Meteors Vs Climate Change: Pick Your Apocalypse

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Armageddon. A fascinating and terrifying prospect.

As a species, we are obsessed with the possibility of our own annihilation. We revel in the idea of humanity’s potential demise, consuming an array of apocalyptic films, each depicting the coming of the end in many and various imaginative guises.

From the safety of our sofas, we observe Bruce Willis with biceps akimbo – and god lord that man simply does not age – deliver mankind again and again.

When a meteor crashed into the Russian Urals last week, the media found itself in a state of semi-orgasmic rapture. A rock from outer-space colliding with the service of the earth. Melancholia? Not quite, but terrifically exciting nonetheless.

The images broadcast inspired awe in those who saw them. It piqued a fascination with something other-wordly and impossible, allowing us to toy with the idea of our destruction, while apart from an unfortunate few, never being in any real danger.

So if we are so intrigued by the end of the world, why the heck are we not more worked up climate change?

The story simply seems to fallen off the daily news agenda. Perhaps it’s not quite Hollywood enough. Or perhaps it is simply a bit to close to home.

Whatever the reason, there is reluctance to contemplate the  very real possibility that, in the not so distant future, our planet will perhaps no longer be able to support life as we know it.

Talking about climate change remains a little bit like talking about a Harry Potter-style world of magic; it’s entertaining to imagine but basically we all know that it isn’t real; the impression being that climate change is fundamentally a topic that should be left to people who eat grass and live in tents woven from hemp.

Except that it isn’t.

It is an issue which affects everyone, with those in “the poorest developing countries hit earliest and hardest by climate change,” according to a recent report by World Vision UK. This seems especially rough as they have contributed little to causing the problem.

Thankfully there are those who are working and campaigning to change raise the profile of this critical issue.

Yesterday,  February 17th, 50,000 people joined in the biggest climate action in US history, coming together in Washington DC in order to call upon President Obama to take action on climate change and reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline project proposal.

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The organisers were 350.org, “a global movement that’s inspiring the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis.” The action in DC was accompanied by rallies across Europe, each of which represented a stance of solidarity with those resisting extreme fossil fuel projects.

The pressure on Obama to move forward on the Alaskan pipeline is immense. As is the push for him to embrace fracking, as it will help the US reduce its carbon emissions and meet environmental targets.

Although it would seem that there is little that could stand in the way of big business and powerful lobbyists who are keen for such projects to go ahead, from direct experience with the Oil and Gas industry, environmental activists and local campaigners are more difficult to dismiss than one might imagine. Especially once the media gets behind an action.

So let us hope that those who dictate our current news agenda opt away from chasing scoops on Bird Flu or space-rock-near-misses, and see that one of the biggest and most important stories of our time is right under their noses.

It may not be as immediately alluring as a flesh-eating virus let’s say, but our rapid acceleration towards runaway climate-change is a huge deal. It is already directly affecting millions of people every day, while quietly sealing the fate of generations to come. 

Furthermore, despite his amazing defiance of the ageing process, he’s not getting any younger… Brucie won’t be around to save us forever.

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There is a change in consciousness, the intuition that something big is possible – Paul Mason, BBC

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Think of the British Broadcasting Corporation and your immediate sense is probably not of an organisation that revels in the ideals of activism and revolution. Fawlty Towers perhaps, or the shipping forecast, maybe. Possibly a romping period drama even, but not of activism.

That is probably because you have not yet encountered Paul Mason, economics editor for the BBC’s Newsnight television program.

This lad is a bit of a hero.

Alongside his work as a reporter, he has written extensively on the subject of global revolution and, at the beginning of last year, released a book entitled Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere. Here he argues that a global protest movement is here to stay.

The dramatic events of 2011, from the Arab Spring to the student protests in Santiago De Chile, he says, do not represent merely a flash in the pan. Instead, they herald the dawning of a new and, in some ways, a savvier and more sophisticated type of protester.

“People have a better understanding of power. The activists have read their Chomsky and their Hardt-Negri… Young people believe the issues are no longer class and economics, but simply power: they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various ‘revolutions’ in their own lives as part of an ‘exodus’ from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a ‘diversion into the personal.”

The reason I have chosen to mention him today is that I have recently read a few reviews giving him a hard time for supposedly allowing his own political ideolgies to get in the way of deeper and more objective readings of the subject matter that he covers. Daniel Knowles of The Telegraph even goes as far to dismiss Mason’s argument as “nonsense.”

Well of course he does. For what Mason is saying is highly critical of the world’s current economic model, the type of which our friend Knowles does extremely well out of, thank you very much. Unfortunately for Knowlesy, however, Mason cannot be so easily dismissed simply as a  ranting “Lefty.”

Mason is an experienced and shrewd correspondent who has been there on the ground in Egypt, in Athens, in the Yemen as people took to the streets. If you are interested in his credentials, check out his blog to get an idea of the places the guy has been and the sights he has seen, for it was upon this blog that his last book was based. Whether you agree with his perspectives or not, at the very least it makes for interesting reading.

That is not to say he perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the older generation are a bit put out by his representation of them as sometimes being rather technologically retarded. Meanwhile, some of the young’uns feel like he is making the situation look bleaker than it is. Furthermore, it is clear he struggling to understand the paradox  between neoliberal oppression and the newly enjoyed freedom social movements and young people enjoy as a result of technological advances developed by a capitalist system.

One thing is for sure, however, Paul Mason is a character and an interesting one. For those of us who have witnessed with abject disbelief the BBC breakfast news become more akin to an after school special for the under-sevens, to have someone with half a brain and strong ideals on staff is a small beacon of hope that real, controversial and principled journalism lives on.

* As it turns out, there is also a Paul Mason in the US who made his name by losing a phenomenal amount of weight. When googling Paul Mason pictures, I was subsequently faced with image after image of swathes of loose skin. If you find yourself with a spare moment, this is fascinating stuff. 

What do Macaulay Culkin and an Ecuadorian tribe have in common?

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A Hollywood child star and an indigenous tribe living in the depths of a South American rainforest do not lend themselves to immediate comparison.

But for those familiar with the exploits of Culkin´s most famous alter-ego, the pre-pubescent Kevin a la Home Alone  who goes to mighty lengths to protect the family house from a couple of  grizzled intruders, things may eventually become clearer.

In the film (released in 1990), via a highly unlikely series of events, the McAllister family succeed in accidentally leaving the eight year Kevin at home as the rest of them depart for their Christmas holidays. No similarities with an Ecuadorian tribe just yet, but wait.

Our protagonist is then faced with the task of defending his home against two burglars intent upon plundering his parent’s property and making off with the spoils. It seems impossible that Kevin will succeed in his mission to survive and protect. His attackers are stronger and bigger than him. He is just a boy.

Yet, thanks to his quick minded employment of household products, which he ingeniously crafts into weapons of defence – including the strategic arrangement of small toy cars, syrup and a bag of feathers to render the baddies crippled in their intent – our young hero emerges victorious and the sanctity of his habitat is preserved.

And therein lies the link.

It is a tenuous one you might say, but it was of Kevin and adventures that I thought off when I read an article in The Guardian detailing the way in which a tribe in the rainforest of Ecuador was arming itself for a possible invasion by the Petroamozanas.

The Kichwa tribe live on Sani Isla. Oil giants are interested in their land with the Ecuadorian president harbouring plans to bring energy  speculators in to look at 4 million hectares of jungle. Backed by local security forces it is clearly who hold the advantage when it comes to numbers and material prowess.

Despite being the underdog, however, the tribe have said they are ready to fight to the death to protect their territory, which covers 70,000 hectares. They are currently assembling a make-shift armoury consisting of  blowpipes and spears. They are borrowing guns and are preparing to use sticks stones and any other weapons they can lay their hands on.

They have no intention of hurting anyone if they do not have to, they say, they just want to hold onto this portion of rainforest that has been theirs since anyone can remember.

This is classic Kevin McAllister. The difference is, of course, that this isn’t fiction.

Unlike Kevin, the virtue of their cause alone is not enough to consolidate victory. Outside the inevitable justice of a kid’s movie, winning the day just because you are the rightful heroes does not insure a just conclusion.

Avaaz have therefore launched a campaign to  create a media storm and expose this oil exploitation at a point when  the president is up for reelection and vulnerable to accusations of hypocrisy. He has maintained that he is a green leader so to draw widespread criticism would be, as they say, “a PR nightmare”.

I am currently in Latin America, a part of the world so rich in natural beauty that the travesty of it’s gradual destruction seems all the more profound. I’ve started by signing this petition, however, this does not seem even vaguely adequate. It has been a while since I’ve held a sling-shot, but how I wish I had the balls to join the Kichwas as they face their enemy.