Category Archives: Politics

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from The Shock of the Anthropocene by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz

Page 69 “Exaggerating a little, we could say that history for the anthropocenologists comes down in the end to the set of exponential graphs. The specificity of historical reasoning, the effort to construct an explanatory account, is eclipsed in favour of a descriptive and quantitative view. But it’s the concordant upward curves are indeed chronological indexes, they are explanatory at the secondary level. Environmental statistics simply measure the results of the historical phenomena that are the prime movers of the crisis. The less undifferentiated and more explanatory history of the Anthropocene that we propose in this book seeks to shift the focus of the study from the environments affected and the biogeochemical cycles disturbed on to the actors, institutions and decisions that have produced these effects.”

Page 73 “The grand narrative of the Anthropocene is thus the story of an awakening. There was a long moment of unawareness, from 1750 to the late 20th century, followed by a sudden arousal. … We can include in this binary narrative the overly simple thesis according to which modernity has established a great separation between nature and society, a separation that allegedly prevented us from becoming aware of ecological issues, and that was only challenged quite recently. As if the thinkers of antiquity have not already established distribution between nature and culture, whether to promote it or question its value and limitations; as if modernity, ever since the Renaissance, is not also constructed around knowledge that emphasized the belonging of human beings to the enveloping order of nature…. The problem with all of the grand narratives of awakening, revelation or arousal of consciousness is that they are historically wrong. The period 1770 and 1830 was marked on the contrary by a very acute awareness of the interactions between nature and society. Deforestation, for example, was conceived as the rupture of an organic link between woodland, human society and the global environment, and the use of coal was promoted as a way to restore forests. … An organicist scientific thought conceived the earth as a living things right to the mid 19th century. … By proposing in 1821 that ‘ it is therefore the planet as a whole that is compromised [ by deforestation and other environmental damages], and not just certain regions’ Charles Fourier reflected on a large number of scientific writings and warnings of his time.”

Page 101 “In Great Britain between 1800 and 2000 the price of light (measured in lumens) fell by a factor of 3000, but consumption increased 40000 times. According to goods and their price elasticity, the rebound effect varies, but on the whole, energy efficiency has been more than out balanced by economic growth.”

Page 103 “The crisis of the 1930s offers some interesting cases: Carbon emissions in the United States fell from 520 to 340 million tonnes, and in France from 66 to 55 million. In the latter case, this reduction was not just bound up with the recession, but also with the differential evolution of prices; that of coal rose by 40% during the crisis, while the general price index stagnating. It was also in the 1930s that wood fuel experienced a peak, before a definitive decline after the Second World War.”

page 105 Gaslighting which appeared in London in the 1810s was extraordinarily inefficient. “It consisted in distilling coal – using more coal to heat this – in order to produce a gas designed to light housing or streets. … A third of the coal was burnt to produce gas, a third of this gas escaped in pipes that massively leaked, and at the end of the day the lie to each day was very poor…. The transition from oil lamps to gas lighting, that is, from an organic and locally applied energy to a fossil energy distribution over a network, while massively increasing energy consumption, above all increased the losses.”

“The ‘ energy consumed per capita’ traced by historians actually corresponds to national production of energy divided by population. It includes example with the energy spent on waging wars, running the navy and controlling the empire, as well as the energy dissipated in inefficient technological systems. What we lack is a history of energy services, which would show the energy actually used by different classes of consumers.”

Page 107 “The ecologists David and Marcia Pimentel, for example, showed that the transition from a traditional agriculture to an intensive and mechanised one led to a fall in energy yield: More calories (basically derived from oil) had to be used in order to produce each calorie of food. In the case of maize, the shift was from a ratio of 10 calories produced for each calorie invested to a ratio of only three to one. The generalisation of this type of analysis, that is, a general history of thermodynamic (in)efficiency (taking up Ivan Illich’s thesis of counter-productivity) would undoubtedly lead to a far more ambiguous account than that conveyed by energy history and its ascendant curves of energy, health and efficiency.”

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Books Environmental politics Politics

From After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene by Jedediah Purdy

p. 16 “we have not advanced far towards Mill’s ideal of emancipated mastery over nature. Instead, the more we understand and the more our power increases, the more our control over nature seems a precarious fantasy.”

p. 17 The Anthropocene begins amid a threefold crisis  of ecology, economics, and politics. These are the three great modes in which humans make a home… The three crises share a starting point: the recognition that a system believed, or at least imagined and hoped, to be stable and self-correcting has turned out to be unstable and even prone to collapse.”

p. 18 “If we want self-sustaining world, social & natural, we must build it. Nothing inherent will produce that stability”

p. 18 “Th economists’ term ‘externality’ suggests an aberration, the incidental exception to a system that otherwise works – but here, that is the reverse of the truth. What economic analysis treats as an externality, what is invisible in market transactions, is the globe that houses all economic activity. Needless to say, everything is inside that ‘externality’. The harms that are invisible to the economy may overwhelm the system itself.”

p. 90 Thomas Paine saw the natural world as grounding a principle of economic equality. ‘Natural property was the inborn right of every person to an equal share of the unimproved world, which was the common inheritance of humanity, now artificially divided into private property. Paine’s ‘Letter on Agrarian Justice’ argued for a tax on wealth that would amount to ‘ground-rent’ paid to society by those who owned  the world, to compensate the dispossesed. The money should go to universal benefits: a payment to each person at birth, as a king of social inheritance to start them in life, plus pensions for the aged. Paine argued that this scheme would make the artificial institution of private property beneficial to all, whereas without his reforms it preserved both wealth and great poverty.”

p. 118 The Sierra Club’s “ideal was the personal encounter with nature … even as its activity was intensely social, even communal, to the point where one member described its encampments (with only the lightest irony) as short-lived socialist utopias. Club members relied on one another for comfort, survival and companionship in the high country. Even more, they relied on one another to confirm and amplify their quasi-mystical experience by hearing it and saying it back to them.”

p. 119 Thoreau reviewed a book that proposed a technological utopia. The work, by J.A. Etzler, was The Paradise Within the Reach of All Men, without Labor, by Means of Nature and Machinery, published in 1842. Etzler, a follower of the French social visionary Charles Fourier, argued that men could build a paradise on earth (and, he promised, within a decade) by harnessing what the 21st century calls renewable energy. Wind, tides, and the sun would replace human labor. … Thoreau agreed with Etzler that unused energy was plentiful:air surged and plunged over the earth: New England’s few windmills were a farcical tribute to its power. The waves and tides were even stronger, and the sun’s vast energy promised limitless power, if only people could capture it.”

p. 171 Gifford Pinchot “called on Americans to  ‘ make ourselves… responsible for [the country’s] future’. Conservation’s basic goal was well-being: it aimed to make ‘the difference between prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, ignorance and education, well-being and misery.’ Conservation’s success would be ‘patriotism in action’… conservation should teach each citizen devotion to the good of all.”

p. 195 John Muir “is probably best remembers for observing that one cannot tug on anything in nature without finding it connected to everything else -a folksy slogan of interdependence… part of a usable history for the age of ecology. .. We can love the world because it is intelligible, formed in an order that we can understand ever more richly. At the same time, it awes us because it is always older, stranger and more complex than we can grasp: in every dimension, it runs beyond our reach. … This was the new, ecological shape that wilderness advocates gave to the Romantic tradition of treating the politics of nature as the politics of consciousness. .. humility invited a homecoming – not to the sublime mountains, as Muir had urged, but to a sense of being entirely native to the planet at large. … Americans concerned with the natural world did nothing less in those years than invent something we now take for granted: the concept of the environment. .. In 1968, an urgent warning appeared in Time magazine: ‘The false assumption that nature exists only to serve man is at the root of an ecological crisis that ranges from the lowly litterbug to the lunacy of nuclear proliferation. At this hour, man’s only choice is to live in harmony with nature, not to conquer it.”

p. 109 “the seminal environmental standing case, Sierra Club v Morton. Here the Supreme Court considered whether the Sierra Club could sue to oppose development in California’s Mineral King Valley, and ruled that the group had standing to appear in court only if at least one of its members used the disputed area and would be personally affected by the proposed development. The case is most famous, though, for Justive William O Douglas’s animist-toned dissent, which adopted the language and spirit of proposals to recognise natural entities as legal actors. ‘The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it .. The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled.'”

p. 231 “as the Romantic strain of environmental imagination took hold, farmers, who animated James Wilson’s flourish American landscape, became figures of plodding, spiritless labor instead. Thoreau portrayed his neihgbors as slaves to their land, labors and conventional ideas. Emerson complained that he could not enjoy contemplating a landscape when farmers were working on it …Today a new appreciation is emerging for worked and inhabited landscapes, fertile terrains for responsible labor. This is the landscape of what one might call the food movement. It is not providential but ecological. Working  there converts ecological consciousness into concrete activity, as surely as John Muir’s walking guides did for Romantic ways of seeing. .. the physical labor of growing, gathering, and cooking food is a source of satisfaction, enriched by knowledge of the ecological, chemical and other processes that the work engages… As a cultural matter, the food movement offers a way to make abstract ecological values concretely one’s own. It poses an answer to a puzzle of post-1970 environmental thought, a puzzle presented in any effort to think ecologically. An environmental ethic that people can live by must tap into basic motives” Can either be done by tapping existing values e.g. patriotism with Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinochet, or a new identity – the settler ethic and the wild-lands pilgrimage of the Sierra Club.

p. 237-8 “Ecology is the only possible home for an economy .. neoliberal environmentalists today portray the world as ‘natural capital’ … it brings nature fully into political economy, but a specifically neoliberal political economy, committed to the perspective of capital… An alternative would be to think of nature not as providing capital but doing work, work in which human labor collaborates… work is not only industry, the prodictive  action that that transforms the world, but also reproduction, the work of remaking life with each year and generation . Seeing nature’s work in this light would align environmental politics with the key feminist insight that much socially necessary work is ignored or devalued as ‘caregiving’, a gendered afterthought to the real dynamos of the economy, when in reality no shared life could do without it. This approach would also have the potential to align environmental politics with a labor movement of caregivers i an economy where an increasing amount of the work done by human beings (rather than machines) is the work of social reproduction: nursing, teaching, parenting.”

p. 253 “One might imagine, then, learning to see the global atmospheric system, the interwoven patterns of currents and winds, seasons and climatic regions, as something beautiful. It makes a world suited for human life, a world in which we have learned to live… The question to ask about greenhouse gases, in this light … is …whether they tend to mar the beauty of a system that, for all its inherent perturbations, describes a set of rough balances that we have come to find beautiful. Alternatively but not incompatibly, the global atmosphere might come to seem sublime, a brooding, powerful source of threat, beyond our complete understanding, out of the scale of our control, able to disrupt familiar worlds and make us aware of human smallness and fragility… Both treasuring beauty and feeling awe at sublimity are ways of respecting an order of things, and of valuing motives to act so as to uphold it.”

p. 286 “taking responsibility for nature and taking responsibility for democracy come together. The democratic responsibility is the responsibility of making a world, a responsibility that for much of human experience has fallen to the imagined legislation of gods. This goes for both the political and the natural world. Always bound together in imagination, in the Anthropocene these two are inseparable in fact.”

p. 287 democracy is not just the stripping away of old hierarchies; it means making the world together, including taking responsibility for our mutually shaping interaction with nature.”

Books History Politics

Notes from Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America By Theodora Kroeber

A powerful read – and a reminder of the horrors our societies inflicted on others.

p. 5 “San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands of the Pacific Ocean some 70 miles offshore from Santa Barbara…. In 1835, the padres of Mission Santa Barbara transferred the San Nicholas Indians to the mainland. A few minutes after the boat had put off from the island, it was found that one baby had been left behind. It is not easy to land a boat on San Nicolas; the captain decided against returning for the baby; the baby’s mother jumped overboard, and was last seen swimming towards the island. Half-hearted efforts made to find her in subsequent weeks were unsuccessful. It was believed she had drowned in the rough surf. In 1853, 18 years later, seal hunters in the Channel waters reported seeing a woman on San Nicolas, and a boatload of men from Santa Barbara went in search of her. They found her, a last survivor of her tribe. Her baby, as well as all her people who had been removed to the Mission, had died. She lived only a few months after her “rescue” and died without anyone having been able to communicate with her, leaving to posterity this skeletal outline of her grim story, and four words which someone remembers from her lost language and recorded as she said them. It happens that these four words identify her language as having been Shochonean, related to the Indian languages of the Los Angeles area, not to those of Santa Barbara.”

p. 1 “The story of Ishi begins for us early in the morning of the 29th day of August in the year 1911 and in the corral of a slaughterhouse. It begins with the sharp barking of dogs which roused the sleeping butchers. In the dawn light they say a man at bay, crouching against the corral fence – Ishi.”

He was the last survivor of a group of Yahi who in c. 1870 p. 90 “retreated to the inner fastness of their own heartland … what A.L. Kroeber calls ‘the smallest free nation in the world, which by an unexampled fortitude and stubbornness of character succeeded in holding out … 25 years longer even than Geronimo’s famous band of Apaches’ … [initially probably 15/16, soon only “two men, two women, and a child.”

p. 94 know none of their names “not even Ishi’s, for Ishi is not a personal name, it means simply ‘man’.”

Books Environmental politics History

Notes from Of Farming and Classics: A Memoir by David Grene

p. 137 “This first farm of mine, the American one, was a splendid blend of mechanisation and old-time farming. I really cannot see why a version of this could not actually have survived. What happened is something like this: At the end of the war, the factories which had during the war exclusively been busy producing machines for the army turned back to producing tractors. They decided that the market to attack first was the area still occupied by small farms. … the farmers’ horses were in direct competition for the provision of power. So from about 1947 to 1955 advertisements and personal agents worked at selling the tractor-cum-horse farmers a little light tractor, to supplement his heavy one, to do the corn planting, corn cultivation and hay work instead of the last team These small tractors cost eight to ten times more than a team of horses and at least as much to keep up as a team…. The older horse machines were relatively cheap and simple … no tools left to use animal power.”

p. 139 “In the modern climate of opinion, where there is a strong undercurrent asserting the dullness and monotony of agriculture, there are always many people who readily accept the industrial idea that the less help needed, the better… there are fewer and fewer farmers themselves, and those who are left are forced to farm at a speed and a tension which leaves any hardship of the past simply nowhere… There have been almost no forum in which abstract questions could be raised about the value of the farmer’s work to himself… There are very good reasons for a smaller size of farm and the deeper personal attitudes that it invites. We have also seen in the 1980s a fearful decimation of farms simply because the price of land suddenly declined; and so did the farmers’ security with banks, who promptly foreclosed on them for debts incurred in the expansion of acreage and machinery, which, now on the books, they were unable to pay when the security was called in.”

p. 146 “Still the rhetoric continues, enforcing the conviction, now almost always acquired at second hand, that oil has saved them from drudgery. As though driving work animals was drudgery and driving the tractor was not; and caring for animals after the workday was drudgery, but filling the tractor or repairing it was not. Hobbies, sport and pets are of course the preferred forms of spending one’s activity and gaining pleasure. The delight in plowing and the partnership with animals in it is as old as Hesoid as he gives direction for the strength of the tree-formed plow ready to resist the power of the oxen as they struggle with a hard spot in the furrow, or in Aeschylus’s Prometheus, who gave man work-animals to be his substitute in the heaviest toils. It is there in Brueghel’s picture of the fall of Icarus as the plowman follows his mule with the little wheel in the plow in front of him already invented to hold the plow effortlessly in place at the depth desired. .. I remember about 35 years ago in Normandy watching a boy plowing with his black Pecherons, and walking alongside the horses that did not even have a rein. They were tied from bit to bit with a loose rope on the inside trace horse, which was used only when the boy was going to lead them home. When they came to the end of the furrow, he would tip up the plow … shout firm commands to his team, and round the horses would go….The beauty of those days of plowing was startling. I am thinking now particularly of the Wicklow farm. Out plowing was usually done in March or April, though sometimes also in fall or late winter, when the ground was not hard hard frozen. In a typically early spring day, one walked just fast enough to keep warm, and the gulls and rooks followed in the furrow to pick up the worms., and the sun would come breaking up the little touch of hoarfrost. I can still relive it and delight sharply, almost with pain at its loss, for I will never enjoy it again.”

Books Environmental politics Politics

Notes from Edward Carpenter: a life of liberty and love by Sheila Rowbotham

p. 96 “Henry Salt was one of the first who tried to live out Carpenter’s ideas about the simple life. Inspired by Carpenter’s account of Millthorpe, he left his job at Eton and went with his wife Kate to live in the Surrey village of Tilford. Salt would later explain that to social movements had attracted those like himself who were breaking away from bourgeois backgrounds in the 1880s. “Socialism, the more equitable distribution of wealth, and simplification, the saner method of living.”… He had studied at Cambridge, where Jim Joynes had encouraged him to rebel against the inner sinews of class privilege. Salt, like Joynes, decided that it was wrong to live off the labour of others and to eat animals. Accordingly, in 1884 he went to the headmaster, Dr Edmund Warre, to hand in his resignation from Eton, declaring he was a vegetarian, had lost his faith in the public school system and had become socialist. Horrified by this roll call of apostasies, Warre exploded, “then blow us up, blow us up! There is nothing left for it but that.”… Salt was soon in conflict with the Socialist league newspaper, Commonweal, which declared vegetarianism was an employers’ plot to force workers to accept a lower standard of living…. Henry and Kate Salt’s move, accompanied by books and piano, to a labourer’s cottage at Tilford hardly seems remarkable today, but it caused a minor media stir in 1884, after Hyndman announced a public meeting that Salt had left Eton. Resolutely Salt cupped his academic down into strips of fastening creepers to walls and used his top hat the shading a young vegetable marrow.”
p. 111 “Carpenter and Hukin experienced the heady joy of working together filled with hope in a cause that seems indubitable. Through the summer and autumn of 1886 mounting unemployment and the acute distress it brought with it were gaining an audience for the socialists’ street meetings. Carpenter fulminated against landlords and railway shareholders (like himself) who collected millions to doing nothing. … They began to attract crowds of around 2 to 300 people, competing with the Salvation Army and barrel organ men at the corner of Fargate and Surrey Street. When the police tried to close them down, the excitement which ensued added to the audience. Jonathan Taylor, wily in local politics, began an outraged letter writing campaign presenting himself as a member of the public, upset at the curtailing of free speech. By September their listeners were reaching 4 to 500. Having your own premises signaled that you had arrived on the local political scene. In February 1887 when the new premises in Scotland Street formally opened as the Commonwealth cafe, the sympathetic Sheffield Weekly Echo reported that the Sheffield socialists, who, “some little time back… might have been counted on the fingers”, now not only had their own hall, but could filll it to overflowing, while the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent noted that there were even a few ladies in the audience, though it derided their shrill ‘hear hears’. The ethos was open and eclectic. The unemployed will welcome along with speakers of varying political hues: William Morris, Annie Besant and Havelock Ellis from the London socialist mileau, Peter Kropotkin and Charlotte Wilson from the anarchist.”
p. 112 “Socialism was not merely a movement for industrial emancipation, it “aimed at the entire regeneration of society in art, in science, in religion and literature and the building up of the new life in which industrial socialism was the foundation”. William Morris to concede Socialism is a new culture, worrying away over how the discontent of the unemployed could transmute into the birth of a new society, though Carpenter put greater stress on creating a new way of living and stimulating new desires.”
p. 135 “the new unions proved difficult to sustain institutionally, a weakness exacerbated in Sheffield by the anarchists’ resolve to form exclusively revolutionary unions. … Local labour conditions resulted in new Unionism being rather a damp squib. In the late 1880s the labour movement in Sheffield still consisted of the grinders, forges, hardeners and cutters of the metal trades, along with bricklayers, masons, tailors and printers. The small craft societies that represented them responded to threats of mechanisation not by creating a new trades unionism that by amalgamating…. It was not until the 1890s that the trades union movement established a permanent base in the large steel works then developing as arms producers.

p. 147 “the book… Undermined assumptions about science and indeed the very processes of knowing. Carpenter contested the negative view of health in Western medicine. Instead of a narrow definition of health is the absence of disease, he invoked old words which embraced body, mind and spirit; heal, hallow, hale, whole, wholesome, adding the Sanskrit ‘atman, breath or soul for good measure… Carpenter challenged sciences claims to be value-free. He was as interestingly in mathematics and the physical sciences as he had been when he was young, it was the overweening authority of science he disliked Carpenter argued that scientific work was framed by the assumptions of particular cultures and epochs and that the scientist did not stand outside the object of study in either the physical or the social sciences. Consequently “science” did not offer in itself proof, and the findings of scientists will always open to question.”
p. S63 1890 “the small band of anarchists hurtled through that summer and autumn in a flurry of defiance. In June, when the idolised explorer Henry Morton Stanley came to speak in Sheffield, Creaghe and John Bingham took gallery seats and sold a pamphlet … Documenting the Africans Stanley had killed in the course of his explorations. Commonweal frankly announced how Stanley’s exploits, or, civilising Africa had “sold like hot cakes” because the audience, not seeing the irony in the title, had believed it to be praising the explorer.”
p. 170 “Carpenter now had an established lecturing circuit, speaking not only in Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield, that extending outwards to west Yorkshire and Lancashire, along with Nottingham and Derby. He was also frequently in Bristol and London and did tours of Scotland. Completely eclectic in accepting invitations, in 1893 he addressed the social Democratic Federation in London, as well as the Fabians and the Liberal club in Sheffield. Not only did he range widely, he could gather huge crowds of around 1000 people some of these meetings. Carpenter continued his university extension habit of having a basic stash of lectures which he recycled in differing places. In the first half of the 1890s these were: the future society, parties and the labour movement, the way out, the changed ideal society, the future of labour…. Carpenter really grappled in these lectures with how to reach the utopian future, searching for an alternative to both the state and the self-defeating defiance of the anarchists to he noted “tear their hair at one”.
p. 307 “he called the state ownership of the mines and the milk supply, approving public administration of gas, water and transport. But he remained uneasy about relying on state interference, voicing his fears in talks with the Fabians in Sheffield, the social Democrats in Chesterfield, and Didsbury Socialists society in Manchester over the course of 1908. … His political libertarianism led him to suspect the state as inherently coercive and he looked around for voluntary social alternative is which could foster opposing collective values to capitalism. Land nationalisation, labour colonies and cooperatives were all being mooted in the early 1900, while groups of unemployed men had resorted to direct action and were farming orchard land… Inspired by experimental projects in Europe, Carpenter proposed corporative smallholdings in property of agricultural associations … Carpenter envisaged the rural economy transformed by corporative banks, along with a network of corporative is that in collecting, the buying of foodstuffs and selling products. Though Carpenter accepted that land should be publicly owned, both nationally and by local authorities, he wanted state ownership to be combined with cooperative ventures and private smallholdings. This was partly because of his dislike state intervention and also because he was convinced, like Kropotkin, that smallholdings encouraged enterprise, attention to detail and all-round skills.

p. 311 “Carpenter’s life at Millthorpe had taught him that change had to be acceptable to local people and this meant it must grow out of existing roots…. He imagined afforestation schemes and proposed that the wild moors and mountains should be preserved by county councils or by the state is animal and bird sanctuaries, nature reserves where everyone could wander. His campaigns against Sheffield’s smoke pall had brought home damaging impact the city could have on the countryside and led him to think up positive ways in which people from the towns and cities could relate to the countryside. … Carpenter’s ideas resonated both among those concerned to conserve the countryside and those who wanted to foster a better relationship between town and country. However these diverging lobbies did not automatically recognise a common cause. Conservationists were not necessarily sympathetic to working class ramblers … Vegetarians were not all socialists and many socialists scoffed at them and at antivivisectionists.”

Books Environmental politics History Science

Notes from Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison

p. 32 “One reaons we know how much rain has fallen where, and when is the British Rainfall Organisation: A quintessentially eccentric body and one of the first examples of what we now call ‘citizen science’. George James Symons, who began his working life in the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, set up the Association in the middle of the 19th century in response to public concern that rainfall was decreasing across the British Isles. He recruited a small network of initial observers, then wrote to The Times in 1853 listing the further locations he wanted, calling for observers ‘of both sexes and all ages’ and offering to subsidise the cost of instruments. By 1867 he had 1,300 observers, nad had to leave his post at the Board of Trade; by his death in 1900 there were 3,408, drawn from ‘nearly every social grade from peer to peasant’… In 1916 the BRO was called upon to determine whether the use of artillery on the Western Front was somehow responsible for one of the wettest winters on record… the opinion given … was that there was no connection. The following winter would prove less wet, despite the artillery barrage of the Somme, but bitterly cold .. continued to publish its records until 1991.”

p. 55 “The aptly named George Merryweather displayed his storm forecaster, the ‘Tempest Prognosticator’ at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Looking not unlike a miniature merry-go-round, it consisted of a circle of 12 pint bottles, each containing a little rainwater and a single leech. His idea was that, on sensing electrical activity in the atmosphere, the leeches would crawl to the top of the bottles, triggering whalebone levers connected to a bell on the topmost dome; the more times the bell rang, the greater the likelihood of an approaching storm. … believed that it could easily be connected to the telegraph network in a way that the bell in St Paul’s, London, could be rung to signal an approaching storm. But then, he also believed that arranging the bottles in a circle would allow the leeches to see one another and not become lonely.”

p. 62 “Because they need their food to be over 50% water, rabbits like to feed at dawn and dusk when the dew is down.”

p. 75 Dartmoor “became a vital source of sphagnum moss during the First World War when it was gathered in great quantities, dried and sent off to be used as wound dressings due to its abosrbency and healing properties; its been shown to slow the growth of fungi and bacteria. Twelves species are found on Dartmoor, and all can hold eight times their own weight in rain.”

p. 82 “A recent study by the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, showed that one square metre of inrtensively improved grassland held just 47 litres of grassland compared to the 269 litres per square metre held by unimproved ‘rhos’ pasture with its naturally occurring purple moor grass and sharp.flowered rush.”