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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Heathrow - a carbon bootprint stamped on planet's face

We took the wrong step years ago…

The Heathrow Climate Change Camp is up and hitting the headlines. The naughty protestors seem to have caught everyone on the hop by setting up shop ahead of schedule.

I found a documentary about Hawkwind on BBC 4 a few days ago - good material on their early days as a part of the radical underground/ counterculture. Have dug out ‘In Search of Space’ from 1971 and listening to ‘We took the wrong step years ago‘:

Think about the things that we should have done before
The way things are going the end is about to fall.
We took the wrong step years ago
We took the wrong step years ago
We took the wrong step years ago
Take a look around and see the warnings close at hand
Already weeds are writing their scriptures in the sand
We took the wrong step years ago
We took the wrong step years ago
The morning sun is rising, casting rays across the land,
Already nature's calling, take heed of the warning,
We took the wrong step years ago
We took the wrong step years ago
We took the wrong step years ago

Although Hawkwind came out of the late sixties counterculture, they had a darker, more apocalyptic edge - dystopian rather than utopian .

From Stonehenge to Heathrow

Looking at photos of the Climate Change Camp, it resembles a free festival. And… do I need to spell out all the connections? All the continuities? Way back in the Greengalloway archives I scanned in a whole set of images of a magazine called Undercurrents which promoted ‘radical technology’ - solar power, wind power, wave power etc - from 1974 to 1981. The magazine also developed a political critique, especially of the nuclear state as it was realised that the UK/ other states preferred to develop nuclear power rather than the alternatives.

The political analysis was argued and debated passionately. Some contributors wanted the magazine to stick with ‘how to build your own wind turbine’ articles and couldn’t see the relevance of the political articles. Looking back, it seems obvious that no technology however alternative or radical was on its own enough to change the world without the political will to ‘make it so’.

But politics is about power and control not energy and knowledge. To misquote the Clash

Power and control - the only things we got today
An' if I close my eyes
They will not go away
You have to deal with it
It is the currency

According to the front page of today’s Guardian [ see http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/13/renewableenergy.energy
Which has link to leaked document ]

the UK state has no chance of meeting its CO2 reduction targets and civil servants are now busily trying to find ways we can weasel out of them. Same old story. Yet again, thirty years on , rather than go for the radical technologies - sustainable/ renewable energy from sun, wind, water etc- we still want to go nuclear…
… and we still NEED a 3rd runway at Heathrow because without airplanes our whole economy will crash.

Ok, but if global warming continues, the economy will crash anyway. Look what almost happened in Gloucestershire last month when the floodwaters came within 2 inches of blacking out ½ million homes. And GCHQ at Cheltenham [yes, GCHQ will have emergency generators, but they will be designed to cover short power cuts. Not one lasting several days].

The climate change models predict an increase in ‘random’ extreme weather events. Our economic and infrastructure systems can cope with the occasional extreme situation, but not with lots of them. The cost of repairing the damage again and again and again , year after year combined with the loss of production , especially of food, is going to crash the system.

Go back to the food one. We (UK) have had a very wet summer. Even where there has not been massive flooding, the wetness has had a negative impact on food production (including dairy farming). Next year it could be a drought, with a similar impact on food production.

But it is ok. There is a global market for food. If we can’t produce enough, we can buy it. Yeah, but it is ‘global climate change’ - so all over the world there will be impacts on food production. So food costs will rise. They are anyway, thanks to the Chinese importing food as they develop away from a rice based diet.

As food costs rise, so ordinary (I.e. all but the super rich) people will have to spend more on food and so have less disposable income to spend on shopping for non-essentials. Panic in the global economy which depends on us buying lots of things we don’t really need. And for the very poor… starvation and death.

So it goes. I wonder, in a William Burroughs naked lunch way - when you see what’s really on the end of your fork- if the 21st century reality of politics is about being powerless in a situation which is out of control?

A reversal of reality in which the chaos that was the Stonehenge Free Festival - which had to be suppressed and to which the Heathrow Climate Change Camp bears a familial relationship - is revealed as an alternative form of low carbon footprint / low entropy order; whilst Heathrow airport becomes the high entropy/ mega carbon bootprint (Orwell/ 1984- future a boot stamping on a human face forever) source of real global chaos and disorder.

A carbon bootprint stamping on the face of the planet - yeah, that’s Heathrow airport.

Back to Nik Turner and Hawkwind for the final Brainstorming flourish:

Standing on the runway waiting for take off
I wanna fly, wanna watch me flake off
I can't move 'cos the man has a rake off
You've gotta help me, help me to shake off

This body of mine
I gotta get out of this void
This body of mine
Cos I don't wanna be destroyed
This body of mine
And I don't wanna turn android
This body of mine
You've gotta help me avoid that
Here I go
Flying low
I'm gonna miss it
You bet I'll kiss it

Can't get no peace till I get into motion
Sign my release from this planet's erosion
Paranoia police have sussed out my potion
You gotta help me or there'll be an explosion in

This body of mine


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