Tag Archives: climate change

Tree love

Each February, the Climate Coalition’s Show the Love campaign invites us to talk about what we love.

I love trees. I grew up on the edge of the Cotswolds, with hanging beech woods right on my doorstep. Beeches remain my favourite tree, although I’ve yet to meet a tree I don’t like. I’ve been a supporter of The Woodland Trust for more than ten years, and a volunteer for a couple of years now, in a modest and online sort of way. My love of trees makes me want to stand up for trees, and speak up for them.

Every now and then some bright spark will suggest that we need technology to get carbon out of the air and tackle climate change. We don’t need technology, we have a solution. Trees! Trees take carbon out of the air and store it. If we plant trees, we can store carbon.

Trees are also very good at managing water flows. Plant trees, and rain gets to the ground more slowly, reducing the risk of flash floods. Root systems keep soil in place where it might otherwise be washed away by excess water. Trees put water gently into their vicinity so in dry weather, trees can make a landscape more hospitable for everything else.

Trees cut down noise pollution, and air pollution. They improve our mental health.

Usually, when an answer is simple, it is wrong in some way. Magic bullets that easily fix complex problems are rare. However, trees are a real answer to many human problems and needs. Re-forestation is a solution we can crack on with right now. Protecting the trees we still have will be effective. Planting more trees will make a difference. Trees are here for us, and they may yet save us from ourselves, if only we give them the space to do what they do best (be trees).

Love trees. Plant trees. Speak up for trees. Protect trees.

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Food choices and climate change

Food choices are always a really emotive subject and I try to stay out of that side of it as best I can. My starting point has the potential to offend everyone: I’m not ideologically opposed to meat eating, dairy, or eggs. I am deeply uncomfortable with how factory farming works and how we treat the living beings in our food chains. I am absolutely clear that whatever you eat, eliminating food waste should be your priority, because if we tackled that we would get to grips with reducing suffering, and reducing the climate impact of meat.

Animal products for human consumption, and the methods by which we ‘grow’ these are harming the planet. If we want to survive as a species, we have an obligation to cut back on what we consume and to support and encourage others in doing the same. If you eat meat, consider having some meat free days in a week. Vegetarians can consider having some vegan days in their weeks, and vegans, you still have to wrangle with food waste.

You can also look at reducing the food miles in your food if you have the means. If you can source from local producers with better cared for creatures, then do that. If you can’t afford to eat more kindly, cutting back is also a good choice. If you go vegan, depending on where you live, you may have a hard time cutting food miles – beans, nuts and soya products tend to come to the UK from overseas. There are no perfect solutions here, but make whatever moves you can to cut the carbon imprint of your diet.

I’ve pushed towards veganism before and found it difficult. Sourcing affordable protein is an issue, although I can manage it. What’s turned out to be a real problem, is fats. What dairy remains in my life is as much a fat source as anything else, and it is the need for fats in the diet that has thus far, thwarted me. It’s easy (especially if you have a penance aspect to your food choices) to view fats as bad and a diet light on them as good. In practice, neither my skin nor my brain work well without them.

To reduce the animal products in my diet I have to figure out an approach to food that sorts out the need for fats. Where in the food prep process the fats go, is a question I need to answer and I think it will take me away from the food approaches I am used to. My current project is to figure this out, and introduce the solutions gently so that I can change my relationship with food. I’ve replaced milk with substitutes with no trouble at all, and when there are vegan options I often take them.

I don’t think absolutism is the solution for all of us. Finding what works for you and how best to reduce your carbon footprint is a question to ask. Mine is pretty low as it is (carbon calculator over here – https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/ ) but I want to do better.


Politics and adverts

Last week, an advert from the company Iceland was banned. In practice it’s a little bit more complicated because much of the content was created by Greenpeace, and apparently there are some nuances around ’banned’ when it comes to what’s allowed on the TV. It’s not allowed out (as far as I can make out) because Greenpeace are considered to be a political organisation and therefore any content that comes from them is deemed too political for screens and isn’t allowed.

Here’s the Clearcast statement regarding the advert.  – https://www.clearcast.co.uk/press/iceland-advert/ 

Not knowing the rules about adverts, I poked around. This is a useful bit of the government’s website for anyone who wants to look. No doubt somewhere there’s a detailed version written in difficult legal jargon, but this is at least the official gist of it. https://t.co/WwIc2Hy6iM

One of the things that becomes evident reading through, is that the status quo is fine, and change is political – or at least potentially political. Now, as I see things, there are huge political implications to the status quo, and this means business as usual gets to lobby anyone with a screen on a daily basis to persuade us that business as usual is just fine and dandy.

Greed, consumerism, waste, throw-away possessions, pollution, constant growth, capitalism, market economies – these are all part of business as usual. We are killing ourselves and the planet with business as usual, but because it’s normal, encouraging it isn’t considered political.

Take the car industry – with implications for road building, tax, air pollution, noise pollution, climate change, peak oil, road deaths, premature deaths from air pollution… these are all political issues. These are all issues that require governments to spend money. Many of them are issues that kill people. Transport is a big issue in terms of climate change. People with TVs are reminded on a daily basis of how good and desirable their cars are, because it’s business as usual and that’s fine, apparently. Car companies are not considered political, despite the massive political implications of car production.

Adverts for flights to exotic destinations are much the same. The fashion industry is a massive polluter, but apparently there are no political implications to showing adverts for clothes that help us wreck the planet. We can watch all the adverts we like for shampoos that are using palm oil and destroying habitats, but we can’t watch something that invites us to question this.

So much around us is set up to affirm that how we do things is fine, and change is suspect. We’re killing ourselves. We’re killing life on Earth. Business as usual is destructive, poisonous and unsustainable and we have to challenge the assumption that if something is normal, that’s a good thing. We need to radically change everything that humans do, which is a massive task. Doing it in the face of constant normalising and encouraging of all the most damaging things, makes it all that bit harder.

Here’s that Greenpeace/Iceland advert.


The politics of wetlands

People have lived in wetlands in the UK, as far as I know, for as long as the UK has been inhabited. The fens of the east coast were vast, and Hereward the Wake hid there when trying to fight off the Normans. The Glastonbury area was once wetland. Subsistence living is entirely possible in fens. However, draining fens for agriculture has, ever since the Normans showed up, been treated as a civilizing process.

Wetlands will support people alongside wildlife, but there are things a subsistence lifestyle cannot do. It cannot pay for a military, for building castles or roads. It cannot support an indolent class who wish to have both considerable leisure and luxury. You need much more intensive agriculture for that. Before the Normans, we had a lot of wetland. After the Normans we started draining the wetland and we also developed the most unfair land distribution in Europe. I don’t think these things are coincidences.

Low lying wetland that has been drained is problematic. It may sit lower than the water near it. You may be obliged to expend a lot of effort pumping and draining. The land may keep sinking as it dries, and the sea levels now are rising. Wetland used to be part of how we dealt with floods. Stretches of land known as flood meadows – because that was where excess water went – have been built on and must now be protected from flooding. This is just as inherently political as that stuff with the Normans. We have more rain now, flooding is a bigger issue. We need flood meadows more than ever.

Many wetlands are not perpetually or continuously wet. With patches of land and water, a proper wetland is for most of the year a complex patchwork of habitats supporting a vast array of wildlife. Fish, amphibians, water birds, water mammals – they all need wet places. There are many plants that only really thrive in these wet environments, too. As we dry out the land, we kill off the wetland creatures. This too is a matter of political choice, and priority.

A combination of paying fair prices for food, and not wasting between a third and a half of it, would mean farmers might not need to keep all low lying land in ‘useful’ production. We might be able to give some of it back. This is a political choice that brings in the role of supermarkets in price setting, and the way we all contribute to the total immorality that is food waste.

Wetlands are liminal places, uncertain, wild, beautiful and full of wonder and mud. They are not entirely human-friendly even though we can live in them. They are not tame, and they change without our permission in response to seasons, tides and rainfall. As climate change makes everything ever less predictable, we need these wild margins to help us cope with unexpected floods, to soak up the water and to lay down the carbon.

It would take a large and complex network of human choices to make wetlands more viable and to let them return. We’ve harmed ourselves by harming our habitat, and I hope that we see that and make the changes while we still can. If we can’t do it for love of the world we live in, we should be doing it selfishly for our own safety and survival.


Climate Change – Show the Love

February means the Show The Love campaign is underway in force again, raising awareness of climate change. Last year I took part and made a green heart. I’m recycling it this year, and will make some more for good measure. But, this isn’t about empty gesturing, nor should it be about grinding ourselves down in despair over what’s going on.

To love this world at the moment, is to also feel pain, fear and grief. I don’t think it’s possible to separate those feelings out. It can be tempting to protect ourselves from pain by caring less in the first place, but that can only make things worse. If people are to change for the better, then we have to keep caring.

I love trees. I grew up in a landscape of hanging beech woods – woodland clinging to the steep side of the Cotswolds. I’ve always lived in places with trees. Climate change brings all kinds of threats to trees. Powerful storms take trees down far more often than used to be the case. I’ve seen leaves on trees into December, and new leaves on hawthorns in January, and it troubles me. I don’t know what it means, or how well trees will adapt, or what we stand to lose.

I also know that trees are part of the solution. Trees are one of the best ways to quickly slow heavy rain and prevent flooding. Trees are also good at taking carbon out of the air. Trees reduce light and noise pollution, and they improve our mental health as well. Planting more trees will not magically solve all problems, but it is a good place to start.

I do not want to see the natural world trashed for the short term profit of the few. I do not want to see habitats lost for the sake of the human illusion of progress. So much goes to so few, and so many suffer as a consequence. We should be sharing out resources fairly so that everyone has what is necessary to a basic standard of living – food, shelter, warmth, security. Climate change threatens all of that for a great many people. We have the resources to take decent care of all humans without trashing the planet. What we don’t have is the political will.

We have to stop celebrating greed. We have to step away from disposable culture, and short term profits. We have to love what is alive and beautiful more than we love what corporate adverts tell us we are to love. We can change everything.


Climate Change and green hearts

leafheart

 

The Climate Coalition’s latest ‘Show The Love’ campaign launched this February. Lots of people will be making, wearing and sharing green hearts today to show their love for nature. It’s not too late to get involved. We need to talk about climate change and the things we love which could be lost.

The UK has seen an incredible resurgence in recent years, with otters back from the brink, crane, boar and beaver making a return. But we’re also dealing with ash die-back, potential hedgehog extinction, and we don’t know what climate change will do to our landscape or the delicate ecosystems within it. Climate change means uncertainty. We’re seeing far more drama in our weather systems, and we don’t know what’s coming.

The UK has lost much of its wetland – but wetlands are a great way of managing excess water and storing carbon. We’re losing our highland habitats to grouse moors, where the heather is burned off so that grouse can eat the new shoots, and then themselves, be shot. This increases flooding risk for others. We’re seeing building on flood plains, still. We’re seeing a lack of political will to keep fossil fuels in the ground despite all of the evidence that we really can’t afford to keep burning them. Destructive and toxic fracking seems preferable to cleaner, greener energy.

If we wait for government and big business to lead the way, we could be waiting a long time – too long for vulnerable species. We have to do this ourselves. We can tackle climate change at a personal level. We can choose more sustainable ways of living, we can source our power from green energy companies, we can support charities who are leading the way. Here’s some suggestions if you’re in the UK:

The Woodland Trust

The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust

Local wildlife trusts

Green Electricity Marketplace


Green hearts show the love

“The Climate Coalition, a group of over a hundred organisations working together to call on government to commit to action on climate change. They are dedicated to limiting the impact of climate change on the people, places and life we love at home in the UK and around the world. It’s a positive movement to highlight just how much we all care about the challenges we and future generations face.” (taken from The Woodland Trust Website)

The Woodland Trust is part of the climate change coalition, and as a volunteer for The Woodland Trust, I’m spreading the word.

So, what can we, as ordinary individuals do to help? We can help build awareness, and momentum. The more people are visible in caring about climate change and its impact on both humans and our environment, the more scope there is to get people with power to make real change.

Create a green heart to wear, share or show. Whether its crochet, card or a drawing, share them on social media with #ShowTheLove and #TreeCharter. Get some inspiration and print-outs to use from the For the Love Of website.

Do you have a story or cherished memory of a tree? Could it be threatened by climate change? You can share your own story by writing it on a green heart and hanging it on a tree. Why not go one further? Tell us your story online by the end of February and help build a Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

I’ve taken some Green Hearts from the For The Love Of website to decorate this blog, but I mean to make some of my own as well… watch this space!


Climate Change

The last two nights have brought two thunderstorms on an epic scale. Today the amount of water falling from the sky caused localised flooding. Some paths were impassable. Just a freak weather event. A one off. No big deal. Like all the other freak weather events this year. And last year. And the year before. I’m not taking detailed measurements, but in the last few years I’ve seen my coldest winter ever, several contenders for wettest winter ever, more frequent storms than ever, more high winds, and we’ve had some stinkingly hot days too.

Climate change seems bloody obvious to me. And yet there are people in positions of power who are adamant that this is just normal climate variation and we can all carry on as usual. Business as usual, to be precise, in which we should all carry on increasing the amount we consume so that profits can be made. Never mind that the planet cannot conceivably support our greed. Never mind the flooded path, or the lightning. Buy another thing and forget about all the rest of it.

Why aren’t we angry?

Why aren’t we worried enough about the future to be demanding radical change?

Why aren’t we conscious enough of what’s going on to be trying to make all the differences we can in our own lives? Yes, I know some people are, and that heroic efforts to protest and transition are under way, but for most people, business as usual seems to be where its at.

Why?

Do we imagine our voices wouldn’t count or that our actions don’t contribute? Do we imagine it doesn’t matter? Or are we in fact doing our damndest to avoid imagining anything in favour of that sinister ‘keep calm and carry on’ meme?

All it takes to change the world is everyone individually deciding to do things in a different way. It’s not difficult, really. If we all got up tomorrow and started doing our level best to live more sustainable lifestyles and help other people do the same… we’d have most of this licked by the end of the week and be well on the way to world peace, as well.

All the big issues are made out of small actions, tiny details, single people doing or not doing things, multiplied by millions and by billions. Individual people. So, regardless of whether anyone else is playing, undertake to change the world. Do it. Make a change. Speak up more. Be more sustainable. We have nothing to lose for trying, and everything to lose by not stepping up.


Revolutions in thinking

I’m currently reading about the early fossil hunters – Mary Anning et al, and the huge shift in consciousness they caused. Until the 1800s, the Christian west had understood creation as perfect and unchanging. Awareness of extinct dinosaurs, mammoths and so forth brought into question the whole story. Why would God make things and then not keep them? A perfect God could not make imperfect creatures and have to give up on them! A perfect God would know exactly what he was doing from the start! Why would God make things and allow them to become extinct? It made no sense.

Taking on the implications of the past – that the Earth is older than the Bible suggests, that extinction happens, that things are created imperfectly and can change, that there is evolution, rocked the Victorian world. More than a hundred years on and there are still people who prefer any explanation for fossils but the most logical one. Everything we once thought we knew, was wrong. We went round similar cultural upheaval dealing with the idea that it isn’t a flat Earth, and the sun does not go around the Earth. We killed people as heretics over that, I believe. We struggled with recognising that people are people, no matter their skin colour and that we all evolved from ape-like ancestors.

It is worth looking at how in the past, we resisted new thinking. We fought against feminism and women getting the vote, insisting for decades that women are too silly to handle anything much. As with the folk who haven’t got to grips with evolution, sexism and racism still hold sway in some minds. Often the same minds. Every good idea, every moment of progress has been accompanied by fervent denial, ridicule of the new stuff, through to actually murdering people for daring to disagree. The first guy to translate the Bible into English died for that. We’re so frightened of having our old stories challenges that we kill to protect them rather than accept change, or new insight. That’s not a glowing endorsement of us as a species.

So we’ve spent decades adamant that climate change science isn’t real, and isn’t happening. We’re still having the same maddening debates about equality and tolerance on all fronts and there are still people who think God put the dinosaur bones in the earth to test our faith. Assuming we get our acts together and face up to the challenges of our times – climate change, pollution, poverty, resource allocation, our whole relationship with the natural world… Assuming we get that right and there are future humans who can look back, they will no doubt line us up with all the other idiots of history who refused to read the writing on the wall, and who preferred death to changing the story. The only difference between us and our reactionary ancestors, is that this time if we get it wrong, there may be no one in the future to look back at us in bemusement and wonder how on earth we failed to grasp the blindingly obvious.


Is mould a climate change issue?

This recent article in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/27/damp-social-housing-residents-heating-energy-bills indicates that mould is a growing problem. Cold, damp houses are natural habitats for mould, which do not make for good air quality and add to respiratory diseases. Part of the problem here is unequivocally poverty – people cannot afford to heat their homes. But is that the whole story?

2000 was the wettest winter on record, with 2012 coming in a narrow second. There are no figures for 2013 yet, but it is moist out there. According to the Met office, “Looking at annual rainfall for the UK, we can see the country as a whole getting wetter in recent decades.” More of that here – http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2013/2012-weather-statistics.

We add moisture to the air in our homes every day. Breathing, washing, and cooking are the main culprits. If there is nowhere for that water to go, no amount of heating your home can keep it dry. If it is wet and humid outside, water will inevitably build up inside and no amount of heating can fight that off forever.

When I was a child, we used to air things. You’d expect to get windows open a few times during the winter, and air out rooms to combat the damp. Washing went outside often enough that you could get away with it. A tumble drier will go a long way to solving that, assuming you can afford to run one. Of course tumble driers use a lot of energy, and if the core problem is climate change, then a tumble drier is like opening the fridge door to tackle global warming.

Cold, damp homes are not healthy. We know that. If winters keep getting wetter, we cannot buy and heat our way out of the problem. We need solutions that do not add to climate change in the first place, as well. We’re brewing a real problem here, alongside all the other many real problems climate change is already causing. Politicians refuse to act, afraid of harming the economy by taking the decisions that would be needed to safeguard our future. They don’t mind ‘tough decisions’ when that means punishing the poor and cutting funds to the most vulnerable, but the economy is sacred and must not be hurt. Except apparently they haven’t figured out that climate change is going to be really bad news for economies, and countries that are not prepared for the flooding, the winds, the wet houses, and all the other technical problems, are not going to have thriving GDPs either. These things are connected.

Being a Druid, the idea that all things are connected comes very naturally to me. We are one big eco-system. What happens in one part affects all the others. It drives me mad that those in power are still clinging on to the magical beliefs of centuries past, that you can do what you like to the planet and it will all be fine. Perhaps they imagine God will put it all right for them? When are we going to let go of the collective fantasy that our actions do not have consequences, and start recognising that the rain, and the mould, and the flooding, and the high winds, the late springs and all the rest of it relate very directly to our activities as a species?

Meanwhile, there is an absolute deluge going on out there.