United New Internationalists

104 Earth

THE BEGINNING OF THIS BOOK IS where it is at, and it is the beginning of a story, a drama or a play, set at the Fifth Storey, 122 Cheswick Avenue, New York. There is a mayor on ice, and he is skating for his life, along comes a spider, and sits down beside him, not her this time. I wonder why. He eats the spider and swallows the fly, and thinks how we eat, correct me if I’m wrong approximately 15 spiders a night, so if we are arachnophobes, we just end up becoming insomniacs. These spiders of course are climbing the walls from outside and into our leaky provincial homes. But the spider on Cheswick Avenue, lived there eating all sorts of grubs during the day, and dust and crumbs.

THE ICE is an installation of make shift blocks, melting at 50m²/minute, giving the skater 3 minutes to skate before slush once the cooling mats are off. What is the purpose of telling you all this, oh I see you want to know more? Well now you can come ‘behind the curtain’. The practicalities of having the New York Mayor skate on thin ice to the sounds of Debussy, to disgustingly eat a spider and a fly, now dead, replaced every night, oh and skating for three minutes around the perimeter before sitting on a large block of ice in the centre to discuss the ramifications of hot leaky buildings, means we are onto energy efficiency and climate change.

The last time I feigned respect for passive people, was also the first time I learnt about Passive Haus design. Passive building is the know it all and wisdom of avoiding hot, leaky buildings. Think more warm, temperate advances into cool and warm depending on unique internal settings, to control and run the building as a system of its function. Richard says form follows structure, I say these days we may be better to start with making a form follow a passive system. There are many forms to follow, so a system feels fitting for 21st Century Climate Change. There are several ways to excel into prefabrication, but unfortunately our ice is melting into water, and before it leaks back outside as vapour through the leaky walls of the Fifth Storey, from the summer sun, we better move on without further ado.

Behind this curtain is also a clothes rail for a sort of Venice Biennale minimal clothes wardrobe in a cool glass box. The box, originally to stop the ice melting onto the Mayor’s costume for the professional skater says something of the dynamics of transparency just as we see our reflection in the ice. There is also a perfunctory bed for the speaker 'Al Gore' to move from 8 hours day sleep over to the lectern to give his speech 'An Inconvenient Truth', with slides, in fact that is Al Gore’s bed, and the presentation is his famous film on Climate Change. Al Gore, wanted to be president against George W. Bush. The democrat won the popular vote but lost out to his opponent. The result was so close in Florida - a key battleground state - that Mr Gore contested it and the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. The recount of ballots led to Mr Bush gaining 271 electoral votes versus Mr Gore’s 255 votes, if you remember it just as I do. In the film: ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, Mr. Gore describes the following as a surmise:

The film was released 15/09/06, and it argues credibly that global warming is man-made.  He had the know-how to speak publicly in front of large crowds to rally them together, after his defeated electoral campaign. Hope lost, power won, at this stage. The first image is the 'Blue Marble' or 'Earth Rise', the Earth seen from space. Then comes the tale of a childhood friend at school and the joining of adjoining countries. If you notice the Rhinoceros ‘head’, Africa joining S.America: the jaw; proves magical realism will not save us but it is symbolic of the times, and our living planet weaving poetry into life, and life into poetry. Gore states: there is a very thin atmosphere, relative to the size of the planet, like the varnish on a ball, it is that thin. Since the 1960's he describes temperature rise relative to industrialisation. The Earth breathes once a year, so the temperature rises and falls each half year, and there are ongoing dangers of fossil fuel burning, and therefore temperature rise. Are we fighting a present day ice age, as we look back over the past 650,000 years of 7 of them; through our energy uses, and lifestyle habits, in effect causing the extreme reverse? This surmises the first 30 minutes, of the film.

There has not been this amount of CO² for 800,000 years, and it is anthropogenic. Renewable energy is cheaper than nuclear, and therefore we must be 100% renewable within a generation. One in six species is at risk of extinction. The science is easily attainable and verified – and supported by 97% of climate scientists, with the rest having no single, coherent and verified an alternative theory. You can check the data and the science right now if you want to. (WWF, 2019). 

Behind the curtain after the first nights presentation and the 10,000 litres of water, as melting ice have just plummeted a hole through the building and reached the second floor and Al Gore did not make it to President of the United States of America . . . a play begins in the confusion . . .



In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
The self-same way with more advisèd watch,
To find the other forth, and by adventuring both
I oft found both: I urge this childhood proof,
Because what follows is pure innocence.
I owe you much, and, like a wilful youth,
That which I owe is lost; but if you please
To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
As I will watch the aim, or to find both
Or bring your latter hazard back again
And thankfully rest debtor for the first.

Bassanio is holding on dearly to the throws of mixing two problems together, as they are vested, and he is trying to solve them all at once, with little success; always in debt to someone. Water gushed through the building, hitting the elevator shaft, down to the first floor, of Cheswick Avenue, people gasped narrowly missing the hole in the floor . . . The play concludes . . .



My Lord Bassanio gave his ring away
Unto the judge that begg'd it and indeed
Deserved it too; and then the boy, his clerk,
That took some pains in writing, he begg'd mine;
And neither man nor master would take aught
But the two rings.


What ring gave you my lord?
Not that, I hope, which you received of me.


If I could add a lie unto a fault,
I would deny it; but you see my finger
Hath not the ring upon it; it is gone.


Even so void is your false heart of truth.
By heaven, I will ne'er come in your bed
Until I see the ring.


Nor I in yours
Till I again see mine.

(Merchant of Venice, 2015)

What we see here is the parallel in Bassanio's life of (That's it! Al Gore the Fountain head has just disappeared down the hole), fighting two problems money and love in the latter, and for his three thousand ducets for three months, ends up ringless, with no obvious signs of imminent copulation. The poor man. However whilst he would rather lose the first, claiming the second, love over money in the latter, he has done so, and forfeited the rings. Of course though in the end there is hope, for as Nietschze once said, 'God's dead', and in God's wrath, charged the summons only to be re-possessed in his charging. Shylock had his pound of flesh, and died to find out, all that is owed is owed no more, and that the rings be dutifully returned ready for marriage. In effect the energy we have borrowed from this planet is returned to us through death and re-birth. Maybe we are trying to evolve with the times, and will puke our guts up if the World were healthy and the world were round, to find out what damage has already been done; like Bessanio, we cannot fight the polluter, for money and love the world again. We must just love the world again, and the polluter will cave in through example.

D'Artagnan wondered at the fragile and unknown threads from which the fates of nations and the lives of men are sometimes hung.

(The Three Musketeers, 2008)

In the last century or so the course of world history has been altered by assertions of all of the four main motivations behind the pursuit of power that territory, the desire for wealth, the fervours of religion and of ideology have all provoked conflict and change. If history has not ended, its course has speeded up.

(A Short History of Power, 2011)

In T.S. Eliot's phrase from his Four Quartets, I was 'distracted from distraction by distraction'.

(Reasons to Stay Alive, 2015)

The fire and rescue team save the bravest actors and survivors known to man, including Al Gore of course and here he is . . .