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The long tales

The University of East Anglia is having a conference on writing and climate change. It features well known climate writers Giles Foden, Mike Hulme and, erm, Phil Jones (click for full size)

This comes to me via Richard Bean, who was invited but can't make it. My own invitation appears to have been lost in the post.

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Reader Comments (64)

Bish - you have to convert this image from CMYK to RBG. It's coming out in negative on my PC.

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

Unbelievable! You would fit right in with the fiction section.

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom

Ain't it funny how increasingly the noise from the climate collaborators has stopped being about science, and has become all about how to best "communicate" the agit-prop?

They are still arrogant enough to believe that their only failing has been to misread the way that Joe Public is fed his information.

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Reminds me of a slide deck I was once sent when I worked at Arthur Andersen.

It was called "Cornerstone Partner Skills: Effective Lying"

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Will Phil explain to communicate the use of Excel?

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:25 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

And a snip at 40 quid. How could one resist?

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

but would you go your grace ?

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

UEA restarting Jackanory?

Once upon a time in rural-shire was a big bunch of goblins who told that man was poisoning the atmosphere but the good Elves had other ideas and showed that the evil gas was nothing of the sort - it gave life to trees and and all the flora and fauna on middle earth.

Alack, before the Elves could convince the council of middle earth all the nasty goblins had covered the countryside with their 'orrible infernal machines and sun blinding idiocies known as sunray catchers..
So, there is no happy ending children, those nasty goblins still live in their castles in UEA and Exeter and in the DECC and yet pour forth their poisons.

Feb 8, 2013 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Thomas Paine and "The Age of Reason" and UEA do not seem to go together. More like the Goreballs study room.

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

2005: Weepy Bill gets upset about his planet and the lack of drama about it in the arts world:

Here’s the paradox: if the scientists are right, we’re living through the biggest thing that’s happened since human civilization emerged. One species, ours, has by itself in the course of a couple of generations managed to powerfully raise the temperature of an entire planet, to knock its most basic systems out of kilter. But oddly, though we know about it, we don’t know about it. It hasn’t registered in our gut; it isn’t part of our culture. Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?

2010: A psychiatrists get on board with some literary allusions:
One video clip from a conference:
In this one, Ro Randall uses extracts from Dickens to convey the notion of ‘ecological debt’. (Although I think ‘ecological guilt’ would be more descriptive of what they seem to mean, or at least ‘feel’, by this).
[those of a sensitive disposition be warned that a bombastic chap called Bob Ward turns up at about minute 24 to respond to Ro's paper, a task which he almost completely ignores in favour of talkng about himself and sharing his suite of soundbites]

This is a world in which a little superficial but melodramatic science referring to greenhouses is treated as gospel, in which ‘climate scientists’ imbued with alarm are not to be challenged, and where the word ‘sustainable’ can be bandied about with a straight face at all times. Combine this with loquacity and an earnest desire to do good for others whether they want or welcome it or not, and you have a partial explanation for the success of the climate alarm cause in a variety of fields which provide platforms for grandiloquence. The arts world can surely do that.

2013: some recent events in New Yorl

So, yes there are the makings of an entire subculture of arts' support for the climate alarmists. . Maybe Weepy Bill helped identify a vulnerable group that could be exploited for the climate cause.

Children are another such group that has been identified and targeted by many for ‘the cause’. It is to Ro Randall’s credit that she has come out to question the decency of that:

But who will find the compassion to speak out on behalf of the writers and artists such as those who will participate in the UEA event?

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Is the Thomas Paine Study Centre part of the Creative Writing Department?

Can't wait to find out what the 'performances and readings' (bottom of poster) are ... upward revisions to the data expressed through the medium of dance, perhaps?

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Phil Jones does stand-up?

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterN.Tropywins

He's Excel-lent

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Thanks John Shade for Bill Mckibben’s moving cri de coeur

if the scientists are right, we’re living through the biggest thing that’s happened since human civilization emerged. ... But oddly, ... it isn’t part of our culture. Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?
Giorgio Battistelli’s opera “Una Scomoda Verità” based on Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” “ was originally commissioned for 2011, then delayed till 2013, and is now due to play at la Scala Milan in 2015. Like the rising temperatures which are going to kill us all, it keeps getting put off. See:

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:29 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

And for fiction, who could forget Jeanette Winterson’s “I am your Inner Polar Bear”?

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:33 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I read a bit of Mike Hulme's book. He could successfully plead academic insanity in my court any time.

"The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us."

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

They are still arrogant enough to believe that their only failing has been to misread the way that Joe Public is fed his information.
Feb 8, 2013 at 2:24 PM Rick Bradford

Echoes of the US auto industry. In 1982, I rented a big Ford (3200 miles on the clock) for a couple of weeks in New Jersey. It was one of the worst cars I have ever driven.

I've just read "A Savage Factory: An Eyewitness Account of the Auto Industry's Self-Destruction" by Robert J. Dewar. Hell on Earth. It describes how components failing quality control were put in a store. When components did not arrive on time - the failed QC store was used to supply the production line.

That year, I remember Ford TV adverts in the USA: "Have you driven a Ford lately?"; "We sweat the quality", etc.

The "Savage Factory" makes it clear that Ford's management thought that the only problem was with the car-buying public's perception of Ford quality. The idea that their cars did not meet customer expectations was not on their radar screen.

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

or the polar bear story "I am your inner human"

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterhubert hones

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:35 PM | esmiff

I really hope you made that quote up?.. Please?

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Here you can see Nick Drake reading his ode to a melting glacier
The whole site consists of New York artists expressing their creativity on subjects of topical concern. Despite backing from Ford, Rockefeller and Bloomberg, no-one seems to visit them, except me and someone who wrote in to complain that an article entitled “War and Peace: Between Bombs and Potatoes in Colombia” had nothing in it about potatoes.

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:42 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

well they are very well know for there fiction writing , by for the courses on the subject and the 'work' of CRU

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

How to communicate the story? A good start would be to tell the truth don't you think?



Feb 8, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

"We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us."
Feb 8, 2013 at 3:35 PM esmiff

Just about says it all. The Team's philosophy of life.

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

As this is a public meeting, and is taxpayer subsidized, an attendee and affiliation list will be circulated...right?

Will the BBC (ho ho) be represented?

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Jimmy Haigh

It's from an Amazon review. It's the classic deep ecology (extreme right) agenda.

Hulme then goes on to suggest that all climate change arguments should include at least one of the following four "myths" (being a motivational story).

1. Lamenting Eden - To give the idea that the world was stable until man turned up. And we broke it.
2. Presaging apocalypses - Where you should use phrases like "impending disaster" and "tipping point". This is despite having the knowledge of such predictions (as Hulme states) but should because it "capitalizes on the human inbuilt fear of the future."
3. Reconstructing babel - Appealing to our fear of advancement and technology. As though anything modern is inherently bad.
4. Celebrating Jubilee - Balancing the cosmic unfairness of the world where well off inherently make this worse for the poor and the balance should be readdressed every 25 years.

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Re: Tom

> You would fit right in with the fiction section.

You fail to understand. A critique of a work of fiction isn't a work of fiction.

Feb 8, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

It’s a pity Richard Bean can’t go, because his play “the Heretic” was rather good, a sort of “State of Fear” played for laughs.
10:10 (remember them?) in the run up to Copenhagen asked ten of our greatest writers to come up with something “to support the launch of the 10:10 campaign to reduce carbon emissions”. Margaret Attwood came up with “Time capsule found on the dead planet” which contained this warning against putting your faith in experts:

“Our gods had horns on their heads, or moons, or sealy fins, or the beaks of eagles. We called them All-Knowing, we called them Shining One. We knew we were not orphans. We smelled the earth and rolled in it; its juices ran down our chins.”

Feb 8, 2013 at 4:07 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The UEA meeting will be as nothing if it fails to include readings by the author from 'Apocalypse Close' - surely the greatest piece of Climate Change Writing to come out of England in the past decade.

I resist the temptation of quoting from later chapters. Here is an extract from the first:

George shuddered as a bronzed couple installed themselves on the other side of the aisle and started browsing through their honeymoon photos on their iphone. Their harsh estuary vowels jangled in his ears. His fingers fell limp over the touch screen keyboard of his ipad. No question now of finishing the chapter of his new book. “Fear and Warming” was due at the publishers next month. Delay was unthinkable; the world could not wait.

He glanced over at the couple giggling at the photos flitting over the little screen. Essex Adam and Eve – sipping cocktails from coconut shells beside the pool; jet-skiing in a tropical lagoon; careering over the desert in a 4X4; paintballing in the nude on a coral reef…

George could stand it no longer. He rose and stood in the aisle looming over them, jabbing at the phone screen. “Don’t you realise” he barked “For every litre of kerosene burnt on your futile pleasure jaunts, a baby drowns in Bangladesh?”

The man rose slowly in his seat, stared impassively at George for a second, then expertly head-butted him, knocking his wireframed spectacles askew into a mangled hockeystick shape.

George groaned and slumped into the aisle, as the driver braked and swerved into the motorway service station. “Five minutes ladies and gentlemen” he announced. He rose and ambled down the aisle towards George, who was wiping the drops of blood from his ipad “And you foureyes, hop it. I’m not having troublemakers on this bus”.

Five minutes later, the driver completed his headcount and turned to the honeymoon couple. “I recognised him soon as he got on. Couldn’t think where from. He was on telly last week, dishing out orders, telling everyone what they could do and couldn’t do”.

“Tory minister, is ‘e?” said the honeymooner.

“Somefing like that”.

Feb 8, 2013 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

@ TerryS Feb 8, 2013 at 4:01 PM

"You fail to understand. A critique of a work of fiction isn't a work of fiction."

Sometimes, it's called a "Peer Review".

Feb 8, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Feb 8, 2013 at 3:00 PM | Peter Whale

Thomas Paine and "The Age of Reason" and UEA do not seem to go together.

I think UEA and 'The Age of Incompetence' go much better together.

Feb 8, 2013 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Here again is the UEA at its very best.


A university academic has criticised David Attenborough's wildlife shows for not featuring enough gay animals.

Three of the veteran broadcaster's shows are identified in a new study as perpetuating the notion that animal relationships are predominantly heterosexual. Dr Brett Mills of the University of East Anglia says wildlife documentaries should be offering viewers a wider perspective on animal behaviour.

Maybe we should be thinking ahead to gay animal marriage. LOL !

Feb 8, 2013 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

It strikes me on reflection that my extract from Geoff Chambers' mini-masterpiece, Apocalypse Close, was a little violent. Later episodes are far more gentle, and the humour just gets better and better. I'm sure I'm missing the half of it, but most reader here I think will enjoy passages such as this one from Chapter 4:

Verbena, being now in her gap year, and having nothing better to do, had naturally accepted.

Her utility in the House of Lords was somewhat limited by her parents’ insistence that she should be home every evening by 10.30pm sharp, but she nonetheless managed to make herself useful to government and opposition alike by writing the Climate Change Bill, which law commits the government of the day to spending trillions of pounds on whatever project the Climate Change Committee sees fit to propose.

(Verbena, of course, knew no more about climate change than my Aunt Fanny, but, unlike my Aunt Fanny, she no longer has to worry about her fuel bills.)

“Hello Verbena,” said George, affecting the fake insouciance which comes naturally to a radical journalist when meeting someone whose non-elected authority dates back to before the Norman Conquest.

“Hi George,” said Verbena, blushing like a sixthformer being addressed by her first name by a favourite teacher.

“What’s the programme for this morning then?” asked George, as casually as possible. (Was his intimate tone meant to intimate that he regarded the young Verbena as his equal? Or was he subtly suggesting that his own status was equal to that of a legislator in the Mother of Parliaments?)

“There’s a series of debates on the psychology of climate change,” said Verbena, whose natural mode of discourse was the executive summary. “It’s called ‘The Manufacture of Public Opinion: People’s Minds and How to Make Them Up”. There’s Professor Lobachevsky from the University of West Kookaborough, and Little Jack Horner from Cardiff…”. She was running through the list of speakers, which she clearly knew by heart, when she caught sight of a newcomer:

“Oh look, there’s Franny Strongarm. Fran, do you know George?”

Fran did. They’d both been regular writers on the Guardian’s environment pages (who hasn’t?). There were hugs all round, and George, his wounded buttock and Miranda’s “Watermelons” forgotten, basked in the admiration of these two charming schoolgirls.

I do think there is a great contribution that creative writers can make to our awareness of climate change issues.

Feb 8, 2013 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Here's my contribution (accusations of plagiarism will result in immediate legal action in the best climatological tradition) :-

"Climate change - a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing"

Feb 8, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I agree with John - this event will be a travesty if it ignores Geoff's magnum opus.

"Apocalypse Close" will survive long after the whole climate change farrago has crumbled to dust - in much the same way that Orwell's "Animal Farm" lived on after the demise of soviet communism.

With Geoff's permission, I think we should have a mass BH email petition to the organisers - with selected attached extracts from the work itself.

I'm sure once the old hands at UEA realise they've been immortalised in literature, natural pride will make them see reason and invite Geoff to be guest of honour - if not permanent "climate change writer in residence".

Feb 8, 2013 at 6:55 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

The fact that Phil Jones was invited and Andrew was not tells us all we need to know about this little confab.

Lukewarmers need not apply.

Feb 8, 2013 at 6:55 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

For goodness sake can't the UEA even bother to proof read their own document?
"UEA Centre for Writing" of course should read UEA Centre for Writing Science Fiction.

As the conference is being held in the Thomas Paine centre they should be mindful of the following quote:
"Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Here you can see Nick Drake reading his ode to a melting glacier (...)


Not the late lamented singer/songwriter Nick Drake by the way.

According to the blurb on the linked page their expedition encountered supposedly rare-as-unicorns polar bears - I don't suppose this gave them a second's pause for thought.

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

BBC exaggerated climate change in David Attenborough's Africa.

David Attenborough claims in BBC One's Africa series that part of the continent has warmed by 3.5C over the past 20 years, seems the 3.5C claim was taken from a Christian Aid report.

They are at it again,

Leo Hickman
Friday 8 February 2013

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Thomas Paine is a famous 'son' of Norfolk hailing from the town of Thetford about 20 miles from Norwich home of the UEA. Thetford in the native dialect is pronounced with 3 F's as a friend of mine who lived there for some years explained; FFet-Fud. Not sure what TP would have made of AGW.

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJesus Green

This guy has ended his career surely.

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered Commentercmdocker

Interesting to note that Mike "Honey, I shrunk the consensus" Hulme has gone back to calling himself a "geographer".

A year ago, when he was busy re-inventing (and/or revisionizing) his history, Hulme wrote:

During these 12 years in the Climatic Research Unit I came to see myself no longer as a geographer, but as a climate scientist. (For example, on my passport I now stated my occupation as ‘climate scientist and I cancelled my membership of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers in 1992, only to join again in 2008).

Then again, perhaps the "plasticity" he attributes* to "climate change" ...

“the idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource … [that is] so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical and spiritual needs”.

... can be extended to stretch to one's self-descriptions.

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:57 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Alternative title: Whatever Sells, your guide to a career in burgeoning field of pseudoscience.

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterchippy

Jesus Green
I believe there’s a statue of Tom Paine in Thetford, largely paid for by subscriptions from occupants of the nearby American air base. Tom Paine is little known in England. Making a lot of fuss about something as abstract as the Rights of Man is so unBritish.

Thanks for the kind words. I’m not sure I’d be too welcome at UEA, given my treatment of Old Briffa and Jones the Graph.

Feb 8, 2013 at 7:59 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Somehow I don't think my Cli-Fi / Sci-Fi novelette would go down at all well at that particular writing conference:

It's free to read and freely distributable by the way. Here's a little piece:

  Though I could smell the threat of another soaking, for once rain held off as Joanne and I walked under leaden skies from the Tube station to the big gathering of Evelyn’s organisation in London. We had a little time to spare and Joanne led us on a slight detour. Just past the Duke of York Memorial people were spilling out of a white Georgian portico. Some clutched booklets labelled ‘Climate Conference’.
  Though I tried desperately to suppress it, the sudden fever of my perception flared.
  On many of the conference attendees, a ghostly extra arm was revealed. Some held their third hand over their mouth; for others it was over the eyes instead. Ribbons streamed into the sky from each of these limbs, holding them in place. Blue for a boy and pink for a girl; mint for money and blush for peers, silver for a spouse and salmon for fat-cats; gold for grants and green for the cause; blood for bureaucracy and fawny for the high moral ground. No doubt above obscuring clouds to end tangled in the claws of the big social beasts. A small minority were without an anomalous limb; light streamed from these individuals, though personal columns of grey spirit-rain falling from on high made them appear soggy and unkempt.
  To try to shake this weird image I turned my gaze onto the building. Its roof was straddled by the huge figure of Punch, who was threatening all and sundry with an outsized hockey-stick and yelling that’s the way to do it! Tangled around his boot was a dirty banner, on which I could just about discern some words, perhaps: take no-one’s word for it. Rather than the traditional hat, Punch wore an American baseball cap upon which different acronyms appeared in turn: AMS, APS, GSA, AGU…
  “Our guest speaker is from the conference. Proper scientist.”
  “Oh, right. Which kind? Blind or mute or bright but dank?”
  “Are you feeling okay? Please, please… pull yourself together.”

Andy West

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

In the end, I suppose "Normal for Norfolk" will be a reasonable summary of the outcome of this gab-fest.

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

Rob (7:42 PM) -
Well done to Leo Hickman for chasing down that spurious factoid.
But full marks go to a commenter KnockJohn who apparently effortlessly obtained this article via Google. The article shows the temperature history in its figure 2, where it is obvious that the majority of the temperature "gain" is from discontinuities -- one from a documented station move (200m lower). After removing the discontinuities, the temperature gain is around 0.2 K/decade, or about 0.4 K over twenty years. [As compared to the grey literature, which claimed 3.5K over twenty years, and which BBC thoughtlessly repeated.]

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Thanks for the kind words. I’m not sure I’d be too welcome at UEA, given my treatment of Old Briffa and Jones the Graph.
Feb 8, 2013 at 7:59 PM geoffchambers

Come on - Geoff!

Sometimes one has to suffer for art's sake.

Anyway, climatologists are renowned worldwide for their broad, tolerant & quirky sense of humour - think of Mikey Mann & Prof Lew.

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:33 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Hilary Ostrov quoting Hulme:

“the idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource … [that is] so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical and spiritual needs”.

add "financial" to 'psychological, ethical, and spiritual ... "

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:36 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

@ HaroldW 8:27 pm

It is curious that the Tea Estate paper was partly financed by a grant from

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

... the grey literature, which claimed 3.5K over twenty years, and which BBC thoughtlessly repeated
I challenge your use of the word "thoughtlessly".

Feb 8, 2013 at 8:42 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

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