Global Solutions, Local Choices

I believe tackling climate change to be the biggest crisis facing our generation. This announcement will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. But increasingly I feel the planet is sending us warning signals that we collectively as a society are failing to act fast enough upon. Recently we have seen record low ice levels in the Arctic and currently 80% of agricultural land in the US is facing drought. The Health Protection Agency reported this week that deaths in the UK from heat waves would rise from around 2000 a year currently to 11000 a year by 2080 as a result of climate change.

I recently met a very knowledgeable fellow campaigner, Kate Calvert from the Better Archway Forum. And during our group discussion she mentioned a quote by the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, who once said; “Art and ideas should be global, everything else should be local”. Although personally I am strong supporter of a strong state and I would love to see the re-nationalisation of our transport and energy systems. However I do believe that if we’re to effectively tackle climate change, we will need people to create their own low carbon communities and people to stand up to local politicians and reclaim their environmental rights.

Over the past 30 years these rights have been slowly eroded; politicians have attempted justify this by pointing to increased GDP and shopping malls which apparently give us the freedom of choice.  Even a fortunate person living in London every day already faces the following environmental challenges:

  • Air pollution on London’s most congested roads regularly breaches EU legal limits on air quality. And over 4000 Londoner’s die prematurely every year in the London because of air pollution. This is more than from road accidents, obesity or passive smoking.
  • Our roads are dominated by cars despite the majority of people living in central London not owning cars. For example 60% of residents in the borough of Islington do not own cars.
  • Refusal by government to invest in fully electric buses and trains means many people are locked into fossil fuel dependent travel.
  • Constant noise and pollution due to excessive aviation, already we have 3 major airports serving London plus a number of satellite airports and the ludicrous City Airport serving only the richest in society.
  • Governments continue to burn fossil fuels locking future generations into a future devastated by climate change. Oxfam recently said; “Our planet is heading for average global warming of 2.5–5C this century. It is time to face up to what this means for hunger and malnutrition for millions of people on our planet.”

The fact that climate change is happening is a fact agreed upon by the majority of the world’s governments, leading scientists and increasingly the general population. It is agreed tackling climate change will require global collaboration on a scale we have never seen before. It will require business to de-carbonise their operations and find alternatives to their current fossil fuel existence. Governments will need to work closely together to create a renewable energy infrastructure built to serve the energy needs of whole continents not just individual nations. And as droughts across the world become a common occurrence, governments will have to make tough choices on how to feed a booming world population in the face of regular food famines.

This all sounds scary I know and it is easy to despair, however we can take the global solutions to tackling climate change and Keynes advice and apply them on a local level. Creating green spaces and de-carbonising our local communities should improve your health and general wellbeing as you develop a cohesive community around you.

Below are my tips for city dwellers looking to reduce their carbon footprint:

1)   Cycle/Walk: London is a fantastic city, why not soak up the views and get some exercise? Many tube journeys are actually quicker by foot and it costs nothing.

2)   Buy local food: Eating food from local farmers markets will mean you will be supporting local farmers and you food will have a lower carbon footprint.

3)   Cut back on meat: Cows and lambs are two of the main sources of methane a particular harmful gas contributing to global warming. This is without mentioning the soya and water used to raise these animals and the nitrous oxide admitted during the farming process. I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian but perhaps eat better quality meat and have it as a treat.

4)   Don’t buy bottled water: The profit margin on a bottle of water is about 99%. You may think that it is safer than tap water but you would be wrong, tap water has to be regulated much more strictly than bottled water. And in some cases bottled water comes from our main tap water system and is bottled up and sold back to us. Anyone remember Desani?

5)   Start a car pool: If you must have a car why not share a car with your friends, you could save a fortune on running costs.

6)   Train not plane: Most places in Europe are easily accessible by train and you get to soak up the beautiful scenery and relax.

7)   Food Waste: Only make what you can eat, if you think you will have too much food one evening, invite a friend around for dinner.

I hope this blog has made you consider whether your environmental rights are being infringed upon. And whether there is a way you can hold your local politicians to account and mobilise your friends and neighbours to create your own resilient low carbon community.

Note:

* I have been recently reading a book called; ‘How Bad are Bananas’, which is about making smart choices in all areas of life to reduce your carbon footprint, I have found it useful and would recommend it.

Blog Revamp

This blog has had a bit of a revamp and will now concentrate purely on climate change activism, green issues and politics.

I will be using this blog as a space to explore ideas which will help us in avoiding runaway climate change and I’m actively encouraging discussion on my blog posts.

Let’s create a low carbon future together.

Damien

The Responsible Capitalism Agenda Needs to End Shell Hell

Climate Rush leave a message for Shell.

Today I published an article on the Huffington Post titled: The Responsible Capitalism Agenda Needs to End Shell Hell. The release of this article coincides with the start of ‘Occupy Oil’ which will see environmental activists across the UK standing up to oil companies , whose pursuit of profit at any cost jeopardises the livelihoods of the poorest people and the environment for future generations.

Already today, #occupyoil activists and Climate Rush have taken against Shell and I would urge you to spread news of these actions with your networks. And if you feel like joining in the activism through social media check out Climate Rush’s #Shellishell activity.

Activists taking action against Shell:

#ShellisHell oil graffiti – Shell must invest in renewables

#occupyoil pimlico shell garage morning closure

 

Cycle for London

Cycle For London (Toxic Fumes London)

If you are a Londoner it is more than likely at some point you have experienced the morning sardine run to work on the Tube, personally I am still scared by my 9 months of northern line hell whilst living in Chalk Farm.

This year I have started cycling to work and it is great, not only do I get to take some excerise keeping the doctor happy but  I am able to get around faster and carbon free, so lots of green karma points for me.

Most people I speak to like the idea of cycling but they feel intimidated by London’s frankly crazy traffic and lack of designated cycling lanes. Despite high profile media stunts around cycling TFL continue to allow our roads to be dominated by polluting vehicles, putting toxic fumes before cycling lanes.

Well we have a plan to tell TFL that our roads can’t take no more, next Thursday 22nd at 8 am, join me Climate Rush and other London cycling campaigns for an early-morning bike ride followed by a TFL roadblock.

Meet at 8am on the North side of Blackfriars Bridge before we make our way to TfL HQ..

Find out more by visiting the Climate Rush website

Tesco’s Green Package


On the few occasions that I wander into a Tesco store I feel agitated. There are a whole myriad of reasons for this; amongst them are the following:

1)      Self loathing because I am actually shopping there (rather than supporting small local businesses)

2)      The way they treat in store employees

3)      Poor quality vegetables from halfway across the world

4)      Greenwash (Tesco are main propagators of this)

5)      BUT most of all food PACKAGING!

Almost every item of food is caked in packaging in an attempt to try and entice us into purchasing the slightly more expensive product. You are encouraged to purchase bananas and courgettes in plastic bags and it seems that more packaging the more expensive the product. The main question this poses for me is why? I suppose the underpinning reason is profit.

Packaging itself has become a big business, with the global yearly food packaging industry  estimated to be worth around 100 billion dollars a year and growing at a rate of 10% a year.


Another reason for the amount of packing could be because as consumers we have become accustomed to excess packaging. Lack of packaging has become associated with cheap value brands in supermarkets. It appears we have become far removed from the food manufacturing process. If food is hidden in multiple levels of packaging it allows the consumer to detach themselves from buying inhumanely killed and processed food. Instead consumers go through the process of buying a package. Deep down we all know that to produce food on the grand scale that Tesco does and at the prices they can offer is going to mean some pretty unethical production.

Recently “Hugh’s Big Fish Fight” exposed Tesco’s reliance on unethically caught Tuna with the pressure leading to a switch to 100% pole and line caught fish for its own brand Tuna. This a prime example of unsustainable un-green practice Tesco specialise in.

However the even more disturbing fact is that Tesco promote themselves openly as an ethical and green organisation.  Recently they sponsored Climate Week alongside other organisations with a somewhat dubious green record, including RBS funding Tar Sands extraction  and EDF working towards a nuclear Britain.

Climate Rush again did an amazing job of highlighting Tesco’s un-green credentials with their TESCO2 stunt.

The inspirational founder of Climate Rush, Tamsin Omond summed it up perfectly after their Tesco greenwash expose saying “for all their talk about ‘Doing The Right Thing’, few companies are more committed to the status quo than Tesco. Rather than set itself ambitious short-term targets, matched with holistic, honest reporting, Tesco spends its energy on token gestures like sponsoring Climate Week and Green Clubcard points. Fighting climate change isn’t the responsibility of the PR department; it’s time Tesco committed to delivering real, long-term value for its shareholders and the communities on which it depends. You can’t make money on a dead planet.”

Tesco have an amazing opportunity if they wanted to be serious about being green as oppose to playing green. Packaging would be a great place to start, not just by reducing the amount of packaging on food items but using the packaging that does have to exist as a platform to warn people about the dangers of climate change.

I accept some packaging does have to exist on certain products (e.g. yoghurt, eggs etc). But in instances where it does exist three simple facts about tackling climate change on all packaging could make a massive difference in changing mainstream attitudes towards lowering carbon emissions.

3 carbon emission reduction tips:

1)      Only use as the exact amount of water you need when making tea

2)      Take shorter showers

3)      Walk or cycle when taking short journeys

These small actions are the starting points for many people in starting to live in a greener and more sustainable way. It wouldn’t cost Tesco much in the way of money to actually start raising awareness about a cause they claim to support. Of course the likely scenario is that they will continue to sponsor ‘climate awareness projects’ whilst continuing their whole array of unethical practices. They would do well to remember you can’t buy green, you need to be green.