------ Forwarded Message
From: Chris Johnstone <chris@chrisjohnstone.info>
Date: Sun, 06 Mar 2005 13:19:06 +0000
Subject: FW: Great Turning Times March 2005

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the March 2005 edition of The Great Turning Times. What a lot has happened since last December’s issue. Over 200,000 people have died and millions had their lives turned upside down by the giant tsunami that washed away human settlements thousands of miles apart. If we ever needed reminding how much our lives depend on the smooth functioning of natural systems, this offered that. There are two stories from the Tsunami that I feel are especially relevant to us now, and these I’d like to share with you.
The first concerns the island of Simeulue, which lies off the coast of Sumatra. Although just 60km from the epicentre of the earthquake that caused the giant tidal wave, none of its 70,000 islanders were washed away. How did they survive? In 1907, many islanders had been killed after an earthquake had been followed by a massive tsunami. The story of this had been passed from one generation to the next, so that their folk wisdom carried the message “when the ground shakes, run for the hills”. On December 26th, they did. They had learnt from history. The question is, can we? Could the history of this tsunami be something that we learn from in a way that protects our lives, or those of our children or their children? The next story could offer such a lesson.
In 1993, Thailand’s chief meteorologist, Mr Smith Dhamasaroj, became convinced that an underwater earthquake would trigger a massive tsunami swamping the coastline of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. He knew his stuff, having studied tsunami’s for decades. Yet he was ignored. After a tsunami hit New Guinea in 1998, he went public with his concerns. “I suggested an early warning system be put in place for tidal waves, such as alarm sirens at beachside hotels in Phutek, Phang Nga and Krabi, the three provinces that have now been hit” he said, “I alerted senior officials in these provinces, but no one paid any attention”. Worse than that, he was labelled a scaremonger and ridiculed in the press. Many tourist officials saw his warnings as bad for business, as Smith had recommended that no hotels be built within 300 metres of the shore.
There is an issue here about how we respond to warnings about problems that haven’t happened yet. Thailand hadn’t experienced a tsunami like this within living memory, and so the threat was outside most people’s range of experience. In a similar way, warnings of climate change can seem so far beyond what we’re familiar with that it may sometimes be difficult to appreciate their urgency. But there are plenty of warning signs that things aren’t right – the freak storms, unusual weather, flowers coming out at odd times. At the end of this newsletter is an article about a recent conference reviewing the evidence for climate change. It is disturbing reading. What happened in Thailand is a reminder of what can happen when we shut out the news we don’t want to hear. Let us, like the Simeulue islanders, learn from history.

This newsletter takes as a starting point a recognition that our world is in danger. We face a number of serious threats that include global warming, depletion of resources, disturbance of ecosystems and a growing gulf between the materially rich and poor parts of our world. For many on the planet, the crisis is here already. This may sound gloomy, but it is just the start of the story. This newsletter is about how we find our power to respond, to create a turning towards a just, peaceful and sustainable society where people flourish and enjoy their lives. This is the Great Turning. So how can we become part of this? That’s what this newsletter explores.

With you, in this great adventure of our times

Chris Johnstone
Editor, The Great Turning Times,
Email: chris@chrisjohnstone.info
(and I now have a new website at http://www.chrisjohnstone.info)

If you like this email newsletter, please do pass it on. If it has been forwarded to you and you’d like it regularly, email me with SUBSCRIBE in the subject header. If you want to stop receiving it, please email me with “REMOVE” as a subject header. It comes out four times a year, with editions in September, December, March and June. Copy date for entries is last day of month before next edition. Please let me know of events, news, resources etc that you would like included. Please also keep entries short, ideally about 100-200 words.
(1) If you live outside the UK and would be interested in an international edition of this newsletter that includes insights and resources for the Great Turning, but that doesn’t have details of all the UK events, please email me at chris@chrisjohnstone.info
(2) It was Joanna Macy who coined the phrase ‘The Great Turning’ to describe the story of change required in our times. An interview with her about this is found in the attached pdf file (which can also be downloaded from the Yes magazine website at www.yesmagazine.org/pdf/Macy_Great_Turning.pdf) An article by her about The Great Turning is viewable at http://www.rainbowbody.net/Ongwhehonwhe/MacyGreatTurn.htm
There is more material on her website at http://www.joannamacy.net
(3) Joanna Macy is visiting the UK in May this year. She is giving two public talks. These are:
Saturday 7th May 6pm at the University of Bath
Admission by Ticket from Carolina Salter 01225 386156
ICE Office [iceoffice@management.bath.ac.uk]
Web details at: http://www.bath.ac.uk/carpp/shortcourse/JoannaMacy.htm

Monday 9th May

5.30pm for 6pm, Wesley Memorial Church, New Inn Hall St (near bus station), Oxford
Web details at: http://www.freewebs.com/courageouscommunication/
Please do spread the word about both these events.
Please email chris@chrisjohnstone.info is you’d like an email flyer for the Bath talk to pass on to others
(at 500k it was just a bit big to include in this mailing)
(4) The workshops that Joanna is running at Monkton Wyld and Hawkwood College are both fully booked. But it may still be possible to book a place at the two day workshop she is running for activists in Oxford on May 10th and 11th. Web details at: http://www.freewebs.com/courageouscommunication/
(5) How do we find out about what is happening in our world? Earlier this year, the news came that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising much more rapidly than previously expected. While two UK newspapers carried this story on their front page, most of the UK national press completely ignored it. If people don’t hear about what’s happening, how can they respond? Fortunately the internet is providing a wealth of up to date and reliable sources of information. The following sites are examples and worth checking out.


Please do let me know of any recommendations you have for websites giving well presented information about the state of our world, or also of any sites you find inspiring. Here’s another.
VitalGraphics.net <http://www.vitalgraphics.net/> - Contains all published editions of the popular Vital Graphics Series. Each publication consists of several high quality graphics and text. The goal of the Vital Graphics Series is to visualize complex environmental problems such as Climate Change in an easily understandable way.
(6) Voices from the Edge' is a speaker series featuring inspiring and evolutionary thinkers/activists who have been featured in the “What is Enlightenment?” magazine. Here are two upcoming events in the series.
€ an Evening Talk with Jonathan Granoff - President of the Global Security Institute

"Inner Peace and Outer Responsibilities"

7th March 2005. The Window, 13 Windsor Street Islington N1 8QG.
Jonathan Granoff works directly with governments and world leaders in the pursuit of peace and worldwide nuclear disarmament. As President of the Global Security Institute, he has helped to forge an international alliance of celebrities, diplomats and Noble Peace Laureates the likes of Jane Goodall, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Michael Douglas, and a catalogue of distinguished leaders and activists. Granoff is a tireless activist for peace, addressing world scale issues such as interfaith dialogue and the rule of law. Based on a deep commitment to universal spiritual values, he works to influence national and global policy and law by communicating directly with policy makers.

FURTHER INFORMATION : contact 020 7288 7000
WEB SITE : www.wie.org/voices EMAIL: infolondon@wie.org

€ Andrew Cohen "Living on the Edge of Evolution"
16th &17th April 2005. Talk and Day Seminar
The Window, 13 Windsor Street Islington N1 8QG
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher, innovative thinker and pioneering architect of a new model for living with authenticity in this world. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of What Is Enlightenment? magazine. Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher unique to our times. His style is simple and direct, his impact profound. His vision is original and his message is transforming. Andrew has years of experience guiding people to higher states of awareness. Over the past twenty years, through engagement with thousands of people, he has forged a contemporary teaching of enlightenment which he calls Evolutionary Enlightenment. Join Andrew Cohen in an afternoon talk and day retreat to glimpse this emerging new paradigm.

FURTHER INFORMATION : contact 020 7288 7000
WEB SITE : www.wie.org/voices EMAIL: infolondon@wie.org
(7) Two websites I mentioned in the last edition are so good that I’m going to recommend them again.
http://www.projectflamingo.com/ is produced by the Web of Hope. That name gives something away!
Big Picture TV (http://www.big-picture.tv) is an online TV channel that broadcasts video on demand (VOD) over the web. It includes loads of inspiring interviews with inspiring people. I’m gradually working my way through them. Highly recommended.
(8) Footprint Education offer courses in EcoTherapy. They also organise the Wild at Heart gathering in early September, that is now seeking presenters and contributors. To find out more, view their on-line newsletter at
(9) 2005 Weekend Courses on the Welsh Borders nr Hay-on-Wye
Organised by Gaia Cooperative in association with Resurgence and Schumacher College
Lots of interesting and inspiring workshops – see attached file for info or check out their website at
(10) Live Your Dreams – a one day course in Stroud, Saturday 16 July, £47 including lunch
See attachment Live your dreams.doc for info. For details please ring Hawkwood College 01453 759 034
(11) The work that reconnects in Spain! September 17th – 24th at Cortijo Romero, Southern Spain.
With Chris Johnstone and Kathleen Sullivan. Cost £425 To book, phone 01494 765775
or see web details at http://www.cortijo-romero.co.uk or at http://www.chrisjohnstone.info
Is it possible to find our power to respond to planetary crisis whilst living a life of joy?
This one week residential course combines personal renewal, deepening connection with life and personal power training in a splendid setting among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Come to this if you want to strengthen your ability to find and play your role in this Great Turning whilst having a great week/life too.
(12) The work that reconnects in Dorset! Monkton Wyld Court, nr Charmouth, Dorset
September 9th – 11th 2005, Cost £160 (concs £130) full board. With Chris Johnstone and Kathleen Sullivan
We live at a time of mass extinction of species and disturbing trends in global weather systems. How do we find our power to respond to this? The Work That Reconnects involves empowerment processes developed by Joanna Macy and others (see www.joannamacy.net). Past participants have experienced a profound sense of renewal, deepened personal power and reconnection with life following these workshops.
To book or for further info, contact Chris Johnstone at email: chris@chrisjohnstone.info or see website at http://www.chrisjohnstone.info
(13) Inspiring rainforest activists/deep ecologists John Seed and Ruth Rosenhek continue their series of workshops in North America in June – August this year. You can see details of their workshop programme at http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/deep-eco/schedule.htm
They are some plans underway for John and Ruth to offer some workshops in the UK in 2006, but this is just at the planning stage at the moment. If you would like to invite John and Ruth to run a workshop in your area and you can help set this up, please do get in touch with John at rainforestinfo@ozemail.com.au
(14) Thanks to John, you can see past editions of The Great Turning Times, and its predecessor Deep Ecology News, at http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/deep-eco/news.htm
(15) What if, every day, you could take one small action to help feed a hungry child for free, would you do it? Just click at this site.
http://www.hungrychildren.com/ Each time you visit this site, a donation is made to help support the sponsored child shown. It doesn’t cost you anything.
(16) Startling facts – 60% of the world’s population receive less than 6% of its income. The richest 20% receives over 80% (UN figures). North America and Europe have less that 12% of the world’s population, yet account for over 60% of the world’s consumer spending (The State of the World Report 2004). If everyone was to live at the same material standard of living as the average North American, we’d need another six planets to provide the materials for this. You can find out more about reducing your ecological footprint by checking out the page on the Gaia Coach Institute website at http://www.gaiacoach.co.uk/detail_3.asp?ID=16 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(17) And some good news – even though the US government hasn’t signed up to the Kyoto protocol to tackle climate change, increasing numbers of US cities are taking steps anyway. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced plans to lead a city-by-city effort to limit carbon dioxide emissions in accordance with the terms of the international treaty rejected by the Bush administration. Seattle joins several dozen other American cities that have already made commitments to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, mayors from several other American cities (including Santa Monica and Oakland, California and Portland, Oregon) have expressed solidarity with Nickels in his bid to form a coalition of cities committed to fight global warming.
Source: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/212425_kyoto17.html
Laurieston Hall, SW Scotland, 18th - 25th June 2005

A residential week bringing together activists, therapists, theorists and
interested newcomers for workshops, seminars, practical projects, rituals,
parties and networking; all as guests of a rural community.

Ecopsychology asks: why do we allow the destruction and degradation of our
planetary environment? And how can we mobilise our energies to do things
differently? Many people are exploring ecopsychology in a huge variety of
ways, practical and theoretical sometimes without even knowing the word!
This Gathering will bring some of us together in the same place to share,
exchange, celebrate and learn.

Cost on a range depending on income: £187, £228, £269, with a concessionary
low-income rate of £146.. This covers all food and accommodation.

For full details and booking, go to www.ecopsych.org.uk, email
info@ecopsych.org.uk or phone Sandra White, 01992 503451.
(19) First Announcement - A UK Ecopsychology Training?

A small proto-steering group is considering setting up a one year training
course in ecopsychology, perhaps starting in 2006. Because this would be
such a new venture, we have decided to put the word out at an early stage,
hoping to hear from people who are or might be interested and to get
feedback about what most excites you, what sort of structure would work
best for you, and so on.

Our vision is of eight to ten residential weekends over about a year
(perhaps including one longer group experience in the wilds?): mostly in
the countryside but some in urban settings, with several different
facilitators (the whole course being held by a steering/visioning group).
This will not be an academic course, although reading will be recommended;
there will be no formal assessment, but lots of feedback. It will be open
to a wide range of people, including psychotherapists, eco-activists and
all who are drawn to this venture. Participants will have considerable
input into what happens and how it happens, during the year and at and
after the end of the year.

We invite you to contact training@ecopsych.org.uk or Ecopsychology
Training, 31 Nest Estate, Mytholmroyd, HX7 5BH to register an interest and
to contribute your own responses and visions.
A weekend workshop in Bristol led by Nick Totton
April 30th - May 1st 2005 10am - 5pm
Cost £95 (£80 concession)

Something is spoilt and broken about the relationship of humans to the rest
of the world. The result is that we in turn spoil and break the world
around us. On this experiential workshop we will explore how we can live
our own naturalness as a part of nature, reconnect with our love and awe in
the face of the nonhuman, and gather energy for active resistance to the
destruction of species and environments, including our own. The goal is to reach a place of
greater strength and joyfulness from which we can act more creatively.

Nick Totton is a therapist and trainer with over twenty years experience
of leading groups. Originally he trained as a body psychotherapist, but over
the years his approach has become broad based and open to the spontaneous
and unexpected. He has written several books including Psychotherapy and
Politics, and has a website at http://www.erthworks.co.uk If you want to discuss the workshop, email him
at nick@erthworks.co.uk, or phone 01422 886 525. To book, please send a cheque
(£20 deposit or full payment) payable to Akousis to 1, Fairlawn Road, Montpelier,
Bristol, BS6 5JR (phone 0117 924 7154)
(21) Some more excellent news... Quite a few newsletters ago, I mentioned that inspired eco-dwelling builder Tony Wrench was due to have his roundhouse home torn down because it was too ahead of its time to fit in with local planning regulations. Based at the permaculture community at Brithdir Mawr in Wales, the amazing turf-roofed structure is still standing. You can catch up on how this has happened, and also what you can do to help it stay this way at http://www.thatroundhouse.info

From May 14th to 29th, Tony is running a two week course in how to build there roundhouses. This will be at a Cardigan farm site, and you can come for any length of time over the 15 day period. The fee is 40% of your income for an average week. To find out more: email Tony on tonywrench@lineone.net To book, please send a deposit of £10, by April 20th, to: Tony Wrench, Brithdir Mawr, Newport, Pembs, UK SA42 0QJ.
(22) The 2nd Be The Change Conference will be held in London on May 5
Be the Change is a coming together of people who aspire to manifest the kind of world they believe is possible – a world that works for everyone. It was Gandhi who first exhorted us to 'be the change you wish to see in the world'. Find out more at http://bethechange.org.uk
(23) One of the people who’ll be presenting at the Be the Change conference is Mike the Mentor, who has a website at http://www.mikethementor.co.uk He produces a newsletter for people interested in the themes of coaching for personal and planetary change. See his website for details.
(24) The article below was written by Michael McCarthy, environment editor of The Independent. Please read it. It contains important information.


Slouching towards disaster

The Tablet 12 02 2005

When the world s environmental experts met to

discuss climate change in Exeter last week, warnings

about the plight of the planet were even more

dire than expected. As the mercury moves up the

thermometer, there seems - to this writer at least

- one inescapable conclusion.

SCARE stories are meat and drink to environmentalists; the modem

environmental movement was started by one,

when Rachel Carson’s dramatic account of what

agricultural pesticides were doing to American

songbirds was revealed in her groundbreaking 1962

book, Silent Spring.

Since then the damage humankind is wreaking on

the planet has been exposed time and time again .in

a series of reports, ranging from the destruction of

the rainforests to the overfishing of the seas. Many

are of these frightening warnings become accepted

both by the public and the scientific establishment

because they turn out to be self-evidently true. Go

to large areas of the Amazon and you will find the

forest has simply gone; look at the last 30 years’-

worth of statistics for catches of cod in the North Sea

and you will find the numbers have tumbled despite

the increasingly strenuous efforts of fishermen to

bring back more fish.

Such alarums have a political as well as a scientific

thrust. They have constituted the

lifeblood of the Green movement. They are what

has brought widespread support for groups such

as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and put

the environment high on the public and political

agendas, and, at last, the Churches’ agendas.

Such interest is to be expected. If you are a young

mother and you hear that a brand of apples may

contain pesticide residues, do you want your young

children eating them?

Would you not support campaigners for clean

apples? Sport their badges? Display their car

stickers? Fill m their direct-debit mandates?

Yet although the term “scare story” can perfectly

well be applied to something

The rivers of the Rockies, the alpine flowers, the

forests of the Amazon. One after another they will go

frightening but also verifiable, it is not a neutral one.

It has a definite pejorative ring, strongly implying

that the scare may well be a good story, but that its

basis is exaggerated or even untrue. The charge has

in recent years been laid at green campaigners (most

aggressively by the Danish statistics professor Bjorn

Lomborg) that they do indeed exaggerate, believing

they need above all to keep up the momentum of

public concern ‘lest their support should ebb away.

More seriously, critics such as Lomborg charge that

even research scientists have a vested interest in

bad news, because this is the most reliable way of

securing funding.

I have reported on the environment for national

newspapers (first The Times and then The

Independent), since 1989, and my experience

has been that, unfortunately, exaggerations have

indeed sometimes occurred. There have been some

environmental scares over the past 20 years which

have caused a sensation and filled the headlines, but

not been completely borne put by the evidence.

Let me offer three examples from purely personal

observation. In 1984, British scientists discovered

that over Antarctica a gigantic hole had developed

in the layer of naturally occurring ozone gas in

the stratosphere, because of the destructive action

of a group of industrial chemicals, chlorofluorocarbons

(CFCs), widely used in refrigeration, air

conditioning and aerosols.

The ozone layer protects us from the most harmful

of the sun’s rays, ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), and

it was widely asserted that because of the ozone

hole, many living organisms, from the plankton of

the Southern Ocean to the shepherds of Patagonia,

now faced potentially catastrophic injury. The ozone

layer protects us from the most harmful of the sun’s

rays, ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), and it was

widely asserted that because of the ozone hole, many

living organisms, from the plankton of the Southern

Ocean to the shepherds of Patagonia, now faced

potentially catastrophic injury.

The ozone hole is still there (although mending

because of the successful phase-out of CFCs),

and such a disruption of the earth’s atmospheric

chemistry must of course be of very great concern,

but I personally know of no well-attested example of

any living organisms being damaged by excess UVB

from ozone depletion, anywhere.

Another example: dioxins, the Green movement’s

“bogey” chemical, a range of substances produced

by high-temperature burning, and so used as a key

plank in campaigns against rubbish incinerators.

Dioxin is a word whose very mention is intended

by environmentalists to strike terror into honest

citizens’ hearts, but apart from the special case of

the Seveso chemical factory explosion in Italy in

1976, when people living near the blast suffered skin

complaints after close exposure to gigantic amounts

of the chemical, I know of no incidence anywhere of

dioxins at naturally occurring levels actually causing

any harm, to anything.

A third example: Brent Spar, the large (15,000

tonnes) obsolete North Sea oil storage buoy was

the subject of a spectacularly successful pan-

European campaign by Greenpeace in 1995, to

prevent its being dumped in the Atlantic by the oil

company Shell. Greenpeace convinced the public

that to dump Brent Spar in the ocean would be an

unforgivable and immensely damaging pollution, an

environmental crime of the first magnitude.

I take the view that disused offshore oil installations

should not be dumped at sea. But as to Brent Spar

itself being a major pollution danger, I cannot help

but remember that from 1941 to 1943, the U-boats

Of Grand Admiral Doenitz sent to the bottom of the

Atlantic an amount of allied shipping (15m. tonnes)

which was the equivalent of a thousand Brent Spars

- and no one has ever suggested that that brought

about a significant marine pollution problem.

I offer these examples of my reaction to

environmental scare stories over the years because I

suppose I am about to put forward one of my own.

Last week the British Government held an

international conference, at the headquarters of the

UK Met Office in Exeter, on climate change. It was

called personally by Tony Blair, who is making

the problem of global warming one of the central

policies of his simultaneous leadership in 2005

of both the G8 group of rich nations and of the

European Union. Its purpose was to update policy

makers everywhere on climate change science,

which is rapidly moving. General appraisals of it are

carried out by the UN’s-Intergovernmental Panel on

Climate Change (IPCC), which has produced three

assessment reports, in 1990, 1995 and 2001. The

third assessment report (known as TAR) is chapter

and verse on what the international community of

climate scientists think is happening now, and likely

to happen in the future, with global warming.

The most important conclusion of TAR was that

the earth’s average surface temperature was likely

to warm by between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees centigrade

between now and 2100, depending on how human

societies controlled their emissions of carbon dioxide

(C02), the waste gas from industry and transport

which is retaining more and more of the sun’s heat in

the atmosphere.

These are enormous rises (even at the lower end)

and they are expected to have similarly enormous

impacts, ranging from the widespread failure of

agriculture and many more extreme weather events

from droughts to flooding, to sea-level rise around

the world. The fourth IPCC assessment is not due

until 2007, and so last week’s conference was in

the nature of a mid-term report about where the

science has got to. I covered it for The Independent

with Charles Clover, environment editor of The

Daily Telegraph, and Paul Brown, environment

correspondent of The Guardian. We have known

each other for 15 years and covered many such

conferences and we thought we knew what to

expect: a minor tweak in the detail here, and twitch

in the policies there.

We were taken aback. The opening day brought

disclosure of two major new threats to the world.

The first concerned Antarctica, with a warning

from the British Antarctic Survey (the body whose

scientists discovered the ozone hole) that, perhaps

because of rising temperatures, the vast ice sheet

covering the western side of the continent may be

starting to break up. Were it to collapse into the

sea, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would raise global

sea levels by more than 16 feet. Goodbye London;

goodbye Bangladesh.

Only four years ago the IPCC TAR said it was safe

for probably 1,000 years, certainly until the end of

this century; last week Professor Chris Rapley, the

BAS director, said that judgement would now have

to be revised.

The second alert concerned an issue many of the

scientists present were only dimly aware of: the

acidification of the oceans. The billions of tonnes

of carbon dioxide human society is producing are

not only causing the climate to change. When they

dissolve in sea water they are combining with it, in a

simple chemical reaction, to produce carbonic acid.

But the world’s seas are alkaline, and have been for

many millions of years, and it is in this environment

that thousands of species of small marine, organisms

at the bottom of the food web, from plankton to

shellfish, have evolved.

They will not be able to live in an acid sea. The

point about these two disclosures is that they

were not based on predictions of future events by

supercomputer models of the global climate, which

is the origin of most scare stories - to use the term

neutrally - about global wanning. They were based

on actual observation, in the real world, of things

that are happening now.

But there were plenty of predictions as well at the

conference, and they were grimmer than ever. For

example, there was the most pessimistic assessment

yet of global warming causing collapse of the Gulf

Stream which perversely would bring a new ice age

to Europe. A group of American scientists calculated

that in the absence of major action to control

emissions, the chance of this happening was now

greater than 50 per cent.

And there was an assessment that the ice-sheet

covering Greenland may start to melt - which would

cause global sea levels to rise by 20 feet - with

a temperature rise of only 1.5 degrees C. above

pre-industrial levels. We are already 0.7 above prendustrial

levels; we are well on the way.

Perhaps the most vivid of a plethora of pessimistic

papers was a review of studies on which ecosystems

and species would be hit by which temperature rises.

It was a long, dire litany of disappearances as the

mercury moves up the world’s thermometer:

Queensland’s highland tropical forests very soon; at

a one degree rise South Africa’s unique fynbos flora

and the rest of the Arctic sea ice; between one and

two degrees the trout in the rivers of the Rockies;

between two and three degrees the alpine flowers

of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the broadleaved

forests of China, and the rain-forests of the

Amazon. One after another they will go, the special

places of the earth, the glories of creation.

The overwhelming impression given by the

conference, a meeting of entirely sober scientists

with nary a campaigning environmentalist in

sight, was that these things will happen. Firstly,

there was a strong sense that climate change was

proceeding much more quickly than had been

anticipated. The report of the conference steering

committee said: “Compared with the TAR” - only

four years ago, remember - “there is greater clarity

and reduced uncertainty about the impacts of

climate change across a wide range of systems,

sectors and societies. In many cases the risks are

more serious than previously thought.” Secondly,

big temperature rises are already “built into the

system”, as Margaret Beckett, the UK. Environment

Secretary, acknowledged, because there is a time

lag between the CO; going into the atmosphere

and the subsequent rise in temperatures. Even if all

emissions were stopped dead tomorrow all over the

world, enough CO; is up there to cause a further rise,

according to a paper circulating at the conference

(Hansen et al, 2005), of 0.6 degrees C.

But - and this is the third point - the emissions are

by no means going to stop tomorrow. Under the

Kyoto protocol, abandoned by the United States,

the world’s biggest CO; emitter, the industrialised

countries are struggling to cut their emissions back

to merely 5 per cent below 1990 levels; controlling

climate change would require a cut of perhaps 60 per


Yet, as the conference chairman, Dennis Tirpak, head

of the climate change programme of the OECD,

reminded delegates, the 2004 World Energy Outlook

of the International Energy Agency calculates that

the next 25 years global emissions of CO2 are

likely to increase by 62 per cent, mainly from the

developing world, as the Chinese and the Indians

rush to build coal-fired power stations to service

their exploding economies. The necessary cuts are a


When it was all over Paul Brown and I travelled

back from Exeter to London by train, working out

what it meant, working towards the inescapable

conclusion. I have written at such length to try to put

that conclusion into some sort of context. It was the

inevitability of what was going to happen, I think,

that for the first time struck us with real force: that

whatever flapping, floundering efforts humankind

eventually makes to try to stop it all, the great ice

sheets will melt, the seas will turn acid, and the land

will burn. By the time we reached London we knew

what the conclusion was. I said:

“The earth is finished.” Paul said: “It is, yes.” We

both shook our heads and gave that half-laugh that is

sparked by incredulity. So many environmental scare

stories, over the years; I never dreamed of such a one

as this.

And what will our children make of our generation,

who let this planet, so lovingly created, go to waste?

Michael McCarthy is environment editor of The Independent.
(25) Copydate for next edition is last day of May 2005. A quote to end on is:- “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves”. Enjoy this adventure!