The Road to Destruction
It does seem as though the human race is set upon destroying the planet. Global warming, if it is due to human activity and the consequent production of warming gases, is clearly a threat to our future. If it is a result of other factors, which now seems to be unlikely, then we must await our fate. Efforts to cut greenhouse gases to a safe level are not making much progress, carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise. The big effort in this country is producing good results but what this country does has little impact on the global picture, even if we stopped producing any CO2 it would not have a noticeable effect. With Donald Trump in the White House we might as well all give up.
But global warming is only one problem, waste generation is very worrying. Compared with our ancestors we produce much more waste per head. So much that is manufactured has a relatively short life before it is dumped. We have heard of the problem associated with the fashion industry, cheap clothes often are thrown away after only limited use, most are made of man-made material, essentially plastic. Apart from those that are thrown away, it seems that the process of washing results in very small particles detaching from the garments and these particles are flushed away into the drainage system and eventually finish up in the sea where some are ingested by sea animals, but probably most are not so that the concentration of these particles can only go on increasing. This plastic may have an ill effect on the animals, but, since they are a major food source, eating fish may result in a concentration of these particles within our systems and we do not know what effect that might have over time. The consequences of larger items of plastic waste in the sea have been illustrated clearly by David Attenborough and his team as well as many others. How these items get into the sea on the scale that they apparently do is a mystery to me. Surely many of us put plastic bottles in the recycling and most bottles that do not go there are likely to finish up in land-fill, so how do they finish up on our beaches? One can only assume that they are coming from abroad or that things going for land-fill are dumped in the sea. It isn’t just clothes and plastic that we throw away, electric appliances, electronic devices – phones, lap-tops, tablets, TVs. Cars, tyres, carpets, mattresses. The list is endless.
Now we are told that we have lost half the world’s insects that play a vital part in the eco-system, not least in pollinating the crops. The loss appears to be the consequence of human activity; farming methods, pesticides, global warming etc.
Almost none of these problems existed for our grand-parents (or great-grand-parents for those not as old as I), they had no plastic, no electrical appliances, no cars, no pesticides. Most of their waste was naturally biodegradable.
The human race has been extraordinarily clever and no doubt they will apply all their ingenuity to their efforts to overcome all the difficulties and save the planet. Sadly, it seems to me, the one problem that they may not be able to fix is the inexorable growth in the world’s population, and as the under-developed nations become developed they will contribute to a disproportionate increase in the problems that the developed nations are already generating. So it does seem probable that eventually the human race will be responsible for its own demise.
The British Motor Museum
Recently I went with a friend to visit this museum, it is situated at Gaydon just off the M40 between Banbury and Warwick. It is one of the largest museums of its type anywhere and certainly the largest collection of British cars. It started life as a collection of British Leyland cars, the core of the collection was assembled in 1975 when British Leyland set up a special division to manage the company’s collection of historic vehicles. This later became the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust and in 1993 the collection, which included examples of most British makes including Jaguar and Land Rover, was housed in a new purpose-built museum on the Gaydon site. In 2016 a new building was opened adjacent to the museum that was built to house the full collections of the Trust along with the collection of the Jaguar and Daimler Heritage Trust. This building is not laid out like a museum, the cars are simply displayed in rows, not unlike a multi-storey car park, but with space to walk between.
It is a fascinating place for an old petrol head like me, the displays demonstrate the history of the British industry from it’s very beginning, starting with a replica of the very first car, a Benz of1886. Some of the exhibits from those early days enable one to see the ingenuity and the naivety of those early pioneers, some of those machines could not have been safe at any speed. I have always been more interested in the design and engineering of every-day cars and trucks than the ultra-high-performance sports and racing cars, and that is the main focus of the exhibits, although the performance and racing sector is quite well represented. One section that I found of particular interest was where the prototypes of models that never went into production were exhibited. Some of them displayed a remarkable foresight of what was to come and some were so impressive that it was difficult to understand why they had not been pursued. Unsurprisingly cars from what was British Leyland tend to dominate, Austin, Morris, MG, Rover, Triumph et al. Obviously Jaguar-Daimler have a large presence, Ford and Vauxhall are not very well represented, perhaps because they were not seen as wholly British, which would have been unfair since their cars were very British well into the 1970s, perhaps it was because they have their own collections? Vauxhall certainly do have an excellent collection of their historic vehicles but sadly they are only displayed to the public on rare occasions. Rootes models are not very well represented which I find disappointing, they produced some of the finest ‘everyday’ cars.
The museum engages in restoration of some of its cars and, although the workshop is not open to the public, it is possible to look down on the work in progress from an elevated position.
It is not possible to do justice to the place in a page or two, unlike an aircraft museum where the exhibits may be listed in tens the collections at Gaydon are measured in hundreds. Neither is it feasible to appreciate all that is there in one visit, for those of a similar age to myself it is too demanding physically to get anywhere near covering everything.
The museum is not only a collection of cars intelligently and appealingly displayed but it is also a collection of documents relating to the industry, dealing with design, manufacture, marketing, business, etc and these archives are open to anyone with a genuine interest in research into the industry.
It is a place that is well worth a visit, not just one visit. The downside, however, is that it is not the easiest of places to get to from here, it takes best part of three hours and some of that is in heavy traffic. Happily for me my friend did the driving, especially enjoyable for me was that we went in his, new to him, S class Mercedes with its 5.5litre V8 engine. Very impressive in many ways but I don’t think I would like one. I hope to go again, one way or another, even if I have to drive myself.
As I write I know that Therese May’s ‘deal’ has been rejected by parliament for the second time. What a shambles? How ridiculous it has been. Mrs May has pursued her plan with a dogged stubborn intransigence despite the evidence that it was not going to be acceptable. More than two years ago it was clear that some of her famous ‘Red Lines’ were incompatible. You could not have ‘no customs union’ and ‘no hard border in Northern Ireland’. Despite this obvious truth Mrs May persisted in kicking the problem down the road hoping for some magical solution to appear. Now, in the last few minutes of the twelfth hour, the truth has finally sunk in. Or has it? Is she going back to Brussels again with the same red lines? Give me strength.
What has surprised me is how powerless the parliament is against a determined PM. I had not realised that, with the exception of the occasional private members bill, only the government could propose actions, all the parliament is allowed to do is to propose amendments. If there is something