28 October 2011 12:00 AM
21 October 2011 12:00 AM
I cannot see a river, any river, without a quickening of the spirit, and this is such an automatic reaction that I sometimes wonder if it is hardwired into the genes, from our previous existence as hunter-gatherers. If I cross a river on any journey I want to know its name, and if at all possible, stop on the bridge and gaze into its currents.
14 October 2011 12:00 AM
At Durban in eight weeks' time, the world's gaping split over climate change will be clear
07 October 2011 12:00 AM
City of royalty, city of riches; city of poverty, city of squalor. City of billionaire Russian oligarchs; city of hate-filled Islamist preachers; city of English gentlemen's clubs. City of 300 languages. City of black cabs, red buses, green parks. City of blue plaques, marking the homes of its famous inhabitants. City of endless variety. London's been called all of those.
30 September 2011 12:00 AM
It's an extraordinary event, is it not? This miniature summer granted us weeks after what was meant to be the summertime, but was a chilly washout, is over and gone. Not long – five days only of cloudless skies, blistering sunshine and balmy evenings – but five days of such splendour as we never had in all the rest of the year, and October starts tomorrow.
23 September 2011 12:00 AM
Why should a government set up and pay for an independent organisation that is likely to criticise it? In terms of realpolitik, of course, there is no reason whatsoever, which is why in tyrannies such bodies do not exist.
16 September 2011 12:00 AM
A week ago today I experienced a peculiar pang when John Sauven, the leader of Greenpeace in Britain, told me his group wanted to save the North Pole.
09 September 2011 12:00 AM
It is a strange fact, not often remarked upon and indeed, strongly counterintuitive, that among the wild beasts of Africa, herbivores are much more dangerous to humans than carnivores. Elephants, hippos and buffaloes (or perhaps we should use the old-Africa-hand singular form of the plural, buffalo), which are all vegetarians, are far more likely to kill you than meat-eaters such as lions, leopards and even crocodiles. This is because they will not be killing you as prey; the great herbivores will kill you for being an irritation or a perceived threat if you intrude upon their territory (especially, if you get between a mother and her young). They are so whoppingly big and fearless that their way of dealing with you is simply to take you out, and once they head for you, it will take a rocket-launcher to stop them.
02 September 2011 12:00 AM
One of the lousiest aspects of the lousy summer which ended yesterday, for me at least, was that for yet another year, there was no chance of witnessing the moth snowstorm. Not in England, anyway.
26 August 2011 12:00 AM
Three years ago, in 2008, human history passed a significant milestone: the proportion of the world's population living in towns and cities, rather than the countryside, exceeded 50 per cent for the first time. So now the human animal is a predominantly urban one.
19 August 2011 12:00 AM
What's Britain's most beautiful creature? Many people would name a bird: the kingfisher springs to mind at once, and there'd be a raft of other candidates from the goldfinch to the roseate tern, all plausible. Some might name a mammal: I can see how the pine marten might have its supporters, all sleek deadly elegance in fur; and the common dolphin, with that great pale stripe along its side, is a heartstopping animal when you see it surging around your boat. But I'm going to name an insect.
12 August 2011 12:00 AM
It seems to me a curious part of the human psyche that we more deeply enjoy special things seen casually and accidentally, than those which have been expressly sought out. Certainly this applies to the natural world. So much of the wildlife which once surrounded us has been lost that to set eyes on many distinctive species we are now obliged to make expeditions. We go birding, or botanising or butterflying: you're unlikely to see a wood warbler, or a military orchid, or a swallowtail, without going in search of them. Often, of course, the results are very satisfying, and long to be remembered, and worth the journey.
22 July 2011 12:00 AM
It is a curious sensation, to be working in the middle of a national newspaper newsroom convulsed with the noisiest scandal for years, involving public outrage, gross malpractice, a media group in meltdown, Scotland Yard in turmoil and the political system in ferment, and to be writing about badgers and cuckoos.
15 July 2011 12:00 AM
In the ugly litany of environmental crimes, perhaps the worst is the destruction of a whole ecosystem. In its sweeping finality it's like the sacking of a city. Troy resonates with us still, as does Hiroshima; so, one day, may lost forests.
08 July 2011 12:00 AM
Aerosol is a word most people associate with the bathroom, the kitchen or the garden shed: we tend to use it to mean a spray can, for deodorants, cleaners, weedkillers or whatever. But it has acquired this meaning by extension, and what it originally signified was the fine cloud of particles which come out of the spray can nozzle.
Red squirrels being killed by form of leprosy in Scotland in latest threat to declining species
Plastic rubbish heaps at sea pose bigger threat to Earth than climate change, claims ocean expert
We must protect our oceans, says seven seas swimmer Lewis Pugh
The top 10 weirdest animal mating rituals
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
- 3 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
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Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
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