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March 30 - another report, another stark warning

An international report by 1,360 experts from 95 nations has declared that 'Humans are damaging the planet at an unprecedented rate and raising risks of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation and dead zones in the seas. Link

A rising human population has polluted or over-exploited two-thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, ranging from clean air to fresh water, in the past 50 years. 'At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning,' said the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 'Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,' it said. Ten to 30 percent of mammal, bird and amphibian species are already threatened with extinction, according to the assessment, the biggest review of the planet's life support systems.

So, what I've been arguing for at least twenty years and for the last two in this blog. The choice is clear, ignore it and continue as we are and face total catastrophe down the line, twenty years, thirty, how long have we got is the only unanswered question. Or start on a worldwide campaign to reverse it by changing our lifestyles, especially those in the developed world, which isn't very likely really considering the sheer numbers of selfish people without vision or imagination. The environment will only be taken seriously when it's smacking us all in the face.

Seems the tectonic movements in the Indian Ocean aren't finished yet, and the latest earthquake is a result of the previous one and will be followed by more. This could be the geological time when a lot of plate shifting goes on, some countries in the area could become unviable, in fact some already are looking pretty dangerous places. I heard what sounded like an educated English woman interviewed on the radio talking about being 'terribly frightened' on one of the Maldive Islands with her children. What kind of cretin goes on holiday to an island which is only two feet above sea level only three months after 40ft high waves have smashed everything in their path and aftershocks are promised? Clearly doing the decent thing and trying to remove her faulty dna from the pool.

And as these shocks travel round the world, the San Francisco fault might be nudged into movement. Then we'll see casualties like never before, high rise buildings packed with people. It's due to go one day, and vibrations this powerful travel a long way.

March 26 - a novel approach

The process of writing fiction is strange. Normal writing, whether articles, newsletters, blogs, emails, is pretty straightforward, communication, saying it how it is, or how you see it. Writing fiction is, I've discovered, an entirely different experience. You're using words in the same way, the tools and skills are the same, the process is the same, but with a story it feels as if it has a life of its own, as if you are merely discovering it and putting it down as best you can for others, or maybe just for yourself.

Starting with the basic idea which just comes unbidden, the story soon grows in your head and, depending whether you immediately set out to write or put it off for a while, on the page too. I have the constant feeling that the story is developing beyond my knowledge or control, that I am always somewhat behind or even that the story exists right to its end, and that I have to discover it. Characters appear fully formed as if real. Events happen, relationships develop, and I try as best I can to describe it. Sometimes this comes easy and the words flow out like thoughts. Other times I struggle, changing words to better match the reality, adding asides to better describe it. Very strange. I guess you have to do it to experience it, and still when I read that it sounds odd in my head, as when other writers have described the process, sounding almost phoney and contrived. But there it is, it's how it is and I can't pretend otherwise. I'm as surprised as anyone as I had always assumed you had to think every bit of a story, laboriously word for word, constructing it like an object, bit by bit, brick by brick. I hadn't expected this odd dislocation from it, as if it's not mine but some kind of truth that I'm, inexpertly, perceiving and recounting. What an odd thing, the brain. Processing away on auto pilot, it barely allows my consciousness a look in. Most of it comes in moments when, free of distractions, I am able to empty my mind of other things, never when I'm sitting at the keyboard. So my head fills with whole chunks, which I then later must put into words, sentences and paragraphs.

I think I'll do some gardening, perhaps another chapter/section will pop into focus while I'm doing it.

March 17 - Paddy's your man

I wish all my readers a happy St Patrick's day, not because I believe in his sainthood but because I've shared my birthday with him all my life. Nice of everyone to wear green, but I wish it was being worn to symbolise green thinking rather than just the colour of the shamrock.

March 16 - there's murder and murder

The sisters of the murdered Irishman, Michael McCartney, stabbed in a pub brawl by members of the IRA, are on a celebrity bandwagon and loving it. As a lifelong student of hypocrisy, this is a fascinating example, as, incensed by the lack of witnesses coming forward, they campaign for justice for their brother, yet see nothing wrong with meeting and shaking hands with a mass murderer responsible for the killing of a hundred thousand Iraqis, many of them children. The monkey of course is only too pleased to join the IRA bashing; any murdering that isn't licensed state murdering is to be discouraged. Sinn Fein gets punished for something it isn't responsible for by being snubbed by all the usual Irish-supporting suspects like 'Chapaquidic' Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, and one is led to the conclusion that this is all a secret agenda to wipe out all the progress that's been made over decades to resolve the Irish problem. If it had been sorted out long ago and gobshites like Paisley silenced, there probably wouldn't be an IRA today, but the dishonest dealings of British politicians of all persuasions towards the genuine and generous attempts over decades by Sinn Fein to resolve things have ensured the IRA's continued recruitment.

The allure of celebrity to ordinary working-class people is all too easy to see, and Martin McGuiness's warning to the sisters to be careful of being used was routinely misinterpreted by all the British media as a veiled threat, when he was only trying to warn them that there are people who would use their grief for their own ends, and that sympathy for them could be jeopardised if they were seen to be working against republican interests by associating with undesirables. So taken up with their new celebrity status, they seem oblivious to anything of the kind, and thus are willing to shake the hand of the mass murderer. One of them was even wearing a dead animal round her shoulders at an evening do, in the mistaken belief it made her attractive. Only bitches wear fur. They have now entered the realms of a news phenomenon, and used to put down republicans at every opportunity. With most murders, if a suspect exists they are usually arrested and 'helping the police with their enquiries', but not in this case, despite the whole of northern Ireland knowing the names of the assailants. It seems that republicans have to become witnesses and give information to the hated Ulster police, which may have changed their name and included a few catholics, but it takes more than that to wipe out a culture of mistrust. It costs Bush nothing to give a little pay back to Blair for all he's done for him.

It seems the Chief Scientific Officer, advisor to the government, shares my opinion that bird flu could break out of Asia at any time, and he thinks the government isn't treating it seriously enough. When do politicians ever have the foresight to act rather than react? This coincides with the media going overboard about China's 'economic miracle' in other words, massive industrialisation, the final death knell for any chance we can tackle global warming, as they get most of their energy from coal. So it's like the industrial revolution in Europe and America all over again, but accomplished in the space of a few years rather than a hundred. Evolution dictates that a species either adapts or faces extinction, I think we're well down that road.

March 15 - dogma with a dog collar

What is it about professional frock-wearing men that they think they have the right to force their opinion on women's affairs. Now the ancient, raddled 'cardinal' Murphy O'Connor, so called head of the catholic church in Britain, who favours purple frocks, has launched himself into the public arena with a statement that politicians should have their views on abortion questioned, and he'd like to see the UK go the way of the US with religious fantasists exerting pressure on politicians, as if they are the only people with morality. These deranged micro-brains of religion are so limited in imagination that it's difficult sometimes to remember they're sentient beings and should be treated with a modicum of respect, at least as much as one gives to other apes. I'm sure if scientists started strapping them into chairs and experimenting on them I would be opposed to it, but as for having opinions on what a woman should be allowed to do with her own body, I think they should mind their own business. Nobody but the woman concerned has the right to decide whether she has an abortion or not, period. Professional celibates have the least right to an opinion on the matter than most. It's part of the rise of religious fundamentalism that is creeping everywhere, so that religious loonies like Blair think we should have a law making criticising someone's religion a criminal offence, Sikhs think they can trample on free speech and freedom of expression, Christians think they can stop a play, and Muslims think they can ban books that upset them. I know Mel Gibson's sadism flick about the fictional character Jesus would piss me off, so I won't go and watch it. Why can't they do the same?

March 11 - it takes a radioactive mind

Australian scientists have found that deforestation along the Amazon River was reducing rainfall and causing climate change in the region.
A study in the Amazon found that a loss of forests meant less water evaporated back into the atmosphere, resulting in less rainfall, said Ann Henderson-Sellers, director of environment at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization. Truly amazing! Something environmentalists have known for decades, nuclear scientists have now discovered for themselves by studying heavy water molecules. 'The bottom line is for the first time we can tell the difference between moisture that has been transpired through the plants, and water that has come through the rest of the water cycle,' she said. 'Trees play a critical role in moving heavy-water molecules through the cycle. This is the first demonstration that deforestation has an observable affect on rainfall.' Well, they could have used their eyes and brains, but I guess that's far too simple and non-technical for nuclear scientists to contemplate. It's not real science unless you have to use loads of expensive equipment and have funding for a three year study. I expect discovering something as self evident comes with being a nuclear scientist, in a few more decades they'll discover that nuclear waste hangs around for millions of year and is probably not a good idea. Next project is to see if eggs can be sucked and then to teach their grandmothers how to do it.

I definitely hate Blair more than I hated Thatcher. This must be true of many people, most especially former Labour Party members who have left in thousands, betrayed by the oily Mancunian candidate, and who must be apoplectic with rage at the betrayal of their party. To call him a liar is to understate massively. This creep makes your average habitual liar look and sound like a naive amateur. So drunk on power is he that he seems to be genuinely perplexed as to why everyone isn't falling over themselves to believe every lie he says, and to elect him world emperor in a show of overwhelming love and devotion. When the Labour Party finally awakes from the sleep he induced, it will be too late to reclaim anything of the radical history and past triumphs of a once proud and dedicated party devoted to social justice. The governement gang are still, as I write, trying to bully their way through, and it is a stunning indictment that our democracy is being defended by the Tory Party and the Lords, the only ones to stand in the way of scrapping 800 years of everyone's right to a trial since Magna Carta.

Spain, despite having experienced an actual terrorist attack which killed hundreds and injured thousands and brought down the war-supporting government, would not consider enacting legislation of this kind, their government is socialist, yet is not alone. This rubbishing of the rule of law sets us apart from the rest of Europe yet again. My feeling is that if there were any capability to inflict harm on Bush's closest ally, it would have happened by now. The worldwide Islamic conspiracy that Blair constantly invokes as excuse for authoritarianism clearly doesn't exist. It's the latest bogeyman to scare people with, and the British public don't seem to be convinced. If an attack is going to happen, nothing they do will prevent it anyway, certainly not making everyone carry identity cards.

Now Blair is claiming that attempts to amend the proposed law to include a review in a year is giving a message to terrorists around the world, who are supposedly just waiting to see if the UK passes it without amendment before heading for the UK with suitcases of explosives. All those who oppose what he wants are therefore putting the country in jeapardy and are, by inference, unpatriotic. Clearly the attitude of a scoundrel or madman.

March 10 - 1984 in all but date

We seem to be spiraling into an increasingly Kafka-esque world. While a fight ensues in parliament over the proposed legislation to lock both foreigners and UK citizens suspected of being terrorists up without charge or trial, to confine them to house arrest and forbid them to make phone calls, those held illegally by the UK state who were freed by a judge, are being subjected to all these things, pending Blair succeeding in bullying the elected representatives and even the lords into allowing him to take on yet more powers. He's clearly insane, he recognises no one else's point of view and is so convinced he's right, that he accuses those who wish to protect the traditional rights to freedom of wishing to go soft on terrorism, even though the threat is indeterminate, and possibly non-existent. Like the nazis he has infected those in his immediate gang with the same disregard for human rights. Terrorism is just a handy hook to hang all manner of anti-democratic measures that the criminally power mad wish to impose. If they are found to be acting illegally, they bring out a new law which makes it legal, and excuse it as action to protect us. Perhaps that's why the Northern Ireland situation has been manipulated to go pear shaped, they can add that to the terrorist threat and tighten the straightjacket a bit more. A bomb in England and they could start locking up thousands of Irish people again, and have armed troops on the streets ... oh no, they never went away.

Meanwhile, in the normal world, the blackbird female must be building a palace, as she's still going to and from every few minutes with beakfulls of building materials, among them feathers so it must be nearing completion. The dog hair we left lying about has been snapped up and the dogs are getting more brushing than usual, pity it's too cold to shave them.

March 9 - design or evolution

Although there's no evidence of the existance of god, I've come to the conclusion thet IF god exists, she's female. I come to this conclusion not out of the usual Earth mother/Gaia/goddess line of politically corrected thinking, but on a fundamental and serious design fault which I feel only a female deity could have been responsible for. I refer to the existance of the testicles outside the body in all mammals. To put the most pain-sensitive part of the male anatomy in a little sack dangled outside the body seems to me to be either a cruel sense of humour, or an oversight, which I feel a male god just wouldn't have made.

The spleen doesn't hang around flopping against the legs; the kidneys are neatly stashed away in a warm comfortable spot in the abdomen; the liver resides in safety, but the gonads hang around waiting to be kicked, snagged on anything at the right height, caught in zips, and ever liable to escape the bounds of underwear.

It can only be the total lack of understanding by females of the intense and mind-destroying pain, leading to total incapacitation, that can be caused by the merest blow to this wrinkled walnut purse, which makes rape possible. My question would always be 'why didn't you kick him hard between the legs?' I think all girls should be taught this along with a few tips on how to deliver a nut-crushing blow before they grow up.

Speaking of wrinkled walnuts, news out today that commemorative stamps are going to appear for the marriage of mangy old wrinklies Charly and Camilla. Even philatelists will shrink from owning them. Shaping up perhaps to be a seminal point in the history of the UK monarchy with two thirds not wanting him as King, and 99% not wanting her as anything but royal boot. With the furore over the wedding and his position, if he becomes king, as head of the Church of England, it could still all end in tears, and could provide an opportunity for a break. A referendum on a republic might even be in the offing.

March 2 - nest building

There's an arch of ivy in the garden, an entrance to the lawn, and here a pair of blackbirds have decided will be just the place to build this year's nest. The male has visited a couple of times, presumably to give his advice, and the female has been hard at work, appearing every few minutes with a beakfull of assorted natural fibres and disappearing into the leaves at exactly the same place, always exiting from a place lower down, clearly front and back doors. The fact that bread is daily put down beneath the arch might have something to do with this location decision. I shall look forward to seeing the young, and doubtless feeding them all summer. A large number of bird species visit, each with their own needs. Finches and tits feed from the hanging nut feeder, always kept topped up, a magpie flies into the lilac tree to first check out it's safe before visiting the bird table where bread, grain and pastry are usually to be found, and a jay finds plenty on the ground where the others have spilled it. Sparrows are always present, and thrushes, jays and warblers are occasional visitors. I can't imagine what it would be like for the air not to be full of bird song.

Despite a few flurries of half-hearted snow, the daffodils are all out now, and everything else will soon join them and the land will be green again. Must plant some tub vegetables for fresh, healthy salads and root vegetables later in the year. We lost the fig tree this year, obviously something wrong. But the olive is healthy in the summer house and will be enormous if it grows the same amount this year at the front of the house where, south facing, it can sit in the sun all day and dream of southern Europe.

March 1 - in the time of influenza

People who work from home are 90% less likely to be at risk from a flu pandemic than those who travel and work in the public arena. I made that up of course, but it's likely to be more or less true. Travelling to Asia is likely to increase the chances of getting it, it's the way it will spread. As viruses mutate frequently, it's impossible to know which strain it is until it's off around the planet, so the only prophylactic is a general anti-viral drug which helps with the symptoms. As the bird flu currently out and infecting not just birds but humans and other animals in Asia is invariably fatal, it strikes me this is akin to taking an aspirin, more comfort than practical assistance.

I plan to stock up on food in the coming months so that, when it eventually does turn into a pandemic, I can keep the door shut and continue working. Supermarkets will be a prime infection locus as will public transport and shopping malls. Having only a shaky memory of the last pandemic of a relatively non-lethal flu virus in the fifties, and only historical knowledge of the previous one, I am nonetheless aware that it will spread rapidly, and, as doctors don't even know the symptoms likely to be presented, there will have to be a national plan to batten it down by restricting movement. This could have an effect on the economy, but better to have a workforce more or less intact, than one halved.



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