Sunday, November 11, 2007

An inconvenient possibility

Spain shown perils of climate change is a piece filed by Paul Hamilos in Madrid, on a new Greenpeace publication - Photoclima - a wake-up call on the potential impact of climate change in our back yard. Here are digitally retouched pictures of La Manga del Mar in Murcia to show before (top) and after (below) a rise in sea level. Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images

Damn! There goes my happy ever after. While I was living in a desert country, and dreaming of a saner way of life, far from the magnificent hubris of one of the least sustainable cities on earth, the European Environmental Agency was concluding that the Iberian Peninsula would be the part of Europe most affected by climate change.

This was in 2004, but I came across a rehash of the study a couple of weeks ago (Can't remember where.) which stated that, three years on, Spain remains dangerously complacent about this. Apparently,

"Climate change is expected to boost yields for most crops in most parts of Europe over the coming decades. The magnitude of this effect is still uncertain and depends on the climate scenario and how agriculture adapts to climate change. Estimations show yield increases of 9 % to 35 % for wheat by 2050.
The largest increases in yield could occur in southern Europe, particularly northern Spain, southern France, Italy and Greece. Relatively large yield increases (3-4 t/ha) may also occur in Scandinavia. In the rest of Europe, yields could be 1-3 t/ha greater than at present. There are small areas where yields are projected to decrease by as much as 3 t/ha, such as southern Spain".
However, these potential gains could be more than cancelled out in southern Spain by drastic fall in rainfall. "

Hmm..... Should I be learning Scandiwegian..............?
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, Leo Hickman writes in his ethical living column :

"Rather predictably, talk of "eco fatigue" is beginning to surface. An ICM survey of 2,000 British adults found recently that 23% of those surveyed admitted they were "bored with eco news". You could say 77% are still engaged, but it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that some have gone from "aware" to "despair" in a very short period of time.

What has caused this? Earlier this year, Professor Mike Hulme, then director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, warned scientists and the media against the use of hyperbolic language when speaking about climate change scenarios. In particular, he warned against using the words "disaster", "apocalypse" and "catastrophe". His own research showed that such terms generated apathy among the intended audience. "Sod it," people would conclude, "we all might as well live for the now, then. What time does Top Gear start?"

Another factor I sense playing its part in generating "eco fatigue" is that some people clearly see it as a passing fashion. .... Tellingly, the ICM survey found that 18% of those surveyed admitted to exaggerating their commitment to environmentally friendly lifestyle choices because it is "fashionable".

(uhuh..... Mira! La vida en verde en AR La revista de Ana Rosa.....)

Actually, that's a cheap shot at a rather good magazine, and its genuine effort to persuade us consumers that living green can be sexy and fun. Let's face it, when we live in cities, at city pace, and almost entirely cut off from the rhythms and details of the natural world, the natural world becomes unreal, and frozen in time too - of course it remains exactly as it was when we were children. Doesn't it? So the softly-softly approach to changing our shopping habits is a step in the right direction. But I think we're going to have to take bigger steps.

Back to Leo......

Or is "eco fatigue" just a classic symptom of denial? The alarm clock is buzzing away, but we'd rather hit the snooze button than face the day ahead. All the classic signs are evident: transference ("our emissions are tiny compared to China's"); minimisation ("personally, I can't wait till it's 2C warmer"); falsifiability ("you can't prove 100% that we're to blame"); false memory ("summers were always much hotter when I was a kid"); diversion ("there are far more pressing things to worry about in this world than climate change"); and rationalisation ("I work bloody hard, so I damn well deserve my long-haul holidays")."

Does anyone else see themselves in there?

If you can't get out to enjoy the real thing, (and I can't either, right now..) IberiaNature shows what we're missing. Meanwhile, is autumn in Madrid just beautiful?


Keefieboy said...

Be interesting to see what Dubai looks like with the sea level a couple of metres higher...

MamaDuck said...

Oh behave!!!!!!

nzm said...

I agree with the Eco Fatigue and Nigel Lawson does too!

He comes up with a better idea where countries should be investing in sea and flood defences rather than trying to cool the planet.

Hey - maybe that's what Dubai is actually doing - see this post on Seabee's blog! :-)

MamaDuck said...

Interesting - and the links, too.

When our son was small, I became concerned that so many children's tv programmes - from across the spectrum of quality and integrity - were about environmental destruction. (I'm sure I've written about this before.)

The plot was always the same. Cheerful,good-hearted, anthropomorphic animals in delightful natural environments would engage attention and sympathy with their ideal moral codes and social structures; and then their own personal apocalypse would begin.

Whether the cause was industrial waste pouring into a river, or green site clearance for a Hypermarket or Fast Food Restaurant, the digger/dumper/pick-up was always driven by a huge indifferent Human in big boots, who would rip and hammer in awful silhouette,then roar away, leaving a shaken crowd of beautifully drawn beasties gazing baffled at a fag end left smoking in the crater of a bootprint. Cue Animal Exodus.

Richard Adams had got there years earlier, with Watership Down, but at the beginning of the 90s, The Animals of Farthing Wood put a new four-legged Moses in the Wilderness, leading his tribe in their search for the Promised Land. The resourceful animals would eventually find their new home, but Man never learnt anything, and over on the other channel, after the break, there would be another cartoon with the same message.

It bothered me that there was never any suggestion that anything could be improved - except what was implicit in the animals' society and behaviour - and that (ref the Guardian piece) Aware would rapidly beome Despair.

Well, sixteen years later, I wonder what sort of impact that sort of programming (Hmm) had on the generation now turning 20. Probably not as much as the continuing uncertainty, debate and anxiety on climate change. Is consumerism and the obsession with celebrity a reflection of unacknowledged despair, the social fall-out from Thatcherism, or part of the downward turn in the normal rise and fall of civilisations - the human version of Natural Selection? Nero downloading Coldplay to his iPod.

Or am I looking for patterns in something entirely random, or at least unprecedented?