New Internationalist

Darkness visible

This morning I woke to find the river flowing in the wrong direction, the barge rising at an alarming speed.

Reading a local guide, I find that the pub just upstream, beyond the next lock, is a traditional place for boats to moor up, beyond the reach of the tides. The mooring where I am now is on the wrong side of that lock, and as a result it is vulnerable to very high ‘spring’ tides, which lift the water level even over the lock downstream.

From the radio I learn that exceptionally high tides are expected in Norfolk, some way from here on the coast of East Anglia, in early September. If these combine with storm surges there could be widespread flooding. Though the tides where I am differ quite a bit, they are notoriously strong, so I await early September with some trepidation.

I have become unaccustomed to feeling the force of nature so directly. I am not used to wondering if my home might rise or fall as I sleep. There is, I now discover, a curious exhilaration in this feeling.

Darren, an electrical engineer who lives on a boat in London, has kindly come here to advise me about solar panels and, now that my ‘leisure’ batteries have died on me, what to do with my electrical system in general.

Evidently I have inherited extravagant energy spenders, like the water heater, electric oven, fridge and washing machine. Eventually I’ll need less greedy substitutes. Meanwhile, it’s a question of balancing what I can afford by way of solar panels and batteries with what I need, like light in the approaching darkness of autumn and winter.

At first sight, environmental sense and the need to save money seem to point in opposite directions. The more money I spend the more environmentally sensible I can become, so it seems.

But that’s just on the face of it – depending, of course, on what I consume in the first place. This means figuring out the difference between what I need and what I want – a distinction that many of us are no longer very skilled at making.

The assumption tends to be that want is always greater than need. It’s not unreasonable to imagine, however, that at some point in the near future the difference will disappear altogether, at least when it comes to the consumption of energy.

There’s no getting away from this. If we’re serious about climate change – and climate change is getting pretty serious about us - then the very idea of an option to trash the planet is the one piece of trash we really can throw away.

Comments on Darkness visible

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

  1. #1 not 10 Nov 06

    Excellent article

    excellent article! This kind of thinking really needs to make it to the masses!

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

About the author

David Ransom a New Internationalist contributor

David Ransom joined New Internationalist in 1989 and wrote on a range of issues, from green justice to the current financial crisis, before retiring in 2009. He was a close friend of Blair Peach, once worked as a banker in Uruguay and continued to contribute to New Internationalist as a freelancer until shortly before his death in February 2016. He lived on a barge on the waterways of England’s West Country.

His publications include License to Kill on the death of Blair Peach in 1979 and The No Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade. He also co-edited, with Vanessa Baird, People First Economics.

Read more by David Ransom

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Popular tags

All tags

The Editors’ Blog

Provides the latest news, opinion and analysis from the NI editorial team as well as from our regular contributors and guest bloggers.

The Editors’ Blog