy.

    I do like that he has referenced Paul Kingsnorth’s Dark Mountain Manifesto.

    Pay particular attention to chapter 6, references to brain size decreases and reduced cognitive function at elevated CO2 levels, I particularly like this line:
    “There will be some wildlife slaughter in the period of the contraction—there is a massive number of guns on the planet–but the limiting factor will
    be ammunition which will run out quickly. Most of it will be used on other humans if history is any guide.”

    It is hopium, because it overlooks the fact that the coming extinctions apply to all fauna, not just humans, so foraging in a post-collapse world is unlikely, and ignores the meltdowns of 450 nuclear reactors worldwide. But you know, it’s quite an interesting conceptual arguement.

    But I would agree, we ain’t gonna do owt, not of sufficient calibre to affect the changes needed. But this is quite normal, in an evolutionary way.

    Some other thoughts for consideration:
    https://philosophynow.org/issues/136/A_Stoic_Response_To_The_Climate_Crisis
    https://problemspredicamentsandtechnology.blogspot.com/2021/07/what-is-ecological-overshoot.html

  3. Jim Sansbury says:

    Havent heard Johnson offering any neighbourly help, to our friends in Germany Holland and Belgium.
    A few search and rescue teams, rescue dogs, inflatable and pumps would have been nice.
    But no, brexit means brexit eh?

  4. Daniel Raphael says:

    I’ve said before, Michael, that you are a veritable fount for pithy quotations. I just did something I never did before–extracted portions of your article for several different tweets, all linked to the same article. That’s how useful I think it is, how compelling, and how urgent. Thank you. Please continue.

  5. Roland says:

    Yup

  6. Tom Ultuous says:

    As the woman said to the little girl as they entered the gas chamber “take deep breaths”.

  7. John Monro says:

    Thanks Mike, an excellent and humane contribution and I like your pun ( I have a very simple humour). I have often thought that many of these denialists live on a different planet, I don’ t know for sure if they think they might be able to retreat there, but I wish they’d go now. Here in NZ we have large numbers of uber-rich from overseas buying up valuable properties in our more beautiful areas and “investing” $50 million to gain their residency as their personal haven from political and climate disaster in their own country. The strange and rather worrying thing is that NZers see nothing wrong with this, the more money the better, we’ve been selling our citizenship for many years, whereas I’d tell them to bluddy well pizz off and pay back the money that they’ve plundered from their own societies.. I have just sent a letter to our local paper, The Dominion Post, in Wellington NZ – I won’t know for a day or two if published. As most of you will not be reading it in Scotland, I am going to foist it on you here with apologies.

    Dear Sir / Madam

    We know, as sentient beings, that humanity is facing overwhelming converging and existentially threatening crises of our own making – global warming, overpopulation, erosion, water scarcity, ocean depletion and acidification, pollution, nuclear catastrophe, poisonous inequity. Facilitating all these extremities is our neoliberal hyper-capitalist and uncontrollable globalised economic system, predicated as it is on “growth” as thoughtless and fatal as any cancer, and obviously incapable of remedying any of them. This statement is incontrovertible; this system has no sustainable or sound ideology to counter any of these crises, instead mindlessly accelerating every single one. This year’s contributions: NZ – a failed electricity “market” burning a million tonnes of dirty Indonesian coal. “Farmers” ignorantly protesting minimal measures that might protect their own future. UK – more North Sea oil development. Brazil – forests burn deliberately, whereas in the US , Canada and Siberia, forests burn consequentially, fuelling further our planetary heating. Europe – heat waves and floods kill and impoverish while Germany, China and Australia develop new coal mines. Seeing this mayhem and our impotence to rein in our errant behaviour, how can humanity hope to avoid experiencing an unbearable existential angst that will destroy our comfort and societies’ functioning, long before the physical threats engulf us?

    John Monro

    1. Thanks John.

      “in NZ we have large numbers of uber-rich from overseas buying up valuable properties in our more beautiful areas and “investing” $50 million to gain their residency as their personal haven from political and climate disaster in their own country.”

      Here too.

  8. John Monro says:

    Can I be a real pest and post this as well? Some years ago I wrote another letter, somewhere, and it went to some local paper. It went something like this:

    In another world, that looks exactly like Earth and once contained around 7.5 billion creatures almost exactly the same as us (with one important difference, as you’ll read), many aeons ago, they discovered fossil fuels and discharged massive amounts of CO2 in to the atmosphere to fuel their discovery of industry. Things could have been really bad for them, as they are working out for us, but a quirk of these humanoids’ physiology saved them. It was found that the pudendal nerves, those nerves that control the sexual functions and allowed the males to achieve amazing erections of which they were inordinately proud, were exquisitely sensitive to the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and once the level of CO2 rose above about 350 ppm, the pudendal nerves stopped functioning. The whole species would have been doomed, never mind the loss of pleasure in half of that population. When this was discovered, most of the females of the species gave a huge cheer and collective sigh of relief, but the other half dealt to the pollution issue with an urgent zeal that was astounding. Not another lump of coal was burned, gas stayed in the ground, not a cigarette was lit, and bicycles became the major mode of transport, huge sailing ships plied the oceans and flying was left strictly for the bees, bird and bats. Not a molecule of CO2 escaped unnoticed, and quite a number of the most worried males died from holding their breath too long, until urgent publicity pointed out that breathing of animals did not contribute to this CO2 toxicity. Thus, after this huge fright, they learned to live in harmony with nature; they reduced their numbers through population planning to around 1.5 billion and have now lived a very happy peaceful existence on their planet with all the resources and comforts they’ve needed for the last 500,000 years or so. And, they now no longer worry about the size of their erections.

  9. Wul says:

    It’s all gone downhill extremely quickly hasn’t it?

    I no longer have faith in any government to make wise, long-term choices. If it turns out that the SNP have stolen the money I donated to their Indyref2 campaign in 2017, that will put the tin lid on it.

    I was at the vet with my dog the other day. The vet said she “hadn’t had a holiday” since Winter 2019. When I said, “Surely you have had some time-off in the last 18 months?” She replied that she hadn’t been abroad since the 1st lockdown. “Holiday” equals flying abroad. Time off in your own country doesn’t count as a proper holiday.

    1. John Monro says:

      I am 74 years old, and have been a part of the early advance of an age cohort known as baby boomers. Governments, business, the whole panoply of national organisations have therefore had around 50 years notice that this cohort will age and they’d need to put in place provisions – financing, retirement age changes, health services and accommodation – to ensure their comfort in their last years, and it would help to ensure that the younger generation wasn’t saddled with huge education and housing debt so they had some spare resources for their community as well. So, it doesn’t matter how long a period of notice a government gets, wherever they are, nothing is ever done in politics that isn’t either part and parcel of the latest totally unproven economic, political or social dogma that they’re determined to pursue, or that is so urgent that reality has to intervene to require at least some response from the government, however begrudging and inadequate, when they’ll proclaim what wonderful leadership they’ve provided and how lucky the population is to have voted them in. So we’ve now had around 30 years’ notice of climate change, on this basis I’d give it another 20 years before anything actually changes. Cheers.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        Why blame the government? These are collective decisions we make, and subsequent governments just pander to our aggregate wishes in order to stay in power. The government could introduce draconian measures to manage our behaviour in ways that would be beneficial to our environment and therefore, to ourselves. But we collectively wouldn’t wear it.

        Blaming the government is the modern analogue of blaming fate for our misfortunes; by casting ourselves as victims, we absolve ourselves from our own agency and our own responsibility for our happiness.

        1. John Monro says:

          It’s a sort of truism that a country gets the leadership it deserves, but it’s not that helpful to explain why this this citizenry and leadership is worsening around the world, and becoming ever more corrupt and incompetent. . The ordinary citizen, and rationality, is vying for power, and losing, against massive and corrupt commercial and media interests and governments beholden to them rather more than their citizen’s future. There is a serious failure of political leadership, I mean, not just Johnson, look at Starmer. It’s not a coincidence that the compounding existential threats we’re experiencing have not been addressed, we live in the time of the big neoliberal lie, the hyper-capitalist and kleptocratic economic system that now rules the world, and our politicians. Thatcher famously declared “There’s no such thing as society”, so it’s not surprising that under the system she’s introduced, that society is failing – how can you care for society if you deny its very existence? It’s not that long ago that Jeremy Corbyn lead a rejuvenated Labour party, and would likely have won if the media, including the Guardian, hadn’t run the most vicious and effective propaganda campaign against him – so there was around a half of the voting public that does realise some of the problems and wants to change things – they’ve been beaten back again, deliberately, cynically and criminally by a corrupt politics and power, and that’s not the citizens’ fault. If you’ve read Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” this describes the matter in searing, painful detail.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            I think you’re on to something, John; though I don’t think your ordinary citizen is vying for power. S/he just wants things to carry on as normal and not have to worry about all the troublesome stuff that ‘normal’ generates. Hence, the tasking of government with just magicking the troublesome stuff away rather than engaging in any real change to their normal. Hence, our desire for ‘leadership’ rather than agency, our continual alienation of power to ‘leaders’.

            This flight from freedom on our part is the establishment, the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power can’t be understood unless it’s recognised that it’s exercised not by individuals (politicians, media barons, kleptocrats, etc.) but socially, by our collective behaviours, that the problem isn’t moral but structural. We can’t escape the fact that, through our collective behaviours, we’re all complicit in the establishment and maintenance of the reality we inhabit.

  10. Wul says:

    God: “I’ll put a giant fusion reactor in the sky to warm them every day, make drinking water fall from the sky and fill the landscape with food and building materials”

    Humans: “Let’s burn this planet so some of us can get rich enough to live on a shitty planet with no air”

    1. John Monro says:

      Nicely put, a humanist take on Genesis, in one pithy sentence.

  11. James Mills says:

    Every cloud has a silver lining : At least now all those wee guys with ”The End is Nigh ! ” sandwich boards will have been vindicated !

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      But have you not noticed how millennialism – the teaching that the world is about to end a cataclysm of heresy and destruction – has become the spirit of the age? Our current political discourse is fair hotchin wi millennialist metaphors and prophecy, scapegoating, and pleas for repentance and moral renewal.

      1. Rich says:

        No – give us examples . I was wanting to say plain “Sh#te !”
        For goodness sake , man , get yourself a life !

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          You haven’t noticed, Rich?

          1. Rich says:

            Is this why we are here ?
            Regular politics is ‘business as usual’ and represents 95% of the realpolitik discourse .
            Millenialsism is not it . Religious fruitcakes might be wailing and hoping for destruction and their exclusive salvation and rebirth in paradise , but in the world we live in heresy , repentance and moral renewal will not be cutting any mustard . These are not the zeitgeist .
            There has been , though , a very slow ecological train-crash happening over many years courtesy of those with the knowledge and power to stop it but the over-riding inclination to enrichment in power wealth and influence through it continuation.
            I believe you are confusing ‘millenialsim’ with legitimate demands for responsible action on the part of our rulers . This is the spirit of the age .

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Indeed, politics is mostly about running out day-to-day public affairs, where millennialist tropes are rare. I’m sure Noah had to contend with similar mundane concerns while he was preparing for the Flood.

            Have the established millennialist tropes really passed you by? ‘Repent, because the end of the world is nigh!’? The apocalyptic predictions of fire and brimstone, of global plagues and economic catastrophe? All the talk of a ‘slow ecological train-crash’ that’s about to overcome us unless (of course) we repent our current ways and turn to the path of righteousness? The environmental evangelism of the BBC and other corporate media giants. The pentecostalism of the UNFCCC Parties?

            And while we’re all shitting ourselves and demanding that our politicians save us… I refer you to my post above (21st July 2021 at 10:11 am):

            “I don’t think your ordinary citizen is vying for power. S/he just wants things to carry on as normal and not have to worry about all the troublesome stuff that ‘normal’ generates. Hence, the tasking of government with just magicking the troublesome stuff away rather than engaging in any real change to their normal. Hence, our desire for ‘leadership’ rather than agency, our continual alienation of power to ‘leaders’.

            “This flight from freedom on our part is the establishment, the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power can’t be understood unless it’s recognised that it’s exercised not by individuals (politicians, media barons, kleptocrats, etc.) but socially, by our collective behaviours, that the problem isn’t moral but structural. We can’t escape the fact that, through our collective behaviours, we’re all complicit in the establishment and maintenance of the reality we inhabit.”

            And:

            “These are collective decisions we make, and subsequent governments just pander to our aggregate wishes in order to stay in power. The government could introduce draconian measures to manage our behaviour in ways that would be beneficial to our environment and therefore, to ourselves. But we collectively wouldn’t wear it.

            “Blaming the government is the modern analogue of blaming fate for our misfortunes; by casting ourselves as victims, we absolve ourselves from our own agency and our own responsibility for our happiness.”

  12. SleepingDog says:

    I suppose most people will have now heard that the Met Office “has issued its first ever Amber Extreme Heat Warning as large areas of the UK will continue to see hot conditions this week”
    https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2021/extreme-heat-warning-issued-for-western-areas
    Handbrake policy turns are entirely possible and possibly imminent. Hopefully we’d all be turning in the right direction. Not so easy to pull off with the superstructure of centuries-old imperial cruft weighing down your state decision-making processes that have also been captured by corporations, are riddled with corruption and incompetence and malice, and a royalist-military-industrial-secretstate-etc complex devoted to killing, exploiting and abusing people and planet.

    One can only hope that the mega-splurge of public funds on royal palace refurbishment has chiefly gone on soft furnishings and they haven’t got round to the air conditioning yet.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Yes, I heard that warning on the wireless yesterday. My first reaction was ‘It’s nice to have a summer.’ Then the cynic in me wondered why the BBC is stoking our anxieties; what might be the hidden agenda of the establishment it serves and represents.

      1. Rich says:

        Mair o’ the same !
        Have ye nae better tae dae than haver ?

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Better?

  13. Glasgow Clincher says:

    You have a hairdresser, Mike?

    I go to a barber.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      I’ve got a pair of shears. (And my middle son got me a nifty wee gadget at Christmas for my nose and ears – saved me a fortune on styptic pencils.)

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