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August 2001 - Editorial -

Back from the barricades in Genoa? Or picketing the airport prior to taking your beach holiday in Spain? I guess you're all pretty busy. So, I'll just say 'Hi ' to all those folks huddled around a warm fire in the Southern Hemisphere. We know you are there and appreciate it OK.

We have a distinct Global feel to Hacks this month. Stuart on his consumer society bandwagon, Mr X is our industrial spy who went temping for MI5 and came back with a good secret or two. Dr K is dispensing good advice to travellers about to hitch around the world and Kinga and Chopin are actually hitching around the world. Maggy is out there in Spain getting squished by lemmings and Ian has a nightmare to tell about travel in Morocco for the unwary. Helen has something to say about the way we live now with mobile phones. They are here to stay and they are altering out lives quite radically. British Telecom is removing the London phone boxes. The future is coming true. In Finland I know they already sue them to display art objects.

It has me thinking about what is happening to those of us left behind in England this summer?

You only have to sit in a south-west London garden on a hot night to realise that the air is full of jets coming and going. (As you would expect from the worlds busiest airport) The air is also full of poison. Jets spew out carbon particulates from the jet engines and unspent fuel. We, who live around airports in a wide radius are exposed to these invisible poisons. IS anyone doing a study on cancer clusters 20 miles around airports?

Sure that isn't want you want to hear as you jet off to picket another global conference or EU summit, but the fact is that every backpacker, every tourist and businessman and protester is contributing to the slow death of hundreds of thousands of people under the flight paths of the world. Something to think about surely? It isn't just noise that we should be afraid of. Invisible pollutants (PM10s) contribute to a rising tide of asthma sufferers and other reactions. Of course if you stopped tourism by jet, half the world economy will crash to a halt. So a solution has to be found to make jet fuel safer. But think of this, when you arrive in another country, multiplied by thousands of others, you bring money yes, but you get to exchange diseases, place a burden on a local environment - exhaust water supplies and despoil a way of life, whether you intended to or not. The more remote, the more the impact. How do we go there and not wreck the ecology? How do we go on mass to Greece or Spain and not affect the way of life of the locals? Impossible. How could we make it better? Good question.

According to Bjorn Lomborg in his new book 'The Skeptical Environmentalist' - the panic over the environment is oversold. London's air is the cleanest it has been since the 16th Century. But before you set of some fireworks to celebrate, that takes us back to the era of the Great Stink, when the River was so choked with excrement people had to move out in summer. It was a time when there were still outbreaks of plague and cholera. When the air is as good as it was in 500 AD, then you can begin boasting. He states with some authority that rare species are not becoming extinct as quickly as we thought. He states that tropical forests are not being lost at 2-4% per year but (at UN sourced figures) 0.5%. He cites Puerto Rico where 99% of the primary forest area has been lost over 400 years and only seven of 60 species of bird has been lost. He also states (with some justification) that there is as much oil under the ground as has been already consumed. Nothing is running out and we are ingenious enough to come up with substitutions if we care to.

Beware of people who say it's all OK, we don't have to panic.That way lies complacancy. His book, well intended it might be,could be used as an excuse to do nothing. We all need to think about waste, water and air purity and what we feed ourselves and our children. If we care about the planet, it might just get around to caring about us.

It responsible travelling even possible? Be good to debate this before the likes of ETA kill it all prematurely. Read James Skinner's article on ETA and the future of Spain on the front page now.

More thoughts for a summer day coming but meanwhile, take a look at this months Hackwriters, enjoy. Fiction, Travel, Lifestyles we have it all. If you are new to us, explore the archives and differing sections, there is always something to read. That is why we are here.
Thanks to all the new people who have submitted, we appreciate it.

Good luck and put another log on the fire mate, keep us warm.

There has been a delay with my book 'Diamonds'. So if you ordered it, thanks.
If you didn't well, it will be finally available in October.
There are some uncorrected proofs out there however. I claim no responsibility.
Just got the proofs done, so be patient, these things take time and it's worth the wait - honest.

UK Amazon link

Available October. It will makes a great present for anyone who needs a good doorstop.
It's about the 'Great Diamond Rush of 1872' and if you ever saw Butch and Sundance,
well there you go...

all the best

Sam North - managing editor
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