Ashes Poetry - cricket

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David Fine, Ashes poet in residence in Australia 2006-7

England vs Australia.
Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney 2006-2007

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Balance The World On The Edge Of A Blade

We're 33,000 feet above a globe flying from one point to its antipode. Do the Australians refer to the British Isles as the Antipodes? In terms of relative size the antipodean equivalent of Australia is Europe, including Russia to the Urals. It's all a question of geography, distance and time. It'll take us about 24 hours elapsed time to reach Australia - a killer of journey, seasoned travellers say, but a moment compared to half a year or more it took for Van Diemen, Tasman and Cook to navigate the seas below us. Cook landed about the same time as Thomas Lord opened his first cricket ground - near Baker Street Tube, later sold to Regency developers to fund a move to St John's Wood, and doubtless line Lord's pockets. In those days it was sail, and the environmental impact was miniscule. The first Australian touring team, Aborigines, sailed in 1866. Top speed, at best Glen McGrath approaching the wicket, at worst a stalled walk back having been dispatched to the boards.

Snooze, film, sleep, airline food, small talk, and a poem 'Courage of Convictions’ written over the Balkans, and we're coming into Kuala Lumpur, a place so unknown to me I need to check its spelling. The clouds below the window drift away. Spelling apart, what other damage have I done to the world?

You can't see global warming. Its effects may be catastrophic, long-term and irreversible - like radioactivity. If you could see or smell either, like smoke and sulphur from an industrial plant, we might be more appreciative of its dangers, and willing to do something about it.

It's been on the radar for decades. First mention in the mid-seventies, when oxygen-isotope measures from glacial ice cores were used to reckon climatic conditions tens of thousands of years ago to the last ice age. A positive use of radioactivity which I came across studying prehistory at Sheffield University while the other side of Steel City was still belting out smoke and sulphur. A learned article suggested these oxygen isotope
cores were indicating global warming from about 1900 onwards....

Where are we now? All but George W Bush agree it's happening, and all too few are doing all too little to stop it.

You can.

I'm going to carbon-balance Ashes Poetry. Carbon balance works like this. The chief agent of global warming is carbon-dioxide. Plant life takes in CO2, so if you pay for plantings - to afforest deforested rain forests, say - it balances the CO2 your plane exhales taking you to where you want to go. Simple. Go to credit/debit card or cheque book in hand.

Some like George Monbiot reckon carbon balancing doesn't work. Hard to say, just as it's hard to say how weather and climate works too. The basic physics is simple, just a global heat engine, but its mechanics are extremely complex and tricky to measure. Rather like watching a kettle boil - except once it's boiling not even God can take the earth out of the heavens to stop it boiling.

We're now two hours from Brisbane, on a different plane if not dimension. Kuala Lumpur airport is magnificent - beautiful design, clean, quiet and uncluttered. I'm an old-fashioned beer-powered steam train man, where airports as points of departure have the same conceptual cachet as a bus or filling station. To impress me it has to be something, and it is.

It still doesn't reduce global warming, just as glitzy cigarette packaging won't stop you getting cancer. There is a difference. I can choose to smoke myself to death; I've no real say in the climate that Loz, my eleven year old daughter, will inherit. It makes my jam-kettle blood boil that the President of the United States of America can choose to jeopardise the life of our and everyone's else's children. Not because it's a cretinous decision, which is an insult to cretins who have no control over their unfortunate condition, but because Bush has a global choice where he's stuffing the whole wide world and its future.

It's not cricket. It's an environmental tyranny and dictatorship. By carbon balancing my Ashes Odyssey, I aim to achieve:-

reduction in global warming
greater awareness of the problem
others doing the same

If you want to reduce global warming by carbon balancing, click the carbon trust, who may well be planting countless stands of willow, since one of their patrons is David Gower, classic left-handed elegance at the crease and now the Sky commentary box.

If like me you're short of the readies - hardly surprising, given it could be a trip of a lifetime and you don't want a lack of cash to take anything away - then why not carbon balance after you return? Global warming isn’t going to go away by your or the world’s bank balance improving.

The devastion of New Orleans may just be the tip of a melted ice-cap. If something isn't done soon about global warming we better start thinking playing the Ashes under water because all the test match grounds at each end of the Antipodes will be flooded.

Glug, glug, glug. Sticky wicket. Glug, glug, glug.

Go on, credit Play and pay with the full face of the bat. No point trying to balance our future on its edge. Unlike even a David Gower, the world doesn’t get a second knock.

Talking of the right stuff...

Courage Of Convictions

Some good, some bad, and some ordinary
people the wrong side of the law to hold
their breath against the creak of deck, rope and
canvas; fixed blank stars slowly alter course

Of lives, destiny and political
aspirations. Now history. Not then.
No going back. No return to the old
Till the end of each testing sentence

Whose surf, shore and hinterland are unknown,
prime and aboriginal. Imprisoned
by nothing but the land’s fresh horizons
how could all survive, endure and flourish?

Today twenty-two flannelled fools replay
Australia, set to court failure
on no other grounds.