The time is now

“I want one moment in time

When I’m more than I thought I could be

When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away

And the answers are all up to me”

Going car free at the beginning of 2019 was an experiment in behavioural change, could I manage without a car? It has changed me in more ways than I expected, I feel free, connected to my community, connected to nature, I now have hope and feel empowered. If enough of us believe “the answers are up to me” then our dreams of a healed planet are a heartbeat away.

The words come from the song One Moment in Time, beautifully sung by Dana Winner.

“I’ve laid the plans

Now lay the chance

Here in my hands”

The chance has been laid in our hands. The moment is now. It is time to seize the opportunity to pull together all that is happening and use it to build an unstoppable momentum to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. “We must act now – right now. We cannot afford to dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate.” – Boris Johnson. Too true Boris, you are one of the ones causing the biodiversity loss. HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 legally protected sites of special scientific interest, according to the most comprehensive survey of its impact on wildlife. If HS2 winds you up relax listening to this version of Action Speaks Louder Than Words by Milk Chocolate.

“You’re a winner for a lifetime

If you seize that one moment in time

Make it shine

Then in that one moment of time

I will feel

I will feel eternity”

The recent release of the David Attenborough film, A Life on Our Planet, has caught the public attention. His new Instagram account broke the record for the fastest to achieve 1 million followers. It now stands at almost 6 million. Prince William and Sir David Attenborough have joined forces to launch what they hope will become the “Nobel Prize for environmentalism”. With £50m to be awarded over a decade, the “Earthshot Prize” is the biggest environmental prize ever. A documentary about Greta Thunberg, the young environmental campaigner, I am Greta was released in the UK on 14th October and will go on wider release in November. There will be renewed interest in her campaign. And there is the build up to COP 26 (26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) in November 2021. The UK, as hosts, will want to look good. This is from the .gov.uk website:

“As COP26 Presidency, the UK is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire action ahead of COP26.”

Campaigning organisations like WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are building their campaigns ahead of COP26. WWF recently launched a campaign around how what we eat affects our health and the health of the planet. Greenpeace are campaigning against supertrawlers fishing in Marine Protected Areas and Friends of the Earth are using the courts to protect the planet.

It’s not just environmental groups taking action, the Scottish brewer, BrewDog has gone carbon negative and DPD is aiming to be the greenest delivery company on this planet. Another company with great aspirations is Microsoft. They have announced that they will be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 they will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. The world is waking up to the challenges. The insurance giant Swiss Re has reported that more than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity and one-fifth of the world’s countries are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing because of the destruction of wildlife and their habitats. Swiss RE are not treehuggers, they are all about money, risk and reward.

I’m only one

But not alone

Little things you can do

They may be little things; however, when added together they will make a big difference.

Check your tyre pressures regularly. Driving on under-inflated tyres uses more petrol. At the same time check the wear pattern. If it is uneven get your car checked. Uneven wear will mean you will have to replace your tyres sooner than is necessary. The right tyre pressure will improve safety driving in difficult autumn and winter conditions.

Ditch the junk. If you have stuff in the boot or the rest of the car that you do not need you are carting extra weight around and using more petrol. That extra weight may not be much, but it does mean you are using extra petrol and producing extra greenhouse gasses. It may not be much per individual journey but, when you consider how many journeys that junk takes and then multiply it by the number of motorists, we are talking very big numbers.

Little things I should have said and done

I just never took the time

If a billion people around the world were to take a few small steps and make them into permanent lifestyle changes, global greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly reduced. Sign up to the Count Us In campaign.

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Give me, give me one more chance

Maybe I didn’t treat you

Quite as good as I should have

You may recognise those words, they come from the song ‘Always on My Mind’, first recorded by B J Thomas in 1970 then released by Gwen McCrae as ‘You Were Always on My Mind’. It became a signature song for Elvis Presley who recorded it a few weeks after his separation from his wife, Priscilla, in February 1972. It also became a big hit for Willie Nelson. The Elvis version is certainly powerful and moving; however, I prefer a version by Sissel.

Before explaining the relevance of the song a few words about travel. Google maps sent me an email with details of where I had been last month with pretty photos of Argos, Tehidy Woods, Stratton, Heartlands and Widemouth Bay, together with a link to an analysis of my travel. The images paint a picture of how Covid has affected my life.

September travel

Big brother is watching me.

Now to the song. It has been haunting me since I watched the David Attenborough film ‘A Life on Our Planet’. Elvis was probably thinking of how he lost Priscilla when he sung these words and I think many of us can identify with them.

Maybe I didn’t treat you

Quite as good as I should have

Maybe I didn’t love you

Quite as often as I could have

Little things I should have said and done

I just never took the time

We certainly haven’t treated the planet as well as we should, and it wasn’t always on our minds.

The statistics from the film shocked me. I was born in 1954 and am horrified by how much wilderness has disappeared in my lifetime, most of it recently. There were things I should have said and done. More than 70% of the remaining wilderness is in just five countries: Australia, Russia, Canada, the United States (Alaska), and Brazil. Most of it is therefore in areas with low biodiversity except for the Brazilian rainforest and that is being cleared at an alarming rate to satisfy the demand for soy, to feed cattle and poultry, and now palm oil for use in processed foods, shampoo, cosmetics and cleaning products. To keep us satisfied, satisfied.

Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died

Whales, dolphins and porpoises have certainly died, some in such numbers that they have become extinct like the Chinese river dolphin. The dolphin, also known as the baiji, was once a common sight in the Yangtze River, but is now thought to have died out. The North Atlantic right whale, of which only a few hundred individuals remain, and the vaquita, a porpoise found in the Gulf of California, which may be down to the last 10, are probably doomed to extinction. We have killed them in nets, polluted where they live and filled them with plastics causing them to die from starvation. Great tracts of coral reefs have died, they are now bleached barren places. The oceans are perhaps the wildernesses we have destroyed the most.

Vaquita

Give me, give me one more chance – is that a futile plea?

Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died

Give me, give me one more chance

To keep you satisfied, satisfied

Maybe I didn’t treat you

Quite as good as I should have

Maybe I didn’t love you

Quite as often as I could have

Maybe I didn’t hold you

All those lonely, lonely times

And I guess I never told you

I’m so happy that you’re mine

Maybe I didn’t treat you

Quite as good as I should have

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Little things you can do

They may be little things; however, when added together they will make a big difference.

Save water: A lot of energy is used to purify water and move it about, don’t waste it. Don’t leave the tap running when washing your hands or cleaning your teeth. Bath less shower more. Collect rainwater for the garden rather than using tap water. There are lots of things you can do if you just take the time.

Refuse non-recyclable packaging: Tell retailers and food producers that you care about the environment and do not like what they are doing. If One Planet Pizza can wrap their frozen pizza in recyclable film, why cannot the big brands like Goodfella’s (Bird’s Eye).

Little things I should have said and done

I just never took the time

If a billion people around the world were to take a few small steps and make them into permanent lifestyle changes, global greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly reduced. Sign up to the Count Us In campaign.

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Pessimistically optimistic

Red River Cafe

Before getting to the substance a few words about public transport, only one trip this week (by bus), again to Heartlands, Pool and the Red River café for a couple of meetings. The tables are spaced out between old bits of mine machinery so a great place for socially distanced meetings. I arrived early so that I could have a late breakfast only to discover that hot food is served Thursday to Sunday; it was Wednesday. One of the staff took pity on me, asked what I normally had for my vegan breakfast and disappeared into the kitchen to see what she could rustle up. She did a good job.

One of the conversations turned to the cost of public transport and how in Cornwall it is higher than many other parts of the country. Nicely highlighted by an ‘out of county’ bus driver on the Radio 4 programme The Patch which featured Camborne. A return fare from Camborne to Truro is £9 (more than the cost of driving) yet Camborne is among the 10% of most deprived areas in the country according to recent reports. I used a website tool to look up the precise area of Camborne where I live – it is in the bottom 4%. How can people be expected to get out and about for work and other activities when fares on public transport are so high. If it wasn’t for the fact that Coastline provide a lot of good quality social housing in the area our stats would be worse.

Now to the substance

I came across an article in a series about managing a family business, on the Forbes website titled “Are Optimists or Pessimists Better Leaders?” The answer is it depends. When the news is bad and likely to get worse, a pessimist is your best ally because pessimists thrive on fixing errors. But when the task requires flexibility and hard work toward uncertain goals then you need optimists – they learn from mistakes and failures and are not afraid to fail again.

Now is not the time for optimism we are running out of time to save us from climate change disaster, we cannot afford to fail again.

There was huge optimism ahead of the UN biodiversity summit on Wednesday with headlines such as this one on the Guardian website, World leaders pledge to halt Earth’s destruction ahead of UN summit. The reality is underwhelming; 64 counties signed up – there are 193 sovereign nations that are members of the UN so two thirds didn’t sign up.

When you analyse the countries that did sign many are in the frontline when it comes to climate change; Comoros (a small island in the Indian ocean off the east coast of Africa), Palau (a group of islands in the western Pacific Ocean), the Republic of Marshall Islands (spread over 29 coral atolls consisting of 1156 individual islands in the Pacific near the equator and the International Date Line), and Timor Leste (an island country in southeast Asia – interestingly the only country of Asia to be located entirely in the Southern Hemisphere).

There are some larger countries that signed up, Pakistan for example, another country with a lot of low-lying land so in the frontline. Of the countries that make up the top ten in terms of land mass only Canada signed up so that is at least 41% of the worlds land mass not in the deal. I loved how Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister, made the other nine leaders look bad. You can find his speech on the Leaders Pledge for Nature website.

Top ten nations by land mass

The speech by Boris Johnson was less edifying:

“We must turn these words into action and use them to build momentum, to agree ambitious goals and binding targets.

“We must act now – right now. We cannot afford to dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate. Left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for us all. Extinction is forever – so our action must be immediate.”

My immediate reaction is ‘Fine words butter no parsnips’ which is a lovely saying from the 17th century before potatoes were imported to the UK and means nothing is achieved by empty words or flattery.

If you read my blog post a few weeks ago ‘Naught, nowt, nada, nothing, zilch, zero.’ You will know that in 2010 world leaders signed up to 20 goals to be achieved by 2020. They have achieved none of them. They must all be massive optimists – fail and fail again.

Looking at what Boris actually promised is no less depressing. He has promised to restore to nature 30 per cent of Britain by 2030. He hasn’t said what that means; however, I suspect that it will include National parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other protected areas which currently comprise 26 per cent of land in England. Only about 8% of land is actively managed for nature and due to lack of funding it is only about 50% effective. So, Boris’s pledge amounts to diddly squat, that is a technical term used to describe about 0.7% of new land brought into effective management for nature. I hope you like dry parsnips.

When it comes to dither and delay, I’m spoilt for choice; however, I’ll just settle on one example, a plan to help resolve the housing crisis by pledging in 2015 to build 200,000 starter homes by 2020. A National Audit Office report at the end of 2019 found that not a single house had been built.

The optimistic bit is that the words have been uttered and the promises made. We can work hard to make sure our government and others keep to their word. I am starting the process by attending fringe meetings at the virtual Conservative Party Conference to see what is being said. My politics are at the other end of the spectrum; amazing that Covid-19 results in me attending the Tory conference. I’ll report back next week.

While you are waiting for your parsnips to be buttered try them roasted with maple syrup and mustard.

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Fishy fishy

A short post this week, hopefully a powerful one. First my journeys then the fishy bit.

Two return bus journeys this week, both to the same place, Pool, for visits to Heartlands. On Tuesday I had a meeting with real people (suitably distanced), instead of screen apparitions, in the Red River Café.  Then on Thursday I kept to my commitment to work away from home at least one day a week to help my mental health. I decided a return visit to the Red River Café was in order so that I could have their awesome vegan breakfast.  I am concerned that with winter coming spending all my time in my home office, within the same four walls, my mental health may suffer. I find winter a difficult time of year and usually have a visit to South Africa in October for the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, which recharges my batteries, to help me through those dark months, That isn’t going to happen this year.  Hopefully, variety will help chase the blues away.

Red River Cafe Vegan Breakfast

Thinking of winter made me think about the flu vaccine which resulted in a serendipitous connection. I saw on the news that Sir David Attenborough has broken Jennifer Aniston’s record for the fastest time to reach a million followers on Instagram. In his first video post he said “Continents are on fire. Glaciers are melting. Coral reefs are dying. Fish are disappearing from our oceans. The list goes on and on. Saving our planet is now a communications challenge.” The flu vaccine given to over 65s in the UK contains an extract from fish which is designed to boost the immune system. Having fish in our oceans is not a nice to have, it is essential for our health. The same can be said for lots of animals and plants, as more and more become extinct we are reducing the pool that we can called on to find treatments and cures. In my post on 26th July I mentioned the role of Horseshoe crabs in the development of almost all vaccines. Horseshoe crabs live primarily in and around shallow coastal waters on soft sandy or muddy bottoms, exactly the areas we pollute with all the toxic stuff we put into the ocean. Another sea creature useful in medical research is the Snakelocks anemone. It contains green fluorescent protein (GFP) which is used in fluorescent microscopy and other processes. It is vulnerable to pollution.

“Coral reefs are dying. Fish are disappearing from our oceans.”

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Naught, nowt, nada, nothing, zilch, zero.

Before explaining the title. I want to talk about my journeys this week; only one return trip by bus from Camborne to Truro. I’m getting fed up with the four walls of my home office. Going out for a run helps; however, I’ve decided at least one day a week I’ll work somewhere else. This week it was the courtyard of the Cornish Vegan café in Truro, using my bus pass it costs nothing to get there. When we stopped outside the railway station, I noticed that some advertising hoardings had “Climate Crime Scene” tape across them. They were all advertisements for holiday flights, so I assume it was the work of climate change activists. I think the singling out one activity for criticism (demonisation) is not helpful. Someone who drives aggressively in a big 4 x 4, overheats their house, leaves lights on and doors open, eats lots of diary and meat, uses a patio heater, doesn’t recycle etc. (you get the picture) does more damage than a public transport using, energy saving, recycling vegan who once every couple of years goes on holiday to Lanzarote.

Now to that ZERO. That is the score out of 20 the world got in achieving 20 important targets. Being kind the score creeps up to a pathetic 3 out of 20 as 6 targets were partially achieved (½ a mark for each). I got some bad school reports, but none exhibited that level of underachievement. 2011-2020 was designated as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. In 2010, at a summit in Japan, 190 counties agreed a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity which included 20 Biodiversity Targets. Those are the targets that have not been met as reported in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report. The previous reports, 1-4, can be summarised as ‘room for improvement, could do better, need to try harder, need to try a lot harder’.

Biodiversity Targets

So, a massive big fail, in the exam system that score would get a ‘U’ – unclassified. Totally undeterred by the complete lack of success these countries had another summit in 2015 and decided upon some Sustainable Development Goals, only 17 this time. Perhaps some realism creeping in and decided that they would achieve them in 15 years. A report in 2019 found that “action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required.” That is another way to say, ‘room for improvement, could do better, need to try harder, need to try a lot harder’ and expected grade in 2030 ‘U’ (0 out of 17).

I’m not a believer of the triumph of hope over experience so I will leave the last words to Private Frazer.

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We need more than a tea-strainer

I had a mixed transport experience this week. On Friday I took the bus to Truro to pick up a car from Co Cars to drive to Bude to see my daughter. By public transport alone it takes over 4 hours to get from Camborne to Bude (60 miles) and there and back cannot be done in a day. I did not time my bus journey very well as it coincided with the end of school. As we approached Truro the buses coming the other way said “Full due to Social Distancing” and when we arrived at the stop near Truro & Penwith College there was a big crowd of children waiting to get on. Not all of them were allowed on. The bus then sailed past several bus stops without stopping leaving students from Truro School and other travellers with a long wait for the next bus.

I love picking up the car (hybrid); there is something very satisfying about tapping a plastic card on the windscreen, hearing the doors click open, getting in, entering a pin and driving off. I enjoy the process of driving, although it felt a little strange to start with because the last time I had driven was in a long wheelbase minibus; the Toyota Aygo felt very small. I was surprised by how much traffic was on the roads, back to pre-Covid levels. On Saturday I took the car back to Truro, popped into the Cornish Vegan café for a late second breakfast in the courtyard then took the bus back to Camborne.

I like bus travel, there is something very satisfying about sitting on the top deck of a big vehicle while a professional driver skilfully steers it through narrow streets and around inconsiderately parked cars. You get a view into the fields and gardens that motorists don’t see, they are hidden from them by walls and hedges. In the towns and villages, you can see into upstairs rooms and admire (or not) how they have been decorated. Buses are a great way to people watch as a there is always an eclectic collection of people getting on and off and, as you are sitting at bus stops, traffic lights, junctions etc., you can observe people walking in the streets and the strange antics of drivers. Bus travel is a wonderful window onto the world.

Public transport also allows you to catch up on reading; one article that attracted my attention was Climate crisis: Motorway speed limits ‘to be cut to 60mph’ to reduce emissions and pollution. Oh good, I thought at last some action. Then I read on and discovered that it was only on very short stretches (up to four-and-a-half miles) on specific parts of 4 motorways. This despite the fact that 60% of England’s population live in areas where levels of air pollution exceed the legal limit. The best way to reduce emissions is to reduce car journeys. The extremely limited proposed reduction to 60 mph on a few sections of motorway is like trying to bail out the Titanic with a tea-strainer.

50 years ago Cliff Richard sang ‘The Joy of Living’ which contains these words:

Oh, the joy of living, just to know that you’re giving

All the air you need to feed the car

Will we never learn!

Another article that caught my eye was news about a new film from David Attenborough ‘Extinction: The Facts’ where he highlights the devastating species loss in the last 40 years. Much of it is caused by how we use land. Every part of the land we cover with roads and parking areas is a loss of habitat and potentially a loss of land to grow food meaning we have to destroy more fragile habitats. The film finishes on an optimistic note.

 “I may not be here to see it, but if we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard our planet’s ecosystems, its extraordinary biodiversity and all its inhabitants. What happens next is up to every one of us.”

I am not a believer in the triumph of hope over experience. 50 years ago, in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ Joni Mitchell sung the words:

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Now the Government is pressing forward with big infrastructure projects to extend the road network and private companies are planning ‘out-of-town’ developments with big parking lots.

Will we never learn

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Flying past

After months, which have flown past, of no public transport journeys to comment on, this week I took the bus to Penzance on Saturday. I love that journey; as soon as you leave Camborne you are passing fields of crops, mainly vegetables. On Saturday I passed a field of courgettes being harvested, the field looked very pretty as many of the plants were still in flower. Later the bus passes along the waterfront at Hayle, where the council has adorned the lampposts by hanging watering cans from them, then as you get close to Penzance there are wonderful views of St Michael’s Mount, provided you are on the top deck.

It was good to be starting back on some sort of normal. I am now looking forward to when I can fly to Singapore to visit my daughter. The Climate Change zealots will label me as a pariah; I think they need to chill, look at the big picture and not use a binary approach to label things. Flying accounts for about 3% of the world’s carbon emissions; however, it probably makes up 5% of the contribution to global warming. An individual’s share of that total is difficult to calculate, it is not unusual to see claims like “mile for mile, flying is the most damaging way to travel for the climate”. That does not consider a lot of factors. Travelling on a full flight from London to Aberdeen will be less damaging than driving there in a 4 x 4. Flying First Class (less people on the plane) tips the balance against flying while having more than one person in the 4 x 4 makes things a lot better, switching from a 4 x 4 to a normal saloon improves things even more, an electric car would be better and a Zoom meeting involving no travel even better, unfortunately it is impossible to hug my daughter over Zoom. For some more objective figures on car travel versus flying have a look at this pithily named article – Fly or drive? Parsing the evolving climate math

Flying is an easy thing to target, it’s highly visible and can be complained about without upsetting too many people. My local council, Cornwall Council, was one of the first to declare a Climate Emergency and produced a list of things residents could do to help reduce their carbon footprint, one of them was “Reduce holiday air miles by 50%”. There was no mention of reducing meat consumption, which could have a bigger effect, particularly for the many Cornwall residents that do not holiday abroad. Cornwall has a large farming community. I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction to the new David Attenborough documentary due to be shown at the end of this month ‘A Life On Our Planet’ where he will encourage people to reduce the amount of meat they eat to save the planet.

I will leave you with one last thought, why do people not complain about flypasts to commemorate royal and other events?

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The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

King Canute

No travelling for me this week; however, I have been having adventures vicariously reading the Biggest Book of Yes – 49 short adventure stories.

“The king is dead, long live the king!” Is a traditional proclamation made following the accession of a new monarch in various countries. The seemingly contradictory phrase simultaneously announces the death of the previous monarch and assures the public of continuity by saluting the new monarch. The Government is trying to ensure continuity, despite it not being the best strategy mainly, I think, because when money talks governments listen and when environmentalists speak it falls on death ears.

Confederation of British Industries (CBI): “City centres could become “ghost towns” if the prime minister does not do more to encourage staff back, with businesses relying on passing trade from office workers”.

Government: Right everyone back to work.

Environmentalists:We are reaching irreversible tipping points for nature and climate. If recovery efforts do not address the looming planetary crises, a critical window of opportunity to avoid their worst impact will be irreversibly lost. Decisions on how to deploy the post-Covid crisis stimulus packages will likely shape societies and economies for decades.

Government: Back to our old polluting ways as soon as possible.

Actually, the quote is not from environmentalists but the World Economic Forum wearing an environmental hat. Which leads me nicely into my next point, the Government is blinkered as well as selective in what it hears. Britain’s have longer commutes to work than most other Europeans and we have worse productivity than most developed countries. Our economy needs shaking up. Now I know correlation does not necessarily equal causation; however, it does not need a rocket scientist to see that when sitting in a traffic jam you are not being very productive.

If we embrace home working, where practical and desirable, we could change the economy for the better, improve productivity and stop giving all the air we need to feed the car. City centres will not become “ghost towns” they will rejuvenate themselves and become places where people can live and breathe. Yes, some businesses will be badly affected, some may not survive. Tackling Climate Change is not easy, it will require behavioural change (technology cannot do it all). You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs (unless it is a vegan one, then the tofu suffers).

PS Just as I was finishing writing this Big Yellow Taxi -by Joni Mitchell was played on my local radio station. These words “They paved paradise put up a parking lot” were sung 50 years ago. 50 years and we still haven’t learnt. 50 years!

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For Earth’s sake leave the deckchairs alone

No travelling again this week, except by Zoom to South Africa, North Wales, Cheltenham, Torbay, Newquay and Truro. That has left time to think about plenty of things, including the lack of progress on tackling climate change.

Yesterday, 22nd August, was Earth overshoot Day, the date on which it is calculated that humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year. It is about three weeks later than last year which is a good thing, unfortunately that change is a result of the Covid crisis, not international efforts to tackle the Climate crisis.  Which is strange when you think that last year on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979, a statement, which was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations, said the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society. FORTY YEARS and we are still tinkering at the edges; rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Three days ago Greta Thunberg met with Angela Merkel and accused world leaders of two years of political inaction since her first school strike. She has been very clear; the world is stealing children’s futures by not taking action on climate change and other environmental issues.

Perhaps the problem is that the solutions are in the hands of politicians not scientists. One very clever scientist Einstein, who knew a thing or two, said:

“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”

In the UK in 2019 transport accounted for around a third (34 per cent) of all carbon dioxide emissions. The large majority of emissions from transport are from road transport. (Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy report ‘2019 UK greenhouse gasses emission, provisional figures’ published  26 March 2020). This is a decrease of about 5% in 30 years. Good to see one less deckchair on the Titanic.

So, what is the Government’s approach to preventing “untold suffering”? Build more roads and sell more cars. They are going to be electric cars, but will there be enough ‘clean’ electricity to power them and where will all the material and energy to make them come from? And is solving a problem created by transport with transport not using the same consciousness that created it and is it seeing the world anew? The scientists pointed out “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle”. Buying new cars isn’t the answer then.

There are also other problems created by cars. We have all be made aware of the problem of plastic pollution; in a report, published on 14th July 2020, it was noted that an important source of plastics is road traffic emissions. Global average emissions of tyre wear particles (TWPs) are 0.81 kg year−1 per capita, about 6.1 million tonnes. Emissions of brake wear particles (BWPs) add another 0.5 million tonnes. This is not just something of concern to tree huggers, the British Government is taking it seriously according to a press release ‘Government targets particulate matter and microplastic pollution from cars’. Unfortunately, they are using “the same consciousness that created it” by wanting the car industry to deal with it rather than dealing with cars.

The answer is major transformations to global society, which is not business as usual and it is definitely not tinkering about with deckchairs while the world overheats.

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Green Grow the Rushes, O

No public transport journeys again this week and no walks to the shops, in fact no trips anywhere except by Zoom. I have had some virtual public transport experiences; I was asked to be a tester for the Travel Companion App Cornwall Council are developing. I used it to search on some of the journeys I have taken in the past to see if the recommended routes and transport options were correct. It was a good way to reminisce on some of the pleasant journeys and interesting people I met. The app worked well, although I did discover some anomalies in the search function and was able to pass this feedback on to the developers.

I’ve also been reflecting on other things and, of course, Covid has not been far from my thoughts. With the talk of a ‘Green Recovery’ and Boris’s talk of levelling up after his election victory, as a result of support from the north, you might think things are looking rosy. I don’t, due to a little bit of cynicism and plenty of experience and knowledge; one of the advantages of old age, another being that it is better than the alternative. Greening it just won’t wash, we need to reduce consumption and levelling up is doing the wrong thing; we need to level down.

The world’s top 10% of income earners are responsible for between 25 and 43% of environmental impact. In contrast, the world’s bottom 10% income earners exert only around 3–5% of environmental impact. – recent study

If we level up consumption will increase and so will the damage to the environment. The growth economy needs to be replaced with something else, something that focuses on people and planet. I don’t have a solution; I just know that if the new normal is an adaption of the old normal then the outlook is not good. Greening will not tame the beast; it will do very little to hold it back.

From study – MF = Material Footprint (the materials we extract. FFI = Fossil Fuel & Industrial processes

Now the cynicism

Measures put in place to help the economy recover from the 2008 financial crash accelerated the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few. It has been the same with all the recoveries in recent history, if not ever. Unfortunately the post-Covid recovery is unlikely to be any different?

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