Lockdown 2 #3

November 17th, 2020

One of the side effects of lockdown is watching more television – some of it is a welcome relief, of course. This week I’ve also been thinking about the adverts.

It’s heartening that some of these are now acknowledging the climate crisis (my favourite is still the ‘petrol graveyard’..), but we still need to be cautious, ‘buyers beware’ and all that….

The latest from Shell is very depressing – Elvin (why doesn’t he have a surname?) waxes lyrical about solar panels and battery storage. We have both those ‘technologies’ and I started listening to him, with interest and hope, watching him and his two little girls exploring sunny countryside. Then it turned out he  is ‘Head of Product’ at Shell Energy. 

Why is he not ‘making a difference’ for a green energy company? We (and he…?!) are being fooled. His ‘sustainable’ role is completely incompatible with a company that continues to damage fragile eco-systems by drilling for oil, polluting our world almost to a point beyond recovery….

I’ll write to him, though that may well prove to be wasted energy on my part….

Another potentially hopeful advert is for Ovo, the energy provider. It is not actually the greenest choice, as its ‘fuel mix’ still results in carbon emissions ‘above the national average due to the high percentage of gas used’ (that quote is from Ovo’s own website…).

The other day I sent an email to family and friends, forwarding Friends of the Earth’s appeal that we switch to a green energy supplier.

Ecotricity and Octopus seem the best choices, but there are others….check them out!

Three of Britain’s biggest energy companies have agreed to build giant underwater power cables (yes, there will be side-effects: marine life must be protected simultaneously…) to bring Scotland’s vast reserves of renewable energy to millions of homes in England. This ‘superhighway’, to be built by Scottish Power, National Grid and SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy), could help to unlock the potential of the prime minister’s plan to build enough offshore wind farms to power every home in the country by 2030.

Talking of ‘the prime minister’s plan’, his anticipated week of announcements to build back better (giving us hope, in words, at least..) has typically been overshadowed by government incompetence – vital, crucial action is put on hold yet again. While Boris Johnson and others are in isolation, we’ll just have to get on with moving things forward without them….!

I’ve just been reading heartening news, from the movement Open Democracy, about grassroots actions in America among a new generation of activists daring to imagine a radically different future.

And the Green Party in the UK has drawn my attention to a ‘Future Generations Act’ which is being brought to Parliament after being adopted in Wales. Wales now has the world’s first ‘commissioner of the unborn’, responsible for delivering social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being for current and future generations. Let’s hope the United Nation’s Assistant Secretary General Nikhil Seth’s statement comes true: “What Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow”. And why not?!

As I expect you all know, the next important climate conference is COP26 – it was postponed from being held this month in Glasgow….

There are ominous signs that Shell and BP will sponsor it, or at least have their logos displayed on the publicity… This is madness, of course! How can a conference for a cleaner world be associated with polluting oil companies? It will not be taken seriously by anyone.

I think I’ll return here to the analogy with tobacco companies and smoking. I realise that people still smoke, but even they (the majority of them at least, I imagine?) know the dangers and admit that their choice is not healthy.

We all critically need to get to the point of accepting that oil is not a healthy choice.

We need health warning labels at garages (Extinction Rebellion has tried to do this…).

In Sweden, eco-labels have been mandatory since May, showing climate impact; and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, has gone a step further – making information about the environmental and human health impact of fossil fuel use mandatory on all self-service fuel pumps.

Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency (it’s still, sadly, abstract for many) with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now, sensitising people to the consequence of their actions.

Finally (but I hope it’s not final, for the activists/protectors), climate activists have spent the past two weeks in Norway’s Supreme Court, in a bid to drag western Europe’s biggest oil producer out of the Arctic. 

Greenpeace and a local group called Nature & Youth have already been rebuffed in Norway’s appeals court. But since then, new evidence has emerged that the environmental groups hope will be ‘a game changer’. The court case ended on Thursday without providing a date for a verdict. It’s apparently likely to be before Christmas.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful Christmas present if the environmentalists (and consequently, the world) won? The case against Norway tests its new law, which states that “everyone has the right to an environment that secures health, and to a nature where productivity and diversity are preserved.” It’s hard to imagine anyone ignoring the beautiful Arctic’s role in preserving productivity and diversity of Nature, for the sake of productivity of short-term financial gain. 

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