The Point of No Return

Eric Holthaus, "The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here," Rolling Stone, August 5, 2013.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public's attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren't cut, "We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization" . . . .

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That's because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that's also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children's Trust, a legal advocacy organization that's filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn't just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it's also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Drama Withdrawal

Drama Withdrawal

Some time ago Rick decided that he was suffering from drama withdrawal and went and joined Orpington Rep, one of the local amdram societies. They welcomed him with open arms and within a few months he had played a murderer and a hero. The second was in The Woman in White, for which he enlisted me as a wardrobe mistress. They're fitting in another show before he goes off to university - three comedy one-acters - and I was invited to the read-through. I pointed out that I'm a musician, not an actress. "Come on, it'll be a laugh," said Rick. So I came, and it was. And I found myself cast as a Wicked Stepmother. How did that happen?

The Age of Uncertainty

The Age of Uncertainty

To sit over a foolish or even a wise novel when the daily duties of life demand our attention is absolutely wicked. We have seen, in our own life, the mother of a family devote herself to novel reading.

The father was at sea in the merchant service. A boy, a girl, and the house demanded the wife's attention. The children were neglected, dirty, ragged, untaught, running about the roads; the house was dirty beyound description, for there was but one servant, who naturally, followed her mistress's example.

The wife could not make her income suffice her, because no one watched against waste or dishonesty in the kitchen, and her husband, when he came home from sea, was arrested for her debts.

The son, utterly ruined, ran away from school, and finally disappeared in Australia. The daughter, trained only in the unreal folly of novels, married secretly a man much below her father's station - he was also an hereditary madman!

When the mother of the boy and girl married, she had been a lovely, clever girl. But novel reading, like intoxication, bought misery on her and on two following generations.

Fallout for Tony Blair

William Hoge, "Blair Is So Down He's Up" (New York Times, 3/23/03):

Mr. Blair himself has remained steadfastly loyal to Mr. Bush in private as well as in public, but high-ranking members of his government say that the blunt comments that have come out of Washington have repeatedly undermined their efforts to reason with critics of America here.

In contrast to the custom in Washington of keeping presidents at a distance from forums and audiences that might embarrass them, Mr. Blair has actively sought out opponents to try to press home the unpopular American position. He has withstood heckling and a peculiar British form of speaker abuse known as slow hand-clapping. . . .

Britain, a country of 60 million people who buy 14 million newspapers a day, has one of the world's most aggressively competitive presses, and British newspapers are hard on prime ministers in normal times. In the current political atmosphere of Labor domination, they have taken on an added edge, assigning themselves the role of the opposition in British political life that the weakened Conservative Party is unable to fulfill.

But last week there was a notable break in the harsh treatment. The day after Mr. Blair gave the speech of his life in the House of Commons and managed to contain the Labor rebellion, The Independent, a relentless enemy of his war stance, published an editorial with unblushing language suggesting that Mr. Blair's lonely struggle, which seemed to be leaving him isolated and adrift, may have instead worn down his detractors and earned him begrudging respect.

March 22 Protests in Britain

Marcus Tanner on the 3/22 protests in Britain (The Independent, 3/23/03)

Among the veterans of these affairs, the lean, ferrety-faced men with their megaphone voices and mass- produced slogans about socialism and Palestine, there were droves of representatives from that famous if elusive constituency known as Middle England -- worried-looking families wrestling with the business of carrying a placard in one hand and a rolled-up "quality" newspaper under one arm, while keeping pushchairs and toddlers in order.

Protests: Britain

Claire Phipps on youthful protesters in Britain (Guardian, 3/22/03):

They've been marching, shouting and demanding to be heard - it's only the school uniforms that mark them out as a new kind of political protester. In a week of unprecedented action, the tactics employed by tens of thousands of schoolchildren have taken the older (and supposedly wiser) of us aback. From the 1,000 pupils who staged a demonstration in their school grounds at St Dunstan's, Glastonbury, to the 300 ambitious 12- to 15-year-olds who attempted to occupy Edinburgh Castle, teenagers are not waiting for anyone to tell them what to do.

Robin Cook Resignation

Robin Cook in The Guardian, 3/18/03, explaining why he resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet:

The harsh reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading member. Not Nato. Not the EU. And now not the security council. To end up in such diplomatic isolation is a serious reverse. Only a year ago we and the US were part of a coalition against terrorism which was wider and more diverse than I would previously have thought possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition. . . .

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create? And why is it necessary to resort to war this week while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is frustrated by the presence of UN inspectors?

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to disarm, and our patience is exhausted. Yet it is over 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply. What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops to action in Iraq.