• Beyond the Quick Fix

    Sometimes the future comes to you unlooked for. I couldn’t put it down, if I tried, to any given event this summer; it was more a combination of occurrences, a string of seemingly unrelated impressions that all formed part of the same whole, like an underground root system that, once stumbled upon, proves almost bewilderingly expansive.

    More than festivals, it was other events that stood out, and they themselves were testament to many little things; gatherings on allotments where people bought food and drink they’d grown and brewed themselves, a wedding on a farm where a mini village was thriving in canvas, where the cider was locally brewed, the bread baked on site and where much of food was grown there as well.

    It was one sign of the ever-spreading revolution in how we source and grow our food but you could extend it any number of ways; from households getting sorted out with solar heating in spite of worse-than-useless governmental policy, to changing how councils power their street lights to localised currencies to changing how we travel. The point was that all these things were done with a kind of matter-of-factness, a striving to live in accord with innate values without the need to bang on about them – beyond proclamations, these were signs of a culture of just getting on with it.

    As such, they could do little else but give me hope. And we need it. For, as much as all these efforts can never be anything else than truly vital, the machinations of the industrial world are relentless and, unless checked, offer only the gravest of consequences for the ecology of these Islands. Fracking is advocated by a fossil fuel lobby that can throw, in the case of one company, as much as £500,000 a month into attempts to talk it up and do big business. It’s long been more that immediately clear that our government has not just been won over – they appear to be completely complicit.

    If charity was called for, you could perhaps say that – at best – they’ve given up on trying to avert climate change and seek only to mitigate its effects. If so, such a stance might just qualify as pragmatic if it didn’t negate the last hopes for the far future of our biosphere, to say nothing of more immediate disruption. The International Energy Agency's chief economist Fatih Birol spoke untold volumes about attitudes on high when responding to criticism of their report: ‘Golden rules for a golden age of gas’. The report touted a scenario that, while optimistic for the industry, would involve a failure to avoid catastrophic climate change. "We are not saying that it will be a golden age for humanity,” Birol remarked, “we are saying it will be a golden age for gas”.

    The alternatives are myriad and, it barely needs saying, green technologies have a huge role in the mix. But it’s clear that the sense of hope and better future I saw in so many places this summer can only be borne out if we see off the threat that fracking presents. The good intent, the steady graft, the sense of chiselled-out optimism or just bloodymindedness; it represents the way ahead, a rising tide that might seem easy to dismiss on one day and the next become a virulent mass movement.

    But without sufficient counterforce to the last gasps of the dinosaurs on high we will be locking ourselves into atmospheric dystopia as well as running the very real risk of widely toxified water sources. In the time that’s left we have to turn this round. We have to help ensure that, in the coming election year, fracking is right up there with the most pertinent of issues. We have to show that a huge body of people in this country are at best deeply wary of the process if not dead against it. We have to convince that this is the toxic brainchild of a government not fit for that title transfixed by the apparently easy answers the industry so often seems to rely on.

    This then is our hope and charge, our last recourse, our biggest threat and ultimate imperative to act. But it could also be a time for new beginnings, a time for the patience and effort of lifestyles that honour the earth. Not as some all-or-nothing semi-Marxist imposition of a return to the land. And not as a neo-ludditism that denies all the benefits of the modern world or which pretends that there isn't an energy crisis. But as a sense of guiding lights, a pattern for a possible way forward, a model for a willing revolution where everybody brings the change that they can, not top-down non-solutions embedded in the utter lack of forethought of a dying age. This is a time when we must make that change: the next months could not be more crucial.

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branchlines

The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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