Money Talking

On America’s Independence Day, yesterday, I found myself reading a New Yorker article about how the billionaire Koch brothers work to ensure their personal wealth and power, based on fossil fuels, isn’t threatened by any action to combat climate change. In a nutshell, they buy politicians and they buy inaction; and they fund disinformation to keep their particular wheels turning.

The New Yorker

It is as ludicrous to tar all Americans with the same brush as it is any other group of people. And after all, the article is written by an American, published in America: there are plenty of Americans outraged by what’s going on.

That said though, from a ‘rest of the world’ point of view, America as a state, as an entity, is the biggest per capita contributor to climate change, but is doing little to change its ways. America is by no means alone in having home-grown, entrenched, powerful people orchestrating opposition to climate change, but as the world’s most powerful nation, if the world were a sensible place, it would be leading the way in reacting to the threats climate change poses.

Cycling today, taking in Goring, Wallingford, Swyncombe and thereabouts, in suddenly very hot weather that no-one was forecasting even just a few days ago, I found myself wondering about any number of different aspects to that Koch-created reality – about how they sleep at night; about how the people they’re buying-off live with themselves; about how to react to it; about how can ‘the nice guys’ fight ‘the nasty guys’ with as much aggression and force as the nasty guys will muster without themselves turning into nasty guys; and so on.

But the thought that stayed with me the longest today was how far America, in practice, has drifted away from any hopeful, noble founding ideals. Whatever many Americans may feel and wish for, the future legacy of America is very unlikely to be positive. And that’s assuming there are people still around to assess it.

Red poppies, a blue sky and white clouds

An English red, white and blue

In A Bad Mood

Lousy weather again – gales or very strong winds, a bit of rain, cold – and so the last few days have been short rides to just get out; rides in order to have ridden, to have done something physical, but nothing particularly pleasurable.

With that as the background to the last few days, I just found myself in a bad mood today:

The climate is wrong and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest it’s ever been, but there’s no real noise about it; there’s no decisive action, there’s no leadership. Today I found myself grimly hoping that the world’s leaders, the ones who could have taken action, along with all the nay-sayers, live long enough to see the world worsen significantly and their children inherit it – live long enough to have to look their children or grandchildren in the eye and say yes, I could have done something about all this but I didn’t.

And with climate change, of course, comes the roads. If the councils’ standard excuse for our rotting infrastructure is the exceptionally bad weather and climate change means more and more of the exceptional, then they need to adopt a higher standard of road repairs to cope with it. There’s no sign of that, not the faintest whiff. Let’s keep wasting the tax-payers’ pounds on ‘repairs’ that don’t last a year – we can always repair it again next year, it’s not our money.

Blackbird Egg - broken into by a magpie

Robbed

And that leads to money – the repetitive cries of ‘it’s all too expensive’ – to mend roads properly or to do anything about the climate. It’s even more expensive to do nothing. It was – and still is – possible to find the billions to rescue the politicians’ friends, the banking class. What it comes down to is that it’s not possible to find the money for the common good but it is to line the pockets of chums. Such is the quality of our politicians. Again, about all we can hope is that they live long enough to see their children despise them. The only mystery is why we don’t lynch them all.

And as you cycle around, doing your best to avoid the craters, all around you there are idiots – idiot drivers parking on blind bends; idiot cyclists riding on the paths; idiot pedestrians walking their dogs without leads and getting all surprised when little fido goes running off to bark at horses. I was attracting idiots this time two years ago – perhaps it’s the time of year.

And then you get home and find a pecked-open blackbird’s egg on the grass – robbed by a foul, thieving magpie from the nest under the kitchen window, and it looks like ants have scavenged whatever was left.

Invest? Pull The Other One

An artist’s impression of the future

An artist’s impression of the future

Another decent-length ride – 30+ miles largely in the territory between Henley and Windsor. It feels good to be riding properly again.

Nearer to Windsor, I ended up riding with a chap – as you do – who said he was out from west London. We chatted for a while – as you do; it turned out he was something I think quite senior in a commercial property company. He was on a very nice Pinarello, as in Campag Super Record equipped Pinarello. All sorts of people cycle.

Talk inevitably turned to pot-holes because there were so many we had to avoid, and that prompted my temporary companion to tell me that in the last few days he’d been ‘doing the whole buttering-up lark’ for some potential investors, what he called ‘high value low profile’ people, from India and China. I gathered that basically involved taking them on jollies and showing them the sights, Windsor, quaint old pubs and all that, as well as the more business-like stuff.

I’m not sure I’d be much good at that sort of work but it’s interesting to hear about it. What was particularly eye-opening, and depressing, and perhaps even chilling, was that he said –

  • after the touring around and what-have-you, the two people he’d been showing around from China had told him outright that they’d decided to not invest in Britain, not least because the infrastructure was so bad. In their view, so he said, if we cannot keep something as basic as our roads properly repaired, that says we are likely to be unable to do anything else well.
  • the person from India had said the same thing as the two from China about the roads, but had added to the equation that the amount of litter to be seen everywhere spoke volumes about how the British don’t even care for themselves and their own country; he thought with that attitude they were probably going to care even less about a foreign employer. And he said he was looking elsewhere instead too.

I said I can see their point of view and Mr Pinarello agreed. I said I didn’t know what anyone could do about it; he said in the Chinese view British politics was too corrupt and self-serving to be able to fix the problems, that he agreed with them and that he was planning to leave the country. He turned off and headed back towards London; I rode home, avoiding the pot-holes, passing fly-tipping and litter, wishing I knew where I could emigrate to.

Reclaim Yourself

It is, of course, absurd to be pleased to get home after a ride no more than five minutes before it starts raining heavily. It was a fluke. Be that as it may, it’s still rather smile-inducing. And, with one short ride tomorrow, I’ll have done 100 miles this week – the first time this year I’ve managed it. Hurrah!

Talking of absurdities, I read a summary of an essay that – in a nutshell – tells you to give up consuming ‘the news’ because by doing so you’ll be happier. (Read the summary) I think I’ll be reading the book shortly.

As someone who used to work ‘in news’ and who still consumes a lot of it, I can wholly see the point. Consuming news is all too absurd. Charli’s given up with all newspapers and no longer has a TV. I suspect that’s the way to go.

As soon as you start on that route, any number of other absurdities cross your mind. Celebrities. First-pass-the-post politics. Our politicians. The whole ‘you have to pay top money to get top people’ argument. House prices. Bankers. Population growth. Religions. Consumerism. It soon spirals … If rejecting all these absurdities comes with reclaiming yourself as an individual, it takes effort to be an individual, to work out your own views.

As far as I can see, the only danger with cutting yourself off from all news is that you’re then giving up monitoring – and acting against – the corrupt. There’s a big protest against expanding Heathrow airport being held today; without ‘the news’ we wouldn’t know what the few are planning to inflict on the many for the sake of lining their own pockets still further. There must be a sensible way of knowing enough, without consuming pointless ‘news’ for the sake of it.

A black sheep, thinking

Free yourself; be yourself; look away from all the rest, find your own direction.

Protect The Important

South of Reading, local councillors have decided too band to together to protect open spaces from being built on. They’re doing so because they’re being ignored by council officials at a borough level, and central government will do nothing to help.

I saw these snowdrops and aconites at Welford Park yesterday. I saw plenty of snowdrops while out riding today – a circuit taking in a pothole-strewn downhill from Checkendon and a sweat-inducing uphill slog to Woodcote.

If spring bulbs aren’t important to you then you’re possibly dead from the neck up. If open spaces aren’t important to you, then you’re possibly dead from the neck up. Even if these things aren’t important to you, if you can’t see that they’re important for lots of other people, then surely you’ve no right to be in a position to make decisions that will curtail the enjoyment of others.

We do not need more building. If we are to provide future populations with a decent quality of life then we need to protect open spaces. If you say that we need more building to house a growing population, then the only sensible response to that can be that we need to look at curbing the population. Low-quality life isn’t a worthy goal. We know that humans don’t respond well to over-crowding so why perpetuate it?

Welford Park snowdrops and aconites

“Let’s build on this too.”

Councillors south of Reading banding together.
Welford Park.
You could start here for over-crowding research.

Regurgitating Drain

Regurgitating Drain

Regurgitating Drain …

Reasonable weather for a welcome change, after too many days with the temperature too close to zero and stints on the turbo-trainer the only sensible option.

And it was good to be out – a loop south of Reading then back across to Henley and over the top to Caversham.

If nature was a sentient being, it could be tempting to thing that nature’s getting her own back at the moment. After all the floods of late, most road-side ditches are full to the brim or have been recently, meaning all the dumped rubbish and litter has come to the surface. Nature’s revenge – as all our filth is regurgitated back at us.

Today I was riding in the Royal County of Berkshire and South Oxon. This whole region is a visitor destination. It’s a litter-strewn, pothole-riddled mess.

Dear politicians – this is the impression visitors are getting of Britain. Invest here – in a country, in a society, that’s all too happy to foul its own nest? It’s not a good omen …

A flooded ditch and field near you

And nature said, ‘Look at your filth’. And the businessman said, ‘Invest here? Not on your life’.

Of course, nature isn’t a sentient being. If only. Perhaps I’ve just been listening to too many old Bowie records lately.