I don’t often do a blog in January but I was asked to write this piece for a publication in the Home Counties, so thought I would post a version of it here by way of wishing everyone all best wishes for 2020.
When I was at school there was a report which would upturn the norms of society. This was the Royal College of Physicians’ report which concluded that smoking causes lung cancer. Of course, there were some, and some papers, who said this was rubbish “Smoking hasn’t done me any harm”; and some who said “It’s their choice so it’s difficult to interfere with that”; and others who said “Smoking is dangerous so we must put proper controls on it”.
This mirrors almost exactly today’s climate debate. There are people (and popular newspapers) who deny the climate crisis, some even saying it is a hoax or a cult; there are those who waffle (it’s often only a sign that they don’t know, or can’t decide, what to do); and there are activists, from Greta Thunberg and striking schoolchildren to Extinction Rebellion.
So what can we do which will make any difference? Here are five suggestions to start thinking about for the New Year:
1. Travel fewer fossil-fuelled miles, by land, sea or especially air. The least damaging air travel is probably medium haul. Short haul uses too much fuel going up and down for a short journey; long haul requires lifting tons and tons of fuel into the air before you start. And remember, an electric car which is recharged from a non-renewable source will damage the climate just as much as a petrol or diesel car (and possibly more).
2. Start moving your home from gas to renewable electricity. Before long Housing Regulations will prohibit gas appliances in new homes; but you can start the process now. Change to a renewable electricity company, like Good Energy or Ecotricity, and then begin to use some electricity instead of gas for, say, cooking; or using the immersion heater more often, perhaps in summer. If you are having a room re-done, you might install electric underfloor heating. With fully renewable electricity, you will not increase your carbon footprint: but there’s obviously no point in doing this if your electricity supplier generates using fossil fuels.
3. Support Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes. You may not wish, or be able, to join these yourself, but engage with, and encourage, those who do. Give thanks, for they are working for you.
4. Eat less meat and dairy. Meat farming is a major source of CO₂. If you eat meat, choose lamb rather than beef (lamb is often fed on upland pasture which cannot be used for other purposes); and eat less pork (problems with pollution and husbandry). Experiment with plant milks, such as oat, almond or soya.
5. Familiarise yourself with the science. The climate emergency is so important that we
need to be properly informed and able to see its effects. We can all see what is happening in Australia (which is used to bush/grass fires but not the current forest fires) and here is another example to ponder – there is currently more water flowing along many English rivers than down the Victoria Falls.
Happy New Year!