Reflections on the Surface

January 30, 2009

Ocean Acidification- are coral reefs doomed?

155 of the world’s leading scientists will today issue the Monaco declaration in which they draw attention to the plight of the oceans over the next fifty and more years. By 2050 it is likely that much of the world’s coral will be dead.

This ‘other’ CO2 problem is not going to go away that easily, as the oceans absorb about 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide.

It is all too easy to take the vastness of the seas for granted, but we need to be reminded that dead seas mean a dead planet. And with dead zones proliferating all over the planet -zones where precious little life can survive, it is time to be reminded of the likelihood of the future.

But, sadly, seeing that most of the press is focussed on the economic mess that we are in right now, its hardly surprising that most of the human race won’t listen when the scientists speak.

Long term planning requires patience and persistence and a broad vision for a very different future. Qualities exemplified by President Barack Obama who is fast coming up against the 19th century ideas of the GOP as they rail against his vision.

But now is not the time for obfuscation. It is time for clarity and time to wake up. Lets listen to the scientists and start a dialogue.


January 19, 2009


David de Rothschild, founder of Adventure Ecology, has created an innovated experiment: an intriguing raft crafted from disused water plastic water bottles which is to be released into the Pacific Ocean. His project is intended to raise our awareness about plastic waste and the enormity of the problem that faces the Oceans.
He writes…
“I think that the most important thing is not to make plastic the enemy, but to really reassess how we use, dispose, and reuse it. It comes down to the old cliché of stopping to think before you buy. Can you reuse the bottle that contained the water or soda you drank earlier? The small things can make a big difference. We can all minimize our impact if we fundamentally change the way in which we consume.”

Imagine this boat as it encounters the Great Pacific Gyre: an Oceanic rubbish patch three times the size of the UK that is hidden from our conscience. Plastiki will be dwarfed by the vast soup of rubbish and it plastiki-mapstands every chance of being strangled by debris.
But lets be optimistic for now and assume it makes it all the way South to the Antipodes.
It is time to listen to its message and hope that our attitudes change or face the grim reality of an ugly truth. That humanity is callous, careless and capricious and that using the Oceans as a bottomless dumping ground is a sign of our limitless capacity for self-destruction.

September 9, 2008

Rubbish Soup

The Pacific Ocean hosts the world’s largest rubbish dump: a continent-sized swirl of rotting plastic and rubbish which is growing in size as I write and which could double over the next ten years.

This ghastly spectacle stretches from Hawaii to Japan in two giant circulating dumps of rubbish.

Charles Moore, the oceanographer who discovered this mess estimates that there are about 100 million tons of detritus fouling the seas.

Meanwhile, its ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ and business as usual as the planet staggers on, bowed down by the enormity of biosphere degradation.
Its a tragedy that the US election is being reduced to sarcastic sound bites and negativity by the Republicans at a time when, more than any other, the entire human community needs positivity and a real sense of vision.
And so the rubbish will continue to expand when all the election is over and the earth will be poorer and humanity, increasingly, poised on a downward spiral towards environmental catastrophe.

November 7, 2007

Arctic Futurology

London, England

Most neuropsychologists would agree that one of the distinguishing features of the human brain is its highly complex frontal cortex which enables high-level planning and thought patterns to take place in abstract time.
We’re talking about future here. Planning ahead; thinking of consequences; anticipating outcomes… in other words, intelligence.
With news this week that humpback and fin whales are swimming hundreds of kilometres further north than ever before, it is again, time to sit up and listen and think ahead.
To quote Deborah Williams a former Department of Interior special assistant for Alaska who is now an advocate for finding solutions to climate change:
“We now have even more compelling reasons to protect the Arctic Ocean and the species dramatically affected by climate change…
Now one of the things that has struck me in recent weeks is an astonishing level of complacency emerging amongst certain writers and commentators on the matter of climate change.
Books are being published that offer a stunning insight into the capacity of the human mind to delude itself in the face of the obvious.
They argue that climate change will be seen to be not so bad after all… that climate change is happening, but its out of our control… etc etc
Its almost as if the human race is poised at an impasse. Do we begin the process of relearning how to integrate and care for our biosphere or do we shrug our shoulders and give in?
Well, our ancestors evolved in harmony with the natural world for millenia and the earth did not suffer.
Unfortunately, the earth’s capacity to absorb human effluence is being tested in ways that are having irreversible consequences.
This is the big test now.
Can our intelligence prove its worth? Is the human race truly superior and worthy of surviving on the beautiful planet that spawned it?
Or will the biosphere degrade beyond all capacity for renewal?
We can not afford complacency in the slightest degree… and taking the best care of our atmosphere is just one part of this challenge.
Carbon dioxide emissions are just a fraction of the problem the planet faces.

It is now time for a better re-integration of the human race with its biosphere.
We must all care about the world we live in, for if we don’t give a damn, we are not worthy of existence.

October 26, 2007

Pandora’s Box Part 2

London, England

Hot on the heels of James Lovelock’s dire predictions for the next hundred years, comes this…To quote the Independent newspaper:

A landmark assessment by the UN of the state of the world’s environment paints the bleakest picture yet of our planet’s well-being. The warning is stark: humanity’s future is at risk unless urgent action is taken. Over the past 20 years, almost every index of the planet’s health has worsened. At the same time, personal wealth in the richest countries has grown by a third.
The report, by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), warns that the vital natural resources which support life on Earth have suffered significantly since the first such report, published in 1987. However, this gradual depletion of the world’s natural “capital” has coincided with unprecedented economic gains for developed nations, which, for many people, have masked the growing crisis.
Nearly 400 experts from around the world contributed to the report, which warns that humanity itself could be at risk if nothing is done to address the three major environmental problems of a growing human population, climate change and the mass extinction of animals and plants.


It is not difficult to doubt mankind’s capabilities of saving the Earth; after all the track record so far is appalling.
Nothing less than the most profound change in human consciousness will offer any hope of a reasonable future for this species.
Unfortunately the human species is fundamentally selfish…and largely incapable of the ecological stewardship that is now required as a matter of extreme urgency.
How many grand destructions will it take to wake us all up?

We are now entering a period of extreme unpredictability, and humanity’s true values will be increasingly tested to destruction.
And then some.

October 23, 2007

Pandora’s Box

London, England

 With news that the Atlantic ocean’s capacity to absorb Carbon dioxide is rapidly declining, comes a warning from Australian Scientists that the world’s coral reef”s are poised on the brink of ecological catastrophe.
And yet we still have to suffer the indignity of listening to climate change deniers posturing and parading about the world’s stage as if there is nothing to be concerned about.
This beautiful planet is being systemically and carelessly ruined by short term thinking.
The Native American Indian Concept of Seven Generations ahead is the very least we should be attempting..
So, lets say about 150 years from now:
There will be no more coral reefs; much of Greenland’s ice sheets will be gone; the Arctic ocean will be permanently ice-free; 20% Amazon rain forest will be left (if we are lucky); Sydney will be a ghost city because of permanent drought;  Florida will be inundated with rising seas… the list gets worse, with billions of people being relocated by coastal floods; wildfires will have destroyed much of the American South West…
And yet the preposterous and, quite frankly stupid gang of climate change deniers are happy to sit on their soap boxes and pronounce the world safe.

This is not so much of a Titanic headed for disaster, it is a global bloody tragedy of stupefying scale.
Pandora’s  box is about to opened and the world will never be the same.
Or is there hope? can we act now? could we change our complacent, dumb attitudes and begin to care for our treasure?

Its the only one we’ve got.


October 15, 2007

86400 football fields a day

London, England

Let us not forget, that every second of every day, a football-sized area of Amazon rain forest is destroyed: 86400 football fields a day, 3 million a year.

Its like watching the lungs being ripped out of an animal, alveolus by alveolus; cell by cell. Soon the animal will be dead.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Viscount Monckton (the man with funds behind the Great Global Warming Swindle) is patting himself on the back for that so-called victory last week against Al Gore’s film. It makes him and the UK’s New Party  seem stupid beyond belief.

Within a decade, such laissez-faire attitudes will be seen to be contemptible, as will the pack of climate change denialists who swarm about Washington DC like vermin.

Our planet does not deserve such stupidity, and if it were entrusted to these sorts of people we can kiss goodbye to the future.

So, in fifty years time when the Forests are all but gone, there will be no room for Viscount Monckton’s ghost on this shattered planet; it will not be welcome there.

August 17, 2007

No more Sockeye

Fraser River, British Columbia.

Sockeye numbers are down to just over 1million this season; one sixth of the pre-season head count.
Experts are concerned that unusually warm ocean waters off the BC coast are to blame.

Today, we learn that several key tipping points for climate change are much, much closer than had been thought, and,
that the Greenland ice sheets may well disappear within 300 years rather than the 1000 that the IPCC had predicted.

But, here’s a thought: quantum scientists are confident that time travel may indeed be possible in the near future and,
that it might be feasible for our descendents to send warnings back in time to us now.
Give it a few years and I can imagine a flood of grim news will descend upon us; but will anyone listen?

No more Arctic Ice by the end of the century: Most of the Greenland Ice sheets gone by 2150; Amazon rain forest destruction and desertification by 2180; no more coral reefs by 2200. The list goes on.
And for all the hot air and arguments that have been committed to print about the key facts, the plain, simple truth is this: Biosphere degradation on an unimageanable scale is only decades away.
Banning cars in Beijing to clean up the air may well be a short term local solution, but we need true global-scale thinking now to save our planet.

And a creative, common consensus for the good of us all.

Otherwise we will be fishing empty rivers for the rest of time.

August 3, 2007

Arctic Colonialism

London, England

The Russian Bear has stretched out its claws again, in a move that is almost calculated to chill the air between the nations of the North.
Stupendous reserves of gas and, it is thought, oil, lie there beneath the ice, just waiting to be harvested.

Meanwhile, upwards of 130 million people have been affected by flood waters this year, 20 million in India, and perhaps 119 million in China, where floods have been followed by drought.

Just imagine the scene, one hundred years from now, as historians look back up on this preposterous Arctic land grab. The ice will be long gone; Himalayan glaciers will have shrunk to nothing and the West Antarctic Ice sheet will have withered away. It is likely that a war of some sorts will have been fought been China and Russia over Siberia and millions of people will have been uprooted by rising tides.

But the reserves of the North Pole will be Russian and the Earth will be spoilt and our children’s children will have been bequeathed a sad, sorry, unpleasant world.

And that titanium flag will sit there, triumphantly, on the North Pole’s sea bed, looking like a tattered remnant from some sort of moonwalk that happened a long time ago.




July 31, 2007

The Tortoise and the Hare

Surrey, England.

The man in the silver-gray BMW diesel 320CD grimaced behind me, as I pulled away from the lights at an ordinary speed.
Aged about 55, he was clearly in a hurry,as he and his car clung to my tailgate like a limpet for a while.

I found a safe spot to let him pass, and he did so, accelerating furiously, leaving a large puff of diesel smoke behind him like a fart.

Five minutes later I caught up with him, stalled in a queue of traffic. You should have seen his face.

I looked at his clenched jaw and thought about his health, and about the state of his arteries, probably riddled with clot. And about the fact that diesel-fuel microparticulates are, everywhere, clogging up our hearts and lungs and minds like poison.

The man pulled away from the lights with his foot to the floor and yet another cloud of diesel added to the smog.



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