Communications technology has shrunk the world. You might be forgiven for thinking there was nothing on the planet still to be discovered.
What a joyful surprise, then, to learn only last year that a previously unknown coral reef, amost 700 miles long, had been found off the coast of South America.
Joyful, and in a curious way something of a relief too. As if the discovery of a reef in one part of the world could compensate for the death of another, 10,000 miles away.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been called “the canary in the coal mine” for global warming. Its reported death may be both symptom and further cause of ecological catastrophe on a massive scale.
Meanwhile, the newly discovered Amazon Reef appears to be thriving.
Corals live mostly in clear salt water with plenty of sunlight. This one has astonished marine biologists because the outflow from the Amazon makes its waters among the muddiest and least salty sea areas in the world.
Yet they have found there 73 species of fish, 60 types of sponge and a rich variety of other life. There are dolphins, turtles, manatees and species that haven’t yet been named.
The reef may have been unknown until recently, but its importance to the global ecosystem – and our knowledge of it – may be considerable. That Amazon outflow amounts to a fifth of all the water flowing into the world’s oceans.
Here then, is an amazing place. An environment and a habitat to cherish.
The last thing it needs is multinational oil companies diving in with their drills and rigs to rip it up, spoil and pollute it. One spill like BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster could do untold damage.
So who’s prospecting for oil on the Amazon Reef right now? BP and Total. They need to be stopped.
The horrifying bonfire of regulations
You don’t have to compare it with the £369million handed over to refurbish Buckingham Palace to see that £5m to rehouse the former residents of Grenfell Tower was an insult. Like chucking a 5p coin at a beggar.
But no cash handout could assuage the grief and anger following that most avoidable of horrors.
Grief and anger that have stoked an almost revolutionary mood in this most unrevolutionary of countries.
The blackened ruin of that former high-rise slum casts a shadow far beyond the neighbouring well-heeled streets of Kensington.
The word “murder” may be tabloid hyperbole. “Manslaughter” may technically be a more accurate term. There may be doubt over exactly who is guilty, and of what, but there will be political as well as human and legal costs to pay.
A lot has been said and written about it already and a lot more will be. But I feel moved to share the words of my friend and former colleague Chris Storey:
“This is a third world fire, here, in Britain. Had this happened in a sweatshop in Calcutta, we’d have been shaking our heads and saying, ‘Isn’t life cheap in these corrupt and backward countries?’
“You announce a bonfire of regulations. And you get a bonfire.”
To put it another way, this is lack of health and safety gone mad. More dangerously – fatally – mad than any terrorist atrocity on these shores.
While the nation obsesses over terror attacks, it’s hard to imagine anything much more terrifying than to be trapped in a 27-storey inferno.
If it is a government’s duty to protect its citizens, it raises the question of what or who it must protect us from. And how.