Arts and Science, in harmony

January 13th, 2020

At last, popular, mainstream entertainment is referring to the climate change crisis…..

I switched on the television last night, in the middle of a very baffling Dr Who episode – it turned out that ‘the doctor’ and fellow space travellers had inadvertently arrived on Earth, in a horrendously bleak future ‘peopled’ by drooling, diabolical Dregs…. Safely back in the Tardis, she gave a passionate speech about people having the power to choose our future: we need to ‘step up’, we can either save or destroy our planet….. I hope a lot of people heard that, people who might not otherwise think about the destruction we’re all contributing to….

In a more immediate and ‘down to earth’ (?!) bid to save/help the planet, the first London Climate Change festival is being held, running from March to May. It will feature standup, dance, music and cabaret, as well as talks from visiting speakers, such as Natalie Fee, an environmental campaigner from Bristol. Actor Janie Dee, the festival’s organiser, apparently said she felt uncomfortable about ignoring the problem of climate change while starring in her current hit play – “in this country, we are all using three times the resources we should be”….

The festival will include the food critic Jay Rayner – it would be so amazing to hear him on Masterchef promoting meat-free meals! I’ve stopped watching that show, sadly – too much emphasis on meat. It’s frustrating not to have a straightforward way of contacting the programme’s makers (I posted a message on their Facebook page, with no response…): please tell me if you know how.

Quorn is to become the first major brand to introduce carbon labelling on its products. The labels are aimed at helping consumers understand the environmental impact of their/our shopping. Hopefully, this will result in more manufacturers stepping up efforts, in a bid for ‘second time lucky’ action – a while ago, Tesco (the UK’s largest retailer) dropped its plan to label all its products with their carbon footprint, blaming the work involved and other supermarkets for failing to follow its lead. I’ve written to the CEO of Tesco.

Proceeds from the Climate Change festival’s events will be split between the campaigning groups City to Sea (founded by Natalie Fee), Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, also helping to fund future activities of the London CC festival group.

The National Trust is planning to plant 20 million trees over the next decade as part of efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. It says the new trees and natural regeneration of woods will cover more than 44,500 acres (an area one-and-a-half times the size of Manchester). It also says a similar level of tree cover is needed nationwide to meet government targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions – I hope they’re passing this message on to government themselves too….!

Opposition to the HS2 high-speed railway continues – contractors have, appallingly, sealed off public footpaths and removed trees inside Calvert Jubilee reserve in Buckinghamshire without notifying the landowners, a wildlife trust.

Lord Berkeley, not a name I’d usually associate with environmentalism (is he connected with the Berkeley Castle, Berkeley Hunt people…?), has said HS2 is not good for the environment and is the wrong solution to improving the rail network – he recommended spending half of HS2’s budget on upgrading existing commuter lines. Let’s hope his report to government is listened to…

Still on the government theme, its chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, is lamenting the dearth of scientists and engineers in its departments. The threats of climate change, an ageing population and tightened national security will all be impacted adversely by this shortage, he says. In order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 (a target that needs to be earlier, anyway – my comment), he has warned: “We will have to remove domestic heating from the gas grid, find ways of designing carbon-free transport systems in towns, and – at the same time – find ways to understand the reams of data… inform and improve future actions to combat climate change.

“We will need scientists and engineers to help us do that.”

Now, two positive pieces of news –

BlackRock, the world’s largest investor, has joined an influential pressure group calling for the biggest polluters to reduce their emissions. It has signed up to Climate Action 100+. Other financial firms are likely to follow suit.

And a pesticide, chlorpyrifos, has been banned in Europe. Even after the European Food Safety Authority warned that this neurotoxic chemical was a serious danger to human health, and especially children, its makers Dow lobbied hard to keep it legal. More than 220,000 SumofUs members (including me!), together with other environmental pressure groups, signed a petition which resulted in legislation.

And finally, I noticed a great letter in Sunday’s Observer – Nigel Long, from Keynsham, pointed out that the current cheap air fares depend on aircraft being filled to near capacity. “Therefore”, he said, “only a relatively small number of people avoiding flying and leaving empty seats can make a route unprofitable and subject to withdrawal.” So we ‘flygskam’-ers can feel we’re making a difference – especially my daughter and son-in-law who are substituting a birthday trip to Portugal with a holiday in Wales. Good for them!

One thought on “Arts and Science, in harmony

  1. That Doctor Who speech ( I also got to watch it last night thanks to the ABC streaming it as soon as it is screened in the UK), was interesting lets hope it gets people thinking and more importantly acting.


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