We need to get angry . . We need to follow our children's example . .

What with squabbling over Brexit, getting distracted with a certain president's hate-filled Twitter account, worrying about austerity, and arguing about whether social media is a good or bad thing, we are totally missing the one thing that is the most important issue of our age. That is the imminent demise of 80% of the world's wildlife caused by human impact on the environment.  We aren't just changing the climate of the world, we are consuming its resources at the expense of every other species on the planet.  Scientists are now not just talking about 2100 as the point where we need to worry, but 2030  - a mere 11 years ahead. If you want to face facts read this Huff Post article on the most recent research - 'The Rapid Decline of the Natural World . .'  It's not just the bees, it's everything, including ourselves, since we are part of the natural world. Here's a quote -

“Nature is in freefall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.

Will Burrard-Lucas took this photo - we will never see elephants like this again.
The children get it.  After all, it's their future we have compromised. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist, has mobilised young people to take action world-wide.  Sadly, the children's day of action, striking from school, was muffled by the massacre of  Muslim worshippers in New Zealand. Violence, once again, trumping constructive and peaceful protest.

At government level - where effective action has to be taken - there's a lot of talking, some lip-service, but absolutely no action.  Not even a token nod to the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. Somehow countries have managed to wriggle out of their obligations - others are just way off target and no one is holding them to account. President Trump helped to legitimise that.  Isaac Cordal, the Spanish sculptor, made it into art that graphically illustrates what is happening.

Politicians Talking About Climate Change - exactly! (note the single woman among the men in suits)

Meanwhile we have lost 70% of our insect populations in the last 20 years and vast numbers of birds, insects and animals are on the verge of extinction within the next five. We are seeing environmental catastrophes every day on the news - the terms 'largest/most severe . . . since records began' have become inadequate cliches for increasing levels of natural disaster. This week's Cyclone Idai is the biggest cyclone on record that has laid waste to three African countries with estimates of over a thousand dead, which given the scale of destruction and the lack of communication with affected areas, seem to be conservative.

Just one devastated community in Mozambique
In the same week, America suffered an unprecedented 'weather bomb', destroying dams, flooding cities and farmland, killing people and devastating communities across Nebraska and Iowa.

A dam in Nebraska washed away by the floods.

Meanwhile in Queensland, Australia, they are still mopping up after the 'unprecedented' flooding that occurred in January.

The cost to governments of clearing up these environmental catastrophes runs into billions.  They destroy livelihoods, create displacement and refugees, destitution and violent conflict. How long before governments get the message?  Or are they so deep in the pockets of polluters and corporate corruption that they can't respond even when they hear it?

New palm oil plantation in Malaysia

Malaysia has been (illegally) burning old rainforests and planting palm oil plantations, evicting indigenous communities and creating a trail of smoke and pollution that is visible from space.  When environmental blogger and activist Clare Rewcastle Brown began to investigate this, she uncovered a web of corruption and money laundering worth billions of dollars that stretched across the world, involving banks and governments - even the film industry. Despite death threats and legal harassment, she persisted with her research, eventually bringing down the Malaysian government.  That is the value of protecting good investigative journalism. Unfortunately, too many of them are in jail across the world. Clare's book, the Sarawak Report, is revelatory.

In my own community - the sleepy, rural Lake District - local councils have just this week approved opening a deep coal mine despite the knowledge that we absolutely have to reduce our carbon emissions. The argument was that it would create jobs - couldn't jobs have been created by investing in renewables (we have more wind and water than anywhere else in the UK!)?  We also have a disaster in waiting in the nuclear waste facility at Sellafield.  It's built on the coast, within reach of known sea-level rise, and there are rumblings every now and then of poor maintenance and rusting holding tanks with leakage of contaminated water into the Irish sea. It has been called the uk's most dangerous nuclear facility.  It is our Fukushima-in-waiting.

In Britain George Monbiot is a lone voice linking the capitalist, corporate economic model to environmental destruction.  Like Naomi Klein in America, he says the unsayable, confronting the future we don't want to think about.  Human beings won't give up their privileged lives until the last tree has burned, and the last inch of ocean has disappeared under an avalanche of plastic. Joni Michell got it right when she sang 'You don't know what you've got till it's gone' (We paved Paradise and put up a parking lot - listen here).


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