Thursday, March 29, 2007

A distant mirror

...not calamitous 14th Century Europe this time, but glimmerings of awareness of complex and textured pasts behind infantile identity politics and brutal fundamentalism as reported in Turkey here and (with less certainty and more turbulently and confusedly) Iran here.

I remember in Esfahan, a few years ago just before the election of Khatami, seeing Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil in a book shop window. (One may not endorse Nietzsche's philosophy yet still welcome the capacity for actual thought that his work requires).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Soros takes on AIPAC

I took a stand against President Bush when he said that those who don't support his policies are supporting the terrorists. I cannot remain silent now when the pro-Israel lobby is one of the last unexposed redoubts of this dogmatic way of thinking. I speak out with some trepidation because I am exposing myself to further attacks that are likely to render me less effective in pursuing many other causes in which I am engaged; but dissidents I have supported have taken far greater risks.
-- George Soros on Israel, America and AIPAC

A slam dunk

“It is hard to imagine any post-war dispensation that could leave Iraqis less free or more miserable than they were under Mr Hussein,” we said four years ago. Our imagination failed.
-- The Economist recants, and is among those reporting on the roughly four million refugees.

Under a freedom of information order the BBC finds that the UK government tried to rubbish a study estimating that 655,000 have died in the violence, even though the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser found the survey to be robust. Iraq Body Count did not (at present it estimates the number of deaths between about 59,800 and 65,600), but that does not seem to have been the reason the UK and the US governments dismissed the study.

Six caveats about Six Degrees

Imagine that you find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile tearing down a superhighway at high speed. Instead of a normal windscreen in front of you a video shows the view from where the car was a minute ago.

The first thing you would probably do in such a situation is take your foot off the accelerator. Next, you might look for some way to work out where you actually are now, where you are heading, and what you can you do about it.

In the case of anthropogenic climate change the time lag may be fifty or sixty years rather than sixty seconds, but the principle is the same. What we are seeing now are the consequences of what we did some time ago, and we cannot see directly the impact of what we are doing right now. Extending the analogy, slowing down means reducing emissions, while tying to work out where you are, where you’re heading and what to do requires (but is not limited to) paying attention to what the scientists are saying, working out what the best political and technical options are and how to make them happen.

What the scientists are saying is of course complicated but it boils down to this: anything more than a rise of something like 2 degrees Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) in average global temperature is (to borrow a phrase from Pulp Fiction) “pretty far from fxxxing OK”, and not a place we want to go. For graphics that say it all go to the fifth page of this document or the second page of this one.

The good news is that many sane people and some large institutions recognise this. The European Union, for example, has championed 2°C for some time. Empty words from bloated Eurocrits with a cissy aversion to shooting and torture first, or the foundation of a basic charter for the 21st century? As long as everyone else comes on board (Arnie’s already there and it seems even Al Qaeda has expressed an interest), and gets serious about what’s really involved in reducing the probability of rise exceeding about 2°C then there’s a chance that the challenge of adaptation will be manageable.

So much for the theory. In practice, of course, the 'everyone on board' and, more to the point, the 'get serious' parts are hard. What, then, to do?

One of the things that can help change minds and society is a good book. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is probably the best known example. Writing in 1962, Carson warned that the reckless use of artificial pesticides and herbicides over the previous twenty years risked devastation for life on Earth:
Along with the possibility of extinction of mankind by nuclear war, the central problem of our age has…become the contamination of man’s total environment with…substances of incredible potential harm – substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals and even penetrate the germ cells to shatter or alter the very material heredity upon which the shape of the future depends.
Silent Spring is a magnificent, angry work. It really did change how people thought and behaved in the United States and beyond. Today the greatest environmental threat is very different. It stems not from complex artificial chemicals but from a naturally occurring, simple compound so fundamental to nature that some Call it Life – harmless so long as it is not present in excessive concentrations.

And today shelf loads of passionate and eloquent books warn of the dangers of too much carbon dioxide and what to do about it. One author recently joked that he hoped his contribution would make the list of the one hundred best books on climate change from his small town in that year.

Six Degrees by Mark Lynas is one of the better recent efforts. Lynas, whose earlier High Tide was noted on openDemocracy here, structures his new book around what could be the impacts of one through six degrees Centigrade rise in average global temperature. It is a clever presentational device, and will help general readers get to grips with the issues (as we know, anything above two is pretty far from…OK). Easing in, Lynas explains,
…most people have [no idea] what two, four or six degrees average warming actually means in reality. These sound like very small changes when the mercury swings by fifteen degrees between day and night…it doesn’t mean the end of the world, it means we can leave the overcoat at home…But six degrees of global average change is an entirely different prospect.
Consider this: 18,000 years ago, during the deepest freeze of the last ice age, global temperatures were about six degrees colder than today…Where I sit writing, in [southern England], would have been just a dozen miles from the southern edge of the ice sheet, a freezing polar desert blasted by dust laden winds and suffering winter temperatures as low as -40°C
Some will probably call Six Degrees 'climate porn', tickling the ‘O my God we’re all going to die’ erogenous zone. If so, it is an extreme example of the genre, a climate snuff movie from the school that considers big feedbacks and tipping points in the climate to be more likely than gradual changes. It is an idea previously sexed up in book form by James Lovelock (now on three-for-two offer at all good bookstores), an unorthodox scientist who inspired a generation of climate scientists to include biological feedbacks in their models.

But I don’t think the ‘climate porn’ label is useful. As the novelist John Lanchester observes in a recent essay, even the people who feel most strongly about climate change seem to have a hard time believing in it, so great is its potential enormity. For this reason, and for others, describing the likely and the possible consequences of our actions in vivid terms – and doing so in one place rather than scattered across scores of news articles over the years – can help to concentrate the mind. (A good example, describing a different threat, is Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth of 1982).

In general, Six Degrees does this well (athough the prose isn’t helped by some clichéd writing: “The choice is ours…the clock is ticking”). This book is a handy and pretty heroic summary in accessible language of several hundred papers from the leading peer-reviewed scientific journals relevant to rapid climate change, generally taking the most pessimistic reasonable interpretation of what the scientists are saying. I recommend Six Degrees, with caveats that include these six.

First, the cover illustration is unhelpful. It would take sea level rise of about 60 metres (190 feet) to submerge St Paul’s Cathedral to its dome. As far as I know, no serious scientist is suggesting this will happen over the next few years or decades, which is how the cover is likely to be interpreted. (In the Oligocene, 30 million years ago, when the temperature was 3 to 4 degrees above today, sea levels were 70 metres higher. Some modelling indicates that if global average temperatures stabilise two degrees higher than the pre-industrial era, sea levels could rise by more than 50 metres, but the rise might take many thousands of years. The melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which some scientists consider one of the more likely if not already activated tipping points in the near term, could raise sea levels by 5 to 7 metres. Until recently it has been thought this could take millennia. A few now argue it could take much less time. A 5 metre sea level rise would be enough to devastate very large areas of London and many other major cities but not to wipe them out completely).

Second, to say this ‘degree by degree guide to the planet’s future’ is ‘unique’ is not right. A version goes back at least to the 'burning embers’ graph in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report of 2001. The environmental group WWF has used a similar approach, and so did last year’s Stern Review on the economics of climate change which includes the two graphics mentioned above at the top of this article. Six Degrees does, however, give a compelling narrative form to the whole.

Third, a little too much of the uncertainty in the science and the complexity of the context in which climate change is taking place is sometimes ironed out in the interests of a good story. Take the account of Amazon ‘dieback’, a finding that if the global temperature rises by more about 3°C then the remaining forest dies, releasing more carbon and driving global temperatures another 1.5°C higher. It’s an iconic scenario (and is fore-grounded in cross-promotional material for Six Degrees in other News International products such as this Sunday Times article as if it were news; maybe to viewers with hearts grown brutal from the fare of 24 it is).

Scientists consider some dieback to be more likely than not if present trends continue (and maybe a one in ten chance even if we do make big emission cuts). The rest of us should listen hard to what they are saying. But my impression – based on what some researchers are saying, and observing and talking to delegates at major conference on the future of Amazon last week (see here and here) – is that a lot, including aspects of the modelling (particularly the key role of changes in sea surface temperature), is still uncertain. This is not to say the future of Amazon basin looks bright for those who like climax rainforest. Direct human impacts, including those associated with expanded ranching and ethanol production, may be even greater threats, especially in the first half of this century. But if these challenges are tackled effectively (a big if, requiring less destructive development and more justice), the forest may be more resilient under certain (but not all) circumstances to climate change. This slightly more subtle message may be harder to sell to the general public at present, and is unlikely to be one the general reader will take away from this book.

Fourth, Six Degrees lays itself open to being read as if a 6°C rise over the 21st century is inevitable if emissions increase at the kinds of rate that currently seem most likely. The author acknowledges this pitfall in his introduction: “…a temperature based approach makes giving dates very hazardous. The world could become two degrees warmer by 2100, or it could already have hit that level as soon as 2030”. But then he falls into it, or comes pretty close, bound in the straightjacket of the book’s structure. On page 102 a temperature rise of 0.4°C per decade is described as a ‘likely scenario’; page 127 points to a 3°C rise by 2050; on page 223, 5°C is ‘a few decades from now’; and Chapter 6 outlines a scenario for 6°C by 2100.

Such a rate of change is possible. The summary of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, for example, indicates a rise by 2100 in the range of 1.1 to 6.4°C depending on how much feedback there is in the Earth system and, of course, the way humanity generates and uses energy and manages land and ocean. The IPCC says that with a doubling of atmospheric CO2 the most likely rise is between 2 and 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C. Warming over the next two decades, it says, is likely to be about 0.2°C per decade. The estimate may be conservative. Climate sensitivity could be more (see, for example, Stainforth), and it could also be less.

But even if climate sensitivity is at the higher end of the predicted range – say between 3 and 4°C to a doubling of CO2 – that does not necessarily mean the consequences will play out over the next ninety to a hundred years. And climate change doesn't have to happen before 2100 to be bad news. Climate tipping point guru John Schellnhuber gives the example of an unstoppable mobilisation of methane clathrate. It could, he says, be set in motion this century, but could about take a thousand years to fully play out, with truly massive consequences over that time frame: more ‘tapping point’ than ‘tipping point’.

The fifth caveat is that Six Degrees makes only a brief contribution on perhaps the biggest of all questions: what humanity needs to do to get its act together. It notes correctly that some official government statements in Britain with regard to how much and how fast emissions need to be reduced have been excessively cautious given some of the advice officials have received from the scientific community. There was, for example, an inconsistency between (on the one hand) some work commissioned for the landmark 2005 conference Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, which suggested a target for atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases of less than 450 parts per million C02 equivalent would be prudent, and (on the other hand) statements in 2006 by the UK government’s chief scientist that stabilisation at 550 ppm would be OK. Six Degrees does not mention that the influential Stern Review, published in October 2006, also finessed this issue. Given the quality of its advisors, the German government may be bolder, at least in its rhetoric, in its presidencies of the European Union and the G8 this year.

Six Degrees makes the familiar and in my view correct criticism of biofuels as likely to make only a small contribution a solution at best, with significant downsides. It concludes that individual carbon rationing is the key to progress. Rationing is a fashionable idea, and may have some merit, but is not itself a solution. An individual rationing system can only make a useful difference once substantial emission reductions, and the means to achieve them, are already agreed. Even then, it would probably be just one of the tools in the box, and not necessarily the most significant one.

The sixth and final caveat regarding this book is with regard to how it, and other alarming projections, may shape feeling and action. The author writes that it does not occur to him to get depressed. He compares the situation to finding a fire in your kitchen: you don’t just sit there getting depressed as the fire spreads; you do something about it.

The analogy is beguiling, but not adequate. Climate change is so much bigger and more complicated. It can leave drive some very good minds to extreme statements. Feeling overwhelmed and pessimistic is a rational first reaction following any thorough review of evidence and trends. This is why it is not always helpful to frame psychological reactions through the lens of denial: for many people, acceptance and fatalism would be more like it; and there are more than a few who would like to throw a lighted match on petrol. It is also important to acknowledge fear and grief at what looks likely to the continuing loss of countless living forms most beautiful and most strange – the ‘end of the wild’ and the ‘death of birth’.

It is probably necessary to work through all of these feelings to find hope that is well grounded, if there is any. Being solipsistic may help: having perceived and experienced in one's own life even a fraction of wonderful existence is a good start. At least that experience has been real for the individual, something to give thanks for, and a place to start looking for hope. (In my own case, I can thank my being on dark nights in October 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the fate of at least several hundred million human beings on a hair trigger [if the 36 year old Castro had had his way Soviet field commanders would have initiated a nuclear exchange that would have engulfed North America, the USSR and Europe: operationalising ‘socialism or death’, I guess], my parents went to bed with a good bottle of wine and the novels of Jane Austen. I appeared on midsummer’s day the following year, and am still glad to be here.)

On the first day of spring this year Al Gore told members of the US Congress, "Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it's a challenge to the moral imagination." He is right, but there’s more to it even than he said. Climate change is a challenge to every aspect of the human imagination – moral, scientific, technical, artistic, you name it. Above all it is a challenge to our sense of time, and a tendency amongst many of us to procrastinate while most of what we see out of the car window isn’t too bad.

At their best, people can be capable of some very grand ideas with regard to time, connection and value. (It doesn’t cease to impress me that long before the modern scientific era Hindu and Buddhist cosmology conceived the Kalpa, one day of Brahma the creator, as 4,320 million years, which is not too far off the best estimate of the earth’s actual age of approximately 4,600 million years.) If people can sometimes understand something of the very big, they can too the very small, and even the medium: the span of one, two or three generations ahead that are hazy to us most of the time but also right at our hearts through our children born or unborn.

On that scale, there may be a good chance of keeping climate change within the range of the manageable, but not always pleasant. Up to about 2°C (and there is no magic number) over a century a lot of life can probably adapt and re-configure, albeit at some cost. And if not, then as the late Czeslaw Milosz put it:

…perhaps we’ll say nothing of earthly civilisation.
For nobody really knows what it was.

[P.S. 26 March: An edited version of this article has now been published here on openDemocracy]

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A comment very well made

"Human beings need to coexist with the other species, even if they are tiny butterflies," -- Lee Thay-ming, of Taiwan's National Freeway Bureau (reported on BBC)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slavery and meaningful action

The Church of England's approach to the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire is right. The leaders of this institution -- one of them a Ugandan by origin -- recognise its historical role as a beneficiary of slavery, and are using the commemoration to promote activity to fight slavery today.

This is more constructive than arguing about the appropriateness, or otherwise, of apologies - a debate that tends to go round and round, including on Radio 4's Any Questions (the most sensible contributor this week was Brigid Laffan). Willy Brandt falling to his knees in Warsaw is a very different thing from apologising for what others did two hundred years ago. Brandt was of the generation that fought World War Two. Known to have been an active opponent of the Nazi regime, as leader of Germany 25 years after the end of the war he was making a living gesture for his country and his generation.

quite busy

This week I have working on a background paper for the 2007 UNHDR, and have attended much of an outanding conference on the fate of the Amazon. Also, I spoke yesterday at the London Festival of Europe about Europe's role in facing the challenges of climate change. I will post about some of this if there is time.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

All the children are insane

"Listen to it," one of the officers told me when the warplanes were launched and streaking up the Gulf to Iraq. "It is the sound of freedom."
-- Smells like victory, man.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The President speaks

"If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say ‘I read a science fiction novel that says it’s not a problem.’ You take action.”
-- from Gore warns Congress of 'Planetary Emergency'. [a summary of his ten point programme here]

Tanya Reinhart

Reinhart was an optimist... and last October wrote that "persistent struggle can have an effect, and can lead governments to act. Such struggle begins with the Palestinian people, who have withstood years of brutal oppression, and who, through their spirit of zumud - sticking to their land - and daily endurance, organising and resistance, have managed to keep the Palestinian cause alive, something that not all oppressed nations have managed to do."
-- from the obituary by Victoria Brittain.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A contrarian line on contrarians

...and the need to map what one official calls "the complex geography of human imagination" -- from David Steven

A Kirkcaldy mirror

At [the] core was a conviction that the history of commerce was, in [Emma] Rothschild's words, "an epic of the emancipation of the mind". Economic liberty delivered far more than personal profit: it engendered political, legal and intellectual enlightenment. And with it a mutual understanding of human sympathy. [Adam] Smith thought that any barriers to this process of individual fulfilment needed to be eliminated, in particular, the closed shop of corporation, guild and apprenticeship, which dictated the pre-industrial economy. Hence his celebrated aphorism that "people of the same trade seldom meet together...but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public." His paean to commercial freedom was, in fact, a radical call for personal and political emancipation.
-- Adam Smith's philosophy according to Tristram Hunt

Friday, March 16, 2007

...and Eurovision is from Venus

"We note that the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation is currently only an Approved Participant of the European Broadcasting Union and that it needs to be an Active Member to take part in Eurovision, but regard this explanation as total fucking arseplasma...We believe that the entire complex geopolitical history of Israel/Palestine can be amicably resolved through the participation of both nations in the Eurovision Song Contest."
-- from Get Palestine into the Eurovision Song Contest (spotted by Oliver Tickell)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"one school of thought, and a few nutters"

Robert Butler describes what sounds like a good essay by the novelist John Lanchester about climate change. The article, from the London Review of Books, is [update 16 March now online here]. From Butler's summary:
"Someone my age," writes John Lanchester..., "is likely to have spent a couple of formative decades trying not to think too much about nuclear war"...There was a fact of life that combined "individual impotence and prospective planetary catastrophe". Then along came climate change. "I suspect we're reluctant to think about it because we're worried that if we start we will have no choice but to think about nothing else."

"In respect of the science," writes Lanchester,"...there is one school of thought, and a few nutters. There is an urgent requirement in the public arena," he continues, "for the issue to be considered now as one of plain fact."
The mention of nuclear war resonates. See my post from last December, The day before yesterday.

The relations between politics and the arts are complex, especially when it comes to imagining catastrophe. What are the responsibilities of 'cultural workers' in times of crisis, and what to make of, for example, Danny 'Trainspotting' Boyle's Sunshine (Voiceover man: "Every second, somewhere in the Universe a Sun dies. In 2007 it will be ours")? Is it distraction, confusion and bogus science at a time we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball or is it (as I imagine the movie makers would riff) an artistic approach to facing and dealing with massive and inchoate fears?

Are you following this?

"Suddenly we realised, maybe the universe is a string-net liquid," says [Xiao-Gang] Wen. "It would provide a unified explanation of how both light and matter arise". So in their theory elementary particles are not the fundamental building blocks of matter. Instead, they emerge from the deeper structure of the non-empty vacuum of space-time.
-- go here for more on the fabulous rise of Herbertsmithite.


This is impressive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Who guards

Little that's new, perhaps, in Tomdispatch on Seymour Hersch, but maybe this one is hidden in plain sight: that money siphoned off Iraqi oil is being used to fund activities in Iran. Even if it's true, it's unlikely we'll know for sure any time soon. In all events, the US situation still looks accountable in comparison to Britain's Lord Draysons, Trident and the BAe fraud debacle.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Greatest denial" - excessive alarmism?

Fred Pearce (in New Scientist) quotes Peter Wadhams as saying "the public needs to know that the policy-makers' summary [AR4], presented as the united words of the IPCC, has actually been watered down in subtle but vital ways by governmental agents before the public was allowed to see it" (see Climate report 'was watered down').

David Wadsell is quite extreme in his recent papers Feedback dynamics and the accelertion of climate change and Political Corruption of the IPCC Report?. In the latter he concludes:
The denial of anthropogenic climate change has been the most damaging deception ever perpetrated in the history of human civilisation. The decade and a half of resultant impotence and inactivity has lost us the window of opportunity to avoid dangerous climate change, made it virtually impossible to avoid catastrophic climate change, and brought us face to face with the looming possibility of a major global extinction event of cataclysmic proportions.
Wadsell points a finger of blame at NOAA in particular. Even if this is credible, it is unlikely to be a sufficient explanation. There have been rumours, for example, that both the Chinese and Saudi delegations played key roles in the editing the final version of the text. Of course, as the whole process is closed we may never know.

Calls for "a little more transparency" in the IPCC process are well and good, but bear in mind that (as Steve Rayner , who is based inside an institution that was part funded by a powerful Saudi, pointed out yesterday on Radio 4) the evidence supporting the case for serious action on climate change was clear and compelling fifteen years ago.

[P.S. 22 March: Piers Forster and 20 co-ordinating lead authors publish a letter in 24 March issue of New Scientist saying that the magazine's article and editorial regarding Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment (and cited in this post) contain "several wrong statements and false claims". The full text of the letter is available here]

"The earth hath bubbles..."

Q. In the book, you often talk of selves as "souls", and of their size. What makes a soul larger?

A. It's not just about how much someone reflects other people in their brain, it's about how. It's a question of reflecting them with empathy, with the ability to put yourself in their place, to suffer along with them. I am a very deep believer in trying to see things from the viewpoint of other people, especially people who are suffering, and projecting myself into other people's mindsets as much as I can.
-- from In the end, we are all part of one another: Douglas Hofstader interviewed by Mike Holderness in New Scientist

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It's not all gloom

A near Earth object (NEO) larger than 6km across, which could cause mass extinction, collides with Earth every 100 million years or so. Experts at the Planetary Defense Conference are reported agreeing that we are overdue for a big one.

So, if it's one, two or five million years late there's not too much to worry about then...


A couple of French guys called JR and Marco have a project called Face to Face (the is movie is good; be patient with the first 45 seconds). They are quoted as saying that Palestinians and Israelis are basically the same, "like twin brothers raised in different families".

Monday, March 05, 2007

UK emission targets

George Monbiot just broadcast an effective and engaging presentation of research indicating that the UK goverment is off track to deliver 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This was a target, I think I heard him say, worth achieving. In his recent book Heat he says a cut of at least 90% cut in UK emissions by 2030 is necessary and feasible. That looks like a big jump between 2020 and 2030.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Brown Mouse and Mr. Alligator

Are afterlife beliefs so prevalent because "underlying them is [a human] inability to simulate our nonexistence”? Maybe yes, but maybe there's more to it than that. Darwin's God by Robin Marantz Henig reports some useful explorations, with Scott Atran on "belief in hope beyond reason" and the "tragedy of human cognition" in the article foreground.

Dumb and dumber

What [the chief of the US Air Force's Combat Command] uses the aircraft he does have in Iraq and Afghanistan, he risks ending up, as in central Afghanistan last week, dropping (literally) two tons of bombs on a house containing five women, three children and one man, killing them all, because a U.S. patrol thought it had seen two men carrying Kalashnikovs enter the compound the house was in. Thus are hearts and minds won.
--William Pfaff (IHT, 3 March)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Chávez "is no Castro"

This looks plausible:
"Venezuela is a troubled nation...but hardly a totalitarian one. Neither, however, is it in the throes of Cuban-style social revolution. Say what you like about Castro: in the face of overwhelming odds, he gave Cuba a world-class health service, a thriving biotech industry, and a free and flourishing education system. Under his rule, despite America's misguided economic blockade and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Cuba's infant mortality rates fell below those of America; literacy soared. These achievements don't begin to justify Castro's awful human rights record, but they are astonishing feats of social engineering...Chávez, with far greater resources and in the face of far fewer obstacles, has accomplished far less."
-- Ben Whitford.


Solana Larsen writes:
"I am in the United Nations this week (and next) blogging a meeting about women called The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for

It's an important event because it sets new international standards for government to improve the conditions of women - this year's theme is ending violence and discrimination against girls. Forty-five government are here, and hundreds of women's organizations.

Of course, that doesn't mean anyone cares about it.

It used to be a big media event, but this year only 10 journalists have registered for credentials.

I've been hearing nothing but horror stories all week about forced sex, forced marriages, AIDS, circumcision, discrimination, violence - the sad thing is that the UN hasn't really committed enough resources to doing anything about it. Neither have governments.

Imagine my surprise to see tons of anti-abortion material lying around the event too. Christian right-wing women's organizations are using the meeting as a platform to campaign against family planning and the rights of women to have a safe, legal abortion."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

...engendered is the flower

A gloriously sunny day today where I live, and the promise of spring is finally here. Helping to sustain hope was another nice piece of radio from Open Country, coming today from the far west of Wales. Good to learn, too, of the first new translation into English of the Mabinogion in some years, and an opera based upon one of its stories (with libretto by an Englishman and music by a Scot) to be performed in Cardiff this coming September.