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The Guardian e-paper Journal - May 4, 2018

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Section:GDN 1J PaGe:1 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:37
Older women didn’t speak up. They’re used to being ignored Gaby Hinsliff, page 3
From the IRA to Eta – if you want peace, you have to talk Jonathan Powell, page 4
California burning: life among the wildfires The long read, page 9
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
and ideas
Javid is change,
but don’t be
fooled: he’s not
real progress
ajid Javid’s father, Abdul, came to Britain
from Pakistan with a pound in his pocket
and became a bus driver in Rochdale. As a
six-year-old, Sajid used to interpret for his
mother, Zubaid, who took 10 years to learn
English. At one stage Sajid shared a room
with his parents in a two-bedroom house
where he lived with his four brothers. His
school careers adviser told him to be a TV repair man
since children like him should not aim too high. Instead
he was the first in his family to go to university, became
the youngest ever vice-president at Chase Manhattan
bank and then went on to become a board member of
Deutsche Bank before entering parliament in 2010.
We know this because Javid often evokes his
personal story, as any skilled politician might, for
effect. Monday, when he replaced Amber Rudd as home
secretary, was no different. On his first day on the job,
Javid insisted that the Windrush scandal was to him
not just political, but personal. “Like the Caribbean
Windrush generation, my parents came to this country
from the Commonwealth in the 1960s,” he said. “So
when I heard that people who are outstanding pillars of
their community were being impacted simply for not
having the right documents to prove their legal status in
the UK, I thought it could be my mum, my brother, my
uncle – even me.”
But, for all the talk about how Javid’s elevation should
be celebrated as evidence of a government broadening
its pool of talent at the highest level, the truth is that,
were it up to the policies of this government, there would
be no Javid. His father would never have been allowed
in. And Javid’s OK with that. “It’s absolutely right that
today we should have an immigration policy based more
on skills,” he told the Telegraph three years ago.
If ever there was an illustration of the distinction
between the symbolic value of representation and the
substantial need to redress systemic inequality, it is
this: a man who extols his own story as an example of
what is possible, even as he actively seeks to ensure
that this story should be denied to those who come
after him. To those who see diversity as an end in itself,
rather than a means of securing greater equality and less
discrimination, Javid’s promotion denotes meaningful
progress. That is the sloppy liberal thinking on which
rightwing opportunism thrives, and which Angela Davis
once described to me as “the difference that brings no
difference and the change that brings no
change”. Symbols should not be mistaken
for substance, lest we end up not with
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:2 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:43
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
Sajid Javid is change, but don’t be
fooled. He’s not real progress
Gary Younge
Continued from front
equal opportunities for many, but photo
opportunities for a few.
But they should not be dismissed as
entirely insubstantial either. In a cabinet where there
are more former Oxford Union presidents than there
are minorities, it matters that the state school-educated
son of Pakistani migrants has a top job that covers
policing, immigration and security. He brings a set of
experiences, from discrimination to family poverty, that
are lacking in the highest levels of government.
The fact that he is a millionaire and a Tory does not
insulate him from racism. On the Guido Fawkes website,
a Conservative site where bigots go to reinforce their
rage, his appointment was greeted with the following
comments: “It rather appears the white man’s burden
has moved in with us for good”; “He’s looking forward
to being joined by millions of others from Turkey”; and
“Never trust an Arab.” (Let’s forget that Pakistan is not
in the Arab world and further from Turkey than Britain.)
A few, accusing him of racial treachery, called him a
“coconut” (black on the outside, white on the inside) and
a token. That is offensive. His race does not define him.
Who we are does not determine what we do or what we
think. There is nothing intrinsic about being of Pakistani
origin that prevents someone becoming a Conservative.
o there is symbolic value to his
appointment. But unlike the comedian
George Carlin, I think symbols are far
too important to be left to the symbolminded. Symbolic advances are far
more limited and contingent than their
advocates generally admit. The first black
leader of a significant political party in
the Netherlands was Joao Varela, a migrant who briefly
headed Pim Fortuyn’s anti-immigration party after
Fortuyn was assassinated. The French far right Front
National has black supporters and had a handful of nonwhite representatives; Ben Carson, the housing and
urban development secretary under Donald Trump,
last year referred to slaves as immigrants. Should we
claim the advances of all these people as victories for
diversity? If not then, clearly, we have to be careful about
what symbols we are promoting.
I’m delighted for Meghan Markle and her upcoming
nuptials with Prince Harry. But those who claim it
marks a step forward for black people in Britain fail
to engage with the symbol in question. A royal family
establishes inherited privilege at the heart of our system
of government and embeds patronage at the centre of
our politics. The prospect of a black princess illustrates
that black people can now be as elitist, exclusory and
hierarchical as whites, and that white elites are prepared
to accept them on those terms.
Which brings us back to Javid, who comes not only
with an ethnicity but a record. He has consistently voted
for tougher immigration and asylum laws, including
the “hostile environment” policy, and for slashing
benefits to the poor. There is no evidence that he has
ever leveraged his experiences as the child of workingclass migrants to do anything positive for migrants,
their children or the working class (British-Pakistanis
have among the highest rates of unemployment and
poverty). He recognises that those threatened with
deportation could have been his parents; he fails to
acknowledge that he voted for the very policies that
would have facilitated their removal and, unless he
changes the policy, could be their deporter.
The Windrush scandal has perfectly illustrated
that racism is not simply a matter of mean-spirited
individuals doing bad things – though it can be that too
– but a system that excludes and marginalises people of
colour. The point is not to change the identities of the
people operating that system, but to dismantle it and
build something fairer. When diversity is about a system
looking different but acting the same, it serves not the
excluded but the system itself.
It is clear what this promotion does for Javid; I have
yet to hear a convincing case for what it might do for
people who look like him or share his background.
Javid may have broken through the glass ceiling, but it’s
difficult to see what use that is to those trapped in the
basement. Especially when he keeps disabling the lift.
Founded 1821 Independently owned by the Scott Trust № 53,400
‘Comment is free… but facts are sacred’ CP Scott
Job guarantee
Both sides of the Atlantic
should embrace an idea
offering hope in grim times
Victor Hugo once remarked: “You can resist an invading
army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”
Today, in the United States, a job guarantee seems just
such an idea. Progressives of all shades – from Cory
Booker to Bernie Sanders – have embraced policies
that to varying degrees say the state should seek to
do away with involuntary unemployment. This is a
welcome return to a politics of work, which has been
missing for too long from advanced economies. It is
also heartening that polls suggest the job guarantee is
popular, with half of voters backing it. This seems starkly
at odds with America’s apparently low unemployment
figures. The reality is that the unemployment rate only
counts those who are actively seeking employment,
missing out the millions not seeking work altogether.
When those people are included too, it turns out that
about one in seven working-age men in the US are
actually jobless. The cumulative effect on communities
is a layering of despair. A job guarantee offers hope in
what for many are desolate times.
Ministers in Britain might dismiss such a policy here,
claiming the UK is a jobs factory where more people
are employed than ever before. But this disguises a
widespread reality of low-paid, insecure work. Job
insecurity is also likely placing downward pressure on
pay growth. For the first time in British history, rising
GDP no longer assures better pay in the economy.
Despite ministerial rhetoric, the government is a long
way from delivering the jobs people want and need.
That is why Britain too could benefit from a “job
guarantee” policy – one that could offer a secure job at
a living wage to anyone who wants to work but cannot
find employment. This policy would secure a basic
human right to engage in productive employment. It
also tackles three key sources of economic injustice –
unemployment, precarious work and poverty wages.
Space satellites
Britain must remain a
partner in the Galileo
project, not become a rival
The European Union’s Galileo network of satellites is the
latest in a series of global satellite navigation systems
providing precision data from space. America has had
one since 1978, in the shape of the familiar GPS system.
Russia has had one since 1982, and China since 2000.
Galileo’s satellites have been circulating overhead since
2011 and the network is scheduled to be fully functional
by 2020. Britain has been deeply involved in Galileo since
the start, providing 12% of the overall costs, currently
estimated at €10bn, and receiving about 15% of the work
on the project. Now Britain’s participation is at risk.
Brexit is the cause of this, but for once Britain is not the
only guilty party. The European commission and member
states must share the blame for what is developing into
an expensive squabble with very disturbing implications
for post-Brexit relationships. The immediate argument
is about Britain’s possible exclusion from the next phase
of Galileo-related contracts. Already the Galileo back-up
centre has been moved from Hampshire to Spain. Much
more damagingly, the EU is proposing the UK’s long-term
exclusion from the “public regulated service” part of
the network. This is an encrypted service for the police,
security and emergency services of EU member states.
Britain has been deeply involved in its development
There are significant economic, personal and social
costs to the current economic model. These include
social exclusion, the wanton undermining of human
relations, and the loss of output.
Last month one of the US academics in the
thick of Democratic debates, Fadhel Kaboub,
outlined persuasively a UK job guarantee scheme at
London’s City University. The speech was a welcome
departure from the current damaging orthodoxy that
sees inflation controlled using restrictive monetary
and fiscal policies coupled with a cushion of high
levels of unemployment and underemployment.
Instead, Professor Kaboub called for deficit spending
– along with private demand – to ensure that all
workers who want to work could find jobs. He made
the case, which has the virtue of being true, that since
the UK could issue its own currency to purchase idle
resources there is no real constraint to its spending.
While the financing would be national, jobs can be
offered by locally viable projects selected on the
basis of community needs. Work in environmental
clean-up or social care would not displace private
sector jobs – they would only offer employment
under-supplied by the private sector. The complaint
that such spending would be inflationary should
be discounted because any restructuring of relative
wages would be a one-off event.
The idea that in the jobs market supply creates
its own demand is demonstrably faulty; instead
we have ended up in a nightmare scenario where
part-time, casualised work grows while secure public
sector jobs shrink. The government ought to reassert
itself as an employer of last resort to absorb economic
shocks. This is an urgent need as an industrial wave
of automation and artificial intelligence crashes on
our shores. The World Bank has foolishly put forward
the idea that further eroding workers’ rights is the
right way to cope with the impact of technological
change. This race to the bottom ought to be avoided.
The shift will indeed create unemployment. But how
many are affected, how long they stay unemployed,
and how hard it is to find jobs is determined by
demand in the economy. The government must take
social and economic responsibility to deal with such
issues with human-centred, not profit-focused,
policies such as a job guarantee.
and British agencies are anxious to participate in
it when it is operational. Since January, however,
the commission has argued that Britain should be
excluded because the system’s integrity would be
compromised if it were accessible to a non-EU state.
This is an absurdly bureaucratic and hostile stance
to take towards a country that, Brexit or not, is and
always will be an intimate European ally on all security
issues. This newspaper holds no brief for Brexit or for
Theresa May, but the prime minister has been clear
that security cooperation with Europe must be fully
maintained in spite of Brexit. She is right about that.
But the EU’s short-sightedness may now be provoking
an over-reaction in London. The chancellor, Philip
Hammond, is said, in his frustration, to be trying
to block the transfer of sensitive cryptographical
expertise to French companies in the project and is
threatening that the UK may go it alone with a separate
satellite system, costing at least £5bn. As the Lib Dem
peer Lord McNally said in the Lords recently, the
Brexiters “did not put that on the side of the bus”.
It is hard to know how seriously to take all this.
In the midst of so many other negotiations, the fate
of the UK’s Galileo involvement is inevitably linked
to other issues. Some entanglement is politically
inevitable. Yet the fact remains, in spite of the Brexit
vote, that Britain and the EU member states are and
will be the closest allies in profound and continuing
ways, whether Brexit occurs or not. It is 100%
ludicrous to pretend that the UK is a security threat
to the EU. And it is 100% absurd that the UK should
threaten to develop its own system. The current
standoff is infantile and unworthy on both sides. It is
high time to grow up and work together for Europe.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:3 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 4 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:40
My heart
goes out to
grieving families,
but some of those
who died might not
have been saved by
cancer screening
Older women
didn’t speak up.
They’re used to
being ignored
ow can almost half a million women
go missing, and nobody notice?
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary,
came to parliament on Wednesday
to confess that up to 450,000
older women in England may have
somehow fallen off the breast
cancer screening system, thanks to a
computer glitch. Unravelling the real-life consequences
of that is a complicated and contested business, but Hunt
said it was likely there were people who “would have
been alive today if this had not happened”; and that up
to 270 lives may have been shortened.
It should be said, however, that this is not another
Windrush scandal. It’s down to a faulty computer
algorithm, rather than to some kind of hostile medical
environment; the glitch that wrongly cancelled some
women’s scans crept in accidentally in 2009, during
the setting up of a pilot project on expanding the
screening programme, not in some attempt to chop it
back. Nonetheless, eight years is a hell of a long time
for nobody to notice. Older women – that perennially
invisible group – can be forgiven for wondering whether
it would have happened to anyone else.
Those worst affected would have been in their late
60s when their scans were cancelled and perhaps in
their 70s when they started getting sick, a time of life
when bad news is half-expected and medicine becomes
mainly about managing decline not reversing it; when
routine visits to the doctor end in apologetic mumbling
that unfortunately, these things are to be expected when
you get older. And older women are so often not the type
to make a fuss. They’re of a generation that trusts the
people in charge to know what they’re doing. Of late,
they have not been repaid well for that trust.
Think of the Waspi (Women’s Against State Pension
Inequality) women, who didn’t realise the government
had moved the goalposts on their state pension age
until it was too late, and whose subsequent rage at
their poverty has fallen on deaf ears. Think even of
the middle-aged women who suffered for years from
complications from vaginal mesh, whose complaints
of agonising pain and infections weren’t taken nearly
seriously enough at first, because they were often
post-menopausal and well, what do you expect at your
age, after a few difficult childbirths? They too found it
difficult to get a public hearing, because incontinence
and pelvic pain are not considered glamorous stories.
Given the indignities heaped upon them – their
erasure from a culture still fixated on the young – it’s
surprising in a way that older women are not more
radicalised politically.
To be fair to the NHS, it’s possible that the inquiry
Hunt has ordered will discover that this isn’t as bad as
it initially looks. Most of the women who missed a scan
would thankfully have been perfectly healthy; some of
those who didn’t get called in will have had scans for
other reasons, such as finding a lump by themselves or
being part of a programme of extra checks scheduled
for women who have had breast cancer in the past. It
may be that there were never enough cases clustered in
the same place for doctors to spot a pattern of patients
presenting with tumours who inexplicably hadn’t had
mammograms for years, or for clinics to wonder why
women who diligently showed up for previous scans
had mysteriously stopped coming.
My heart goes out to all the grieving families who
will now be wondering if their mothers and wives could
have lived for longer, but sadly even some of those
who died after missing a scan might not necessarily
have been saved by screening. Early diagnosis gives a
much better chance of survival, but it is not a cast-iron
guarantee of anything.
he sad thing, however, is that the
women themselves presumably
weren’t asking questions. When the
letters stopped coming, they must have
just assumed they’d had their lot from
the NHS. It’s an age when you get used
to dropping off people’s radar, after
all. It is partly to avoid such human
blind spots, of course, that algorithms like those our
public services now use to manage data exist in the
first place. Machines are meant to excel at routine tasks
like churning out appointments and they don’t make
emotional judgments about what you can expect at
your age (or at least, not unless they’re programmed by
people who do).
But we have grown so used to relying on computers
to do the thinking and the remembering for us that we
barely realise how much has been delegated to systems
we don’t particularly understand, and didn’t realise
could fail until it was too late. The cervical cancer
scandal currently unfolding in Ireland, where early
abnormalities were not picked up in the cases of over
200 women who went on to develop cancer, and who in
some cases have since died, is another grim reminder
that no system is infallible.
It is important not to over-romanticise the past.
These scandals did not used to happen, but only
because worse ones did; before screening, more women
died unnecessarily. Screening has saved thousands of
lives over the years, including in my own family. The
risk remains small, but if you’re putting off a smear test,
prostate check or mammogram then for heaven’s sake,
go. But it isn’t women’s fault that, for whatever reason,
the system missed any clue that something had gone
awry for eight years. And all too often, dismissiveness
and casualness is what older women have been taught
to expect from a society that looks right through them.
They need to be reassured that the doctor will, in all
possible senses of the word, see them now.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:4 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 17:12
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
From the IRA
to Eta, if you
want peace,
you have to talk
n Belfast three weeks ago we celebrated the
20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement,
which ended political violence in Northern
Ireland for good. Today in the small town of
Cambo-les-Bains, in the Basque part of France,
some of us who were involved in Northern
Ireland will participate in an international
gathering to mark the permanent end of Eta.
Eta issued a statement this week wrapping up the
organisation for good after more than 40 years of
violence, in which hundreds of lives were lost and
thousands of people were injured.
It is hard to remember now just how bloody the
terrorist campaigns were in Northern Ireland and in
the Basque country – with news of fresh deaths and
injury every week and sometimes every day.
Eta’s statement is something to celebrate. It marks
the end of the last violent conflict in Europe, and the
last armed group. But it should also be an occasion to
draw lessons. There are plenty of other violent conflicts
around the world, and we should not be complacent
about the danger of such violence returning to Europe
unless we take the correct steps to prevent it.
The Spanish government may well claim that the
conflict was ended by tough security measures alone.
And there is no doubt that is part of the story. In the
Basque country, as in Northern Ireland, the success
of the police, the army and the intelligence agencies
I haven’t yet
replied to your
email, and now
I don’t have to
certainly played a key role. But it is equally important to
understand that it is not the whole story. If these groups
enjoy political support it is very unlikely they can be
defeated by purely military means. If there is a political
problem at the heart of the conflict then there will need
to be a political solution that requires dialogue.
If John Major had not been willing to engage in a secret
correspondence with Martin McGuinness even as the
IRA bombing campaign continued in Northern Ireland
and on the British mainland, there would have been no
peace. And if successive governments in Spain had not
engaged with Eta – while publicly denying they were
doing so – then Eta would not have finally disbanded.
In 2004 the Socialist government of José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero engaged in a secret dialogue with
Eta. Sadly the agreements they reached in 2005 and 2006
collapsed when both sides failed to implement their
promises. But, as in Northern Ireland, eventual success
was built on a series of failures. Patient work, particularly
by the political leaders of the independent-ist left in the
Basque country, helped lead to the Aiete declaration in
2011. In response to an appeal by a series of international
figures, headed by the former UN secretary general Kofi
Annan, Eta announced it would end its armed campaign.
The guns have remained silent ever since.
The election of a conservative government in Spain
that year brought an end to the engagement, and made
it much harder to deal with the remaining issues left
over by the conflict – including the guns, the prisoners,
the exiles and, above all, the need for reconciliation.
Even in opposition, the People’s party (PP) had tried to
complicate Zapatero’s negotiations as much as it could,
by mounting a campaign of crispación, or “tension”,
around the peace process, and in government the PP
leader, Mariano Rajoy, ended contacts with Eta. We in
Britain had a much easier time in negotiating because
of the bipartisan approach under which both Labour
and the Conservatives supported each other’s efforts
to make peace.
Even in the face of the opposition of the PP
government, however, it was possible to decommission
all Eta’s weapons – over three and a half tonnes of them
– with the help of international monitors last year. And a
few weeks ago the group issued a statement in which it
came as close to an apology to the victims of its violence
as I have ever seen from such an organisation, even if it
was not enough to satisfy some of the victims.
oday is the final page of the final chapter
of political violence in the Basque
country. In my view the right lesson
to draw from the lengthy process that
brought us to this point is that unless
you combine effective security and
intelligence pressure with dialogue, you
are unlikely to solve the problem.
The same applies to starting conflicts. The risk of the
Spanish government’s approach in Catalonia is that it
could tip us into another period of political violence
just as the Basque one ends. So far, thank goodness,
it has remained remarkably peaceful. But if the policy
tools used to deal with the crisis are just imprisonment,
heavy-handed policing and imposing direct rule from
Madrid, there is a risk. And without attempts to open
a political dialogue with the pro-independence forces
there, there will be no political solution.
Rajoy’s dilemma is a painful one. He is outflanked
by an even more radical party, Ciudadanos, and the
right wing of his own, which is completely opposed to
negotiation. But sometimes political courage is required
if a conflict is to be avoided. It is possible that there could
have been an agreement in Northern Ireland in 1973
at Sunningdale, if the loyalists and Sinn Féin had been
included. But they weren’t, and we suffered 30 more
years of bloodshed on our streets before we reached the
Good Friday agreement – a pact described by Seamus
Mallon, the moderate Catholic SDLP deputy leader at the
time, as “Sunningdale for slow learners”.
I hope today’s events in Cambo-les-Bains act as a
lesson for political leaders in Europe and elsewhere.
There is a way to end and to avoid armed conflicts. It
requires strong leadership, patience and a willingness
to talk to your enemies.
Jonathan Powell
was chief British
in Northern
Ireland from
1997 to 2007
here are scores of messages in my
inbox to which I have every intention
of replying and yet that continue,
rather glumly, to sit there. Until
recently, this would have struck
me as bad form: allowing days, and
occasionally weeks, to go by before
engaging with non-urgent requests.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed a new etiquette: what
feels to me like a free pass to put emails on ice until you
break the seal and begin the exchange.
I raise this because it seems to me as if we’re in
another transitional moment, a correction to the first
two decades of email enslavement and a move towards
a slightly more manageable protocol. Where once a
same-day reply seemed not just ideal but mandatory,
now a slow response indicates freedom of mind and a
robust push back against the tyranny of one’s inbox.
Perhaps I’m deluded, but all the handwringing over
whether technology takes away from our ability to
be human is countered by the fact that it brings more
awareness to the parts that are left.
Or at least, that is the story we can tell ourselves.
The best thing about the new rules of engagement,
if that’s what they are, is the overwhelming sense of
self-righteousness they confer. It’s not that I can’t be
bothered to reply or am trying to avoid you; it’s that I
have liberated myself from the yoke of technology. My
lassitude, rather than a sign of organisational failure, is
in fact an ideological victory.
There are limits to how far one can take this. In the
case of email, I’ve noticed, the crucial thing is not
to initiate a too-speedy response, since the speed of
reply sets the pace of discussion. Once an exchange
is under way, you’re committed and it feels very rude
to go dark for a few days if a quicker rate has already
been established. And, of course, a too fanatical nonengagement with technology puts you in danger of
becoming the person who inconveniences everyone
else so you can lovingly curate your self-image.
There are practical downsides too. I recently found
myself in LA, in a 300-year-old taxi cab driven by a man
of equal vintage, who slammed to a halt to check his
satnav on a busy two-lane highway. I sat in the back,
considering the possibility I was about to orphan my
children because I got on my high horse about Uber.
(On the way home, I tried to re-download Uber but it
wanted Touch ID, which I couldn’t get to work, and for
several moments I stood there dithering in a car park
like someone teleported in from the 80s.)
As technology extends its reach, so we find new
ways to avoid it. These days, I make sure all my
WhatsApp messages come up as notifications on my
phone, so I can read them without activating the app,
alerting the sender to the fact I have seen them. And so
on and so on. I’m not out having a life with the tiny bit
of time these strategies free up, but the dream is that I
may occasionally look up from my phone.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:5 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 4 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:09
The Quakers
are right. We
don’t need God
he Quakers are clearly on to
something. At their annual gettogether this weekend they are
reportedly thinking of dropping God
from their “guidance to meetings”.
The reason, said one of them, is
because the term “makes some
Quakers feel uncomfortable”.
Atheists, according to a Birmingham University
academic, comprise a rising 14% of professed Quakers,
while a full 43% felt “unable to profess a belief in
God”. They come to meetings for fellowship, rather
than for higher guidance. The meeting will also
consider transgenderism, same-sex marriage, climate
change and social media. Religion is a tiring business.
I am not a Quaker or religious, but I have been to
Quaker meetings, and found them deeply moving. The
absence of ritual, the emphasis on silence and thought
and the witness of “friends” seemed starkly modernist.
Meeting houses can be beautiful. The loveliest I know
dates from 1700 and is lost in woods near Meifod, Powys.
It is a place of the purest serenity, miles from any road
and with only birdsong to blend with inner reflection.
The Quakers’ lack of ceremony and liturgical clutter
gives them a point from which to view the no man’s
land between faith and non-faith that is the “new
religiosity”. A dwindling 40% of Britons claim to believe
in some form of God, while a third say they are atheists.
But that leaves over a quarter in a state of vaguely
agnostic “spirituality”. Likewise, while well over half of
Americans believe in the biblical God, nearly all believe
in “a higher power or spiritual force”.
What these words mean is now the subject of intense
debate. What are these spirits in which these people
profess to believe? It is clear that most people no longer
see them as residing in a church. Yet many still turn to
churches when the world seems otherwise inexplicable.
This was noted after the high-profile deaths of Princess
Diana and Jade Goody. As the sociologist Grace Davie put
it in her book Religion in Britain, the church is a sort of
public utility, a fire station or pop-up A&E unit.
To Davie, many of these people are declaring a
“vicarious religion”, or what she calls “believing not
belonging”. They do not like a church’s faux collegiality,
the hand-shaking, happy-clapping and sense of
entrapment. They do not really seek God, rather a mental
and physical space to sort out their thoughts.
This is taken to explain the continuing success of
cathedrals, where attendances have risen while those
in churches has fallen. It seems cathedrals meet a quasisecular searching for solitude and inner peace. Above
all, they offer anonymity. A character in last week’s
The Archers sought solace in fictional “Felpersham”
cathedral. A British Journal of General Practice survey
suggests doctors are being used as “new clergy” by
people seeking something to “give meaning and purpose
to life”. It would take a brave GP to prescribe a dose of
matins once a day. But something “spiritual” is needed.
The boom in psychotherapy is no secret. As religion
declines, so emerges a craving for therapy. The 12-step
movement of alcoholics and narcotics “anonymous”
has much in common with Quakerism, notably the
emphasis on non-authoritarian fellowship. Beyond
lie the wilder shores of mindfulness, meditation,
happiness courses and “holistic spirituality”. All this
suggests that the purely physical aspects of our being do
not always meet the needs of a fully rounded person.
The Quakers have always been remarkable. Their
exclusion bred Britain’s first industrialists, bankers and
confectioners, not to mention the famous Quaker Oats.
Quakerism has declined, perhaps because there is no
fortune in rebelling against any church. You can find
“friends” on the web and introspection on the NHS.
If Quakers now find God “uncomfortable” I can
hear cries from pulpits that discomfort is the point of
Christianity. Comfort is in the afterlife, and marketing it
has been the church’s unique selling proposition since
Luther and papal indulgences. To Luther it was a con.
What is not a con is humanity’s quest for comfort in the
here and now, for therapy in the widest sense of the word.
The sublimity of Dolobran meeting house and
the exhilaration of Ely cathedral offer more than an
emotional A&E unit. They offer places so uplifting that
anyone can sit and order their thoughts there. There is
no need for gods or religion to rest and be refreshed.
To that, Quakerism has added the experience of
expressing doubts, fears and joys amid a company of
“friends”, who respond only with their private silence.
The therapy is that of shared experience. Clear God from
the room, and the Quakers are indeed on to something.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:6 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:21
Recent events have revealed the
extent to which the Home Office
and successive home secretaries
have been driven by inappropriate
business models in managing
immigration and have been not
only incompetent but callous in
dealing with human dignity and
liberty (The Windrush scandal
demands a new policy to go with a
new home secretary, 1 May).
The fundamental problem with
the Home Office’s policies is that
it has framed immigration criteria
on the basis of wealth and property
rather than on grounds of justice
and compassion. Thus visitors and
students can only come here, even
if they have sponsors here, if they
have sufficient wealth and property
at home. British citizens, similarly,
may only marry foreign spouses if
they have sufficient funds available
to do so, thus depriving the poor
of a basic right to family life, which
continues to be enjoyed by EU
citizens living here.
It is entirely right that visitors,
students and spouses should not
have recourse to public funds,
but this can be ensured by a
proper system of sponsorship
for visitors and students, and the
right to work for foreign spouses
of British citizens. What we have,
at the moment, is immigration for
the rich on the dubious grounds
that they “integrate better”. This
is shameful for a country which
has a long tradition of welcoming
people here for study, experience
The Home Office has
framed immigration
criteria on the basis of
wealth rather than on
justice and compassion
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
or work regardless of their economic
or social standing.
I do hope that the new home
secretary will be able to look at the
fundamental problems underlying
our immigration laws and policies
rather than just presenting an
acceptable face of endemic injustice.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
• As Hugh Muir reminds us
(Windrush was a scandal just waiting
to happen, 1 May), these are testing
times for minority communities in
Britain. The extent of institutional
racism, together with the rise of
xenophobia, Islamophobia and
antisemitism, should alarm us
all. What should our response be?
Should we pull up our respective
drawbridges, or find new ways of
building bridges between us?
One model was provided by
the Black/Asian/Jewish Forum,
an informal collective of activists,
academics, writers and faith leaders
who met, usually in someone’s
home, to offer support, insight and
leadership to those of us who were
struggling to deal effectively with the
challenges. Moral leadership from
BAME and religious groups, as well
as political leadership, is needed now
more than ever. So is a willingness to
listen, to learn and to heal. We believe
that our different communities have
a common interest, along with the
population as a whole, in uniting
to resolve the issues that have the
potential to cause division.
One important place to start
would be to come together to root
out the online hate speech which has
for too long been allowed to poison
political discourse in Britain.
Simon Woolley Operation Black
Vote, Dr Edie Friedman Jewish
Council for Racial Equality, Yasmin
Alibhai-Brown, Geoffrey Bindman
QC, Radhika Bynon, Professor
Francesca Klug, Major (Retired)
RAI Laher, Dr Richard Stone
Universities and identity checks
Peter Scott (Universities are not
border guards, 1 May) inadvertently
highlights another problem
arising from the imposition of illconsidered government diktats:
local variation in interpreting and
applying them. In contrast to his
case, I have been permitted to
examine a doctoral thesis without
exhibiting a passport or birth
certificate since the university
concerned ruled that this activity
was not subject to “right to work”
requirements (unlike, it seems,
everything else). Both institutions
cannot be correct in their
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
UK’s migrant policy has
been clumsy and callous
interpretations. Another question for
the new home secretary to consider?
Professor David Hook
• A decade ago a now deceased
senior Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development
colleague was quizzed at the US
border about the content of what
he would say to an OECD-US
government-sponsored seminar. He
chose not to visit the US again while
this practice persisted. Those of long memory will recall living under the
Stasi’s eye in East Germany. If not,
• The scandal of deportation
targets caused the resignation of
Amber Rudd (Report, 30 April),
but the use of secretive, brutal and
legally questionable deportation
charter flights to achieve those
targets shows no sign of abating
under the new home secretary,
Sajid Javid, despite the public
outcry over Windrush. The Home
Office is still threatening to send
people to Jamaica against their
will. People have been sent letters
telling them they are “to be
removed on a specially chartered
flight to Jamaica”.
Many have testified to the trauma
of deportation charter flights
because of the short notice, violent
conditions, previous experience
of trauma or torture, interruptions
of applications to remain and fears
for their safety on arrival in the
destination country.
It is clear that this government’s
immigration policy is not fit for
purpose, and without immediate
reform will continue to lead to
wrongful, illegal deportations and
miscarriages of justice. We call for
an immediate end to deportation
targets and an immediate end to
cruel and inhumane deportation
charter flights.
David Lammy MP, Caroline Lucas
MP, Lisa Matthews Coordinator,
Right to Remain, Zrinka Bralo
Migrants Organise, Nick Dearden
Global Justice Now, Callum Tulley
G4S whistleblower, Gary Christie
Scottish Refugee Council, Rosalind
Ereira Solidarity with Refugees,
Clare Moseley Care4Calais, Chris
Jarvis People & Planet, Asad
Rehman War on Want, Sian Berry
Green party member of the
London Assembly, Ken Loach,
Sue Johnston, Rev Robert Wiggs,
Paul Laverty, Rebecca O’Brien,
Anders Lustgarten
• Is it too late to suggest to the
new home secretary that a simple
way to humanise the “hostile
environment” slogan would be to
accentuate the positive? It could
become “A welcoming environment
for legal immigrants”. Much the
same as before, but kinder.
Bob Caldwell
Daventry, Northamptonshire
revisit Orwell’s Nineteen EightyFour. Corruption of community is
not restricted to higher (or lower)
education. Nor is it what Cameron
had in mind as the “big society”.
Professor Chris Duke
RMIT University, Australia
• I remember the first time I was
asked for my passport to justify
eligibility to be paid as an external
examiner. Living and working in
Wales but doing this examination in
my former domicile of south-west
England, I thought it was a massive
wind-up re Wales’ border. It took a
little while to be truly convinced of
the absurdity of the whole thing.
Keith Halfacree
Look on the
bright side
‘A dancer from
the Sonia Sabri
performs at the
Concrete Dreams
event at Queen
Elizabeth Hall,
the Southbank
Centre, London.’
Taken on 28
April 2018
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and conditions:
Social work’s future
lies in specialisation
Louise Tickle deserves support for her
brave piece (Stop the state kidnapping
our children, 3 May). I have worked
in the field, at all levels, for 40 years.
I carry my own responsibilities for
not effecting enough improvement,
for I recognise her descriptions, in
gross form, from 1968 and I feel some
shame that they remain recognisable
in 2018. This raises serious questions.
Is social work fit for purpose? Is it
fit enough for change? Are local
authorities the best place for such
major life-effecting responsibilities?
One of my great regrets from my
15 years as chief inspector for social
work in Scotland was that I did not
win the argument for specialisation.
For without specialisation the
profession has no viable future.
Social work before the 1990s was
not obsessed with child abuse. It
was focussed on understanding
individuals and families and on
helping them survive, if possible
thrive, through all of life’s traumas
and experience its joys.
The sector has come to rely
too heavily on regulation and
inspection. I played a part in that by
centralising these functions, then
held by local authorities, into the Care
Commission. I had not anticipated,
and certainly did not seek, the growth
in inspection and regulation that
threatens to over-topple social care.
Audit is vital, but it is no way to lead an
enterprise. Social work has much to
offer. It is grounded in taking a holistic
view and, at its best, a long-term view.
It needs to work with others – that is
fundamental to its good practice.
So where do we go now? There are
plenty of inquiries under way across
the UK. Will ministers in any parts
consider shifting the responsibility
for social work from local authorities
to health? Will academics and social
work leaders embrace specialisation?
Seismic changes. High time.
Angus Skinner
(Chief inspector of social work,
Scotland, 1991-2005), Edinburgh
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:7 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 4 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:21
 @guardianletters
Corrections and
• An article about self-harm among
women in prison (Women still dying
in jail 11 years after critical report, 2
May, page 12) said that 2,093 women
per 1,000 self-harmed in English and
Welsh prisons last year. Ministry of
Justice data says there were 2,093
incidents of self-harm per 1,000
female prisoners.
• The Condé Nast online publication launched in 2012,
not two years ago as we suggested in
a feature (From glossies to gal-dem,
1 May, page 6, G2).
Editorial complaints and corrections can be sent to or The readers’ editor,
King’s Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU; alternatively
call 020 3353 4736 from 10am to 1pm Monday to Friday
excluding public holidays.
Barnet did once
surrender to Labour
Owen Jones remarks that the
London borough of Barnet is a
Tory citadel, among others, that
has never surrendered to Labour
(The greatest threat facing Labour
now is complacency, Journal,
2 May). Labour took control of the
council in 1994 with the support of
the Lib Dems, remaining in power
until the election of 2002. From
1997 until 2010, it returned two
Labour MPs: Rudi Vis (Finchley
and Golders Green) and Andrew
Dismore (Hendon). Not so
“otherworldy” then.
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire
National Rail tree
cull on wrong track
Sandra Laville’s article (Mile after
mile of stumps: anger at trackside
tree cull, 30 April) once again
highlights decisions about tree
care and management being made
without a full understanding of the
roles of trees and other vegetation
in the landscape. Network Rail’s
clearance of trees is being justified
as necessary to reduce the risk of
accidents (falling branches and
trees) and delays (leaves falling on
the track). While these aims may
be valid, this “scorched earth”
policy exposes the underlying
soil, leaving it vulnerable to rain,
erosion and even land slippage.
In the days of the “lengthsman”, a
person responsible for maintaining
a stretch of line, vegetation growing
into the running area was cut
back as necessary by pruning or
felling, and stumps were allowed to
regrow. In this way the immediate
operational area, including visibility
of signals, was protected. This left
the majority of the vegetation within
the responsibility of the railway
intact. As a result, the underlying
soil was not exposed to the impact of
rain, and roots held the soil against
water escaping from water-bearing
strata that had been exposed by
construction of the railway.
Trees do produce and shed leaves.
During much of the day these falls are
of limited significance because the
vortex caused by the passage of each
train disturbs fallen leaves, many of
which are blown off the track. It is
overnight that falling leaves are able
to accumulate on the line. Litter,
including leaves, becomes trapped
in low vegetation. As such, retention
of low-growing, woody vegetation
(eg brambles) along the track should
ease the “leaf problem”. This
vegetation used to pose a fire hazard,
particularly where steam trains
were running. Diesel and electric
trains do not pose the same risk.
Derek Patch
Leyburn, North Yorkshire
TV is where women
see attackers caught
Since most violence towards women
goes unpunished, is there not an
understandable pleasure in seeing
the guilty come to a bad end – as
happens in most crime fiction (Are
women drawn to sexual violence on
TV?, G2, 2 May)? Aquinas said the
virtuous enjoyed the pleasures of
heaven all the more because “they
are permitted to see the punishment
of the damned in hell”.
Michael McManus
• I switch channels if a woman is a
victim of violent crime in the first
five minutes. Please can writers stop
assuming a woman walking through a
park prior to being assaulted is a wellthought-out plot set-up; it is lazy,
misogynistic and a huge turn-off for
most of the potential audience.
Kathy Hammond
• More than 445,000 patients
missed their breast-screening
appointment and no one noticed
the reduction in the demand
for these services (Fears breast
cancer blunder may have cut short
hundreds of lives, 3 May)? Why not?
Ron Brewer
Old Buckenham, Norfolk
• I have a report that says all
of my letters to the editor are
“astonishingly excellent” and
should all be published (Trump
dictated note saying he was
‘astonishingly’ healthy, doctor
says, 2 May).
Dennis Fitzgerald
Melbourne, Australia
It was a joy to be inadvertently
misled by the stuffed anteater
(The murky world of wildlife
photography, 1 May). Much childish
mirth it brought our family, in
contrast to other recent mistruths.
Jane McDermot
• It’s not only people who get
my name wrong (Letters, passim).
Predictive text likes to call me
Anthem or, worse still, Anthrax.
Anthea Burrell
East Hoathly, East Sussex
Established 1906
Country diary
Forest of Dean,
You can’t miss the signs of wild
boar in the Forest of Dean – the
road verges appear to have been
enthusiastically but amateurishly
rotovated. When we visited in
January hundreds of square
metres around the car park had
been worked over, and it did not
take much by way of fieldcraft to
spot the culprits. A small sounder
(family group) of mother and three
young were only metres from the
cars, intently truffling for root, grub
and worm, a blackbird following
them as a gull follows the plough.
They wield their proud snouts
like a blade, slicing into the root
layer then slashing vigorously
from side to side with a deft twist
that turns the ground over. Our
fascination turned to alarm as we
wondered about the plants – roots
that weren’t eaten were severed,
mashed, turned up to the sky.
On a more recent visit there was
still much bare ground (burrowing
bees were already making use of it)
but then there is still some spring
to go in this late season. And, all
higgledy-piggledy, the plants
were pushing through. Bluebells
– buds still cowering in a shawl of
leaves – were poking out sideways
from upturned clods. Wood sorrel
was already in flower, foxgloves
and pignut spreading their leaves
across the hog-shaken ground.
Pignut (surely a piggy favourite)
is a member of the carrot family
with a swollen root that was a tasty
snack of my parents’ childhood
(though hard to dig out with mere
human tools). The shaded swathes
of bluebells were largely untouched
– the boar prefer to dig in grassier
clearings. Unfortunately this
preference for grassy areas brings
them into conflict with human
inhabitants of the forest, who, like
most of us, tend to prefer their
lawns and recreation grounds to
remain unploughed.
It is not hard to imagine the
damage that could be done by
repeated foraging in a limited area,
especially to favoured food-plants.
But here the woodland plants had
surmounted the onslaught. Wild
boar may have only relatively
recently been reintroduced to
the forest but, blindly guided by
evolution, these tough little plants
were showing their mettle.
Dawn Lawrence
Twitter: @gdncountrydiary
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:8 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 18:19
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
 @guardianobits
Lord Temple-Morris
Conservative MP who
crossed the Commons
floor to join Labour
t is hard to remember now,
but once upon a time, not so
long ago, the Conservatives
were the pro-European party.
None exemplified that spirit
more determinedly than
Peter Temple-Morris, the
former MP for Leominster,
in Herefordshire, who has died aged
80. So disillusioned did he become
with the party’s increasing Euroscepticism that in 1998, after 19 years
in the Commons, he crossed the floor
and joined the Labour party.
Temple-Morris, dapper, suave,
genial and with smoothly coiffed
and neatly parted hair, might have
been drawn from Conservative
central casting, destined from birth
to go into politics. Born in Cardiff,
he was the son of a former MP, Sir
Owen Temple-Morris, for many
years a judge in Wales who had been
the National Conservative member
for Cardiff East, and his wife, Vera,
(nee Thompson). Peter, educated
at Malvern college, went to St
Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and
became chairman of the university
Conservative association (1961).
The following year he qualified
as a barrister – he would later also
frustrated by
the growing
of the Tory party
in the 1990s,
decided to swap
political sides
serve as a solicitor – practising on the
Welsh circuit and then in London
(1966-76), fighting the customary
unwinnable seats of Newport,
Monmouthshire, in 1964 and 1966,
and then Norwood in London in
1970, before winning Leominster at
the February 1974 general election.
He held the seat until his retirement
at the 2001 general election.
Unlike Kenneth Clarke and
Norman Fowler, “Cambridge mafia”
colleagues from around the same
time, Temple-Morris never became
a minister, serving only briefly as
Fowler’s PPS in 1979, the year that
Margaret Thatcher came to power.
Instead he sat on a succession of
Commons select committees.
As a traditional one-nation Tory,
Temple-Morris was entirely out
of sympathy with Thatcher, as he
admitted in his memoirs, Across the
Floor: A Life in Dissenting Politics
(2016): “She was not my type, nor
did she ever share my politics … I
could not stand being lectured and
hectored by someone who would
not let you get a word in edgeways.”
Profoundly pro-European, he also
had an interest in Iranian affairs – his
wife, Taheré Khozeimé-Alam, whom
he married in 1964, was the daughter
of a Tehran senator – and served for
many years on British-Iranian groups.
He also became actively involved in
the peace process in Northern Ireland,
as co-chairman of the British-Irish
inter-parliamentary body through the
1990s. Martin McGuinness described
him as “one of the most honourable
British politicians I have ever met”, and
Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister
of the period, called him: “A key player
in the work of delivering peace.”
But it was with his Eurosceptic
colleagues in the parliamentary
Tory party that he found himself
increasingly out of sympathy.
He supported his friend Michael
Heseltine in his leadership bid to
oust Thatcher in 1990 – and fought
off a no-confidence motion in his
constituency led by Norman Tebbit’s
brother Peter, who accused him of
showing “utter contempt for the
views of members and causing
serious disunity in the party” in
the process. Even his political
opponents in Herefordshire agreed
that he was a good constituency
MP and he was widely personally
liked in the Commons: Nicholas
Budgen, the arch-sceptic Tory
backbencher, described him as a
model Conservative MP.
But by the early 1990s the
disillusionment with the Tories’
direction of travel was showing.
He mused publicly that perhaps
Thatcher was
not my type … I
couldn’t stand being
hectored by someone
who would not let you
get a word in edgeways
Julian Barratt,
comedian and
actor, 50; Ravi
Bopara, cricketer,
33; Alison Britton, ceramic
artist, 70; Prof
Maurice Craft,
educationist, 86;
Cesc Fàbregas,
footballer, 31;
Kate Garraway,
TV presenter, 51;
Charlotte Green,
broadcaster, 62;
Prof Christine
Hallett, social
scientist, 69;
Caroline Harper,
chief executive,
International, 58;
Thomas Kinsella,
poet, 90; Sir Tony
McCoy, jockey,
44; Rory McIlroy,
golfer, 29;
Christine Morgan,
head of radio,
BBC religion and
ethics, 60; Amos
Oz, writer, 79;
Chris Packham,
naturalist and
broadcaster, 57;
Betsy Rawls,
golfer, 90; Liz
actor and singer,
64; Gennadi
conductor, 87;
Dame Caroline
Conservative MP,
60; Graham Swift,
writer, 69; Gillian
Tindall, writer
and historian,
80; Randy
Travis, country
singer, 59; Prof
Basil Yamey,
economist, 99.
he had joined the wrong party
and should have been a Labour or
Liberal Democrat member instead.
Norman Tebbit agreed. “A quickie
divorce would leave Leominster
Conservatives and Mr TempleMorris free to seek happiness with
new partners,” he wrote sardonically
in the Daily Telegraph in 1996. The
Tories, Temple-Morris wrote, were
evolving from a tolerant and gentle
party to one more nationalist and
less European.
The crunch came with the
election of Labour, led by Tony
Blair, in 1997. Temple-Morris finally
fell out with his party following its
tactical decision to oppose the Good
Friday agreement over the release
of prisoners convicted of terrorism
– “inexcusable nit-picking”, he
claimed – and sat for some months
as an Independent One-Nation
Conservative, before Labour
managers choreographed his move
to their side. He was not the only
defecting Conservative, but his was
a valued scalp. The Tories reacted
sniffily, with Iain Duncan Smith
claiming Temple-Morris had been
in the wrong party “almost from
the word go”. Nevertheless his old
friend Fowler lamented it was a pity
the Tories had let him get away.
On leaving the Commons,
Temple-Morris was awarded a life
peerage. In his memoirs he remarked
ruefully that his career might have
been different: “I would not have
been a rebel but rather a team player,
stayed longer at the bar and then
used the Commons for advancement
as opportunities arose. This would
have meant a totally different life
and probably a less enjoyable one,
even if I had gained high office.”
He and Taheré had two daughters
and two sons.
Stephen Bates
Peter Temple-Morris, Lord TempleMorris, politician, born 12 February
1938; died 1 May 2018
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:9 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 4 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 3/5/2018 17:22
The long read
life among
the wildfires
People used to roll their eyes
at my gloomy talk of climate
change. Then the big blaze
came. By Christina Nichol
n 2017, the weather in California was the
hottest in history. It was hotter than in 2016,
which was also the hottest in history. The
vineyard owners spoke nervously of how
difficult it was to find people willing to pick
grapes in this heat. The apple trees dropped
all their apples. Over the summer the smoke
from hundreds of wildfires burning
throughout the state gave me a chronic cough, which
turned into walking pneumonia. People began to talk
about how illnesses are getting weirder these days. I
decided to attend a climate change action meeting I had
seen announced in the local newspaper.
It was an experimental prototype course founded on
the ideas in George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think
About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate
Change. After spending 15 years studying climate
change-denying microcultures, Marshall concluded that
facts don’t change people’s minds – only stories do. We’re
so motivated by wanting to belong that we’d rather risk
the dangers of climate change than the more immediate
symbolic death of estrangement from our peers. In order
to address climate change in our communities, Marshall
suggests, we must appeal to the same desires that
religion does: belonging, consolation and redemption.
For this reason, the purpose of the group – or
“fellowship”, as the organisers called it – was to borrow
the most effective tools of religion in order to create a
community of people who would work together when it
was time to implement policy change, or even take to
the streets. Their aim was to galvanise 3.5% of the local
population – the number that social scientists estimate
is the tipping point for effecting social change.
You had to apply to join the prototype course, so after
the informational meeting I wrote the organisers the
following email: “I grew up with a dad who would regale
us with climate change statistics over the dinner table.
If my brother said he was going to a Giants game, my
dad would say that he better enjoy it now because there
weren’t going to be any Giants games in the future.
Hanging on the wall was a colour-coded map he had
created, showing what property values would be when
ocean levels rose in the Bay Area. He terrorised all my
friends by describing how the atmosphere would start to
smell like rotten eggs as soon as the oceans warmed and
started pluming carbon. In effect, I assumed that by
2020, life on Earth wouldn’t exist anymore. I teach
environmental studies, and am looking for ways that
I can bring hope to my students but also help motivate
them (as well as myself).”
The organisers tried many methods for cultivating a
feeling of fellowship. They’d start the session by banging
a gong, or by reciting a poem by William Stafford, or one
about holdfasts – the dangly part of seaweed that clings
to rock – which we were encouraged to commit to
memory in order to steady ourselves when things got
rough. They encouraged us to discuss our vulnerabilities. But the most effective method was to scare the
crap out of us with mini-lectures about the realities of
climate change, which bonded us in common terror.
We were presented, at the beginning, with a selfproclaimed “humourless, brain-numbing deep dive
into climate science”. They told us it wasn’t supposed to
happen this quickly. Climate scientists had predicted
that by 2017 we would be at 380 parts per million (ppm)
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but we were
already past 410ppm. The man who presented this
information was, like my father, a local architect.
Scrunching up his face he said, “I don’t want to depress
you, but I want to tell it to you straight.”
The most effective glue for bonding, our organisers
said, was collaboration: we needed a goal we could all
work towards. Our goal was to phase out the internal
combustion engine in California by 2030. They gave
us questionnaires so we could spend the next week
testing the public’s receptivity to this idea. Here are
some of the responses we got:
“What happens if the power goes out?”
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:10 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 17:22
“Where do the cars on the road go? Do we get a free
car? What happens to the oil companies? Would you be
punished for having a gas car?”
“Do I have to get rid of my brand-new car? How did
we get into this mess? What can we do to ensure our
children can understand so they know what is going
on by the time they get through high school?”
“Why not just get everyone to stop eating meat
instead? Agriculture creates as many greenhouse gases
as automobiles. Haven’t you seen Cowspiracy?”
“There are so many other issues. Why electric cars? We
need to change our habits! Our schools should feature
human relationships and our relationship to the Earth.
The 4 Rs: Reading, ’Riting, Rithmetic, Relationships.”
“Could I go to Nevada to buy a car?”
“Isn’t solar production toxic?”
“What will I do with my beloved van that carries all
my stuff day after day?”
“Would there be violent, emotional reactions to such
a ‘radical’ move? How do we deal with that reaction?”
“I like it. Get there!”
“Proud of you, Bill, for being involved. It’s inspiring.”
“I’m not driving an electric car! I’m allergic to
electricity and smart-meter rays!”
“2030 may be too late to avoid some of the most
catastrophic climate & social issues.”
“We have such a gas + car culture. Why do we let highschoolers drive to school? We need to change the consciousness. Only HS kids who work should have a car.”
I was surprised by the responses. To be honest,
I thought people would be more excited about it.
Our climate change group provided a metastudy about
the 97% scientific consensus on climate change.
Because scientists never say that something is 100%
true, and by nature, are often poor at communicating
on an emotional level and tend to resist alarmist scenarios, the climate change deniers have been able to
point to that 1-3% of doubt (97% is also the proportion
of scientists who support the theory of plate tectonics).
We also learned that 61% of Americans say climate
change is important to them, but rarely or never discuss
it with people they know. Our homework was to become
climate change evangelists for a month. To prepare, we
discussed how to raise the topic with a stranger: “Sure is
hot these days”, or “How often do you take the train?
Trying to save on fossil fuels?” or “Do you ever
remember it being 97 degrees in October?”
I decided, as an experiment in humiliation, to
discuss climate change everywhere I went. I went to
my friend’s Blade Runner party, which was filled with
fortysomething guys who kept reciting all the lines and
knew all the trivia answers. During the pee break, one
guy started talking about how we’d all be wearing
Google Glass in 10 years.
“If the Earth doesn’t burn up,” I added.
“Right!” someone interjected, and I thought we
might be on our way to a useful discussion.
“This party just turned into a real downer,” someone
else said, so we went back to the movie.
Oh, no, I thought. I’m turning into my dad. Over
dinner, he often told stories about how the heartbeat of
the ocean might stop, which would affect the wind and
freeze parts of the midwest and Europe. For this reason
I think of discussing climate change as a relaxing family
activity. My father’s second wife, on the other hand,
got so tired of hearing about global warming that she
considered getting a “Stop global dooming” bumper
sticker for her car. When my brother announced that his
wife was pregnant, my dad told him he wouldn’t need
a college fund since there wouldn’t be any college in the
future. My brother, who was tenderly grilling ribs, threw
down his barbecue fork and said: “For once I want to
talk about life, and not always be focused on the end!”
After that, climate change became a forbidden
topic on holidays. Now I was rediscovering what I had
understood as a kid: people don’t respond well to
threats, to cajoling, to end-of-the-world scenarios,
to dystopian futures, to hopelessness.
But as I watched the news about Hurricane Harvey,
I was astonished that not a single anchor mentioned
climate change. Instead they blamed the flooding
on Houston’s paved surfaces. According to George
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
One woman left
her car, jumped
on her horse in her
pyjamas and rode
away from the flames
Marshall, those who don’t believe in climate change are
less likely to believe in it after a climate disaster. Every
single member of our group was confounded by this.
“That makes no sense!” we said to one another.
If a person believes that weather fluctuates regardless
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or that catastrophes
represent some kind of punishment from God, confirmation bias will lead him to view the latest climate disaster
as proof. And after a climate disaster, people feel a
heightened sense of community; they don’t want to get
into a politicised discussion with the neighbour who just
saved their dog. Furthermore, Marshall writes, climate
disasters operate according to the same psychological
logic people develop when they get struck by lightning.
They tend to believe they are statistically immune to it
happening again, even as the actual odds remain the
same. And if your house floods due to a changing
climate, it is more likely it will flood again. If your
house burns down, it is more likely it will burn again.
The night the fires started in northern California, my
boyfriend and I had an argument. Afterward, he took
out the garbage. “Come here,” he said when he opened
the door. “Check out how hot it is outside.” A little later,
the wind started to sound like airplane engines. The
following morning, my mom and my aunt both told me
they’d thought we were being attacked by North Korea.
On the evening of 8 October 2017, severe gusts of dry
winds blew across desiccated grasses and diseased trees
caused by years of excessive heat and drought. A great
flood had fattened grasses into combustible fuel. The
wind knocked down power lines, which lit the trees
on fire. The firestorm destroyed a thousand homes
in a single neighbourhood. Neighbours pounded on
neighbours’ doors, honking horns, trying to rescue
one another. It took hours to leave town. Most people
reported that drivers were calm, though a few resorted
to the sidewalk, the median, and the opposite side of
the road. One woman managed to stuff her pony in the
back seat of her Honda Accord. Another woman had to
choose between saving her car or her horse. She jumped
on her horse in her pyjamas and rode away from the
flames. The fires burned for over a week, killed 44
people, and destroyed more than 10,000 structures
and square miles of land. It was the most destructive
outbreak of fires in California’s history.
During the fires I took walks, and I tried to read the
paper falling from the sky. I wanted to collect the
scattered notes, but they disintegrated when I picked
them up, leaving the smell of poison on the tips of my
fingers. The paper pieces lay curled like chocolate
shavings. They were all the size of my palm. I was
looking for stories, but I could only find information.
Bible pages (sections from Genesis); phone bills;
pieces of romance novels (so many of those); perfectly
preserved letters so meticulously burned around the
edges that they looked the way letters do when you
burn them in fourth grade to make them look romantic;
gold-embossed stationery with someone’s name written
over and over in tiny letters at 45-degree angles; musical
scores; Swedish package-tour vacation brochures; pieces
of phone books (people still have phone books); a kid’s
A wildfire in
Kagel County,
Christina Nichol
is the author of
Waiting for the
Electricity. She
lives in northern
homework (he did poorly); journal pages (so many pages
of people talking to themselves); as well as tar paper and
bits of insulation burned until thin as paper.
I walked and walked and tried not to breathe. Why was
the sky directly above me blue, while everywhere else
it was gunmetal grey, and flickering with particulate
matter? Everyone spoke of particulate matter. In the
hardware store all you needed to say was “Where are
they?” and they’d point you to the pile of N95 respirator
masks. Someone passed me on the trail. I imagined he
was judging me for not wearing a mask, but I couldn’t
read his expression because he was wearing one. I looked
at the dun, shoulder-high grass. That explosive fuel was
all that stood between an out-of-control fire and me.
Outside the grocery store, the usual produce had been
moved inside to avoid falling ash. Walking down an aisle,
I heard a woman yelling into her phone: “Keep it watered
down. Dammit! Keep watering it down!”
The news never reported where the active fire was. We
only knew that it was completely uncontained, and that
all effort was focused on rescuing people, evacuating the
hospital, and getting elderly people out of their homes.
All we could do was hope the winds wouldn’t change.
I walked into the grasses to get away, to get away from
the panic on people’s faces.
There was no digesting this fire. There was no
beginning, middle or end. I couldn’t stop thinking about
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, which was now decimated. I
hadn’t walked on Sugarloaf Ridge in years, but whenever
I used the words “poison oak” or “gallop” or “fog”, my
mind flashed femtosecond images of the park. Now it
was ash. My old high school had burned down, as well
as everything along the roads to get there.
Before the fires, I had been teaching a class on ecology.
We were learning about systems theory and the interdependency of ecosystems, how trees communicate and
send messages and medicines to other parts of the forest,
and draw up water to share with other plants.
We learned how insects can digest the compounds in
eucalyptus and create poop that inhibits the growth of
encroaching plants such as mustard. This is probably
one reason why the eucalyptus has been so successful
as an invasive species here. But in the 1850s, when the
government planted eucalyptus throughout California
at maniacal speed because its fast-growing wood was
essential for railroad ties and fence posts, it turned out
that these trees – unlike old-growth eucalyptus groves in
Australia – twisted when they dried and became so hard
that they were no longer suitable for building. And now
the volatile oils in their leaves turned out to be extremely
combustible. In seasonably dry climates, native oaks are
fire-resistant, but with the introduction of eucalyptus
we introduced an extreme fire hazard. I stared at the
eucalyptus twisting in the heat.
The weekend before the fires, I attended a grief workshop sponsored by the climate change group. They told
us that grief processed on one’s own turns to despair,
but grief processed communally becomes medicine.
Our workshop leader suggested that the thing that will
save us may be our own broken hearts, for true action
can only come through these deeper feelings.
The night after the grief workshop I got into an
argument with my boyfriend.
“You should get out of the Silicon Valley rat race and
dedicate yourself to transitioning to a green economy,”
I heard myself saying. “You’re a scientist. You can help
develop technologies. This article says we have to treat
climate change like we are fighting the second world
war. For example, we have to start movements where
everyone paints their roofs white to try to dissipate the
heat before it reaches a rise of 1C. We have to cut carbon
emissions now,” I said. “Here’s an article about what
we can do to stay below a one-degree rise. There are
solutions. If you were to really internalise that we are
the first generation to see the effects of climate change
and the last generation to be able to do anything about it,
would you change your life?”
Even while I spoke, I could hear myself sounding like
a maniac. I kept reminding myself that people don’t
respond well to threats, to cajoling, to end-of-the-world
scenarios. But I couldn’t help it. I was in a bad mood
because it was so hot outside.
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:11 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Friday 4 May 2018 The Guardian
Sent at 3/5/2018 17:22
“Yes, it’s the right thing to do,” my boyfriend finally
said, calmly. “But if it were really that bad, don’t you
think Google would be doing something about it?”
On the fourth night of the fires, the humidity plummeted again, and anxiety peaked. A dry wind was expected
to blow almost as strongly as on the night the fires started.
I packed a suitcase full of clothes and looked around
my room. Should I pack the vase I bought in Turkey?
How about the old Soviet tourist books about Tbilisi?
How was it possible to choose between items of
sentimental value? Better to leave it all.
“At least we have the public pool across the street,” my
mom said. We’d heard about the couple who took refuge
in their neighbour’s pool while their own house burned.
They stayed in the water for six hours, covering their
faces with wet shirts whenever they had to come up to
breathe. “How long does it take for a house to burn?”
the woman had wondered underwater.
My sister-in-law called and said: “Remember how
when your brother and I first got married and your dad
was always talking about global warming? Turns out he
was right!” My dad called: “I’ve been needing Ambien to
sleep. I’ll forgo that tonight.”
The next day, having survived the night and craving
fresh air, I drove to the ocean. I was searching for clean
air, but smoke covered the soot-coloured sea all the way
to the horizon. I could have felt guilty for driving a car
with an internal combustion engine, but guilt goes on
hold during fires. I sped on my way home, because the
rule of law no longer applies during fires. This is the
wildness that descends. This is the triggered reptilian
brain. During the fires we craved sugar and fat and
ordered pizza and didn’t mention that we usually never
order pizza. During the fires my neighbour, the goddess,
forgot she was gluten-intolerant. During the fires all
I could think of was the word “holdfast”.
We made a plan. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the
time. If the wind blew the fire this way, we would get in
our cars and head to the ocean. If the fire kept following
us, we would drive into the ocean.
A student of mine complained that he still had to work
at the bank during the fires, since his branch was the only
one open in the region. In one day customers deposited
$600,000 in cash – a record – which they must have been
keeping under their mattresses. My student said that
all day his nerves were on edge because people kept
walking into the bank wearing N95 masks. Later, the
firemen told us that the masks don’t actually help much.
A friend who was evacuated said he grabbed his two
dogs and two banjos and hustled into his car. Driving
away, he realised he had forgotten to pack any clothes.
During fires you hear, over and over, “I lost everything,
but at least I have my life.” A couple of people, after
losing everything, knocked on the door of a man whose
house was for sale. They said: “We’ve lost everything. Can
we buy your house and everything in it?” He left everything he owned to them, including his toaster and towels.
The songs on the local radio stations were especially
upbeat during the fires. They interspersed Tom Petty’s
I Won’t Back Down with quotes from locals who had
lost their houses. “Fires are burning in eight California
counties,” the news announcer said, with the Tom
Petty beat in the background. A woman’s voice: “I came
out to get my dog and looked down the ridge and saw
a glow and I looked at the wind and I told my parents
that they might want to pack up something just in
case, and my mom said that the fire was already at
the bottom of the hill … ”
No I won’t back down, no I won’t back down / You can
stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down …
Another woman: “I just want to thank all of you first
responders. I love you all from the bottom of my heart.
I thank you all for being there. For being away from
your families, to help everyone else out there … ”
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out / Hey …
“We are Sonoma County strong … ”
I cried when the song came on, though I’d already heard
it five times. I cried while driving, and when I saw the
banners on every overpass: “Thanks, first responders.”
“Thank you, firefighters.” Or the signs in front of the
cafes: “Firefighters eat for free.” Even as the fire raged on.
All the Mexican restaurants were closed except one.
Fire damage in
Coffrey Park
After the fires, the city
council was inundated
with people wanting
to rebuild with carboncapturing methods
I went in to get a burrito and found it full of evacuees.
“Sure is busy here,” people kept saying. One man said
to the cashier: “It’ll have to be bulldozed. Totally
demolished. How was yours?”
“We’re OK.”
It was still hot: 35C (95F) in late October. We
wondered if winter would ever come again. You can’t
get into a pumpkin-carving mood when it’s so hot. On
Halloween a few kids came looking for candy, but it
seemed like everyone else went to the movies. The
parking lot at the theatre was full. I had a dream that
I had to evacuate, and the only thing I grabbed was the
leftover bag of Halloween candy. I handed out Kit Kats
to people as we ran from the fire.
After the fires, on Facebook people posted about the
most random item they grabbed when they evacuated.
– daughter’s piggy bank with $2.35 in coins in it
– Grandmother’s Christmas cactus
– a wetsuit
– an avocado
– the cat-scratcher tree
– a Hermione wand
– the cookie cutters
– tarot cards
– all the beer
– kids’ pinewood derby trophies
– the sewing machine
– dog’s ashes
– the spice rack
– Norton Anthology of English Literature
– son’s Darth Vader alarm clock
– husband’s Hawaiian shirt collection
– jury duty notice for the next day
– the cat-litter box and all the cat litter
– combat-ready lightsabers
– a toothbrush (even though the man who grabbed
this one was evacuating to a dentist’s office)
– a jar of Miracle Whip (because they were evacuating
to a mayo-heavy household)
The fires didn’t discriminate between the houses
of the rich and the poor. Everyone’s pearls melted, no
matter how large. Nor did they discriminate between
the houses of the “realists” and the “idealists”. After the
fires, the realists wanted to rebuild as fast as possible
with the same footprint. The original developers of
Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park, which was destroyed by the
fires, offered to use updated versions of their old floor
plans in rebuilding efforts. Homeowners were upset
to learn that they were now required to rebuild in
adherence with the California green building standards
code. They argued that they shouldn’t have to.
Before the fires, the builders who showed up to city
council meetings were the same people every time –
they all seemed to be on a first-name basis. But after
the fires, something changed. People began presenting
ideas to install rain-catchment and grey-water systems,
community gardens and bike paths. They wanted to
revamp the land-use laws, change the zoning for tiny
houses, use fire-resistant straw-bale construction, and
concrete and foam. The city council was inundated with
people wanting to rebuild with green roofs and walls, to
rebuild in a way that would promote bees and carboncapturing methods, even permaculture methods
and composting plants. City officials looked a little
frightened as they listened to a large group of people
talk about a town in Kansas that rebuilt with renewable
energy after getting hit by a tornado. More than 600
people showed up for a breakfast sponsored by Daily
Acts, an organisation that builds community by working
with neighbourhoods to turn lawns into droughttolerant gardens. A farmer who had lost his farm and
all of his bees spoke at the podium: “Why can’t Sonoma
County always be able to feed its poor?” My neighbours
started talking about “agrihoods”, a new trend in
which affluent, slow-foodie millennials move to
neighbourhoods surrounding a farm, instead of to the
golf-course communities of their parents’ generation.
My dad even wrote an op-ed about it. •
A longer version of this story appeared under the title An
Account of My Hut in the Spring issue of n+1 magazine
Section:GDN 1J PaGe:12 Edition Date:180504 Edition:01 Zone:
Sent at 3/5/2018 17:16
The Guardian Friday 4 May 2018
Killer Sudoku
Each letter of the alphabet makes at least one appearance in the grid,
and is represented by the same number wherever it appears. The letters
decoded should help you to identify other letters and words in the grid.
Killer Sudoku
The normal rules of
Sudoku apply: fill each
row, column and 3x3 box
with all the numbers from
1 to 9. In addition, the
digits in each inner shape
(marked by dots) must
add up to the number in
the top corner of that box.
No digit can be repeated
within an inner shape.
Cryptic crossword
Solution No. 27,499
Guardian cryptic crossword No 27,500 set by Paul
Stuck? For help call 0906 200 83 83.
Calls cost £1.10 per minute, plus your
phone company’s access charge.
Service supplied by ATS.
Call 0330 333 6946 for customer
service (charged at standard rate).
Want more? Get access to more than
4,000 puzzles at
crossword. To buy puzzle books, visit or call
0330 333 6846.
1 Recollection of news about old
soldier (7)
5 Something burning, opening
blast rents asunder (3,4)
9 See 16
10 Getting into part, I’m embracing
challenge most profoundly — and
so I should! (4,5)
11 See 28
12 Asian couple is talked about (4)
14 Energy invested in design of a
logo, shape of a tube (11)
18 Time required to tour Med, say,
relax restriction on leaving home
21 Pudding appearing very enticing
initially, put on a stone or two? (4)
22 Ruin arch, crushing above (10)
25 Aggressive, any fierce criminal
26 Seen from behind in portrait,
some Roman port (5)
27 French department eroding and
ignored, unfortunately (7)
28,11 Dog kennels re-home strays,
those all welcome (3,4,3,7)
1 Red male, little bit lacking in tail
2 Having bandaged bad cut, sign
people operating well? (6)
3 Ignored port that’s oldfashioned? (6,4)
4 Look up, one way or the other (5)
5 Bit of fish seen without tail,
might a cat have followed him?
6 Sweetener coating a cake or bar?
7 Picnicker, by the sound of it? (3,5)
8 Phosphorus, maybe a bit (8)
13 Old sport, through which one
might join the action, did you
say? (10)
15 Forward movement not entirely
substandard, guru admits (9)
16,9 One leg in the air, donning
knickers in public places (8,5)
17 Inspector of property (ours very
unreliable) (8)
19 Devil eggs in audition for
restaurant? (6)
20 Literary group gets stressed
reading aloud? (6)
23 Check in books for runner (5)
24 Experienced woman taking
£800? (4)
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