Until twelve thousand years ago, mammoths roamed the northern hemisphere on the ‘mammoth steppe’, a huge expanse of tundra which stretched across Eurasia from Britain to Alaska. Deep excavations in London often uncover mammoth remains: in 2016, a jawbone fragment was found under Canary Wharf during work on Crossrail. What little we know about individual mammoths is often constrained to their last moments, based on where their skeletons were found – a struggle in the sticky tar – or the record of violent trauma inflicted by human weapons. But recent developments in isotope dating allow for longer narratives.
When I was seven or so, my aunt Fifi would take my cousins, siblings and me to demonstrations outside the Immigration and Naturalisation Services building on 79th Street in Miami. We were protesting against the policy – introduced by his Republican predecessors but continued under Bill Clinton – of intercepting Haitian refugees at sea and imprisoning them in Guantánamo Bay. We stood with the other Haitians, clutching aunt Fifi with one hand and waving our other fists in the air, shouting and chanting in a mixture of English and Kreyòl: ‘Let the Haitians in!’
The death of the actor Michael K. Williams, at the age of 54, was reported on 6 September. He had been found unresponsive in his Brooklyn penthouse. Williams was a major player in The Wire, one of American culture’s sharpest analyses of what happened to the country in the wake of 9/11.
‘It’s really a good idea to live in houses and with furniture that are at least a hundred and twenty years old,’ Bertolt Brecht wrote to his publisher in 1953, after he and Helene Weigel had moved into their apartment on Chausseestraße, in the north-west corner of central East Berlin. ‘Let’s say, in early capitalist surroundings until later socialist surroundings are available.’
The first thing you notice is the smell. After a controlled fire – hearth, camp, pyre – the air smells dry, because firewood is dry. But wildfires burn living flora. Walking over land razed by wildfires you breathe resinous air, the fumes of combusted sap. During this summer’s record-breaking heatwave around the Mediterranean, wildfires broke out in Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Kabylia, Provence, Turkey, Sicily and across southern Italy. In August I went to Sardinia, where the fires had burned thousands of hectares of land and displaced hundreds of people. According to Sardinian apiculturists, millions of bees were killed.
The streets of Hanoi would have been empty when Kamala Harris was there last week. The city’s five million people are under lockdown as Vietnam, which has the lowest vaccination rate in Southeast Asia, grapples with the spread of the Delta variant. Events in Afghanistan increased the scrutiny on Harris, a potential future president with relatively little foreign policy experience. The tour of Singapore and Vietnam was her second foray abroad as VP. When she went to Guatemala and Mexico in June, she was criticised for telling would-be migrants not to attempt the journey to the US, and for deflecting questions about why she hadn’t visited the US-Mexico border by saying she’d ‘never been to Europe’ either.
Under Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn was a tolerated and ignored backbencher. Today, he is denied even that freedom. And yet his followers have behind them the force of a simple argument. The Labour Party’s last year and a half is a familiar episode in the long decline of social democracy, in which leaders demobilise their supporters and see their vote shrink. But as recently as four years ago Labour was able to increase its support faster than at any time since 1945. Many of Corbyn’s supporters are young, black or Muslim, and these are social constituencies in which the Labour Party is now losing support sharply. If Labour wants to appeal again to those voters, it will need to make some sort of compromise with Corbyn.