Tag Archives: climate chaos

Hot, angry and sick of injustice

The UK has had a heat wave this week with temperatures far higher than anything we are used to. Climate chaos is here, and it is brutal. However, we’re not all experiencing it the same way, and there are issues of both social justice and relationship with the land involved in this.

If your home is out on the flat, or on a south facing slope you are likely to experience more heat. I’m lucky in that I’m tucked in under a hill and only get a few hours of direct sunlight on the windows. I’m also surrounded by trees, which greatly help with cooling. Compared to friends who live within a few miles of me, I’ve got off relatively lightly. The shape of the land you live on will greatly inform how you experience the heat.

The size of your accommodation is also a big factor. There may be no cool side of the house. If your room is under the roof, it’s going to be a furnace. You may not have access to other rooms – people renting a room in a house can have limited options. 

Human bodies put out heat. If there are a lot of you in a small space, this has implications.

Financial pressures mean a lot of people are living in cramped, unsuitable conditions. Building for rent has not been held to the highest of standards. Many of us live in small spaces, and those are harder to keep cool. The way in which landlords are allowed to charge a great deal for tiny, unhealthy spaces means a lot of people are suffering at the moment. Homes that won’t cool down at night put a lot of pressure on your body and will make people ill.

Climate change and social justice aren’t separate issues. How climate chaos impacts on people will depend a lot on where they live and what’s around them. Homes that are designed to keep people safe in all kinds of conditions would also reduce energy needs which would help reduce carbon output. It is always the people who are least resourced who suffer most in extreme weather conditions. It is the people who are most resourced who are most responsible for causing what’s happening. They are also the people most intent on telling us there isn’t a problem and that we shouldn’t make a fuss.

Once temperatures hit 25c or more, the risk of dogs dying is considerable. Once the air is hotter than your own core temperature, it takes care, effort and attention not to overheat. What do you do if your workplace is unbearably hot and you can’t safely function in it? If you’re the CEO, you can go home, if your office doesn’t have air conditioning. It is the lowest paid workers who will be forced to slog on, putting their health at risk.

Heat stroke can kill people. Heatwaves kill. I find that once we get to about 30c I’m good for very little. But I’m lucky because as a self employed person I can down tools, or work at different times. There’s a limit on how long I can take off to cope with the heat, but at least I have some options.

For people who are already ill, the situation is worse. For people on some meds, the meds increase sensitivity to sunlight. Being ill means probably being poorer, and therefore also more at risk from all the other issues as well.

It sickens me that our government is taking no interest in climate chaos, and is ignoring the way the economic crisis they have presided over is increasing the risk of death for people right now. On top of this, the internet has been awash with misinformation, and one Tory MP called people cowards for acting to evade the heat. Not killing people through neglect should be the least we can expect of our leaders, but we don’t even have that.

Making personal changes to fight climate chaos

How much would you be personally willing to change your life in order to help avoid climate chaos? 

I feel strongly that we really need government action. We need the fossil fuel industry brought to heel and the voices of its lobbyists rejected by those in power. We need rules that hold those with most influence to account – rules about built in obsolescence, single use plastics, and what goes to landfill, for example. We need the right to repair. Those kinds of things have to be organised by governments. We need governments to tackle pollution and infrastructure. Banning massive cruise ships and private jets would be a good idea.

Every one of the 100 companies that most pollute the planet does so because people buy its products. So long as they feel like they can get away with it, they will. 

Making it the job of ordinary individuals to fix things is a cop-out from politicians, and totally unfair. But at the same time, if we aren’t prepared to change things in our own lives, how can we expect change to happen?

For us regular folk, there are four areas of life to particularly consider. These are only going to be an issue if you aren’t living at the margins.

Transport – including luxury journeys, holidays, flights. If you’re stuck with a commute, can you liftshare sometimes, or work from home one day a week? How much travel do you feel entitled to? 

Food – how much food do you waste? How overpackaged is your food?  How far has your food travelled? What are the carbon and water costs of your food? Are you eating unsustainable animal products? If you don’t really know where your meat came from, then the odds of it being a massive driver of climate change are really high. 

Heating – is your home insulated? (not a question for renters, obviously). How are you sourcing your energy? How much energy do you use on luxury things? 

Clothes – fast fashion is a terrible industry with massive impact on the planet. Too many people throw clothes away after wearing items once or twice. Overwashing has a huge environmental impact. Clothes production requires a lot of resources. We urgently need to use less and throw less away and really all this takes is care and effort and those who can afford to buy disposable clothing not doing so. This is the easiest area for change to occur, and the one where there are no real excuses. 

Changing your life requires effort. Often, in my experience that effort brings its own benefits and you can end up improving your quality of life by making better choices.

The end of the world

It is a curious thing to have to wonder whether your species has the political will to save itself. Here we are, with many places on fire, with floods killing people and drought purging life from landscapes and a clear report that we’re in a lot of trouble and must act urgently… and I do not know if the political will exists to do anything.

Already in the UK some of our politicians have started making noises to the effect that there’s no point us doing anything unless China does. Apparently no one is keen to square up to short term discomfort in order to fend off disaster in a few years time.

I don’t understand why anyone thinks there is any advantage to being rich if we don’t have a functioning planet. You can’t buy your way out of being on fire. There is no economic advantage that will get you a free pass to avoid all the consequences of climate chaos. Granted, the poor will suffer most, and are already suffering. But at this point, surely, enlightened self interest should kick in?

Apparently some 70% of the problem is caused by 100 companies. We know, and we have known for a long time that it is the richest 1% who urgently need to curb their consumption. Those who have most need to do most. Will they? Will the people who could do most to avoid us all watching life on this planet get wiped out, act? Or are we going to wipe ourselves out as a species by being too greedy and lazy to survive?

I spend a lot of time trying not to despair of humans trying not to think the worst of us and trying to imagine that we will do better. We’re running out of time. Today I am allowing myself to be angry and frustrated. I’ve spent years working to reduce my carbon footprint, which was never large. I know that if well resourced people had made more effort, we could have made a real impact without waiting for governments, big business and the 1% to get their shit together. But here we are, and I’m angry, and exhausted and frustrated and afraid.

All I can do is keep doing what I can. I refuse to give up. But dear Gods we could have done so much better, and should have done, and should be doing everything we can right now to sort things out.

Kiss the Ground

If you care at all about climate chaos, you’re probably also experiencing depression, anxiety and despair. It all looks fairly grim out there and the politicians aren’t getting to grips with the issues anything like fast enough. Meanwhile Elon Musk adds to the pollution as he fires rockets into space and crypto-currencies use an alarming amount of energy. People with money and power seem hell bent on making everything worse.

Kiss the Ground is a documentary. It’s genuinely hopeful and offers what sounds like a real and realistic solution to de-carbonisation. It’s all about soil. The best thing is that no one has to wait for their government to get moving. Anyone with any land at all can take things on board from this and do something.

The solutions offered in this documentary benefit farmers. This is a way forward that offers lower costs, greater resilience and a better chance at making money – which is persuasive. It’s not a big ask to suggest people do something that will greatly benefit them. The solutions are low-tech for the greater part, so people in poorer parts of the world can get started without having to wait for help. The principles are easy to grasp.

We can keep a lot of carbon in the soil. We can add to it at a significant rate. Ploughing releases carbon, but we don’t actually need to plough to grow crops. If the soil isn’t bare, it takes in carbon, if it is bare, not only does it not take in carbon, but there are flooding issues, and earth becomes dust, topsoil is lost and we get desertification. Maintain plant cover and everything works better.

Here’s a trailer for the film, and if you get chance to see it, I heartily recommend it.

You might also want to watch this fantastic video on re-greening.

What if we opened borders?

I’m in favour of open borders for many reasons. I think people should be free to work, live, marry, shack up, study and settle any place they like and that it should not be about the accident of where you were born.

The main reason against open borders is about not wanting a flood of refugees. Affluent nations fear being swamped by people fleeing war, poverty and disaster – human-made climate disaster included. This is precisely why we need open borders. Big, affluent nations are very good at causing poverty and are the major driving force on climate change. There’s a long history of affluent countries fueling war – for political reasons and to make money from weapons sales.

If we opened all the borders, there would suddenly be a lot of political pressure for those who have most, to end war, deal with poverty and tackle climate change. Those who cause most harm would have a vested interest in cleaning things up. Currently, we dump our waste and recycling on poorer countries. We denude their landscapes growing our luxuries and then we don’t pay properly for what we take. We export the shittiest jobs to places we can pay less to have them done.

No one wants to have to flee their home because of war, natural disaster or climate change. Yes, there’s a lot of attraction for a young person to go out into the world and seek their fortune. But that’s not the same as being an economic migrant, forced by lack of options and desperation to try and find a better life somewhere else.

Opening borders would pave the way to taking better care of each other. It would change how we think about war and refugees. It would impact on the willingness of wealthy nations to tolerate the behavior of countries who abuse their citizens. It would make it harder to image that there is an ‘away’ where we can dump our crap and ignore our responsibilities.

Why shouldn’t we have the freedom to travel about and live where we please? If there was more fairness in the world and a more equitable sharing of resources we wouldn’t find some countries overloaded with incomers and others denuded of their young and talented folk. It would all balance out plausibly well. ,

Seasonally out of kilter

I’ve had a few periods in my life where, despite my best efforts I’ve not felt connected to the season. Getting outside and being with wild things under an open sky is a longstanding part of how I do my Druidry. Health permitting, I walk every day – there have been times when poor health has been the reason for my disconnection. Usually, that time outside allows me to engage with what’s happening. I see the changes in plants, insects, creatures, I see what the trees are doing, I experience the temperature and weather conditions and I am properly inside each season as it unfolds.

Currently I’m out of kilter. Part of this is me. I spent September frozen. I walked regularly, but I wasn’t feeling anything much and even though I made the effort to try and connect, I was doing so from inside a glacier, emotionally speaking. I’ve had this sort of thing happen before and the only answer is patience and persistence. Depression can leave me so numb that I don’t feel anything of what’s going on around me and I lose my sense of joy in the wild things. These frozen times pass. I think I’m experiencing a thaw at the moment.

However, as my emotional state thaws, I’m still finding myself out of kilter with the season. This is because the season is out of kilter. It’s mid October, and many of the trees haven’t even started to change their leaf colour. It wasn’t so long ago that leaf colour went autumnal reliably in September and you could expect the leaves to be down by Samhain in this part of the world.

A few days ago I saw my first catkins. I’ve never seen hazel catkins on a tree this early before, and I’ve never seen them on a tree that also had green leaves on it before. I have no idea what that tree is doing. Maybe the tree doesn’t know either.

This is climate chaos in action. Calling it climate change suggests a process with some coherence to it. That would be more feasible for living things to adapt to. What we have is chaos. Unpredictable, unseasonal temperatures. Storms. Hot days in the normally cold part of the year, and back in the summer, really cold days. I’m out of kilter, but in some ways that means I am more in harmony with what’s going on than I would be if I clung to the idea of what this time of year is supposed to be like. I don’t enjoy it, but I know how important it is to engage with what’s happening, not what we think should be happening.

First leaves

It feels too early. I’d expect the fruit trees to start flowering around now, but there are leaves unfurling on a number of trees as well – most notably the elders in the more sheltered spots. I can remember springs when there were very few leaves until April and one year, May. Spring did not used to start before March round here.

The garlic is coming up, it too is early. I’d expect to see the first shoots about now, but we’ve got whole leaves out there, and lots of them.

At the margins all kinds of small, leafy plants are appearing. Again, too much, and too soon.

This is a friendlier face for climate change. On the plus side, a longer growing season will take more carbon out of the air. Even so, it is a manifestation of the chaos we are causing.

When talking about climate chaos online I’ve had people ask me what I’m afraid of and what I imagine will happen. I can only assume some people must be really disconnected from the world not to know that change is already here. We have chaos. We have storms the like of which I’ve never seen before at a frequency that is startling. Places that didn’t normally flood are under water.

It’s going to be expensive. My hope is that short term climate chaos will prove expensive enough to focus the minds of people who want to carry on with business as usual. It’s not so easy to turn a profit when you’re on fire, or underwater. I hope that there is still time for a bit of waking up and getting real.