Monday, 21 December 2009

the darkest hour

Pretty much everyone agreed that the Climate Talks at Copenhagen failed. Although it was brilliant to have all the world's leaders agree, in one room, the scientific imperative of keeping our global temperature under 2 degrees, they failed to make an agreement that would make it happen.

The commonly agreed target for safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million (ppm). We've already overshot that: there is currently around 388 ppm in the atmosphere, with a need to reduce emissions as soon as possible to safe levels. According to my daughter Sophia, a calculation of emissions agreed in Copenhagen would lead to a very unsafe level of CO2 of over 700ppm by the end of the century and we'd have reached the point of no return long before that.

Two commentators have this to say today in the aftermath of Copenhagen.

In Requiem for a Crowded Planet, the Guardian's George Monbiot
gives us some bitter medicine

Johann Hari wrote in the Independent that we're finally realising that Daddy is not going to look after us and only grassroots practical and even protest action will get us the changes needed.

I've been struggling with despair for the planet for again lately, which is not good for my new-refound physical health nor my mental health. I don't know where to put this information, and I wonder if anyone does. My belief in God has transformed into worship and gratitude more akin to that of indigenous people so that's no help. Perhpas, as Philip Carr-Gomm said on the solstice on the tump yesterday, when it's dark, just wait. The light will come.

I will have 10 days off with my family and friends over Christmas. I'll eat and laugh and sit by the fire and walk in the cold. I'll love my wonderful life. And then, come the new year, I'll start again to do whatever I can, anything in my power, to Be the Change I want to see. I've seen this coming and, alongside many others, I'll see it through.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

the joy of socks

I recently visited the Land Girls exhibition at Brighton's Pavilion museum. It's a vivid illustration of how a group of people respond to a sudden change in circumstances. The general message was that although life was tough for the young women volunteering to feed the nation during the wars, good times were had. Freed from the binds of domestic life, some women, certainly, seemed to come into their power, driving huge tractors, managing teams of workhorses, barrowing muck from dawn to dusk. There are some hilarious stories, some from videoed interviews, of sharing bath water between several people and parties at the local officer's mess.

The girls were issued uniforms, with strict instructions about how to maintain them. Along with three pairs of socks came the advice to darn them using the gusset of old pairs of socks. Those well-worn socks looked so robust, so much better than the flimsy socks I get from M&S, on which darning hasn't worked, and which need constant replacing. So when I walked past Cathy Darcy's excellent Vintage Shirt Company on Mount Place, and saw some very fine pairs of English socks in the window, I had to buy a pair.

Made of Shetland wool in subtle colours, these socks are a wonder to behold and, frankly, I haven't taken them off since buying them. Along with a warm head, warm feet are important in winter. And although they cost £22, they are eminently darn-able, so these socks and I, we're going a long way together.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Behind the white noise

In the lead up to the UN's Copenhagen Climate Conference this month I'm feeling a sense of awe and prayerfulness. The understanding of our planet's situation deepens and matures, with some insightful pieces of writing. Behind the white noise of Christmas advertising, some of us are starting painfully to understand the degree to which we are all complicit, as western consumers, in an unstable world, of which climate change - waves of rain, flood, heat - is only one symptom. And we're slowly, achingly, waking up to the idea that a better future is within our reach.
Last week, around 100 people of all shapes and sizes turned up at Lewes New School to discuss the future of North Street, since the developer's companies, who bought the acres of riverfront land, have gone bankrupt. In the Open Space discussion that ensued, lots and lots of fabulous ideas emerged, which will be presented to the town for discussion. Ideas for the land, healthy, sane, useful, inclusive ideas are emerging from people who live and work in Lewes, including those really essential people who work on North Street. These acres, surely, should be kept for a resilient, practical transition, rather than to feed one person's greedy neediness.
And despite all the western world's displacement activity, which includes flying here, there and everywhere for crazy reasons - holidays, spiritual retreats, sunshine, weddings, last chance to see... - some people, many people, are discovering that slow and simple are what we want anyway. Slow and simple. Breathe. Relax. The poet, Wendell Berry, says it all.