Part adventure travelogue, part popular science journalism, part conveyor of big truths, Ben Rawlence‘s The Treeline is a beautifully written, mind-opening account of how trees are migrating north in response to climate breakdown. It’s a page-turner and yet also book I lingered over, because there were so many passages that necessitated an intake of breath, followed by a solemn stare into the distance, and then a re-read to make sure I had fully understood the devastating implications of the new information just imbibed.
What a perfect weekend. Despite the late nights, I always come away from Latitude feeling relaxed rather than tired. This was a largely hot one and so we managed to spend most of Sunday just lounging in the wooded shade of the Sunrise stage, watching great new band after great new band. Elsewhere, alongside all the music, there was Disco Yoga, Maseoke, street dance, performance poetry, decent vegan/veggie food, and swimming in the lake. Couldn’t ask for more.
Aah – what a feeling it was to be back. The first Glastonbury in three years and everyone was well up for it, including the weather gods, who were enjoying the spectacle so much they forgot to send rain. Unlike 2010, when consecutive sunny days seemed to dampen the hedonism a bit, Glastonbury 2022 was one of the liveliest, loudest and happiest I can remember in 30 years. Here follows the markontour review of the bands I saw at Glastonbury 2022.
I’ve read a lot of music biographies, but Broken Greek is in a league of its own. For a start the author, Pete Paphides, writes about music for a living rather than performing it. More importantly, while Broken Greek’s timeline begins, quite traditionally, in the author’s infancy, six hundred pages later it ends with Paphides still in his early teens – an age at which many people are only just discovering bands. It is a measure of the authors’ precocious music obsessiveness that despite mostly relying on Paphides’ pre-pubescent experience of rock n roll his autobiography nevertheless provides a wonderfully evocative revisiting of punk, pop and rock, alongside a tender, sometimes poignant, and consistently laugh out loud funny examination of what it was like to be a young immigrant in 1970s and 1980s Britain.
Yesterday I saw a Goldcrest, Europe’s smallest bird. There are 600,000 breeding pairs in Britain and they are reasonably commonplace in the coniferous woods which they make home, but it is the first time I have spotted one in the Brecon Beacons. More to the point, they are stunningly attired- “a tiny bird with a big hairdo” according to the Wildlife Trusts – and so make a big impression, first with a flash of green on the wing and then the bright yellow mohican on the head (orange in the male).
Oxfam’s annual wealth report, Inequality Kills, has rightly attracted attention for revealing how the incomes of the world’s ten richest people have doubled during the pandemic, while the incomes of 99% of people have effectively reduced during the same period. But the report, along with other recent analysis, also provides further critical evidence of how economic inequality is driving climate breakdown. As such, it is a problem that is not just confined to a handful of billionaires but the excessive consumption patterns of the wealthiest few hundred million of us, who compromise under 10 per cent of humanity but cause over half of its greenhouse gas pollution.
Cranes, large white wetland birds, standing 1.3 metres tall with flamboyant tail-feathers that bob about as they graze, were hunted to extinction in Britain four hundred years ago. But last weekend we went to visit a now thriving resident population at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. It was a magical and uplifting experience, and it turned out that the Cranes shared the billing with an astonishing cast of other beautiful wildfowl.
Revisiting a half-finished blog from the end of 2021, I was reminded how angry I was hearing Shell’s CEO proclaim green credentials one minute, and in the next breath complain that being told to cut his company’s emissions in line with national targets was “unreasonable”. The job of the climate movement is to make it unacceptable to enrich yourself through destroying the eco-systems on which we all depend, and rally the majority of people behind political and economic approaches that instead enable human civilisation to survive and thrive.
A few days ago I was feeling good with myself, having polished my annual markontour favourite songs of the year list down to the fifteen tracks that would befit its title, and then Rough Trade went and sold me The Felice Brothers’ new album. Ah well. Herewith the sixteen tracks of the Festive Fifteen 2021. The usual rules apply: all songs must have been released this calendar year, one song per band, no re-releases, plus an indeterminate number of bonus tracks, usually commemorating an artist who passed away during the year. The full playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.
As the dust settles on COP26 it is clearer than ever that the climate crisis is not going to be averted by inter-governmental negotiation. That’s not to ignore the momentum generated by COP26, or the incremental progress made in Glasgow. But the commitments on the table from national governments when the gavel came down fell well short of locking in action to halve global emissions this decade, and that was the ultimate indicator of success or failure. As a result there is an even more urgent need for cities and other non-state actors to lead immediate science-based climate action, and increase the impetus on national leaders.