Earth Day, Friday 22nd April
What to do?
Until earlier this week, I didn’t know there was an officially recognised day for the Earth. It’s only because I started writing this blog, my interest piqued above zero. Writing led to exploration and then desire to recognise and help as an individual passing through. And let me be honest, it only happened because I’ve been blessed with the time to care.
Up until selling our company, people commenting on Earth Day, or any other contrived excuses to recognise lost causes, would have been marked down as too much time types, lacking focus. Perhaps that’s why polarised me had never heard of it?
When did it start?
Earth Day began in 1970 in the United States, thanks to a Wisconsin Senator, who was concerned about the deteriorating environment. Its early success was partially a reflection of attracting Democrats and Republicans, from a cross section of American society. It might help to explain why the Environmental Protection Agency was created so quickly the same year, a result of the first event.
It was only in 1990 that it went global, with 200 million people participating in 141 countries. This year, over 1 billion people are expected to participate and celebrate in some way. The Earth Day web site bills it as the largest secular observance in the world.
It’s encouraging to know it has US origins, given the country is the second largest polluter on the planet (greenhouse gas emissions); China, number one, India third, Russia fourth.
IPCC’s latest climate change report
I might have nearly missed Earth Day, but there was no missing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report, the third and final section, which was widely reported. It has taken 7 years to compile and represents the work of thousands of scientists. The focus is mitigation and it spells out clearly what has to happen to prevent catastrophe if net zero is not achieved by 2050. It concludes it is almost inevitable that we won’t stay within a 1.5C temperature rise, but negative emissions technology like Direct Air Capture (there are others), could still save the century and humanity.
If you’re still here, I expect you have an idea of the conclusions reached and I’m not going to repeat them. What was also clear is lifestyle change is imperative, effecting energy consumption, buildings, transport, food and how industry behaves.
Demand management is now a given, weaning ourselves off energy-intensive goods and overall consumption, especially of meat. 10% of the people on this planet are producing between 34-45% of the global carbon emissions.
Should I be joining the Just Stop Oil protests, which have recently inconvenienced oil refineries and the distribution of petrol? Their protest is made very clear on their web site. The UK government has refused to ban future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels, despite there already being more oil and gas than the country can ever afford to burn. If Norway and Denmark can ban further exploration, why can’t the UK? Their protest might be a blunt instrument, but media attention has reached this tin-eared government, their ultimatum simple. Stop or we won’t.
If I think back to work, would my ear be quite so sympathetic, if it had disrupted business? Everything their spokesperson, Miranda Whelehan, said on Good Morning Britain, was an accurate presentation of the facts, which the presenter attempted to offset, by focusing on the legality of the protest and belittling their slogan - Just Stop Oil. He’d obviously forgotten Johnson’s highly successful slogan at the last general election - Get Brexit Done. You could argue it was also childlike.
So what are we going to do?
Nothing. Or something.
The only way this is going to be resolved effectively is through government policy and tax. Freedom of choice works too slowly, even though we’re mostly sympathetic, until it interferes with our own plans.
The popular press recently lambasted Joanna Lumley, (Absolutely Fabulous fame) for having the audacity to suggest modern day rationing. Her idea to give each citizen a number of points and it’s up to us whether we choose to spend them on a flight or steaks everyday for a week say.
Boris seems to think that the government’s net zero strategy can be achieved without sacrificing the things we all love. You might want to take that with a pinch of something, given his record for accuracy, changing his mind and the chances of him being around to govern and see good on any promise.
At the moment, you won’t be able to buy a new fossil fuelled vehicle from 2030 in the UK, which already sounds like a sacrifice for some. I expect by the mid-thirties, popular opinion will have already shifted. Driving a vehicle with an exhaust pipe, will be as unacceptable as drink driving.
Easy Jet appears to be the only airline which currently offsets all the carbon emissions from the fuel used at no cost to the customer. Until the technology evolves, flying is surely going to get more expensive because of rising fuel costs and government tax to discourage flying until it is truly a carbon neutral transport.
The latest myth buster
Someone recently commented on my weight loss and asked what I’d been doing. I said I’d become a vegetarian to help save the planet. I was immediately informed that growing soya bean was worse for the environment than growing beef cattle.
In the last 50 years, soybean production has increased 1500%, cultivated on a huge scale in the US and South America. It has caused deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil erosion and water contamination.
But the damaging growth rate is not because it reflects the growing popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets. Between 80-90% of the soy grown is for animal feed to farmed animals. Only 6% is turned into product for human consumption.
Every little helps. Too childlike?