Our Climate Crisis Paralysis: How, in the Face of Unprecedented Signs of Climate Collapse, We’re Still Being Failed by Politicians, the Media and Ourselves

On the hottest day ever in London, fires broke out at numerous locations, including the village of Wennington, in the London Borough of Havering.

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Last week, as the mercury started to rise in the UK, and sober weather-watchers warned that, for the first time ever, temperatures might reach 40°C in the UK, the default position of TV’s weathermen and women was to talk of records being broken, as though extreme heat was some kind of Olympic sporting event, and the plucky British weather was some sort of super-athlete, whose ‘achievement’ was to be celebrated.

Let’s be clear: there’s nothing to celebrate about temperatures reaching 40°C in the UK, as was recognised when Grahame Madge, a spokesman for the Met Office, said, “We’ve just issued a red warning for extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday which is the first such warning ever issued. The warning covers an area from London up to Manchester and then up to the Vale of York. This is potentially a very serious situation.”

While the news triggered widespread warnings about the impact of the heatwave on people’s health, almost none of the coverage focused on the underlying reasons for the heatwave, and it was only the severity of the forecast that, for a few days at least, stopped tabloid newspapers from running the ‘Scorchio’ headlines that they usually resort to when summer heat hits the UK. Perhaps they had finally recognised the severity of the situation via a comment by Penny Endersby, the chief executive of the Met Office, who said, “Here in the UK we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in the sun. This is not that sort of weather.”

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38 Years Since the Last Stonehenge Free Festival, The Legacy of Those Who Destroyed It Is An Imminently Uninhabitable Planet

Sunrise at Stonehenge on the summer solstice, June 21, 2022 (Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP).

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Today, as revellers returned to Stonehenge, having been allowed to gather in the stones to watch the summer solstice sunrise for the first time in three years, because of Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021, I find myself preoccupied with wondering what our ancestors, who built this sun temple on Salisbury Plain and so many other extraordinary monuments to the sun and the moon across the country, and throughout Europe and beyond, would make of the burning world we are currently inhabiting, in which extinction looms ever closer.

Our ancestors, of course, would have had no way of knowing that — thousands of years after they transported bluestones from Wales, and hauled vast sarsen stones from Avebury, 20 miles to the north, before shaping them over countless years and erecting them in horseshoes and circles aligned on the axis of the solar year (the summer solstice to the north east, and the winter solstice to the south west) — the sun they so evidently revered would be turned into a life-threatening monster by people whose self-regard, whose exploitation of nature and whose love of money would destroy the fragile atmosphere necessary for the life that — perhaps uniquely in the universe — teems everywhere on earth.

For all we know, our ancestors may also have ended up deranged by their own driving delusions, although it didn’t cause a mass extinction event. Certainly, something drove them to divert a startling amount of energy into building their temples and housing their dead — and their precious possessions. We can’t be sure of their motives, because they left no written records, but archaeologists have suggested that they were driven by fear; that Stonehenge, for example, was built not to mark the summer solstice, but the winter solstice, by people fearful that, after the steadily darkening months of autumn, the sun would not return, and spring would not bring its renewal of life, without all their effort.

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Now on YouTube: Tidemill Documentary ‘The Battle for Deptford’ Celebrates Community Solidarity and Resistance

The opening shot of Hat Vickers’ documentary film ‘The Battle for Deptford.’

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It’s now a month since filmmaker Hat Vickers’ documentary film ‘The Battle for Deptford’ had its world premiere at St. Nicholas’ Church, in Deptford Green, as part of the Deptford and New Cross Free Film Festival, and three weeks since it had its online premiere, and I thought it was time to do my bit to promote it, in case anyone out there who’s interested in resistance to environmental destruction and the baleful housing ‘regeneration’ market hasn’t seen it yet.

The launch was an inspiring event that brought together over 200 people, many of whom had been involved in the focal point of the film, the long struggle to save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a magical community garden, and Reginald House, a structurally sound block of council flats next door, from destruction as part of a fundamentally flawed and destructive housing project. Afterwards there was a lively Q&A, at which I was one of a number of panellists, and another lively Q&A followed the online premiere a week later, revealing an appetite for the resumption of the struggle for housing justice, and against environmental destruction, that has not been dimmed by two years in which the Covid lockdowns largely prevented large-scale protests from taking place.

The struggle to save the garden and Reginald House began in 2012, when the old Tidemill primary school closed and moved to a new location in nearby Giffin Square, and Lewisham Council first proposed to redevelop the site of the school as housing, with the Victorian school buildings converted into ‘luxury’ housing, and with new residential blocks built on its former playground, and on the garden, which, with its beguiling concentric circles, its Indian bean trees, and its extensive tree cover that mitigated the worst effects of traffic pollution from nearby Deptford Church Street, had been designed by pupils, their parents and their teachers in the late 1990s. Also included in the plans was the demolition of three blocks of council flats — two on Giffin Street, and another on Reginald Road.

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A Fundraiser Marking the 10th Anniversary of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from Andy Worthington’s ongoing photo-journalism project ‘The State of London‘, which marks its 10th anniversary on May 11, 2022.

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Ten years ago today, on May 11, 2012, I set out on my bike, with a little Canon camera that my wife had bought me for Christmas, to record the ever-changing landscape of London in photographs, intending to visit and take photos in all 120 postcodes of the London Postal District (those beginning with WC, EC, E N, NW, SE, SW and W), which covers 241 square miles. It took me two and a half years to visit every postcode at least once, and rather longer to find the camera that particularly suited the requirements of the project. In February 2019, after a number of upgrades, I ended up with the camera I still have, a Canon PowerShot G7X Mk. II, and if I have one regret about this project, it’s that I didn’t buy it sooner.

Back in May 2012, I had no idea where this journey would take me, but ten years later it has become a running commentary on the best and the worst of this sprawling, infuriating and sometimes inspiring city that has been my home for the last 37 years.

Exactly five years after I first embarked on this photographic project, on May 11, 2017, I set up the Facebook page ‘The State of London’ to post a photo a day, with an accompanying essay, from these journeys, where I have now posted nearly 1,800 photos and essays, and where, I’m delighted to report, the project now has over 5,000 likes and over 5,400 followers. I also post the daily photos on Twitter, where the page has over 1,250 followers.

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WORLD PREMIERE: ‘The Battle for Deptford’ – New Documentary Film Tells the Story of the Struggle to Save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden

A shot from the new documentary film ‘The Battle for Deptford’, directed by Hat Vickers.

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This Thursday, April 28, sees the world premiere of ‘The Battle for Deptford’, a new documentary film, directed by Hat Vickers, about the long struggle to save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a community garden in Deptford, in south east London, and Reginald House, a block of council flats next door, from destruction for a new housing development.

The struggle, which involved campaigners fighting for years to get the council and the developers (Peabody and Sherrygreen Homes) to change the plans, sparing the garden and Reginald House from destruction, culminated in the occupation of the garden for two months, from August to October 2018, until its violent eviction by bailiffs hired by Lewisham Council.

After many months in which the council, at exorbitant cost, paid bailiffs to guard the empty garden, the last of the trees were torn down in February 2019, but building work didn’t begin until October 2020. 18 months on, it’s an ugly building site, with dense blocks of housing rising up, and little sign of any significant green space materialising, let alone anything to rival the beautiful lost garden.

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2021 Review: Covid, Climate Change, Corrupt, Complicit Governments – and ‘Don’t Look Up’

A poster featuring a quote from Kate Dibiasky, played by Jennifer Lawrence in Adam McKay’s climate denial satire ‘Don’t Look Up.’

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As 2022 begins, Covid-19 continues to dominate our lives. It’s now nearly two years since its arrival triggered levels of panic unprecedented in the lifetimes of most of us in the West — isolating people in their homes, shutting down offices, the hospitality and entertainment industries, and most retail outlets. After restrictions were eased over the summer of 2020 and into autumn, a second wave of the pandemic shut society down again for several long and gruelling months at the start of 2021, and, after another easing of restrictions, a third wave — of the Omicron variant — has once more derailed notions of a return to “normality.”

Thankfully, it looks as though this variant, although highly infectious, is far less deadly, although it will still put a strain on overstretched and exhausted health services. In the UK, however, another serious lockdown looks unlikely — not for medical reasons, but because Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a backbench rebellion that will topple him from power if he once more imposes serious restrictions.

Throughout this period, a far bigger crisis — catastrophic climate change, caused by humanity’s obsession with fossil fuels — has generally been relegated to a secondary position in the considerations of politicians and the media. Activists did a great job of amplifying the concerns of largely ignored climate scientists in the years before Covid hit, but although there was a brief reawakening of interest in climate change in November, when the COP26 climate summit of world leaders took place in Glasgow, it passed as soon as the conference ended, and the Omicron variant took over.

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Photos and Report: Extinction Rebellion’s Two Weeks of Timely and Urgent Actions Calling on Banks to End All Fossil Fuel Investments Now

“It’s Happening Now”: Highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis, Extinction Rebellion supporters hold up a banner by Lloyd’s Building on Leadenhall Street in the City of London on September 3, 2021, during their two-week long ‘Impossible Rebellion’ (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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When faced with the gravest existential threat to humanity’s future in our lifetimes — no, it’s not Covid, it’s catastrophic climate change as a result of the actions of humanity — homo sapiens, for all our vaunted ability to think and to understand complex situations, have found ourselves unable or unwilling to deal with it.

Three responses have been dominant over the many decades that this unfolding crisis has been apparent: firstly, denial, propagated by the climate change deniers in the fossil fuel industry and amplified by corrupt media; secondly, a complete lack of interest from those parts of the population (around a third in total) who have become completely disengaged from politics; and thirdly, and belatedly, a recognition of the severity of the crisis, but an acceptance that slowly-awakening politicians making promises about change that will take place decades from now is the best that we can do.

A fourth group is trying to do something about it, through non-violent direct action, to try to raise awareness of the urgent severity of the crisis, and the need for major structural changes to the way humans consume the planet’s resources, unleashing alarming quantities of greenhouse gases — primarily, carbon dioxide and methane — that are causing the earth’s atmosphere to change from one that supports an abundance of life to one that threatens it via increasingly hostile weather conditions, rising tides, melting ice and dying oceans.

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2021 is the Year of Catastrophic Climate Change, But Capitalism Doesn’t Care

A photo from Twitter that may or may not be real, but that, I believe, expresses a profound truth about the nature of climate change, in this year of unprecedented wildfires and floods, and, in general, human beings’ inability to deal with its ramifications.

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Since I first saw it on Twitter last week, I’ve been haunted by the photo above, showing holidaying diners by the sea, or by a lake, seemingly oblivious to the wildfires engulfing a forest on the hills behind. It may or may not be from Turkey, recently ravaged by uncontrollable wildfires. Or it may be, as one commentator suggested, from similar wildfires in Oregon four years ago. It may even be photoshopped, but in the year that wildfires have engulfed forests in country after country across the globe to an unprecedented degree, in yet another year of record-breaking heat in numerous locations, and in its juxtaposition of this disaster with the people blithely, self-obsessedly asserting their right to enjoy themselves, it vividly captures an uncomfortable truth about our collective inability, as human beings, to put aside the allure of self-gratification that is so engrained in so much of our culture, when faced with an existential threat that is largely of our own making.

In that sense, it is as profound as the photo, from 2017, of US golfers continuing their pointless game, in Washington State, while the world around them was consumed by flames, which prompted me to use the photo to accompany an article I wrote in May 2019, entitled, I Pledge My Allegiance to the Struggle for Survival Against Catastrophic Climate Change, inspired by the campaigning of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, and by the the publication in 2018, by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of a landmark report in which, as the Guardian described it. the world’s leading climate scientists warned there was “only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.”

Unfortunately, while not being oblivious, or in denial, or still enslaved, like so many of my fellow human beings, by simply trying to survive in a harsh capitalist system that exploits so many for the benefit of the comparatively few, my fine words in 2019 haven’t translated into reality. I have continued to work towards the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, to raise money to live on, to play music and to chronicle London in photographs on daily bike rides.

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The Hell That is Boris Johnson’s Broken, Brexit-Deluded, Covid-Ravaged England

Boris Johnson leaves a media briefing in Downing Street on December 24, 2020.

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For the last two months, my physical world has shrunk immensely. For nine years I cycled almost every day, capturing the changing face of London on bike rides that have taken me to the furthest postcodes of Europe’s largest city, and that, since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, involved me cycling most days into central London — the City and the West End — to capture what began as apocalyptic emptiness, to which, by degrees, human activity eventually returned, but on nothing like the scale that it was before Covid hit. I post a photo a day from those bike rides — with accompanying essays — on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’, and also on Twitter.

Two months ago, however, I sprained my leg quite badly — crossing an unexpected line when what I thought was healthy activity turned out to be something that, instead, signified that my body’s resilience was finite, and that I was wearing it out.

Since then, I’ve barely left my immediate neighbourhood. For most of the last two months, I felt fortunate if I was able to hobble to the bottom of the street I live in in Brockley, in south east London. The worst of it is now over, as the muscle I sprained has finally healed, but in the process of compensating my knee itself is now bruised and painful, and although I can walk further — up to and and around my local park, Hilly Fields, and around the streets nearest to me, I haven’t been able to venture further afield, except on a few occasions when my wife has driven me somewhere.

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The Four Fathers Release New Existential Song ‘The Wheel of Life’, As Bandcamp Waives Its Revenue Share to Help Musicians

The cover of ‘The Wheel of Life’ by The Four Fathers, designed by drummer Bren Horstead.

My band The Four Fathers have just released the last of three songs we recorded before the coronavirus hit, with the multi-talented musician and producer Charlie Hart, whose illustrious career involves playing with Ian Dury in Kilburn and the High Roads, many years with Ronnie Lane, after he left the Faces, in Slim Chance, and several occasions spent working with the wonderful Congolese singer Samba Mapangala.

The release is ‘The Wheel of Life’, a meditation on aging, and on the importance of living in the moment, which I hope has some resonance right now, as we all try to cope with the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, which brought our thoughtlessly excessive lifestyles to an abrupt halt three months ago, but which has also precipitated a forthcoming recession of possibly terrifying proportions, as well as silencing all forms of culture that involves live interaction at close quarters.

Live music is just one the casualties of this strange new world, and while we try to work out how to resume entertaining one another in a live context, creative people are suffering. In an attempt to help, Bandcamp, the US online music service, which we use in preference to streaming companies, has been waiving its fees on specific days throughout the coronavirus lockdowns, starting on March 20, when music fans spent “$4.3 million on music and merch — 15x the amount of a normal Friday — helping artists cover rents, mortgages, groceries, medications, and so much more”, and followed by May 1, when fans paid artists $7.1 million, and June 5, when fans paid artists $4.8 million.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

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The Guantánamo Files

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The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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