26 Pieces for COP26: Water

For the next fortnight, in place of our Paper Cuts newsletter (though just as timely), we’ll be sharing writing about air, fire, earth and water from the LRB archive. Iain Sinclair’s piece here will be kept in front of the paywall for the duration of the conference, as will a piece from each of the other collections.

Bad News

Iain Sinclair, 6 December 1990

Weather has become irreversibly damaged, infected with rust. It suffers from our plagues. It is out there, restless, migratory, evolving towards some dim conclusion we do not want to predict. We are barely capable of noticing its shifts, its pressure on our nerves – but our destiny is woven from this ungraspable, amorphous otherness. We are the weather. 

Eighty-six nations signed the protocol at the UN in New York; Clinton signed for the US at a subsequent, ineffectual meeting in Buenos Aires. Together, the signatories emit 88 per cent of excess global co2. After Kyoto, nothing much happened; the Earth got three years warmer, while everyone waited for the US to ratify. Then Bush spoke.

Diary: After the Oil Spill

Rebecca Solnit, 5 August 2010

The blowout was not only the biggest oil spill in American history by far: it’s a story that touches on everything else – taints everything, like the black glop on sandy beaches, on pelicans, terns, boats, sea turtles, marshlands and dolphins. It’s about climate change, peak oil, the energy future, the American presidency, about corporate power and the corrosive effect of Big Oil on global politics.

Properly Disposed: ‘Moby-Duck’

Emily Witt, 30 August 2012

Two decades ago a container ship travelling from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Washington, hit a winter storm and several shipping containers were washed overboard into the North Pacific. Among the lost cargo were 28,800 plastic bath toys: red beavers, green frogs, blue turtles and yellow ducks.

Water-Borne Zombies: Jellyfish

Theo Tait, 6 March 2014

Like rats or cockroaches on land, jellyfish are perfectly poised to capitalise when ‘ecosystems wobble’. They kill off all the competition, and because they have so few predators, they are largely a ‘trophic dead end’. Even when they die, they rot, helping to create hypoxia and encouraging toxic bacteria.

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster, 2 April 2020

I went to Mexico City to understand how a city could be drinking itself to death. When I got there I wanted instead to be lied to, not to see the cathedral lowering itself into the ground and the sinkholes opening up in the street, the ankle-deep trickle where a river used to be, or the trucks toiling up a hillside to deliver water to neighbourhoods that haven’t had a regular supply in a decade.

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