Lockdown 2 #2

November 12th, 2020

Well, so many of us breathed a collective sigh of relief last weekend when Joe Biden was pronounced president-elect at last, with Kamala Harris as vice-president which is a particularly important move forward.

Trump will predictably do his best/worst to destroy anything he can, during these last months.

It’s outrageous that he withdrew the USA from the Paris climate agreement days before the election. Joe Biden will re-join eventually, but four years have been wasted….

If any of you have friends or relations in Georgia, USA, please urge them to vote on January 5th for Democrat candidates in the Senate (December 7th is the voter registration deadline) ‘federal runoff election’. If Republicans, with Mitch McConnell as leader, continue to control the US Senate, significant efforts to fight globe-heating pollution would be obstructed.

America’s oldest city (founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers), St Augustine, Florida, is often deluged by floods and is struggling to save its landmarks from the climate crisis.

St Augustine’s archaeological sites include relics from centuries of European colonial and American history, including the 17th century Spanish fort Castillo de San Marcos, as well as more than 4,000 years of Native American heritage. Today, flooding affects more than 60% of the archaeological zones in the city, and all sites will be vulnerable with 1.5ft of sea level rise. And homes in the city’s historic districts are overwhelmingly at risk of flooding, with 76% of land expected to be underwater during a major flood.

Also in Florida, tropical storm Eta arrived on Sunday night, with maximum sustained winds of 65mph (100km/h), causing beaches, ports and Covid testing sites to be closed. 

This storm had already done terrible damage in Mexico and Central America, killing scores of people with 100 declared ‘missing’…..

The human reality of the climate emergency is starkly evident in a video on the BBC News App (Storm Eta: ‘We have nothing….I am in pain’)

People in Nicaragua and Guatemala were already desperately affected by mudslides caused by torrential rain when the latest storm hit, leaving some homeless and mourning dead family members.

How can governments, investors, polluters turn a blind eye to such damage?

Back to the UK, it was good to hear that our prime minister said: “I just spoke to Joe Biden to congratulate him on his election. I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities – from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic.” We look forward to action (supporting the CEE Bill would be a start – hope you’ve written to your MPs..?!); and I’m trying to ignore that Johnson’s words were apparently in a tweet. Governing by tweet needs to be ditched, along with Trump….

However, it is certainly great to hear the words, Build Back Better, now used in ‘mainstream’ life, on both sides of the Atlantic, instead of being sneered at and marginalised.

Large companies and financial institutions in the UK will have to come clean about their exposure to climate risks within five years, Rishi Sunak has announced, in an attempt to demonstrate the government’s commitment to tackling global heating.

The chancellor also announced plans for Britain’s first green gilt – a bond that will be floated in the financial markets during 2021, with the money raised paying for investment in carbon-reducing projects and the creation of jobs across the country.

Rishi Sunak, Mark Carney and Andrew Bailey (former & current Bank of England governors) were speakers at the Green Horizon summit, which took place on what would have been the first day of the UN climate change conference (COP26) – postponed because of Covid19.

Now, closer to most people’s lives, a worrying survey by the RAC has concluded that our attitudes to public transport have been set back by two decades – because of Covid, we feel safer in our cars. I can understand this. So, we simply need to make fewer journeys…Easier said than done, for many reasons, of course. But maybe possible….? And of course we need much more help from governments and car manufacturers (at least tv adverts reflect concerns now…) to ‘go electric’. Greenpeace has just made an imaginative appeal/protest about this – toy cars raced under the gates of Downing Street to deliver a message to Boris Johnson: phase out new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2030.

More on petrol/oil now….

November 10th was the 25th anniversary of the murder of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists in Nigeria. They tried to protect the Niger Delta from Shell’s exploitation and were hanged by the Nigerian government. I remember being shocked at the time, writing a protest letter I think (to national/local press…?) and avoiding Shell garages for a while. But it’s terrible how memories and commitments fade, isn’t it? Extinction Rebellion has reminded me of that news in 1995 (a year before we left London) and sent me to listen to an amazing but horrifying BBC podcast – Green Originals. Shell continues to work with the corrupt Nigerian government, whose military forces have recently opened fire and killed dozens of peaceful protestors.

So, if you see XR’s stickers and posters at Shell – this explains them.

It’s also timely, since Shell have launched a survey on Twitter (that ‘love to hate’ platform again…) – it asked customers ‘What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions?”

This ‘Energy Debate’ resulted in many brilliant people posting replies.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: “I’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet.”

Greta Thunberg accused the company of ‘endless greenwash’, while climate scientist Prof Katharine Hayhoe pointed out Shell’s huge contribution to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is heating the planet (‘equivalent to that of my entire home country of Canada’). Ms Hayhoe (whom I’ve heard on the Outrage & Optimism podcast, a brilliant Christian and activist) added: “When you have a concrete plan to address that, I’d be happy to chat about what I’m doing to reduce my personal emissions”!

So, my message today is please boycott Shell garages (I’ve written to the CEO Ben van Beurden – he’s never replied!).

Good luck with your lockdowns/restricted lives, wherever you are….

A final thought for the determined lone 17 year old Extinction Rebellion protester in Norwich – after a mass demonstration was postponed due to the national lockdown, Alex Sidney scaled a crane in Duke Street early on Saturday morning. He said: “I’m desperate…there’s no alternative, and my generation are the ones inheriting this planet – so I really want to try and not let it go to waste.”

Please check out (and sign?) the petitions I post to Facebook and Twitter (#grandmaglobal), even though I sometimes despair of the latter….!

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