Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth

March 30, 2013
Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth

Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth

Are people good? Is humankind basically benign?

In our current belief system, which we might term liberal secular humanism, which has held sway in the West since the Second World War, and which promotes human progress and well-being, only one response is permitted: Yes, of course! Any suggestion that there might be something wrong with people as a whole, with Man as a species, is absolute anathema. But today, two circumstances come together to prompt me to pose the question once more.

The first is the ending, this week, of my 15 years as Environment Editor of The Independent. It has been a privilege beyond measure to work for so long for a wonderful newspaper which has put the environment at the heart of its view of the world. We are proud of all we have done about it, from raising the question, in 2000, of the mysterious disappearance of the house sparrow from London and other major cities – we offered a £5,000 prize for a proper scientific explanation, but the mystery remains – to devoting the whole of the front page, in 2011, to the then hardly recognised threat of neonicotinoid insecticides, now an obsession around the globe.

But there have been what you might call side effects. For if, over the past decade and a half, you have closely observed what is happening to the Earth, week in, week out, you may take a dark view of the future; and I do. The reason is that the Earth is under threat, as it has never been before, from the ever more oppressive scale of the human enterprise: from the activities of a world population which doubled from three to six billion in four short decades, between 1960 and 2000, and which, in the four decades to come, will probably increase by three billion more.

These activities are now wiping out ecosystems and species, across the world, at an ever increasing rate: the forests are chainsawed; the oceans are stripmined of their fish; the rivers, especially in the developing world, are ever more polluted; the farmland is rendered sterile of all but the monoculture crop by demented dosing with pesticides; the farmland insects and wild flowers and many of the birds have gone.

The vanishing species come from all locations and in all shapes and sizes: in South Africa last year, 668 rhinos were illegally killed for their horn, which has a soaring value in Asia because of the myth of its medicinal qualities, while in Britain in the next 10 years, the turtle dove, beloved bird, will go extinct. The trashing of the natural world is now a global phenomenon and, as the century progresses, it will combine and interact with another great human-caused threat, climate change, until the very viability of the biosphere, the thin envelope of life surrounding the Earth which supports us all, is put at risk.

People are doing this. Let’s be clear about it. It’s not some natural phenomenon, like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. It’s the actions of Homo sapiens. What we are witnessing is a fundamental clash between the species, and the planet on which he lives, which is going to worsen steadily, and the more closely you observe it – or at least, the more closely I have observed it, over the past 15 years – the more I have thought that there is something fundamentally wrong with Homo sapiens himself. Man seems to be Earth’s problem child. We humans have always thought ourselves different in kind from other creatures, principally for our use of language and our possession of consciousness, but there is another reason for our uniqueness, which is becoming ever clearer: we are the only species capable of destroying our own home. And it looks like we will.

This is my perception, as I lay down the reins of environmental reporting. However, there is an additional motive for my raising this issue today, and that is the approach of Easter. If you were brought up a Catholic (as I was), Easter has a resonance which remains even if you have long moved away from the faith (as I have). It is the principal feast of Christianity, of course, far more significant than the much more commercialised Christmas, and it is so pivotal because it concerns Christianity’s essence, which is redemption.

In the Christian view of the world, Man is fallen, yet because of Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross on Good Friday, Man is redeemed. You may think of the idea of The Fall as simply the story of Adam eating the forbidden fruit, but such a myth is not of itself what has gripped some of the most powerful minds in history. Rather, the idea of fallen Man gives potent expression to that prominent part of the human character which has been observed, down the ages, with horror: our terrible potential for destruction, for causing suffering to others and, indeed, now, for destroying our own home (all of which liberal secular humanism prefers not to look at). In the Christian world view, humankind is not basically benign. People are not good.

But they can be redeemed. That’s the point, the unique selling point, if you like, of Christianity; and tomorrow, Easter Sunday, is its celebration. And what ceasing to be Environment Editor of this newspaper in Easter week has put into my mind is just how many people I have also observed, over the past 15 years, fighting hard to save the natural world – because, in some way, these are the redeemers of humankind.

I still think Man will destroy the Earth. It is a pessimistic valedictory note I offer, for you cannot focus closely on what is happening and not be a pessimist. But there is more to Man, I do accept, than simply a destroyer, and the pessimism is not unmitigated: the chainsaws may outnumber them, and the chainsaws ultimately may win, but the green campaigners were there, and they fought.

– Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy was for 15 years the Environment Editor for The Independent. This published on Good Friday was his valedictory thoughts.

We pray for our planet

September 26, 2011

Music: Veneziela Naydenova

Text: Paulo Coelho

Widespread public opposition to sell-off of public woods and forests

February 15, 2011
Hawley Wood

Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

Who owns the public woods and forests in England? We do, that is the public do. Who says they should not be sold? We do, that is the public do.

- Britain’s woods and forests for sale
- For sale: all of our forests. Not some of them, nor most of them – the whole lot

This therefore begs the question: Why are these woods and forests up for sale?

Why is the government not listening? It is not only in the Middle East that there is a lack of democracy, there is a lack in our own back yard, or at least in our woods and forests. A YouGov poll last month found 84% of the British public wanted to see woods and forests kept in public ownership for future generations, ie they did not support the sell-off.

- Huge majority oppose England forest sell-off
- Survey finds opposition to privatisation of forest

The government is fast backpeddling. They are now saying not all will be sold, that some will be leased. But none of this is good enough. Leased, sold, these woods and forest should be taken off the market.

- David Cameron ‘listening to all the arguments’ on forest sell-off
- Has the government done U-turns on forest and nature reserves sell-off?
- English forest sell-off put on hold

The amount of money that will be raised is trivial. It may even turn into a loss!

- Privatising English forests could ‘cost millions in lost tax revenues’

You do not engage in ‘consultation’ when legislation is part-way through Parliament, and yet that is what is happening.

- Consultation: Future of the public forest estate

A red herring, if not an outright lie, is now being peddled by the government. Look, we are told, at the decades of mismangement by the Forestry Commission, look at the serried rows of dank conifer plantations, look at the destruction of our native decidous woodlands.

All of which is true, or was true. Much of which was driven by tax breaks in the private sector. None has fought harder than I against such a policy. But the Forestry Commission has learnt over the last couple of decades, forestry is no longer seen as the extraction of timber from a conifer monoculture. Forestry is now seen as woodland and forest management, the importance of the wood and forest as habitat, the importance of biodiversity, the importance of recreation. And now the importance as a carbon sink.

- Zero Carbon by 2030

The other argument peddled is that the forests and woods will be more efficiently managed in the private sector. What does this word ‘efficiency’ mean? It means profit, it means maximising short-term profit. This means serried rows of conifers, it means chip and burn, it means exclusion of the public, or restricted to defined routes not free to wander. If no money to be made from the trees, it means leisure parks, holiday camps, it means golf courses, it means car rallies, it means housing and warehouses.

From a biodiversity perspective, efficency means maximisng the biodiversity, but there is no profit in that.

We even have the Orwellian straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four we are selling the woods and forests to ‘protect’ them!

The opposition is not coming from the mainsteam environmental groups, whose deafening silence or worse tacit support has been a disgrace, but has at least exposed their lack of genuine concern for the environment. This is a grassroots campaign. It has upset the public the thought of their favourite haunt being sold to some private corporation whose only interest will be what profit can be wrung out of the wood.

- Fears over the future of Somerset forests
- Forest of Dean selloff angers locals
- Lean Dean Fighting Machine
- Cameron faces the other countryside alliance in Grizedale forest

There is no surprise in this. The big groups are businesses, their business is campaigning. Campaigns are PR stunts to raise money. Many simply see the sell-off as an opportunity to expand their real estate, empire building.

- Jonathon Porritt attacks conservation groups for stance on forests sell-off

I stuck two fingers up to the Woodland Trust years ago. They used to push out leaflets showing their rapidly expanding forestry estate. But that was all it showed. It did not mean these woods had been ‘saved’ as unless they were under threat, what were they being saved from? All that had happend was that the ownership had changed as the Woodland Trust lacked the resources then and I doubt it has the resources now to manage their woodland estate.

Similarly the National Trust. It owns large tracts of the English Countryside. But what in practice does this mean? I used to walk along the south west coast, the Welsh Borders, the Shropshire Hills. The despoilt parts I came across were those owned by the National Trust. I would see signs saying beauty spot, hoardes of grockles, ugly footpaths, car parks, litter, toilet blocks, tea shops. I recall the one valley in the Shropshire Hills the NT owned, the burbling stream was full of coke cans. I remember when Maggie Thatcher wanted to build a nuclear bunker in a woodland, the NT rolled over and gave in. More recently they have sold off land from an estate for housing.

- National Trust enters English forest sell-off row

This is not the first time the public has been roused to protect its forests. Around 150 years ago there was a big campaign to save Epping Forest. It was saved by being bought by the City of London and brought into public ownership.

Many of our forests are Royal hunting grounds. The New Forest was established by William the Conquerer.

Our woods and forests are part of our cultural heritage.

- Beware the forest fairies

We must stop this crass policy dead in its tracks!

Do your bit. Join the facebook group, sign the petition, sign the letter to David Cameron. If there is a rally to protect your local woods and forests get on down there. If not, organise one.

- Fight the government’s forest sell-off
- Britain’s woods and forests for sale

The Story of Cosmetics

October 9, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo.

Top Story in The Digital Mission Daily (Saturday 7 April 2012).

Also see

The Story of Stuff

Lush Cosmetics – Our Environmental Policy

UK airspace closed!

April 16, 2010
Eyjafjallajoekull eruption NASA Terra Satellite at 1139 GMT Thursday 15 April 2010

Eyjafjallajoekull eruption NASA Terra Satellite at 1139 GMT Thursday 15 April 2010

1200 BST Thursday 15 April 2010 UK airspace was closed, all flights grounded. 0830 BST Friday 16 April 2010 the ban on flights was extended until 0100 BST Saturday 17 April 2010 with the likelihood of the ban being extended into the weekend.

Closure of UK airspace is unprecedented. The cause being the eruption of a volcano in Iceland which is spewing dust into the upper atmosphere. Were this dust to be ingested by jet engines it was would damage the engines.

Across northern Europe airspace has been closed and flights grounded. Which begs the question why a flight was allowed to take off from Farnborough Airport midmorning today (approximately 1030 BST)?

Never a pleasant experience at the best of times, passengers at airports have been subjected to indefinite delay.

For people living in close proximity to an airport it has been unexpected peace and quiet. Bliss.

The closure of UK airspace has served to highlight how dependent the UK has become on aviation, in particular airfreight, especially so-called fresh fruit and vegetables, for example green beans from Kenya.

The Eyjafjallajoekull eruption was the second in Iceland in less than a month.

see

Iceland volcano: UK flights grounded for second day


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