Nous avons cassé les rythmes de la Terre

Je tiens à exprimer mes remerciements à l’ARPE de Chantonnay, qui m’a donné l’occasion de parler du changement climatique en public, la semaine dernière. Une audience de 50-60 personnes m’a réservé un accueil sympathique et attentif ; et on ne m’a même pas sifflé quand j’ai parlé pendant une heure au lieu de… 30 minutes !

Les supports que j’ai utilisés sont à la disposition de tous ici. Servez-vous-en !

CC pour ARPE

C’est le diaporama.

Mes commentaires

Là, c’est mon anti-sèche !

Ext. Greenland ice melt for blog

Et ça, ce sont mes calculs concernant la fonte exponentielle du Groenland. J’aimerais bien qu’on y trouve une faille parce que, sinon, la conclusion s’impose : on l’a dans le baba !

Al Gore 800K yearsDans cet article, je voudrais revenir sur ce graphique, que vous reconnaissez peut-être même si vous n’étiez pas à Chantonnay. Il s’agit, bien sûr, d’une image particulièrement forte prise du film d’Al Gore, Une vérité qui dérange. J’y reviens parce que cette image nous permet de comprendre l’échelle des dégâts. Bien que cela puisse nous sembler improbable — voire incroyable — nous sommes à l’origine d’un changement d’époque sur Terre. Plus rien ne sera jamais comme avant.

Le graphique représente les derniers 650.000 ans sur Terre avec, en rouge, la variation du CO2 atmosphérique et, en bleu, la température. On voit les vagues successives des ères glaciaires et des interglaciaires qui démarrent abruptement tous les 100.000 ans environ, sous l’effet conjugué des trois cycles de Milankovitch (cf. diaporama ou ici). Après chaque interglaciaire, qui dure 10.000 à 15.000 ans, la température rechute et les glaces reprennent le dessus. A droite, on voit que le taux de CO2, qui avait commencé à tomber à la fin de l’interglaciaire, s’est mis à grimper de manière quasi verticale. De toute évidence, il s’agit là d’une rupture claire et nette par rapport aux rythmes des 6.500 siècles précédents.

Mais ce graphique est encore plus intéressant pour ce qu’on peut en déduire. Forts de nos nouvelles connaissances en matière de climat, nous pourrions être tentés d’en conclure : “Tu vois ? Plus il y a de CO2, plus il fait chaud !” Mais ce serait faux. C’est inverse qui est vrai. Pendant toute cette période de 650.000, la quantité de CO2 “négociable” était constante et se trouvait soit dans l’atmosphère, soit dans l’océan. Les eaux froides de l’ère glaciaire contenaient beaucoup de CO2, qu’elles libéraient au fur et à mesure que la température montait. Ainsi, le CO2 atmosphérique variait entre 200 et 300 ppm mais ne montait jamais plus haut. Globalement, le système opérait en vase clos : il n’y avait pas d’autres sources de d’énergie (chaleur) ni de CO2. Le CO2 était constant, mais — grâce aux cycles de Milankovitch — l’énergie était variable : autrement dit, le taux de CO2 atmosphérique était déterminé par la température.

Cela n’est plus le cas.

Il y a 250 ans, nous avons commencé à brûler du charbon, puis du pétrole, et ce faisant nous avons libéré de vastes quantités de CO2 “nouveau”. En 2013 nous avons passé la barre des 400 ppm ; l’hypothèse la plus optimiste du GIEC envisage un plafond de 450 ; la moins optimiste nous voit atteindre les 1.200 à la fin du siècle. Tout laisse penser que nous arriverons allègrement aux 500 à 600 ppm. Ce CO2 nouveau dépasse très largement la capacité d’adaptation du système à vase clos. Le CO2 entre dans l’atmosphère, il y reste, et il y restera longtemps. S’ensuit une augmentation inexorable de l’effet de serre, et la température monte.

Désormais, le température est déterminée par le CO2 atmosphérique.

Et ça, il faut bien se le mettre dans la tête : en 250 ans, nous avons inversé la dynamique d’un système qui tournait depuis plus d’un demi-million d’années.

Où cela va-t-il nous emmener ? Personne ne peut vous le dire. Mais, comme dirait Sam, ça n’a pas l’air d’être génial.

Posted in Changement climatique, In French, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benefits Street – wrong storm, wrong teacup

Benefits Street seemed to be causing quite a storm in the Graun and the title itself was provocative, so I decided to take a break from climate change and the cricket (England’s women lost last night, by the way, but they still only need one point to clench the Ashes) to see what all the fuss was about.

Where better to start than Nick Mirsky‘s piece in the Guardian?

We are more divided as a society than we have been for many years: between rich and poor, between those working and the unemployed, between the haves and the have-nots. In this climate I don’t think there is a more important job for programme makers than to record what life is like on the receiving end of the latest tranche of benefit cuts. In fact it’s not just important, it’s essential.

Fair enough, I thought. Anyone with half an ear to the wind knows that James Turner Street is not typical of England as a whole and it would be absurd to think Channel 4 wanted to suggest otherwise. We know too that the government’s record on benefits is shameful and its pronouncements a disgraceful amalgam of deceit and demagogy. But knowing the numbers is one thing, giving the poor buggers who are stuck at the bottom of the pile the chance to speak for themselves is another.

Much to my surprise, the comments in the subsequent thread were largely vitriolic, taking Channel 4 to task for unjustly exposing the participants to public condemnation. I followed up some of the posters’ links and among the saner and more articulate I found this piece by Owen Jones for the Independent:

This dross has left the public woefully ill-informed. Polls show that people on average estimate that 27 per cent of social security payments are lost to fraud, when it is just 0.7 per cent; that 41 per cent goes to unemployed people, when it just three per cent; and that the value of benefits are far higher than they are. Neither is the public aware that most social security spending is, rightly, spent on pensioners who have paid in all their lives; or that the Government’s freeze on benefits mostly hits working people. Large families are passed off as typical, even though just 190 out of the 1.35 million claiming an out-of-work benefits have 10 kids or more. A healthy media would challenge myths and prejudices; ours is determined to fan them.

Here is the world that is missing from our television screens. The poverty-wage-paying bosses and rip-off-rent-charging landlords milking our welfare state dry as we subsidise them with tax credits and housing benefit. The low-paid workers struggling along on in-work benefits and falling wages, who make up the bulk of Britain’s poor. The 6.5 million people looking for full-time work, in many cases sending out CV after CV and not even getting a reply. The £16bn worth of benefits unclaimed each year – benefit evasion, if you will – compared to £1.2bn lost to fraud.

Now, there’s a fine howl of rage! There’s nothing to argue with there — on the contrary we need more of it. And I confess I didn’t know that £16bn in benefits go unclaimed every year. The only thing is, Mr Jones has missed the point. “This dross has left the public woefully ill-informed.” Well, no, actually. Mirsky knows full well that the public is woefully ill-informed — because the fucking public can’t be arsed to look behind the inflammatory rhetoric of low-life such as Osborne and Duncan Smith.

I would suggest that the aim behind Benefits Street has nothing to do with the background numbers — Toynbee, Monbiot & Co have been hammering away at them for years but no one cares. No, this is a grunt from the bottom of the pile. Why the hell should they play by the rules when the rich have long since ceased even to make a pretence of it? Why should they think about anything other than number one and sheer bloody survival? This is about shoving smug, ignorant Joe Public’s face into the reality of what happens when you leave people with no way out. They go inwards — to the only community that actually means anything. Cameron’s Big Society has zero currency here. This is where it hit the fan a long time ago. This is where they really are all in it together.

Posted in Current events, Woeful England! | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That’s what it’s all about

IMGP0294_100I’ve not played cricket since I was at school, 50 years ago. Even then no one actually taught us to play. In the summer, when cricket was de rigueur (much to the PE teacher’s disgust – he was very much a footy man) we were simply sent out to play cricket during weekly games lessons. I suppose it was assumed that English boys knew from the cradle how to hold a bat and place their fingers along the seam of the ball – as indeed we did. But I don’t remember anyone ever explaining the intricacies of the lbw rule, for instance, or growling at us to “ground your bat”. And certainly no one would have dreamed of sitting us down to listen to an explanation of “what cricket is about”. That was a great pity because I am by nature someone who needs a general synthesis before plunging into details. Not just cup-hooks for cups but “What is a kitchen?” If I’d stayed in England, I might have turned to cricket in my 40s and 50s, but there was no chance of that happening in Germany and France, where I spent most of my working life. My interest in cricket crystallised as retirement drew near and Internet streaming became available. So I’m an armchair spectator and my knowledge, such as it is, has been acquired by listening to the likes of Hussein, Atherton, Chappel and Holding as they expound on the subtleties of what’s happening out in the middle.

Watching an England team being comprehensively mauled by the Australians has not been a pleasant experience, and more than once I told myself I’d be better off spending my nights sleeping. But I was drawn to the cricket like a moth to the candle, always hoping the moth would become a bee and the candle a honeypot. Now, like everyone else, I ask myself what went wrong.

As ever, there was a certain amount of bad luck, as Mike Selvey points out here:

Once they got beaten in Brisbane it was always going to be difficult to come back, because that was such an overwhelming victory [for Australia] after having been in a difficult position on the first day. England bowled very well at them in the first innings in Brisbane. To come back from that was quite remarkable. There were elements too that compounded, which couldn’t be legislated for; Alastair Cook’s back going early on in the tour. Michael Carberry, who was a reserve on the tour, got in and got some runs. Carberry had to play. Gary Ballance didn’t get a game where he could have gotten a game where Joe Root got dropped down the order. You had Steven Finn, an integral part of the attack, who couldn’t bowl a ball in the same post code twice. You had Jonathan Trott going home. It just compounded. It rains in the warm-up matches. Everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong.

But there was much more to it than that of course. Selvey also points out that it wasn’t just a matter of fragile England batsmen succumbing to the unfamiliar pace of an on-song Mitchel Johnson. By and large the top-order batsmen handled him pretty well, but time and again he went through the tail like shit through a goose, speedily eliminating the chance of an extra 50-60 runs to boost a flagging total. No, the England batsmen were pinned down by the relentlessly accurate bowling of Siddle, Harris and Lyon which inevitably led to rash strokes – and wickets.

I think you also have to take into account the ruthlessly forensic nature of modern Test cricket. Carberry is a case in point (thanks to Hussein for this). At the age of 36 he was brought in on the strength of his form in county cricket and that was a perfectly reasonable choice – what can you judge a batsman on if it’s not run-scoring? At first he looked pretty good: 40, 0, 60, 14. That’s a decent start for a Test debutant. But he couldn’t get the big scores (43, 31, 38) and it didn’t take the Australian back-room boys long to work out that he was vulnerable to the ball from round the wicket swinging across him: 12, 0.  He made 43 in his last innings – a sign that he was learning to adjust? We might never get the chance to find out. But whether it’s Carberry or Cook going through the line with his head or Trott with his bat stuck behind his pad or Bell spooning it up to short cover, the analysts spotted the weakness and the Australian bowlers were good enough to exploit it. The England bowlers weren’t up to it.

On this showing, Anderson might be past his best, Broad approaching his. Bresnan – again, on this showing – doesn’t have the pace (which we knew) or the consistency. Rankin trundled his great frame up to the wicket like a mediaeval siege engine only to lob the ball down at barely 80mph – too short, too full or too wide. At least Stokes appears to have some fire in his belly but he doesn’t yet have the control. As for Swann, who can imagine anything more ruthless (that word again) than the way Haddin and Warner put an end to his career?

Yet the England bowling was frequently good enough to destabilise Australia’s (reputedly) fragile top-order batsmen and on at least two occasions England got themselves into positions from which they had a more than even chance of winning, only to throw it all away through duff fielding. I’m not talking about the occasional fumble but the number of catches they put down – three in one session on the second day of the second Test! For the team that was reckoned to be the best fielding side in the world a year ago, that was to say the least disappointing. Then again, fielders can only field where the captain puts them and Cook’s placings went from odd to puzzling to mysterious to downright ridiculous. In my book he was entirely responsible for letting the fourth Test get away from England: at the start of day 3 Australia were nine down and 91 first innings runs behind – a time to attack if ever there was. But instead of going at them hard to get that remaining wicket, Cook pulled his field back, the batsmen scored ones and twos at will and knocked up 40 in nine overs. They were still 50 behind, sure, but they’d wrested back the initiative. Selvey makes the interesting point that while Tendulkar was undoubtedly India’s star batsman, he wasn’t captain for long…

Australia’s fielding, on the other hand, has gone from excellent to spectacularly good. In fact during the third ODI it was nothing short of miraculous. I’m thinking of Warner’s throw to run-out Bell from halfway to the boundary with a single stump to aim at. Or Clarke’s astounding catch at square leg to dismiss Stokes off a full-blooded sweep shot right out of the middle – diving full-length to his right, one-handed, two inches off the ground. I’ve seen it several times and I still don’t believe it!

That third ODI really summed it all up. For the English batsmen out in the middle it must have seemed as though all hell had been let loose. It was evident, even on TV, that the Australians were all up for it – each and every one of them wanted to take a catch, stop a four, provoke a run-out or just pressure the batsman by attacking the ball and preventing a second run. It wasn’t just bat against ball, like we used to play at school – the batsman was up against the combined hostility of a whole team, eleven against one. That’s what cricket is about and it was wonderful to behold.

Posted in Cricket | Leave a comment

Réchauffement global : de nouvelles recherches qui changent la donne

Photograph: Frank Rumpenhorst/ Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa/Corbis

Jusqu’à présent, les hausses de température dues au réchauffe-ment global et prévues d’ici à la fin du siècle présentaient une large fourchette allant de 1,5 à 5°C, voire plus. Pour les scienti-fiques chargés de calculer la probabilité de tel ou tel scénario, environ la moitié de cette incerti-tude venait d’un manque de précision dans les modèles concernant les mécanismes impliqués dans la formation de nuages. Ce manque de précision venait tout simplement du fait que la recherche n’était jamais passée par là. Désormais, c’est chose faite et l’impact sur les prévisions sera immédiat et significatif : une hausse de 4° est d’ores et déjà quasi certaine.

Les résultats d’un projet de recherche mené par le Prof. Steven Sherwood, à l’Université de New South Wales, en Australie, démontrent qu’au fur et à mesure que la température monte, de moins en moins de nuages sont formés. Ainsi, davantage de lumière du Soleil parvient jusqu’à la surface de la Terre pour alimenter le réchauffement. En clair : plus ça chauffe, plus ça chauffera.

Un article à ce sujet, basé sur un entretien avec l’universitaire et fournissant plus de détail technique, est paru dans le quotidien anglais très réputé The Guardian (voir ici). Je n’ai pas encore trouvé une source en langue française.

Les travaux du Prof. Sherwood sont publiés dans la revue Nature (ici). Toutefois, l’accès est payant. Seul le résumé est en accès libre et je le reproduis ci-après :

Equilibrium climate sensitivity refers to the ultimate change in global mean temperature in response to a change in external forcing. Despite decades of research attempting to narrow uncertainties, equilibrium climate sensitivity estimates from climate models still span roughly 1.5 to 5 degrees Celsius for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, precluding accurate projections of future climate. The spread arises largely from differences in the feedback from low clouds, for reasons not yet understood. Here we show that differences in the simulated strength of convective mixing between the lower and middle tropical troposphere explain about half of the variance in climate sensitivity estimated by 43 climate models. The apparent mechanism is that such mixing dehydrates the low-cloud layer at a rate that increases as the climate warms, and this rate of increase depends on the initial mixing strength, linking the mixing to cloud feedback. The mixing inferred from observations appears to be sufficiently strong to imply a climate sensitivity of more than 3 degrees for a doubling of carbon dioxide. This is significantly higher than the currently accepted lower bound of 1.5 degrees, thereby constraining model projections towards relatively severe future warming.

Posted in Changement climatique, Climate change, In French | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s us what done it.

MeSince time immemorial, grumpy old men have been complaining that things ain’t what they used to be: “Kids today are dreadful and their parents are even worse.” It’s a caricature, isn’t it? Perfectly true, mind you. But still a caricature and so hackneyed it’s not worth saying. In fact it’s probably even “normal” (lots and lots of ironic quotes around that much-abused word) because as you pass fifty, then sixty and find you’re nudging seventy a huge shift of perspective takes place. All those pushy mums and their jargon-spouting, preening males are more pitiful than insufferable. In any case they’re not my beef here. No, the ones who really piss me off are my peers. We’re the ones who’ve fucked up. The world has gone seriously wrong and it’s happened on our watch.

The last time I was able to cast a general election vote, in 1974, it went to the Conservatives, or rather to Ted Heath; and hindsight now confirms that I made the right choice, even if it was futile. A Labour win would not have changed much in the long term: they still had to get their relationship with the unions sorted out and that struggle would have left a Labour government no time or energy to do anything else. It was best pursued in Opposition, a thankless task for which Kinnock has never received due recognition. But if Heath had survived, that just might have changed things for the better and for the whole world. For Heath had spotted the coming sea change and rightly identified the “unacceptable face of capitalism”. In terms of perspicacity, that warning was right up there with Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex”. A Heath victory might have kept Thatcher at bay and with her the Reagan-Thatcher alliance which was to serve as launching pad for unfettered and unprincipled capitalism.

Absolved of any remaining scruples about the pursuit of wealth and power by any and all means at its disposal, international capital promptly set about trampling on the social compact which had been the secret of its success. David Simon provides a timely reminder of what used to be good about capitalism:

It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.

Capitalism worked not because it was a great leveller — inequality was always built into the system — but because the degree of inequality was perceived to be reasonable. Everyone got something out of it. But that was only possible because the unwritten rules recognised the importance of both voices, capital’s and labour’s, and ensured that neither of them was able to silence the other. Not any more. Real wages are plummeting and have been for years because without the unions there’s no one to defend them. The working poor have long been a reality in the US and are emerging in Europe, especially the UK, with people holding down two jobs and still struggling to feed their families. We’re back to subsistence wages. Capital has won out, it’s achieved everything it ever wanted; and the losers will be the people — all the people except the very rich.

Nowhere is this clearer to see than in the small print of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the US-EU free trade zone currently being finalised in secret, which in all likelihood will include a toxic mechanism called investor-state dispute settlement. Montbiot outed this one a few weeks ago:

Where this has been forced into other trade agreements, it has allowed big corporations to sue governments before secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass domestic courts and override the will of parliaments.

This mechanism could threaten almost any means by which governments might seek to defend their citizens or protect the natural world. Already it is being used by mining companies to sue governments trying to keep them out of protected areas; by banks fighting financial regulation; by a nuclear company contesting Germany’s decision to switch off atomic power. After a big political fight we’ve now been promised plain packaging for cigarettes. But it could be nixed by an offshore arbitration panel. The tobacco company Philip Morris is currently suing Australia through the same mechanism in another treaty.

Now, it doesn’t take much imagination to see what this sort of agreement could will do with legislation designed to cope with the effects of climate change. Want to ban the sale of petrol/diesel burning cars from, say, 2025 on? Try it and we’ll sue. Want to outlaw fracking, replace carbon trading by carbon taxes, stop subsidising all means of power generation except renewables…? Try it.

The general public is lamentably, totally ignorant of the sheer scale of change we need to bring about in the next few decades if we are to ensure the survival of anything like civilisation as we know it. The so-called captains of industry surely know better, even if they refuse to admit it. But they want to make sure that large-scale change comes about on their own terms. And they are well on the way to achieving that. The financial markets have had sovereign governments under the cosh for half a century already, as Harold Wilson and François Mitterrand found to their cost; now they’ve found a way to push them aside all together.

But how far does their thinking go? When the oceans rise and the storms strike and power stations go down like dominoes; when the chaos sets in; when money becomes worthless… what will they do? Do they really think they can go on for ever, in walled or even underground towns powered by small nuclear reactors, like so many land-locked aircraft carriers?

All their money won’t help them then. Can they really think their power (in both senses of the term) will suffice? I don’t know. I don’t understand what seems to me to be wilful stupidity.

But they are “us” — my generation. This is the world we have brought about. Those of us at the top of the pile have actively sought it, seduced by wealth and short-term power; the rest of us, too easily satisfied, too idle to take an interest, too cowardly to oppose, have let them get away with it.

Posted in Climate change, Rant, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

GOTN hits NOTH

Nail on the head, in case you’re wondering.

Girl on the net writes a sex blog. Well, that’s what she claims and it’s true that much of what she produces does not come into the category of things that, er… one would have shown to one’s mother. Not that the Old Girl would have understood much anyway. Indeed my own ex-patriot vocabulary has benefited considerably from exposure to GOTN English. However, contrary to the impression you might think she’s trying to give, there’s more to the lady than sex. She may be getting plenty up her, but very little gets past her. Especially not the sanctimonious bullshit the police hand out when dealing with anything that smacks of sex and —heaven forbid!— prostitutes. That’s why I’ve chosen to reblog this piece in its entirety. Who knows – there might be someone else out there whose “logic knickers” need untwisting?

Much of GOTN reads like a deceptively, penetratingly simple strip-cartoon from the seamier side of city life. Dickens must have known all about the dangers of dog shit in London alleys… My favourite piece is this one about the rules of etiquette in a swingers’ club! I can imagine a sort of clubland Pepys penning something like that.

Enjoy.

On the brothel raids in Soho

This morning, police entered premises in London’s Soho and arrested a number of people. Latest reports say 22. In an official statement, Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett said:

“Victims have identified brothels where they have been trafficked for sexual exploitation and raped.”

Commander Alison Newcomb of Westminster Police said:

“This is not about the prosecution of prostitutes, this is about making the area safe. We do know a lot of the women are trafficked or are vulnerable so this is about taking the danger out of Soho.”

So a quick question: if safety of the women involved is genuinely what the police were concerned about, then why the hell did they subsequently allow (or, indeed, invite) reporters to take gratuitous pap shots of the women involved?

Put aside your views on sex work

This issue isn’t about whether you approve or disapprove of sex work. Personally, I think that making money by selling sexual skills is as valid a life choice as making money by singing for strangers, fixing cars, or pushing paper across a desk until beer o’clock on Friday.

I’d further opine that those who are anti-sex work because they’re concerned about trafficking have got their logic knickers in a twist. If you hate trafficking, coercion and rape then you’re not anti-sex work per se, you’re anti-trafficking, anti-coercion, and anti-rape. Which we all are.

But even if you disagree with me on the work itself, I cannot see how you can be anything other than shocked that these photos were taken, let alone printed in the Evening Standard.

Focus on the pictures

In nearly all of the pictures, the women involved are covering their faces. What better way to categorically state “I do not want you to photograph me.” These women have removed their consent to be photographed by anyone.

But no matter, of course, because the most important thing to the press is that we get a good long look at groups of women who – *sexy shiver* – will fuck you for money. Go on, have a nice little look: that’s free.

At the same time as the press are slavering over these women, the Chief Superintendent is giving a statement which highlights the fact that the police believe some of them have been used and abused in the line of their work. Can you remember the last time you saw a story where the victim of a crime, or someone who was supposedly being protected, was photographed against their will and slapped all over a national paper while the police stood by and did nothing? Me neither.

As the excellent @Fornicatrix put it:

They pixelated those faces as much for our uninhibited viewing pleasure as for their privacy. Who cares about the privacy of whores right?

Why were photos taken of the brothel raids in Soho?

The police believe that in performing these raids, they’d secure the safety of women who had been trafficked or coerced into working there. There are two possibilities here:

– Option one: the police are mistaken, and these women are working off their own bat. If this is the case then the women, rather than having been ‘made safe’ have been subjected to some incredibly intrusive press attention. In fact, as the English Prostitutes Collective pointed out, they’ve potentially been put in danger: “The police must know that some women will end up working on the street as a result, where it is much more dangerous.”

– Option two: the police are right, and these women have been trafficked and coerced. If this is the case then what they have just done is lined some victims up in front of the paparazzi, and just let them snap away.

I’m not an expert on sex work, this is just my initial kneejerk ‘WTF’. But I think this needs discussing because, well, WTF. If you’ve read any other good blogs on this topic, or written any yourself, I’d love to hear more from people about it, especially if you’re more informed than I am on sex work and the myriad issues surrounding it. Please leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it to this blog post when I can.

@NymphomaniacNes has posted on this topic too – I’d recommend you check out her thoughts as well.

And this great piece from @sassylapdancer, which was recommended to me on Twitter.

You might also want to check out this petition.

– See more at: http://www.girlonthenet.com/#sthash.3I5IMsQA.dpuf

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s official: men and women are different

Now there’s a thing! We’re not wired the same way: our brains go back and forth, theirs go sideways.

Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and coordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking. […] “I was surprised that it matched a lot of the stereotypes that we think we have in our heads.”

And guess what, guys? That means we are complementary!

(See here and here.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

L’automne et au-delà…

IMGP9323_croppedNovembre touche à sa fin et les couleurs de l’automne commencent tout juste à s’atténuer. Chaque année je les guette déjà dès la mi-septembre, sans doute séduit par le cirque médiatique et commercial qui accompagne la rentrée? Toujours est-il que, cette année encore, j’ai dû me rappeler : “Patience, mon garçon !” La dame Nature met trois mois pour se rhabiller après le laisser-aller estival. Ce n’est que vers la fin de l’automne qu’elle émerge vêtue de ses meilleurs dentelles, sensuelle à souhait mais jamais vulgaire, pour une dernière parade de toute beauté, un dernier tour de panache, avant de se résigner au gris hivernal.

Météo automne 13Maintenant, ça y est. Finies les châtaignes et les noix, battues les dernières parcelles de maïs, à moitié remplie déjà la retenue de la Vouraie. L’automne aura joué à la perfection son rôle de transition, entre un pic de 34° début septembre et le 0,4° à La Borelère la nuit dernière, entre 48mm de pluie en septembre, 85 en octobre et 130 en novembre.

L’hiver nous semblera long, comme toujours. Pourtant, tout n’est pas grisaille : les ajoncs fleurissent déjà et domineront bientôt sur les berges de la Vouraie et le plateau au-dessus du Petit Emery. Je parierais un déjeuner au Cheval Blanc que nous verrons des primevères avant la fin de l’année, et dès la mi-janvier les premières pousses de jonquilles apparaîtront, en écartant les feuilles mortes sur le pentes boisées qui donnent vers le sud.

Entre-temps, voici quelques-unes des images que j’ai pu faire pendant ce mois de novembre : histoire de vous aider à patienter en attendant la suite.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I feel a rant coming on

Religion really pisses me off and so do all those people who insist on being polite about it. Religion is a scam, the scam, the original scam, the first and longest lasting of all the tricks mankind has invented for separating people from their wealth and their intellectual independence. Religion fucks people up and fucked up people fuck up the world.

Try this thought experiment.

Imagine that religion has never been invented. People bumble along, happily or grumpily blaming themselves or others when things go wrong, gladly taking the credit when they go right or recognizing that they just got lucky. Knowledge has accumulated over millennia and we have no problems with the fact that we’re one species among millions of others, primates descended from other primates, all shuffling around on the restless tectonic stage of a small planet which is but one among billions of billions in a universe that’s unimaginably vast and mostly empty and might even be one of many. Get the picture? Now, along comes someone like Ron Hubbard (Scientology, in case you’ve not been following) and says, “Hey, guys, you’ve got it all wrong! Just give me all your money and switch your brains off and I’ll show you what it’s really about.” Is he going to be greeted with cries of enthusiastic relief – thank God, for God?

As my pal Neven would put it – come on, gimme a break!

Gods are nasty bastards. And the Jewish god of the Old Testament is as bad as they come:

…the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. [Dawkins’ wonderful rant in The God Delusion]

Churches are even worse. Gods may make demands but the Church (as distinct from a small-c church, which is just a building) is out there in the field doing the dirty work on their fellow men, and more especially women. A Church is a political organization and as such it will always have two main objectives: (i) to maximize and consolidate its own power, and (ii) to ensure its own survival. All the rest is peripheral. And for the men who comprise the Church (yes, always men) the ends always justify the means, whatever they are. So it’s no surprise that the Catholic Church, for example, has:

…experimented with almost every kind of extermination, genocide, torture, mutilation, execution, enslavement, cruelty and abuse known to humankind. [Monbiot here]

Religion has nothing to do with morality. It’s all about power. The “divine right of kings” was the best corporate slogan ever invented. None of George Bush’s speech writers could match it – not for want of trying, you can be sure. Unlike human rights, God-given rights are inalienable. So go ahead – shit on the serfs, napalm the fucking peasants, build your settlements among the other guys’ fruit groves, throw aeroplanes at their towers and stones at any woman who has the effrontery to say she was raped.

What of the serfs? Those who want a church wedding, those (fewer) who have their children baptised, or who (fewer still) go to their local church once a week? Well, most of them don’t have the intelligence and/or the intellectual training to appreciate the significance of their actions. They’ve been indoctrinated (“Yeah, well, a church wedding’s better, innit?”) or they’re hedging their bets (“Might as well get ‘em baptised…”). As for those with a more honed sense of social awareness, many if not most of them, I suspect, would claim to be seeking fellowship or some sort of spiritual haven; and if in the process they’re prepared to mumble-jumbo their way through a load of codswallop about father, son and holy spirit – well, I guess that’s their business. But it’s my business too, because by their very presence they are lending credence to the notion that religion is respectable and the Church a force for good – a notion that’s harmful to the health and safety of a small planet and its people. And guess what, guys? It’s my fucking planet too!

By definition religions defend the status quo. So the Catholic church goes condemning millions of kids to a life of poverty by denying their parents the right to use condoms; and Islam persists in its barbarous treatment of the half of humanity that happens to be female. In Israel, fundamentalist Jews go even better, as does the loony Christian Right in the USA: they want to reinstate the status quo ante. None of them seems to have noticed that their blinkered approach to History — and thus to the future — blinds them to the fact that climate disruption is a threat to all life on the planet. Not to mention the problem they have with a few minor matters such as human rights and a sense of what is reasonable and fair…

It is undoubtedly true that for many people a sense of morals is inseparable from religion. But that is only a reflection of the extent to which religious indoctrination is rife; it has nothing to do with people’s ability to use their own moral compass if they wish. I don’t need a fucking god to tell me not to kill or steal. I don’t need the clergy to teach me about beauty and transcendence and the cosmic importance of human consciousness.

It is morally repugnant that so many peoples’ lives are shaped by the lies, threats and manipulative half-truths of a religion. And I will not go on politely turning a deaf ear to the outrageousness of it.

So a plague on your Gods and your Churches. Damn them all to hell and back. Minority moralistic monopolies won’t cut it. It’s time to grow up, Humanity, and face the world as it is.

Posted in Rant, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Le feu, les livres et d’autres dangers

IMGP9017Il a fait passablement moche en Vendée ce dernier temps : 72mm de pluie depuis une semaine. Alors ma cheminée n’a pas chômé et par conséquent inévitable j’ai passé de longs moments à rien faire sauf regarder le feu. En plus, il y a eu le passage éclair de deux amies, aussi folles l’une que l’autre, chacune accompagnée de son chien, ce qui m’a poussé à faire un minimum de ménage et à préparer un vrai repas. En plus, j’ai fait l’erreur de commander non pas un mais trois romans  dans la série “Culture” d’Iain Banks, lesquels je passe des heures à dévorer, à toute heure, nuit et jour, devant le feu, bien sûr. En plus, côté cricket, il y a le premier Test entre l’Inde et les Antilles Britanniques qui se déroule pendant cinq jours à Calcutta et dont les horaires ne font qu’ajouter à la confusion de Sam, qui produit chaque nuit une flaque que je dois enjamber en sortant de l’escalier…

Tout ça pour expliquer le manque d’activité dans les pages de ce blog. Allez, je vais essayer de faire mieux. Peut-être juste une p’tite demi-heure à Calcutta ? Le temps de me faire des œufs au bacon et d’allumer le feu…

Posted in Current events, In French, Uncategorized | Leave a comment