Thursday, 11 February 2010

Accepting Scepticism - Contextualising the Climate Change Debate

After reading the comments below a Guardian article yesterday concerning the hugely contentious issue of climategate and the controversy over the UEA Climate Research Unit scientist Dr Briffa and a Canadian climate sceptic called Steve McIntyre, I found a huge amount of vitriol and anger directed towards the author of the article, Fred Pearce. Whilst I feel that we need to move away from the swingeing denouncement of all forms of scepticism over this debate and engage in a more healthy dialogue, I cannot help but suspect that the Guardian's comment sections are becoming a disproportionate battlefield upon which sceptics are attacking a paper they see as only on one side of the debate; the wrong side. Clearly the sceptics barrage is now in overdrive in the wake of all this.

When a Guardian writer called James Randerson eventually appeared to claim the paper's editorial line was that "global warming is happening and caused by human actions, but that does not mean we are blind to contradictory evidence" he was chastised by the sceptics as if he and his paper were being unobjective and somehow politicising this debate (something that sceptics would know all about anyway).

This is absolute horseshit in an age where the Sun can pump Tory Blue smoke from their chimneys over their offices and the Express can print article upon article about climate change being a big conspiracy (let's not even go there). I am not mindlessly dismissing some of the extremely intelligent and powerful arguments as it once seemed quite fashionable to do, whilst at the same time lumping them all as the puppets of big business or right wing thinking. Scepticism has become a dirty word and we should never forget that challenging the orthodoxy is what pushes science forward.

But let's get this straight: There are huge areas of uncertainty and debate and incongruency in the vast swathes of data when you look at the climate science. There's bound to be in an area of science as holistic as this. But taken as a whole, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the thesis of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Period!

It is said that to explain even the bones of how the science works to a layman would take about two solid days. Now I can totally understand that the public would be sceptical of the science given the recent controversies and the media coverage given them but I would applaud the Guardian as one of the few publication's that has stuck to its guns and reported these latest controversies in the context they should be taken in and against a backdrop of the huge consensus of scientists over AGW. Far from politicising this debate, the Guardian are following the scientific line and not the conspiracy theorists one (which after all sells more papers - see the Daily Mail and/or the Express for more details).

The IPCC and by definition the bodies, such as the UEA's Climate Research Unit, that contribute to it's Working Group's reports by supplying it with vast amounts of data are now inevitably becoming politicised. Any body that is tasked with reporting to the world's politicians and statesmen a series of hugely inconvenient truths is bound to become politicised quickly especially when those inconvenient truths have to be effectively communicated by politicians to a naturally sceptical electorate.
It's a fact that human brains have evolved to not see the danger posed by long term threats because in a natural environment these are not evolutionary traits that have contributed to our ancestors survival. Therefore we are an inherently sceptical set of monkey's by our very nature. Combine this natural evolutionary disadvantage with the economic and political sacrifices that have to be made just to give this issue momentum on the world stage, whilst simultaneously trying to educate a largely unscientific population and you begin to see the scale of the problem.

The science on this issue is huge and pulls together disciplines that have historically never worked together and even thrown off totally new symbioses of disciplines as a result. Trying to understand it all is simply not a realistic expectation for most people (including me I might add) but understanding the fundamentals that underpin this vast field can be instrumental in educating people and allowing them to contextualise the inevitable controversies that will spring forth from time to time. Scientists need to be engaging at this level with the public and not shying away from the challenge. More than ever we need to be popularising science and I have always taken my hat off to the Guardian for doing that more than the competition.

Scientists are a proud headstrong bunch of people who put an incredible amount of intellectual capital into their reputations as well as their work. On occasion their pride and hubris gets the better of them especially when they come under such scathing and consistent derision from sceptics as they have. But when the issue is as big and as controversial as this, the damage that can be done to public credulity by secrecy and collusion is devastating.

I will not deny that I think the debate has moved backwards significantly in the last few months, ever since climategate began to gather speed on the eve of the Copenhagen Summit (timing in this case was crucial for the sceptics). Since then it has been one PR home goal after another for the UEA Climate research Unit and the IPCC. They just don't seem to be doing themselves any favours. The scientific community needs transparency now more than ever over this debate. It cannot afford to make these kind of mistakes again.

There will always be data that seems to go against the trend when assembling powerful climate models and this will always be picked up by the sceptics and denialists and exaggerated and overinflated to discredit and destabilise the whole scientific edifice. Scientists need to trust the public to make informed decisions as much as the public need to trust the scientists to be open if we are going to allow science to inform policy effectively and in time to mitigate global warming.

Burying inconvenient data is far more damaging than admitting the anomalies but it still does not detract from the overwhelming scientific consensus. The need to communicate that fact coherently and intelligently has never been more pressing and I think the Guardian should be applauded for recognising that over and above the immediacy of traditional journalistic sensationalism.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Bliar, Bliar, Pants on Fire

Well there was only really one news story to talk about last week and that was the inquisition of Tony Blair at the hottest show in Whitehall, the Chilcot Inquiry.

After sneaking in early before the geering, if slightly undermanned, protestors emerged for the cameras with their "Bliar" placards and a the usual theatrics of rubber masked Tony Blair heads complete with bloodied hands, the former PM was clearly taking no chances. And this cautious paranoia of the morning's surruptitious early entry to the Queen Elizabeth Centre seemed to be reflected on his face as he emerged to take his seat in front of the panel. Blair looked white, ghoulish and his hand visibly shook as he poured his water. What was this? Had the great persuader really started to doubt his own ability to convince and cajole? Had years of self reflection and unanimous bad press caused Tony Blair to lose his mojo? It certainly looked like it in those opening exchanges.

But then something happened. Perhaps it was the sudden realisation that he could still do this, he would always be able to do this, this was what he was good at: pulling of masterly displays of self belief and inner conviction that would make any neo-con proud. Perhaps the great orator had suddenly found his footing. Or perhaps he just realised that nothing that Chilcot et al could, or indeed would, throw at him would prove insurmountable or be followed up with the kind of legalistic scrutiny that his profession has taught him to expect when being cross examined. But this was no court dock he was sat in and whatever it was, the colour had begun to return to Tony Blair's face and back were those hypnotic hand gesticulations, pulling you in like a hypnotists pocket watch swinging from its chain.

Suddenly we were transported back to the apex of Blairite Britain. In an instant I realised all that was lacking from our incumbant PM and how vacuous these qualities have turned out to be in his predecessor; oratory exuberance, political guile, telegenic vivaciousness. It was a sharp reminder of what could happen again if we allow ourselves to be courted by such superficial qualities in a Prime Minister that buys into their own hype. But this wasn't about the past for old Tony. This was about the future. This was about the big one, the legacy maker... standing shoulder to shoulder with the neo-cons in Iraq.

There are many issues and outrageous fallacies thrown up by Blair's robust and unshakable defence of the war in Iraq (too many to discuss here and now) but after six hours of questioning Chilcot deemed it fit to conclude by asking TB if he had any regrets. It was here that the former Prime Minister made perhaps his biggest blunder of the day. Instead of using this opportnity to offer condolences to the dead British Soldiers (some of whose parents were sitting in the room) or hundred thousand or so dead Iraqi's he restated his conviction that Saddam was a monster who had to be removed and that he did the right thing. There was no shred of sorrow for the horror and sufferings caused by the war, a notion that could easily have been articulated by someone like Blair without the need to undermine his own arguements regarding its necessity. But there was none of it. Just bullish self belief. Here was the man, here was his legacy and if this ship was going down he was prepared to go down with it. This was his war and he believed in it. He was never going to show any contrition.

Boo's were heard in the room and Chilcot called for silence. TB momentarily looked shaken for the second time that day but quickly regained his composure.

After six hours of defending his corner in the mountain face of contrarian evidence that seems to tower over both the legal and moral case for war, TB was like a boxer going into the twelth round of a big title fight knowing he was going to win, head held high, skipping round the ring in the knowledge of putting on a stellar performance. His intransigence towards the end may turn out to have been a fatal PR blow landed on the chin.

Blair left the Inquiry's ring to jeers and tears, followed by his bodyguards (probably as alert to imminent trouble now, than any British security contingent would have been during his ten year premiership.)
But it can't be denied that he put on a convincing and vitriolic show of idealism over populism. Over six hours he had managed to dodge and weave his way past question after question, often finding room for didactic rebuttals often bordering on speech making. We got it all; the legality of war, Goldsmith's volte face over resolution 1441, being Bush's poodle, signing up in blood at Crawford, WMD's or lack of them, the list goes on. Even when they brought up the Fern Britton interview, Blair just seemed to shrug it off as a silly slip up and evidence that even he (yes even he) could be less than clear of portraying his meaning in an interview. Oh please!

Again and again Blair kept on referring to 9/11 and how it had changed everything, even the nature of intelligence. He saw it as an attack on us too, you see (given this spurious line of thinking, wouldn't drawing a clear line between British Foreign Policy and the US Foreign Policy have been a more apt approach; because if 9/11 wasn't an attack aimed on us then 7/7 certainly was.) He seemed to give the impression that WMD's or no WMD's the assesment of intelligence after 9/11 had changed and so too had the existential threat from Saddam's regime, which he openly admitted had no links whatsoever to Al Qaeda. Interpretting intelligence effectively has nothing to do with zeitgeists or perceived threats; it has everything to do with well... interpretting intelligence acurately, as it always will do. Only Sir Roderick Lyne really seemed to get the bit between his teeth at any point in the proceedings but Blair was on a role by now and brushed all and sundry aside, reitterating his convictions over and over again. The threat of inaction over Iraq portrayed as frankly inconceivable in his assesment.

Blair then did something that to me seemed quite extordinary and so far unprecedented in this Inquiry: his testimony actually began turning into polemic. Suddenly he was posing hypothetical questions back to the Inquiry. Where would we be if we hadn't invaded? Shouldn't we be looking at this from the 2010 perspective and not 2003? The world's a safer place without Saddam the monster in it. The Iraqi's are happier now he's gone. Incredible. Truly incredible. Even Campbell didn't dare show this kind of obstinancy. But then it was always going to be all or nothing for Tony Blair.

By the afternoon he was well in his comfort zone and rambling on with that old Blair flair, even managing to berrate Iran for trying to destabilise the country as if it weren't playing by the rules. How could we have forseen this kind of behavior from the Shiite Pariah state? Surely they would be thankful for us deposing Saddam and his Sunni minority failed state. Weren't we doing them a favour? Obviously they didn't quite see it like that.

Tony Blair really surpassed himself on Friday. Not only did he manage to defend the war he had taken us into. He even hinted at the danger of avoiding another one. Saints preserve us, did the neo-cons get to him that bad?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A Sea Change in America is a Sea Change for the World.

The loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat to the Republican newbie Scott Brown is perhaps of insignificance to us here in the other half of the pan-Atlantic "Special Relationship". But strain a little harder through those Anglocentric goggles and you will see that the picture starts to change. Look at it from a global dimension and the whole thing starts to unfold rather rapidly.

Why should we care about American politics? It often feels like we're witnessing nothing more than a bizzare freak show. A coming together of egomaniacs and religious nutballs to do battle with slightly less egotistical religious nutballs. But ever since the Korean war, American politics has been Global politics. Rooselvelt once said that foreign policy was domestic policy with its top hat on. If this is indeed the case then American domestic politics may be deciding, not just the fate of its own nation, but of all the nations of the world.

But the divide in American politics is becoming more divisive for the wider world than ever before and the political parties more polarised than they were since Nixon.

Hands up anyone from the UK who really actually cares about the US healthcare bill that Scott Brown's election to the Senate has now put in jeopardy... Hmmm not many I imagine (I see some of you are saying, what healthcare bill? If you are one of these people then I advise you to watch Michael Moore's unsublte but nonetheless eye opening film 'Sicko'). After all we have the NHS in this country and for all the moaning we do about it we wouldn't give it up for the world. Does that make us socialists... in America it does. Paradoxically it also makes us Nazis and Communists to some of the more confused neo-con demonstrators. They're not all the brightest of folks y'all.

The significance of the healthcare bill's future has wider implications for it marks a sea change in American politics. This is all about political capital and Obama doesn't have a lot of that right now, on the one year anniversary of his inaugeration. This is a dangerous blow and I cannot see any good that can possibly come of it despite defiant Democratic calls for unity and a new "gloves off" approach to Republican intransigence.

And so as I watched the shameful YouTube video of Scott Brown's acceptance speech as he told a cheering if slightly stunned crowd that his daughters were "available", I cannot help but think that the significance of this event has wider implications than the healthcare of poor Americans. More globally significant is that with the Democrat's fillibuster proof majority now gone in the Senate, any meanigfull carbon emissions bill may well full by the wayside. And lets not forget that the one already on the table is only a pathetic 4% reduction by 2020 based on 1990 levels. Hardly enought to avert serious climate destabilisation. What chance have we got in a nation of climate denialists and ignoramuses, now this baffoon has replaced the late great Ted Kennedy.

It may often seem that America is indeed operating in a parallel universe to the rest of informed Western civilisation but without them on board, a recalcitrant China and a bullish India will never make significant moves towards cutting their vastly burgeoning emissions. And so the deadlock will continue. Time, as we are consistently being told, is not on our side... and nor it would appear is Scott Brown.

Politics in America then is at the heart of Copenhagen's failure and we should not fool ourselves into thinking that Obama is America's panacea. The trouble is that the majority of Americans are impatient, myopic unilateralists at best, and stupid, ignorant isolationists emboldened by their own sense of infallibility at worst.

Just look at former Cosmo model Scott Brown. He may not realise it and he probably never will, but his election could have serious repurcussions for all of us, not just for the circus that is American politics.

God bless America? God save us all!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Fleeting Nature of Things.

This isn't a rant. It's not an opinionated diatribe. It's not even a didactic moral stance. It's more an observation. An observation about the fleeting, transient, ephemeral nature of things.

Over the last few days certain events and developments, both personal and external to me, have caused this idea to galvanise in my mind. I'm not trying to make some deep philosophical statement here. It's quite a simple concept but forgotten by most of us in the privileged nations in a heartbeat. Perhaps some people never ever come to realise it. But this isn't about them.

Haitians realise it. Like so many other of the underpriviliged nations they have a constant notion of the fleeting state of things, being as they are the poorest (and recently the most unluckiest) nation in the western hemisphere. There day to day life must be a futile struggle to forget, to erase, to block out the reality of their lot in this life until it hits them at magnitude 7 on the Richter Scale.

How easily and indefinitely can we in the west manage to continue unabated in the blissful ignorance that everything will be ok because as far as we can remember it always has been. But its not is it. Just ask anyone who remembers the Second World War and they'll tell you how quickly it can all come crashing down... even here in the western world. No one is immune from the catastrophic fleeting nature of things. All edifices can crumble, even those built on wealth and ignorance as we have already seen recently.

Perhaps it is the ironic fate of free market capitalism that it will not be able to realise and act upon its own impending doom in time to save itself, such is the comforting blanket of apathy it has created for its subjects. Someone (I forget who but it may have been Naomi Kline) once remarked that Consumerism is the single most dangerous concept ever propogated in the history of mankind. I couldn't agree more and it's had some stiff opposition over the centuries. For in our maddening bubbles of playstations and wi's, designer shirts and shoes, fast cars and fast food, Jermey Clarksons and Piers Morgans, we forget how much is at stake and how quickly modern industry is allowing us to rip it all down. The opacity level of our bubble increases daily and we slowly start to forget how fleeting everything is, despite the tendrils of communication now linking us up more effectively to the world around us than we ever thought possible. This paradox goes to the heart of what is fundamentally wrong with modern free market capitalism: the more comfortable people become, the more isolated they are from the wider reality. Political apathy and the rise of the celebrity culture is only one symptom of this malaise.

And so as we grow ever more immune to the fleeting nature of things, such as the everlasting supply of electricity, water, heat, food under the current industrial model, we stumble unprecariously closer towards, what some commentators and scientists are already calling, "the perfect storm" (that is global warming combined with massively increasing population, decreasing food production capacity water supply). It is a telling sign that many in the know are already referring to water as the "blue gold" of the next century.

Haitians and millions upon millions of other people living in poverty and fear all over the world don't have the luxury of unpolluted blue gold at the moment, as the UN and NGO's struggle to get it distributed in the stricken capital Port-au-Prince. They also don't have the luxury of our superdry, superfly consumer bubbles to protect them from the terrible knowledge of how transient life can be.

It is all they can do to survive in Haiti right now but after the media attention has waned it will be all they can do to forget about how quickly it could all come down again. Perhaps, from the warm centrally heated safety of our opaque consumer bubbles, it is now our duty to do the opposite and start to realise that in an instant, all of what we hold dear could be gone too. Because if we in the priviliged nations can't, then there will be no coming back.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Google and China: The End of the Affair?

Well I have to say that despite my firm belief that no corporate entity, especially one as large as Google, is ever capable of taking a seemingly altruistic or moral position without some notion of increasing either its coffers or public image credentials, I welcome the news this morning that the internet giant is finally standing up to the bullying policies of the Chinese Government on the issue of censorship.

I appreciate that it is no irony to some who may be reading this that this blog is actually situated on the hard drive of one of Googles gazillion web servers in some fortified temperature controlled warehouse, but that doesn't in any way influence my stance. Whether or not I decide to slate or praise Google as I see fit is due to the fact that I sit here writing this in a country where freedom of speech is a constitutional right of every citizen. No irony given the Chinese precedent. In other words I don't owe Google any sense of allegiance for hosting this blog. In fact I have criticised their decision to abide by Chinese demands on cencorship heartily in the past.

Now I know that this decision to withdraw censorship from in China was not taken years ago after the company first launched a heavily censored version of its search engine there, amidst heavy criticism from human rights groups across the world, despite Google's protests that it would be better for Chinese citizens to access a censored version of its search engine than have nothing at all. No I didn't buy this excuse at the time either. There was a lot of money to be made in China after all.

I also appreciate that today's decision was largely a measured corporate response to the "sophisticated and targeted" cyber attack from within China - almost certainly orchestrated by the monolithic Chinese government itself - that hacked into human rights group's Gmail accounts and accessed information on several other firms and that doing nothing at all would potentially harm Google's image in the long run.

I also appreciate that unlike western markets where Google is dominant, its search engine in China only occupies 31% of the market to the dutifully censoring Baidu's 61%.

I know that many people and organisations, like Baidu and Google's other rivals, see this as hypocritical, cynical and financially motivated at worst, and an excercise in damage limitation at best.

I appreciate the fact that Google has had operating problems in China and has been shut down on some occasions by the government over censorship issues and that this growing issue in a growing market may have helped sugar coat the prospect to the executive of a quiet life outside of the Chinese market's ticking political time bombs and invidious controversies.

I know all these things, and the fact that corporate responsibility is always intimately linked to corporate image; and ultimately therefore long term profitability (as a result therefore, intrinsically incapable of altruism, whatever it does).

But nonetheless I cannot help but be pleased and infact relieved Google has finally said enough is enough. Not in so much as it makes the corporate behemoth (so culturally phenomenal that its very name has actually become a verb in the modern English lexicon) look good in the eyes of a western market whose consumers cherish the ideals of freedom of speech and freedom from state censorship, but in the way that it highlights, as the Olympics did, the fact that these cherished ideals are intrinsic to doing business and that if the west and China are to coexist peacefully in this new world order then they are going to have to meet half way at some point.

Google has, for whatever its motives may be, drawn a line in the sand today. Now that can't be a bad thing can it.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Lord Of The Spin Returneth

Alistair Campbell behaved very much like the slithery worm with the silken tongue we'd always come to expect of him today as he sat before Chilcot et al in definat mood. So long has he been off our screens that its easy to forgot how verbally skillful this master propagandist can be.

This was dramatic stuff... well in its appearance at least. Blair's former communications chief was bullish, perhaps more than one would have thought given the absolutely huge wave of public condemnation that quickly built up during the run up to war until now has remained pretty much consistent since March 2003.

Yet Campbell seems almost unaware of this, as if he knew something we didn't. At one point around three pm he actually looked quite pissed off when Chilcot announced that the Inquiry would stop for a ten minute tea break and resume for final questions, as if he had somewhere to be or he was gonna miss the last episode of his favorite tv show. I could not believe the temerity of the man. His obstinacy and defiance was almost superhuman in its accomplishment, so much so that at one point I even thought he sounded genuine... I don't know, perhaps over seven years of self denial and self aggrandisement even he believes the relevance of the diversionary buck passing bullshit that was flowing readily from his mouth as the comittee pressed him for anwers.

So what did we learn from the enquiry and its first "star witness" before Hoon, Straw and the main attraction himself, Tony Blair (tickets are still available apparently) answer questions before the Inquiry? Well the questions from Chilcot and his panel of inquisitors was certainly more combative but that's about it.

We learnt that Tony Blair sent letters to his good friend Georgey 'W' in 2002 discussing his commitment (which a critical and well tempered Ming Campbell in front of BBC cameras called to be immediately published) and that the "tenure" of these letters was that we're with you on the need to disarm Saddam, militarily if need be. Crawford came up and on this Campbell seemed to disagree with the former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Mayer, that any declaration of support was signed in blood during this meeting between the two men.

Despite Blair's commitment to regime change in 2002 Campbell believed that Blair held out for a peacefull solution, right up until the eve of war. When questioned rigorously later he seemed incredulous that the 45 minute warning was taken out of context by an alarmist media and that his press department should have done more to dispel the myths.

But at the end of the day do we really believe anything that comes from his mouth. This is rhetoric, Blairite style. Campbell is a cunning verbal magician, a veritbal professor of spin who has bought into his own rhetoric. His conviction is such that he will always be able to navigate his way around the facts in his head in such a way that he presents his position, and indeed the former Prime Minister's position who he was effectively speaking on behalf of for most of the Inquiry's questioning, as completely justified despite the absolutely fundamental mother of all facts that is staring him, and all of us, in the face: there were no WMD's. None! Not one. Not even a little mini baby WMD. He even admitted how shocked he was when he found this fact out himself. As one commentator put it today, I think even the Committee members were having problems buying what he was saying at one point. They weren't the only ones let me assure you. He was good, in that characteristically Alistair Campbell way, but we are older and wiser as a nation seven years on and his spin just doesn't wash anymore.

Its also worth mentioning that this most loyal of Blairite rottweiler's had no qualms in dropping Mr Brown in the brown stuff, answering a question put to him on Gordon Brown's involvement, that the then Chancellor was certainly involved in the various discussions leading up to war in an intimate and fundamental way. He certainly won't lose any sleep about making his former master's successor's life just that little bit more difficult than it already is in the lead up to an election that seems certain to see a Tory party brought back to Government.

There were a whole host of other issues covered but I really can't be bothered to talk about them here as they mainly hinge around the finer details of when things happened, who said what and to whom. That infamous dossier was mentioned many times as one would expect and as expected Campbell contested it was not fallacious in its intent and its drafting in anyway, a position he will, it seems, hold until his dying day... despite the fact that... well it obviously was one big political con. Another thing that was covered was the aftermath of the war and the unmitigated disaster that was post war reconstruction (or as Donald Rumsfeld seemed to have seen it at the time; post war deconstruction). But this is an issue that concerns the neo-con Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld trio and will have me ripping off the wallpaper in sporadic fits of rage. Campbell's enough for now. One war monger at a time.

But Britain should be "proud" of what it did in Iraq concluded Mr Campbell (the quintessential alpha male hardman, wearing just his shirt sans jacket and scarf in the freezing cold outside the Queen Elizabeth Centre as the wintery jacketed paparazzi's cameras snapped away) and despite the British deaths which still weighed heavily on his mind he believes the world is a safer place because of this war... whose stated aims, to stop the risks posed to the region and the wider world by Saddam's WMD, was never achieved because... well... there never were any as it turns out and that, instead of stabilising the country, the region, and the wider world, the war in Iraq has actually done the complete opposite. Not my idea of a rip roaring success Alistair.

Words simply fail me at this point.

I can only hope that this Inquiry will continue to hold its nerve and ask pertinent questions(despite its obvious shortcomings) in the cabinet line up due to appear in January. I might not be in the lottery for a seat at the Inquiry but I for one will have a front row seat in front of the live coverage when Blair sits in that chair. Call me a sad twat but this is real reality TV in my book, and although the Chilcot Inquiry might not be able to dispense the kind of justice that we really need over that catastrophic and illegal war waged on our behalf, at least we can watch em squirm.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Welcome to the Future.

Here we are: 2010. The future. Twenty Ten. The 21st Century is well underway and we have already seen off its first decade. And what a decade it has been. Eventful doesn’t quite cut it really. Epochal is something more like it. How quickly it is all passing us by whilst we stand, mouths slightly open in wonderment and disbelief at the shock and awe of it all. We are racing towards the future my friends at an unprecedented rate of acceleration. An uncertain future. It's all happening. Just say it out loud and you’ll hear it for yourself… Twenty Ten…See, it actually sounds futuristic.

And so here we are, 6.7 billion souls, at the beginning of a new decade and fast approaching the precipice, I suspect. Already its starting to look like more of the same. More of this morbidly slow (but geologically fleeting) decent into the incendiary uncertainties of geo political flux and eco political impotence. Oh come on Powers That Be! Clap your hands together, pat each other on the back and lets look at what we’ve all achieved so far, as a species, under your government, under this system of global free market capitalism. Surely you can dress something up in pleasing dogma so the next generation can go back to sleep or go back to their iPhones, or whatever fad is doing the rounds these days.

Who said anything about turning over a new leaf! In the shameful shadow of Copenhagen we now walk collectively, dragging our heels and kicking our feet into a new decade of unavoidable collectivism (because there’s no room anymore for the vernacular of unilateralism, isolationism and traditional nationalism in this warming borderless world anymore). Oh what fun in the sun we are all going to have! Especially Africans... oh and Asians... the poor, in short.

The resonance of a narrowly avoided Christmas Day terrorist atrocity still rings shrill in all of our ears, a frightening reminder that for many millions and millions of the world’s desperate, disaffected, disengaged Muslims it isn’t the season to be jolly (and probably never will be). And so the news that greets us into 2010 is that there's another tinderbox waiting to spark on the Jihadist map by this latest incident over the skies of Detroit, yet another lose-lose scenario for the strategists in the Pentagon and the MoD; yes boys and girls please welcome to the class of 2010, Yemen; unstable, fractional, poor, hotbed of Al Qaeda recruitment, Yemen; with its training camps, weak government and civil war in the north Yemen is the perfect destination for any would be terrorist maniacs hell bent on global Jihad. Now Yemen, please sit at the back of the class and open your textbook to page two thousand and one and try not to upset or disturb Saudi Arabia too much… oh you already have. North Korea stop taunting Iran just because they haven't enriched their Uranium yet. It's unbecoming to gloat. Pesky rogue states, the lot of you!!!

And, closer to home, lets not forget the economic cock up of the self congratulating corporate classes with their spin-of-the-wheel financial speculating and speculative morality. Will this business as usual bonus culture ever die, even in the face of global economic melt down? You have to admire these guys capacity for barefaced nonchalence and steel willed indifference. But surely that's what the government are here for. Wrong! Nothing changes does it. More rhetoric and purposeful dogma from the Westminster Red and Blue yellow-bellies but still no one seems to actually mean what they say. And besides; there’s been a very convenient expenses scandal to give the media a new stiffy in the wake of all that financial doom and gloom and distract us from Goodwin and his rotten ilk, who’ve crept quietly away from the crime scene with bags of loot on their shoulders like suited city cowboys walking into the sunset of some idyllic fairway, winging about their handicap (no longer cap in hand). And if you think a one off bonus tax will satisfy this opinionist you’ve got another think coming.

One might be forgiven for thinking me morbid, pessimistic or a tad downbeat as I welcome the new decade with open arms. Those of you who like the gentle warm feeling of apathy and distraction into which evil slips its greasy little hand whilst your not looking, like you were some anthropomorphic glove of unfeasible stupidity, best either listen up or get off this platform right now. Oh how I mourn the emergence of the Big Brother Generation who themselves are already mourning the imminent loss of their weekly Saturday night wanker eviction on funky, modern, groundbreaking Channel 4 with funky, modern, groundbreaking Davina McCall. God, it's so depressing the thought of her interviewing some manic fame hungry wanker until even the hardiest of eyes start to bleed and the dimwitted lump of flesh is released into a jungle of jackal like tabloid paparazzi to become famous and washed up. Infact its quite amazing how so much of modern entertainment has become an almanac of mundanity, celebrated by Heat and its other monosyllabic offshoots one week and denegrated the next. How you marvel as these fearless hacks tirelessly chase and hound all of your favourite Z-grade celebrity's by camping outside their front gardens with their telescopic lenses. And now a completely new class of celebrity is emerging (for which i don't think there is even a letter left in the alphabet to prefix); it's the celebrity-humping, tabloid-straddling, public-kiss-and-tell TV heroes.

Perhaps this blog isn’t for all of you reality TV-enthusiasts out there but please stay and have a chat to me by all means, especially if your attention span will allow it. Despite my misanthropic tendencies I do occasionally slip up and show signs of outlandish optimism and even chirpiness – we all have our vices – and perhaps some of the settee savvy amongst you can teach me a thing or two about the fads and fashions of the Nero Generation (a reference to the American Cafe chain as well as the Roman Emperor; both are relevant here it would seem) who’s myopic attitude to this age of impending catastrophe and limitless information constantly seems to frustrate and confound me.

Any Flat Earthers amongst you should listen up too, from wherever you are upon this two dimensional plane of a planet and realise that, flat or round, this baby’s the only one we got and we need to stop these insidious self deluded arseholes from breaking it and setting in motion an irreversible chain of apocalyptic climactic events just so they can continue to build skyscrapers half a mile into the sky in the middle of the desert (as pretty and impressive as they may look with firework coming out of them from every angle). And just because the science isn’t complete and written into some kind of fictional marble tablet that’s no reason for us to not act upon it. Anyway, are we really feeling that confident that its all been some huge mistake. Sure, the denialists will tell us that there are uncertainties and they'd be right. Of course there are uncertainties. There always is in science and there always will be. Especially in an area as complex and chaotic as climate modelling (that fabled science collectively known by the media as ‘climate science’ is infact an amalgamation of several altogether disparate disciplines of science grouped together in an attempt to try and formulate some kind of unified picture of the entire planets weather by synthesising their various models and data into one overarching theory, whilst at the same time the political classes attempt to translate and extract this ever changing model into meaningful policy aims and emissions targets - if you want to know exactly how complex and challenging this task is then i recommend reading anything by James Lovelock). It should be remembered that there’s no single reason that’s weighty enough for anyone to doubt the validity of the current argument towards man made climate change and the huge majority of experts (not journalist or opinionists like me, but scientists… you know experts… remember them…this country used to have loads of them). Besides this is the very telling fact that most people who seem to doubt the science have either an excruciatingly obvious agenda or have no real understanding of the nature of the scientific method and the peer reviewed system that governs its discourse (in general, the Daily Mail readership and all that they represent in what I shall come to refer to as the Myopia of the Masses).

I’m not going to go on about climate change now as I will become enraged and overcome, hammering my fury into this keyboard via my slender digits like some possessed computer-bound maniac drunk on a sense of my own righteousness.

Which is of course all I have.

It is all any of us have when it comes down to it. When we are stripped bare and denied of everything we have by the vested interests of those who have squandered and wasted what was once abundant; all we have left are our minds and our opinions. Those opinions may often become warped by the collective white noise of this terrible bout of planetary flu called humankind (no particular emphasis on the kind as it turns out) but they are what pushes us forward towards either self destruction or self realisation. Regardless of whoever shouts loud enough and whoever holds the balance of power, we have one thing going for us here in this new decade of this new century of this new millennium. As a privileged portion of western society we have become empowered by technology and as a result our voices can be heard. The importance of this can never be understated.

Please feel free to here mine; an English Opinionist, barking his views into the maddening crowds, slathering and foaming slightly at the mouth but always barking and always trying his hardest to be heard above the din and chatter of the blogging, facebooking, tweeting masses.

Onwards then into the next decade, into the future, towards the inexorable end.

Twenty ten is here. So when do we get the jetpacks?