Guy’s news: Is this how it starts?

Ever hotter, ever drier, with empty reservoirs and no sign of respite. ‘Stay calm,’ says John, our serene farm manager – but I feel myself becoming increasingly unhinged in the heat. It feels personal. Tantalising but ever-receding suggestions of thunder are torture as we watch stressed lettuces run to seed for lack of water and normally robust cabbages retreat into themselves, attempting to hang on to what they have. Those who have seen Gérard Depardieu as the tax inspector turned farmer in Jean de Florette will have the picture: he loses his mind while his farm collapses around him for lack of water. Gérard’s drought turns out to be caused by nothing more than a covered spring, maliciously blocked by his covetous neighbours. I am not sure our problem is so simple.

The sun, normally welcome, becomes a cruel and unforgiving enemy when water is short. Is the driest and hottest summer since 1976 mere weather, or anthropogenic climate change? Our primitive ancestors might question whether they had buried enough corn dollies or worshipped the right deity. If all else failed, they might sacrifice a goat. Of course, we know better; we are so clever and enlightened that we burnt millions of years’ worth of fossil fuels in one generation, dashing for growth. Is this an early manifestation of the predicted resulting climate change? Perhaps it is too soon to say with authority – but by the time we have that authority, it will be too late; the melting regions of permafrost will be emitting methane in a positive feedback loop with consequences the most accomplished climate scientists can only guess at.

So, is this how it starts? Is this how it will be when our self-regulating natural planet, that has looked after us and tolerated (even compensated for) our abuses, can no longer take the punches? As the crops wilt and the ground cracks, I must remind myself that no one here will die; this is a matter of convenience and bank balances. But it is also a window into the world where food security and seasonal rains are already matters of life and death for subsistence farmers. There will be no spring to unearth; corn dollies will not help. For those farmers and for ourselves, we must learn to share more and live with less. It is our appetite for cheap and convenient energy, not goats, that we must sacrifice.

Guy Singh-Watson

27 responses to “Guy’s news: Is this how it starts?

  1. Daphne Rowbottom

    Well said Guy. As ever, your blog was spot on.

  2. Well said indeed as far as it goes but you omitted animal agriculture which has played and still does play an enormous part ‘As Einstein said all those years ago ‘Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet’. The evidence I believe is all there to be seen now.

  3. Meat production is a huge problem concerning global warming. The conversion of crops to meat is poor, and the feed often comes from poor countries that could do with the food themselves instead of selling it to the west. I heard that consuming 500g of meat, equates to driving 150 miles.

  4. For Rain. From the book of Common prayer.

    O GOD, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom, and the righteousness thereof, all things necessary to their bodily sustenance; Send us, we beseech thee, in this our necessity, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth to our comfort, and to thy honour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  5. If only all our families, friends and neighbours would confront these issues as you do Guy, and be more creative in using less, the world might start to repair. But most of mine (not all!) bury their heads in the sand and don’t even want to talk about it 🙁 It breaks my heart.

  6. No, Guy. This is called WEATHER. It is not CLIMATE. Do your own research and calm yourself. The consensus is ‘The science is settled’ This comes from scientists who really should know better. There are also a lot of well respected scientists who argue that ‘the science is never settled’ and any thinking person should agree. Of course the science is never settled! It is about research, testing, arguing and all of it is ongoing or should be. So do not listen to the consensus until you have done your own research. And stay calm as your wise colleague urges you be.

    • What utter nonsense

    • Dr Richard Hobson

      The 10 warmest years since records began in the UK have been since 2002. That’s CLIMATE.
      The frequency of “100 year weather events” (ie extreme, severe and unusual weather) such as flooding and drought have increased in the past 20 years. That’s CLIMATE.
      Well over 95% of all climate scientists agree that the atmospheric warming we are experiencing is anthropogenic. Many of the small minority of dissenters are in the pay of large energy companies or other interested parties.
      So Ms Ashley, if you want to bury your head in the sand and take your climate advice from Nigel Lawson, relying on the fact that no single weather event can be attributed directly to atmospheric warming, then do so. I prefer to follow the vast majority of my fellow scientists, the meteorologists and atmospheric physicists, and press for dramatic reductions in the consumption of fossil fuels before we destroy the very eco systems we depend upon for our existence and survival. You can “research, test and argue” until you’re blue in the face, at some point the scientific method requires that a consensus be reached at that time is now.

  7. Great post

  8. Having lived in Spain and now back in the U.K. I find all this ‘heatwave’ news to be an over-reaction. The most important factor is the lack of water. I admire you Guy but please be aware of your first half of the year posts complaining of too much water and not being able to plough or plant. In Spain drought tends to be in 4-5 year cycles – we lived by a reservoir so we’re very aware of this!Spain grows a huge amount of Europe’s fruit and veg and much of it has to be watered constantly but in Spain they have non-potable water for irrigation.i think one of the most important things we should be looking at if we are going to experience more and more extreme weather patterns is how to utilise our water systems to best effect, prevent evaporation &wastage etc.

  9. I do agree with Linda; it is time Britain stopped using drinking water for all purposes and began rolling out greywater systems for watering (after suitable filtering). Also Aquaponics for salad crops.
    I know you work mainly from your reservoirs, Guy, and rely heavily on rainfall to replenish them, but surely there can be some way to amplify your supply.
    I am pretty sure this won’t help a lot, but a pub in the Meon valley started a system of reedbed sewerage. I used to camp in the upper part of the same field, and for the first year, until the reeds took hold, it was a real stench, but it subsided once the reeds were growing strongly.

  10. Kathleen Edwards

    Linda’s message is really interesting, thank you. There is a great deal that we can do as individuals to mitigate the impact of climate change. I live in a beautiful town in Yorkshire but sadly a huge percentage of my neighbours have paved over their gardens, at the front to create a parking space but also at the back because courtyards seem to be fashionable. Having restored the front garden I am now planning to create a water garden at the back of the house to both conserve water and to prevent flooding. Perhaps grey water can be integrated into this system too. This is no solution to the problems Guy so eloquently describes but the incremental effect of many such schemes could help.

  11. Roll on Sunday; you should get some rain, more continuous in nature, then it’s looking likely the heat and dryness will return into next week.

    We need to strike a balance between giving and taking from Mother Nature and hoping she responds kindly to our nature-friendly methods.

    Keep sticking with what you’re good at.

    Best Wishes

    Tony and naturestimeline

  12. That was brilliant, Guy.

  13. @Stella – you are of course right that the science is never settled in respect of potential impacts but, regardless, the consensus of climate scientists is pretty clear and the basic principles (pumping CO2 into the atmosphere warms the planet up) is pretty well established. I’ve read around a lot on both sides of the argument (it’s central to my job) and the overwhelming majority of the science is on Guy’s side with a lot of the contrarians being directly funded by US oil and coal companies with a distant echo of the 60s and 70s tobacco lobbyists.

    As a thought experiment it’s worth following his (well mannered) thoughts through – what would the start of significant climate change look like? The geological record suggests it’s exactly like this – more frequent extreme weather events. I’m not saying that the current conditions are the cause of climate change but they are exactly what you would expect and what the models predict – heavier winter rainfall, followed by drier summers. Adaptation to change, whether human induced or otherwise, is costly and disruptive which is why the insurance markets (those who profit from managing risk) are deeply worried about climate change and cover for extreme weather risk is becoming increasingly difficult to underwrite.

  14. Eilona Skillcorn

    Thank God rain at last. I am away from my home in Yorkshire, staying in Norfolk and we had a tremendous storm in the early hours of today (Friday) and again this evening with loads of the beautiful liquid stuff! I hope Guy’s crops are getting replenished as I write. I believe this is just an exception and we will be back to poor summers anytime soon.

    Thank you Joy, I have been praying too.

  15. I feel for you. Brilliant piece of writing. It just rained a bit in Brighton. I so hope you had same. Sent with compassion. x

  16. Thank you Guy! I agree ‘It’s our appetite for cheap convenient energy that we must sacrifice – not goats’ I find it interesting that all 16 respondents fail to pick up on your closing statement. Instead the various deck chairs are moved around the all too familiar decks yet again.

    Come on! Wake up! Start demanding real legislation and government action to reduce CO2 emissions right now!

    Fracking licences, liberal building regs, tax breaks for big oil, unregulated air and shipping, weird anti windmill bias, removal of fuel tax – it just ain’t good enough.

    We have everything at our disposal to begin to reduce CO2 emissions right now. But no, we book another holiday and put another steak on the barbie.

    We are causing a mass extinction of life on earth.
    This is not a time for complacency this is a time for action.

  17. Well said, Guy, we do have to understand the need to share more and live with less, take a more sensible approach to food production and consumption. Kathleen’s comments also resonated with me – why don’t we incorporate grey water into our systems; why don’t we stop building and paving over land unnecessarily so water levels can be maintained? Vested interests, lack of political will/leadership and an unhealthy interest in being seen as fashionable all seem to get in the way.

  18. Hopefully you had as much rain as we did in Bournemouth, yesterday.

  19. Hopefully you had as rain as we did yesterday!

  20. Guy , a really relevant and obviously heart-felt flog thank you. Many of your customers are similarly concerned about how our habits are damaging ‘our self-regulating natural planet’ and are trying to do all that we can on this immediately. A number of us inquired about a plastic free box ( ie a box containing only items that don’t need plastic to give them shelf life) way back in March and April. We were told then that this would be looked into. Unless Ive missed a response do we take your silence on this as a ‘No’ ? It would be good to get some feedback on this after all this time.

  21. Like most delightful and erudite liberals you are too careful and do not go far enough.
    a) The science is not in doubt.
    b) We are, in all likelihood, too late now to change anything.
    c) We are looking at a dismal future, except that it’s no longer the future, we’re in it.
    d) Given that whether we act moderately for change or act extremely for change or do nothing the s**t’s going to hit the fan anyway, we might as well start to demand extreme action.
    e) My first choice – ground all planes. Yes, you heard me. Ban flying. As soon as possible. And I say this with my precious younger daughter in another continent and my stepson in another country.
    It’s time we got real. But thank you for saying something, Guy. I can see that you are at least trying.

  22. Kathleen Edwards

    Suzike, I fear you are right: the damage done is probably irreversible and most certainly already catastrophic. If you want to ban planes, shouldn’t cars be reduced to a tenth of their current number ? Imagine carparks replaced by piazzas with trees and plants and residential streets greened over. No more paving your garden to accommodate your car but healthy, clean air to breath instead.

    • Thanks, Kathleen, I quite agree. Banning planes was simply my opening gambit to try and get the conversation to a new level. Yes to reducing cars to a tenth. Thank you for responding.

  23. Kathleen Edwards

    Suzike, I fear you are right: the damage done is probably irreversible and most certainly already catastrophic. If you want to ban planes, shouldn’t cars be reduced to a tenth of their current number ? Imagine carparks replaced by piazzas with trees and plants and residential streets greened over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *