September 16, 2020
This feels as if it has been a significant week.
David Attenborough’s documentary ‘Extinction: the Facts’ plays recurringly in my head. Those images of horrendous wildfires in California (& beyond) must not be allowed to become absorbed by us, who are not directly affected, as ‘a new normal’ – we must not become desensitised…. How many of us have consigned the Australia fires to ‘history’? (not our friends in Australia of course…) And the man-made deliberate deforestation in the Amazon, clearing land for our meat habit….it continues….
And we rarely see images of massive landslides and flooding (in countries such as Bangladesh & the Philippines which have been suffering for years).
Typhoon Haishen has been recently battering South Korea, after ‘slamming’ Japan (BBC News word..).
Japan (where I was born!) is apparently being supplied with the toxic pesticide 1,3-Dichloropropene (banned in the UK and EU, but not for exporting it seems…) by UK-based company INEOS.
I’ve written to CEO Sir Jim Ratcliffe, for all the good it will do – good to express my horror/disappointment anyway…!
INEOS sponsors the Tour de France – maybe they could get into developing sustainable transport…?!
That’s kind of a joke (dark humour…?), but behind such thoughts are frustrations…We all need distractions and positive events at this time of pandemic gloom, but do we want our leisure and pleasure to be associated with climate-destroying companies…?
Talking of distractions and positive events, I’m really looking forward to the return of Strictly Come Dancing! Bill Bailey, the musical stand-up comedian, is apparently one of this year’s contestants. I’ve written to him too! With his love of animals, and because he’s a parent, maybe he’ll ‘big up’ climate activism on mainstream television?! It’s worth asking!
Well, one last thing about the Attenborough programme – an abiding memory/image for me is the huge piles of pointless, furry, plastic goggle-eyed soft toy creatures in shopping malls. We in the UK consume so much more than people in the global south (and the US 7 times more, apparently). This is greed and habit, surely. No-one needs all that stuff… I’m sure if you asked the children who receive these objects that they would prefer to see real, live animals thriving in the world, even if that might only be on television….
Now to some practical issues.
The UK’s Climate People’s Assembly has produced its report. Together with the Extinction documentary, it deserves to be taken very seriously and urgently by our government.
The most important principles to emerge were “informing and educating everyone”, ensuring fairness for everyone and leadership from the government that is “clear, proactive, accountable and consistent”.
Other important principles identified included restoring the natural world, local community engagement and, simply, “urgency”.
Recommendations included taxes on frequent fliers, a cut in meat and dairy consumption and better green transport links for all parts of the country.
I’ll focus on the flying issue this week (quoting brilliant climate action group Possible):
Getting on a plane is the only way to emit tonnes of climate-crashing greenhouse gases in just a few hours. Collectively, we all need to fly less and choose ways of travelling which are better for the climate. But some people are flying a lot more than the rest of us and causing most of the environmental damage. Just 15% of people who fly frequently take 70% of all UK flights. While more than half the UK population don’t fly at all in any given year…
Right now, it doesn’t matter if you’re flying to visit your family for the first time in years, or taking your tenth holiday abroad of the year – you’ll pay the same tax for that flight. We think that’s as unfair and backwards as a flat tax on income would be. That’s why we’re proposing a frequent flyer levy, which would be the fairest way to tax flights and the most effective way to cut emissions.
But why are we calling for this now, at a time when airline bosses are using the Covid crisis to slash jobs and push staff onto worse pay? Well, that’s because the additional tax taken from a frequent flyer levy could be used to create climate-friendly green jobs, and help former aviation workers into these roles.
The frequent flyer levy would help to cut emissions in a fair way, with those who pollute the most making the biggest reductions in how much they fly, while supporting workers and creating the green jobs we need.
The Confederation of British Industry, no less, is calling for a green jobs boost to help recovery from the pandemic. Will Rishi Sunak incorporate these demands (not from a fringe ‘eco’ group but from the heart of industry itself….) into the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, setting the UK’s financial course for the next few years? Before he finalises his plans, please sign the petition from Friends of the Earth
and/or write to your MP urgently.
Finally, a few, more modest, thoughts about plastic waste (INEOS is also a major contributor to this). This is a ‘drop in the ocean’ (sadly apt phrase…) of course, but I do think leading by example must help a little (if only millions of us would stop buying single-use plastic, but the word is definitely getting out!) – we’ve started buying soap, shampoo and conditioner in bars, rather than in plastic bottles…
Recycling plastic is so problematic (better to try not to buy it in the first place) – much of it ends up in the sea and in countries that do not want it: Africa is becoming a dumping ground for our waste now…
I have to make a confession, though (my campaigning is absolutely not about showing how great/sustainable I am….?!) – the company we’re buying from (via Holland & Barrett) is in New Zealand, Ethique, so air-miles is a problem….
Other brands are available, as they say! Beauty brand UpCircle, for example – check them out, as well as Circular and Co….
Amongst all the bad news from the UK government, seemingly short-sightedly obsessed with defending themselves about their terrible decisions on Brexit and Covid-19, it is truly heartening to know there are small companies, and even some larger ones, intent on restoring the Earth.
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber (one of the larger companies!) professes to have ‘faith in humanity’ – I heard him on the podcast ‘Global Optimism’. Of course he/Uber is not perfect, but they seem to be striving towards sustainable travelling. ‘Climate Action is a Team Sport’ is an inspiring phrase of his….
‘Tune in’ next Friday (September 25th) – my son (Gecko) will be providing the musical ending: a song with a heartbreaking scenario, but characteristically witty…. We have to be optimistic and ‘keep the faith’….
Please continue to sign and share –
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