Incendiary Horticulture: a plea to gardeners

IMG_5025.jpgOur beautiful world is on fire. I know you see it too. We both do, because we are gardeners and we are on the front line.


You and I, in the garden, are better placed than most to see man’s clomping footprint on our environment.


We hold the depleted soil in our hands, listen hard for the dimming birdsong, search out vanishing insects. The tell-tale signs of ecological degradation, collapsing ecosystems, and the beginning of mass extinction on planet earth.


From this vantage point, on our knees cradling the land, it is our responsibility to run in from our gardens to sound the alarm.


But those of us new to the land; first we look over the garden fence at the learned and wise. The experienced gardeners who’ve been at it for years.


You aren’t moving. Why? Can’t you see. The world is on fire!


We need you. The world needs you.


So please, put down your slug pellets and listen.


As a child in west London 30 years ago, I rarely got through a summer day in our little Acton garden without my mum fishing some small insect out of my eye, or soothing a bee sting.


Now my kids play in my own suburban garden, and I am aghast. The hordes of flying insects that populated my childhood are gone, their numbers gutted by climate change, habitat loss and agrochemicals.


The glorious birdsong has been dubbed over with traffic and aircraft. I strain to hear the garden birds, but their numbers are savagely diminished that their song is barely audible.


Ok, so gardeners are not the only ones to notice the beginnings of ecological apocalypse.


Scientists warn that fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24bn tonnes a year, and the problem already undermines the well-being of two-fifths of humanity.


According to a UN-backed report, over 3.2 billion people are affected, which makes soil degradation one of the world’s biggest environmental problems.


The report says intensive farming is to blame, plus vegetation loss, forest clearance, wetland drainage, grassland conversion, urban sprawl and pollution.


Vital pollinators teetering on the brink of extinction rely on the whim of legislators to restrict the use of pesticides and insecticides.


By 2050, hundreds of millions of people could be driven from their homes because of climate change and declining soil quality.


That all feels depressing, and too dislocated from us to be a cause for concern.


But stroll down any street in the UK. You’ll see front gardens tarmacked over for cars, back garden built upon to accommodate extensions, and lawns astro-turfed.


In ever-shrinking gardens you’ll see starved soils, organic debris having been swept away. You’ll notice fewer worms, leaving soil less aerated, drier and more compacted. Eroded topsoil deficient in nutrients and humus, sparsely garnished with stunted, chlorotic plants.


If you stop and look, the absence of virtually all wildlife will chill you to the core.


This is our new normal. This is our new base line. But it is not normal. It is not normal at all, and we need to do something about it.




Before I started retraining as a gardener I felt powerless in the fight against climate disaster.


As a journalist, I’ve reported from conflict zones where tensions flare into wars, often stirred by desertification, loss of fertile lands and migration.


Climate change is diminishing the amount of land we can live on. Not just by raising sea levels, but because of scorched dry land that can’t support life.


Now studying horticulture at college, I realize gardeners have a wealth of knowledge about the water-holding capacity of various soil pores, the lifecycles and habits of beneficial organisms, which leaf types are best suited to storing water, to capturing and recycling air pollutants.


And on and on and on.


Gardeners know how to carve and sculpt the soil and plant it up so that water is absorbed and held. We know which plant species can cope with flood and drought, which ones can flourish as a green, living mulch to slow evaporation.


Having tinkered with plants for centuries, we know how to use them to our advantage.


But what we do instead is perhaps the oddest thing for a newcomer to horticulture.


When us gardeners come together, like a great gathering of chieftains, we back-slap each other for spending time, energy and resources on restraining and forcing plants to flower for one particular week of the year.


Now, I absolutely understand and respect the history and prestige of shows like Chelsea, but I switch off at the industry-wide self-congratulation which props up a horticultural addiction to artifice and waste.


I’m so pleased to be making a career change, studying plants and soils – my passion. I’m grateful to be learning from excellent teachers, but I am stunned that my college justifies using peat in its compost mix.


And frustrated that horticulture students in 2018 are still taught wasteful summer bedding schemes of yesteryear, when we need to know about water-wise planting that is sustainable, and benefits both man and wildlife.


It is mystifying that an industry which could be so progressive in the fight to save life on earth is instead pursuing dated, shameful practices that prize fakery over sustainability.


Gardeners please, awake and unite.


Us newcomers look to you, the experienced and the knowledgeable, to teach us how to help save the world.


Teach us to compost, sending nothing to landfill: garden waste, food scraps and shredded household paper lumped in hotbins, to be dug in a few weeks later as rich humus to feed our soils.


Show us how to capture every drop of rainwater, and reuse all household water from showers and sinks, for irrigation. Tell us how green roofs and walls soak up run-off, reduce heating / air conditioning bills, help clean dirty air and provide habitats, wherever possible, for wildlife.


Unpave your driveways and proudly make room for front gardens again. Plant them up, let them breathe, to cool our cities and soak up rains. Leave only minimal space for a car.


Do it first – we need to see it and learn from you. Boast about your beautiful, real, living lawns that capture, store and recycle carbon and pollutants.


Spurn single-use plastics and don’t spray your roses.

Teach us how sensible planting, digging in organic matter, building up a healthy garden ecosystem, and encouraging beneficial wildlife can combat a raft of pests and diseases.


We’re hungry to learn.


Thank you

Reclaim the Power

Dear Theresa May,

Tomorrow there will be a day of action against airport expansion. Unfortunately I can’t be there in person, but am writing to let you know that I give the action my absolute and full support.

Thanks to the Paris Agreement COP21 there is full international recognition that dangerous global warning must be halted, and that the only way of holding to 1.5° is to invest in clean renewable technologies and leave fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

There is global resistance to the construction of infrastructures – old dirty technologies – that tie us to the burning of fossil fuels. Airport expansion is my fight because Heathrow, Europe’s largest airport, is my next-door neighbour and my children breathe its dirty toxic air.

It is more important now than ever before that politicians #staygrounded and realise that within our lifetimes we will see the impacts of climate change play out before our eyes. That’s our lifetimes. Not even talking about our children’s lifetimes.

Air pollution is already a leading cause of premature deaths.

Mrs May there is no economic argument for airport expansion that can dismantle the climate evidence you and the rest of the world have agreed on, and that in case you have forgotten since Paris, you must surely have at your disposal.

For the sake of all humanity, for the habitability of the planet for this and for generations to come, please start making some wise choices. Climate change is here, it is happening, and it is going to keep on worsening within your lifetime and mine unless immediate action is taken to halt it.




Love the Leave voters, for they were lied to

Ok I feel I need to say sorry to anyone who might have voted to Leave the EU. And also to anyone who voted Conservative in the last general election. I strongly disagree with your choices and your politics, but I accept that you have reasons for thinking the way you do. I really am very sorry if I have made anyone feel sad, uncomfortable, unloved or unsafe due to the forcefulness of my Brexit despair.

What makes me saddest about the current political climate is that the red carpet has been rolled out for intolerance and hate. But I am ashamed to say that I may have contributed to that over the last few days. I feel destroyed by the slim margin of opinion in my country which has decided to take me and my family away from a way of life which I feel is good and secure. But even if I strongly dislike the outcome, even if I strongly disagree that a referendum was ever called on this issue in the first place, I don’t hate the voters.

I will do everything I can think of to try and keep Britain in the European Union. I’ll do all I can to stem the tide of far-right politics. Of racism and intolerance.  But I can’t do all those things with fear and loathing in my heart.

Instead I turn to love.

I love my family, made up of a strange circus of immigrants. My dad, half American Indian, half Ukrainian. Born to a Ukrainian immigrant mum in New York where he spent his childhood. Then emigrating to England to forge a new life. He ran away from home and became an actor, couch-surfing in London. Where he met my mum, from rural Wales, who made it to London to study as an opera singer.

They fell in love on the stage and theirs has been a joyous and magical marriage.

And now me. Here I am, married with 3 kids, and nothing about my current life would have been possible without the European Union and the ability to live, love and work in other European countries.

I met a Dutchman who turned out to be the love of my life when he was studying in England. Studies only made possible – and affordable – because of the EU.

We moved to Holland to live and work, and thanks to the EU, his qualifications were transferrable and he was able to practise as a doctor right away.

I worked for an NGO as a journalist and a trainer on projects often funded by the EU. Projects designed to strengthen democracies in war-torn countries and empower populations to rebuild themselves by strengthening freedom of speech.

I travelled to Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda, and worked with amazing colleagues to mentor equally amazing journalists. They’re now living and working to rebuild their fractured societies through responsible journalism.

Wherever I travelled I knew my passport afforded me safety and security. The extraordinary safety and security of being part of a unified Europe. A big massive block of unified countries. Absolutely loads and loads of diplomats who talk to each other and help each other’s citizens when they’re in trouble.

It’s incredible really that in my country, we’ve become so complacent about this extraordinary privilege. Many non-EU friends have remarked over the years about the luxuries an EU passport afforded me. I am embarrassed to say I’ve never truly thought through those luxuries. Until now.

I’ll never ever be able to forget living through the incarceration of my colleague Abdelrachman, who was imprisoned by the Sudanese authorities simply for being a journalist.

The frustration that he, a Sudanese national, was rotting in jail with no powerful allies – apart from human rights organisations – to speak for him and pull diplomatic strings.

We are so lucky in England. Not only that we live in a democratic union with Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland. That we are a united kingdom. But that also for now, whilst we are part of the EU, we are cushioned by a massive ring of allies and trading partners who’ve thrown their lot in with ours. Who are tied to us and will pull together with us when times get tough.

Oh my God. I am still in absolute denial that we’ve decided to drop the handshake and stick 2 fingers up instead. How utterly outrageously shortsighted. An electorate duped by ambitious self-serving politicians.

Here we are building a life for ourselves in London, with my Dutch husband working so hard for the NHS he loves and believes in and fights for every day. He’s an economic migrant to the UK. I am the mother of two children born in Holland, and one born in England. Three of out of my family of five have Dutch passports. Two of us have British ones. But for now, I treasure the fact that we are all European.

We’ll always maintain the dual nationality of our children, certain as we are of the benefits being part of Europe will lavish upon them. But my heart breaks for their friends, perhaps their own kids, whose lives and prospects will be so extremely limited and less secure thanks to Britain’s departure from the EU.

Anyway sorry. All that to say, I’m just really sorry if I’ve made anyone feel shit about themselves or their opinions because I’ve been too forthright in mine. I’ve exposed my politically intolerant side. And that’s wrong. Please forgive me. It’s just everything about me, my family, my loves, my children, our circumstances, my career, everything really about me was made possible because of political unions.

Some Brexiteers would argue that these privileges of study / work / funding and passport will not go; but it’s a pretty risky gamble.

Even the hereditary condition I’ve suffered from since the age of 6 is called Familial Mediterranean Fever. How ironic that the mutant gene which rages through my family’s DNA has it’s origins in Europe.

Incidentally it was a Spanish doctor in the UK who finally diagnosed my condition after nearly 2 decades of misdiagnosis and harmful treatments at the hands of other doctors. Then it was Dutch scientists who found our abnormality and gave the research to the Royal Free in London, who completed the puzzle. All that cross-border medical cooperation has allowed us to know how to give our kids a normal childhood.

Normal childhoods that are so precious.

We’ve hitched through Lebanon and Syrian, chatting to teenagers in parks who feared the authorities were listening in to our conversations. I’ve travelled through eastern Europe chatting to trainee journalists in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia about what is was like to live through a terrifyingly brutal war. A war that only just took place in our very recent past, right on our doorstep. I’ve reported on the war crimes trials at the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).

I’m not saying these things to brag. I wish I could erase from my brain the testimonies of normal people who’s neighbours turned on them and inflicted the most incomprehensible crimes against humanity. Crimes committed when neighbouring countries are not unified and suddenly turn on each other.

The victims are rarely the politicians who cause the instability. Those who bear the brunt of unwise decisions made by megalomaniacs in positions of power are the group of girls I interviewed in quiet hut in the Central African Republic.  All the victim of brutal rapes commissioned by politicians across the border in the DR Congo.

I’ve seen what happens to beautiful countries when peace and security is dismantled by a few distasteful politicians, who you never imagined could really ever clinch a position of power. But then they do, astonishingly. And all hell is unleashed on normal families much like yours and mine.

It all happens so easily.

I must endeavour to trust the British voters and respect their choices. Despite the fact that many of their choices were influenced by shameless, baseless, indefensible lies from corrupt politicians.

But I don’t hate the voters.

I’m completely and utterly distraught and cannot believe what is happening to my country. But as the daughter of immigrants, and the wife of a migrant, and the mother of Dutch kids, right now it doesn’t really feel like my country very much at all.

Jo Cox: rainbow on a thundercloud

Obviously the murder of MP Jo Cox is tragic because a young mum was gunned down by a right-wing extremist for believing in a better world. Two kids have lost their mother. And by all accounts she was an awesome one.

But aside from the personal tragedy for Jo Cox’s family, here is the tragedy for Britain: how extraordinary she appears to have been in Westminster.

Actual international humanitarian experience, warmth, enthusiasm, compassion. An ability to make informed speeches about human rights based on first-hand field experience, and a deep knowledge of how best to defend the persecuted. And in the same stride, inexhaustible pride in a hometown and a zealous quest to fight for its interests.

What an astonishing indictment on British politics that Jo Cox stood out like a rainbow on a thundercloud.

How utterly tragic that in politics, Cox’s world view and work ethic is seen as having been so exceptional. Her cheerful nature, her groundedness and good heart, managing somehow to bring egos to their knees, cut across political divides, rivalries and agendas to forge alliances, partnership, cooperation.

The tributes to Jo Cox from her Parliamentary colleagues were warm and heartfelt, and left me with a true sense that other MPs respected her and were grateful for her input. But would they want to grow to be more like her? To stand up in Parliament to selflessly represent their hometown and shape Britain’s decisions, actively sharing her compassionate humanitarian outlook?

It has been written a million times that she had a passion to create a better world. Her husband said she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

I am diametrically opposed to my MP’s very Conservative, very economy-centric viewpoint. So much so that I look with awe and wonder at politicians who bear in mind wider social, environmental, ethical and humanitarian factors when mulling over decisions.

Bravo Jo Cox. Bravo for her life, her experiences, and her desire to make the world a better place. Bravo that she went into politics at all, even for too short a time.

There can, and should, be good people in politics.

Presume that your MP operates with respect and dignity. If you disagree with them, challenge them. Feel disgusted when politicians scar important debates with scaremongering, racism and lies, whilst totally abandoning facts, honesty, decency and reason. Tell your MP you disapprove of that kind of behaviour in politics.

If they won’t budge, put yourself forward. Join a political party, become a political candidate.

If you don’t want to do that, then do this one thing: vote REMAIN on 23rd June.

Together we can make a change.

Thanks Jo Cox for showing us how it can, and should, be done.IMG_7912.JPG

Dunkirk Grande-Synthe refugee camp

We got some really rank chips from the chip shop last week. They were gross, but I am greedy so ate them anyway. As the chips lay in the pit of my stomach I wanted to reach down my own throat and pick them out one by one. I feel a little bit that way about some of the things I saw in the Dunkirk refugee camp.

I kind of wish that I could delve inside my eyeballs and pick out some of the sights. Like the little girl wading towards me as the stinking, soup-like, freezing cold mud sloshes over the rim of her sodden wellies. She’s not distressed, but that’s the most upsetting part. Her little feet and legs have become resigned to it. Even though the mud hasn’t penetrated my boots, my feet are fucking freezing.

I wish I could pick out the image of the man, my age, bent double near a filthy, mud-ridden, soaking wet tent, piled inside with soaking, mud-ridden blankets. He was coughing so hard, a deep nasty cough, that he was nearly sick. He stayed bent double and staring at the floor as mucus oozed from his nose.

If I could, I’d pluck out the image of the armed French police rifling through our van, my bag, our passports, the letter of authorisation we’d been given by the authorities (thanks to Aid Box Convoy), arbitrarily refusing us entry onto the site with our food bags, clothes, tarpaulins, sleeping bags, bottled water and gas cylinders. Heaven forbid anything should get onto the site, during the supposed one-day amnesty, that might just make life on-site slightly less hellish and degrading.

I’d love to erase the image of driving out of the camp into a nice suburban street, straight into a garden centre car park, with lovely houses bang opposite and normal life continuing.

It would be great to be able to forget that feeling of astonishment as people spot a stash of bottled water at the back of our van and start stretching their arms out towards it. “Water my sister!”

I’d asked the volunteer coordinators what to bring ahead of our trip and I’m ashamed to say that when they said bottled water, I didn’t take them seriously. Bottled water? In a camp in the middle of a residential French suburb? On a field flanked by houses and shops with functioning taps? No way!

A friend donated a few boxes of bottled water, after I mentioned it to her, and they flew out of our van like gold dust. There are only 2 taps on the site, set up by medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).  I saw a little girl wheeling a wheelbarrow through the mud, balancing 2 large jerry cans of water.

MSF (an aid organisation responding to the world’s most dire medical and humanitarian need) operates a mobile clinic in the camp 3 days a week.  What the fuck is going on?  Are we in Syria?  Why are there only 2 taps serving thousands of refugees who have to wheel jerry cans through stinking mud back to their freezing stinking tents?

Are we in a French residential suburb or still in a war zone?

That feeling of disgust and frustration at myself, on having eaten all those rank chips, can’t even come close to the deep uncomfortable bewilderment I feel at the current migrant crisis.

At the people we label as ‘illegal’. The conditions we are knowingly leaving people in. But they’re not all from Syria! Oh, shock horror! There are other countries in the world which people want to leave because of oppressive regimes, war, military conscription, ethnic cleansing and torture.

France and the UK are dealing with SO FEW people fleeing war and persecution in comparison with Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. And those who do make it to Europe, after a horrendous journey, after a desperate escape, we consciously chose to allow them to gasp for survival in filthy, freezing, muddy, revolting conditions in a pretty French suburb.

But there are some images from our trip to Dunkirk that I want to leave inside my brain.

The policeman who finally gives us the nod to enter.

Or the 10 year old boy waiting patiently by our van to find shoes for his 3 year old sister. And a group of men, crowding round us in the hopes of finding a clean pair of welly boots to keep their freezing toes from rotting in the mud, push the boy to the front and translate so I know the age of his sister. I see him later, struggling to carry the bags we gave him, but so determined to get them to his family. Jan spots him later still, and gives him a pretend firefighter hat from our toy stash. He gives Jan a beaming smile and wears it on the top of his hoodie.

I never want to forget the humour, as our van struggles in the sloshing mud and a couple of guys in their twenties pretend to blow on the bonnet and keep going, blowing harder and laughing and smiling at us as we start to reverse. A lovely shared joke.

The smiles from the woman walking along behind her husband who is carrying their baby past an indescribably revolting row of Portaloos. Her warm eyes, her nose crinkling as she grins. Her husband holding their sleeping baby so tenderly in his arms, his eyes focused on navigating the mud soup. They look so much like people we’d be friends with.

Another guy runs after our van, once we’ve unloaded all the food bags, and asks me to unwind my window. I’m a little reluctant as he’d been quite pushy in the queue a few minutes earlier, trying to take a bag out of turn. He had politely ignored those who were trying to create order in the frenzy, taking a food bag from inside the van rather than the queue outside. I wind my window down and he says ‘for you my sister’ and offers me the food bag back. “No, no, please” I say smiling, refusing it, giving it back to him. “Salaam, my sister” he says. Oh God. What an extraordinary display of generosity and hospitality. Of perhaps having felt bad about jumping the queue and making amends. I just ache for him and we smile at each other and he clutches his bag and we drive on. I wish so badly that he wasn’t in the degrading position of needing to accept food aid from the back of our van in a freezing cold, muddy hell-hole bang-slap in a French suburb.

It is a scandal that these refugees, migrants, PEOPLE are not being treated as humans. No-one would be able to bear letting any of their children sleep one night in the Dunkirk camp (or the Calais ‘Jungle’, for that matter), let alone feed them a meal cooked there, or even take them in. It is unsafe, inhumane and on our doorstep. Children live alongside rats in faecal sludge. People smugglers prowl amongst unaccompanied minors.

David Cameron it is time to act. Leaving people in such depravity is foolish. Young men are left to fester. Even I felt myself becoming more extreme and fundamental in my beliefs.

Do you know who is doing our country a great service? An extraordinary body of volunteers – largely hippy types like me – keeping the camp afloat. Carefully and skilfully organising (and galvanising) a flow of aid so that it is spread throughout the camp. Teams cooking in tents, camper vans and a make-shift warehouse, turning donated food into delicious meals to distribute. Even more volunteers working in the Calais warehouse, stocked with donations which supply both Grande-Synthe (Dunkirk) and the Calais Jungle. Several of them are staying on-site. Sleeping in the biting cold, the mud, sticking it out even when the police are being bastards and rival people smugglers are firing at each other.

One of the things that made the London Olympics great was the volunteers. Well, there across the channel RIGHT NOW is a formidable body of UK volunteers, working tirelessly despite the conditions, smiling, laughing, joking with the refugees, singing, putting up tents, ferrying sleeping bags, and displaying love in its purest form. And so gracious to Jan and I, who were there for the first time and only stayed one day: “oh thank you so much for coming and so much for your help!” they say, smiling. They stay behind, grafting away in the shit-ridden mud as we drive off, past the police vans, to stock up on cheese and wine at the Carrefour before catching the ferry home to a hot bath before bed.

It’s dumb people like me who are nudging the drilling equipment into the Arctic

My letter to the Wellcome Trust, in response to The Guardian’s Keep It In The Ground campaign, and a rallying call to all the rest of us.  Lets not click an online petition and divests ourselves of our personal responsibilities to halt climate change.

We ALL nudge the drilling equipment into the Arctic with our daily activities.  Oil companies will keep extracting it as long as dumb people like us keep demanding it.

So, lets STOP.


Dear Wellcome Trust,

Thank God for philanthropists who are motivated to change the world for the better. Like the Wellcome Trust.

The world is facing catastrophic climate change and it’s me, and everyone else like me, driving it.

We’re lazy, self-important hypocrites. We like to sign petitions that lay the responsibility at someone else’s door. Then we jump in the car, drive to the supermarket, get a latte in a disposable cup and buy unfairly-traded food flown to us in airplanes.

We wrap it in yet more plastic, drive it home, and throw it away when it gets forgotten at the back of our vast fridges.

Then we cement over our gardens to park our cars, drive our kids to school, and wonder why we’re all obese and the air is too polluted to safely exercise outside.

We heat badly insulated homes, shove clothes in tumble driers, and fly abroad to make ourselves feel better. That car journey, that disposable cup, that flight, none of that really matters in the great scheme of things. And anyway, I’m busy, and important, and need to drive and fly and wrap my kid’s disposable shitty nappy in plastic and throw it in the landfill.

We need your help, Wellcome Trust. Not because anything you are currently doing is wrong. To the contrary. It’s people like me who are nudging the drilling equipment into the Arctic every time we fill up our cars, book a flight, or buy any number of everyday household products containing petrochemicals.

I reek of hypocrisy, laying the problem at your door and demanding action whilst I carry on, fat and lazy, exactly as I always have. Glancing over my shoulder at my carbon trail and justifying it all away.

Engaging with fossil fuel companies is about as fruitful as engaging with someone like me, and hoping that good sense will prevail.

They’ll keep extracting it as long as dumb people like me keep demanding it. And we’ll still be filling up and pointing fingers as this beautiful earth goes up in flames.

We need forward thinking philanthropists like you to invest in renewables. To lead. To force an immediate rethink and bring about change.

You are our only hope.


Yours sincerely,

Katy Glassborow​

It’s that feeling you get when everyone else is laughing, and you realise they’re laughing at you.

West Londoners, we’re the butt of a joke that’s gone viral and is getting funnier as it gains traction. And all because we’re sleeping with Heathrow.  Well, sleepwalking.

After decades of apathy the global meerkats are shrieking and people everywhere but here are scrambling to their feet to wage war on CO2. In India, America, Australia, they’re pushing against the might of big business to turn away from fossil fuel.

Meanwhile, nestled under Heathrow’s monolithic wingspan, we noiselessly exist. Planes rage overhead leaving their emissions ringing in our lungs and driving a carbonized nail into the coffin of humanity.

We just roll over and go back to sleep as commissions and politicians say Heathrow needs to get even bigger, and it is a good idea to send an extra 260,000 planes over our homes.  That’s 740,000 a year, and a lot more pollution.

The global community points at us and laughs.  Across the world normal people, much like you and me, are in the midst of a dirty great cage fight with heavy-polluting industry.  Keep fossil fuels in the ground, under the sea, just don’t dig them up and for heaven’s sake, don’t burn them.  They’re calling for divestment and demanding politicians immediately rethink how we power our lives.

‘Nimbyism’ is no longer a pejorative term.  Communities are boycotting the construction of new oilfields, pipelines, fracking, coal plants in their back yards. This will not go ahead. Not in my name, or on my watch. To halt warming at 2°C and stave off the horror of rising sea levels, scorched farmland, unprecedented global migration and a desperate cat-fight to survive.

They pause as they charge into battle, glance over at us snuggled against the world’s biggest airport as it sets to grow bigger, and they laugh.  At us, the thesps and creatives of west London, the academics and entrepreneurs, doctors and businesspeople, journalists and teachers, raising our kids in a downy nest of coffee shops and Boden catalogues.

Emerge from under the duck-down duvet, west London!  Roll over and look at your bedfellow square in the face.  Glance at that alarm clock ticking away at your bedside.

Meeting the UK’s commitments to the 2°C characterisation of ‘dangerous climate change’ poses huge challenges for policymakers, businesses and wider civil society.  The rest of the world realise that policymakers and businesses will continue to dig for as long as we, the people, allow it.

Paris delegates left aviation out of the COP21 agreement.  So that makes us, the people, responsible to halt the rise and rise of the industry.

Heathrow is in our back yard.  This is our fight.  No more runways until aviation is decarbonised.

Another runway will lock us ever more fatally into a fossil fuel dependency that the rest of the world is laughing at.

Your voice counts, so start laughing too.  And loudly.

Unretouched Bare Bollocks on Page 3

Well, looks like boobs are here to stay on Page 3. The question is, why aren’t men being given an equal crack of the whip? Seems unfair that the blokes are not being afforded the same rights as women to celebrate their sexuality by publicly displaying their sex organs in a daily national newspaper.

Men: level out that playing field. Demand the right to pose for Page 3. Drop your pants so that we can discuss your dimensions over our skinny lattes. Petition the papers to publish images of the pièce de résistance, your mighty striker. Face this challenge head-on, and proudly share with the nation the beauty of your illustrious tackle.

Come on, why not you? Don’t be shy! It’s just harmless fun. Something to cheer up our day.

You seem a little surprised and oddly, somewhat reluctant. Don’t you realise that you too can be the object of the nation’s fantasies for a day? Sure there may be a few more trips to the gym. May have to beef up on the protein and explore hair implants and penis augmentation surgery. The onus is now on you to always Look Good Naked.

Or you could choose to be smart, and not allow the youthful and well-equipped among you to hog the limelight. Don’t allow yourselves to be starved, painted, operated on, retouched and distorted far away from any real sense of manliness. Don’t be augmented. Stay unretouched. Your masculinity is beautiful just the way it is.

Distorting and retouching pictures of bodies – which are inherently beautiful – is at best absurd. The objectification of augmented beauty is even crazier. Dare to keep it real.

After you’ve conquered Page 3 why not make a cameo in a music video? Parachute in to save poor old Robin Thicke in ‘Blurred Lines’.

In the video there is a proclamation, spelt out across the wall in huge silver balloons, that ‘Robin Thicke has a big dick’. But poor Robin is forced to appear fully clothed in the midst of a group of naked ladies.

The song and indeed the video seem to largely be about Thicke’s (apparently very impressive) gender-loin. But sadly for him, his much praised member remains subdued under a catalogue of wardrobe changes.

In the absence of nakedness Thicke is forced to dad-dance whilst grabbing at sunglasses, ice-creams, livestock… anything just to try and get his point across. Oh yeah, and that balloon montage. Poor fellow.

Get that video reshot with the women fully clothed and the men starkers and for heaven’s sake, give us a giggle. The only thing funnier than watching a man dad-dancing is watching a naked man dad-dancing. And trying to look sexy.

Lets unleash a preoccupation with your looks. If we can objectify you, perhaps we can shift the attention off the female form just long enough to breathe, and to think about how to start celebrating our unadulterated, raw beauty more honestly in the media.

But you know what? You’re never going to have to see your own bare bollocks, or anyone else’s, staring down from the newspaper shelves of every corner shop in the land. You know it just could never happen. So lets call for a moratorium on publishing our naked bits in daily papers. If it’s unthinkable for you, it should be unthinkable for us.

Hooray Auckland Law Revue:

Runaway Runway Needs A Rethink

Visualising the members of the Airports Commission, settling down to consider The Runway Problem now that the consultation period is over, it helps me to mentally transpose them into a smoke-filled office in Whitehall during WW1.

There they sat, puffing away around a large wooden table, deciding how much tobacco to send the boys on the front line.  Of course the mandarins, then, had no idea that perhaps the most joyous component of the rations the troops would receive – intended to cheer and sustain – was deadly. The realisation decades later that cigarettes cause cancer does not condemn those decision makers. They sought to provide the lads in the trenches with a little comfort amidst the slaughter.

But when history looks back at Sir Howard Davies, Professor Ricky Burdett, Professor Dame Julia King, Vivienne Cox and Sir John Armitt in a similar scene, I’m not sure their decisions will be remembered so indulgently.

The WW1 strategists had an unfair advantage: they didn’t know about smoking’s link to cancer. The Airport Commission’s deliberations, by contrast, are set against an entirely informed backdrop. We know that emissions from fossil fuels are harmful to the environment. That time is running out. That carbon use needs to be drastically reduced, and right away. The moral obligation to employ radical thinking falls to the Airports Commission with immediate effect.

Ok, so their brief didn’t come with a big heavy tome of scientific research stretching back decades, but this information is freely available.

The Commissioners know that under current law, the UK only has until 2050 to cut carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. And yet the insuperable need for additional runway capacity seems to be blindly accepted as a fait accompli.

In fact when the Commissioners – an illustrious group of professors, knights, development experts, engineers, and the UK’s Low Carbon Business Ambassador – were first drawn together in September 2012, they were asked to address both whether we should expand airport capacity (year 1 of its work) and – if so – how and where (year 2).

Cait Hewitt from the Aviation Environment Federation says that while the timetable suggests a particular outcome, “the Commission was in theory supposed to have the right to conclude that we shouldn’t build new capacity.”

The terms of reference for the Committee’s work mention the environment several times, with the Commission required to “take into account the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits,” of each scheme, as well as their operational deliverability.

But aviation has a funny habit of making a special case for itself, and slipping through the gaps in terms of climate policy making. Within current frameworks, aviation is allowed emissions 120% higher than 1990 levels. To compensate for aviation’s privileged position, carbon emissions in the rest of the economy need to be cut by 85%, a level regarded by the Committee on Climate Change, CCC, as “at the limits of what is feasible”.

Hewitt says that “it seems the future Government would have two options: either they’d need to focus on restricting demand – by introducing very high new ticket taxes for example – or they’d need to manage supply by imposing restrictions on the use of existing capacity. Since Government policy is to support regional airport growth, it’s very hard to see that happening.

“Either way, all the Commission has really done so far is to make a very long argument for redistributing to London the passenger growth that might have happened at other airports around the UK, because that’s the only way that a new runway could possibly be compatible with the Climate Change Act,” Hewitt adds.

Greenpeace UK says that building another new runway can only be made to appear economically viable by ignoring the bulk of the carbon costs, which is exactly what the Davies Commission is doing.

“We can safely ignore anyone claiming that a new runway might be beneficial to the UK economy until they have answers for where the extra carbon savings will come from, and how they will be affordable,” says Greenpeace chief scientist Dr Doug Parr. “At a time when even developing countries like China are seeking ways to manage emissions from aviation, the Davies Commission’s current approach, and the political view that short-term business needs should trump everything, is wilfully myopic. This is not what real leadership looks like, on the climate or any issue of real economic importance”.

Real leadership. Ouch. But can we really expect this of Sir Howard Davies and colleagues, when all other bodies have passed the environmental buck in the runways debate.

It’s a really hard gig, being the meerkats of our generation. Spotting danger and responding accordingly, for the global good. Daring to say out loud that no further runway should go ahead until aviation is decarbonized, however impossible this concept may seem.
“Smart of the current Government, having promised not to approve new runways during this Parliament, to set the deadline for the Commission to report straight after the election, leaving parties free to reposition themselves if they want to,” says Hewitt.

Sadly for environmentalists, the economic arguments against expansion are shot down even before they have a chance to fly. It doesn’t seem to matter that Heathrow is mostly foreign owned [Spain, Qatar, Quebec, Singapore, the US and China] and has been found to aggressively minimise payment of corporation tax. As does Gatwick. And that aviation fuel is tax free. And airline tickets are exempt from VAT. Which loses the exchequer billions of pounds every year, thanks to some pretty impressive lobbying by the aviation industry.

Head of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge reiterated comments she made in October last year that “ministers should put Gatwick and Heathrow under pressure to pay corporation tax as the bidding process for airport expansion reaches its conclusion”.

Hodge restated that airports made a fortune from their UK activities and that “for them to pretend they are only in it for the benefit of the UK economy is a touch hypocritical.”

But this doesn’t register in the debate. Nor does it seem to matter that the Commission’s own modelling of the direct economic impacts of a new runway are net-negative under some of its forecasts, even before accounting for full carbon costs.

John Stewart, head of pressure group HACAN, which campaigns against Heathrow expansion, says that if laws were changed and these taxes and VAT were paid, fares would go up and demand would be managed, obviating the need for new runways.

“Some of the underlying issues have been sidelined by the Davies process, and there have been no real questions asked about the issue of managing demand through getting rid of tax breaks for the aviation industry. Many of the climate change assumptions Davies is working on have not been challenged. If these were included it would be a game changer”.

Can we expect the Airports Commission to think differently and deliver a verdict that is so way off the growth trajectory that politicians and business thirst for?

Climate expert Dr Alice Bows-Larkin from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research recognises that meeting the UK’s international commitments to the 2°C characterisation of ‘dangerous climate change’ poses huge challenges for policymakers, businesses and wider civil society.

“Being locked into a fossil fuel infrastructure means that a growing economy hampers efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Cutting CO2 in line with 2°C demands tough and brave decision-making, that, in the short-term, may not appear financially ‘optimal’ or sensible.  However, if we consider the systemic and irreversible impacts of climate change, short-term finance must surely give way to long-term economic prosperity” says Bows-Larkin.

“Until policymakers put more emphasis on taking decisions that bring positive benefits in the long-term, rather than policies that make temporary gains, they will be unwilling to implement policies that dampen growth in high carbon consuming sectors, such as the aviation sector  – with the UK prosperity ultimately suffering the consequences of their short-sightedness”.