A friend of mine, who is a population activist makes no bones about his attitude – population is the problem, so concern about carbon emissions and personal footprints is a waste of time as any efforts we make are like building a wall of sand with a spade against the incoming tide of population growth.
I, and some more-or-less like-minded individuals around Thame are spending time and effort trying to influence people to live more sustainably in all sorts of ways – energy, waste, local food, transport and so on. The local politicians steer clear of us by and large and MPs make suppotive noises but do nothing, and the mainstream of the local populace at best show a polite interest and acknowledge that we must do more, and urge us to ‘keep up the good work’.
This is a pretty wealthy area so residents tend to have high environmental footprints as they can afford multiple cars, larger houses, foreign holidays and don’t mind spending money on heating bills. They keep themselves busy so haven’t got time for all this ‘hair shirt stuff anyway’.
The UK government prides itself in taking a global lead on the environment, which they do in words but far less in actions (see previous posts). Ed Milliband, the Secretary in charge of the Department for Environment and Climate Change ( a new department created by Labour) generally makes the right noises, but is one minister among many around the Cabinet table, where the voices for short-term economic recovery will be louder, and money for new investment will be extremely tight or missing. So although there is talk of supporting a ‘grass roots’ movement throughout the country along with major changes in energy generation and transport, there is no money for it and no real policy pressure. Thus local councillors can effectively ignore the initiatives, like Agenda 21, that are supposed to nurture the seeds of change.
And it is true that the populations of India, China, Indonesia and Brazil, are so large that our puny efforts making a difference are totally inisignificant. Projections about the increase in GWG outputs from relatively minor increases in car use and other consumerist activities from these countries are frightening.
There is, of course, NO PLAN, and we have no idea where all the resources are going to come from to support the changes, and there is global alarm but little action to address the affects.
And I’ve just put down the phone from my good-hearted brother, who really is one of society’s good guys and how has just returned from 3 weeks in the West Indies having an absolutely lovely time. And who am I to say that his doing so is irresponsible?
So why do we bother?
Another voluntary activity that uses up my time, energy and sometimes money is The Best Of Both Worlds (Outdoor recreation and conservation) at BoBW.co.uk. Because of government cut-backs we are losing the little funding that we had (about £10,000 per year) and the civil servants who sit on the working group that I chair are under a lot of pressure, or keep being pushed onto other things. Therefore I find I’m having to spend more and more time on it and can’t see where the funding is going to be coming from even next year. Fund raising is a big job, so is my place to do it?
Who gains benefit out of BoBW? Not me – I do use the countryside and try to do so responsibly, but it has no impact and little relevance to me. The nationl governing bodies of outdoor sports and recreations do benefit, and they help out and donate through the CCPR. They are the biggest users probably. Land managers and conservation bodies and officers benefit to an extent as BoBW provides a lot of information and a framework to help in access decisions.
The biggest beneficiaries are the agencies (Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency) who have sponsored it’s creation and who are withdrawing funding now.
So again, why do I bother? It’s increasingly difficult to believe in initiatives to better our environment and society when society doesn’t seem to care. Words are easy, but money and action are what counts.
I really would appreciate your thoughts.