Lockdown #14

June 15th, 2020

Gateshead, England is showing us the way!

It has a scheme to use hot water from old mine workings – making something good with the remnants of an era that is gone.

The Gateshead Energy Company plans to install 5.5km of new heating pipes to the east of the town centre, potentially supplying heat to 1,250 new houses, as well as a care home, Gateshead International Stadium and other council-owned buildings in Felling.

Let’s hope that the plans come to fruition; and that more councils like Gateshead Council are successful in applying for the Heat Networks Investment Project grants, a Government initiative…

The funding will help install a water source heat pump, which will extract heat from the water in underground mine workings 150 metres beneath Gateshead town centre. The council is working with the Coal Authority, which manages all the disused mine workings under Gateshead.

Cllr John McElroy said: “The council has always seen the development of low-carbon energy as key to meeting our climate change goals, but also in generating lower-cost energy for residents and organisations in Gateshead.”

I heard about all this from an item on BBC radio news (coincidentally my sister works in Gateshead and may well know about the scheme). I really don’t understand why some news items ‘make it’ to the regular broadcasts – why are we not regularly reminded about the climate crisis, to wake us up about our responsibilities but also to hearten us with stories of positive change?

I’m waiting to hear from Laura Kuenssberg!

I’ll continue with a couple more positive stories (& then tackle the inevitable gloomy stuff…).

The UK government is considering steps to end its ongoing financial support for fossil fuels overseas. This follows a period of using £3.5bn of public funds to support polluting projects since signing the Paris climate agreement (SO cynical, immoral & disgraceful – how did we let them get away with it….?).

Senior civil servants are understood to be planning a new climate strategy that would phase out financial support  for oil and gas infrastructure in developing countries ahead of the UN’s Cop26 talks next year. 

Daniel Willis, with Global Justice, said: “For the government to show real climate leadership ahead of Cop26 and support a global green recovery from Covid-19, it needs to end these highly damaging investments.”

Earlier this year, Keir Starmer, before he was elected Labour Party leader, said: “Rather than funding fossil fuel projects abroad, we should use our development budget and technical expertise to help other countries skip our bad habits and grow their own low-carbon economies on renewables instead.”

Despite so much bad news coming out of America, this is good: New Jersey has become the first state to add climate change to its schools’ curriculum. New Jersey students will start learning about climate change in kindergarten and keep studying the crisis through graduation under the state’s new education standards.

This is good news, the crisis being acknowledged and made part of the education system; but I hope, of course, that children and young people are also given positive information about how to tackle the crisis, encouraged to be an active part of ‘greening the world’….

Closer to home, for me, and on a personal level too (Rebecca’s mother is my godmother!), I enjoyed reading writer Rebecca Frayn’s recommendations of what to watch, and encourage us, during lockdown – “hope-filled environmental documentaries that remind us that one silver lining in this global pandemic is the possibility of rebuilding green.”

She drew my attention to ‘Tomorrow’, by French film-makers Melanie Laurent and Cyril Dion – “it offers such a wonderfully positive, intelligent, hopeful and solution-based approach to living….an achievable utopian world”.

Interestingly, my penultimate reference was to be to Jane Goodall, whose documentary on National Geographic is titled ‘The Hope’. The quote I read from her, in the Guardian’s Green Light section, was anything but hopeful – “Humanity is finished if it fails to adapt after Covid-19”. 

She blames the emergence of Covid-19 on the over-exploitation of the natural world, which has seen forests cut down, species made extinct and natural habitats destroyed.

We need to drastically change our food systems, she warns. I know she’s talking about the world’s systems, horrendous intensive farming in particular, but we can all help by reducing the market for meat, can’t we?….

I’m going to end today with a tweet from Greta Thunberg – “If countries like Sweden are to fulfil their commitments in the Paris Agreement their national CO2 emissions must be reduced 12-15% every year, starting now. This is according to the first study based on the Paris Agreement and the latest IPCC research.”

Keep writing to your MPs! Drastic changes need to start now. We are a country like Sweden!

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