Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on embarrassing cars, sewage strategies and the end is nigh - again

Water companies. Are they serious about tackling sewage spills or merely going through the motions?

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The Mini Clubman – ghastly. Photo: Wikimedia

Car-chase terms of our time: “Near-catastrophic” means “not catastrophic.”

Yesterday's item on the ill-starred Austin Allegro recalled an age when, with a few notable exceptions, British cars were a national embarrassment. The angst and shame of a hard-up nation were captured perfectly in the overpriced, under-inspected bags of nails clattering out of Longbridge in the 1970s.

I recall the British Leyland press office issuing its annual media pack of images of new models. In our editorial department (long ago and far away, naturally), the motoring correspondent was in despair as he flipped through photos of the new Mini Clubman. What a ghastly lash-up it was. BL had taken the classic old Mini design and stuck a bit on the front, instantly turning that cheeky little icon of the 1960s into an eyesore.

If we hacks dared to criticise such vehicles, we were branded as disloyal. We were also offered generous press discounts to buy BL models. I dare say some journalists took up the offer but my old news editor opted for a little French runabout and never regretted it.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) global temperatures may rise above the crucial 1.5C threshold in the next five years bringing “dire consequences.”

If this sounds familiar it's because ever since the 1970s, experts have been forecasting global-warming Armageddon within the coming five, ten or 20 years. A quick trawl in Wikipedia reveals many dire predictions that never came true, including the 1972 United Nations warning that there was only ten years left to halt climate catastrophe and a serious projection that by the year 2020 Britain's climate would be Siberian.

I am not a climate-change denier. I believe the weather is getting warmer. I believe we should invest massively in renewable energy because it clearly makes more sense to extract power from wind, tides or sunshine than to send people a thousand feet underground to dig out coal. In the face of endless climate scares, pragmatism is useful but panic is not. The end is nigh, but then it always has been.