March 22, 2023

Thoughts from Arthur A Wisley….

A Load Of Hot Air

The other day I was chatting with my visiting Martian friend about climate change – currently a hot topic. Don’t think of me as mad as my friend. He comes from Slough and works there with thousands of other “Martians” for the well-known confectionery company, Mars.  He has, though, other-worldly views on things.

“The results of the COP 27 conference”, I said, “ are far from reassuring, at least that is what is reported in the press. No one seems to believe that the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C will be achieved and now it’s more likely to be 2, even 3⁰, by the end of the century. Any of those is disastrous.  All year we have had news of freak weather caused by climate change and worse is to come”.

“Ah,” he said, “you have to separate climate change from weather, which is not quite the same thing.  Weather is very variable and gets affected by events such as the huge plume of hot air recently over Sharm-el-Sheikh or the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanic eruption, which injected millions of tonnes of water into the mesosphere and stratosphere. Their effects can last for years but eventually, fade away. If we faced disaster then governments would be pulling out all the stops to prevent it – as they did for Covid 19”.

“Give me examples,” he continued,” of how you say this climate change may be affecting us and the environment”.

Rising to the challenge, or the bait, I immediately pointed out the stress on wildlife and the countryside emphasising the urgent need to protect soils, trees, and the innumerable insects and animals on which we depend.  

“Well let’s see how the government and people are responding to this challenge.  We are in Bahçeli.  Bahçeli, in Turkish, means garden, right? We can see the lovely flat deep alluvial soil washed down from the mountains; such ideal farmland, it really is a productive garden. 

Years ago, all round here were plantations of Carob, Olives, some Citrus, stands of valuable Cypress, orchards of almond, apricot, plum, and other fruits, fields of medicinal pistacia, poterium, thyme, and lavender. Gum exported from here was used in Egyptian mummifications. Did you know that? If there were real fears about global warming then the top priority would be to protect this fertile land, at all costs, in a manner well suited to the Mediterranean climate.  That would provide food, medicines, and livelihoods in a threatened world.  But look what there is in reality. The Cypress trees – all gone; the olive plantations – gone; the fruit orchards – gone. Instead, there is scrubland and concrete. Clearly, the government doesn’t think that the loss of good farmland or wildlife is a problem. Ergo, there is no problem.

Tens of thousands of apartments and villas are now being built in this countryside for people who will not even live here. Does that add up? Such a profligate use of good food-producing land just to provide foreigners with somewhere to stay for a few weeks a year is proof that there is no need for it.  If anyone was worried about the immense carbon emissions created in the production of all the cement, steel, and glass being used, then this extravagant and pointless construction bonanza would not be allowed by a responsible government. Concern about global warming would require all new buildings to be energy efficient. The killer point, here, is that making the necessary building regulations costs the government nothing, except a little mental effort. So, there can hardly be any concerns, can there, if not even a regulatory finger has been lifted to curb any alleged harm?  Au contraire, all these concrete hulks have been individually approved by the government.

“From what I have seen the local construction standards result in the building of uninsulated sun-facing concrete and glass boxes that will be like ovens in summer and fridges in winter. That then requires lots of electricity for air-conditioning systems and heaters.  It must follow that producing all that power is not seen as an environmental problem either. Likewise, there must be hundreds of thousands of tonnes of spare water needed to feed these properties, to fill their swimming pools, and to irrigate their gardens.  The IPCC reports suggest that desertification will occur in a decade or two in Cyprus and in your water supplier, Turkey. This problem must have been faced already otherwise the water-guzzling developments would not be permitted. No water, no house buyers, no tourists, no brainer. QED”.

To widen the scope of our debate we decided to go to Kyrenia to see what was going on in a larger scale to get a more accurate grasp of the situation.  So, we jumped into my car and headed towards Kyrenia passing construction site after construction site.  The views of the mountains, sea, and coastline, once some of the great attractions of  North Cyprus, were constantly obstructed by rows of nearly identical concrete chicken-egg boxes lining the roadsides

“If there was a looming temperature problem all new construction would be in compact towns or villages with masses of trees and fountains and, of course, all necessary shops and other facilities. The residents could abandon their cars and walk everywhere in pleasant shade. Instead, as we have seen, buildings are scattered all over the countryside with most everyday facilities miles away. But that is no problem in an air-conditioned car”.

Shortly we passed the landmark Teknecik power station which was decorating the sky with 3 plumes of black smoke and giving the whole sky an orange pallor all the way to the horizon. 

“Look,” cried my Martian, “the power station is going great guns.  There doesn’t seem to be any restriction on its ability to produce power for all those aircons. I bet it pumps out a million tonnes of CO2 a year.  Any responsible government, worried about CO2 emissions or toxic chemicals in all that black smoke, would have shut it down years ago. Nobody in their right mind would live in fear of another Bhopal-like disaster. Obviously, no-one in authority has the slightest worry about climatic or health damage here.  There cannot be any good reason to replace this power plant with some solar farms, even though they would take only a couple of years to build and at no cost to the government. Why change things “that are not broken?”

Passing the Elexus Hotel and a nearby hidden burnt-out rubbish dump my friend admired the ability of the Cypriot microbes to process so much effluent and to assault our olfactory senses so impressively.  This was, he thought, proof that the management of waste was exemplary. We did not stop for a swim in the sea.

On entering Kyrenia we passed many car “galleries” showing off lovely big Mercedes, BMWs, massive Utes, and 4WD cars. “If anyone thought,” he observed, “ especially in a poor country, that burning petrol or diesel in big cars was a bad thing then the sale of all these big vehicles would be banned. North Cyprus is a small place so a good public transport system could easily be used to prevent emissions thought to be harmful.  Most of the developments are a long way outside the towns which means that people have to travel a long way for shopping, schools, hospitals, and so on. Such a deliberate development policy clearly shows that no-one thinks there is any need to control car use or restrict their emissions.” That said, we struggled through heavy traffic and illegally parked cars wishing that there were far fewer vehicles on the road. Maybe a dolmus on an unclogged road would have been quicker.

My Martian friend proposed that we should review, over lunch,  the evidence we had seen with our own eyes on our journey into town.  We chose a cosy fish restaurant overlooking the harbour in the Old Town’s warren of streets.. We perused the menu. “Hmm, can’t have that; …or that; ….or that. Let’s just go and have a salad somewhere”, he said.

“Why”, I asked. “The fish here is marvellous”.

“All the fish on the menu are either endangered or critically endangered species and should not be caught, let alone eaten”, he replied. “We can’t go about destroying all life on Earth”.

“Maybe we are though”, I thought.

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