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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 232: September 2015

[Returned to related issued on Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

It's that time of year, when autumn schedules start to bite and it is as if the summer never happened [it didn't – Ed]. Oh well, once you're back into the routine routine then it doesn't feel so bad. But compared the more relaxed days of summer.....

I'm not sure whether we should be glad or sorry that Ireland is, and will be, affected differently by global warming than most of the rest of Europe. We are not going to get much warmer but we will get more stormy with damaging winds; rainfall patterns may change but overall are unlikely to decrease (though some projections say less for the eastern half of Ireland). Obviously the coming sea level rises will affect parts of the country too but nothing like some low-lying countries who face obliteration or devastation at the least.

Particular instances of weather cannot be used by themselves to prove a pattern but this summer in Ireland it was generally 1° or even 2° colder than our meagre average (17° daytime summer average). There were no blocking highs to the west to give calm and settled weather. We were going for a walk in the hills of Donegal in mid- to late-July, it was projected to be a dry day but of course it wasn't; getting out of the car in late morning we noticed the temperature - 11°! This in mid-July.....when some of Europe was sweltering in up to 40°. People will be coming here for a bit of cool.

Both I and our courgettes have noticed the poor weather. If you get a decent bit of heat then courgettes grow very fast, even from forming to picking in a week. Not this year. Our ornamental blue thistles are only flowering now. Most things were slow but our blackcurrants did very well, I surmise because the fruit formed in April which has been 'the best' month of the year in relation to its average (and is actually usually also the driest in Ireland). But the fruit of the blackcurrants was much slower to ripen which necessitated several pickings as some was ripe and ready to fall when other berries were red or even still white.

In my opinion, or perhaps I should say feeling, I think we have had a reasonable summer when we have had at least a couple of periods of three days or so each with settled, sunny weather and temperatures of 20° - 22°. So we haven't had a reasonable summer. Not usually four seasons in a day but often three. When there was warm sunshine it was a respite between periods of rain.

The ancient Romans, whatever you might think of their imperialism, were an intelligent and organised people. The Latin word for Ireland is Hibernia, which translates as 'Winter' ('Hibernia' has the same origin as the word 'hibernate'). They didn't invade all of the neighbouring island of Britain but they never bothered invading any of Ireland though some Romans would have traded here, or Irish people traded with them. Anyway, another way of looking at being called 'Winter' is 'a place without a summer'. If you came from Rome, well, it certainly wouldn't be difficult to call Ireland 'Winter' but this year we were indeed a place without what I would call a summer. That's what comes of being the next parish to the Americas, sticking out into the Atlantic. Every country needs something to moan about.

PS "Hibernia" was also the name of a Dublin-based political review which bit the dust in 1980 and for its last decade or more had been a reasonably progressive voice on many different issues. For a while it had a back page satirical feature which it entitled "Hernia".

And summer undone
The other aspect of every summer under the sun (ho, ho, ho, or not under the sun in this case) is what doesn't get done. In May and June you can think of the tasks that could usefully be done over the summer, whether inside or outside your home, on a project, a hobby, whatever. July you can maybe relax. But that doubt creeps in that maybe this year (as every other year) your plans were too grand and extensive. Maybe you take your holiday in July, maybe in August, or even some other time, but the slight relaxation means you're not pushing yourself quite so much. And holidays or the odd day here and there take up some of the time too so there isn't that much 'real' time to do things in the summer. And you may do other things in the summer that take up time, like more walking, or gardening, lying in the rain, or pottering about. By mid-August you may be trying desperately hard to get 'something' achieved but it's a race to get anything meaningful under your belt.

And then the first school uniforms appear and you realise you are snookered. The summer has gone and you and your projects are undone. It's pretty much the same every year. We live and don't learn. But it maybe gives hope that we can deal with things. Next year.

Travelling - hopefully
Activists and those aware of global warming issues face a dilemma when it comes to travel. Do we travel, using carbon fuels, and how? Do we all justify what we want to do because a) The issue is important enough – and in our eyes 'our' issues are always likely to make it important enough or b) When it comes to breaks and holidays we need to go for the rest because we have been working so hard (perhaps for The Cause), because we deserve it, whatever. c) Our humanity and our personal connections the far side – family, friends – require us to travel, and d) "I don't have the time to go overland and by sea." Tricky questions here.

I would add one additional factor to Larry's Speight's discussion of the issues in his column in this Nonviolent News. As I understand it, the pollution caused by air travel is much slower to dissipate and degrade because of the altitude it takes place at, a few kilometres up in the air. Thus the effect of the 3% of human climate changing gases caused by air traffic that he quoted can be multiplied a number of times. Not good news.

Stopping runaway climate change requires a multiplicity of responses and some of these will require substantial lifestyle changes, some not so much. There is no way we can afford to let air traffic increase in the way it is projected; it is simply suicidal. In fact we need to substantially decrease the amount of air traffic. How this is done is another matter. Quotas for countries, decided by a range of relevant factors, might be difficult to agree but might be fairest. In a capitalist world, increasing the price through taxing aviation fuel might be the easiest to bring in - not that politically this would the easiest but the easiest to put into practice, if agreed. These issues are not being discussed. They are, so to speak, the elephant in the jumbo jet.

Riding your bike to Australia is not usually an option so we face some hard questions on this particular aspect of climate change.

New, clear graphics
They haven't gone away, you know. No, not, the IRA but rather nuclear weapons. Do you feel safer because someone somewhere has a nuclear armed missile they can fire in your direction, maybe at a moment's notice? Eh, not exactly. And if you consider even a few of the hundreds of weapons accidents or times weapons were nearly used, well, then Dr Strangelove would be a film to calm your nuclear nerves. The absolute numbers may have declined slightly but that just means that we can't be overkilled the same number of times.

You can see the situation, graphically portrayed in lots of places if you do a image word search but a few to look at include here/ or here Perhaps particularly effective in illustrating the scale of the problem is here

Sleep well.

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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