This haunting vision of climate change could keep the minds of Cop26 | Tim Adams


Iread the wonderful book by Jonathan C. Slaght Eastern Ice Owls, his account of four seasons attempting to locate and protect the largest living species of owl in the remote Russian forests of Primorye on the border with North Korea. The Blakiston’s fish owl is a creature that appears to be entirely made up of mythology. The threats to its continued existence include radioactive rivers and deforestation, as well as the by-products of climate change: increasing floods, forest fires, typhoons.

Slaght’s extraordinary adventures for him are like scenes from the end of the world. Rather than relying on the prime minister’s arguments for a revolution in the way we treat the planet at the upcoming Cop26 gathering in Glasgow, organizers should be better off leaving a copy of Slaght’s book at the bedside of every world leader. If they picked it up in the wee hours of the morning with jet lag, their dreams like mine could be haunted by giant, endangered owls that zoomed deep through their subconscious, reminding them of what survival might mean.

Traces of her tears

What am i offering? Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait. Photo: HONS / AP

Every age may value the art that best describes it. When the medieval world in the afterlife has all eyes raised to a golden leaf and the age of empire dug up for heroic history painting, our own time, the age of uncertain mental health, cherishes the authentic portrayal of private torment above all else. Edvards Munchs Scream set the bar. One of Frida Kahlo’s most tortured self-portraits is up for auction this fall. In some lighting conditions, her painting, in which the image of Kahlo’s serially unfaithful former husband Diego Rivera is stamped on the artist’s forehead while tears roll down her cheeks, is almost unbearable to look at. The auctioneer’s estimate is a record $ 30 million: Nothing sells like pain.

Philipp prints

Prince Philip
Prince Philip: Do you have any idea why my printer is not working? Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters

The Duke of Edinburgh was in many ways not a man of the people, but he was last week’s Tribute to the BBC family revealed a habit all homeworking citizens of Britain could surely relate to: he spent the morning in his study yelling at his desktop printer in the futile hope of convincing him just once to obey his royal orders. Without a doubt, every inexplicable beep and pause, every paper jam with an accordion and illegible grease from the world’s most expensive commodity, printer ink, meant a failure of government. The Duke might have needed the advice of a friend: Never throw away a broken printer, keep it in a cupboard with a hammer so that the current model spits out another comedic error code on time for the deadline, satisfactory punishment can at least be against one imposed on his immediate ancestors.

What’s going around

The M25
The M25: Standstill, not transit. Photo: Steve Parsons / PA

Iain has been Sinclair’s masterpiece since its release nearly 20 years ago London Orbital, his stubborn hiking pilgrimage through the hinterland of the M25, has read like a prophecy of our way of life today. It was Sinclair’s claim that to understand the real life of the metropolis one should examine not the center but the edges – the places where all stories ended, like rubbish blown against the capital’s fencing. The spectacle of environmental protesters sticking their hands on the asphalt for roof insulation was made for Sinclair.

The only mystery to the protesters could have been why they chose this highway, the slowest in Europe (average speed 24 miles per hour), to stage their pasting. For every driver, the M25, the largest parking garage in the world, already means standing still instead of transit. The traffic jams caused by the demonstrators were just the reason to sit still in traffic today.

Tim Adams is an Observer columnist


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