Global Climate Strike (tomorrow, in a place near you…)

September 19th, 2019

The Amazon rainforests are still burning apparently – half of the whole area has been destroyed already. 

I agree with my mother, on reading the Guardian’s front page headline ‘Area of forest the size of the UK is lost every year’,  that this is unimaginable (and depressing news, of course).

But thank goodness there are people capable of looking at all this with a positive perspective –

the uplifting newspaper supplement My Green Pod is focussing on the half of the Amazon still left to save (and other forests throughout the world). It’s encouraging people to contribute to the World Land Trust (and to Tree Sisters, whom I’ve mentioned before).

This organisation acquires land of conservation value. But it doesn’t own any of such land, in Borneo and India for example – it establishes a partnership with a local NGO: one that has shown itself to be transparent, ethical and totally trustworthy. The partner buys and manages the land, and the Trust makes it possible through its fundraising in England.

Back to Bolsonaro and the Amazon for a moment – I’ve been signing petitions and writing letters (McDonalds hasn’t got back to me yet), and now at least the fashion industry seems to be bowing to such pressure. H&M, for instance, has suspended the purchasing of leather from the Brazilian Amazon until it has ‘credible assurance systems’ in place confirming leather production isn’t harming the rainforest….

I had a reply from JBS, the industrial meat company, assuring me that they had signed up to ethical standards in sourcing their beef, working with Greenpeace since 2009 – Greenpeace told me “JBS is absolutely not working with Greenpeace” and that the company has not been abiding by their commitments. I’ve written another email to Marcus O’Sullivan and Ian Hannock at JBS…

So, there are these global and local actions going on in my campaign – a bit of a tension for me to deal with, feeling myself pulling in both directions, I must admit….

On the local level of trees, Tiffany Francis-Baker is the Forestry Commission’s first writer in residence. She hopes her poetry (and beautiful illustrations) will encourage people to care about the forests of England and the animals and birds that live there, and not just because many species are under increasing threat from the climate crisis. She also thinks we should care because of the potential benefits to us. “I think something we really struggle with in modern society is that we tend to see nature as something ‘other’ – as if we are over here, and nature is over there, and we should protect it because it’s cute.” (She adds that the further we distance ourselves from our ecosystem, the more stressed we become..)

That is perhaps, however, the ‘way in’ for some people to care – all those cute creatures that are suffering because of climate change. Some butterflies have been thriving in the UK because of this year’s warm summer, such as the painted lady which is migratory. But the climate crisis may be causing the demise of the once-ubiquitous small tortoiseshell butterfly, which has declined by 78% since the 1970s. And puffins (my favourite sea-bird!) are threatened with extinction, particularly because of rising sea temperatures. Lundy Island, happily near here in the Bristol Channel, is now a successful haven for some of them.

And, back to the deforestation issue, precious orangutans are dying out – another very good reason to spurn buying any products containing palm oil.

Still on the subject of nature lovers, the American writer Jonathan Franzen caused a row when he wrote in the New Yorker recently that we’re deluded if we think we can tackle the climate emergency – we should simply be preparing for the devastating effects of it.

And now there is a Global Commission on Adaptation, headed by Bill Gates and Ban Ki-Moon. Disaster warning systems, crops that can withstand droughts, restoring mangrove swamps to shield coastlines and painting roofs white to cut heatwave temperatures are being recommended as urgent actions needed throughout the world.

I was very heartened by Fiona Harvey’s response (in the wonderful Guardian of course!) – she reckons adaptation alone won’t save us from the climate disaster.

She said: “The view that adapting to inevitable climate change should be our priority, over futile and ruinously expensive attempts to cut emissions, has been spread by those who want to continue to emit CO2, come what may. Fossil fuel companies saw adaptation, along with the idea that we could geo-engineer our way out of trouble, as a way to keep selling oil while paying lip service to the climate science.”

And, “trying to adapt to the consequences of climate change while continuing to burn fossil fuels is like trying to mop up an overflowing sink while the taps are still running”.

So it definitely is worth us all trying to contribute to turning off those taps.

The BBC’s ‘The road to clean energy’ article is worth reading – some very uncomfortable, difficult facts to confront, but one I found particularly relevant …

The biggest consumers of energy are you and me, driving the car to the supermarket, or simply switching on the central heating. Household domestic energy use and private cars account for 48% of the UK’s energy consumption (compared with 16% used by industry, and 15% by other whatever that may mean?!).

So, tomorrow I’m taking a banner (well, recycled cardboard ‘poster’) to the Global Climate Strike in Gloucester.

On one side of it I’m advocating the big aim of ‘system change’: Let’s move beyond the Oil and Plastic Age (after Stone Age, Iron Age etc…). Optimistically, all the councils etc I’ve written to about this are in agreement & aiming to make changes, prompted by the Committee on Climate Change.

But, as the Student Climate Network says, it’s the oil companies and the banks who support them who need to change fundamentally. 

On the other side of my home-made placard (thanks to my husband’s illustrative skills), is the more ‘relatable’ stuff: a list of what we can do to lower our carbon emissions – drive less, fly less, eat fewer animal-related products (bit of a mouthful, that one: enjoy the pun!), switch to green energy suppliers….

Now I’m going to end this week’s ‘bulletin’ with returning to the big picture – this week’s attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure led to me appealing directly to Donald Trump (?! adding a few words about the importance of welcoming the end of oil, when I signed a petition against drilling in the Arctic…). Of course he won’t take any notice of me, but it’s very life-enhancing to come across the following in a dry article about economics –  amongst all the stuff about rising oil prices, threatened consumer spending etc there is this statement: some experts believe the shock may even help efforts to shift economies from fossil fuels to green energy alternatives. Positive indeed!

And Ann Pettifor in ‘The Case for the Green New Deal’ explains, in very nitty gritty economic terms, how a Green New Deal would pay for itself – a ‘no brainer’ surely, as the expression goes…!

2 thoughts on “Global Climate Strike (tomorrow, in a place near you…)

  1. I must admit I was starting to become cynical and feel defeated but the fact that kids everywhere are standing up has given me new hope. Will be marching with the kids this afternoon here in my regional town in Australia. It is not easy acting on a personal level to reduce climate change but every little bit helps, I know there is always more I can do. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this.

    Thanks very much, Sharon.
    Hope your local march went well & that the kids feel supported, even optimistic…
    There’s so much still to be done about engaging the ‘general public ‘, I feel.
    If only we could get some celebrities &/or high profile dog lovers on board to make the issue ‘normal ‘ (not just for ‘eco-warriors’)!
    Keep doing all you’re doing,
    Love, Emily


  2. I like the way you have given inspiring news as well as the depressing stuff and admire your questioning influential people.
    I agree with the students that one of the ways we maintain fossil fuel use is by investments. Even an ordinary current account which we all have may be investing in fossil fuels. Also I would like to find out how the majority of us can heat our normal homes and cook without gas central heating? Solar panels I don’t think are enough.

    Hi, Brenda – great to march with you today (& with Caroline)
    For my next blog, I plan to write to ‘my’ bank, First Direct, about investments/divestments; & also HSBC etc.
    I’ll also ask the Committee for Climate Change about how they plan to achieve the aim of no gas boilers/heating.
    We might have to settle for ridding the world of oil first (gas, next)!
    Love, Emily


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