Wildfires

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It’s not even March and the UK is burning.  The photos of Saddleworth Moor are extraordinary. So, here we are, the Moors are already burning, means that not only are temperatures high but rainfall too has been so low that the grassland can catch even in February. As the Guardian Newspaper put it “The fire, near Marsden, spread across an area of 1.5 sq miles and could be seen from miles away as crews from across the region battled through the night to contain it. Adam Greenwood, a station manager at West Yorkshire fire and rescue service, said the blaze was “one of the highest flame fronts we have seen” and had spread rapidly due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather“.

In the same period we also have school children striking in order to point out to the adults around the table that this laissez-faire, business-as-usual attitude, is simply not working. It is not working for the school children and it is not actually working for the adults either. It is just that the adults don’t seem to be able to stop themselves. On this occasion, the Prime Ministers office saidit was good that pupils are politically “engaged” but argued that they need to be in school to become the future professionals who can help solve climate change”.

As one Guardian journalist pointed out elsewhereFor 30 years scientists have been making clear the catastrophic and inevitable consequences of climate change. CO2 emissions are altering our planet, and it will lead to humanity’s destruction unless we do something about it”. Honestly, how many PhDs does it take to state the obvious? Clearly, the government doesn’t listen to the folks with PhDs either, so why bother going through all that education just to have the can kicked even further down the road?

Only today, eco-protesters — who created an eco-village on the proposed site of the disputed third runway at Britain’s Heathrow Airport — were forced out of their camp by bailiffs.

To the kids, and indeed to most sane people, it is obvious that more air-traffic over London is not the answer. In fact, it is exactly part of the problem. Even the ex-Mayor of London who had vehemently opposed the new runway managed to absent himself from the government vote which passed the plan last year. In the actual vote, a total of 415 MPs backed the proposal to expand Heathrow, while 119 voted against it. This gave the government a huge majority of 296 for the plan, with Conservative MPs on a three-line whip to support the third runway. (Note — defying a three-line whip is very serious, and can result in the whip being withdrawn from an MP or Lord. This means that the Member is effectively expelled from their party but keeps their seat and must sit as an independent until the whip is restored.) The project was thus voted by a 296 majority.

We don’t seem to learn. Time is running out and the systems of governance have to start taking the situation on board. We simply cannot go on like this.

For the moment change has at least been gradual. But for anyone who knows anything about complex systems, they also know that systems are buffered until they reach saturation. At this point, gradual change can become rapid. We all did this in our school chemistry class by looking at pH and the behavior of a buffer. You add a drop of acid and nothing happens. Then a drop more. Then a few drops more. The pH remains almost constant. And then, at one very specific point, the pH changes radically. We have reached the buffering capacity of the buffer. And then things change. Fast. No more capacity to absorb is left. We have pushed the system as far as it can cope. This is clearly where we are heading with the environment. The children are clearly awake. But when the adults?

In my next article, the first of a new series, we will be addressing The question of Weather Magic and Shamanic responses to climate change. 

 


 

Image credits:
This image is used to illustrate a wildfire but did not come from Saddleworth Moor as all photos of this tragic event are copyright to agencies or press. I thank Manfred Morgner for sharing his photo on Wikimedia and allowing others to use it under the creative commons.

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