Thursday 28 October, 2021

Set in stone

A small rock, picked up on the beach on the North Norfolk coast the other day. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know its history.

Quote of the Day

”The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

  • Alfred Hitchcock

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Tommy Emmanuel and Igor Presnyakov | Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven


Long Read of the Day

Why Hungary?

Or, more accurately, why has the American Right become so keen on Hungary as a model for what they’d like to do to the US?

This terrific post on Heather Cox Richardson’s blog explains.

On paper, Hungary is a democracy in that it still holds elections, but it is, in fact, a one-party state overseen by one man.

Orbán has been open about his determination to overthrow the concept of western democracy, replacing it with what he has, on different occasions, called “illiberal democracy,” or “Christian democracy.” He wants to replace the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy with Christian culture, stop the immigration that he believes undermines Hungarian culture, and reject “adaptable family models” with “the Christian family model.”

Hungary is in the news in the United States because Americans on the right have long admired Orbán’s nationalism and centering of Christianity, while the fact that Hungary continues to hold elections enables them to pretend that the country remains a democracy.

In 2019, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson endorsed Hungary’s anti-abortion and anti-immigration policies; in that year, according to investigative researcher Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets, Hungary paid a D.C. lobbying firm $265,000, in part to arrange an interview on Carlson’s show. Recently, former vice president Mike Pence spoke in Budapest at a forum denouncing immigration and urging traditional social values, where he told the audience he hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon outlaw abortion thanks to the three justices Trump put on the court. Further indicating the drift of today’s right wing, the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will be held in Budapest.

The US is turning into a basket-case. The mid-term elections will tell us if the (flawed) American experiment with democracy is over.

We can’t plant our way out of the climate crisis

Trees are great, and they are very good at absorbing carbon dioxide. So it’s disastrous that de-forestation is still proceeding at an alarming rate.

Tree-planting schemes always sound like a good idea. (Though there’s a time-lag before they reach the necessary maturity to do their stuff for the planet.) Of course, sometimes there’s a whiff of ‘buying carbon offsets about these schemes. But even if there isn’t and motives are pure, it seems that many planting schemes fail.

In his marvellous Just Two Things blog, Andrew Curry points to a story on Vox about how large tree-planting initiatives often fail — and some have even fuelled deforestation.

In one recent study in the journal Nature, for example, researchers examined long-term restoration efforts in northern India, a country that has invested huge amounts of money into planting over the last 50 years. The authors found “no evidence” that planting offered substantial climate benefits or supported the livelihoods of local communities.

The study is among the most comprehensive analyses of restoration projects to date, but it’s just one example in a litany of failed campaigns that call into question the value of big tree-planting initiatives. Often, the allure of bold targets obscures the challenges involved in seeing them through, and the underlying forces that destroy ecosystems in the first place.

Instead of focusing on planting huge numbers of trees, experts told Vox, we should focus on growing trees for the long haul, protecting and restoring ecosystems beyond just forests, and empowering the local communities that are best positioned to care for them.

Trees are harder to grow that one might think. Some years ago, Cambridge University planted a large wood with 800 trees in Madingley to mark the university’s 800th anniversary some years ago. Many of those trees are thriving. But a surprising proportion are not. And this is par for the tree-planting course, I’m told.

Recently a survey of the mature trees around where we live was commissioned. The consultant who carried it out observed that the British climate seems to be changing into two rather than four seasons — much wetter winters and much drier summers. Which is exactly what many current species of native trees trees don’t need.

My commonplace booklet

Eh? (See here)

Further to yesterday’s musings about the iPod’s 20th anniversary, here’s mine. It was a gift from a very generous (and wealthy) friend many years ago. Its battery is long dead, but it’s the only iPod I really liked. So I’ve begun to wonder if I should take the bull by the horns, open it up and get a replacement battery from those wonderful folks at iFixit. Hmmm…

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