Saturday, 25 February 2017

Climate change: and thinking about apocalypse

It all seems to be about to end - and some are even looking forward to it:
Futures Forum: Utopia/Dystopia: looking forward to the end of the world

Although we could possibly do something about it:
Futures Forum: Climate change: action is happening all around the world
Futures Forum: Climate change: doing something about it >>> Ten ways to be unstoppable in 2017

The Baffler magazine takes a look:

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

How to think about climate apocalypse

Laurie PennyFebruary 17, 2017

Lorie Shall
A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.” In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence,  it would be ungrateful not to. What have you got to lose? Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? Next week? Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? Have you turned on the news? On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent. The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. We don’t get a do-over on climate change. The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 
In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway. The world is on fire. Might as well build that pipeline. Might as well have that coffee.
But what world is on fire? The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. Those changes are important. The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. The past swept away along with the future. The deletion of collective memory. This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism. Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species. We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being. Of course we are afraid. We were afraid of the Bomb. We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage. It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.
For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. Climate change is  species collapse by a thousand cuts. There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.
“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction. “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. There are no pyrotechnics. Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions.  One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get. From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders. Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves. The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation. The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?
Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed. It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while. The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. Money would no longer matter. Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was. In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses. If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”
Laurie Penny is a contributing editor at the New Statesman. Her new book is Everything Belongs to the Future.

The Slow Confiscation of Everything | Laurie Penny

Friday, 24 February 2017

Greater Exeter forges ahead as "the epicentre of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership"

Where exactly is 'devolution' going for this part of the UK?
Futures Forum: The increasing confusion of choices for devolution >>> >>> Heart of the South West LEP..... or: Greater South West..... or: Greater Exeter Growth and Development Board............. or: An Exeter/Plymouth/Torbay supermayor

Next door, it's going unitary:

Futures Forum: Dorset going unitary 'will help protect the frontline services' >>> 'Economies of scale now seem to require mergers or abolition of districts.'

Whilst at home, things are carrying on as normal:

Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: 'fiddling while Rome burns'

At the moment, it all seems to be about 'Greater Exeter':

Futures Forum: Exeter and a 'super council' >>> "Any new proposals for local government must be fully consulted on and that whatever structure emerges must be transparent and accountable to local people."

Which is to be the epicentre of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, apparently:
Futures Forum: Devolution and Local Enterprise Partnerships >>> "unaccountable to anyone and unrepresentative of the local economy"

With a press release and promises of 'consultation' from the District Council:

Comments invited on new Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP)

When this content has been created

23 February 2017

The GESP is a joint planning policy that will cover the Local Planning Authorities of East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge

East Devon to work jointly with Teignbridge, Mid Devon and Exeter City local planning authorities, as well as Devon County Council, on GESP policy, which will set out strategic planning framework for Greater Exeter area

To help bring forward a better future for East Devon, Exeter City, Mid Devon and Teignbridge, the councils for these areas, in partnership with Devon County Council, have teamed up to prepare a  joint Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP), which looks forward to 2040.

People are being invited to share their views about the future of this Greater Exeter area and the key issues that need to be addressed. The comments received will help to inform a new joint plan that will identify the housing, jobs and infrastructure needs across the four districts in years to come.

A consultation is being held between 27 February and 10 April 2017. The councils want to hear from residents, developers, landowners and other interested organisations about the main issues facing the area, with responses forming part of the first phase of the plan preparation process.

Four exhibitions are being held so people can find out more about the plan:

  • Wednesday 8 March: 2pm – 8pm. Mackarness Hall, High Street, Honiton
  • Wednesday 15 March: 2pm – 8pm. Mid Devon District Council Office, Phoenix House, Phoenix Lane, Tiverton
  • Thursday 16 March: 2pm – 8pm. The Guildhall, High Street, Exeter
  • Thursday 23 March: 2pm – 8pm. Old Forde House, Brunel Road, Newton Abbot

People can also visit the GESP website for more information and to respond.

Across the area there is a need to ensure that enough housing is provided for the future, and that it is the right type in the right places and at prices that suit people’s budgets.
For communities to thrive, jobs and infrastructure are needed but it’s also recognised that this area of Devon has special environmental qualities that need protecting and enhancing so it remains a great place to live, work and visit.

This document, which will sit above District level Local Plans and community Neighbourhood Plans, will take a long term strategic view, looking far enough ahead to ensure that important decisions about development and investment are coordinated.
Its purpose is to:

Establish an aspirational and joined-up vision for the area to:

  • Meet the area’s housing needs in the right locations
  • Secure economic growth and increased prosperity
  • Provide transport and infrastructure improvements needed to support sustainable growth
  • Safeguard and enhance the environmental assets of the area 

There is also a ‘call for sites’ process running alongside the consultation which provides the opportunity for individuals or organisations to put forward suggestions for sites that may have potential for development in the future. An online form to provide details of potential sites is available.

Commenting on the GESP, Councillor Paul DivianiLeader of East Devon District Council, said:
It has been clear for some time that there was a significant gap left with the demise of the Devon Structure Plan and without wishing to re-invent the wheel, we should be establishing a strategic plan for our Greater Exeter area which has input from Exeter, Mid Devon, Teignbridge and ourselves, alongside the County Council. We are the epi-centre of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and we need to ensure we have a central, aligned, significant role to play as we take our well-established partnership forward.
Cllr Jeremy Christophers, Leader of Teignbridge said:
The creation of a strategic plan across a wider geography responds to how people actually live their lives. Combining housing options with job opportunities and providing the proper transport will support our ambition for local people to live the lives they wish for. As councils, we need to work together to deliver better results for the future - clearly, this is the way forward.
Cllr Pete Edwards, Leader of Exeter City said:
Every weekday 37,000 people commute into Exeter and 11,000 people head out of Exeter. These volumes are second only to Cambridge and it is imperative that we address housing, transport and infrastructure in a joined-up way to respond to this reality.
Cllr Clive Eginton, Leader of Mid Devon, said:
This is an excellent opportunity to reflect on how our residents and businesses live their lives across council administrative boundaries and to start embedding our shared aspiration for a successful future in plans for the Greater Exeter area.
Cllr John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, said:
The emerging relationship between the four local authorities in preparing a single Strategic Plan for the area is a very positive step and will help the planning system to work efficiently to boost the supply of housing and growth required.  We are pleased and well-placed to be part of this collaborative way of working, which will improve and streamline our planning system.
The District and City councils already have their own Local Plans and have been working together on planning issues for many years alongside the County Council. There is now much more expectation from the government that councils will work across their boundaries to deal comprehensively with development needs.

Reports proposing the preparation of the joint plan were considered at the following meetings:

  • East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on 21 July 2016 and Full Council on 27 July 2016 with further details considered at Full Council on 22 February 2017
  • Mid Devon District Council’s Cabinet on 7 July 2016
  • Exeter City Council’s Executive on 12 July 2016
  • Teignbridge District Council’s Executive on 19 July 2016

More information abour the GESP can be found on the East Devon website.

23 February 2017 - Comments invited on new Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) - East Devon

The future of Sidmouth's hospital: to be considered Thursday 2nd March

The pictures emerging over the future of our health service are confusing and opaque:
Futures Forum: The future of East Devon's hospitals: keep informed!

There are still several unanswered questions:
Futures Forum: The future of Sidmouth's hospital: a question of ownership

Decisions are imminent:

Future of Sidmouth Hospital’s vital inpatient unit hangs in the balance

06:22 24 February 2017


Protesters gather in Sidmouth outside public meeting to discuss proposed bed cuts

Hope that ‘common sense will prevail’ as health bosses set to consider bed cut proposals
Campaigners say the fight for NHS services is far from over as Sidmouth prepares to hear the fate of its vital inpatient unit.
Health bosses are set to consider plans to axe the number of community hospital beds in East Devon by 54 per cent on Thursday (March 2).
All of Sidmouth’s inpatient beds are under threat.
Graham Vincent, chairman of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund, expressed hope that ‘common sense will prevail’ as the future of the unit hangs in the balance. The people of Sidmouth have contributed £5million towards a complete refurbishment of the hosptial over 25 years.
The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CGG) put forward proposals in a bid to plug an expected £384million deficit by 2020/21 and move towards a more home-based model of care. They have been met with widespread opposition that saw hundreds of people pack into public meetings and more than 6,600 sign a petitions to save the beds.
Mr Vincent said: “We in Sidmouth are very passionate about our hospital and hope common sense will prevail. The support over many years by the community, in building, maintaining and providing much equipment has been an inspiration, not only locally, but far beyond.
“The response of local people to the consultation has been brilliant and has enabled us to put forward a very strong case to retain our inpatient beds.”
Campaigners in the town say these proposals are just the tip of the iceberg and are appealing for the public to fight for its health services in the face of further anticipated cuts.
Di Fuller, the Sid Valley’s Patient Participation Group chairman, said: “The decision is not whether they will, but which hospitals will lose their beds. If Sidmouth is fortunate to keep beds, other hospitals will lose theirs and as a result there will be more pressure on the remaining beds.
“Add to this an acute services review taking place across Devon and anyone can see that services will be under huge pressure.”
Campaigner and district councillor for Sidmouth Dr Cathy Gardner reiterated concerns and said ‘it is essential people keep protesting’. She warned ‘costs of administration have sky-rocketed and are draining money from front-line care’.
Dr Gardner is also the leader of the East Devon Alliance, which is organising a coach to a nationwide NHS rally in London on Saturday, March 4, to protest against the ‘dismantling of the NHS’. Anyone is invited to join. For details of pick-up points and how to book, see page 22.
The CCG’s governing body meeting – where the proposals are to be considered - is at 1pm on Thursday (March 2) at Exeter Racecourse and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Future of Sidmouth Hospital’s vital inpatient unit hangs in the balance - News - Sidmouth Herald

The Express & Echo looks at the situation County-wide:

Community hospital beds closures in Devon to be decided next week

By anitamerritt  |  Posted: February 24, 2017

In less than a week's time, residents living in Exeter and East Devon will know whether they are losing their community hospitalbeds or not.
The plan to close 72 community hospital beds in Devon has been the subject of a 13-week public consultation. The four options proposed, which will reduce the number of community bed units in the eastern locality of NHS Northern, Eastern and Western (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) from seven to three, are...
A) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 beds in Seaton and 16 beds in Exmouth.
B) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 beds in Sidmouth and 16 beds in Exmouth.
C) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 beds in Seaton and 16 beds in Whipton.
D) 32 beds in Tiverton, 24 in Sidmouth and 16 beds in Whipton.
In the options Tiverton hospital will definitely remain open. Honiton and Okehampton have not been included in the options so will close.
Following an analysis of the consultation feedback, the final decision will be made this Thursday, March 2, at a publicly held meeting of NEW Devon CCG's governing body at Exeter Racecourse at 1pm.
When the plans were announced, Angela Pedder, lead chief executive Your Future Care (Success Regime), said: "We have a preferred option, which we have to state, but we have not got a strong preference so we are asking for views.
"Our preference is option A and the reason for that is because of travel times and accessibility for carers. It also takes into account the physical size of buildings as we have to have the physical capacity to deliver the options."
More changes are also on the way. Devon's acute hospital stroke, maternity and urgent care services are the latest to come under scrutiny as part of ongoing plans to transform the regions health care. By this summer,NEW Devon CCG and South Devon and Torbay CCG aims to have drawn up proposals for the future delivery of the three services.
Community hospital beds closures in Devon to be decided next week | Exeter Express and Echo