Holding on #2

October 2nd, 2020

As we enter the final quarter of this life-changing year, I am planning a ‘new look’ for my blog.

From the New Year 2021 I intend to concentrate on promoting life-affirming projects by people (individuals, groups, communities, small companies around the world), striving to re-connect us with Nature. To be honest, my heart sinks writing that date – we should be well on the way to avoiding catastrophic global heating by then, but we’re clearly not…

So, I will continue to address the people in power, when I have the energy, and will continue to demonstrate and protest so we are still visible; but on a personal level, I will just write about good stuff here! Please let me know, via these posts, if you know of any projects that would like a little extra recognition….

‘Flock Together’ has gladdened my heart! – a birdwatching club for people of colour, such a great thing. For founders Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera, it’s about making birdwatching accessible to as many people as possible, especially those who live in urban centres and don’t always grow up with the opportunity to engage with nature in a meaningful way. 

A group of young people is appealing to their peers to get engaged in climate issues. Filmmaker Alice Aedy, one of the founders of Earthrise, said: “One of the most dangerous things we are trying to tackle is this idea of ‘Oh, we’re f****d anyway. What’s the point? I’m just going to live my life…. That feeling of powerlessness is something that we are going to dedicate this platform to trying to fight.”

Jack Harries added: “Especially post-Covid the story should be, ‘How do we build back better? How do we build a better world for everyone? How do we make it positive?’ We simply can’t afford to return back to normal.”

I don’t want to be a ‘platform’ for promoting particular ‘brands’ or companies, but of course some are better than others….! The Environmental Investigation Agency has reported that Iceland has issued a ‘plastic challenge’ to rival supermarket chains, urging the UK Government to introduce mandatory reporting and reduction targets. In the lead up to the EIA’s Checking Out on Plastics supermarkets survey, Iceland has revealed its accurate plastic packaging footprint for 2019. (31,000 tonnes, so awful to envisage…..) Inaccurate reporting from the UK retail sector is ‘the norm’, apparently, obstructing meaningful action on plastic pollution. So, Iceland is good for being honest and championing the need for proper reporting. But, such a long way to go….

Another ‘back-handed compliment’ this week will go to Tesco. It has committed to boosting sales of meat alternatives by 300% by 2025. It’s certainly good to know that during the past year demand for chilled meat-free foods (burgers, sausage and mince substitutes being most popular) has increased by almost 50%. The awkward question of course is how many of these ‘lines’ contain soya and/or palm oil from places involved in deforestation…? Hopefully, Tesco is addressing these issues too – they are working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), at least….to try to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket, they say.

A very timely email has just arrived – Greenpeace have put a really informative (and even entertaining…?!) video on its YouTube channel, about soya. Vast areas of land in South America are being cleared for soya crops. Who’s eating all this soya though? Is it vegans and vegetarians eating soya burgers and drinking soya milk? No, only 6%. Most of it is used as animal feed to produce industrial meat. Search for Greenpeace, or I’ve put the link on Facebook and Twitter – my husband Bill Sanderson’s accounts, as I’ve broken my phone…!

Did you know that Pope Francis called last year for ecocide to be made a ‘fifth category of crimes against peace’ at the International Criminal Court? Maybe your Catholic friends did…

Last month, a special eco-delegation from France (including writer Pablo Servigne and actress Juliette Binoche, with Valerie Cabanes of Stop Ecocide) presented the Pope with a request for him to use his diplomatic and spiritual influence to build on his call. The French delegation apparently witnessed the Pope spontaneously recounting his ‘ecological conversion’. Indigenous elders in the Amazon and Canada helped him see “the way all things connect. Everything is connected, everything is in relationship. In our human societies we have lost this understanding… this sense of roots, of belonging.”

Satish Kumar is an advocate of living in harmony with Nature, too. He believes, and I totally agree, that the worldview that human beings are at the centre of the universe is no longer valid. He says, in his new book (published by Leaping Hare Press, beautiful name!): “We are utterly dependent on other species and we have to take care of them. We are members of one Earth community and need a new trinity that is holistic and inclusive, that embraces the entire planet and all species upon it – soil, soul, society.”

‘Possible’ has won funding to work with communities in London, Bristol, Leeds and Birmingham, building new visions of cities free from private cars; and the campaign group’s solar railways project has secured its first commercial funding, to develop a pipeline of new renewable energy projects in England and Wales. 

A few more pieces of good news! 

Scotland has invested £1.8m into decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea. And the vast majority of workers affected are looking forward to the switch to green careers, taking money away from fossil fuels.

More than 300 British Olympians and Paralympians have called on the government to prioritise a green recovery.

Lego is switching to eco-friendly paper bags in its packaging.

Dr Jane Goodall and Thomas Mangelsen, both having spent a lifetime immersed in wildlife, will be having ‘A Conservation Conversation’, headlining Wildscreen Festival on Thursday, October 22nd – aiming to continue to bring conservation issues to a wide audience.

Now, earlier this week I was pleased to read about 64 world leaders (including Boris Johnson) signing a Leaders’ Pledge for Nature – committing to put wildlife and the climate at the heart of post-pandemic economic recovery plans, promising to address the climate crisis, deforestation, ecosystem degradation and pollution.

However, this may still be more words, without action; aiming for 2050 is still too late; and ‘key players’ (including the USA and Brazil) still seem oblivious to the crisis BUT there are some seeds for hope here.

The UN’s biodiversity head, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema (whom I quoted a while ago as saying we are handing down a dead planet to future generations), has welcomed the pledge as an ‘inspirational contribution’ to ongoing negotiations.

Finally, one more appeal for you to contact your MP (UK readers…!) – Power for People are campaigning for a new law that would make new community energy businesses viable – at the moment, unfair regulations and high costs mean local energy projects are often impossible to get off the ground.

More than 200 MPs (even Conservatives, thank goodness..) are backing the proposal, for a Local Electricity Bill – please ask your MP to support this too. You can check if he/she is already on the list of supporters, at Possible or Power for People.

Holding on #1

September 25th, 2020

This time last year 7.6 million people came out on the streets all over the world demanding climate justice.

I have an image in my head of many television screens grouped together on the BBC News, illustrating the powerful message that we all want change, real action to address the climate emergency.

In September 2020, many people’s focus is, understandably, on the ‘here and now’ of saving jobs and livelihoods.

I’ll be writing to Rishi Sunak later! ‘Supporting people to be in viable jobs’ should include investing in all-important green infrastructure. Ironically, our ‘here and now’ will soon be much more challenging and difficult if we don’t do something about changing the way we live…..

It is already tragically challenging and difficult for people in many parts of the world.

So, today, September 25th, the spotlight by young climate activists is on the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA). Since the Covid-19 pandemic set in, climate strikers (Fridays for Future) have been highlighting the need for a just and green recovery, and for the need to keep raising our voices for these interwoven crises. Mass protests have had to take on different shapes to keep everyone safe. But it is a crucial time to remind the world how climate justice is connected to building a healthier more resilient world.

Six young people from MAPA countries, so brave and from some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, are standing up because they’re seeing with their own eyes that climate action can’t wait. Their names are Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines, Eyal Weintraub and Nicole Becker from Argentina, Disha A Ravi from India, Kevin Mtai from Kenya and Laura Veronica Munoz from Colombia.

Women in Satkhira, Bangladesh; Pacific Climate Warriors in the Pacific islands; ‘light paintings’ in the Philippines; and ‘shoe strikes’ in Japan are also all so committed and imaginative – check out the last two at 350.org if you’re intrigued….

Closer to (my) home, Bristol-based Mya-Rose Craig (#Birdgirl – she is a very knowledgeable ‘birder’, but also passionate about the importance of racial diversity in climate activism…) has done the most northerly climate strike ever, in the melting Arctic, to “convey my desperation and the urgency of the issue.” I heard her speak at the Greta Thunberg rally earlier in the year – I so admire these young people who are fighting for their world. She is 18 and deserves our support.

Now, on other news, a couple of ‘positives’ first:

A campaigning group whom I support, We Move Europe, successfully raised funds to back activists pushing the Polish government to declare a climate emergency. The declaration hasn’t happened yet (we seem to have to be so grateful for ‘small mercies’ in this global fight…); but politicians from different political parties spoke up to back the protesters’ demands, and the media was full of debate on climate change. A start…

On World Rhino Day last week, Rainforest Action Network announced a new rhino sanctuary in Indonesia.  After years of RAN exposing threats to the Leuser Ecosystem, a coalition including major palm oil companies will be helping to protect endangered Sumatran rhinos (and their neighbours!). Big agribusinesses still need to be pressured to halt their destruction, but another start…

Depressing negatives have been highlighted by The Guardian (and echoed by Friends of the Earth) – a quarter of UK mammals are at imminent risk of extinction; and the UK has failed on 17 of 20 UN biodiversity targets, characterised as a ‘lost decade for Nature’…

If you haven’t already, and live in this country, please urge your MP to back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. I’ve had a very positive email from the CEE Bill Alliance Team (it’s always encouraging to know how many people care and are campaigning, even if that’s still not routinely covered in popular media…).  71 MPs already support the bill and the Liberal Democrats as a whole party have declared their support. The team asks people to send out thank-you messages if your MP has backed the bill (no such luck, here!). They also highlight the importance of the Climate Assembly UK (note my ‘frequent flyers tax’ appeal last week!) – we all need a say on the enormous changes that are needed in response to the climate emergency, especially if we are to protect the most vulnerable in society. If you’d like to read more or simply support the campaign, check out www.ceebill.uk

Returning to Bristol UK, the home of Wildscreen Festival 2019, Wildscreen Festival 2020 is preparing to hold its events online next month. The festival brings together photographers, filmmakers and creative professionals with conservationists to create compelling stories about the natural world ‘that inspire the wider public to experience it, feel part of it and protect it.’

David Attenborough, Wildscreen patron, said: “Never has communicating the threats facing our natural world and the bold solutions required to protect and restore it been so vital… tell the stories the world needs to hear and see.”

The Festival has just announced an event in which Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s Group Chief Executive, will be in conversation with TV presenter, adventurer and wildlife expert Steve Backshall. The two will discuss their shared love of the natural world, the climate crisis and the role of nature programming, and what broadcasters can do to accelerate their own progress towards net zero carbon.

And finally this week, I read a moving article in The Guardian by a man aged 31 dying of cancer. Approaching death, he is thinking about his priorities in life. One of these is to ‘protect the planet’ – “I can’t leave this off because it’s so important. I’ll be gone soon, but humanity will still be faced with the huge challenge of reducing carbon emissions and saving habitats from destruction. In my time here, I’ve been lucky enough to see some natural wonders and understand how precious they are. Hopefully future generations will be able to say the same. But it will take a massive collective effort.

“If you asked me what I’d want to leave behind, it would be a new awareness of these things among my friends – and anyone who’ll listen really.”

His name is Elliot Dallen. I hope he forgives me quoting him…..

Please continue to sign and share –

http://chng.it/kdyR5267

and follow me on #grandmaglobal

Emerging #12

September 16, 2020

Hello!

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 

act.friendsoftheearth.uk

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 –

http://chng.it/kdyR5267

Follow me on #grandmaglobal

support @CEEbill_NOW

Emerging #11

September 9th, 2020

I’ll open with some good news.

Our government has rejected plans to develop an “environmentally unacceptable” coalmine near Druridge Bay in Northumberland, after years of fierce opposition from local campaigners and Friends of the Earth. The Green Party’s Berwick-upon-Tweed branch said: “Northumberland was the cradle of coal mining in the UK, and is rightly proud of the role its communities played in the industrial revolution and of the strength and resilience of those communities.

“Having been at the forefront of one industrial revolution, this decision means that Northumberland can now be at the forefront of the next one, and lead the way into a post-carbon future.”

‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, by Dara McAnulty, has won the Wainwright prize for nature writing. Dara McAnulty is 16 years old and writes that he has the ‘heart of a naturalist, the head of a would-be scientist, and bones of someone who is already wearied by the apathy and destruction wielded against the natural world.’ 

The chair of judges, Julia Bradbury, called for the book to be added to the national curriculum, because of “its power to move and the urgency of the situation we face.”

McAnulty, who is currently writing a children’s book, said he wanted to donate the £2,500 prize money to his school’s environmental group, Roots and Shoots, at Shimna Integrated College in Northern Ireland.

My attention has also been drawn this week to a podcast called Global Optimism. Despite the odds stacked against the world finding its way out of the climate crisis, one of the presenters said: “We all love our children.” That gives hope! We all have an instinct to protect them – so naturally we will protect the natural world, surely?!

A new film, ‘I Am Greta’, has been released. At its launch, Greta Thunberg, 17 years old, appealed for more action to be taken to address the climate crisis, which seems to have slipped dangerously off the political agenda.

She said that she hoped the film could be a ‘bridge’ for people who wanted to know more about the climate emergency, helping to ‘increase momentum’ and spread awareness at a time when protesting and activism have been reduced because of Covid-19 restrictions around the world.

These two young people I’ve mentioned are working hard – we must not leave it to our young to sort the mess, doubly cruel given that they will have to live with the future…. 

Now, a new report by CBI Economics says that air pollution causes 3 million lost working days every year in the UK, owing to people getting sick or taking time off to care for sick children.

Cutting air pollution and meeting the World Health Organisation standards would benefit the economy by about £1.6bn a year, by improving productivity. About 17,000 premature deaths of working age people each year would be prevented by meeting the guidelines.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist of the Confederation of British Industry, said employers and the government should aim for a “green recovery” from the coronavirus, by investing in public transport and energy efficiency. She said: “Not only is there a clear moral responsibility to address air pollution and the impact it has on human health and the environment, there’s also a striking economic rationale. With air pollution hitting the balance sheets of businesses across the country, and cutting the earnings of their employees, cleaning up our air would help us to lead healthier and more productive lives, while delivering a green jobs boost for the economy.”

The government’s push for people to ‘get back into the office’ has prompted Jane Burston, executive director of the Clean Air Fund, to warn: “Encouraging people into their cars will increase pollution. The government needs to consider that building back the economy is not just about going back to the physical office. The consequences for air pollution are consequences for the economy, and the economic benefits of reducing air pollution are significant.”

If you have the energy to write another letter/email to your MP, you could demand that the Environment Bill, due to return to parliament soon, includes meeting the ambitious WHO standards on air pollution, highlighted by this CBI report.

Air pollution and climate change are of course two sides of the same coin – the United Nations Environment Programme states: “By reducing air pollution we also protect the climate. Air pollutants include more than just greenhouse gases, but there’s a big overlap: the two often interact with each other….. Quick action on reducing highly potent climate pollutants – methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon – can significantly decrease the chances of triggering dangerous climate tipping points, like the irreversible release of carbon dioxide and methane from thawing Arctic permafrost.”

A direct contribution we can make to reducing air pollution is to drive less;

also, to fly less – aircraft are responsible for an increasing proportion of air pollutant emissions, both at local and global level.

To put it bluntly, ‘Cheap Flights cost the Earth’. Flight Free UK hopes to ‘change the narrative’, helping to shift the norm away from flying. So we can influence government and industry to be honest about the climate impact of aviation, as well as make low-carbon travel the obvious choice.

Flying has become such an integral part of some people’s lives that some airlines are selling ‘flights to nowhere’ so these people can get their fix. So wrong…. And I find it so worrying that there are actually sightseeing flights to Antarctica – these are directly contributing to the destruction of the very thing the passengers have come to see and marvel at… I would guess that the majority of us love and marvel at Nature – to preserve it, we often need to keep our distance….

When I first read at length about Greta Thunberg, she was being interviewed (remotely – she doesn’t fly!) by a range of people, actors, politicians, comedians etc. Many of them asked if she was optimistic about the future and whether she thought people were naturally averse to change because human nature is selfish…. She said that once the scientific facts were ‘out there’ people would naturally drive change…. Knowledge informing powerful actions…. (Scientia potestas est!).

Last week Extinction Rebellion prevented some newspapers being distributed. For one day only! This was to highlight the fact that we, the British public, are not being given knowledge about the climate crisis. Knowledge that might make us question governments and multinationals; and, more importantly, might help put the brakes on things getting out of control. Environmental groups, and now some enlightened people in power (see CBI above…!) are realising we have to work ‘beyond politics’ to change the future. Climate activists, like me (one-grandmother band!), have no vested interest, no agenda, other than protecting all our grandchildren around the world. 

We are not the threat. A dying planet is. And sadly it may be a promise soon, if we don’t act quickly.

Please sign my petition http://chng.it/kdyR5267 and urge your MP (emailing her or him is simple) to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.

Emerging #10

September 4th, 2020

Good afternoon, friends!

This is going to be a more personal blog post again.

This week I was part of an Extinction Rebellion protest March in Cardiff.

I didn’t realise before, but Cardiff is one of the top cities in the world to be at risk of flooding (Storm Dennis has already caused big problems this year) and the most at risk in the UK.

On my way to the protest, I was challenged by a ticket collector at Gloucester Station.

He was a climate change denier and believed he was entitled to his opinion.

A group of writers held a protest in London yesterday – Zadie Smith (sister of rapper Doc Brown!) said: “There are people whose business it is to make science look like opinion. Who aim to transform genuine feelings of climate grief and guilt into … ignorance and positive denial.

The fate of this planet cannot be decided by well-remunerated men and women in shadowy offices. This planet belongs to the people. More accurately, we all belong to it.”

Margaret Atwood, author of books including The Handmaid’s Tale, lent her support via video message: “Climate change due to human activity is not a theory, it is not an opinion, it is a fact. 

“Denial of this fact in the interests of big money will lead to our extinction as a species.”

Thank goodness human extinction is still a little way off; and the skull/death message from Extinction Rebellion is probably counter-productive, resulting in onlookers ‘switching off’.

But so many animal, plant and insect species have already been extinguished; and we need to save those that are endangered – orangutans, polar bears, turtles, monarch butterflies, macaws, iguanas: the World Wildlife Fund has a huge list.

I’ve been listening to Power Out on BBC Radio 4, billed as ‘a thriller about power and protest on a dying planet’(starring Vinnie Heaven and written by Sarah Woods).

The facts listed on it about the damage that humans are doing are very thought-provoking – an example of how truth can certainly be stranger (more worrying) than fiction.

As I’ve just alluded to, I feel that sadly there is a problem with XR’s approach – pouring paint, daubing slogans, damaging property etc runs the risk of distracting us, ’ordinary people’, from the big, undeniable, frightening message. 

And of course Covid rules ‘muddy the waters’… all protesters on the March I was on wore masks and we socially distanced, used hand sanitiser etc. The organisers were very careful to enforce the rules; but I can imagine onlookers and police judging that we were being irresponsible. Of course, we all want to keep safe, for ourselves, each other and the planet.

(One heartening image I’ll take away from Cardiff, at least, is a climate activist and policeman deep in conversation.)

And I agree with Jane Goodall (of Gorillas in the Mist fame) that this pandemic should be viewed as a wake-up call – we are ignoring and exploiting Nature at our peril.

Watch and share this video please – https://youtu.be/pdNjRdsq1qA

BUSINESS AS USUAL CANNOT CONTINUE – in the way we live our own lives, and in ‘big business’…..

Now, several words of wisdom from friends and celebrities:

I was sympathising with an XR friend (Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire!) about our mutual friend’s illness; and wondered if we’re not sorting out the world because we have so much in our own lives to deal with… Of course, as she said, “we’re actually not sorting out the world because ‘big business’ doesn’t want us to.” But I believe we do have a role in that – colluding with the system as it is, consuming too much and liking things staying the same…

It’s all so tricky. I want to believe in the kindness of humans (check out Humankind by Rutger Bregman) – even multinational corporations are run by humans.

That’s why I write to them – “We’re trying to save the world for all of us, even you!”

We in the older generation will not have to face the worst – what kind of world will our children and grandchildren face? More has to be done, before 2030.

People like Extinction Rebellion are trying to tell the truth.

It’s a truth that we would much rather not have to tell. And it’s frightening – but more frightening if we don’t do anything about it.

“Doing nothing is no longer an option”, as another XR friend said (also, Gloucestershire).

At the launch of the Writers Rebel campaign last week, the writer, actor and ‘TV personality’ Stephen Fry said people had a duty to “expose the lies” of climate change denial.

When I read his appeal on Twitter, I also noted the first comment/reply by someone who said Fry should concentrate on ‘engaging with the enemy’. I agree; but that clearly isn’t enough. The ugly (not just inconvenient now – why didn’t more people listen earlier…?) Truth, about vested interests & lobbyists, has to be challenged more robustly too….

The writers demonstration was organised in conjunction with a new XR ‘offshoot’ Money Rebellion, which will target the finance industry for its inaction on the climate emergency.

That’s one thing we can all do – ask our banks, building societies, pension funds etc for strong policies to divest from fossil fuel and other polluting projects.

As Jack Harries (social media influencer and XR member) said: “Climate activism is the ‘mother of all causes’”

There are no jobs on a dead planet.

Please sign/share this petition – http://chng.it/kdyR5267

The crucial message that we all need to get across now is the urgent need to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (presented to Parliament this week) – ask your MP to back it please!

It calls for:

the UK to make and enact a serious plan – dealing with our real… emissions so that we don’t go over critical global rises in temperature

our entire carbon footprint to be taken into account (in the UK and overseas)

the protection and conservation of nature here and overseas along supply chains, recognising the damage we cause through the goods we consume

those in power not to depend on technology to save the day, which is used as an excuse to carry on polluting as usual

ordinary people to have a real say on the way forward in a citizens’ assembly with bite

On the third point, it’s good to see that Anita Rani and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are back on television with their ‘War on Plastic’ – maybe you’ve been watching it…?

And I hope more people are listening to David Attenborough’s latest plea, made on the documentary ‘A Life on Our Planet’ – “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters. It simply can’t!”

I’m going to end with a lovely little poem written by my husband (Bill Sanderson)!

More or Less?

Fly less 

Drive less

Buy less

Less mess

Walk more 

Talk more

Read more

Heed more

Miss less

Walk more

Cycle more

Cycle more

Speed less

Weigh less

Meat less

Tweet less

Want less

Grow more

Need less

Wind more

Sun more

Smoke less

Mope less

Hope more

Emerging #9

August 27th, 2020

Animals first today!

England’s first wild beavers for 400 years have finally been allowed to live on the River Otter in Devon (great name, appropriate somehow!). Up to 15 family groups of beavers are now estimated to live on this river, after seven years in which their future success did not always look assured. Now they have legal residency, thank goodness.

Beavers’ dams both slow the speed of floods and help provide water storage that stops rivers running dry during droughts. The dams also filter out pollutants and stop topsoil being washed away.

Let’s hope the Cornwall Beaver Project, as seen on Countryfile, will result in legal permanence too..

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues to be at risk from proposed Alaska oil drilling. Polar bears are “particularly vulnerable” to oil spills – Kristen Monsell, from the US-based Center for Biological Diversity, explained: “Oil can soak a polar bear’s fur and persist for several weeks. It will be groomed and ingested, irritate the skin and destroy the insulating abilities of the fur… fatalities can occur from effects on the lungs, kidneys, blood, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs and systems.”

The push from the Trump administration is happening when the Arctic Circle recorded its highest ever temperatures. Outrageous. Another reason to hope for good news and a new administration on November 3rd – US Election Day….

World Orangutan Day took place this week. The orangutans’ last natural habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate. The rainforest is being cleared and destroyed for the benefit of palm oil plantations and mining, and large forested areas are being destroyed as a result of logging and forest fires. 

I’ve been in correspondence with Barbara Wettstein from Nestle – she stresses that they are actively eliminating any association with deforestation from any of their supply chains, but that is definitely not happening fast enough. I was encouraged by her last sentence ‘hope you keep on asking the difficult questions’ – I’ll keep asking her them…!

You might have seen Tesco’s social media ads, claiming to support Greenpeace in its bid to stop deforestation. Unfortunately, sustainable soya for animal feed is very hard to source. Some Tesco meat, particularly from the terrible conscience-free JBS company, is therefore inevitably contaminated by soya grown on cleared forest areas….

Please read, and share with any of your meat-eating friends and neighbours, the online article by Chiara Vitali from Greenpeace. Tesco needs to be held to account.

And equally flawed, sadly, is the government’s new announcement introducing a law to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests by cleaning up the UK’s supply chains.

That sounds such a good plan.

But it is not positively straightforward of course – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will consider potential impacts on businesses and ‘other interests’ – sounds a recipe for disaster to me, opening up to vested interests/lobbies etc…?

And Defra’s proposal for businesses to ‘comply with local laws to protect natural areas’ unbelievably ignores president Bolsonaro’s complete disregard for Nature, as he champions the expansion of agriculture in Brazil at the expense of the Amazon rainforest.

It would be brilliant if you could all please write to your own MPs, agreeing with Zac Goldsmith (our international environment minister), but concerned that this new proposed law will not achieve its intended aims. Mr Goldsmith has said: “The UK has a duty to lead the way in combating the biodiversity and nature crisis. We have all seen the devastating pictures of the world’s most precious forests being cleared …. and we can’t afford not to act as a country.”

The bottom line, of course, is that the power actually lies with us, the consumers.  As Elena Polisano, a forests campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We will never solve this problem without tackling demand.”

Now, a list of terrible extreme weather this month – a nature reserve in Surrey, England, has been destroyed by wildfire (Brian May’s home was saved…); lightning strikes causing blazes across California (“if you are in denial about climate change, come to California”, Governor Gavin Newsom said); Storm Francis battering Wales; and catastrophic Hurricane Laura lashing Louisiana.

You’re probably aware of all this, of course….sorry!

A few pieces of good news now (I hope!):

The Queen’s property managers (the Crown Estate) have given the green light to the first floating offshore wind farm to be built off the coast of Wales. Another income source for the rich ‘royal household’, but we’ll overlook that…(?!) RenewableUK, the industry trade body, has estimated that the floating offshore wind industry could create 17,000 jobs and provide an opportunity to export new skills and technologies to other countries surrounded by deep coastal waters.

An Oxford-based solar technology firm hopes by the end of the year to begin manufacturing the world’s most efficient solar panels, and become the first to sell them to the public within the next year. Oxford PV claims that the next-generation solar panels will be able to generate almost a third more electricity than traditional silicon-based panels, by coating them with a thin layer of a crystal material called perovskite.

A company in Paris is creating the world’s largest urban rooftop farm – watch the wonderful short BBC News video, produced by Daniel South and Lisa Louis!

A Bill has been introduced into the Belgium federal parliament to propose legislating for ecocide (crime against the environment) both nationally and at the international level, backing the call from Vanuatu and the Maldives last December. Proposer Samuel Cogolati, a Harvard Law School graduate, said: “If we, as legislators, take scientists seriously, we have to say as a matter of criminal law: destroying the Earth is not ok. It’s actually punishable. Because without water, without forests, without clean air, we cannot survive on Earth.”

Just before I finish, I’ll refer to the insect in the picture this week! It’s a violet carpenter bee – beautiful, yes?! If you see it in your garden (those who are lucky enough to have one…), it needs rotting wood, soft enough to create nesting holes. They have been accused of destroying wooden buildings, but they only start colonising when the wood is already rotten…

And finally, please sign my petition – we need to get a Climate and Ecological Emergency Act passed, the first of many new laws hopefully!

http://chng.it/kdyR5267

Emerging #8

August 19th, 2020

Three mines have been in the news this week.

In England, a surface mine, the Banks Group, in Bradley near Durham, was due to extract its last coal the day before yesterday. My sister was part of a protest group there.

It certainly feels a bit strange. Within living memory, I was part of the activist generation depicted in the films ‘Brassed Off’ and ‘Pride’, supporting coalminers’ families. And, more recently, I lived and worked next to a heritage steam railway. But the age of coal, and all fossil fuels, has to come to an end, for the health of us all…..

In America, amazingly, President Trump’s eldest son has called on his father and the Environmental Protection Agency to block the development of the Pebble mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Because he wants to continue fishing for salmon, admittedly, but this is a glimmer of hope. Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said: “Pebble would permanently destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and more than one hundred miles of streams.”

Residents of the bay and local and national environmental groups have been fighting the mine’s development since the early 2000s, when the small Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals filed plans to develop the massive deposit of gold, copper, molybdenum and other minerals discovered under two of Bristol Bay’s most productive salmon streams.

The third mine is the notorious proposed Adani coal mine, in Australia, that I’ve referred to before. A large number of companies have now refused to insure it, but it now seems as if British-based company Aon is getting involved. I’ve written to Aon’s CEO Greg Case….

Now, two island ‘stories’.

Mauritius has been subjected to an oil spill (that last word sounds so innocuous – an ecological emergency, actually), as I’m sure many of you know – its coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves are home to 1,700 species, including around 800 types of fish, 17 kinds of marine mammals and two species of turtles. Dr Corina Ciocan, a senior lecturer in marine biology at the UK’s University of Brighton, said: “There are very few such marine areas with such rich biodiversity left on the planet. An oil spill like this will impact almost everything there.”

Happier island news: local residents in the Maldives have won a campaign against developers and their government who wanted to turn two islands into a luxury resort.

The campaign to save the small islands started at the same time that a survey of coral reef damage was being carried out nearby. The study said more development could cause further damage. So, it’s a positive outcome now, but the islanders remain vigilant – have a look at the short video on BBC News.

Writing about water reminds me that I’ve noticed a news item about dragonflies – there do seem to be so many around at the moment. Beautiful, delicate, magical-looking creatures (‘here be dragonflies’ was the headline I read…!); but unfortunately, the fact there are more around for us to admire now is because the weather has been so warm. They should not all be thriving in Britain – another warning sign of climate change.

Food and farming are of course a continuing theme in my blogs.

A recent Guardian article seems positive – nearly one in five farmers are women, apparently, with the number rising all the time. During lockdown, a group of these created ‘Farms to Feed Us’, a document listing farms by postcode and what they sold. Co-founder Catherine St Germans said: “The response was really revealing as to the state of where we think our food comes from”…

She added: “Two months into lockdown, three million people bought veg boxes of direct from farms for the very first time. We want that momentum to continue.”

Mary Quicke, who farms in Devon, said: “Our challenge now is how we farm for the future in a way that supports our species being here… We’re stewards of our land and must produce and make food choices in a way that creates the kind of planet we want to live on.”

I hope she’s in touch with Henry Dimbleby; and that they all oppose the lower food standards that may well follow if/when we start trading more with the US….

The RSPCA has launched a new video, ‘exposing the realities of animal welfare’, warning consumers against US dairy, egg and meat imports. (US chickens ‘literally sitting in each other’s waste’…)

A Guardian article this week (by Sarah Mock on Monday) is headlined ‘From farm to factory: the unstoppable rise of American chicken’… So depressing, that word ‘unstoppable’.. 

At least we can try to stop that unhealthy (on so many levels..) appetite for fast-food chicken taking an irreversible hold in this country – I realise there are so many complicated factors here, advertising, cheap availability, the survival of small businesses etc; but the source (exploitative farming…) needs addressing.

Please sign the RSPCA petition, asking the government to include legal guarantees in the post-Brexit agricultural bill that will ensure “imports produced to lower animal welfare standards than our own will not enter the UK”.

And chicken farms in this country need to ‘clean up their act’ too – the River Wye, and other rivers, continue to be polluted by ‘run off’…

Now, this is so lovely!

‘Turnips’ restaurant has been opened, by a Borough Market trader (London) – ‘a clever response to challenging times’, according to Jay Rayner (yes, The Guardian…).

It’s apparently a ‘brazen, shameless display of what plants can do given the right encouragement’.

From early in lockdown, Turnips (originally a greengrocer business run by Fred Foster) was sending fruit and veg boxes to vulnerable groups in need, and cooks from some of the restaurants they usually supplied came to help. 

Now chef Tomas Lidakevicius has teamed up with Fred Foster, running the new outdoor restaurant.

And finally, ‘the kids have got it right’… My son and friend have been running music workshops at London’s Alexandra Palace – the self-styled Greenhouse Gurus, aged between 9 and 14, are working on a song. The sneak preview (on Twitter, @geckoofficial, @Si_Mole and @Yourallypally) sounds so determined and beautiful:

“We’ve only got one Earth, are we running out of time?

 We wanted to let you know, so we wrote it on a sign.”

Galvanises me for making my sign to join the Climate Activism protests in September….!

Emerging #7

August 13th, 2020

Today I’ve decided to focus on some things that do seem to be changing for the better.

A group of moderate Conservative MPs has joined green groups in calling for the UK government’s ban on new fossil fuel vehicles to be brought forward by five years to 2030, as part of a plan to ignite a green economic recovery.

Jerome Mayhew MP, lead author of the report, said: “Offshore wind, electric vehicles, carbon capture and other clean technologies have the potential to create millions of jobs, attract private investment and grow UK exports…

“Economic growth and innovation go hand in hand, and by investing in green skills, jobs, and technologies we can support an accelerated recovery of our economy and our environment.”

I got a reply from Highways England and have written back, mentioning the importance of supporting this acceleration (seems a particularly good word here…).

The ‘One Nation’ Tories are calling for electric vehicle charging points as standard in new homes, and greater investment in electric vehicle supply chains.

And Boris Johnson is ready to put in place new rules barring the UK government’s chief foreign lender from offering financial support to foreign fossil fuel projects.

The new policy will rule out future loans and financial guarantees for polluting projects overseas through the UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance. This comes just weeks after it agreed to a £1bn financial package to support work on a gas project in Mozambique – I referred to the prime minister’s disquiet about that, in a recent blog post….

Under the new rules no support may be offered to fossil fuel extraction or oil refining projects from 2021.

The world’s offshore windfarm capacity could grow eightfold by the end of the decade powered by a clean energy surge led by China, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. By 2030 China is expected to host more than a fifth of the world’s offshore wind turbines, equating to 52GigaWatts (the UK tally is expected to climb to 40.3GigaWatts, not that far behind China, it seems…?)

Ben Backwell, the CEO at GWEC, said offshore wind was “truly going global” as governments around the world “recognise the role that the technology can play in kickstarting post-Covid economic recovery”.

The report found that the offshore wind industry could create 900,000 jobs globally over the next decade, or even more if policymakers use post-pandemic economic stimulus packages to accelerate the sector’s growth.

Hopeful stuff, on a broad political scale…

Now here’s a smaller story of one man’s hope ‘against the odds’ – with no tourists due to coronavirus, a tour guide in Cambodia is teaching English in exchange for plastic waste…

The images of plastic waste littering the Cambodian fields (‘your Western rubbish’ as they named it in a Malaysian town, Emerging#4) are very depressing; but this man and his pupils are so beautifully determined and positive. He calls his classes ‘Rubbish School’ – check out the BBC News App video.

Deforestation continues to be a very worrying global problem.

Yesterday was World Elephant Day – the Rainforest Action Network is celebrating Sumatran elephants: palm oil plantations have destroyed more and more of their migration trails, leading these endangered elephants to the edge of extinction (there are now fewer than 1,700 left in the wild). Mars and Nestle continue to be involved in the ‘conflict palm oil’ trade (at a distance, through complicated supply chains, so out of sight, out of mind…), producing sweets, biscuits, snacks etc (Kit Kat, Skittles, Oreos..) that are tainted with environmental destruction and human rights abuses. 

Please sign petitions from the RAN and Sum of Us to continue to put pressure on these huge corporations. 

There is currently a new Greenpeace campaign calling on Tesco to cut links to JBS, the world’s biggest meat company, over its links (alleged, though generally accepted/known) to farms involved in Amazon deforestation. I wrote to JBS in the early days of my blog – factory farms, their mainstay, are horrendous anyway… I got a courteous first letter, assuring me that they follow all the rules against deforestation. When I challenged them a bit further, they ignored me…JBS has been linked to farms involved in Amazon deforestation five times in just over a year. Investor Nordea Asset Management has dropped the company from its portfolio.

Two meat suppliers owned by JBS, Moy Park and Tulip, continue to supply Tesco, Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. 

But Tesco are at least now saying the UK government should introduce due diligence across supply chains to monitor for deforestation. Germany is also weighing up a due diligence law on supply chains, reportedly supported by Angela Merkel. And more than half of Britons would consider rejecting meat products linked to deforestation, a YouGov poll for Greenpeace has found. (I’d hope it would be more people than that, but you can’t have everything….!)

A further piece of bad deforestation news is that IKEA may also be implicated – a report by Earthsight has found that some of the store’s furniture may be made with wood sourced from illegal logging in Ukraine. I’ve written to Jesper Brodin, IKEA’s CEO, of course (well, Mercedes Rodriguez-Arias, his assistant…) – they are taking the allegations seriously.

I so want to believe that IKEA is a force for good in the world….

Which brings me to the book I’m reading, recommended by my son Will – Humankind, by Rutger Bregman. A very heartening book about human nature – kindness, in fact…He advocates/believes in ‘survival of the friendliest’….

That chimes with my mission in contacting these CEOs, politicians, ‘big shots’ – they are all humans, hopefully open to questions/engagement/appeals on a human level…..

I’ll keep trying anyway! And please keep signing those petitions, many of which appear on Facebook and my Twitter #grandmaglobal account.

Watch out for more news about the September action by Extinction Rebellion UK too – in London, Cardiff and Manchester. I’ll be there!

Emerging #6

August 4th, 2020

Hello! Today I’m going to attempt to cover some ‘stories’ in a local, national and international order.

So, starting with a petition that concerns our local river, the Wye. Hopefully, some people reading this will have enjoyed holidays on and near it – a beautiful stretch of water flowing from the Welsh mountains through Powys, Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and eventually meeting the Severn Estuary into the Bristol Channel, inspiring poets, naturalists and holiday-makers ‘messing about in boats’…. 

Nowhere is free from human pollution. 116 intensive poultry units in Powys each raise more than 40,000 birds. There are now an estimated 64 times more chickens than people in that Welsh county… There is a legal responsibility to protect the river from the damage caused by effluent from the ‘farms’ to the river and water courses.

Kate Bull has started a petition to Powys County Council, calling for an immediate moratorium on planning permissions for new or extended poultry units in the county. Please sign it – at change.org

For a good clear ‘chat’ (surprisingly hopeful), visit Paloma Faith’s Instagram feed/page (?…) – last month she asked Rosie Rogers from Greenpeace UK about the climate emergency. Many people still seem to be unaware of how little time we have to ‘sort it’ – Paloma Faith’s fans/followers probably are a representative group of one type of young people….?

The Met Office (meteorological, not Metropolitan police…!) has produced its annual climate report.

It states that the climate crisis is exerting an increasing impact on the UK – demonstrated by more extreme heat, less frost and snow, and trees coming into leaf earlier.

Maybe the regular weather forecasts on tv and radio will start mentioning this…? The report says: “Weather conditions are the result of the warming trend driven by global heating as well as natural variability.” Prof Dave Reay, at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Seeing temperature records go down like sweaty skittles is a stark reminder that climate change is still tightening its grip on all our futures. No corner of the UK is immune to the impacts of climate change.” Quite an image! Memorable, at least….

The National Trust has announced a re-organisation plan this week – over the next two months it will be making 1,200 staff redundant (including my son-in-law probably): a blow for those people of course, but the NT is determined to remain committed to the ‘battle against climate change, becoming carbon net zero by 2030, planting millions of trees and creating green corridors for people and nature’.

Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy has produced its first report. The aim of the NFS is to ensure a food system that is healthy, affordable, sustainable, resilient and productive. 

This first part calls for ‘a gold standard level of scrutiny’ to ensure new trade deals do not undermine the environment.

Verification schemes should address concerns such as imports of beef reared on land recently cleared of rainforest. (I hope Burger King and McDonalds are listening too…. ) And the government should press on with plans to pay English farmers to improve the countryside, such as by capturing carbon or increasing biodiversity.

“Be bolder. Go faster,” the report said. This part ties in with Brexit deals, of course, and now it also has relevance with the heightened obesity awareness around coronavirus. 

How fast action will be taken remains to be seen… We have to wait for the second part of the report, due to be published next year, too – this promises to ‘examine issues in more depth such as climate change, biodiversity, pollution and zoonotic disease.’ All such important stuff – it is very heartening to know it’s being addressed. We need to keep the pressure up on the government to follow the report’s advice.

Hedgehogs have been added to the British mammals section of the Red List of species at risk of extinction (run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Last week saw International Tiger Day (wild Sumatran tigers are threatened with extinction, but Indochinese tigers, in a conservation programme in Thailand, seem to be thriving); and whales are celebrating the reduced presence of humanity in oceans – there is a beautiful Youtube video of ‘happy humpback whales frolicking in quiet shipping lanes’.

The UK government has agreed to use £900m of taxpayers’ money for a gas pipeline in Mozambique. Now Boris Johnson is reported to be furious about the potential damage to the UK’s reputation on climate and has ordered a review of the use of government finances to oil and gas projects abroad. Mm, I hope he actually cares about the climate now, not just ‘our reputation’…but that would be a start! There is a powerful video about this subject made by Friends of the Earth – worth watching…

Now, two stories about Nestle, the ‘world’s largest food and beverage company’ – it owns so many brands (you have to read the small print to check when shopping…).

It has just sold its bottled water operations in Canada (and possibly might drop its water brands in the US and China as well), ‘because it’s not worth doing business there’.

This seems good news – are people buying fewer plastic bottles? I wonder about the attitude of the Canadian company that has bought from Nestle – Ice River Springs. I’ve written to their CEO.

I’ve also written to Nestle’s CEO – Mark Schneider needs to turn his attention now to the scourge that is deforestation. Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble are still sourcing palm oil from producers that destroy rainforests.

I’ll just add a bit of good international news here (well, a small step anyway..) –

A federal court in the USA has ruled that the Trump administration broke the law when it undid the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. Lissa Lynch, an attorney for NRDC, said: “The Waste Prevention Rule is a common sense protection that holds the oil and gas industry accountable for uncontrolled leaking of methane – pollution that harms public health and fuels climate change.”

The French government has this week laid out a batch of new measures to reduce the country’s carbon emissions.

These are the result of months of discussions with a Citizen’s Convention on Climate. One of the new measures is a nationwide ban, from 2021, on heating terraces for France’s bars and restaurants. This is controversial as the restaurant sector has been hit especially hard by coronavirus. But I hope people will see the ‘bigger picture’ – as France’s new Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said: “We are at risk and, if we don’t do anything, we’ll have an ecological crisis after this health crisis”.

Another measure is ‘Housing decency’ – from January 2023, any tenant in a house consuming more than 500 kilowatt of energy per square meter per year can ask the landlord to renovate the building. From January 2022, anyone building a new home will have to choose sustainable means of heating – coal and oil boilers will be banned.

Heating of buildings currently represents 20% of France’s greenhouse gases.

Well, I’m waiting to hear the outcomes of those discussions with a citizens group in this country that I mentioned a while ago; and when/if our government will act on the recommendations.

Emerging #5

July 28th, 2020

Hello! I’ll add a few more personal thoughts this week…

I’ve made a first visit to my hairdresser and friend (a post-lockdown treat and relief for many of us, I’m sure). We discussed the state of the world of course. Focus, naturally, was on the immediate needs of working people. (I never forget how lucky I am, retired and from the catering sector which is struggling in particular now…) I left the salon saying ‘it’s out of our hands’ now, meaning the government and other ‘powers that be’ have to be pressured into treating the climate crisis as urgently as the pandemic crisis – coronavirus is a warning…..

It’s odd how I still act apologetic when talking about ‘green’ political issues – I actually believe I have nothing to feel awkward/apologetic about at all, but my politeness/kindness ‘lets people off’.

And, I suppose, it’s ultimately about individuals must NOT be scapegoats – governments and corporations should be protecting us.

 But I do believe we individuals still have responsibilities – car-free days, giving up meat and planes, avoiding single-use plastics and switching to green energy providers and green investments – if only to show we are serious and that returning to ‘business as usual’ is no longer acceptable.

Our main hope, however, is lobbying, petitioning and demonstrating – laws have to change.

OK, so now to the hard facts…

Hurricane Hanna has been wreaking havoc in Texas, USA. No mention of climate change in the weather reports; and the windy weather here (still no reference on everyday BBC) may not actually be the tail-end of it.

But these should all be reminders that something catastrophic is going on.

Siberia has been hot, even on fire, and now a heat wave has spread across most of the highest reaches of the globe – Eureka, Canada, one of the northernmost settlements on Earth, located on Ellesmere Island, and Longyearbyen, on the northern Norwegian island of Svalbard, have recorded more than 21 degrees Celsius. Eureka is considered the coldest place in Canada, with average July high temperatures of 9.3 degrees Celsius. Longyearben, where everything on the island from seeds to code archives are normally entombed in vaults tucked into the frozen soil, has never experienced anywhere near these high temperatures.

And polar bears will be wiped out by the end of the century unless more is done to tackle climate change, a study predicts. Scientists say some populations have already reached their survival limits as the Arctic sea ice shrinks. As the ice breaks up, the animals are forced to roam for long distances or on to shore, where they struggle to find food and feed their cubs.

Dr Steven Amstrup, chief scientist of Polar Bears International, who was involved in the study, said: “The trajectory we’re on now is not a good one, but if society gets its act together, we have time to save polar bears. And if we do, we will benefit the rest of life on Earth, including ourselves.”

I’ve only just caught up with Boris Johnson’s comment about “the newt-counting delays in our system”… so protecting the environment is not about protecting us, according to our prime minister… he can’t be that short-sighted or stupid, surely? He’s depressingly being a politician, trying to appeal to short-sighted people who get frustrated with bat & newt planning laws while at the same time appeasing developers (many being greedy of course, but I’ll be kind and call them short-sighted…).

At least Tony Juniper of Natural England is trying his best, to convince the government that environmental health is inextricably linked with the country’s wealth (obvious, surely…?…!).

Contributing to the debate about the horrible-sounding Project Speed (‘scything through red tape’, along with people’s housing standards as well as sustainability needs, it seems…), he said: “If we are going to look to change the way we do development, hopefully this is the moment when we choose to do things differently.”

Now, a glimmer of hope that the government might be held to account. MPs plan to scrutinise the government’s green economic plans and industrial strategy to test whether they are still fit for purpose in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Two separate enquiries into its plans, by the Treasury and Business department parliamentary select committees, will question whether its existing policies will help or hinder sustainable post-pandemic economic growth.

Darren Jones, chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee said: “We are keen to hear the views of businesses about their thoughts on the barriers to growth … providing the right environment to deliver sustainable investment, a skilled workforce and high-quality jobs.”

I’ve written to local developers, and our solar ‘provider’, suggesting they contribute to the enquiry.

You could too… ? Maybe we could get to a point where ‘eco-campaigners’ aren’t the enemy of developers – developers might just want help with developing sustainably….?! We can hope; and try to think positively at least…

Did you know that crisp packets can be recycled/upcycled? I’ve mentioned Terracycle before. Charities, internationally, raise funds through this ‘eliminating waste’ social enterprise.

I’ve just taken a lot of crisp packets (collected during lockdown) to a collection point near here. Some places, like schools and our local arboretum, are not collecting because of possible virus contamination; but there might be a collection point near you (check the Terracycle website).

Of course this is a tiny ‘drop in the ocean’ of plastic pollution (intentionally ironic/dark pun…); but I desperately want to believe that nobody is too small to make a difference. I’m small!

Now, good news and bad news (connected to cycling and oceans…), the bad more fundamental than the good, I’m afraid….

The first active leak of methane from the sea floor in Antarctica has been revealed by scientists. Microbes that normally consume the potent greenhouse gas before it reaches the atmosphere had only arrived in small numbers after five years. Andrew Thurber, from Oregon State University, who led the research said: “The methane cycle is absolutely something that we as a society need to be concerned about. I find it incredibly concerning.”

Yesterday’s headline in The Guardian may give us a little comfort, although I must admit that the cynic in me is asking ‘what about the bigger picture’? (that road-building scheme… I’ve written to Highways England)

Residents will get powers to banish through-traffic from local streets in a new cycling and walking initiative – Active Travel England will be a watchdog to ensure new cycle and walking routes are up to standard. Matt Mallinder, from Cycling UK, said: “The funding already announced will not be enough. However, with a forthcoming spending review, now’s the time for the chancellor to invest in the future and make the prime minister’s vision of a golden age of cycling come true.”

Mm, I think we might be waiting a while for Mr Johnson to ‘put his money where his mouth is’…

In the meantime, cycle safely…