January 22nd, 2021
Thank Goodness (or even Thank God…?) we now have a new ‘leader of the free world’…
Joe Biden has moved to reinstate the US to the Paris climate agreement just hours after being sworn in as president.
The world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases will rejoin the international effort to curb the dangerous heating of the planet.
Biden is also set to block the Keystone XL pipeline, a bitterly contested project that would bring huge quantities of oil from Canada to the US, and halt oil and gas drilling in various locations, including the Arctic national wildlife refuge wilderness.
On the White House website all mentions of climate were scrubbed out in 2017 – now a new list of priorities puts the climate crisis second only behind the Covid pandemic (both linked anyway, as we know…).
Biden is also expected to convene an international climate summit in the spring to help accelerate emissions cuts. Sweeping climate legislation to make deeper cuts in emissions will be more challenging to get through Congress, however. The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans and is unlikely to embrace anything as progressive as the Green New Deal (that’s to help everyone, what is so suspicious about it…? oh, yes it threatens the greedy status quo…)
Keep fighting, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez! I also have to appreciate Kamala Harris at this point; and the amazing, inspiring youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman – so serene, her profound words set to graceful punctuating gestures.
So, there’s significant, heart-warming reason for hope; but sad reality clouds my ability to wholeheartedly switch off my anxiety. As Leah Stokes, an expert in environmental policy at the University of California, said: “The best time to cut emissions was decades ago; the second-best time is today.”
Now, I’d like to ‘come back to earth’ even more – to look at the UK and our individual contributions to addressing the climate crisis. The organisation Climate Outreach is asking for help in changing the way people think about lifestyle change. Why should we change how we live?
They’ve made a video, simply showing that lifestyle change and system change are two sides of the same coin. Please watch and share it:
Every year, the UN Environment Programme publishes the globally significant Emissions Gap report, analysing the difference between anticipated carbon emissions and levels consistent with the Paris Agreement. For the first time, the December 2020 report includes a focus on the key role of lifestyle change in bridging that Gap. A key message is that household activities are linked to around two-thirds of all emissions.
Now, I don’t want to be an advertiser, but Octopus Energy is worth switching to, if you haven’t already – the Group’s vision is to use technology (Kraken computer software) to make the ‘green energy revolution’ affordable. (‘Agile customers’, like us, can even benefit from using up excess green power… check it out!) I wrote to its CEO Greg Jackson (a former coffee shop owner like us!) who replied with a personal engaging reassurance, when I questioned his association with Australia and Japan – “We absolutely will not be polluted or diluted in our mission to drive renewables. Working with companies like this we can take the enormous financial resource and deploy it to drive renewables globally, as well as greening the companies themselves.”
I’m never far from thinking about grandchildren (part of my week is enriched by our childcare bubble, even if it’s tiring sometimes!) – I’m taken back to my own childhood with this next piece of news: the four Ladybird books ‘What to look for in….Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter’ are being re-published.
More than 60 years on, these books aim to inspire budding young naturalists to learn more about the wild creatures they might see during the different seasons. Good news, but of course there are sad aspects too – turtle doves (sung about with my grandson recently, in the Twelve Days of Christmas), once a familiar bird across rural England in summer, are set to vanish from our shores, having declined by 98% since the 1960s. Lapwings also featured in the original series, because they were then far more common than they are now. And water voles, also in the Summer volume, have vanished from many places during the past six decades – at least, as the new book points out, conservationists are now helping them to return. And also on the upside, species featured in the new volumes include the osprey, bottlenose dolphin and grey seal, all of which have increased dramatically during the intervening years.
Thinking of the natural world, it is so cheering to see snowdrops emerging at this time of year in England. A headline in a recent Guardian appealed to me (I love wordplay!) – ‘A galanthus effort: Covid-hit snowdrop festival moves online.’ (Galanthus is the Latin/botanical name for snowdrops.) The Garden House in Devon usually hosts a very popular snowdrop festival, cancelled for 2021 because of covid. To try to fill the gap, the Garden House is staging what it confidently believes to be the UK’s first “virtual snowdrop festival.” Every day the team of gardeners, with student horticulturalists Rose and Rosie (perfect, apt names!…), will go out into the snowdrop drifts (many varieties); and post live images of flowers as they appear, dots of brightness shining in the winter gloom. Visitor services manager Karen Willcocks said she believed the sight of snowdrops, whether viewed in person by local people or online by others all around the world, would be a balm in these most difficult of times. So, that’s what I’m ending today’s post with – not an overt allusion to the climate crisis, but uplifting Nature in its simple beauty. We all need to continue to protect it, in whatever way we can.