Category Archives: environment

Britain At The Edge: A Plea From The Heart

The tension has now become almost unbearable.

I can’t quite believe that this is all coming to pass. Historians will look back at this moment and scratch their heads. What possessed England to press the self destruct button in this way? For that is what Brexit amounts to. Quite apart from the fact that in simple economic terms it is clearly barmy. There is also the fact that the Brexiteers are almost certainly signing the death warrant for their own country – the UK. For if Scotland votes Remain a second independence referendum up north is a nailed-on certainty. Scotland will go, no doubt about it. Wales too, in time. And then what will be left? Little England. But then I suppose that is what these Little Englanders want. Perfect isolation, safely tucked away from scary foreign accents.

I don’t want that for my country. I want an outward facing, inclusive nation that is at ease with itself, that is unafraid of the world, of the future, that doesn’t want to hide underneath the bedclothes and pretend that it’s still 1952.

I don’t want the country to be controlled by a bunch of ‘even-more right wing than the present lot’  toffs who are quite cynically using ordinary people’s anxieties against them*, who have blatantly and deliberately stirred up a mean-spirited xenophobia that has already led to an MP being murdered. Ultimately these people want Britain to be an enlarged version of Guernsey, a tax haven where the rich lord it over the poor, without any of the restrictions the EU provides on working hours, workers’ rights and environmental legislation.

So I look at the polls and I shudder at what lies in store on the other side of June 23. I think about the little ways it will affect life on this island. I think of the way my stepson’s opportunities will be curtailed – he may want to study another language and work in another EU country. I also think of the social group that myself and my partner have been a part of for a year or two.

This is a friendly bunch of people based around Brockley. We meet up occasionally for pub quizzes, meals and various social events. One of the wonderful things about it is its cosmopolitan nature. There is a Spanish woman, an Aussie, a Canadian and her Rumanian partner, an Irish guy and his Japanese girlfriend. Its international make up means that as well as a lot of fun, it’s a richer experience for all of us. What makes me sad is that in 20 years time a group like ours might be a relic of the past, as England pulls up the drawbridge and withdraws.

But what do you do? When an individual is so fixated on self destruction, be it through drugs, alcohol or internalised violence it is very hard to dissuade them. Like a toddler, sometimes they just have to smash up their toys to realise that it is not the best course of action. Perhaps England needs to get this tantrum out of its system before it can finally grow up, realise that it’s not special and that it isn’t 1952 any more.

And that no man, or country, is ever truly an island. I implore anyone reading this to vote against xenophobia, against racism, and for hope and for Remain.

* During the last week or so this song – from an equally dark moment in British history, summer 1981 – has been replaying in my head over and over. “And as I was standing by the edge/ I could see the faces of those who led pissing themselves laughing.”

Shall We Talk About The Weather?

It really has gone beyond a joke now.

The summer of 2012 (‘Britain’s greatest summer ever’, lest us forget)…where do you start? Aside from a brief 10 day respite at the end of May it has not stopped raining since the first week of April. That’s three and a half months of rain. And there’s no sign of it ending yet. Up north and in the west there have been floods. It’s not been much better down here. There is just one question on everyone’s lips: WHEN WILL IT END?

We are all familiar now with the notion that it is the jet stream curling in the southerly direction that has caused this, but what’s more worrying is that this is now becoming an annual event. For the record it is now almost a decade since Britain enjoyed a warmer than average summer, in 2003. It is six years since we had what could be described as an average summer that was warm in places but also cloudy and wet in parts. Since then we’ve had 2007, a complete washout, the worst in over 40 years. 2008 was scarcely an improvement. The following three years all followed a similar pattern in that any warm dry weather was frontloaded to the start of the summer – April and part of May. July and August – traditionally the warmest part of the year – have been wet and mild for over six years now. You have to be over 15 now to remember what was like to enjoy a hot summer in Britain. An entire generation is growing up not knowing what it’s like to bask in temperatures over 80 degrees and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with not having to remember to bring a bloody umbrella out day after day after day.

So what’s happening?  Some climatologists have posited the theory that this alteration in the jet stream is linked to the melting of the polar ice caps. If that is correct (and being climatologists they are hedging their bets, saying that many more years data are needed before they can come to a definite conclusion) then there’s a certan karmic justice in all this, isn’t it? Capitalism will destroy our planet and thus the human race. And as Britain was the first industrialised country, the first to fully adopt free market capitalism on a mass scale then there’s a certain poetic justice that we are reaping the whirlwind that is the result of our burning of fossil fuels for over 250 years. Actually ‘whirwind’ is probably the wrong word in this context. Can you reap a weekly deluge of rain followed by interminent showers?

Until then shall we stop using the word ‘summer’ to describe June to September in this country? The ‘British monsoon season’ is surely a more accurate description of the climate we enjoy between those months now.