30 June 2023

Overconsumption, not overpopulation, drives climate change.

 Last night it rained. Such a lovely sound. As a result, today has been somewhat cooler. 

The garden is hard work at this time of the year, at least for the gardener who picks berries and harvests assorted vegetables and has to weigh the produce and record the yields on his excel sheets and stuff the freezer and make jam and salads and dinners. I join him in the evening picking raspberries and obviously, I am full of praise for all the work he does.

this year the melons look good

spot the one miserly apricot

onions and parsnips

the raspberries

a wild mallow that grew out of nowhere

invasive R calls it, taking over

abundant feijoa from NZ


we call this one dyer's chamomile

the yellow day lilies look a bit messy

finally the plumeria

Because I've read it again as an argument why nothing can be done about climate change and also because some of you have mentioned a couple of times in your comments, here my attempt to explain why I think it's a straw argument.

Yes, overpopulation is often used as an explanation for the climate crisis. Almost 8 billion people currently populate the earth so of course, population growth has and will increase global emissions of CO2. But here's the thing, rising incomes have a much greater impact. Because people do not all produce the same amount of emissions. In the richest countries, emissions are 50 times higher than in the poorest countries. And while in the low-income, low-emission countries the population is growing fastest, industrialised countries (20% of the world's population) are responsible for 80% of CO2 emissions through excessive consumption. Also, in the rich nations, emission levels are linked to income and age of consumers, with older people emitting more, as they often live in smaller households and have carbon-intensive lifestyles.

Overpopulation is a convenient idea. To some, it means their life style isn't what's damaging the planet, but rather the sheer mass of people — so there's little point in changing their behavior.

Anyway, while population growth has increased greenhouse gas emissions, it is dwarfed by the rise in emissions per person. A densely populated world running on clean energy could have lower emissions than one with few people powered by fossil fuels. If anything, population growth should move us even more to work on climate change mitigation

Sometimes people try to use population as a way to let rich countries off the hook, whereas in reality, it's our consumption and our level of economic activity that drives emissions more than the number of people we have.

Zeke Hausfather (more here)

There are vast differences between particular communities and societies in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for producing and therefore their contribution to climate change. Those communities which have high fertility rates have a negligible impact on climate change.

Lisa Tilley (more here)

You can read current scientific articles on population growth research here and here and here.




23 June 2023

hope is a duty


I think I lost the temperament for summer. It's become an almost fearful time with storm warnings, heat warnings, brown lawns, trees dropping leaves in June, rubbish building up outside gullies after too much sudden rain the dry soil could not accommodate. There is a brief beauty in the early mornings with birds and dew in the garden. We pick the berries and the peas and reset the drip irrigation timer, a hasty cup of tea on the patio before it's already too hot, time to go indoors, close the shutters and wait for a bit of a breeze sometime after dinner. Our plan was to walk up to the top of the hill across the river for sunset on midsummer but the air was hazy, cloudy, thick with moisture, not a chance to actually see the sun. We slunk back inside and searched for distraction. Summer has become a time of unease, the signs of climate change are unmistakably there. I compare notes with birders and insect watchers and butterfly counters and wish for a magic wand. 

I require myself to be hopeful. Optimism and pessimism are predictive inclinations. My predictive inclinations are rather dark. Hope is a duty. I embrace that duty.

David Quammen 

I am still dragging a limp arm and shoulder around with me. At least I now know it's all due to hard neck muscle and I mean hard as stone. I had my first painful but effective trigger point treatment with a wonderful pep talk assuring me that I will get back to cycling and lifting and all the stuff you want to do with a proper left arm. And of course, movement and warmth. I am probably the only woman currently wearing a thick woolen scarf wrapped around neck and shoulders In.This.Heat.

The weight loss continues but my blood works are wonderfully normal. The term elongated or redundant or even tortuous colon has been mentioned. I just eat when I am hungry while R feeds me with various  vitamin supplements and feeds my lab data in an Excel table. I am his current science project.

A bit of music to brighten the day.


 And a few thoughts.




14 June 2023

Our ongoing efforts of clearing and discarding has brought a box of soft toys to the surface we had forgotten about. Some of them are downright ugly, collected, no doubt, as gifts. Others have a place in memory, the lamb, the mohair teddy, the little hedgehog and so on. All played a role in my daughter's life. Not a dramatic one, they were somewhat down the line in the hierarchy of important soft toys.

After 25 or so years in a tea chest in the attic, they have this dank smell of neglect. Not mold, but that old unwashed smell. I have put them through the washing machine twice, with added vinegar and disinfectant, left them in the hot blazing sun for three days in a row. I can still detect some smell. Maybe others would not. I have asked friends and the internet and in a next step, will place each toy sprinkled with baking soda in a plastic bag overnight. Next on my list of helpful suggestions is the plastic bag treatment using coffee grinds. A neighbour recommends soaking them all in the bathtub filled with a bleach dilution for a couple of days. I find that harsh, I woke up last night thinking that this must be the very last resort. I don't understand why I am so obsessed in getting them clean and, well, actually, good as new.

Yesterday at work, one of my longtime bosses (a professor of medicine) asked me into her office and in a quiet voice wanted to know if I was alright. The thing is that I have lost a noticeable amount of weight in recent months and at a meeting earlier that day, she watched me pick up my watch which had slipped down my wrist and hand. I have stopped wearing rings because they just fall off. The weight loss is unexplained, I am not (and never would go) on a diet. It has been noted by the doctors that I need to see regularly, a couple of diagnostic steps so far have yielded no cause, some more are due. I tell her all that and she is reassured that I am paying attention.

Last night, in my dream I was trying to walk and could not and when I looked down where my legs should be, they weren't there anymore. I sat up and calculated that if this goes on, I will be dramatically underweight by Xmas. 

Meanwhile, it has become hot and dry. The potatoes are harvested, masses of blackcurrants are almost ready, strawberries are picked every morning, we are giving away fat heads of gorgeous iceberg lettuce. The lack of rain is obvious already, the raspberries are small, there are new brown patches on the lawn every day. 

And lastly, this! Watch this!

08 June 2023

There was a time when we asked my mother how she fell in love and how she knew that my father was the one she wanted to marry. We were young then, her three blond kids. When my father was late coming home, when he was still out there in the dark night, driving home alone in his car through the forest, we sat in our matching pajamas in the kitchen eating oatmeal or semolina pudding while she read fairy tales, the gruesome kind with wicked stepmothers and gnomes scheming for blood and gold. And my mother was the queen, we were her princesses and her prince, waiting for the king come home.

He was the only one who treated me with decency, she always replied.  I remember my confusion and my disappointment. I wanted to hear her fairy tale. After all, we often watched them embrace and kiss, watched the way he brushed the hair from her forehead, noticed their secret smiles of amusement when one of us did something silly or remarkable. 

Decency. She used the old fashioned word Anstand. Decorum. Chivalry. And so I imagined my father as a dashing and well behaved man who bowed and offered his arm, who opened doors for her to walk through. Maybe wearing a prince's uniform, like the one I had seen the nutcracker wear at the ballet (where I had fallen asleep to my parent's bemused smiles). 

It wasn't until much  later that I understood. Only a couple of years ago in fact. And not because I was ignorant but because I didn't really want to spend time thinking about her and my parents and the way he just walked out on her and how she finally fell apart, something that was a long time coming. 



They were students. There was a chess club, of course there was a chess club. Also, a hill walking club. My mother disliked hill walking for as long as I can remember and I have never seen her play chess but that's the story, that's where they met. At the time and at that university, my mother was the only female student of agricultural science, the only woman not a lab assistant or a secretary or a cleaner. Most if not all of her fellow male students were members of an all male fraternity, who would invite 'girls' to their parties, or some other male network of handshakes and offers of positions and career moves. I still try not to think of what she had to cope, to compete with.


He adored her, I have been told over and over again. By relatives, friends of my parents, acquaintances and so on. He was totally smitten with her. 

I did everything for him, she later told me, full of bitter anger. She trapped me, he would say. I gave up my career for him, she complained all the time. She was the worst mistake of my life, he exclaimed once and only once because I told him that I would not tolerate this talk in my house. I thought he was decent, I thought he was better than all these men, she wailed and I told her to shut up and get on with life.

06 June 2023

exert yourself

Young person worry: What if nothing I do matters?
Old person worry: What if everything I do does?

Buddhist practice includes the notion that we have all been born many times before and that we have all been each other's mothers and fathers and children and siblings. Therefore, we should treat each person we encounter as if they are our beloved.

Survival instructors have a saying: get organized or die.

. . .  at the wilderness camp they teach the kids something called "loss-proofing." In order to survive, you have to think first of the group. If you look after the needs of others, it will give you purpose and purpose gives you the burst of strength you need in an emergency.  . . . you never know which kids will do well. But in general the suburban kids do the worst. They have no predators . . .

Jenny Offill (all quotes from her novel Weather) 

The osteopath said, it's probably a nerve or maybe a disc in your neck. Can I say this, she asked, you are not going to freak out?, you don't seem the type. No, I replied, I am not the type. Freaking out was years ago. Also, she said, this is acute and after acute always comes subacute, so something to look forward to. Ok thanks, I replied. But you need to see an orthopedic surgeon, sooner better than later, she said as I got dressed. I'll do that next week, I reassured her. I'll let you know. 

Look at it from a mechanical view point, R tells me. It's bones and tendons, not the end of the world.

Summer is pleasant so far. No sticky heat yet. No drought yet. Fat dragonflies sit on the vegetable beds.


All of the apricots have disappeared from the tree. I suspect squirrels but R claims the parakeets did it. We've never been lucky with stone fruit in this garden.

These days, we walk through the garden looking for signs of damage, climate damage. And changes are visible. We have lived on this piece of land, this suburbia garden for 25 years now. 25 years is not a long time - but it is enough to understand when something is no longer right with the nature in which you live. In the beginning, it was just a hunch, but now it can no longer be overlooked or explained away.

We think we let the roses, all of them, just die off, same with the peonies and the other flowering shrubs that are beautiful to our eyes, these wonders of horticultural breeding, but of no interest to insects. Also, so far, not a single butterfly.  In this part of the world, a healthy insect world needs a wide range of sturdy, sustainable flowers, preferably from February to November. We have work to do.

For a short while, I sit down via zoom with a group of young climate activists to help with translations. The age gap is massive, my advice to beware of AI translation apps is politely waved off. We have nothing to hide, they laugh when I mention that what you put online is there to stay. Intellectual property, what's that when the planet burns.

I wake very early with the dawn chorus and lie there, breathing and thinking that like so many others, I love someone who will still be alive in 2100 and that this loved one will either face a world in climate chaos or a clean, green utopia, depending on what I do today. I text this to a friend after breakfast and she writes to me, no, don't get confused, climate action isn’t about individual sacrifice. That’s a lie you’ve been told. It’s the job of governments to make climate-safe choices. It's about changing the world together, not changing our lifestyles alone. Understand that we can accept that there is unimaginable, unbearable suffering in the world while simultaneously there is a heartbreaking amount of mercy, kindness and beauty. Love and righteous anger is our fuel rather than grievance and discontent.

You are not some disinterested bystander / Exert yourself.