People who really care about Great Britain

You can’t be an environmentalist without being a hypocrite. It’s obvious why: we aspire to something which we can’t easily achieve. If it was easy, you wouldn’t need environmentalists. If you didn’t aspire to it, you wouldn’t be true. Today the darkest greens need broadband and laptops to communicate with, even if they might abhor some of the ramifications of the internet.

Here is a parallel, closer to Brexit. A chap I was at school with, Robert Loomes, based in Stamford, Lincs, makes a wristwatch manufactured entirely in Britain. It is a true, British product we can be proud of. But is the white gold mined in Britain with British-built machines? No, and that does not matter. Principles have to be applied within reason – pushing the conventional borders but not to the point of impossibility or insanity.

If you are well informed, you understand that life on the planet is a fiendishly complex web of living organisms interacting. You pull out one part of that web and you weaken it in some way. The more parts you pull out, the more you weaken it, until the thing collapses. Anyone who played jenga (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenga) would know about that; or a carpet maker – you can remove threads and no-one will notice, until the point that you have no carpet anymore.

Enmeshed in that web of life is real ale and village greens with cricket and beef-eaters, and bulldogs and even Morris Dancers. And not just facile examples, but the food that feeds working people across the country, the air they breathe, the water that gives them life. Everything that is Great Britain is by definition a subset of the life on the planet.

If you are a reasonable and intelligent person, you recognise that. You would not deride and undermine the people who are trying to sustain the fabric and bedrock of the existence which you cherish. Actually, they cherish the same things as Nigel Farage does. The difference is that they actually want to protect those things fundamentally, not just dream about them.

Before divert attention from the key issues, by mocking the way that environmentalists travel, it is important that Nigel Farage grows up a bit and starts to understand the substance of what they are saying. And then encourage his followers to do the same. It would be a service to them and their children.

It is a sign of limited imagination and understanding to believe that Conservative living or even “right wing values” are incompatible with caring for the planet. There are plenty of Conservative philosophers with a robust case for being green. Take the British thinker, Roger Scruton, for example.

I know that some people bristle at the idea of people “telling them what to do”. It hits their identities full on, because their sense of personal sovereignty assumes they are doing everything right anyway and no outsider should impose on their “freedom”.

It doesn’t take much quiet reflection to see it differently – if my freedom is unnecessarily fucking up someone else’s or something else’s freedom, then any reasonable person recognises that communication, compromise and compassion might be needed. If it takes someone else to draw that to my attention, of course I should listen. If I am about to reverse into an old lady, I should be glad that someone points it out to me (even if that person were a serial killer, for that matter).

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Roger Hallam’s guide to the quickest route to hell

I was resting from scything practice in the garden, appropriately enough, and saw that a friend was meeting Roger Hallam who founded Extinction Rebellion. He urged me to watch a video of one of Roger’s speeches.

I sat and watched a 1 hour 8 minute video and recommend it to everyone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgFc4Zhvjtg even if the beginning is a bit slow. Start at 3 minutes.

But there are lots of videos, just search “roger hallam extinction rebellion” if you haven’t seen him yet.

This is a section of his argument:

-          We have already locked in temperature rises of 2.2 degrees, despite what politicians and UN people and scientists say

-          1.2 degrees has already happened

-          Melting of icecaps is unavoidable and that causes an extra 0.5 degrees of warming

-          The emissions between now and stopping emitting in some years’ time will cause further 0.5 degrees warming

-          This takes us to 2.2 degrees

-          As the world gets warmer, you get more water vapour in the sky. For every degree of warming, extra water vapour adds a further degree because it holds heat. So that gets us to 3.2 degrees

-          If you go over 3 degrees then the Amazon is going to burn down; that will add 1.5 degrees

-          1.2+0.5+0.5+1.0+1.5=4.7 degrees

These are average temperatures, and the centre of continents heats twice as much as the coast, so average 2 degrees warming means 4 degrees in the middle of continents.

Then we won’t have enough food:

-          corn yields fall by 15% for every 1 degree increase in temperature

-          If you have 4 degrees of warming, that’s 60% fall in corn production

-          All civilisations grow and survive because they have storable grains

-          If your food production falls by half, you don’t have storable surplus

-          We are looking at falls in grain yields over the next ten to fifteen years

-          We are looking at societal collapse in that time scale.

(This is all in less time than it takes to build a nuclear power station. This means that nuclear is not a viable answer to tackling climate change. We won’t be able to feed the chaps building the plant.)

It gets more scary:

-          The planet moves between two stable states.

-          One, with polar ice, with an average temperature of 12 degrees.

-          Another, with an average temperature of 23 degrees.

-          In the hotter state, to which we are moving, there is no wind.

-          As a result the oceans become still

-          As a result emissions of noxious nitrate-sulphite gases [the name was not clear - check 29:50] fill the atmosphere

-          Mammals cannot survive this gas in the air. Humans are mammals.

-          End of.

All this within not many years.

This is worth bearing in mind when you hear cheery talk from government officials and big companies about cutting emissions by 2050 and all that. They are spouting irresponsible rubbish. Trying to sugarcoat a nasty, violent, scary and uncontrollable future.

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Rearranging nation states

Another issue raised by Bolsonaro’s crimes is how the concept of the Nation State can stop being useful to humans.

Legally the Amazon belongs to Brasil and some other South American countries. But the Amazon is bigger than Brasil – it has global importance and we are all affected by its fate. Does that mean the Brasil owes everyone some duty of care in its management? Who can enforce that duty of care? There seems to be something missing because it is not being enforced.

Now think of a human body. One day you wake up, feeling a bit chesty, and suddenly your lungs say: “We’ve had enough. We’re declaring independence. And we’re taking Sundays off.”

“Whaaaa?” You say – in unison with all the other organs. “You can’t do that. We need you. And you need the rest of us.”

“We’ll see about that,” says the left lung. “Yeah, we will,” adds the right lung. “We are clearly definable independent organs and we have the right to do what we want with ourselves.”

“Hmm,” thinks the heart to itself. “Not a bad idea. I might try that myself some day.”

“Yeah, me, too,” pipes up the appendix which can hear the thoughts of other organs.

“Fuck off,” bark the bowels, “noone needs you. you snively twat.”

And so on.

Perhaps we need to revise how we arrange nation states.

The state should not include ownership of the land and natural resources where it happens to be organised. It sits on top of the land natural resources and holds it in trust for the Living Planet. The natural resources are the interconnected living system of which all people and other life forms are part.

You are welcome to use the natural resources, but you need to put them back in good shape when you are done.

I think this is what indigenous people figured out years ago. It is obviously no longer relevant but might be useful for when life is reestablished on the planet and forms of political organisation get discussed.

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Taking climate change seriously: regime change, state failure and anarchy

Regime change is where a country or coalition of countries intervene in another country where the leaders are engaging in genocide, crimes against humanity and so forth. Say, hypothetically, a small, rogue state was expanding its chemical industry. It builds a factory capable of producing annually 20 million tonnes of CFC13, a greenhouse gas 14,000 times more potent than CO2.

The rogue state, a thorn in the side of the rest of the world, then says: “When the factory is ready, I’m going to vent 20 million tonnes of CFC13 into the atmosphere every year. That’s gonna fry you all. Unless you pay me (he puts his little finger to the side of his mouth) … one hundred billion dollars a year not to.”

Scientists calculate that if the rogue leader carried out his threat, the ensuing warming would cause more suffering to humanity than previously disposed-of despots Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi and Milosevics together.

After failed, angry diplomacy, the UN agrees on a resolution to dismantle the rogue regime. Even the US voted for it! Although they don’t believe in the greenhouse effect, they do relish the chance to boost the military-industrial complex.

The principle is established that knowingly and wilfully causing the additional emissions of billions of tonnes CO2e of greenhouse gases is likely to cause additional suffering to millions of people and must therefore be prevented.

So in go the cruise missiles and take out the leaders of the rogue state.

It is in this light that I consider Brasil under Bolsonaro which is now deliberately and recklessly ramping up the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon is one of the world’s lungs and a fundamental part of the global ecosystem, of life on Earth. Its destruction will add significantly to climate change – perhaps another 1.5 degrees of warming – and loss of innumerable living species.

Bolsonaro’s reckless, pugnacious encouragement of an acceleration in the destruction of the Amazon forest is a serious crime. Steadily it becomes a crime against humanity. Following the logic of the CFC13 instance, the prospect of regime change must come into focus.

I don’t see any political leader in the world with the clout or integrity to push this. This raises a further issue. If the state completely fails in its moral duties, are citizens morally obliged and entitled to step in to do the state’s dirty work?

Anarchy could ensue. But anarchy might just be the best organisational model for tackling the climate emergency just now.

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T3-PIP: the small payment which could save the world…

I have been curious about the idea of lots and lots of small, regular payments by lots of people adding up to a big sum of money. And then this money being put towards saving Planet Earth from man’s desecration.

I remember from accountancy exams that it is best to tax necessities because price elasticity of demand is low. Or is that high? The point being, if people have to pay more for bread, they still buy it because they really need to eat.

I also know that if you want to raise a levy, you don’t call it a tax because right-wing people will reject it. Something like “community contribution” is better framing for Conservatives. Or an insurance premium because that sounds like business.

A lesson from the EU Emissions Trading System is that you place burdens on countable numbers of things (e.g. power stations) rather than uncountable (e.g. cars). And preferably things which ordinary people don’t really care for (e.g. fossil fuel companies and not cars).

The good news is that the kind of money needed to save the planet is very doable. Experts say that $1trn a year would be ample to implement direct air capture to suck up all the CO2 emissions and more. A few hundred billion a year invested in restoration of soils, forests and wetlands would also make a massive dint in global emissions.

From all this emerges T3-PIP. Yup, a silly name.

T3-PIP stands for Telecom Trillion for Trees (that’s the T3 bit) Planetary Insurance Premium.

Anyone who spent time on a telecom’s company telephone helpdesk has a healthy loathing for the telecom sector. Tick – suitable for political bullying.

Countable number of regulated entities. Tick – there are a few big companies dealing with data in each country.

Regular payments by lots of people. Tick – there are like four billion (4,000,000,000) mobile phone subscriptions in the world.

Budapest metro 4, October 2017: some of the four billion subscribers.

Small amounts. Tick – Say, you have four billion with a monthly contribution of $5.21 per subscription, you raise 4,000,000,000 x 12 x 5.21 = $250bn each year. I am saying, controversially, that $5 a month is a small amount for someone to pay for breaking the back of saving the planet’s biodiversity and climate.

Low elasticity. Tick – We need our datastreaming fix. Datastreaming now props up the bottom of the Maslow pyramid.

"And now tell them to add data-streaming underneath"

The charge would be borne by telecom companies and raised on megabytes of voice or data transmitted. In this way it would be progressive since marginal use of data is generally trivial. If the use is important, then people will pay for it.

The funds thus raised are then spent mainly on the large-scale restoration of soils, forests and wetlands, with a portion allocated to direct air capture.

The organisation of the whole thing would have to be outside the hands of politicians and policy-makers. It would have to be arranged by a cartel of the world’s large companies dealing in data. A cartel so powerful and with such noble intent, than it would be impossible for competition authorities to summon the political will to contest it.

Now that several countries have declared a climate emergency, I think it is timely to introduce this scheme.

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