This is the Sustainable Futures Report for Thursday, the 30th of November, and finally, it's time to move on. This is the 477th episode and the final episode after 15 years of publication. After careful consideration I’ve decided that the Sustainable Futures Report will not return.
Before I go I’ll take the opportunity to comment on COP28, which starts this week, to suggest some books which you should put on your Christmas list and there's a couple of videos which you really must watch, one from Dave Borlace and another one from Oblivia Coalmine.
Why am I stopping now?
There are three main reasons for my decision – Reach, Quality and Time.
The objective of the Sustainable Futures Report is to make people aware of the growing threat from the climate crisis, and to introduce methods and ideas for mitigation and adaptation. I think I've achieved that as far as it goes, but a key issue is reach. The podcast has never had a wide audience. I started in the age of the Walkman, only a year after the first smartphone was launched and podcasts were a novelty. Now there are literally billions of podcasts across the world and if I were to relaunch, then the task to get any sort of audience would be immense.
If I were to relaunch, it would be essential to continue to bring a quality product to the audience each week, and quality takes time.
As far as time is concerned, it’s only me that does this podcast. I have to meet a weekly deadline, to research a topic, or many topics, write the script, record the episode, publish on Patreon, then publish the audio on Libsyn, then find photographs to illustrate the ideas, format them and publish the text on the website. Ideally, I should then mail my mailing list to let people know that a new episode is out, but all too often I never get around to that.
If I have to market the relaunch as well then the activity will take up the whole of my week. You could argue that if it hasn't taken off after 15 years, it's very unlikely that I'm going to be able to raise its profile in this hypercompetitive podcasting market which now exists.
As you know, I suspended the podcast in August as I usually take a few weeks off in the summer. However, I was talking at the time of suspending for 12 months and I think I was on the point of burnout. I hate to claim any sort of sickness because I like to rise to life’s challenges, but my to-do list was such that every hour seemed to be spoken for. As you may know, I keep bees which need a lot of attention in the summer. We have an allotment garden, which also needs a lot of attention in the summer. I'm a member of Toastmasters International, involved in three clubs which hold multiple meetings every month. I'm a member of the friends committee at our local cemetery and a member of the allotment committee as well. Since August last year, I've devoted two days a week to training as an advisor at Citizens Advice York. And I also have a wife and family.
The Sustainable Futures Report archive will remain online for the foreseeable future. I am working with Sue, my Webmaster, to create an index so that you will be able to search the 475-odd episodes by topic, by date, by interviewee and so on. I estimate there are nearly 1,500,000 words there. Both the text and the audio will continue to be available.
So what of the future?
The immediate future, starting today, 30th November, is COP 28. It's starting in the UAE, chaired by the head of the local oil company, one of the largest oil companies in the world. OPEC will have a stand at this event for the very first time, and the delegates representing fossil fuel companies will be far more numerous than any delegation from any of the attending countries.
Promoting Fossil Fuels
The President of COP28 has refused to deny that he will take the opportunity to enter into talks promoting the use of fossil fuels with some of the countries attending the event. Undercover reporting by Channel 4 News has revealed that Saudi Arabia is actively promoting the continued use of fossil fuels in developing countries. Officials from Saudi Arabia’s Oil Sustainability Programme (OSP) have admitted the country’s state-backed plan to target Africa and Asia with petrol, oil and diesel products, under a public programme from its Ministry of Energy. Oil Sustainability Programme. That’s certainly not my kind of sustainability.
The plans include a fleet of power station ships off the African coast using heavy fuel oil to generate electricity, a new global programme of ‘supersonic’ commercial aviation using three times the amount of kerosine that conventional aircraft use, and work to increase low-cost internal combustion engine cars in Africa and Asia.
The UK is doing itself no favours when it claims to be leading the way to Net Zero 2050 yet has authorised a new coal mine and has stated that it's going to extract every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea. Why should other countries curtail their fossil fuel industries if it's okay for the UK to act like this?
The value of the global fossil fuel industry is immense, and therefore it is difficult to be surprised at the cynicism of these industry leaders attempting to protect and enhance their investments. A new report from Oxfam reveals that the world’s wealthiest 1% are responsible for more emissions than the next 66%. It is difficult to be surprised at their disregard for the consequences of their actions on many millions of people across the world when we see a cynical disregard for humanity in places like Ukraine, Gaza, and in other conflicts across the world.
COP28 will be a historic event and turning point. We will know by the end of the weekend whether the world will turn towards a sustainable future or towards inevitable catastrophe. It’s far too late to say it will all be alright by COP29.
Fuel v Byproducts
One of the arguments put forward by the fossil fuel industry is that without producing gasoline, kerosene and diesel, it will be impossible to produce the byproducts, which are used for plastics, pharmaceuticals, and all manner of industrial chemicals, which we all rely on.
Just Have a Think
I've mentioned the video blog by Dave Borlace called Just Have a Think. He's recently produced an episode working with an oil industry expert where he destroys this idea completely. It's well worth watching.
You should also watch a video by Olivia Colman, playing the role of Oblivia Coalmine. Find it on the Make My Money Matter website. It’s a group campaigning against pension funds giving financial support to the fossil fuel industry.
Read All About It!
If you've got time this Christmas, here are some books that you should be reading.
Saving the Planet
The first one is Saving the Planet Without the Bullshit - What they don't tell you about the climate crisis. It's by Assaad Razzouk, and you'll find he's very active on LinkedIn. The book contains cogent reasons for optimism and just as many for despair. He points out that one of the major difficulties with the climate campaign is that there is no single obvious target as there was in the suffragette campaign, for example. It's not just the oil companies, it's the governments who regulate them, or don't regulate them or who subsidise them. And there are the lawyers who advise the fossil fuel industry, the financiers who fund the industry (often with our money), and even the software engineers who produce the applications which enable the industry to extract even more oil and gas from even more remote and hostile locations. I can hear echoes of the American gun lobby’s mantra, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” “I don’t drill for oil, I just write the programmes.”
My next book is Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear Don’t Beg by Ben Stewart. It’s the story of the Arctic 30, the crew of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, who were thrown into a Russian gaol and threatened with 15 years for piracy. Their determination in support of their principles is truly remarkable. Most of them spoke no Russian, but were put into cells with violent prisoners who had little hope of release and yet remained optimistic and survived the experience. The female crew members were effectively in solitary confinement, but communicated with each other by banging out codes on the water pipes. I have immense respect for these people, some of whom have since gone on to carry out more direct protest actions.
The Arctic Sunrise was boarded 10 years ago, but the international community has done nothing to stop Gazprom, which, 10 years on, is now producing gas in the Arctic. Within Russia’s Arctic Zone, there are 30 industrial sites that are classified among the most hazardous and are included in the list of those enterprises that cause the greatest harm to the environment. (The list includes 300 enterprises whose cumulative emissions constitute 60 percent of Russia’s total industrial emissions.) These 30 industrial sites are owned by nine companies and represent five industries — oil and gas production; non-ferrous and ferrous metal production; the paper and pulp industry, and coal mining. Norilsk Nickel and Gazprom are the biggest polluters in the Arctic.
Small is Beautiful
My third book is Small is Beautiful by E F Schumacher. It was published in 1973 and the perspective is so, so different from the reality today. Arguably many of the things that Schumacher warned about have come to pass. He was talking about 15 minute cities, although he didn't call them that. The idea is that people can live in self-sufficient communities, where every facility from employment, to shopping, to healthcare, to entertainment and leisure is all available within a 15 minute walk or cycle ride. His world had a population of 3.9 billion. Our world has 8 billion people. He believes that education is essential for a prosperous future: “By 1984 it will be desirable that the most ordinary of men is not embarrassed by the use of a logarithm table, the elementary concepts of the calculus, and by the definitions and uses of such words as electron, coulomb, and volt. He should further have become able, not only to handle a pen, pencil and ruler, but also a magnetic tape, valve and transistor. The improvement of communications between individuals and groups depends on it.” That from a world with no mobile phones, no personal computers, no internet, few credit cards and certainly no contactless payments. No surveillance cameras, no microwave ovens, no electric toothbrushes and in the UK at least, every electrical appliance came with bare wires and you had to fit a plug yourself.
Schumacher also quotes philosopher C P Snow who says we need “to train politicians and administrators who know enough science to have a sense of what the scientists are talking about.” The current Covid enquiry in the UK indicates that we are still very far from achieving that.
It's an interesting book. It lays out what might have been, but still, I think, has useful lessons for the future.
The Future of Protest
Before I go, I want to pay tribute to the people who are protesting against inaction by government, banks, oil companies and all the usual suspects in the face of the climate crisis. I salute people like XR, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil both here and across the world. Protesting in a situation which is becoming more and more difficult as the government criminalises more and more aspects of free speech and free assembly.
I'd particularly like to mention Zoe Cohen, who has appeared on the Sustainable Futures Report a number of times. She has far more courage than I have, and has already been arrested several times, though so far as I’m aware without a prison sentence. She suggests that now I am not encumbered by the podcast, I should look at supporting Just Stop Oil . Yes, I will have a look at that in 2024.
And finally, as I said to start with, it's time to move on. Thank you all for your support and ideas, which have contributed so much to the Sustainable Futures Report . I hope we will all be safe and secure in a sustainable future. We must all believe it.
Thank you again and goodbye.
I'm Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
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