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A linen shroud for your horny crab?

18 Aug 2021 | OP ED Watch

When it comes to climate change, whatever ordinary rules of common sense have survived into the 21st century seem to be discarded with remarkable unconcern. For instance the piece whose email teaser from Gizmodo said “Linen Is the Hot New Fabric of Summer Because of Climate Change”. Right. Because nobody wore linen in hot weather until… well, roughly 30,000 years ago when it was invented because it is (drum roll please) “comfortable to wear in hot weather”. Then there’s the story featured in newspapers around North America about how plastic in the oceans is turning on hermit crabs because climate change.

No, really. The story kicks off with artificially sex-mad crabs. “Oceans around the world are facing a plastic pollution crisis. But there’s one species that may be getting a little too excited about it: hermit crabs. A chemical that is leaked from plastic dumped in the ocean is probably arousing hermit crabs, according to researchers studying the impact of climate change, plastic and other molecules in the ocean on marine species.”

To borrow a line from Moose Malloy, how many topics is that? What exactly does climate change have to do with “plastic and other molecules in the ocean” other than being bad? (Mind you an ocean with no molecules in it would be, well, outer space but we digress.)

Based on 40 crabs in Yorkshire it seems a plastic additive called oleamide is leaking out under the sea and “elevates the respiration rate of hermit crabs, which indicates excitement, researchers said, adding that the product is already considered to be a sex pheromone for some insects.” And the crabs might be mistaking it for food, or cute crabs or some such thing; the story is remarkably unclear. Though not compared to what comes next.

The climate scientist/author, armed with a BA in “English and creative writing” from Brunel University, put the latter to full use with this Joycean piece of free association: “The new findings come as governments around the world continue to grapple with the major issue of climate change and its impact on the planet.” Right. Which has exactly nothing to do with crabs thinking they’re Hugh Heffner, with or without plastic. But in the wacky world of climate change being worse than the worst thing ever, the story charges on with this parade of non-sequiturs: “At a recent three-day summit in Cornwall, England, leaders from the Group of Seven gathered to discuss the growing crisis along with other pressing topics. During the June meeting, leaders pledged more-ambitious climate goals and reaffirmed their support to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Without action, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050, a study published by the World Economic Forum in 2016 warned.”

Eh? Without “action”? (And not the sort the crabs are seeking.) Action on what? Climate change? Plastic pollution? It conjures up Monty Pythonesque images of some fuddled idealist being “pro-humanity and anti-bad things”.

As for the linen, no, really, again. Wikipedia says “Linen is very strong, absorbent, and dries faster than cotton. Because of these properties, linen is comfortable to wear in hot weather and is valued for use in garments” despite “its tendency to wrinkle.” Egad. People have been weaving loose, breathable fabric from flax since before the end of the last glaciation for its cooling properties? Still, the planet is on fire, right?

The climate scientist featured in the Gizmodo piece, who ditched environmental studies for fashion design in college, is quoted that “When it comes to designing, I definitely consider the weather, the climate. I live in LA. It’s been getting hotter and hotter every summer. Last year I was like, ‘oh my god, I’m so freaking hot’ and that’s when I was like, ‘I need to make the loosest and comfiest clothes next year.’” And the high in LA at time of writing was 32C, whereas back in August 2014 it was… um… 32C. Though in 2010 August tended to feature highs around… 32C.

Over the past 30 years LA has seen an average of five August days of at least 32C. And for the record, the highest temperature in LA in the last decade was reached in 2010. Which the author of the piece apparently didn’t fact-check even though, Gizmodo’s bio of her says, she “Blogs about energy, animals, why we shouldn’t trust the private sector to solve the climate crisis, etc.” and has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in “Political philosophy, social science, vocal music” and possibly also etc.

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