Fabulous February

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Joyless January is over. The bad news, of course, is that Brex-shit happened and the General Election was not in fact a bad dream after all. The good news, though, is that it’s nearly spring, there are crocuses out in the park, and we BROKE EVEN on the household finances in January, and I feel pretty proud about that. Stuff coming up soon on food waste, batch cooking and other things which save money as well as saving the planet. (I also haven’t forgotten about “how to green your cat”, but I’m waiting for some critical information on this first.)

But first. I’m a bit slow off the mark on this, as it’s a New Year’s Resolution sort of thing. I am very bad at New Year’s Resolutions. I usually write myself a massive list of unachieveable things, then don’t manage to achieve any of them and feel like a massive failure. So I haven’t made any this year. But this is an easy one, because I feel like I’m working on my big three every day anyway. (not being a shit parent, trying to save the world, and getting thin, I think in that order. Plus, read more books. Always read more books).

I signed the Friends of the Earth 2020 climate pledge, and I think you should too. If you’re reading this blog, you will most likely know all this stuff, but the climate crisis is happening now – it’s not a distant future thing, or a far, far away thing, it’s affecting communities around the world already. I wrote about the bushfires in Australia a while back, and whilst they’re not in the headlines much now, they are still happening, and 11 million hectares of land have been affected so far.

This is the wording of the pledge:

“I pledge to join millions of people across the world and fight the climate emergency in 2020.”

440,000 people have signed it already, and while that in itself won’t make anything change, it does send out a signal to our government and corporations that the tide is turning and people want to see radical change. It will also get you onto the Friends of the Earth mailing list and they will send you information about local climate groups and Friends of the Earth’s 6 point climate action plan, which is the starting point for their lobbying of MPs and the government. (They’re not like 38 Degrees, they don’t email you every day asking for money, which is a bonus).

Because, fundamentally there’s a limit to what individuals can achieve. We can reduce meat and dairy intake, avoid single use plastics, drive less, stop flying, switch to a green energy supplier. Locally, community groups and councils can take meaningful action on climate breakdown too. But it’s the government who really need to take action to make transformational changes to end the climate emergency. But it’s so, so clear to me that they’re not doing enough.

There’s a link here to contact your MP and ask them to sign the climate pledge. I think this was initially an election thing, but I think it’s still worth doing. I wish I knew more about the most effective ways to lobby governments, and I wish I was more optimistic that the current government will actually take the climate emergency seriously. But I suspect that Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, among other organisations, know exactly what they’re doing and will exert pressure in the right ways, so I encourage you to support them and get involved where you can.

Here ends the lesson.

I wrote to Greenwich Council today about their new wheelie bin proposals to improve recycling rates, so more on that when they reply… #WatchThisSpace.

P.S. I deleted about 1000 emails today, as part of the great email purge. I didn’t really need Pinterest notifications from 2017, did I? If I suddenly get excited about elephant-themed nursery decor, I can look it up again, can’t I? I’m honestly not panicking about this, really I’m not.

Australian bushfires

Ok, no clever title or jokes in this post today. Just a bit of fact checking and sharing of ways to help victims of the Australian bushfires.

This image has been doing the rounds on social media – I haven’t fact checked it in terms of the size it refers to, but it’s pretty telling.

Another source I’ve seen states that it’s 12 million acres on fire, another one says it’s equivalent to the whole of Belgium. Either way (and of course the absolute measurement of space will change every day, every hour, every minute maybe), it’s fucking big. And fucking scary.

24 recorded deaths so far, many more missing, 2000 homes lost. 500 million birds, reptiles and mammals lost in New South Wales alone.

Now, I confess that I’ve only just started reading articles about this crisis today; I’ve literally closed my eyes to it, because it’s just too awful to contemplate. The situation of course has been politicised – I don’t know much about Australian politics other than that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is leading the country in an increasingly right-wing direction (which sounds depressingly familiar), and has been widely criticised for down-playing the influence of climate change on the risk of wildfires. I haven’t read this article in full, but it looks to be a pretty full account of the Australian government’s response to the bush fires over the last couple of years. There’s also this bonkers idea circulating that the fires are the fault of the Greens (who are not and have never been in government), as they’ve allegedly objected to hazard reduction strategies; this is about forming fire breaks in heavily wooded areas by clearing trees near power lines, for example, and prescribed burning to reduce the fuel load, thus diminishing the intensity of subsequent wildfires. It seems that this blame game has been rolled out before by the right in Australia, and thoroughly debunked – fact check article on this here.

So, are the fires caused by climate change? As y’all know, I’m not a climate science specialist, but it seems pretty obvious to me that there will be a combination of causes and pre-conditions for something of this scale to take hold. Here’s an article from a journalist for The Spectator (centre-right British politics and culture magazine, owned by the same people who own The Daily Telegraph), saying that the bushfires aren’t down to climate change.

Here’s another article by an award-winning Australian climate scientist, Dr Joelle Gergis, which argues that the links between human-caused climate change and the intensification of extreme weather conditions, not just in Australia, but all over the world, are clear. That “what’s unfolding right now is really just a taste of the new normal” and that “the planetary situation is extremely dire”. Gergis speculates that the Earth system may now have breached a tipping point, with so much heat trapped in the system that a domino effect has been triggered : “rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it”.

I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to believe someone with a pHD in Climatology, or a freelance journalist who writes for The Daily Mail and has published books entitled “How to Label a Goat: the silly Rules and Regulations that are strangling Britain” and “The Great Before“, a novel which satirises the pessimism of the green movement.

So, as always, we look for something practical to do. Here is a brilliant article which lists the various appeals and charitable funds which have been set up to support volunteer firefighters, the families of those who have died, those people displaced by the fires, and the wildlife affected. Honestly I think donating is the most useful thing that can be done; I saw a point made on the Sustainable-ish Facebook page, which was raising concern at the potential carbon footprint generated by well-meaning Europeans shipping or flying knitted joey pouches to Australia to help homeless or orphaned baby kangaroos. It’s tempting to want to physically DO something with your hands, but I think wonga is better in these circumstances.

Plus of course all the other stuff to reduce your carbon footprint and campaign to corporations and governments to take this stuff seriously.

Greta says the world is on fire, and it looks like she’s right.

What’s Brexit got to do with it?

Sorry, I know everyone is sick to death of the B word. But I just can’t not write about it. I said the other day that the wider planetary climate crisis we are facing is more important than Brexit – I don’t think that’s in any doubt. But what’s happening at the moment – in Parliament today and over the weekend – is so unprecedented that if you have any interest whatsoever in current affairs or politics, you can’t help but be absorbed by it.

I’ve got to admit, I voted quite intuitively. I don’t have a degree in European politics (although Mr Everdayradical does), and there is a lot about the mechanics of the EU that I don’t understand. But I felt that the claims of unelected bureaucrats wielding too much power over us were not valid – not only are EU politicians elected in a more representative way than our own parliament (proportional representation rather than first past the post), but there’s also a ton of unelected people who have a lot of power in the UK – the House of Lords, the permanent staff in various ministries and government departments, and the civil service. So should we get rid of them too, in the name of “taking back control?” Also, I’ve got lots of European friends and I couldn’t ally myself with the frankly odious narrative of Farage and co. and the dodgy dealings of the Leave campaign.

Moreover, the world wars aren’t really that distant a memory – the “European project” has been successful in that we haven’t had another pan-European war, and I feel strongly that we are stronger together than we are apart. Anyway, I’m digressing from the point here and I’m sure some readers will feel I’m boring you with my own Remoaner views (actually, I’m a revoker, but it’s semantics really.)

I haven’t researched this super widely, but here’s my thoughts on the impact of Brexit on the environment and the climate crisis.

While our politicians are exclusively focussed on Brexit, they’re not doing anything about climate change, not tackling plastic pollution, not promoting renewable energy or alternative modes of transport. No deal planning is costing billions, which could be spent on much more useful issues. The UK has become the world’s biggest buyer of fridges, to stockpile medicines – this is according to the Health Minister, so it’s not Project Fear. And I’m pretty sure they’re not buying fridges on eBay or from car boot sales… Lorry queues from Dover could reach as far as Maidstone. All the traffic jams will increase air pollution – remember how much criticism Extinction Rebellion came under in London in the spring for their blockades causing congestion and increased pollution? (Sorry, it’s the Daily Express, don’t click it if you don’t want to read their particular brand of wisdom). This is going to be a whole different level.

There are some clearer-cut environmental reasons to be concerned about Brexit too. 80% of our environmental laws come from the EU – these could be lost, weakened or harder to enforce after Brexit. A no deal Brexit won’t allow time to update our environmental protection laws to function properly after exit day. Friends of the Earth outline on their Brexit campaign page the UK government’s poor track record on things like air pollution, and how the EU has intervened and enforced improvement. There’s also serious concerns about food safety and farming after Brexit. Chlorinated chicken aside, if EU migrant workers leave the UK in droves after Brexit, farmers will struggle to fill seasonal low-paid and insecure farming jobs, meaning that less produce can be grown and harvested in the UK. So more food will have to be imported, with an increased carbon footprint, whilst making a balanced and healthy diet more expensive and less accessible to all.

There’s another measured article from The Ecologist here. Personally, unlike Michael Gove, I quite like experts, and a lot of them are worried. The only silver lining I can see – and I’m scrabbling about here, really I am – is that a major economic crisis and recession, which many economists are predicting, might make us think twice about consumerism. What happens if loads of manufacturers go bust? Will we discover that we didn’t really need the stuff that they made anyway? I know it’s more complex than that, as people’s livelihoods are at stake, but I’m searching for a positive spin and this is the best I can manage.

So what can we do? Take to the streets to #StopTheCoup, if you’re braver than me. Sign this. Educate yourself on the potential environmental impact of Brexit. Think really deeply about who you’d vote for in a General Election. Stock up on beans. Watch BBC Parliament obsessively. Hope for the best.

(I’m going to try and write something slightly less depressing later in the week about businesses who are actually doing positive stuff to tackle plastic pollution. Hang on in there, kids.)