Now Athens is burning. It was California earlier in the year, Australia, Spain, CA and Greece last year and Indonesia the year before. These are the forests that give us life. My condolences to those who now have only ashes to look where there were trees, birds and wildflowers before.
The bad news keeps rolling in, be it forests, glaciers, weather, fish, endangered species, or our ability to take action. There are still many global warming deniers, such as Mr Roger Helmer MEP, but I say to them that even if you discount our CO2 emissions as a serious cause of environmnetal degredation, you cannot deny that many species are under threat as a result of human activity, that forests, fish and other natural resources are being plundered or destroyed and that we are bequeathing a legacy of toxic waste and empty oil wells to our children.
Are we worried? Well, it depends. I believe that most people in the UK are, but some typical attitudes include:
A. It’s all part of natural cycles and as individuals there’s no point in changing our behaviour. Anyway, business as usual is too much fun and recycling is a waste of time. And as for those low energy light bulbs, well, just see what the Daily Mail says about them!
B. Well, there may be something in it, but I’m sure the government and/or technology will sort it out. Business as usual. Anyway, at our hotel we’re saving the planet by putting notices in bathrooms to re-use your towels.
C. There are too many people on the planet and there’s not much we can do about it. No point in me acting as anything I do will be countered dozens of times by the Indians and Chinese.
D. I’m really worried as we’re definitely damaging the environment. We really shoudl do something about it, but I’ve got a meeting in Edinburgh today and Brighton tomorrow, and it’s just too busy right now. On hols in a couple of weeks in Phuket where I’m really goin to chill. Could do something on my return. Anyway, we’re recycling our stuff now and I’ve got some of those new bulbs to put in.
There are many people who believe that we have a real problem; many regard themselves as environmentalists and many work for NGOs and/or spend much of their spare time doing voluntary work. There are also environmentalists who only focus on their own behaviour, lifestyle and footprint and others who work hard to change others’ behaviours. But their efforts are very unfocused – each NGO has it’s own priorities for action and needs to maintain it’s unique profile and message: as with any corporation, others in the same field are competition. Thus the efforts of the thousands of activists around the country are diffused and often conflicting.
There are many in government who believe we have a real problem, and Ed Milliband (Department for Environment and Climate Change) is one of those. He has produced and interesting white paper which is worth looking at (The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan available to read at www.DECC.gov) but whilst the same Government is subsidising the coal industry at far higher rates than the renewable energy industry, and insisting that we need new coal fired power stations (albeit on the proviso that ‘Carbon Capture and Storage’, a technology that doesn’t actually exist yet, is incorporated), he has a fight on his hands to get it implemented.
Much depends upon the Copenhagen summit in December when heads of government are meeting to work out our next steps in combating climate change.
So, if we are worried, (which I believe we should be), what can we do? Based upon the still valid premise, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally:
1. Tell your MP that you are worried about global warming and ask what he/she is doing about the environment. Can they lobby for action and leadership at national level and for a real result at copenhagen
2. Tell your local politicians that you are worried about the environment, and for action on reducing energy wastage in housing, better planning rules relating to renewable energy sources (solar panels etc), local sources of food such as markets.
3. Act on your own environmental footprint – carbon emissions and domestic energy (see Energy Savings Trust and Zapcarbon.com), sources of food, amount of waste, use and abuse of local countryside.
4. The Big One – what is the impact of a human population that is growing exponentially? Do we want to live in World with half-again as many people as today? What is your, and your family’s part in that?
Above all, let us us act together for a better World for us and our children – there is no longer time or value in separating into environmentalists and normal people – we need to harness all of our expertise and energy to the tasks.