Simon Butler

The recent British general election delivered very different results in Scotland than those of England and Wales.

While the question of Scottish independence was still a major issue for voters, tactical errors by the Scottish National Party (SNP) and a muted Jeremy Corbyn-effect in Scottish Labour’s favour led to some unforeseen outcomes.

After promising for months that she’d never call an early election, Tory Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election in April — fully expecting to be returned with a thumping Conservative majority.

Instead, the cynically conceived June 8 poll resulted in a disaster for Conservative politics in Britain. The Tories have lost their majority and now face a hung parliament.

What seemed at first to be a depressing and predictable British election, with the hard right Tories under Prime Minister Theresa May set for a larger majority, has become a fascinating election contest.

Labour’s support has surged to the point where something unthinkable just weeks ago — a Jeremy Corbyn prime ministership — is now at least an outside chance.


Author Ian Angus at the launch of 'Facing the Anthropocene'. Sydney, May 13.

Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism & the Crisis of the Earth System
By Ian Angus
Monthly Review Press
New York, 2016

We are living in a time of unparalleled ecological breakdowns and the crisis is much worse than most people realise. There are other books that tell this harrowing story, but Ian Angus's Facing the Anthropocene is different.

When he announced his bid to unseat Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull promised a “new style of leadership”. The problem is that is about all we can hope for from the new prime minister: a change in style but not in substance.

Partly due to luck, and partly due to the heroic efforts of severely overstretched firefighters, the huge bushfires that swept southern Western Australia in early February resulted in no loss of life. These devastating fires also provide a glimpse into our future on a warming planet unless we cut carbon emissions fast.

Scientists had long thought the giant East Antarctic ice sheet was barely affected by global warming and that its glaciers were stable. It turns out those assumptions were wrong.

A team of scientists returned on January 26 from a 7-week expedition to East Antarctica with the bad news: warm ocean water is melting the huge Totten glacier from below.

For those paying attention to the science of climate change, it might seem counterintuitive to talk about hope.

To some it might even seem in bad taste, given that the future impacts include the melting away of the Himalayan glaciers that provide fresh water for 1.3 billion people in Asia and the possibility that many low-lying island nations may become uninhabitable.

More than six years ago, 21-year-old Australian backpacker Jock Palfreeman was walking home with friends after a night out in Sofia, Bulgaria, when he saw a group of 15 men attacking two others. The next morning he was in a police cell — accused of “unprovoked murder” and “hooliganism”. Held without bail, he was convicted two years later and sentenced to 20 years jail.

One of the most frightful ironies of climate change is that it will wreak the most havoc on the people who have done the least to cause it. Pacific Island nations are in the climate frontlines — affected by rising oceans, coastal erosion and extreme weather.

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