Earth Day

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So it’s Earth Day today – one day to remind people about the planet we share.

Living where I do, it is hard to forget the climate change debate. There are reminders everywhere – wind turbines punctuate the horizon and colonise the sea. The local economy is driven by a nuclear power station some miles down the coast, while inland the fells and lakes show us a romantic image of a wilder, less peopled world, though they too wear a skin created by centuries and millennia of human action. Their bones read like a geology textbook of glaciation and its slow aftermath – U-shaped valleys, erratic boulders, benign flood plains awaiting the next deluge.

All this reminds us that on the almost inconceivably grand scale of geology, climate always changes, mountains rise and fall, ice advances and retreats, species evolve and are eclipsed.

But we cannot help but be attached to our little fraction of the great sweep of time, our infinitesimal point of differentiation on the curve, to worry about its gradient here and now. Can we affect it? Tweak the coefficients to slow things down and give ourselves and our earth-bound companions the time to adapt? Or are we like Canute, faced with an overwhelming tide? Have we already passed the tipping point?

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