Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Great Storm and After

Mindful of the 20th anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987 (so named, for once, without exaggeration - well, not much), I took a walk yesterday in local woods that had been all but flattened on that memorable night. These woods had boasted large numbers of fine mature beeches and, surveying the post-storm devastation 20 years ago, it seemed that few of them - and very little else - had been left standing. You've probably guessed where this is going - 20 years on, you would hardly know the storm had happened. There are fewer really tall beeches, but, lower down, the regeneration has been awesomely impressive: sycamore, ash, hornbeam, elder, birch and lime have seized the chance to take over, and there are plenty of young beeches growing up too. The diversity of the wood's flora - and fauna, especially in terms of invertebrates - has been greatly enhanced (and many trunks of fallen trees have been left in situ, furthering the process). Those of the older trees that were shaken, but not felled, by the mighty wind have also benefited, the aeration of the roots having given them a new lease of life. None of this should surprise us - and yet it always does, as we cannot bring ourselves to believe that nature, unaided by man, has such astonishing powers of regeneration. It is all one with the anthropocentric arrogance that puts us centre stage in a drama where we were never more than bit part players (see my past posts on climate change, etc).
The great Richard Mabey has written what sounds like a brilliant book about all this - beech-centred, as it happens. There's an excellent review of it here.


  1. None of this should surprise us - and yet it always does, as we cannot bring ourselves to believe that nature, unaided by man, has such astonishing powers of regeneration.

    Visits to the Mt. St. Helens area many times over the years have provided impressive evidence of those powers and, our relative insignificance I might add.

  2. Why was it called the Great Storm?

  3. Good bit in Martin Cruz Smith's novel Wolves Eat Dogs set in Chernobyl's exclusion zone - very few human beings, so even though it's highly radioactive, it's full of wildlife, deer, moose, zebras, Appleyards, the lot.

    Indeed, life will continue the better once we're all gone, unless of course our nukes etc. go critical when there's no one around to keep an eye on them.

  4. Elberry, you really don't like humanity, do you?

    Chernobyl is interesting in lots of unexpected ways. Yes, the radiation released and still present is massively above the official safety levels but, according to a joint report of the WHO, IAEA and UNDP, the total death toll ascribed to the accident is below 50 people' not the thousands that were talked about and still figure in the public's imagination.

    In the same way in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, excluding those who were killed by the intial blast and fire storm, as well as those(few) with catastrophic levels of radiation, the average life expectancy of their citizenry is above those of the Japanese as a whole.

    In a nutshell, we don't really understand a whole lot about the pros and cons of radioactivity, but we do have a lot of myths.

  5. excluding those who were killed by the intial blast and fire storm, as well as those(few) with catastrophic levels of radiation

    Of course, those pesky few should be excluded from this otherwise wonderful moment in civilization; in a sense, the apotheosis of progress. The exception to the rule and all that.
    On the other hand, Wilfred Burchett was the first Western journalist who defying the wishes of the allied armises and at much personal risk, went to see for himself the immediate impact of the atomic bombs witnessed these kind of results:

    "In Hiroshima, thirty days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly – people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as an atomic plague.

    Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world."

    Contrasted to this and echoes by Recusant's notion was the official propaganda which, for example, in the New York Times said:

    "US Atom Bomb Site Belies Tokyo Tales: Tests on New Mexico Range Confirm that Blast and Not Radiation Took Toll." The story began by explicitly attacking "Japanese propaganda that radiations [sic] were responsible for deaths even after the day of the explosion."

    According to most estimates, the bombing of Hiroshima killed approximately 70,000 people due to immediate effects of the blast. Estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945 range from 90,000 to 140,000, due to burns, radiation and related disease, aggravated by lack of medical resources.[16] [1] Some estimates state up to 200,000 may have died by 1950, due to cancer and other long-term effects.

    Why these, lets say 100,000 should be dismissed as a few seems wilfully strange.

  6. Even if we accepted a far lower figure we are still left with one of many many thousands. Why the obvious vested interest in downplaying these many, and not few, people's horrible deaths, Recusant? Is it because you don't like humanity much?

  7. Puzzled


    If we are talking about death tolls, the fire storm that follwed the 'conventional' bombing of Tokyo earlier in '45 still managed to kill more than twice as many as the maximum ascribed to either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

    But my point was about the gap between what people believe about the effects of radiation and the empirical evidence; and Chernobyl is a prominent example of that.

    And I think humanity is the best thing on the planet.

  8. Let's face it, the human race is a colossal error, 'a virus with shoes' to quote Bill Hicks. Agent Smith from the Matrix is my hero, a man not afraid to take a stand and say of humanity "you are a virus", a man willing to dispatch said virus to the shades of Tartarus in the name of all that is good and decent in the world.

    If we had any sense we'd all commit suicide now, but instead we seem programmed to obliterate each other.

    In the past this murderousness - a kind of sophisticated suicide - was never terminal, but luckily technology now gives us a shot at wiping ourselves completely off the planet.

    My great hope, when i was a small child, was that the Americans would unleash their nukes and kill us all. It didn't happen, but we musn't lose hope, utter destruction is always possible, is indeed inevitable. The great war will soon be upon us, not a battle of good against evil but of approximately 6 billion evils against each other, and there will be no remnant, just a blissfully quiet planet, an Eden in which dobermanns and moose and kangeroos and Appleyards may flourish, no longer living in fear of the hunter, of the zoo, the bear trap or the Chinese restaurant, but free to romp at will through the ruined cities of the only evil beast - Man.

  9. Chin up Elberry old chap - at least death is the one sure thing, and every breath brings you nearer to it.

  10. Life has few pleasures, but the prospect of death is certainly pretty high on the list.

    i often arrange myself in my "Death Pose" at work, my limbs sprawled, my mouth open in a silent last scream, eyes glassy and lifeless. Sometimes i sprinkle a little blood about, as one of my many stage props.

    i can hold this position for quite a while, thinking, really deeply, about decomposition.

    Some people find it unnerving at first but in time they come to accept it as one of my little quirks, and indeed, when i'm fired they often say they'll miss stumbling into the office to find me collapsed over the desk, my hand clawing at the ceiling in a final spasm of agony.

    i like to think i bring a little joy into their otherwise futile and absurd lives.

  11. That's what I call team building...

  12. Whatever about nuclear fallout, you were probably right about Elberry, Recusant.

  13. Humanity is under the impression that wiping out every other life form (including each other) somehow makes us smart.

    I agree with Elberry. We need to get on with the apocalypse. Start over.

  14. How can humanity be the "best thing on the planet" when we're the most destructive species ever?

    Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but humans do not. They move to an area, and they multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way they can survive is to spread to another area. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.

  15. Good to see how popular the views of the life-hating Hitlers of this world are as opposed to the Buddhas and Mozarts. Look at a child sleeping and tell yourself this innocent is a virus that should commit suicide or be murdered for the good of the planet. So the feeling is, the all humanity is to be lumped together as one undifferentiated mass, and because those who, to simplify a little, are rapacious ego driven people who push life in certain directions, then everyone else is to be seen in the identical light.

  16. Glad you're with us, Puzzled, our movement needs men like you, humanists disgusted with humanity, men of morality who - in the name of morality - are willing to commit what the many-headed call 'crimes' but which we call simply 'answers'.

    It is time to terminate humanity.