Lord Bird told the UK’s House of Lords this week that the majority of people don’t care about climate change. With so many other problems for them to deal with, that’s understandable, so here’s what can be done to change things.
Okay. I get it. The world is spinning towards a suffocating end, and my grandchildren are gonna inherit an Earth we would recognize only from dystopian books and movies. And it’s all MY fault. I need to act, and fast. But... now what?
I’ve been sticking stuff in the correct recycling bins for years, so there’s no room for improvement there. And I’ll be honest, I don’t know all that much about electric cars or solar power. Both those things kind of bore me, but I have been worried enough to check them out.
So here we go… Have you got a spare £40,000 lying around? Cool. That’ll get you, more or less, the basic-level Tesla electric car. There’s a problem that immediately comes to mind, though, even if you do shell out the cash and plug your shiny new toy into the wall every night.
Your old car you just scrapped to make way for your Tesla ran on a fossil fuel in the form of diesel or petrol, right? And the power being fed to your home and down the wire to your Tesla’s batteries is most likely from… fossil fuels. In the UK, for example, most of the power generated to this day is still from ancient organic material buried deep in the Earth’s crust, be it oil, gas or even coal.
I’m sure a scientist or mathematician can argue the pros and cons of electric cars in infinite detail, but the fact remains: the source of one is the same as the other. Fossil fuels.
Bugger! Right then, solar power. I'll bung some of those black glass panel things on the garage roof and plug the Tesla in there. Sorted. And, I must say, this is very tempting. You’d have to shell out between £15,000 and £30,000, which is a load of cash. But it would be such a buzz to tell those rip-off energy companies where to stick their bills.
We’re up to at least £55k or so already. And the positive environmental impact? It’s too small to even really measure, in global terms.
So what about travel? I could cut back on the flights. I was planning a nice trip to Thailand when this pandemic crap finally ends, but maybe I could go to Totnes instead? Ah, but I love the sunshine and the relaxed easy ways down there. And the elephants. Plus, if Bill bloody Gates can fly to climate change conferences on a private jet, why can’t I take my own carbon-spewing trip on a jet once or twice a year? I can always offset the carbon.
And what about stopping eating meat because of all those cow farts polluting the atmosphere and all that wasted grazing land that could be forest? Okay, but I’m getting a bit of a headache now and, anyway, I don’t even eat all that much meat.
You want the brutal truth that’s hard to stomach? It’s not easy for the average Joe to make any real individual impact at all on the environment. Plus, how many normal working stiffs like you and I truly identify with Swampy and son plus their human mole friends digging holes under a posh London square? Or Greta Thunberg, the teenage saint?
Or Extinction Rebellion? Join one of their crazy protests against climate change? Nah, I don't think so. It’d make no difference.
Sometimes these kids just feel like they're preaching and shouting. Plus, really, would Swampy and son ever be truly satisfied with anything we did, in the end, short of turning off the electricity and living in deep holes in the ground? I doubt it, somehow.
The only person who truly resonates with me is Sir David Attenborough. He’s approximately 10,000 years old and he really does seem to know what he’s talking about, because he’s seen the impact of climate change with his own eyes and he took a cameraman with him. We need more Attenboroughs.
Lord Bird, the founder of the Big Issue, pretty much nailed it the other day. “When are we going to break out of the idea that the environment is a cul-de-sac, it is something that we can take or we can leave?” he said. “When are we going to lead in this country and spread the idea of the importance of the environment across every section of society – to the woman on the third floor of a block of council flats in Hackney?
“I do feel that we are always dealing with a very, very small amount of people who are very, very interested in it, and the vast majority don’t give a toss.”
Exactly! He’s absolutely correct. Many people don’t give a toss because they have bigger things to worry about, such as being on furlough and not being able to see friends and relatives. This is impacting people right now. Not in ‘X’ number of years, with X moving back and forth all the time depending on which ‘expert’ is in vogue.
The House of Lords debate in which Lord Bird made that statement was about “the relationship between the emergence of pandemics and environmental degradation.” And that link could prove to be crucial. This pandemic could actually be the thing that helps save the world.
It's perfectly obvious that there has to be a global solution to a global problem. Technology and science, with coordinated government action on a global scale, is what will save the day.
I read the other day about a cool little bush that you can plant next to busy roads, and it basically absorbs up loads of those nasty emissions. Why aren’t workmen out there, right now, lining every road on Earth with this pretty little thing? And all those empty fields, why aren’t they filled with trees? We can actually clean up some of this mess, scientists say. But I don’t control the highways and byways; the government does.
Yeah, governments around the world stumbled and babbled and made calamitous errors all the way through this pandemic, but we will also stagger out of this mess very, very soon. Covid-19 is a fly speck, largely irrelevant, compared to climate change.
If we get to the point where climate change really is causing health problems on a vast global scale, it's already way too late to do anything about it.
China, the USA and India – the three biggest carbon spewers at the moment – need to walk in step on this in the very near future. America has long been active in the Middle East and, despite all the noise to the contrary, to my mind it has only ever really been about the oil. Would the US invade Brazil to save the rainforest? Don't be ridiculous.
A bunch of ageing men and women will meet in Glasgow in November for the UN Climate Change Conference, and this could actually prove to be a pivotal moment in human history, although we may not notice the results for another 50 or 100 years or so.
Global powers will have to reach difficult agreements and stick to them. They just have to, or the planet will die… except, this isn’t actually even true. Our beautiful little blue ball will be flying through space for a long time to come. If we destroy the atmosphere, we will die. Not the Earth.
Ice ages have come and gone. Asteroids have smashed into her and basically blacked out the sky. But just give it a few thousand years or so, and she will clean herself up and be perfectly fine. The only problem is, we won’t be around to enjoy her. Just ask the dinosaurs.
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