Open letter to the Financial Times – The economic damage of the Amazon fires

I have read the Financial Times daily for the last two years. The FT has helped me recognise the important roles that the financial markets, governments, corporations and investors play in keeping our world ticking forward.

Often, I have noticed the FT will emphasise different points compared with other mainstream news services when considering the same event. For example, FT articles often end by stating the reaction of the stock market. I have never had an issue with this, as it has helped to reveal the psychology of market investors and of course caters to the interests of the FT’s core readers.

However, I am becoming concerned by a lack of coverage within the FT over the past few days of the forest fires afflicting the Amazon rainforest. On Monday 19th August at 3PM, smoke that has been attributed to the forest fires caused a black out in Sao Paulo, despite being more than 1,700km from the fires. This issue has become an international fiasco for President Bolsonaro over the past 48 hours (the FT published an article 16 hours ago on the issues surrounding Bolsonaro’s presidency, but without mentioning the Amazon fires).

Other news sources have gone directly to the heart of the issue. This month, The Economist described President Bolsonaro as “arguably the most environmentally dangerous head of state in the world.”

I will lay out the reasons why the Amazon rainforest fires are a significant economic problem worthy of the FT’s attention below, but first it is important to establish the facts of the present situation. The facts are: The smoke is visible from space although the exact area affected is unclear. According to the INPE, Brazil’s Space Research Institute, there have been 72,843 fires in Brazil since January, representing an 80% increase compared to 2018, and an area of forest the size of a football pitch is being destroyed every minute. The Brazilian state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency due to the fires 7 days ago. The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has identified a surge in carbon monoxide emissions around the afflicted area.

The Amazon fires will have objective economic consequences in the short and long term. These include but are not limited to:

  • 1. The EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement, Brazil’s largest ever trade deal that is expected to be a boon for South America’s fast-growing agricultural industry, is dependent upon Brazil sticking to its environmental obligations, including the 2015 Paris Agreement. If this trade deal were canceled by the EU as a result of conditions not being met, it would mean a significant lost growth opportunity not only for Brazil, but for the other Mercosur countries too: Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

  • 2. Rainforests are ecosystems which generate their own rain. Brazil has suffered devastating droughts in only the past five years and destruction of the rainforest will exacerbate this problem. The economic impact of severe droughts needs little explanation and will adversely effect the prized agricultural industry in Brazil and neighbouring countries. The vision of opening up rainforest into land for farming may be unsustainable.

  • 3. Norway, which has donated about $1.2bn (£985m) to the Brazilian government’s Amazon fund over the past decade, has canceled future donations, effectively stopping a flow of free money to the Brazilian government. Germany has also ended its donation program.

  • 4. The Amazon fires are being conducted illegally, so any wealth generated from this activity will not immediately feed directly back into the economy.

  • 5. The ability of Ibama, Brazil’s environmental agency, to award fines to the perpetrators is being hamstrung by President Bolsonaro, meaning lost government revenue and a reduction to the perceived rule of law in the country.

  • 6. The Amazon rainforest has acted as a carbon sink, yet destruction of the trees storing this carbon is releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases back into Earth’s atmosphere, exacerbating the issue of climate change and having a domino effect upon the international agricultural industry, island nations, et cetera.

  • 7. The carbon dioxide released also holds significant danger to human life, as the gas is of course fatal when inhaled. It would be concerning if clouds of smoke were allowed to float above Sao Paulo again. This is South America’s most highly populated city and Brazil’s financial centre.

My request to the writers and editors of the FT is for more articles evaluating the danger created by these fires and inviting conversation and a search for solutions. In an article titled Companies alone cannot tackle deforestation, the FT suggested that a tighter ‘regulatory environment’ is required to control the issue. The FT should use their role informing the leading minds of the business world to kindle a conversation on how this action would take shape, as the issue has now become all the more imperative.

Header photo from ben britten on Flickr.

Sculpting the Elephant by Sylvia Vetta

I am delighted to have worked with Sylvia Vetta as an assistant editor for her latest book, ‘Sculpting the Elephant’ (Claret Press, 2019), which has now been officially released.

About ‘Sculpting the Elephant’

‘Sculpting the Elephant’ is a romantic novel set half in Oxford and half in India. Two characters’ lives face upheaval when Ramma, an Indian historian completing her studies at the University of Oxford, meets an English art dealer called Harry. Tensions within the family and wider society ensue.

The book sprouts knowledge, courageously transgressing the boundaries of genre and culture to inform the reader on topics such as the early history of Buddhism, Victorian explorers in the Himalayas and Art Deco. ‘Sculpting the Elephant’ could make a fun introduction to these topics. ‘Sculpting the Elephant’ is the historical fiction novel you should read next.

Attitudes

The novel, which is informed by some of Sylvia’s own experiences, also holds a message for readers. Overtly, it provides insight into the consequences of love affairs between people of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. I was also impressed by Harry King, whose emotions are extremely well developed for a fictional male character.

A thank you

I am grateful to Sylvia for including an acknowledgment in her book – the first time my name has been published in a novel – and hope to have the opportunity to work with her again.

More

Sylvia Vetta’s ‘Sculpting the Elephant’ (Claret Press, 2019)

Charles Kingsley: A 200 year timeline

12th June 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Kingsley’s birth. This is a timeline of Kingsley’s life and later influence.

Birth & Childhood: 1819-1838

1819

Charles Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon.

As the eldest son, he was named after his father, the Reverend Charles Kingsley.

(Birth. Age 0.)

1826

Kingsley’s brother George was born in Barnack, Northamptonshire.

(Family. Age 7.)

1828

Kingsley’s sister, Charlotte, was born in Devon.

(Family. Age 9.)

1830

Kingsley’s brother, Henry, was born in Barnack, Northamptonshire.

(Family. Age 11.)

Young Adulthood: 1838-1848

1838

Kingsley begins studying a Bachelor’s degree in Classics at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

(Education. Age 19.)

1842

Kingsley graduated from Cambridge with a first class degree.

(Education. Age 23.)

1848

Kingsley’s first novel, Yeast, was published.

(Book published. Age 29.)

Heyday: 1848-1875

1853

Kingsley’s novel Hypatia was published.

Set in ancient Egypt during the Christian era, Hypatia caused a political stir for its glaring anti-Catholic undertones. It was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite novels.

(Book published. Age 34.)

1855

Kingsley’s novel Westward Ho! was published. It became popular enough that a town in Devon was named after it.

(Book published. Age 36.)

1855

Kingsley’s novel Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore was published. In it, he invented a new word: ‘pteridomania’, which literally means fern obsession.

The word is rarely used today, but in Kingsley’s time there was a genuine public interest in ferns (a year after Glaucus‘s publication Charles’ sister Charlotte would publish Ferny Combes, a book about rare ferns in Devon).

(Book published. Age 36.)

1860

While visiting Ireland, Kingsley wrote a derogatory letter describing the Irish people, particularly working-class Catholics, as ‘human chimpanzees’.

(Letter. Age 41.)

1863

Kingsley’s novel The Water-Babies was published. The book was originally released bit-by-bit in the periodical Macmillan’s Magazine.

Despite being a children’s book, it contains negative political and racial undertones, like Kingsley’s other novels.

(Book published. Age 44.)

1866

The Edward Eyre Defence Committee was set up with the aim of preventing the Governor of Jamaica from being put on trial for his brutal suppression of the Morant Bay rebellion. Kingsley was a member of the committee, along with Charles Dickens and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

(Political dispute. Age 47.)

1875

Charles Kingsley died in Eversley, Hampshire, leaving Frances a widow.

(Death. Age 56.)

After Life: 1875-2019

1884

Kingsley’s wife Frances published a biography of her late husband titled Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life.

This is one of the most encompassing sources about Kingsley’s life and ran to 1,000 pages.

(Biography.)

1891

Frances died at the age of 77. She outlived her husband by 16 years.

(Family.)

1897

A hotel named after Kingsley was opened on Bloomsbury Way in Holborn, London.

(Places.)

1908

A musical performance of Kingsley’s poem Andromeda was delivered at the Bristol Music Festival. The poem was adapted for this purpose by Cyril Rootham.

(Creative arts.)

2013

In an article celebrating 150 years of The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby published in The Irish Times, Irish academic Denis Donoghue criticised Kingsley for his invective against Catholics, Irishmen, Jews and, in particular, John Henry Newman.

Donoghue also praised Kinglsey’s ‘good work’ in raising attention for two common issues in Victorian society: environmental pollution and juvenile chimney-sweeps.

(Literary criticism.)

Learn more about Kingsley – the upcoming historical fiction novel based on Charles Kingsley’s life.

Term Limits by Steve Powell

White House

This morning, I had the pleasure of being the first person to touch Steve Powell’s brand new novel, Term Limits.

I have been an intern at a small indie publishing house for several months – and it comes with benefits like these. The proof copy arrived by post this morning – and having been checked and found faultless, the book is now available to order online with deliveries beginning next week (the e-book version will become available 2 weeks from now).

I helped proofread Term Limits and over the last 2 months I have witnessed the book coming together, from the cover design to the metadata. Holding the physical result in your hands is very satisfying.

You can watch me opening the parcel here.

Term Limits is Steve Powell’s second novel. It’s the story of a killer enraged by elitism and corruption at the heart of American politics, and the devastating affect the political system has had on his family. The character comes to believe that his representatives in D.C. cannot be allowed to become career politicians and must have their term length limited by any means possible.

With the current divisions within American society, time will tell if Steve Powell’s book will be received as insightful historical fiction or an action novel fuelled by political vexation and bloodlust.

Although the thriller genre often engages with international politics – lending to the existence of an entire ‘political thriller’ genre that includes authors such as Robert Harris  – Term Limits is much more political than that. You might even say it’s an expression of many Americans’ present distrust of their own political system.

Importantly however, the book is still as much of a page-turner as any good thriller and does not require a knowledge of American politics to be fully enjoyed.

Read more about Term Limits and Steve’s other books here: www.stevepowellbooks.com

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Emily Wilson’s Odyssey

Odyssey book art

The first translation of the Odyssey by a woman has several tricks up its sleeve.

Homer’s Odyssey is perhaps the best known poem ever written. Even today, Classicists learn ancient Greek in order to read the poem in its original language, although at least 70 English translations have been created since Chapman’s Whole Works of Homer was released in 1616. With each translation, The Odyssey becomes more accessible to the general reader, while the potential for future translators is barely diminished.

The latest translation, by Professor Emily Wilson of the University of Pennsylvania, has a few tricks up its sleeve. Wilson points out that one line of ancient Greek could be translated several different ways into English, but Homer’s poem is more epic than that. Many translators have neglected even to keep the poetical structure, and used prose instead. Others have used blank verse, which maintains the appearance of poetry, but loses the rhythm. Rhythm is important because scholars almost universally agree Homer never wrote The Odyssey – it was a performance.

Wilson’s solution has been a mammoth task: to translate The Odyssey into iambic pentameter. If you have ever studied English Literature, you will be familiar with iambic pentameter: it is the hallmark of poets such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser and John Milton. Triumphing over the idea that only prose is accessible, Wilson has succeeded in both retaining complex structure and rhythm, and making the poem accessible to English readers. In my opinion, this Odyssey feels much more natural, more harmonious.

One of Wilson’s focuses has been on highlighting the role of gender in The Odyssey. This is a topic that has interested Classicists at least since 1897, when Samuel Butler (another translator) revealed he was certain the author of The Odyssey was a woman. He believed this because of the deep exploration of female characters such as Penelope and Nausicaa, as well as the important role of household scenes. This was controversial, and Emily Wilson disagrees – to her, the characters and scenes Butler uses to justify his argument actually point to an attempt by ancient men to defend the misogynist status quo of their society.

Towards this effort, Wilson’s translation refuses to use the misogynist insults which appear in more archaic editions, and portrays Odysseus and his son Telemachus in much more complex ways than the stereotypically masculine profiles that can often be inferred. I find that this adds a touch of believability to the characters – it used to be difficult to picture Odysseus as the perfect example of virility even while he was being held captive by Calypso, wallowing in self-pity and fretting after his wife at the very beginning. The first line says it all: Odysseus is a ‘complicated’ man.

What Others Say

“The first English translation of ‘The Odyssey’ by a woman was worth the wait”

– Madeline Miller, The Washington Post

“Wilson’s translation … is not a feminist version of the Odyssey. It … lays bare the morals of its time and place, and invites us to consider how different they are from our own, and how similar.”

– Anna North, vox.com

“This is a translation that will be studied for centuries.”

– Edith Hall

Thanks for reading!

:: I had the pleasure of meeting Emily Wilson when she gave a talk at King’s College London on 21st November 2017 ::

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