Logic has no Conscience

I can’t be the only one bemused by the COP25 discussions in Madrid, discussions which had the savour of ‘Rescue the World’ about them.

The Madrid conference appears to have ended with agreement that everybody will turn up next year in Glasgow, to talk about the same issues again, suggesting, to me, that they failed to agree about anything.

Not that it matters.  While we wrangle fruitlessly over emissions, while we play at politics where East meets West, South meets North, while we gamely sort our tins from our plastics and recycle everything we can, the kids are still being born.

The kids are still being born!

Because there really is only one solution to climate change, and we know it, all of us.  Yet we dare not speak its name.

We have to control our population growth, reverse it, even, before Nature takes action on our behalf.   In the 20th Century, the world population nearly quadrupled, from 1650 million to 6008 million.  The population of India grew from 802 million in 1986 to 1339 million today, Mexico 77.74 million to 129.2 million in the same period.   These are not unique, merely examples, and although ‘First World’ countries do better, they are by no means immune. By 2050, world population is forecast to reach 9.8 billion, by 21001, 11.2 billion.

If that isn’t scary enough, forecast figures are cast on a prognosis of reduced fertility, and the assumption that ‘peak child’ (a curious term for the highest point in the growth curve) is already past.  Is it?

Few really believe a world population of 11.2 billion is sustainable for any duration.  On the road to 2100 species extinctions will be so damaging the fly-blown, disease-ridden life that results will not be one any of us would wish upon ourselves.

This isn’t pleasant, but logic has no conscience, and although defeat of logical argument is the genius of the human spirit, this one won’t go away.  It is, truly, the elephant in the room, yet we seem able to virtually ignore it, step around it, clamber over it while we bicker about a new coal mine and argue carbon footprints; stop-gaps and patches – laudable in themselves, but letting the real damage be wrought unchecked.

I suppose we ignore the problem because we are unwilling to countenance the solutions, but we are running out of time.  Unacceptable as this seems, the age of free choice is past – a family and children must become a privilege earned rather than a right; old age an option, not an inevitability.  This opens all sorts of doors of course, releases all kinds of demons – no-one wants to see promotion of a master-race, or some form of murder of the first-born, but where there is a will there must be a way to curb fertility without such excesses.

If the challenge can be met humanely, it will require us to think deeply about our religious beliefs and reset some of the foundation stones of our philosophy.   Our own and the next two generations will play a vital role. If we fail, the second half of this century will descend into chaos.

I hope by the time the climate-change roadshow hits Glasgow next year they will have evolved into a more progressive way of thinking:  I hope, rather than believe.  Personally, I’m pretty certain we are destined to go ploughing cheerfully on into the abyss, But then I would be, wouldn’t I?

Because there’s a great novel in it.

 

 

Tomchik’s Ornithology

Tomchik reaches for his bag, which sits between us on the bench.

“I like it here,” he says.  He produces a thermos flask from within the bag’s khaki canvas depths, and proffers it.

I refuse.  I am meant to refuse, he is hoping I will refuse, “Me, too.”  I acknowledge, as he pours himself a shiny metal cup of tea.  “You’ve gone environmental, then?”

“This metal thing?”  He glances at the thermos, shrugs his shoulders; “Is alright, I guess.”

“Is it biodegradable?”

Tomchik turns his grey eyes on me in that analytical manner of his.  “I don’t know,”  He replies.  “I am.”

The wind sweeps down upon our backs, riffling through the heather and chattering my teeth on its way to more important business in the valley below.  “Sooner rather than later if you stay here,” I tell him.  “Or am I the only one who’s freezing to death?”

“Sometimes it is worth a little bit coldness to enjoy,” He waves expansively over the view before us.  “You see whole village from here.  Is worth it, no?”

I have to admit our situation is ideal.  We are sitting beside a path which cuts along the side of Carter Fell above the churchyard.  We have an unobstructed view of the squat grey roofs clustered three hundred feet below, of the winding snake of water that needs a few rushing miles yet to become the River Wenly, and the narrow road that follows it.  I can identify my home among the roofs, and I can see Tomchik’s too.  We are neighbours, he and I.  In a small village, everyone is a neighbour.

“How long have you lived here, Tomchik?”

“Why you ask me?  I am immigrant, yes?”  He takes a paper package from his bag and unwraps it thoughtfully, exposing sandwiches.  “Cheeses and pickles; you like?”  Again he makes a token offer and I respond with a token refusal.  “Many years.”  He nods, selecting a sandwich and dunking a corner of it in his tea.  “You think I shouldn’t be here, yes?”

The question surprises me.  I have known him for all of those years.  “No, of course I don’t think that.  Are you sensitive about it?  If we have to look at it like that, you’re one very good reason I approve of immigration!”

“Ah.” Tomchik munches solemnly.  There is silence.

I say:  “I can’t imagine the village without you.”

Tomchik points.   “You see the Harry Tulliver’s house?”

“Plainly.”   The cottage where Harry and Jane Tulliver eke out their fairly meagre existence is easy to identify.  “It’s sad to see the weeds, though.  Harry used to be such a gardener!  He doesn’t seem to do much now; I guess he is getting too old.”

“No, no.  Not too old,” Tomchik corrects me.  “You are right to say sad.  I am right to say tired.  Harry is tired man,   That is why he is sad.”

Sometimes Tomchik’s crooked logic leaves me behind.  “Alright then; why tired?”

He allows himself a tolerant sigh, “Tired two ways.  The bay tree is still prospering, you agree?”

I agree.  The tree in Harry’s garden is his pride and joy.

“One way tired.  The goldfinches, they used to nest in this fine bay tree – now is gone.   Two way tired.  Tell me another way you recognise house of Mr and Mrs Tulliver?”

I do not understand him at first.   Of course I recognise the house!  What is Tomchik driving at?  I decide to stoke things up with a little amusement.  “Well, their roof is a slightly different colour.  White polka dots!”

“Bird droppings, yes?”

“Yes,”

“So!  Two ways!  Sparrows!    Sparrows squabbling, mess all over windows, all over back path.  Sparrow fledglings in a row on the fence, squeaking to be fed.  Sparrows nesting – six nests in the bay tree already.”

“So, why the feeders?”  I wave a hand to indicate the three feeders filled with seed that are distributed about Harry’s blessed plot.  “They wouldn’t come if the spoils weren’t so readily available.”

“Exactly!  Mrs Jane, she tells Harry, put them out!  So Harry puts them out, and sparrows come.  Starlings, they come, seagulls, they come.  They eat everything – seed, Harry’s peas, raspberries, strawberries, everything he plant, they eat.  Every time those feeders empty, his wife she puts out more seed.  Those goldfinches, they leave, the bluetits, the chaffinches, the wagtails…”  Tomchik shakes his head,  “all birds Mrs Jane like, are gone.  She thinks she can feed them all, but she just get more sparrows.  Just sparrows.”

“Harry should tell her.  Harry should put his foot down!”

“This I say to him.  I say to him, Harry, you must take back your garden.  He say no, if he tell her she say without her food all sparrows will starve.  She is responsible, she say.  More and more money she spend on food for the birds.  Tullivers, they are not rich.  Harry’s vegetables he grew were food for them.  Now…”  Tomchik shrugs fatalistically, “No vegetables!  Nothing!”

“I don’t understand Jane…”  I begin.

“No-one!”  Tomchik cuts in,  “No-one understand Jane!”

“Have you asked her about it?”

“I do.  I ask her.  You know what she think?  She think without her these birds, they are dead birds.  She likes the pretty birds.”

Tomchik grasps my arm to gain my full attention.  He stares at me.  “You like the pretty Tomchik?  Chirp, chirp!”

 

© Frederick Anderson 2019.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eurpoe

mermaid wall (2016_04_04 15_16_25 UTC)
The Sirens of Brussels

 

A word from Divvin (that’s an English County next to Zummerzet and just down the road from Darsit, if you’m wonderin’).

Now, my Darlin’s, ‘tis like this.

Other wick we had a vote, see?  ‘Twas like ever’body got to ‘ave a say about how us felt ‘bout the immigrants an’ that, an’ we all turned out and we told ‘em, no uncertain fashion, like, what us thought we ought to do.  Leave that there Eurpoe Onion thing from the Brussels!   Yes!   An’ it turns out we didn’t want nothin’ more to do wi’ no Onions, and ‘ow we wanted to go out by ourselves.  Aye!

Well, turns out we were wrong, see?   ‘Cause all these ‘ere thinkin’ people says we should stay in, an’ ‘ow we faces certain ruin if we don’t.   An’ we says to ‘em, see, it was a Democratic Decishun, but they say that don’t count, ‘cause apparently they won’t get so much money if us makes ‘em leave, and they won’t be able to live in they there nice London apartments no more, or travel around this ‘ere Eurpoe to get better jobs, and stuff like that.   They says we bin lied ter, an’ un-screw-pew-lus people, they led us up the garden path, an’ that.  We jus’ voted ‘cause of the immigration, see?  Aye.

So they goin’ to change wha’ we want to what they want, and that’s o’y fair, ‘cause we’m jus’ ord’nary people, and not great and good like they are.

So, seems to me that all these ‘ere clever people, they on’y peddle that there Democracy to us when they want us to see things their way; and if we don’t, then they got to twist it about until we do.  Lawyers, and Ac’demics, and that, they knows what’s good for us, don’ they?  An’ learned people, they thinks we’re too thick to unnerstand ‘bout Eurpoe.

See, I voted ‘cause I didn’t think that there Onion was goin’ anywhere.  I thought that my country is what serves me a livin’ an’ not none of the Brussels.   They’m got strange money that they keeps printin’ with no vaalue behind un, they keeps poorer countries strugglin’ for a livin’ an’ it’s not long afore we becomes one of those, if we stays in, like.   They keeps takin’ our money and givin’ us less back than what they takes, they makes rules we can’t keep up with, and my sheep dip’s more ‘ficient at keepin’ out the nasties than their immigration pol’cy.  They destroyed our fishin’ ind’stry, they put the cost of livin’ up for all of us an’ they make us tax things we shouldn’t, don’t they?  And we can’t take so many people!    Now, that’s not racist, nor nothin’, but us got a dooty to house and keep the people we already got.  It makes sense, see?  If my neighbour, he don’t put no fence up,  his sheep gets all mixed up wi’ mine an’ they overstocks my land while I feeds ‘em for ‘im for free.  Seems simple sense to me.

But there.  I don’t know nothin’.  I may know the price of livestock an’ ow to run a business, but to you they ac’demics I’m jus’ the peasant who’s ‘pinions you thinks you can ignore – I’ll jus’ tug my forelock as I passes you by and you can try to forget it’s me who does all the work, who keeps your nicely feathered beds stuffed an’ makes your country run.

So, talk your way into believing you are doing the right thing in trying to overturn the will of the people with your contrived arguments and Machiavellian tactics.   Buy your politicians and your expensive lawyers; pay the media to find a case for you to make.  But if you do, and you succeed in contraverting the will of the people you will finally write the obituary of  British democracy, and prove the lie you have been trying to disguise for so many years.

And I, at least, will stand against you, tooth and claw.  And I will never, whatever ‘democratic’ compulsion you thrust upon me, mark a ballot paper again.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will…

So the frivolities are over, the obligations fulfilled, the promises made.  The bride and bridegroom of the old year have been waved away, leaving  the land to rest and await Spring’s wakening.  The coloured lights, the glitter’s memory, the gleam of hope must warm us for a while as we prepare against Nature’s frozen sleep.

Yet there is an air of apocalypse about this year’s turning.  Highest winds, heaviest rain, warmest recorded days – they  march together holding their placards high to remind us – the world is old; it has no more to give.

So many good people have spent their winter festival in darkness this year:  no coloured lights, no tinsel, no happy gathering of family or friends to warm their hearts, just the rising waters of burst rivers about their feet, the howl of the storm around their heads.  Although there will always be those who smile and push the truth aside:  next winter will be better, next year all this will be forgotten – although some will insist it is ‘God’s punishment’, and go about in sackcloth and ashes exhorting us to use coloured bins, to drink our own recycled urine, to store our sunny days in batteries as if that will somehow tip the scales, yet there is only one truth.  We all know it, in our hearts.

We are too many.

I have this one wish.  If you like it is my New Year’s resolution.   It is not for me, my tenancy has nearly expired.   It is for my children I ask that we please accept:  there is a god – not some mythical deity reigning over an undefinable paradise, no, but a god whose existence is provable, who has us in her care.  By our actions, rather than by cheap words and mindless ritual, we should honour her.  Yet we turn our backs.  We exploit her, we use her gifts for our own selfish gains.  When, occasionally and understandably, she gets cross she reminds us of her power.  In the tsunami, the earthquake, the typhoon, the epidemic or the drought.  She is reminding us now.  In fact, she is giving us our final warning.

Before the contagion of monotheism took hold our ancestors well knew Nature’s power – they grew wise in the art of living beneath her panoply and they prospered, in the terms of their time.  They brought us to our place in the world of today.  And no, I am not advocating  a return to the grass hut, or the shadow of a new plague.  Civilisation has brought many good things to the table; progress is not all bad.  Conspicuous consumption, over-indulgence and greed – those things are bad;  and no religion is needed to remind us of basic morality – that we can see for ourselves, whether or not we choose to confess it.

Somehow – peacefully, I would hope – we need to get some sort of grip on the numbers.  We have to comprehend the selfishness of the individual when that runs contrary to the interests of our species and control our natural desire to multiply.   If we do not do so, if we continue to delude ourselves that somehow technology can be made to stretch the resources of our planet indefinitely, then Nature will act.  Humankind will become just another brief chapter in that dusty tome of evolution which nestles on a shelf somewhere among  the stars.

The way of man is the pointless fight.  It is the way of man that the final battle is always lost.

That is something we have to change.

That’s it.  Sorry to add a sombre note, but there are some things I just have to say!  Back to the stories next time….

 

© 2016 Frederick Anderson; all rights reserved.   No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form (other than for the purpose of re-blogging) or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

 

 

 

Wandering

I was born in a small fishing port, at the mouth of a river which gave its name to a moor – a wild place. Dartmoor is a lofty range of misty valleys and veiled heights, of bracken and bogs and heather-clad slopes – a haven once for brigands and thieves, untamed men who served in Drake’s navy and pirated the seven seas.

No longer. Though some who perch on Dartmoor’s windswept fells might insist the wild Dartmoor_pony_foal_1men are still with us, the only manifestation of their criminality is likely to be car theft. The spirit of the moor, though undefeated, is buried deep, awaiting the next turn of history.

The River Dart retains some fame as host to Dartmouth Naval College, which ensures that our smattering of gun-boats is jealously manned, while Dartmouth itself, town of my birth, retains no fame at all, even though Thomas Newcomen was born there, a few centuries ago. Thomas who? Thomas made the first workable atmospheric engine, progenitor of the steam engine. His beam pumps were used everywhere a mine needed drying out, back in heady eighteenth century times. Dartmouth is the site where a ferry crossing once linked the main arterial road from the Devon coast to the rest of the peninsula.

Once, not now. The old ferry remains. The queues for it are as torturous as ever, but its users are there for the tourist experience, rather than an urgent need to reach Plymouth, or Truro, or St, Ives. The spider of communication has spun her web across these traditional routes, keeping them cocooned while she sucks their juices. Is this a bad thing? I don’t know. It is progress, and one should never question progress.

Although I have returned there now and then I have no early memories of Dartmouth. Nor do I recall those of my infant years which were spent in Paignton, a neighboring Devon coastal town. My first childhood memories are of Exeter, Devon’s capital city, and from there my life’s journey led me through different episodes across the southern breadth of this land – Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Essex, London. I have been, in short, something of a gypsy. And in all my years I never kept a friend or found a home.

Instead, a peculiar thing has happened, something that I know I find inspirational and perhaps inspires the writer in all of us. I have made a home in me. My imagination is my caravan, my mind is my world. I rarely dwell upon the past. I will not share it like a poet over a pint of beer or belabor it as a fellow traveler upon a bus journey of tedious reminiscence. I commit it to paper instead. I do not lack for company, for whenever I need a friend I can find one on a white sheet of A4. If I want a memory to share I can find that too, simply by turning another corner in my brain.

Yet the worm will return to eat its own tail in the end. Somewhere in my psyche there must be a predilection for those open moors and wind-chilled heights that were my near neighbors in infancy. Certainly I am never happy in the confinement of a city – I hate the taste of traffic in my air. This may be why I live where I do, at the place where the caravan stopped; where the wheels finally fell off, if you will. But it may also be true there are stories in Weardale’s wild fells, and a voice that cries to be heard.

37Wherever margins exist tales lie beyond. In this crowded land the taint of man adventures in high places at his peril. Where he dares go, there the wild wind and the scoured clay will whisper secrets to him in the night, will scare him with demons in the cold snow, murmur the quiet suggestions that can turn his mind. These things are the province of real men; men with some pirate still in their flinted souls, who grow up to talk with close mouths and see with narrowed eyes; who dress with no obedience to season, are slow to speak and quick to judge. Their intimacy with the land is absolute and harsh, a relationship some might consider abusive.

Although Dartmoor still harbors a few such men, there is no place for me, no home to which I would want to return. City dwellers have driven Devon men from their land, inflating house prices and bludgeoning a hole in the natural environment, squatting in triple glazed pods defiant of nature. Wherever these people reside, the spirit of the moor is a recluse that is only rarely seen. Not that Weardale can lay claim to status as the last wild place, or presume to Dartmoor’s natural beauty. As our land becomes more crowded wealth spreads across it like a disease, but the worst effects of skin rash have not reached Weardale – not yet.

So that jaded virginity, or accident of chaos, or fate, has led me to settle here, amid the ghosts of a millennium and more. For near to twenty years now it has been my home. I have put down roots; strange to me, in the soil of so much history I may never have time to tell it all. Once and again, though, I may risk boring you with Weardale tales, and I hope you will tolerate my slavish devotion to this place.