This month marks the completion of the fifteenth year of this website, mainly as In Tenerife and lately as Haven Tenerife, moving from a news and information site to a personal blog as a vehicle for expressing my main interests, which are cultural and environmental above all. This month also marks my birthday, and I’ve decided that the best present I can give myself is to bring the website to a close.
Clearly, our species is incapable of sense. In the US, mass shootings of small children in schools are commonplace, there’s no other word for it, and the principal response has been the mind-boggling reaction that America would be a very dangerous place if there weren’t more guns, as though it weren’t already more dangerous in terms of gun deaths than almost anywhere else in the world. In the West generally, we saw only last year ferocious wildfires across the whole of southern Europe while flash floods carried lives and livelihoods away in the centre north. The overriding consensus of climate scientists is that such chaos is caused by anthropogenic climate change and provides a clear indicator of far worse to come, and that we need to change our behaviour fundamentally, and immediately. But of course, we don’t, and won’t.
In the UK, many environmental, cultural and economic problems which are also faced by other countries are severely exacerbated by Brexit despite repeated denial and distraction in a media mainly controlled by self-interested press barons to whom politicians are in thrall. Moreover, some political commentators of great acuity and experience have been considering why there seems such a lack of impetus to get rid of a PM who is now openly called a liar. A PM who has been fined by the police for breaking a law he himself set for others to follow, partying in the name of setting an example of leadership … the latest mind- and truth-twisting excuse which will go down poorly with those who were unable even to attend hospitals to say goodbye to dying relatives because they obeyed his laws.
Such political commentators feel that a major factor in this lack of impetus is the expectation that over the next couple of years things will become so bad in the UK that no serious potential challenger wants to inherit the political fallout of the inevitable effects of the climate crisis, the cost of living disaster, likely power cuts, and increasing Brexit chaos. These problems, it is felt, will form too toxic an inheritance to provide an election victory whenever the next General Election is held – assuming there will be one given that the Ministerial rule book has already been changed to make resignation unnecessary even for the most egregious offences. Who’s to say what else is in store for a country whose leader clings to power after, in boyhood, envisaging himself as the King of the World?
And all this is without considering the increasing prospect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine spilling over into nearer Europe, with Finland, Latvia, Moldova, Georgia, and Poland among other neighbouring countries who see an attempt to reconstitute the USSR, and feeling increasingly nervous about their own national integrity. Wider afield, authoritarianism thrives in China, is increasing in India, and even within the EU, in Hungary. And that in turn is without considering the potential for a Republican return in the next US election, possibly even under Trump, where the direction of travel is already Gileadean, at least in the Supreme Court and red states. In all of this, humanity and its environment, the poor and dispossessed, the weak and disenfranchised, have no voice in the face of the power hungry, and the power mad.
We, particularly in the West, have had it so good. We’ve lived in such a golden bubble of an age. For the first time in our species’ history, our generation has simultaneously had sexual freedom, bodily autonomy, youth wealth, antibiotics, analgesia, anaesthesia … but it is now going backwards. In the last Starmus held here six years ago, American economist and Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz explained how neo-liberal policies, encapsulated above all by Thatcherism and Reaganomics, had promised trickled-down wealth but had instead increased poverty, with real wage equivalences now making successive generations poorer than their parents. We see this even now in the UK, for example, where younger people are far less likely to be able to own property, or even get a toe on the housing ladder, let alone a foot. Wealth inequality, Stiglitz says, will finish us if the climate crisis doesn’t get there first … and yet there is a universal reluctance to introduce any measures that could begin to address the issue, even in the face of a group of billionaires recently demanding they be taxed more.
All this sounds apocalyptic, and there’s a reason for that. And yet any warnings, advice, attempts to persuade, all backed with evidence, meet a variety of responses ranging from apathy to mockery, ridicule to attack. We must not, and will not, it seems, do anything that will negatively impact our self-absorption and selfishness, especially if that involves any brakes on incessant, compulsive travel by millions who consider they “deserve” a break. That there are some already living in rising tides and losing land to the sea, that there are others whose agriculture has already failed causing them to migrate anywhere they might at least find food, that yet more are at risk of being burnt out of house and home, none of this impinges. We must travel, we must have a break, and multiple times a year, including the insanity of flying to Amsterdam for an afternoon, Lisbon for lunch, or an overnighter in Outer Mongolia. Soon there will be nowhere left to go for a break of any sort.
So I myself will now have a break. I have tried to bring these matters to wider attention over the last decade and a half, while focusing mainly on the need to inform and advise about all sorts of issues here in Tenerife. I hope it has been as helpful as I wanted it to be when I started, and I hope above all that our species can find a way forwards for the sake of all our children and grandchildren who, as things stand, will bear the most immediate brunt of the problems coming our way and of which, so far, we have only glimpsed the vanguard. I wish all those who share these concerns and views the very best. For myself, my garden, cottage, birds, books, crosswords, chess, and music will now be able to get much more of the attention I’ve long wanted to give them, and I’ll still be on twitter HERE, albeit less wordily by necessity! I hope I’ll still see some of you there.