If you want to know what Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough or Alok Sharma thinks you only have to open a newspaper or go on line. What about the rest of us? After all, we’re all in the front line. I’ve collected a few comments. And what about the Insulate Britain protestors? Nine of them are in jail. A motorist responds.
Hello, I’m Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 26th November 2021. Today is Buy Nothing Day. Yes, have a look at buynothingday.co.uk . It's also Green Jumper Day so I hope you're wearing a green jumper and you've turned the heating off. More details about that at greenjumperday.com .
Talking About Climate
Peter Hale has been talking about the climate for many years. He’s spoken at schools and a wide range of organisations and voluntary groups. Here’s his reaction to COP26:
Well, we must all have feelings about COP26 - “increased ambition”?! But who believes that world carbon emissions are going to do anything but increase by 2030, let alone reduce by 50%?
I groan when I hear “keep alive 1.5” and “10 years”. The statement from a 1988 world conference “The Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security” called for a 50% emissions reduction. Here we are again 33 years and 26 COPs later. Emissions during that time have increased around 60%.
The things I really want to hear are international agreements on carbon taxes, frequent flyer levies, and a ban on excessively carbon-emitting and non-essential activities such as cryptocurrencies and products such as SUVs.
And an end (somehow) to newspaper columnists denying or denigrating climate concern, like Douglas Murray in The Sun: “the medieval-style eco-doomster, Greta Thunberg”, and so influencing thousands of their readers against taking the climate crisis seriously.
At least deniers now find themselves in a difficult position. Amusingly, when Michael O’Leary, having just claimed that Ryanair planes have the lowest emissions, was asked by an interviewer about his former denial of climate change, he answered “Oh no, that was global warning”(!).
I also feel strongly that governments should attempt to mobilise their publics, as I keep telling my MP. Just before the COP, our government issued its Zero Carbon Strategy but withdrew a document from it which included the words "tackling the climate crisis requires significant behavioural change". A government spokesperson then stated: “We have no plans whatsoever to dictate consumer behaviour in this way. For that reason, our net zero strategy contained no such plans.”
Here’s a response that Peter received:
Reading your comments are another reminder that things are not happening quickly enough, and often just not happening at all.
In our democracy we have recognised a climate emergency.
In an emergency, I would expect every new piece of legislation, and every debate on every subject, to take into account the effect on climate change.
- Covid Vaccinations: What is the best way to roll out the plan while minimising carbon emissions?
- New home build: What is the best way to roll out the plan while minimising carbon emissions?
- Prison reform: “…… emissions?”
Extinction Rebellion had a simple and direct response to COP26.
There’s no transcript of this on the Sustainable Futures Report website but there’s a YouTube link. https://youtu.be/TxiP0Vo4Lik
Just a couple of episodes ago I complained that I didn’t believe that we would ever be able to persuade people to give up their SUVs, long-haul flights and eating meat, and to stop excessive consumption. Back in 1973 E F Schumacher published “Small is Beautiful. A Study of Economics as if People Mattered.” In it he warns that while people don’t miss what they’ve never had, they’ll fight to keep what they’ve already got.
Listener Carol Dance lives in Australia and she’s been involved in the movement opposing the Adani coal mine in Queensland. She picked me up on my suggestion that people would never give up consumption.
We love your podcasts. [Had to get that bit in!] Just a thought though, I disagree that people generally want to buy the latest car, fridge, whatever. No, I say, NO NO NO. Recalling my generation’s ‘planned obsolescence’ campaigns I just had a quick search and found groups sprucing similar campaigns. There are ’no shop’ days and complaints about a device bought last year having to be replaced this year. I have dresses I’ve worn for 20 years. I have a car that’s 12 years old. In fact, I demand a car that will last that long. Most of my friends are the same. My pots and pans are 40 years old and don’t need replacing. And so it goes.
Most people do not want to waste time shopping and want things to last.
And yet consumerism is rife, Carol. Is it a generational thing? I personally find the idea of “retail therapy” obscene, but many people do it all the time. You’re absolutely right that we can all live perfectly well without excess consumption, but we’ll have to persuade people to fill their time with something else. While every government is urging and promising continuous economic growth people are only too happy to go along for the ride. Constant growth means constant profits - for some. Others would say it’s simply a global Ponzi scheme.
On the Sustainable Futures Report website I’ve listed a few of the sites that Carol found. They include self-help groups for shopping addiction, buy-nothing Facebook groups, Freecycle and of course buynothingday.co.uk
Insulate Britain has slipped off the front pages but nine activists remain in prison. They are suddenly realising the consequences of being imprisoned and the family of one of them is asking for help from the general public so that he can pay his rent and he doesn't lose his accommodation while he is in prison. This to the horror of the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and the Daily Express. Incidentally, looking at his crowdfunding page I see that his target of £7,800 has already been exceeded, so not everyone agrees with the press.
It looks like signs of repression as The Independent newspaper reports that Essex Police are appealing for people who were “significantly inconvenienced” by Insulate Britain demonstrations to contact them as they continue investigating the climate protests, while Surrey Police have also asked for information to enable them to prosecute.
Zoe Cohen, who spoke to the Sustainable Futures Report back on 25th October 2019, is one of 124 people arrested. She told her local paper in Warrington:
“I totally understand people’s concern – it’s awful,” she said. “Disrupting ordinary people going about their lives is awful and distressing. We shouldn’t have to do it to get our government to fulfil its duty.
“I wanted to be there because I’m frustrated, angry and extremely upset that our government would rather imprison peaceful people than do what is necessary to tackle both the climate crisis and fuel poverty in our country.“
There have been angry scenes at the road blocks, so I asked a motorist friend of mine, Michael J Clarke, what he thought about it.
Michael, I've known you for some 20 years. I would describe you as a motorist, possibly even go so far as to call you a petrolhead, because between you and your partner, Gilli, you've got, how many is it now? Seven cars?
We have seven cars, yes. We have two cars that we use for everyday and we have five classics of different sorts.
Five classics now? I see.
Well, one of them is an old one that we need to get rid of. That was Gillian's car that she had at one stage, but it needs to go. We have four running classics.
Right, okay. Well, I wanted to talk to you about Insulate Britain because their tactic to raise the profile of their cause is to block roads. Now you live more than 200 miles away from the M25, so they not affected you. But if you did find yourself on the M25 one day and you were obstructed by such protestors, would you be happy with the fact they've now been sent to prison and any future ones who do the same thing will probably be sent to prison as well?
There's two parts to that, can I answer it as? First of all, no, I probably wouldn't be happy if I was delayed on the road and it would make me a little, yes, unhappy shall we call it? However, when we talk about sending people to jail for it, I understand what the cause is. Well, I do to some extent although to be fair, I don't really fully understand what Isolate Britain are actually trying to achieve, but we'll put that to one side.
Should they go to prison? No. And I'll give you the reason why I say no. Yes, they've broken the law but a lot of people break the law. I'm a petrolhead, I break the law quite regularly because I go over the speed limit on the motorway and maybe at some point I could be put to jail, but I've broken the law.
But my reasoning for saying no is, as we have seen down the years with demonstrations and causes, when you send people to jail, you create what we call martyrs and martyrs then bring other people to the cause. And so rather than actually making people desist, they are actually inflaming the situation. And I mean they, by the government, is inflaming the situation and actually making it worse because more people will flock to the cause in some ways.
However, whether actually going to achieve its aims or not, I have another... that's a question I am dubious about, but that's a separate matter. But in answer to the question of, should they go to jail? My answer would be no.
All right. Okay. Well, they're not targeting motorists, they are affecting motorists, but they're not targeting motorists because their demand is that we should stop wasting vast amounts of energy by wasting vast amounts of heat in our national housing stock, which is very, very poorly insulated.
But it's all part of the movement towards net zero, towards protecting the planet and protecting the environment. So cars are in the frame and you know that no new diesel and petrol cars will be sold after 2030. How do you view driving an electric car? Have you any plans to change your everyday cars for electric?
No, not at this moment. I'll just continue. When it gets to that date, I'll make sure I buy something secondhand probably a year beforehand or six months beforehand that. Hopefully will then keep me going until I'm no longer able to drive due to old age in my case. I've got nothing against electric cars as such. If it was proven that it was able to operate an electric car in the same way you can operate a diesel or a petrol car, then I would be a lot more towards it. But I actually have... People don't seem to... I'm taken as petrolhead but I actually do think about the environment and I have questions, big questions, which I've put down in my own blog as to whether electric cars and the whole... Everything around it, is it actually as eco-friendly as what it's made out to be?
I have big questions over that. I have big questions over how do we actually do it practically and how do we do it going forward? Because there are a lot of questions that haven't been answered and I'm not totally convinced yet that that is the route that we should be going. I think there are other routes that should be explored and I question why are those are the routes not being explored as much as going down the electric car route.
I think we should discuss that separately. I mean, that could go on and on. I agree with you, there's a lot of points. But Michael, thank you for that. That's very interesting.
A reasoned, rational response.
And Michael J Clarke’s blog is called Not Your Average Bean Counter and you'll find a link on the Sustainable Futures Report website. Those of you listening in the UK may have caught a Channel 4 Dispatches programme this week about electric cars. They highlighted continuing problems and that's an issue we will return to in future.
Meanwhile the Insulate Britain rebels are still in prison. Will the protesters go away or are we creating martyrs? The fact that last Saturday Lambeth Bridge was blocked in solidarity with those in prison seems to suggest the answer. More than 100 people have been arrested during the campaign, so potentially many more could be imprisoned.
Zoe Cohen said:
“Things have to change otherwise we are going to a very, very dark place indeed and we risk losing everything we love.”
It’s difficult to follow that so I won’t try. Just to tell you that next Wednesday’s interview will be about food waste and I have three more interviews lined up before Christmas. We’ll be hearing about action for survival, green air travel and sustainability at York Minster, one of the most important cathedrals in Europe.
For now, thank you for listening, and very many thanks to my patrons for their support.
Don’t forget to subscribe and you, too, can become a patron.
I’m Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
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