September 9th, 2020
I’ll open with some good news.
Our government has rejected plans to develop an “environmentally unacceptable” coalmine near Druridge Bay in Northumberland, after years of fierce opposition from local campaigners and Friends of the Earth. The Green Party’s Berwick-upon-Tweed branch said: “Northumberland was the cradle of coal mining in the UK, and is rightly proud of the role its communities played in the industrial revolution and of the strength and resilience of those communities.
“Having been at the forefront of one industrial revolution, this decision means that Northumberland can now be at the forefront of the next one, and lead the way into a post-carbon future.”
‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, by Dara McAnulty, has won the Wainwright prize for nature writing. Dara McAnulty is 16 years old and writes that he has the ‘heart of a naturalist, the head of a would-be scientist, and bones of someone who is already wearied by the apathy and destruction wielded against the natural world.’
The chair of judges, Julia Bradbury, called for the book to be added to the national curriculum, because of “its power to move and the urgency of the situation we face.”
McAnulty, who is currently writing a children’s book, said he wanted to donate the £2,500 prize money to his school’s environmental group, Roots and Shoots, at Shimna Integrated College in Northern Ireland.
My attention has also been drawn this week to a podcast called Global Optimism. Despite the odds stacked against the world finding its way out of the climate crisis, one of the presenters said: “We all love our children.” That gives hope! We all have an instinct to protect them – so naturally we will protect the natural world, surely?!
A new film, ‘I Am Greta’, has been released. At its launch, Greta Thunberg, 17 years old, appealed for more action to be taken to address the climate crisis, which seems to have slipped dangerously off the political agenda.
She said that she hoped the film could be a ‘bridge’ for people who wanted to know more about the climate emergency, helping to ‘increase momentum’ and spread awareness at a time when protesting and activism have been reduced because of Covid-19 restrictions around the world.
These two young people I’ve mentioned are working hard – we must not leave it to our young to sort the mess, doubly cruel given that they will have to live with the future….
Now, a new report by CBI Economics says that air pollution causes 3 million lost working days every year in the UK, owing to people getting sick or taking time off to care for sick children.
Cutting air pollution and meeting the World Health Organisation standards would benefit the economy by about £1.6bn a year, by improving productivity. About 17,000 premature deaths of working age people each year would be prevented by meeting the guidelines.
Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist of the Confederation of British Industry, said employers and the government should aim for a “green recovery” from the coronavirus, by investing in public transport and energy efficiency. She said: “Not only is there a clear moral responsibility to address air pollution and the impact it has on human health and the environment, there’s also a striking economic rationale. With air pollution hitting the balance sheets of businesses across the country, and cutting the earnings of their employees, cleaning up our air would help us to lead healthier and more productive lives, while delivering a green jobs boost for the economy.”
The government’s push for people to ‘get back into the office’ has prompted Jane Burston, executive director of the Clean Air Fund, to warn: “Encouraging people into their cars will increase pollution. The government needs to consider that building back the economy is not just about going back to the physical office. The consequences for air pollution are consequences for the economy, and the economic benefits of reducing air pollution are significant.”
If you have the energy to write another letter/email to your MP, you could demand that the Environment Bill, due to return to parliament soon, includes meeting the ambitious WHO standards on air pollution, highlighted by this CBI report.
Air pollution and climate change are of course two sides of the same coin – the United Nations Environment Programme states: “By reducing air pollution we also protect the climate. Air pollutants include more than just greenhouse gases, but there’s a big overlap: the two often interact with each other….. Quick action on reducing highly potent climate pollutants – methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon – can significantly decrease the chances of triggering dangerous climate tipping points, like the irreversible release of carbon dioxide and methane from thawing Arctic permafrost.”
A direct contribution we can make to reducing air pollution is to drive less;
also, to fly less – aircraft are responsible for an increasing proportion of air pollutant emissions, both at local and global level.
To put it bluntly, ‘Cheap Flights cost the Earth’. Flight Free UK hopes to ‘change the narrative’, helping to shift the norm away from flying. So we can influence government and industry to be honest about the climate impact of aviation, as well as make low-carbon travel the obvious choice.
Flying has become such an integral part of some people’s lives that some airlines are selling ‘flights to nowhere’ so these people can get their fix. So wrong…. And I find it so worrying that there are actually sightseeing flights to Antarctica – these are directly contributing to the destruction of the very thing the passengers have come to see and marvel at… I would guess that the majority of us love and marvel at Nature – to preserve it, we often need to keep our distance….
When I first read at length about Greta Thunberg, she was being interviewed (remotely – she doesn’t fly!) by a range of people, actors, politicians, comedians etc. Many of them asked if she was optimistic about the future and whether she thought people were naturally averse to change because human nature is selfish…. She said that once the scientific facts were ‘out there’ people would naturally drive change…. Knowledge informing powerful actions…. (Scientia potestas est!).
Last week Extinction Rebellion prevented some newspapers being distributed. For one day only! This was to highlight the fact that we, the British public, are not being given knowledge about the climate crisis. Knowledge that might make us question governments and multinationals; and, more importantly, might help put the brakes on things getting out of control. Environmental groups, and now some enlightened people in power (see CBI above…!) are realising we have to work ‘beyond politics’ to change the future. Climate activists, like me (one-grandmother band!), have no vested interest, no agenda, other than protecting all our grandchildren around the world.
We are not the threat. A dying planet is. And sadly it may be a promise soon, if we don’t act quickly.
Please sign my petition http://chng.it/kdyR5267 and urge your MP (emailing her or him is simple) to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.