Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Dolphin story

Posted 12 Mar 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, General

Here’s the feel good video hit of the Spring – but it comes with a sad story. Not only have scientists never really quite figured out why  normally intelligent dolphins occasionally swim towards the shoreline and strand themselves on the sand, but this year has seen a massive (and unexplained) rise in dolphin beachings. In the Cape Cod, by way of example, when normally around a dozen beachings occur per spring, the numbers have exceeded 100 since the start of January. Awful. Luckily, sometimes, people are on hand to help – and help they do. Here’s what happened when a school of dolphins swam ashore in Brazil earlier this year.

Freebies that hurt

Posted 30 Sep 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

Good god I hate the Tories, but they’re not daft. Labour’s big policy before their conference was that under them students would pay £6,000 a year, 3k more than their manifesto outlines. The tories’ two announcements have been ‘don’t worry about recycling‘ and ‘drive faster‘. Neither policy will make people’s lives any better, but here’s the key – people believe that they will. These are the kind of pre-conference promises that feel like freebies. Labour’s felt like a cost. That’s why I’m far from confident that Labour will win (outright) the next election. Bah.

On the (ridiculous) policy of more rubbish collections…. Sarah Ditum sums it up well in the Guardian.

Waste is awful. The Tories are so completely anti-waste. David Cameron has personally declared “war on waste”, meaning that it must be at least as bad as terror. From opposition to government, Conservative rhetoric has been marked by an insistence that other people – the Labour government, local authorities – have been leaking taxpayers’ money with jolly profligacy. And there’s a sturdy seam of moralising to all this: when Cameron gave his conference speech on government waste in 2008, he said “Britain needs good, honest housekeeping from the Conservatives”.

The only problem with that analogy is that, when it comes to the domestic level, the Tories are more than keen for everyone to overconsume, overspend and sling the excess in the wheelie bin. As secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles has been loudly berating councils for wastefulness – and equally noisy when it comes to defending the throwaway habits of individual households.

Last year, he told the Mail: “It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.” He criticised the use of “slop buckets” (or, as normal people might call them, “compost bins”). It earned him so much fin-flapping popular applause at the time that the Tories have returned to the “right to rubbish” theme again this year, ingeniously flourishing a surprise £250m to help fund weekly bin collections in England, just in time to get supporters warmed up for the conference.


Nuclear time lapse

Posted 16 Feb 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Technology

This graphic – a time-lapse map of every nuclear explosion since 1945 is simultaneously hypnotic, beautiful and deeply disconcerting. Frightening stuff, beautifully presented. Only one thing – why can’t I see Chernobyl in April 1986?! Do I have my dates wrong?

Caroline Lucas at St Nicholas Church, Brighton

Posted 22 Jan 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

Me and Lyndsey went to see Caroline Lucas giving a talk at a local church in Brighton last night, and it was very interesting indeed. Not a party political meeting at all, this was a chance for Caroline to bring some of her constituents up to speed on what she’s been up to since she was elected to Parliament and explain how she has been orienting herself in her new workplace.

The first observation made was terribly simple, and hardly original – what a likeable, down to earth and straightforward politician Caroline is. Although I and many other Brighton residents would in theory lean more towards having a Labour than a Green MP, she remains terrifically electable. What right-thinking, left leaning social democrat would not want her on their side? Well, doubtless many partisan politicos and local activists could find arguments against her, but like I say this was a largely apolitical meeting – more of a half-term report than anything – and on the first test there’s no faulting her.

Her default style is laid-back, plain-speaking, and at times wryly amused at the situation she finds herself in. As a new MP there are many things about Parliament which she makes no effort to disguise she finds pretty ludicrous. She clearly sees herself (and the majority of the new intake, she was at pains to point out) as being apart from the professional political class and, as such, well-placed to take on a reforming mantle. And it’s true that the only time she really feels like the kind of measured, career politician we’re so used to (and tired of) is when she talks and feels the need to illustrate every nuance with hand gestures, as if every point she makes is rendered understandable only by a pointed finger or a roll of the wrist. Goodness knows how politicians got their arguments across when their primary medium was radio.

Of her time so far, there was nothing shocking. She’s pleasantly surprised by how willing politicians from across the spectrum are to collaborate on shared ideas (she’s spent much of her time with rightwing Tories working on PR and Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Nuclear – hard to imagine which is less appealing), she’s tabled a few motions but not had much luck with legislation, and is perplexed at how antiquated our systems are compared to Brussels. She never ranted, but is firmly, rationally opposed to much of the cuts agenda and animated on the privatisation of the NHS. She struck me as exactly the sort of person we want us representing Brighton, and it is only a shame that she is isolated as the only Green MP.

Walking away afterwards, Lynds and I debated the point. As admirable as Lucas is, I argued, having an environmentally conscious Labour MP might actually prove more productive when it came to drafting legislation. Yes, Lyndsey agreed, but perhaps Caroline’s status makes her uniquely well-placed to collaborate across the benches. And limited though her influence may be, she acts as a lightning rod for attention, ensuring green issues far more coverage than a Labour representative might manage. Then, we wondered, who would find it easiest to gain an audience with Ed Miliband to discuss environmental matters? The leader of the Green party or a backbench Labour MP? We honestly didn’t know the answer.

Other residents – unsurprisingly – were more vexed with local questions. Every point, every subject, which Caroline raised was national; the NHS, green energy, the privatisation of our forests, Higher Education. Every point raised from the floor seemed to center round parking fines and council matters. Just once or twice I thought I detected her stopping her face from falling. Her mind is on bigger things. And her heart – on the evidence of last night’s relaxed chat – is in the right place.

Soar Power Station

Posted 09 Mar 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Photos

You can learn a lot about Ratcliffe-upon-Soar Power Station by browsing the internet. If you go to the E.ON site, for example, you can learn that it is “one of the most efficient coal fired power stations in the UK”, where serious attempts have been made to limit the scale of environmentally damaging consequences. Around the site – it’s just outside Nottingham – one can encounter:

“ancient and/or species rich hedgerows, cereal field margins, lowland calcareous grassland, lowland meadows, reed beds and lowland wood pastures and parkland, [as well as] the bullfinch, linnet and song thrush, [...] badgers, foxes, stoats, weasels and the brown hare [...] as well as a rich variety of insects including brown hawker, emperor and black tailed skimmer dragonflies.”

And do you know what, I find power stations rather wonderful looking, too – although my enthusiasm is tempered by some of the other facts one can find on the internet. Not mentioned on the E.ON site, but flagged heavily on the station’s Wikipedia entry, is the observation that Soar “emits some 8-10 million tonnes of CO2 annually, making it the 18th most polluting power station in Europe”. Not all rabbits hopping merrily over long grass, then.

I took this photograph from the train on my trip up to Nottingham (and fiddled with the colours a bit in iPhoto when I got back).

no more runways

Posted 16 Jan 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

Quite apart from the climate-related issues, Alex Thompson (of More4 news) made an excellent point about the foolishness of the government’s decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow, in last night’s Snowmail message.

He wrote:

Forget all the green stuff. It is simply this. The aviation business is contracting, not expanding, because of the current bust. Fact. If bust becomes boom more people travel, more people burn oil. Oil’s a diminishing resource, so the price goes up. So fewer people travel because fewer people can afford it. So in a bust aviation contracts – and it will in a boom as the oil runs out. They’re sunk either way. So who needs bigger airports?

That may be a pithy summary, but it’s a very accurate description of a very straightforward – but often misunderstood – argument.

wave pictures nearly carbon neutral

Posted 22 Oct 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Music

Surely making a play for being Britain’s hardest working bands, or just intent on wringing every last royalty out of their record deal (I’m sure it’s the former), the marvellous Wave Pictures have yet another new record out this week – the Pigeon EP. This would ordinarily be interesting in itself, for their ramshackle, naive and yearning songs have shone very brightly this year, but it’s particularly interesting in that the band are promoting the single as the ‘greenest single ever’.

In order to make what they hoped would be the world’s first carbon neutral EP, the band (and their engineer) walked to the solar powered studio where they recorded the four songs (actually made in tandem with fellow Moshi Moshi labelmates Slow Club), then uploaded the results directly to the internet afterwards. There’s no art work, no physical product, and no press-release to accompany it. Unfortunately they didn’t quite manage their aim of going fully carbon-neutral, as they needed to fire up their servers to deliver the songs to iTunes – but that aside it’s pretty impressive stuff.

What you really want to know, of course, is whether the songs are as good as those on the band’s wonderful Instant Coffee Baby LP, or the even better Just Like A Drummer single which followed it. No fear of disappointment here – on a couple of listens every song is a winner, but the best is Long Island, a live-favourite of such wondrous beauty that is was almost inexplicable that it wasn’t recorded for the album.

It’s been worth the wait though. The Wave Pictures are not just busy and environmentally aware, then, but also bloody brilliant.

vote tory, (don’t) go green

Posted 16 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

Shocking, ominous stuff from the Guardian:

David Cameron has failed to convince many of his MPs that man-made global warming is a serious problem, according to a poll that finds widespread sceptisicm across parliament about the issue.

A third of Tory MPs who responded to the survey questioned the existence of climate change and its link to human activity. Two-thirds said tackling climate change should not be a priority for local councils.

A significant number of MPs from other parties also told the survey they had doubts on the issue. Overall, the results suggest that up to a fifth of the MPs who have been debating the UK’s climate change bill do not understand, or choose to ignore, the science on which it is based.


going fishing

Posted 24 Jun 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, Environment, Observations

In Brighton – as in a lot of other cities, I’m sure – it’s quite common to turn a street corner and see, perched on a garden wall or outside someone’s gate, a box of possessions which are up for grabs. They’re usually books, sometimes CDs, occasionally unwanted gifts. Larger items occasionally appear; microwaves, book shelves, chairs. I usually stop and have a look. A while back I grabbed an ‘Indie Top 20′ VHS from a box on St. Michael’s Place. Recently Vic nabbed me a paperback copy of ‘Him With His Foot In His Mouth and other stories’ by Saul Bellow from a cardboard box on Compton avenue (which was much appreciated).

Last night me and my girlfriend went for a walk, idle in the summer sun, hoping we might find a pub and some cats to make friends with on the way (we did – The Chimney House, and a cat-caucus near Seven Dials, three podgy animals sat in conference, enjoying the weather). On the way I spotted a box of abandoned items and suddenly bent over, leafing through a box of abandoned items – mostly magazines.

“What on earth are you doing?”, my girlfriend asked.

I looked up at her, puzzled.

“Just seeing if there’s anything worth taking”, I replied, squinting up at her.

She looked at me with mild disgust.

“In someone’s recycling?”

I looked at the box, which had the Brighton and Hove council logo on its side; straightened my back; said nothing; and walked on.

a green 2008?

Posted 27 May 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

There’s an interesting piece on the Hii Dunia blog this week about John McCain and the possibility that the next US President will be an active defender of the environment. It’s a thoughtful, optimistic piece, and worth a read. The author, Daniel Furr, concludes:

“It is difficult to predict who will win the general election in November and how their administration will benefit the people of America. However; the environment is now a significant issue in American politics and all candidates have promised to defend the green agenda on the international stage. Both parties now understand the importance of the American role towards the climate of the planet. Regardless of the result: the future of America will be bright, prosperous and green”.

Do take a look and see what you think. I have to admit that, at a time when I dread picking up the paper every day, fearing more news of the Tory revival, I don’t share Daniel’s good opinion of either McCain or the ghastly David Cameron. But in a funny sort of way, I hope he’s right.

Lots more thoughts on this from me in the comments box on Daniel’s post, so probably best to tell me I’m wrong there, rather than here.

OK Commuter

Posted 23 Mar 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Environment

Writing for this blog way back in 2005 I criticised Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke for not making much of an impact whilst appearing on a TV News discussion about Climate change and the British governments’ inaction up until that point.

Thom Yorke had been invited onto the programme as a representative of Friends of the Earth, an organisation he has had an association with since 2003. During the discussion he was clearly ill-at-ease and made little effort to hold the then British Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett, to account for the government missing its own climate targets. At the time I saw this as a missed opportunity and declared myself not impressed with Thom’s muddled responses. However, I’ve since realised that his confusion about the issues at the time was shared by many. Knowing how best to lobby to make a positive impact in the battle against Climate Change is not always as straight forward and as clear cut as it may seem.

Since that appearance Thom Yorke has been as much in the public eye (in the UK at least) for his Climate Change campaigning as for his band Radiohead. His advocacy for Friends of the Earth and more specifically their ‘Big Ask’ campaign has lead him to guest edit the highly influential ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4 and make efforts at improving the green credentials of his band, including ruling them out of attending this years Glastonbury festival due to concerns over the availability of public transport to the site.

The latest stage of Mr Yorke’s assault on Climate Change has involved him being asked by the Observer Newspaper in the UK to ‘guest edit’ it’s Sunday magazine. Under his editorial control Yorke requests an interview with the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, asks for a feature on the German town of Freiburg (which has been labelled ‘the worlds’ greenest’) and oversees several other green features culminating in it being called the ‘Climate Change Issue’.

His interview with the London Mayor hardly turns out to be a grilling, more an amicable chat, but then Yorke’s no journalist and his candid manner is perhaps more successful in getting a response from Livingstone, that others would struggle to illicit. They talk on the Velib cycle system and the chances of a similar scheme implemented in London. Yorke wonders aloud at the level of resistance to change by big business and finance institutions in London and their attitude to helping the environment. He even wants to know if the UK is pressing ahead with Nuclear Power because the Prime Ministers’ brother works for EDF, a major French power company which is behind many Nuclear new builds. Does he expect the Mayor to answer this following Gordon Brown’s recent show of support for Mr Livingstone bid for another term in office? It is this style of questioning that allows us to hear (qualified) support for Tory leader David Cameron from the mayor and an insight into the complexities of working with people and organisations who in the past you may have criticised but whose partnership is now crucial in order to take action on the environment.

In his candid editor’s letter Thom reveals that although he was pleased to support Friends of the Earth he did have reservations because, as he puts it, “I’ve based my life on touring and the rock industry is a high energy consuming industry“. This might be in anticipation of criticism when groups like Friends of the Earth use high profile spokespeople whose lifestyles it may seem at first run contrary to the organisation’s aims. However it seems that it was the unwillingness of FotE to be “holier than thou” and not wanting to preach, which led them to ask this otherwise high-carbon-emitting rock star to join their ranks.

This surely should be the point. Thom Yorke doesn’t have to have the answers and can be as unsure and as confused with many of the often conflicting points about Climate Change as the rest of us. The article he requests on the green town of Freiburg, for example, turns up as many complications and questions as it does answers.

By his own admission he doesn’t know what is always the best route to take, hasn’t made much of an effort to speak to many politicians and is only latterly realising how his lifestyle and work contribute to changes in the Earth’s climate. He is, then, just like all of us, and full of the questions and uncertainties that many of us hold when faced with a problem as big as Climate Change.

The battle to curb Climate Change is one primarily of education, awareness raising and activism. To this end, Civil Society – including Friends of the Earth with Thom Yorke – has played an enormous role in the lobbying of Governments and big business, in rasing awareness, and provoking action.

Thom Yorke’s position, it seems, is that of a man without all the answers but who has a clear passion and commitment. He has made affirmative action in relation to his own profession and lifestyle, all solid and commendable commitments to lowering his personal impact on the environment.

Let us hope that it is because of his activism that Yorke is an optimist on the subject of climate change – “unlike pessimists such as James Lovelock, I don’t believe we are all doomed” he says. It is his belief in human behaviour – being able to be the the solution to climate change as well as the instigator – that is both endearing and commendable about Yorke. As he writes;

“…isn’t it funny how in the space of a year we went from listening to sceptics who denied this was happening to suddenly say we’re all doomed – how interesting that both scenarios demand that we do nothing. That can’t be right. You should never give up hope”.

Right on Thom!

[Blogging by Dan]

embarrasing admission

Posted 20 Feb 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, Environment

I’m rather ashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoy Harry Hill’s TV burp, but I do. It’s certainly as good as Charlie Brooker’s TV Burp, over on highbrow BBC4 (or do I mean Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe? – can’t be sure). Hill is occasionally very funny – for the last few weeks he’s been picking on the TV show Weird Creatures, presented by Nick Baker – wherein the protagonist goes looking for rare animals… and never finds them. What’s the point, Hill asks? This week Baker was looking for a basking shark. Here’s a bit of dialogue from his analysis:

Hill: But hang on, he’s found one! Hasn’t he?
Footage plays of Baker spotting something in the sea.
Baker: “We’ve hardly left Penzance harbour and we already have what has to be the second weirdest fish in the world after the basking shark. It is the sunfish”.
Hill (disappointed): Oh, no, it’s the sunfish. What about over there?
Cut back to the footage
Baker “Well, that’s our consolation prize – we have a grey seal”.
Hill: A seal? I thought we were looking for a shark?
Back to the footage.
Baker: “The otters more than make up for our limited success with the shark”.
Hill: No they don’t! I tuned in to see a four and a half metre shark. It’s a shark programme. If you’d have told me it was a seal and otter programme I wouldn’t have bothered!
Cut back to Baker pointing out specific breeds of gulls, circling over the sea.
Hill: Seagulls!? You’re just filming anything now!
Cut back to a bit of Baker’s film – he’s filming another boat and there is a dog aboard.
Hill (incredulously): That’s a dog!
Now Baker’s film shows him swimming in the water. He points at the coast.
Baker: “That’s Cornwall”.
Hill (outraged): That’s not even an animal!!!

Maybe that doesn’t work unless you saw it, but it was very funny – certainly now that David Attenborough has filmed everything beautifully in one series or other, TV nature shows these days all seem to be about filming the unfilmable and the obscure – jaguar hunting in South America or whatever. Never mind that – just show us some cute monkeys. Don’t bother with the sharks, though, we’ve given up on them.

5 minutes of electrical rest

Posted 01 Feb 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Environment

This is almost certainly pointless, but quite a nice idea anyway:

Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming!

The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is
calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the
planet. http://www.lallianc

People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the 1st of February 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Brussels and Italy. 1.55pm in Ottawa, 10.55 am on the Pacific Coast of North America, 1.55 and 2.00 am in Vietnam.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate.

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris.

This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight.

That’s in about half an hour’s time. I would take part, but I’m just about to have a bath, and I’m scared of bathing in the dark. Creepy.

the environment and assistant

Posted 29 Jan 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Assistant, Environment, Observations

A little more about categories:

Am making good progress with labelling stuff now – I think I’m more than half way through the nine hundred odd posts and some of the category pages are coming together – some are pretty much unpopulated still though. I noticed from my stats that someone, probably Nat, took a look at the environment category this morning, and found only one or two posts there. Should be more than twenty now, as I tried to address that section at lunchtime.

Most of my time has been spent on the posts detailing Assistant, and one thing which comes across very strongly is that fact that over the years we’ve hosted files for downloading in dozens of different, usually temporary, places – meaning that half of the photo links and pretty much all of the song links in the Assistant archive don’t work at all. However, I fixed this last night by finally organising some webspace of my own on which to host files, so in a few days time, once I’ve uploaded them all and fixed the links in the archive, you should be able to explore the dozens of studio recordings, demos, rehearsal takes and live recordings which I’ve posted over the last five years. I’ll let you know when they’re all active, should you be interested, and might re-post some of the best bits.

Sidebar is still, incidentally, short of my list of favourite posts, more than a few links outside, and other bits and bobs. Will get there eventually.

Apologies if all this categorising and restructuring posting is of no interest to anyone but me – doing an overhaul of your possessions (whether they are photographs, journals, songs or plain memories) gives you an opportunity to dig through old thoughts and you invariably find things to talk about as a consequence – even if they are a little self-indulgent. Should be back to normal soon.

big waves in little brighton

Posted 19 Jan 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, General, Video

In case you haven’t noticed it’s been bloody windy recently – have a quick glance at this video, by Clive of 1000 thoughts or less, if you wanna see what it’s been like in Brighton. Exciting.

oh, this is really encouraging

Posted 30 Mar 2006 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

a succint burst of frustration in yesterday’s Guardian Diary…

“We are not in the least bit amused to hear that Margaret Beckett’s ministerial Jag warmed its engine for fully 15 minutes yesterday while waiting for the environment secretary to emerge from a climate-change review press conference. We are positively grumpy to hear that when MPs on the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee flew to California last week to learn about its approach to climate change, they travelled to the airport in individual chauffeur-driven limousines. And we are downright discomposed to learn that, when Tony Blair and his party of 50 flew to Oz last week, they did so on an 18-hour 45-minute charter flight (a record) in a Boeing 777 with 220 seats. This 9,200-mile jaunt, the Diary’s indefatigable Saleem Vaillancourt reckons, consumed 120 tonnes of jet fuel and produced 2.32 tonnes of CO2. Four days after it landed, TB was off to New Zealand for talks on the environment. Sod off the bleedin’ lot of you, frankly.”

…was followed by a qualifying statement today:

“OK, so we (or rather the Diary’s hopelessly incompetent Saleem) were wrong. When TB flew with 50 others in a chartered 220-seat jet to Australasia last week to discuss global warming, the flight produced 373 tonnes of CO2, not (as we said) 2.32 tonnes. That, it seems, was Tony’s personal contribution to the greenhouse effect”.

Good to hear that the government is taking climate change seriously.

kyoto: blair admits to ‘changing my thinking about this’

Posted 25 Sep 2005 — by Jonathan
Category Environment

Oh for fuck’s sake.

“In a debate, hosted by former US President Bill Clinton in New York, Blair said he was not hopeful of another major agreement on targets to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

Instead, he talked enthusiastically about focusing on technology-led solutions, the process favoured by America, Japan, China and India, but rejected by environmental campaigners and other leaders, including Britain’s own minister responsible for climate change minister.

He also back-tracked on his previous insistence that tackling climate change would not damage economic growth, warning ‘no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially’ – a phrase that echoes anti-Kyoto arguments of President George Bush.”

More here

katrina update

Posted 23 Sep 2005 — by Jonathan
Category Environment

As Hurricane Rita surges towards Texas, now’s a good time to get a quick update on the death toll wreaked by Katrina, still thankfully well below the estimates of 10,000 or so which were being discussed in the days after the levees broke. Not that the figures aren’t shocking enough already, especially taken with the caveat that they are still expected to rise as crews are only just getting to some of the areas which were most badly flooded.

Alabama 2, Florida 11, Georgia 2, Louisiana 799, Mississippi 219 = Total 1033

Thanks to Norm for pointing me to the CNN report which quoted those numbers.

blackmail and the reinforcement of stereotypes

Posted 15 Sep 2005 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Politics

Funny, while I was distracted with events concerning Doonesbury, more important things were happening over at John’s excellent Shot By Both Sides blog, which is – now – sadly defunct. Having caused offence with a particularly bleak bit of satire, John found himself in hot water because some scumbag decided to take up the issue with John’s employers and tried to get him fired, which is clearly a completely outrageous and cowardly way to behave. Even the more temparate types over at Harry’s Place have taken exception to this appalling behaviour. You can see John’s goodbye message here, and keep up with him over at The Sharpener. Thanks to Andrew for bringing that to my attention.

With all his archives gone (please reconsider that, at least, John) the only way to acquaint yourself with John’s writing (apart from on his new home) is to dig around in the google cache for SBBS, which is what I just did, and which is where I discovered a link to an intriguing article from last week’s paper that I missed, which basically suggests that all those horror stories we heard after Katrina decimated New Orleans about raping, murdering and infanticide are largely – so far – unsubstantiated. It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to speculate that much of the information spread around the US media pandered to two reliable desires; that for a good, gruesome story, and the desire to reinforce the idea that poor people and black people revert automatically to an innate savagery as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Here’s the article:
Gary Younge – Murder and rape – fact or fiction?

It’s clearly the case that looting and criminality were rife in New Orleans in the days after the crisis (incidentally, hardly anyone mentions how the city’s drug addicts were deprived of a fix while they were stranded, which explains much of the looting of pharmacists and hospitals) , and history does has countless examples of how men abandon convention and submit to their basest instincts in certain circumstances (the unmentionable behaviour of Russian troops in the latter stages of the Second World War being perhaps the best example; Anthony Beevor describes them ‘regarding women almost as carnal booty’. Abu Ghraib springs to mind, too). But it is shocking how badly and how half-heartedly they attempted to correct the vastly negative impression first given. Which makes you wonder, what do they want you to think about black people?

the place where the bible belt came unbuckled

Posted 01 Sep 2005 — by Jonathan
Category Development, Environment, Politics

The situation in New Orleans continues to escalate from the disasterous to the obscene. Things are getting no better. In fact, they’re getting worse. First I wake up to an article in the Guardian by Howell Raines, the former editor of the New York Times, who paints a picture of New Orleans, as “a golden bowl of memories, both sacred and profane”, before damning the appalling inaction of both local politicians and the US government in the face of a crisis which needed dealing with quickly. There seems something slightly crass about using a disaster such as this as a platform for denouncing Bush, but Raines argues that every disaster has a political dimension. In this instance, he concludes:

“The church-going cultural populism of George Bush has given the United States an administration that worries about the house of Saud and the welfare of oil companies while the poor drown in their attics and their sons and daughters die on foreign deserts.”

Since I read that, things have just got worse; to articulate the spiralling chaos, I’ll turn to Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s message in tonight’s snowmail (a daily email from team behind the Channel 4 news):

“The news out of New Orleans is getting harder to believe every hour. The world’s only superpower seems to have lost control of the situation. Thousands of people are still stranded without food, water or medicine. Tens of thousands more homeless.

Lawlessness is spreading around the city with police and national guard trying to control things but ambulances and rescue helicopters have been shot at by armed thugs. Those stranded at centres like the sports stadium are in appalling conditions with grim sanitation and supplies. There are attempts to get a few thousand people a day out of the city as the Mayor has ordered the forced evacuation of everyone, but it is pitifully slow and the people have little or nothing to go to. As for the bodies – there is still no reliable estimate of those dead. But now the Mayor and a senator have put it in the thousands.

People are starting to ask whether or not the warning and evacuation was mishandled. If people are being forced to leave now then why not at the weekend before Katrina struck? And there are increasing voices emerging about the warnings that were ignored.

Federal funds were denied to strengthen the levees. Was America so obsessed with fighting terror that it forgot what homeland security really means? And does the demographic breakdown of those worst hit – predominantly poor and black have anything to do with how little was done to help them?”