The 30th anniversary of John Lennon's shooting

How the Beatle is being remembered.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. The former Beatles singer-songwriter was shot five times by a fan, Mark Chapman, in front of his New York home on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. Bewildered paramedics rushed him to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. In September this year, the now 55-year-old Chapman was denied parole for the sixth time.

In contrast to the jubilation that greeted the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth (which also took place this year), much of this week's coverage has been characterised by a more respectful and reflective tone. Over at the BBC, the journalist John Shone recalls the reaction of Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, and their son, Julian, upon hearing the news of John's death: "Julian . . . was a pupil at Ruthin School. He was asleep in the house, not knowing his father was dead . . . Cynthia turned up in a big limo with dark glasses on. She had a couple of minders with her and was hurried into the house without saying anything. She was in total shock, like everyone was."

This weeks' NME, meanwhile, features an interview with Yoko Ono, who still occupies the apartment where she was living with Lennon when he died: "It is the home John and I created together. Every wall witnessed John."

And on Sunday, I interviewed Keith Elliot Greenberg, author of December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died (Backbeat Books), on Resonance 104.4FM's Hello Goodbye Show. I asked him whether writing a book about Lennon's death risked monumentalising Chapman's act, thereby affirming his perverse quest for fame. We also talked about Lennon's significance to New Yorkers, who view him as part of the local heritage.

In Liverpool, his childhood home, fans will be gathering at a candlelit vigil around Chavasse Park's European peace monument (which was dedicated to Lennon on 9 October); others will be paying homage at the original Strawberry Field. Tomorrow evening, members of John's first band, the Quarrymen, will be appearing at the Echo Arena, bringing to a close the city's two-month-long Lennon season. The banjo player Rod Davis said: "We're playing not to mark his death, but to celebrate his life."

On a related note, here are extracts of an interview that Maurice Hindle conducted with Lennon in 1968, which appeared in last year's Christmas issue of the New Statesman.

Yo Zushi is a contributing writer for the New Statesman. His latest album, It Never Entered My Mind, is out now on Eidola Records and is on Spotify here.

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Out with the old: how new species are evolving faster than ever

A future geologist will look back to the present day as a time of diversification, as well as extinction.

Human population growth, increased consumption, hunting, habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and now climate change are turning the biological world on its head. The consequence is that species are becoming extinct, perhaps faster than at any time since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. This is an inconvenient truth.

But there are also convenient truths. Britain has gained about 2,000 new species over the past two millennia, because our predecessors converted forests into managed woodlands, orchards, meadows, wheat fields, roadsides, hedgerows, ponds and ditches, as well as gardens and urban sprawl, each providing new opportunities.

Then we started to transport species deliberately. We have the Romans to thank for brown hares and the Normans for rabbits. In the 20th century, ring-necked parakeets escaped from captivity and now adorn London’s parks and gardens.

Climate warming is bringing yet more new species to our shores, including little egrets and tree bumblebees, both of which have colonised Britain in recent years and then spread so far north that I can see them at home in Yorkshire. Convenient truth No 1 is that more species have arrived than have died out: most American states, most islands in the Pacific and most countries in Europe, including Britain, support more species today than they did centuries ago.

Evolution has also gone into overdrive. Just as some species are thriving on a human-dominated planet, the same is true of genes. Some genes are surviving better than others. Brown argus butterflies in my meadow have evolved a change in diet (their caterpillars now eat dove’s-foot cranesbill plants, which are common in human-disturbed landscapes), enabling them to take advantage of a warming climate and spread northwards.

Evolution is a second convenient truth. Many species are surviving better than we might have expected because they are becoming adapted to the human-altered world – although this is not such good news when diseases evolve immunity to medicines or crop pests become resistant to insecticides.

A third convenient truth is that new species are coming into existence. The hybrid Italian sparrow was born one spring day when a male Spanish sparrow (the “original” Mediterranean species) hitched up with a female house sparrow (which had spread from Asia into newly created farmland). The descendants of this happy union live on, purloining dropped grains and scraps from the farms and towns of the Italian peninsula. Some of those grains are wheat, which is also a hybrid species that originated as crosses between wild grasses in the Middle East.

This is not the only process by which new species are arising. On a much longer time scale, all of the species that we have released on thousands of islands across the world’s oceans and transported to new continents will start to become more distinct in their new homes, eventually separating into entirely new creatures. The current rate at which new species are forming may well be the highest ever. A future geologist will look back to the present day as a time of great diversification on Earth, as well as a time of extinction.

The processes of ecological and evolutionary change that brought all of Earth’s existing biological diversity into being – including ourselves – is continuing to generate new diversity in today’s human-altered world. Unless we sterilise our planet in some unimagined way, this will continue. In my book Inheritors of the Earth, I criss-cross the world to survey the growth in biological diversity (as well as to chart some of the losses) that has taken place in the human epoch and argue that this growth fundamentally alters our relationship with nature.

We need to walk a tightrope between saving “old nature” (some of which might be useful) and facilitating what will enable the biological world to adjust to its changed state. Humans are integral to Earth’s “new nature”, and we should not presume that the old was better than the new.

“Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction” by Chris D Thomas is published by Allen Lane

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder