HOT

July 18th, 2022

It seems very appropriate that I’m writing this on the first official ‘extreme heatwave’ warning in Britain; and the day after my youngest grandchild turned one year old….

I’ll start with optimism, swiftly followed by a ‘call to arms/action’!…. 

Yuval Noah Harari (whose books you may have read, like ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’) and colleagues at Sapienship have been doing some calculations….

“If humanity invests just an extra 2% of Global GDP in developing eco-friendly technologies and infrastructure every year, this would be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change, while also creating lots of new jobs and economic opportunities.”

They go on to say: “Shifting 2% of the budget from here to there is what politicians do all the time. So we should pressure them to just do their job. It’s a concrete, clear and feasible target – 2%”

So there is achievable hope.

But, as Greta Thunberg said at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, hope is not enough. Hope has to be earned.

If you, my readers (maybe only my mum….?!), do not want or are not able to be involved in practical activism, I believe it’s essential that we all engage with our politicians/MPs, even if some seem completely unreachable…..

So, as the Sapienship report says:

“Pester politicians relentlessly”!

I’ve sent mine this link https:www.sapienship.co/decision-makers/2-percent-more

He (Mark Harper, Tory MP who was considering standing for the leadership/prime minister…!) knows ‘where I’m coming from’ so I didn’t elaborate further (probably written to him 3 times a week for 2 years!).

But it might be good if you add something personal to your letter/email, if you’re not regularly in touch with her/him….

One specific way you could engage this week is by sending a letter to your MP objecting to the government’s reckless aviation strategy, Jet Zero (copying in Robert Courts, the Aviation Minister; and Greg Clarke, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Levelling Up, ultimately responsible for airport expansion planning decisions).

Jet Zero is another example of ‘greenwashing’ – increasingly, ‘the norm’ these days. 

In one way, the practice shows that the people with power realise our urgent concern about the climate crisis, but they are cynically trying to get away with plans dressed up as solutions.

We must not fall for being misled.

Jet Zero expressly supports aviation expansion. So how does the government square this with the desperate need for a drastic cut in emissions? As the group opposing expansion at Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) puts it, “Put simply, Jet Zero is a con. It’s an aviation industry wish list masquerading as government policy.”

Follow this link for a template letter and e-mail addresses – https://www.galba.uk/jet-zero

To return to the topic of the 2022 Glastonbury Festival, my ‘Generation Y’ son and I had a discussion about how heartening it is to see the current ‘Generation Z’ young people engaging with ‘issues’.

A Guardian article on July 15th highlighted a number of inspiring young people – embracing climate optimism through Tik Tok of all places… (sounding my age there….?!)

When Zahra Biabani (from Houston, Texas – ‘of all places’….), aged 23, learned that 56% of Gen Zers believe humanity is doomed, she started posting weekly positive climate news stories, which were met with a lot of gratitude. Climate optimism, Biabani says, isn’t about discrediting the trove of science and evidence that the climate crisis threatens our future on Earth – it’s a way to cultivate hope so people continue fighting.

Hear, hear (another outdated phrase….?!).

All generations need to join together, and keep fighting.

Keep looking and listening (& shouting!)

June 11th, 2022

First, this month, I want to draw everyone’s attention to another government consultation – this time about air quality targets.

It closes on June 27th, so get going as soon as possible. Please!  Here’s a link to the online tool created by Asthma and Lung UK, to help us respond.

https://click.actionnetwork.org/ss/c/XlxiKm-amnZREMhISCI1HQ3IVAe68KEBQwU2ad-pRpToswkqqq9J3UYIbUf5zlzBhu45FCA7bAeozEFcqeTJrpAhdcn11cSYb3_CsfZ0vD9J2nGhrMAW3eLgoETlRGlAVZSMkvRjoZ89D_zPJbCnoawbUWy4aRCdzVTjOC8KxcGnPMS0Iwq0AysPzQmlMv5yHPGbuvHQJuin_KsrI2kGX98qIZ4dqICk97NktqfV3z0Z3ZtPLardsLgNmf6sxQC2JajbKspDEw-ZL8HlAwJSLyEEqHoCO2lSfI3-WhUrkiMrNWCbHwddCrDvUW3gl9ujqUWaMLqG63MLSDmP1H7TxZszRtH8oDv4LEQut0Rzy5UyhG_roDMCzellIsBbI_jrZbR1QzAmMM-DdjaKZrS_8Q/3mt/jhOfDCySSlqtNCyIrQkcag/h4/OzCb4182LJdUL6bMOTicjivYmbHEFwXUQzAyv6sbFTE

(Sorry that looks such a convoluted link, but it takes you to the right place if you click on it!)

I’ve written about Ella Roberta Adoo Kissi-Debrah in a previous blog post. She died on February 15th, 2013, aged nine. She was the first person in England to have air pollution named as a cause of death by a coroner.

Every year, tens of thousands of people around the UK are killed by air pollution. As the Green Party is saying, “It’s time to clean up the air in our towns and cities.” (All around the world of course)

It’s time for Ella’s Law – this is the other name for Baroness Jenny Jones’ Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, which could make a huge difference to air quality.

Clean Air Day is June 16th, next Thursday (ironically, the day we look after our grandchildren in polluted Bristol….) – at 10am supporters of the Bill will meet at the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London and proceed to the Joseph Bazelgette memorial by Hungerford Bridge (about 15 minutes walk). The event will end there at about 12 noon.

Please ask your MP to join the event.

I realise of course that you might think that spending time responding to yet another government consultation is a waste…..This damaging government/prime minister thinks it/he can do what it/he likes, after all, as we’ve seen once too often. Our ideas/appeals are so often ignored, but we must absolutely not let anything go unchallenged. We need to show that our apathy, ignorance, reluctance to change etc….can no longer be depended on.

Many more of us are no longer ‘turning a blind eye’….

Two other areas that illustrate the current government’s lack of commitment to a safe, healthy future –

Boris Johnson’s new food strategy for England contains virtually no new measures to tackle the soaring cost of food, childhood hunger, obesity or the climate emergency, a leaked version of the white paper shows.

The strategy was supposed to be a groundbreaking response to recommendations from the Henry Dimbleby (of ‘Leon’ fame….) – he made a number of high-profile suggestions, including the expansion of free school meals, increasing environment and welfare standards in farming, and a 30% reduction in meat and dairy consumption.

I had such high hopes, mentioned in a previous blog…..!!

Henry Dimbleby took the time/care to say he’d do his best for my grandchildren – he was invited by the government; and they’re ignoring him and all grandchildren…..

Just as they’re ignoring their own Climate Change Committee ….

which leads me to the second example of appalling regressive government policy.

I found out, from the countryside charity CPRE, that the government has made the absurd and bizarre decision to approve the drilling of a gas well on the edge of the Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The start of the return of fracking, in other words…

Sorry to focus on all this bad news.

Somehow, I’m even more determined not to be gloomy now – 

we must shout even louder the closer we get to 2030. 

So, maybe consider spreading the word about the RSPB and CPRE – even these mainstream/conservative organisations are campaigning. 

Complacent people in power around the world are the extremists – not us……

PS I’ve just come back from a train trip around Germany, with my husband – on our return to Gloucester station, we met a taxi driver who informed me about ‘Agenda 30’.

To my shame, I’d never heard of this: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership to end poverty and other deprivations, to go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health & education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth, all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The Agenda was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015……

We need to remind our government – 2030 is now only 7 and a half years away…..

Magic mushrooms and tragic oil

April 26th, 2022

The Chelsea Flower Show starts soon – this year Facebook/Meta (maybe look past that detail?!) has commissioned Joe Perkins, a 45 year old landscape architect based in Sussex, to make a Chelsea garden; and he has decided to build an immersive environment that celebrates the symbiotic exchange between soil, fungi and plants.

He said: “It’s fair to say that, as gardeners, we’ve not always fully understood – and I still don’t – the importance of these systems.

“On a domestic level, our relationship and understanding of fungi in the past has very much been that it’s something about decay, it’s about disease, and it’s something that we don’t particularly want in our gardens.”

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, the place where spores are produced.

Under the soil’s surface, out of sight, networks of mycelium, the vegetative part of the fungus, twist through the soil and make connections between plants.

It’s now understood that more than 90% of plants depend on mycorrhizal fungi for improving their water and nutrient absorption, which has led to these networks being called the ‘Wood Wide Web’  (such a wonderful name….).

In ‘domestic’ gardening terms, Joe Perkins is encouraging people: “Don’t be too tidy… some fungi are decomposers and they will take the dead plant material back into the soil and recycle it, making it available to the other plants for nutrients.

“If you really don’t want to do that, at least leave some towards the back of the borders, so there are some opportunities for that to happen.”

No Mow May’ is another important initiative/opportunity for gardeners this month (and in future months?!) – the campaign group Plantlife, encouraged by the National Trust and many others, is asking people to let the flowers bloom on our lawns, helping to provide enough nectar for ten times more bees and other pollinators. 

The drastic decline in insect populations, caused by habitat loss, pesticides and the climate crisis, should concern us all. Insects are experts in pollination and pest control (and decomposing corpses…), playing a vital role in making the Earth habitable; but we often dismiss them as an annoyance. 

I wonder if you noticed it was Earth Day last Friday. I only knew of its existence the year before last….

April 22nd marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’, published in 1962, raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and the inextricable links between pollution and public health.

But I only became aware of that wonderful woman, through a theatre piece performed at our local arts centre in about 2005; and I suspect most of us have still never heard of her….

This year (22/4/22), Earth Day had the motto ‘invest in our planet’ , implying a partnership between business, politics and civil society to invest in a “more prosperous and equitable future”.

In other words, we all have a part to play, reducing our own carbon footprints while also pressuring destructive, unjust systems to change.

That is what the ‘disruptive’ Just Stop Oil campaigners are doing – we, everyone on this Earth, need to realise (it’s getting alarmingly late to do this) that ‘business as usual’ is bringing about catastrophe.

Ignoring the problem and, worse, condemning the people who can no longer bear to stand by and watch us destroying ourselves, is not going to make it go away.

A letter to Boris Johnson, read out by two Just Stop Oil supporters, said: “The bill for oil and gas is already being paid by millions around the world, in the global south, and can now also be seen in blood and suffering in Ukraine.”

Howard Cox, the founder of FairFuelUK, which campaigns for low fuel prices for motorists, said the blockades by Just Stop Oil were to blame for recent shortages of petrol and diesel stock, accusing the protest group of carrying out “a pointless crusade they believe will save the planet”.

Of course we/they are under no naive illusion that we alone will actually ‘save the planet’ but we have to try (you too, I’m sure…); and, as Caroline Lucas, Green MP, said, disruptive protests are the “only way that people feel they can make their voices heard”.

The Labour Party has called for ‘nationwide injunctions’ to ban the protests.

Sadly, there are no Green Party candidates standing in my area during the local UK elections next week (Thursday, May 5th), but they are by far the fairest political party striving for a humane future in this country.

I hope you can vote for a green future where you are; and of course, the current government needs replacing. We can start doing that locally – please vote.

In praise of wild things

March 25th, 2022

I’m not sure that this will be a well-written blog post today, more a series of ‘headlines’…..

Make of it what you can please – bear with me, as they say!

I’ll open with a positive piece of news from Boris Johnson – yes, you read that right! He, together with Michael Gove and Kwasi Kwarteng, is ‘pushing’ for onshore wind expansion. At last…. Of course he has a battle on his hands, from petty ‘stuck in the past’ other cabinet ministers, including, unsurprisingly, terrible Jacob Rees-Mogg who want to bring back fracking. Please do everything you can to oppose this backward move.

And, also supported by Michael Gove (‘small mercies’!) is the revival of the Severn estuary tidal energy plan. Good! 12 years after the government dashed ambitious plans for a 10-mile energy-generating barrage, an independent commission has been launched to explore using the estuary. Better late than never, I suppose….

The UK’s first solar farm owned by a health board and linked directly to a hospital has exceeded expectations by, at times, providing all the electricity needed to run the site, even during the winter months. The farm in south-west Wales provided enough energy over one 50-hour period to meet 100% of Swansea’s Morriston Hospital’s demands.

Have you noticed the spread of avian flu? A clear consequence of battery farming…

I’m hoping that the current lack of free range eggs in supermarkets will encourage more people to stop eating them! But of course it’s more likely that many customers will, even if reluctantly, settle for less ethical eggs. Maybe I should start keeping chickens….?! Or at least try whipping aquafaba (the liquid from bean cans!) instead of egg whites in baking, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages… And one mashed banana or three tablespoons of nut butter can apparently replace one egg in cakes and pancakes.

We are being asked to track flowering fruit trees (to take part, you can record via FruitWatch, a Reading University initiative).

Despite many of us enjoying this current warm weather, it is probably not a good sign….It seems likely that climate change is causing trees to flower earlier than when insect pollinators are most active. Pollinators such as bees, hoverflies, wasps and moths have evolved symbiotically with the plants they pollinate. 

Chris Wyver, leading the Fruitwatch project, said: “Pollinators do an incredible job for the planet, and if insects are unable to pollinate fruit trees then something else will have to – potentially humans.” What?… How?… I so hope we can save insects first. I wonder how you’re doing with not killing wasps….a start!

That links to a great article I saved from the Guardian recently (March 16th), about wild gardening (it’s not just an excuse to be lazy…!). Alys Fowler writes: “I have fundamentally shifted my position on weeds. They are welcome in my garden, because I know they do more good than harm….. “Weed” is a vague term. It comes from the Old English weod and means a plant, a grass, a herb or a tree – anything that grows abundantly around us.

“For millennia, humans gathered, tended and used these so-called weeds so that they became a resource, either as a source of food (for their animals or themselves), a medicine or a material.

Nettles, brambles and fireweeds all have a long history of being used as cordage.”

More on plants – according to research published at the beginning of March, houseplants aren’t just a way to make your home look better, some of the most popular pot plants (for example, peace lilies, corn plants and ‘super tough’ ZZ plants) can also have a positive impact on the quality of the air. Buy from houseplant shops or garden centres, where staff should be able to help you find something that will suit the conditions of your chosen location(s).

Today the Fridays for Future activists (remember Greta Thunberg?..) are holding protests in cities across the world – “We want to show the world that we are still here and that we cannot be ignored or overlooked.”

They/we are needed, now more than ever….

A new protest movement has started too – #SitforClimate. We’re all encouraged to sit (alone or in a group), somewhere, at 11am every Saturday, every week, holding a climate placard…If you see anyone doing this, please encourage and appreciate them – it’s so important to continue ‘the conversation’….

In October 2021 75% of adults in Great Britain said they were either very or somewhat worried about the impact of climate change. Now it doesn’t seem to be talked about so much – it’s getting worse, and so many injustices (including the war in Ukraine) are connected to it…..

There’s another Defra consultation to respond to – the ‘Government response to the Landscapes Review’. I know some of my readers will particularly be interested in this, in relation to green lanes in Little Langdale, Lake District National Park. (And the North York Moors ….!) We have until April 9th to respond – check out the latest Lake District Green Lanes Alliance newsletter, for guidance/details.

And finally this time, some fashion news.

Shockingly, 7,500 litres of water is used to make a single pair of jeans. So don’t buy any new denim!

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is ‘naming and shaming’ high street clothing companies.

Entire lines of clothing are being labelled ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ without the company having proof that the whole process – from manufacture to delivery, packaging and sale – is good for the environment, according to the CMA. It is investigating sector by sector, with the packaged food industry and supermarkets likely to be next.

I had a depressing experience recently, spotting a T-shirt which (with no irony) combined the eye-catching images of both the Coca Cola logo and a polar bear…..

There is news today that the entire Conger ice shelf in Antarctica has collapsed. I know polar bears live in the Arctic, but neither of the poles should be melting…

I won’t be returning to buying new clothes any time soon (an exception will probably be made for the grandchildren…!)

Telling them what we think!

February 25th, 2022

“Peatlands are an iconic feature of our landscapes. They are the UK’s largest stores of carbon. They also provide vital ecosystem services, such as supplying over a quarter of the UK’s drinking water, decreasing flood risk, and providing food and shelter for rare wildlife.

When peat is extracted, the carbon stored inside the bog is released as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change.”

I’m quoting from a government consultation!

If we all knew this, when shopping at garden centres, wouldn’t we be more motivated to loudly protest that there should be a complete ban on peat sales?

Time for a spring 2022 revolution by British gardeners….!!

The more likely scenario is that we’re pointed to the ‘option’ of peat-free composts etc….

But these are more expensive….

“Two thirds of the peat sold in the UK is imported from the rest of Europe. This means that our peat use is directly contributing to carbon emissions and habitat loss outside of the UK; we are exporting the carbon footprint.”

Voluntary targets (set in 2011- the painfully slow pace of environmental change….) to end the horticultural use of peat by 2020 have not been met…..

That is why the current government consultation is out (only 2 years later…??!!).

So PLEASE contribute to it – you have until March 18th.

As the RSPB says, ‘For peat’s sake bring in a ban!’

The questions are not complicated, and I have taken every opportunity to make every year mentioned earlier, stressing the importance of a mandatory ban over voluntary targets…

One more thing I’ve learnt today that might help if you don’t know much about gardening, like me – another quote from the Defra consultation: “growing media is frequently misused by consumers, for example being used as a soil improver rather than a medium in which to propagate plants. Dedicated soil improvers that do not contain peat and widely available and are much more effective.”

Here’s a link to the consultation:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/soils-and-peatlands/endingtheretailsaleofpeatinhorticulture/consultation/subpage.2021-12-17.9947414628/

There is another pertinent government consultation open at the moment – this is even more urgent: the deadline is February 28th.

This is more sinister, sadly – it’s assuming the UK must and will grant future licences for new oil and gas, beyond 2050….. doesn’t bear thinking about….

Please join Friends of the Earth (and Greenpeace are also encouraging responses – check their website) in objecting/protesting.

The government may well completely disregard our protests to this consultation, as we’re not technically answering each of their individual questions as individuals (I’d really admire you if you could… very dense stuff….) and could be seen as just the ‘usual suspects’.

But we’ve got to try, haven’t we?!

I feel I can’t really write today without a reference to the war in Ukraine.

Peace is obviously the priority above all.

And it would be so brilliant if the world’s dependence on gas and oil from Russia was now at an end;

But, it looks as if the dependence on coal could be revived instead….

Mm, what a world….

PS yesterday, when I first posted this, I forgot to add that I hope a few people might ‘follow’ (& act on!) my posts on Facebook (Emily Thwaite – send me a ‘like’ request?..) and Twitter (#grandmaglobal) – please!

Changing the habits of a lifetime

January 28th, 2022

This week I will mainly be talking about meat….. (to paraphrase the Fast Show?!)

I’ll start with quoting a Guardian ‘Down to Earth’ journalist, at length because he explores the ‘agriculture question’ so clearly:

“It’s unlikely we’ll end the climate crisis without tackling the vast environmental hoof print of livestock. And, according to new research, the climate benefit of cutting meat consumption could be double what we thought.

“We already knew that cattle and other livestock use 83% of the world’s farmland for pasture and fodder, while producing just 18% of protein. In rich countries, 70% of food-related emissions come from livestock.

“What the new study shows is that if people in developed nations adopted a healthy, low-meat diet, a huge amount of carbon dioxide could be sucked out of the air by letting farmland revert back to natural forests and grasslands.

Paul Behrens, from Leiden University in the Netherlands who led the study said: “It’s a remarkable opportunity for climate mitigation, but it would also have massive benefits for water quality, biodiversity, air pollution, and access to nature, to name just a few.”

There are of course many ‘habits of a lifetime’ to overcome. Diehard carnivores could be accommodated, it seems! The study did not assume everyone in the 54 nations analysed all went vegan. Instead, the ‘planetary health diet’ used allowed a beef burger and two servings of fish a week, plus some dairy products every day… Compromise does seem to be the only way to realistically change anything, perhaps….

And the other important question to address is ‘what about farmers?’

Behrens says: “It will be vital that we redirect agricultural subsidies to farmers for biodiversity protection and carbon sequestration. We must look after farming communities to enable a just food transition.”

It is an extraordinary fact that almost 90% of the $540bn in global subsidies given to farmers every year lead to ‘harmful’ outcomes, according to the UN.

At the moment in the UK I expect you’ve noticed, as I have, the increase in food being produced to ‘imitate’ meat – such as ‘No Meat Big Eat’ plant-based burgers, vegan chick’n nuggets and vegan bacon (vacon or facon!).

These are sometimes criticised as being over-processed fast food; but if that’s what so many people want/are used to, it’s probably the most likely ‘way to go’ in order to relegate the intensive livestock farming model to history.

The tension between ideals and actuality – principles and practice….

Sustain and the Soil Association in this country; and soil regeneration projects such as the Soil Food Web School in the US are doing good work towards reconnecting with farming in harmony with Nature.

And at home we can do our own farming – with worms!

A Nottingham-based social enterprise, the Urban Worm Community Interest Company (UWC) is on a mission to ‘worm up’ the UK by kickstarting an urban worm farming movement that can create high-grade fertiliser.

UWC has received a grant from the national lottery to send out packs of composting tiger worms to households.

Anna de la Vega, UWC’s managing director, said: “Using worms to manage organic household waste is happening at scale all over the world, except in the UK.

“The reality of climate change, natural resource depletion and mass urbanisation presents unprecedented threats to global food security and the survival of humanity.”

Now, an uplifting story about an individual – 73 year old park ranger from Cheshire, England, Ian Coppack is inspiring many new conservationists with his TikTok ‘channel’. He educates his viewers on everything from the 900-year life cycle of oak trees and the history of the red squirrel to the mating habits of moles. Check out @IanCoppack.

Also focussing on young people, under-30s are being urged to sign up to help preserve some of the UK’s richest landscapes, our national parks.

It emerged recently that the average age of volunteers at some national parks is 63….

Mary-Jane Alexander, youth engagement officer at the North York Moors national park authority, said: “There are many aspects of national park policy that impact directly on young people, not least how we address the escalating climate emergency, a lack of affordable housing and declining local services.” She added that it is  “absolutely right that young people have a say in these matters.”

And finally, I am not keen to ‘advertise’ in my work; but I am impressed by the positive attitude of Aviva Investors – it has put the directors of 1,500 companies on notice that it is willing to seek their removal if they fail to show enough urgency in tackling issues including the climate crisis and human rights…. connected injustices, of course….  

Aviva is helping build a more sustainable future too, with its Community Fund promoting climate action this year – sorry, the deadline for applications is February 1st, a bit soon…

Take care until next time.

Respect your Youngers

January 7th, 2022

I wonder how many people will feel motivated to become climate justice activists after watching the film (Leonardo di Caprlo and Jennifer Lawrence if you’re interested!), ‘Don’t Look Up’……

The world urgently needs more of us!

My husband fears that audiences will just not want to make the connections; and, really sadly, it could even result in ‘ordinary people’ feeling that whatever we do we will not be able to reverse the climate crisis…

I’m firmly hanging on to the idea that small ‘eco’ changes in our own lives can ‘make a difference’ – resulting in friends and family noticing and, more importantly, digging deeper to find out more about the situation we are all living in….

There is really so little time left before the irreversible tipping point, however, that ‘tiny increments of action across decades’ (to quote George Monbiot in The Guardian this week) will not be enough.

However much people hate/disapprove of ‘extreme’ actions by such campaigners as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, changing systems is the only way ahead – we cannot rely on the world’s governments, so civil disobedience is completely justifiable.

‘Business as usual’ is not an option.

But if you don’t want to be disruptive, fair enough (!) – just join peaceful campaigning and protests please.

At least 18 peaceful protesters have been jailed in the UK this year.

I expect you know about the imminent UK government’s Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill (the Policing Bill) – we have until mid January to stop some of the worst measures that threaten to take away our democratic freedom to protest. 

Protest is not a Crime!

Our government sidestepped the House of Commons by introducing 18 pages of draconian laws as amendments in the House of Lords, but that means if peers vote against them they can’t be reinserted.

Greens will vote against. Lib Dems say they will vote against. Many Crossbenchers will vote against.

But it’s imperative that the Labour Lords also vote against. As Green peers Jenny Joseph writes (launching the Green Party’s ‘Save the Right to Protest’ campaign), “Labour Lords can’t abstain. They must vote against.”

So, I hope some of you will join me in sending e-mails to a few of the (167!) Labour Peers. 

Just search (using Ecosia?!) ‘Labour Peers’ for a list, click on the ones you choose and their contact details will come up.

Returning to the film ‘Don’t Look Up’, Green MP Caroline Lucas tweeted that it “perfectly captures humanity’s capacity for denying the blindingly obvious, the absurdity of an economic system which puts profit above survival of life on earth & a media mostly choosing to ignore the reality of nature’s collapse”.

I admire Caroline Lucas so much – sometimes I don’t know how she carries on…..

And UN Climate Champion Dale Vince keeps his ‘cool’ in the face of ignorance and short-sightedness – it’s good that he’s on ‘mainstream’ radio and television more and more these days, not just in the ‘green bubble’. 

He’s definitely worth checking out!

And finally, an inspiring child who has been ‘showing the way’ for five years – such commitment.

Elizabeth, the ‘Little Collector’ (caring for Wirral & the World), was featured on BBC’s Countryfile.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=944887282815581

Of course, it’s depressing that the 11 year old ends up with such huge amounts of plastic waste after her litter-picks (and try not to notice the passers-by on the beach who seem to completely ignore her…). 

But, she’s right – if we all work together, the impact can be massive.

People power! 

Out of the mouths of babes…

December 19th, 2021

I was going to give myself an extended break over Christmas, but now seems even more relevant than ever to focus on children…..

During his recent pre-Christmas stay here with us, my 3 year old grandson was fascinated by a book we borrowed from the library – ‘There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom’ (James Sellick and Frann Preston-Gannon). It is, in an imaginative way, about the link between palm oil in our food and the plight of orang-utans…

Children instinctively love animals…..and indeed people: he was initially very worried, in another borrowed book ‘The Invisible’ (Tom Percival), that the little girl Isabel was going to disappear completely…..

These two new books are examples of contemporary awareness of issues about justice in the world.

When our own children were growing up, more than twenty years ago, we had books such as ‘Rainforest’ and ‘Tigress’ (Helen Cowcher). We enjoyed these two together, primarily for the gorgeous art work, I think; and even though the other ‘eco’ children’s book we had at the time, ‘Lucy’s World’ (Stephen Weatherill) was more direct about the damage humans are doing, I do not remember feeling despairing…..

Now, reading with my grandson, I feel much more conflicted – my own instinct is, of course, to protect him from sad knowledge….

Knowledge isn’t always power, especially if you’re a child…

But ignorance shouldn’t equal bliss, either – there are ways of dealing with anxiety, by actions that make you feel like you’re making a difference. Trying is better than giving up, and all that!

So, careful, sensitive education seems to be the way – Tony’s Chocolonely Advent Calendars tried to do this, with an empty ‘window’ symbolising the inequality in the chocolate industry.

If you haven’t tried/come across this wonderful chocolate brand, you need to!

Delicious treats await…!

The company was founded by Teun van de Keuken, a Dutch journalist who was shocked to discover that slavery still existed in the cocoa sector. Their aim is primarily to make all chocolate 100% slavery-free (children are still used as slave labour in some parts of the industry…); but they are of course also very ‘eco’ and environmentally aware – as I keep saying, it’s all connected…

Deforestation is strictly prohibited, and absolutely no palm oil is included….

To return to orang-utans, Munchkin, which is apparently the ‘world’s most loved baby lifestyle brand’ (though I’ve personally never heard of it!), is a partner of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). They will currently match donations to the charity, saving orang-utans – if you’re interested, visit IFAW’s website and the #BackToTheWild project.

Harvinder and daughters Asha and Jia have been campaigning, with a petition on Change.org, to stop Kellogg’s destroying rainforests (home to orang-utans particularly..) – now they are turning their attention to that company’s current exploitation of many of their North American employees. Corporate greed strikes again! Please stop buying Kellogg’s products!

If any of you would like a new challenging (and so important..) job, Sum of Us are looking for a Senior Palm Oil Campaigner, to help grow the group’s impact and win campaigns against corporate power. Applications close on January 1st, 2022. Visit sumofus.org and click on ‘Jobs’ for details.

Some enterprising children/young people don’t need us adults to ‘show them the way’ – a natural sense of justice leads them to ‘cut to the chase’ and ‘tell it how it is’….

And they do the impressive research!

Read this amazing story – well, the article is quite patronising really (suggesting their main concern was for publicity….??); but the Young Friends of the Earth (only 8 of them… never ‘too small to make a difference’) are inspiring.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/16/good-citizen-award-pontypridd-young-campaigners?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

And this is another heartening link to follow – a BBC News Podcast, about ‘People Fixing the World’:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04grdbc/episodes/downloads

And finally today, I appeal to you all to avoid supporting Coca Cola (they own Costa Coffee too, unfortunately…) – their plastic bottles are polluting the world’s oceans at an alarming rate. My blog photo this week is a Toroa (Royal Albatross) constructed from plastic drinks bottles by Greenpeace Aotearoa (New Zealand) – sea birds are dying because they’re feeding the plastic waste to their young… Please sign their petition to Ban the Bottle.

And use Fentimans Cola for your Christmas ‘rum and coke’s this year….?!

One more positive switch you could make too, a New Year’s Resolution maybe – to the ethical bank Triodos: it’s so easy to do, and they invest in important projects such as the Soil Association’s work to encourage farmers to adopt nature-friendly approaches.

Please continue to check out various important activism posts on both my Facebook page (Emily Thwaite) and my Twitter account (#grandmaglobal)

Happy Christmas to all of you; and a safe, healthy and active (politically!) start to 2022.

Happy Advent (nearly!)

November 26th, 2021

Hello!

I have no idea how many ‘readers’ I have, but I like to feel I’m ‘making a difference’/encouraging people somewhere…..

The important recent news, of course, is that the climate conference COP26 has now happened….

It did not achieve the vital decision to burn no more fossil fuels after 2030 – without such a shift, we face the possibility of cascading environmental collapse, as Earth systems pass critical thresholds and flip into new hostile states. 

More climate refugees, wars over food and increased injustice…. Depressing…

BUT, I’m choosing to believe that this is the start of many unfair systems being overturned – the truth and facts emerging about so much of our modern life, to the extent that people will reject ‘business as usual’. 

George Monbiot is encouraging us – we should not give up. “Just as the complex natural systems on which our lives depend can flip suddenly from one state to another, so can the systems that humans have created. Like Earth systems, our social and economic structures have self-reinforcing properties that stabilise them within a particular range of stress, but destabilise them when external pressure becomes too great. If they are driven past their tipping points, they can flip with astonishing speed. Our last, best hope is to use these properties to our advantage, triggering what scientists call ‘cascading regime shifts’. 

“This is how the global financial crisis of 2008-9 happened: a relatively minor shock (mortgage defaults in the US) was transmitted and amplified through the entire system, almost bringing it down.

“We should seek to use these dynamics to detonate positive change….the journal Climate Policy showed how we could harness the power of ‘domino dynamics’: a small disturbance, in the right place, can cause a cascading response throughout the system.”

Now to some practical changes we can make/be aware of….

In Japan and perhaps worldwide, Toyota has a reputation of being an industrial leader that provides ‘sustainable solutions’ such as hybrids and hydrogen cars. They sponsor athletes for the Olympics and invest in various social initiatives.

The reality is quite a different story with Toyota, unfortunately – they are one of the industry’s strongest voices opposing an all-out transition to electric vehicles.

Please check out Daniel Read’s research at Greenpeace East Asia.

Greenwashing, as I think I’ve maybe said before, is becoming an industry in itself…. Don’t be fooled!

Which brings me on to Christmas adverts…

I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year, but I can’t ignore the misleading marketing that’s around at the moment – capitalising on our wish to ‘return to normal’ after the last disappointingly disrupted two years, happy family scenes abound…..

Morrison’s is one that particularly comes to mind.

That supermarket, along with Tesco, sources factory-farmed chickens; and misleads us with labels proclaiming wholesome-sounding names of real farms and suppliers, such as ‘Butcher’s on Market Street’, that do not exist.

Ecohustler is a group opposing corporations which make immense profits whilst harming nature.

Its current target is Marks and Spencer, which claims its factory farmed salmon is ‘responsibly sourced.’ Ecohustler has made stickers to alert fellow shoppers to the damage being done. You can see one in use in this video – 
https://www.instagram.com/tv/CWdzXOcKl2c/

Excellent work; but these activists will be dismissed by many as troublemakers. However we profess to care about animals, nature and the Earth, we do not want to face the truth….

A ‘legitimate’ way to protest about factory farming and insist on the truth about eating meat/chicken is to contribute to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ current Call for Evidence about Labelling for Animal Welfare.

This government consultation closes on December 6th, so please hurry!

You may be cynical and think that these consultation processes are simply ‘public relations exercises’ , so the government can do what it was going to do anyway, having asked people and not enough were interested….Consultations are certainly not publicised widely enough…

We have to take every opportunity we can, I believe, to influence decisions and speak out for justice.

I was heartened a bit after taking part in the national planning consultation last year that went on to be shelved…!

Find the document here:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/animal-welfare-market-interventions-and-labelling/labelling-for-animal-welfare/

It looks a bit overwhelming and jargon-full; but I suggest you open it on one electronic ‘device’ and answer the questions on another, if possible.

Chris Packham and charity Open Cages have got clear guidance and suggestions to help –

“Many of the questions are simple multiple choice answers. You do not need to answer every question. If you only have a few minutes, the most important questions to answer are 17, 24 and 25.

If you have a little more time, please also answer 16, 22, 32 and 53.”

At present, there is no requirement to include even basic facts about the animal’s life or death.

Factory farmed animal products should come with warnings of their negative consequences on the planet (in addition to being cruel!).

There is quite a lot of interesting information in the consultation, if you do have more time to read around …. Evidence of Henry Dimbleby’s positive impact with the National Food Strategy, I hope… 

A little Advent project for you..?!

The ‘Cow in the Room’, as Dale Vince calls it, is our obsession with eating animals…

To tackle the climate crisis completely, meat eating needs to disappear…

Probably not going to happen this Christmas, so knowing where the meat comes from is a start!

Eve of Global Day for Climate Justice

November 5th, 2021

Well, COP26 is here; and I’m more preoccupied than ever with climate news…..

Those who know me can imagine my levels of anxiety are high. Along with millions of other people, especially children and young people.

And no-one can re-assure me/us that ‘everything will be OK’….

We are not going to suddenly wake up from the nightmare of the climate crisis and discover a healthy Earth….

As writer Rebecca Solnit wrote, in ‘Hope in the Dark’, “Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action: action is impossible without hope.”

A virtuous circle of hope and action, action and hope….

I’ve read Ms Solnit’s book, but I read that quote recently in Caroline Lucas’s book ‘Honourable Friends?’ – it was published in 2015, and it is both encouraging and depressing that this country’s only Green MP is still fighting for the change that we all need.

I’ll start with the very gloomy news that global carbon emissions are shooting back to the record level seen before the coronavirus pandemic levels.

The Global Carbon Project (GCP) report shows emissions from coal and gas jumping this year by more than they fell in 2020. Oil use is also rising in 2021, but more slowly because transport activity remains below normal – a small consolation, for the moment anyway….

The data shows world leaders have failed to build back greener, with just a small proportion of pandemic spending going to sustainable sectors.

But the scientists also said that hopes (the important word again…) of keeping global heating to 1.5C remain alive if COP26 leads to rapid global action.

Prof Corinne Le Quere, at the University of East Anglia, UK, said: “This is really a reality check….

“The key message is to resist the temptation to be discouraged by our latest findings. The commitments being put in place at Cop26 are really important. It’s important that the countries agree on what they’re going to do and then, of course, plan for immediate implementation.”

Glen Peters, at the Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, added: “China is, on the one hand, making extremely good progress, deploying solar and wind and electric vehicles. On the other hand, its economic recovery packages tend to go back to the old way of doing things. But there’s another 70% of global emissions that are not from China as well.”

And, a good point I noticed the other day is that a substantial proportion of China’s emissions are a result of factories creating unnecessary consumer goods for us in the Western markets – a point to be made when people make the strange ‘excuse’ that China is the main culprit….

I don’t know if you get into conversations about the climate crisis/solutions with your neighbours, acquaintances, strangers….? I used to feel, and still do to a certain extent, that it’s my duty, as a responsible environmentalist, to talk about it all with information/education. But I personally find it’s very hard to do (deeply emotional for me) – I hide behind this writing! I admire everyone who ‘gets out there’….    

Conservationist Sacha Dench, (the ‘Human Swan’) has been travelling around Britain in an electric paramotor, meeting people tackling the climate emergency – a television programme, with Joanna Lumley, has covered her progress; but sadly it’s dedicated to her flight partner Dan Burton who was killed in an air collision towards the end of their trip.         

An amazing group, Camino to Cop26, have walked a 500-mile route from London to Glasgow.

Theirs is one of a number of pilgrimages, some coming from as far as Poland and Germany – one group has walked more than 1,000 miles from Sweden. From 18 year old students to 74 year old grandmothers, members of the female-run faith group Camino to Cop26, part of Extinction Rebellion, have been raising awareness about the climate and ecological crisis along the way. On some days they had 70 people walking with them. They were only able to wash about once a week. Steph Alderton, 26, said: “You have to let go of your daily shower. The older people in the group say that was normal when they were young.” Participants have a spectrum of beliefs, from devout Jews, Christians and Buddhists to committed atheists, like Alderton, who left a job as a career adviser to put more energy into climate activism. The notion of ‘intention’ is what makes a walk a pilgrimage, and for Steph it was not about reflecting on God, but learning about the UK’s people and wildlife.

German activist Arnd Drossel has collected environmental promises from passersby en route, travelling inside a giant contraption resembling a hamster ball that he made with his son.

He said: “My main aim is to inspire people. I want to show that a lot of small changes brought together can cause a wave.” 

One of these seemingly small changes could be to pledge to only use non-peat composts. 

Wet peat left in the ground is an amazing carbon store, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. That is why I am also involved in the campaign to stop moorland being routinely burnt, as happens on the North York Moors (where we used to live) to enable shooting of ‘game birds’…

Check out the RSPB’s ‘For Peat’s Sake’ campaign; and also Wild Justice.

Again on the subject of the lucrative shooting and hunting businesses, National Trust members (of which I’m one – thanks Mum!) have voted to end licences for ‘trail hunts’ (often a cover for hunting of real foxes) – the resolution still needs to be approved and enacted by the NT, but I feel encouraged by the vote.

How can we expect to be motivated to save Nature and wildlife when we encourage the killing of animals?!

Another change we can make, perhaps – stop eating avocado….

I will miss it (deliciously creamy and versatile!), but I’m impressed by chef Thomasina Miers’ decision to invent a new recipe for guacamole in her restaurant chain Wahaca. Avocados have an enormous carbon footprint, requiring 320 litres of water each to grow and “are in such global demand they are becoming unaffordable for people indigenous to the areas they are grown in”.

Ms Miers has created a green guacamole-inspired dip, made from fava beans, green chilli, lime and coriander.

As well as the book by Caroline Lucas, I recommend ‘English Pastoral’ by James Rebanks – it’s a step in the right direction towards sustainable farming, and so beautifully written…..

And I’ve become aware of artist Darren Cullen – he’s created an amazing anti-Shell ‘Hell Bus’.

I really hope you’re all boycotting Shell garages – the big oil lobby has got such damaging power….and Shell particularly is trying to persuade us they’re ‘going green’ while still drilling for oil. Shame on them..

I’ll end however with an upbeat message from Bill McKibben, founder of the climate campaign group 350.org – “It’s easy to feel pessimistic about the climate. But we’ve got two big things on our side: one is the astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy, the other is the huge growth in the citizens’ movements demanding action.”

And ‘see’ as many of you as possible tomorrow, followed by the People’s Summit for Climate Justice!