How many others had, like me, their climate change complacency ripped way by the the BBC’s Climate change – The Facts last week?
In fact, my ‘awakening’ had started a week before with the FT magazine’s article, The Rise of Extinction Rebellion. But the shock was that much sharper as when I read, and I watched, I was enjoying a perfect lush, fresh, green English spring in the heart of the Dorset countryside.
How could that turn into the scorched desert that global warming threatens? But that is the issue, isn’t it? Until you are actually hit by that storm or that heatwave, there is no visible sign that anything is wrong.
The BBC, Extinction Rebellion and the media, by the coverage they have given XR protests, are certainly doing their best to make us understand the scale of the threat – and spur us to action. And that whatever about all of the other issues (loss of biodiversity, loss of species etc etc etc) it is global warming that is the key – global warming has resulted from our excessive use of fossil fuels.
The BBC certainly has a good track record in spurring us into action – 80% of those who watched the plastic horrors of Blue Planet 2, it seems, have ‘modified their behaviour’ as a result. But how much difference, the very reasonable argument goes, will a few million of us in the UK ‘modifying our behaviour’ to reduce our carbon footprint make to the global situation? And of course, the answer is – infinitesimal. But….
A massive oak starts as a tiny acorn and every global movement has started with a few people and a crazy idea. Not that combatting global warming is a few people and a crazy idea – brilliant brains and technological ingenuity have been focused on it for years and already much has been done. What is lacking is the political will to carry through the changes that are needed – which is where we come in. Not just ‘we’ in the UK but ‘we’ worldwide.
If enough of us refuse to fly long distance, drive when we could walk and buy food that has been flown round the world – apart from reducing our own carbon footprint* it will bring pressure on those industries which will in turn bring pressure on the politicians. (It will, of course, also bring down our own personal carbon footprint and on the ‘every little helps’ principle, no matter how little it is, that has to be good thing.)
Similarly, if enough of us support grass roots movements such as Extinction Rebellion – and Greta Thunberg‘s school protests – that all adds to the political pressure which, as we have seen, time and time again can be all powerful, even in non-democratic regimes where some of the worse polluters are found.
And I know this sounds a but wacky but, I do believe that if enough people are actually thinking about this stuff and focusing on how potentially catastrophic the situation really is, we will create a zeitgeist, a spirit which will carry the movement far beyond its original imaginings.
Well, I sincerely hope so anyhow as, if not, the outlook is indeed grim.
So, attempting to follow my own principles, I have just, regretfully, cancelled my planned trip to California in June to go to the Ojai music festival and to visit my good allergy gardening friend, Tom Ogren. The carbon footprint of flying to LA and back is 2.42 tonnes – 18% of my annual carbon footprint (approx 13 tonnes) on just one flight…. And then I was going to hire a car to drive up Route 1 from LA to San Franciso adding I-did-not-even-bother-to-calculate how much more.
Hey ho. June in Hampstead is just delightful. Why would I need to be anywhere else?
* If you do want to add your mite to the general effort, the BBC programme did offer some suggestions as to how you could do so:
- Insulate your house in any way you can to minimise the amount of fuel used in heating it.
- Do not throw out household equipment before you need to – huge resources, each with significant carbon footprints, go into making every washing machine, every food processor. Ideally, if you have to buy new, buy better quality equipment that will last.
- Eat everything you buy! Food production is ‘carbon expensive’ so do not waste food.
- Do not buy foods that have been flown across the world – their carbon footprint is huge. Buy local.
- Do not eat intensively farmed, methane-producing beef and lamb
- Do not buy cheap throw away clothes and only wear them once. Re-use your clothes or, if you want to buy ‘new’, buy second hand!
- Above all, do not fly across the world unless you absolutely have to! Well, ideally, don’t fly anywhere – trains have a lower carbon footprint – and are much more enjoyable to travel on!