For me personally it was a really beautiful summer - I was extremely lucky to be teaching two permaculture courses in Portugal and Sweden, somehow I found myself as a facilitator at the Boom Festival in central Portugal where I had the good fortune to see one of the great environmental leaders of recent years, Ladonna Bravebull Allard.
Amidst this however I couldn’t get away from the stories from friends all over the world. Fires raged in Portugal, Sweden, Spain and California, and I was hearing stories and reading Facebook posts. In fact, a student on a PDC mentioned midway through August when we were teaching about rainwater harvesting that Brandeburg was pretty dry. As if to tempt fate, the news reported a serious fire the next day. In two locations where we have taught in Portugal fires raged close by (don’t worry, it’s 25km away, one of my friends texted. In the end they narrowly missed complete disaster) A close friend in Shasta, northern California said it was pretty smoky outside, and meanwhile in the Marina Alta (home to many friends and family), just south of Valencia, a forest fire raged for days. Close friends in Småland Sweden, though not directly hit by fire, were seriously affected by the worst drought in living memory - as a result they will be slaughtering half of their cattle in autumn for lack of feed through the winter. Though I haven’t heard personal accounts, much was written this summer about Australia’s drought. Lest we forget, Cape Town was running dry not too long ago either. "I had no idea it was so bad over there [in Europe]" my Californian friend messaged. In a way her text sums it up - not enough is being done to connect the dots.
It is safe to say that if you are experiencing climate anomalies where you live (and you are) then millions of people sharing your climate around the world are also experiencing the same climate weirding as you. If you are in a temperate zone and the forest is on fire, so are many others. If you are flooding, many other places are too. Climate extremes are more extreme and varied than they were, and they are set to get worse.
In Sweden it was not the driest part of the country that received the worst fires, and the nation needed the help of some the poorest EU countries to provide air support to extinguish the fires. In the driest part, where we have run three consecutive PDCs, the forests usually resplendent with blue and red berries were bare, and the perennials that carry them are scarred by the dry hot summer. The moose is threatened by climate change.
Meanwhile floods inundated, Karnataka, India. Friends in Coorg at the Rainforest Retreat shared stories of widespread devastation. On the international newswires we read about the flooding not far from there in Kerala, and in many parts of southern Europe. The flooding has wreaked devastation in human settlements all over the world.
That this should raise serious concern would be an understatement. In the age of rapid climate change there seems an undeniable fact - extremes are getting more extreme and increasing in frequency. At the same time we are consuming more energy as a species than ever before. The advent of data mining, for example, has accelerated energy use to a level that is very difficult to square with a looming global humanitarian crisis. At a time in which we desperately need to embrace degrowth, and cut out the cancer of the fossil fuel economy, we are in fact doing the opposite - Belt and Road should be three words everyone is aware of and be working to stop. The consequences of this are going to be disastrous.
The end of August left a harrowing vision - I was extremely fortunate to be gifted a trip to the glacier Mer de Glace in France. It’s a beautiful experience including a tram ride in an antique carriage up to a view point followed by a cable car ride down to the glacier and then another ride in a cable car to metal stairs that lead you down to the ice. It’s when you pass the signs indicating where the ice was in 1985 and then in 2015 further down that things start to get terrifying. The ice is disappearing at an absolutely alarming rate.