5th October 2010


New! Fine Art Prints & digital images for sale-
Welsh Weather & Dyfi Valley landscapes Slide-Library - Click HERE

Friday October 1st 2010

Up earlyish as usual. I like listening to the Today Programme whilst coming to my senses via two large mugs of black coffee. Go through my emails - there's one from Dave from the Welsh Mines Society regarding the Red Dragon mine at Dinas Mawddwy and another from Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in response to a query I had sent him. I respond to both and then I check a third - from the 10:10 campaign. I pop over to the Guardian website and watch the "No Pressure" movie....


It's a bit like one of the gorier Monty Python sketches, the first scene of which involves blowing up two kids in a classroom because they were not going to try to reduce their carbon emissions. There is ketchup everywhere. My heart sinks. As a PR move, this has DISASTER written all over it - there would have been many complaints even if it was a Python skit.

I look around the net. For Anthony Watts and friends, Christmas has come three months early:


Comments have been flooding in overnight at the Guardian as the relevant links get circulated virally around the net. Here's one example - it got a lot of recommendations. It's not just "Guardian Readers" that follow the "comment is free" threads over there. Far from it - it is a hallowed battleground for veteran campaigners on all sides.....

Guardian comment

The Guardian do moderate their comments pages. But on Facebook a stream of expletives is piling up on 10:10's own page - I've painted the worst out:

10:10 Facebook

A day is a long time in politics. By Friday evening, 10:10 have withdrawn the film, but already multiple copies of it are circulating on Youtube and elsewhere and again the links go flying around the ether. On Climate Progress, 350.org's Bill McKibben is clearly very hacked off. On the 350 website, it is announced that links with 10:10 have been severed. Via email, I circulate my thoughts around friends in our local Transition Group and, depressed, head off to the pub to talk about other stuff.

Climate Progress

Saturday October 2nd 2010

Get up, boot up computer and see who's been saying what. In my inbox, there is one from George Monbiot, forwarding me comments by George Marshall, with which I fully agree. Over at Climate Progress, I post my thoughts, for what it's worth:

As a PR exercise, this was an epic fail IMO. But the responses to it are equally interesting. Godwin’s Law has been involved widely. A lot of the criticism bangs on about the “incitement to violence”. Where were the same critics when Rush Limbaugh was calling out for certain climate scientists to be publically flogged?

The need to move to cleaner, less polluting ways has not gone away. An ill-conceived film does not suddenly make all the fossil fuels infinite in their abundance. Neither does it mean the Pakistan floods never happened. It does not mean that Deepwater Horizon did not blow, ruining livelihoods along the Gulf Coast. It does not mean that the worst heatwave in Russia’s history was a figment of the imagination. It does not invalidate two centuries of scientific research. The laws of thermodynamics, the Clausius Clapeyron equation – these remain unchanged.

If the makers of this film had bothered to read Climate Cover-up (especially page 32) they would have realised that there is a lot that the think-tanks that stand behind the organised opposition to climate science can teach us. Specifically, with respect to that reference, the importance of careful message-testing in advance of public release. I think if they had bothered to test this particular message then they would not have used it!

At the Guardian, comments are building to over 500. My system and/or browser does not get on with long Guardian comment threads and after a dozen or more "unresponsive script" prompts I give up on the job. The thread is full of commentators who seem to think the film has also managed to change the laws of physics....

I check the Met Office Mesoscale Forecasting model output twice and it looks odds-on that the massive blob of heavy rain moving up into the SW will miss western Wales. Sod it - I'll have a very early night and head off fishing in the early hours. All this staring into my monitor isn't helping!

Sunday October 3rd 2010

The alarm rouses me from a deep sleep to the sound of rain hammering against the roof and water sluicing down the road. Check the Met Office Radar which confirms the rain - lots of it - is much further west than the models had indicated and what was expected to remain an open wave on the cold front has instead developed into a discreet Low.

Back to sleep awhile, then off just after 9 o'clock to see my friend Mandy for a cuppa and a chat about recent events, before going just a couple more miles down to the beach to collect seaweed for the garden. Unusually, for this year, there is only old weed washed up on the strandline and crawling with sandhoppers. I'm not removing them from what they call home. But the trip is not wasted. Some nearby grassland has a good number of field mushrooms on show - a bit wet but they'll be OK. With a couple of pounds in the bag I head the 10 miles home, roast a chicken and add some of the mushrooms to the shallots, runner beans and potatoes, all from the veg-garden. A fine feast ensues.

The rain has now cleared away and a drier afternoon beckons. I nip over to the veg-garden and take down the two rows of runner-beans. They are finished for the year  - they've been brilliant - with just a few old tough ones left here and there. Once that's done I tackle the hedge behind, which has exploded outwards as it does every year. A bit of effort and it's looking a bit more sensible.....

Runner beans & hedge cut back

I need to have a good bonfire with the hedge-cuttings but heavy showers arrive by late afternoon, ushering me to the pub where my friends Tim and Ann are expected. Over three pints of Old Peculier, the world is once again put to rights, and we do not mention the 10:10 film - mostly because they have not heard of it and it's nice to discuss something else for a change!

Monday October 4th 2010

I awake to a fine morning with just broken cloud and the wind has dropped right away. Check the Inshore forecast - variable becoming southerly 4 or 5, increasing 5 or 6, perhaps gale 8 later. Looking over the synoptic charts, I reckon I've got until late afternoon before the wind really gets up. There's nothing in the diary so I head down to Borth and spend the day fishing over low tide and up the flood. All that I catch is a small-eyed ray, which would have been too small to eat if I did eat them. I don't as rays are a slow-growing, relatively endangered fish. The bait is meant instead for bass or turbot, both faster-growing and tasty. Wading out into the surf, I slip the ray back. It swims off strongly. Phew.

A little later there is a distinct thudding of a Chinook helicopter somewhere. By the time I realise it is flying extremely low straight along the beach it's too late to grab the fishing camera - a trusty old Pentax compact - so all I get is a shot of it going away...

low flying Chinook

As the tide floods, the weed appears. Floating weed is the bane of shore-anglers hereabouts, and on a flood tide  - flowing northwards along the beach - and an increasing southerly wind, all the lines start to be pulled northwards too. Reeling in is like pumping iron - gradually raise the rod-tip, then lower and reel - then raise again. It's like dragging a wet sack in every cast. There are piles of weed all around my rod-rest where I have stripped bunches of it from my lines. I still have the containers inside the jeep from Sunday - so I fill one of them to the brim with the stuff. At least I have something to bring home!

GCR Volume - Mineralisation in Enland and Wales

I call at the pub on my way home. There is a parcel waiting for me. It's from the JNCC - the book that I co-wrote nearly a decade ago has finally been printed. It's great to see this out at last.

The book describes the most important mineralogical sites in England and Wales. Richard Bevins and I wrote the section on Wales when I worked for the National Museum.

Mineralogical sites are important for research for a number of reasons. They yield important information about ore deposit formation. They are vital teaching sites for students who may later become exploration geologists. They yield important information about the chemical behaviour of metals and their compounds in the environment. In turn, this can help us to develop technologies that tackle pollution.

But in many cases, and particularly with respect to old mines, such sites have suffered badly. Tips full of interesting minerals have been taken for hard-core. Fly-tipping is another major issue. Preserving the best sites as SSSIs will help to protect what we have left, for generations of students and researchers to come. That's what the Geological Conservation Review seeks to do with these and other important geological sites.

Tuesday October 5th 2010

Over my morning kick-start of black coffee I read my email. Good news in that two work opportunities are firming up nicely and a third is up for discussion. Elsewhere, I see there are more developments with the 10:10 affair. Rob Hopkins of the Transition Movement has a piece about it posted the night before:

Transition Culture

Meanwhile, one of 10:10's sponsors - Sony - have issued a press-release on their website:

Sony press release

This frankly comes as no surprise to me. The moment I saw the film I realised that this was going to cause problems - a classic "Gerald Ratner" moment if ever there was one. Why, I again ask myself, were no others consulted on this? Message-testing is such an important stage of any campaign - the organisations opposed to climate change mitigation policy are very effective at the practice.

The - our -  message should be that the transition to a lower-carbon economy, which is inevitable in any case at some point because of the finite nature of the fossil fuels, does not have to be that painful if started in time. If we wait until oil supplies are in decline, then it will be very tough indeed. Oil depletion and climate destabilisation are twin symptoms of our addiction to fossil fuels, and whatever the uncertainties regarding climate change, the finite nature of oil, obtainable with the same extraction-rate and energy balance (and therefore cost to the buyer) as the regular crude we mostly use today is one thing that is quite certain.

Pondering on this, I click over to Climate Progress to find the laws of physics are certainly still in a Business-as-Usual mode:

Climate Progress

Coffee drained, I head over to the garden, lugging the seaweed with me and tipping it on top of the bean foliage cut down on Sunday afternoon. It will rot quickly and it seems to accelerate the rate of composting of other stuff, besides being full of minerals - it's a key ingredient of the compost-heap, along with periodically-harvested "weeds" and the grass-cuttings from the beer garden at my local. All good stuff!

Seaweed on the compost heap

A movement catches my eye and then another. The Commas have started hatching out. A male and female are flying around together - they breed in the garden, which is why any clumps of nettles that come up in Summer go unmolested, even those that are in the way. I follow the butterflies with my camera, finally catching both in the one frame:

Comma butterflies

Biodiversity's something I work hard to encourage in the garden and it's amazing what lives there - from all manner of bugs and beetles to the slow-worms that hang around the compost-heap to these. I cannot believe anyone could look at the photo below and not think it worthy of having alongside us in the centuries to come.

Comma butterfly

Leaving the garden and its denizens in peace again, I head home, sit down with a brew and write this piece. Why?

Many of the most hostile commentators to the 10:10 film were calling all environmentalists "eco-nazis". Hence the title of this piece. I thought people might be interested to find out what a fairly ordinary one gets up to!

The events described in this piece involved 40 miles of driving at a little under a gallon of diesel, two frozen mackerel for bait, a chicken, lots of homegrown veg and wild mushrooms, about 7 pints of beer and several bouts of physical effort. Eyestrain was provided courtesy of the Internet and thoughts were inspired with the view out over the waves to the distant horizon of the ever-restless ocean. Cameras by Pentax and Nikon, screengrabs processed with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 and the butterflies were played by themselves. Nothing was blown up during the making of this piece, something that all environmental campaigners should take on board for the sake of the future.


New! Fine Art Prints & digital images for sale-
Welsh Weather & Dyfi Valley landscapes Slide-Library - Click