04 Oct 2011

Clouds and Silver Linings

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OK, so can’t cycle, but can still walk and, although breaking a limb (or part thereof) doesn’t have many upsides, it does flatten your carbon footprint by keeping you out of the car.

Now, I’m not advocating the forcible breaking of limbs to reduce car usage and, hence our collective carbon footprint.  But, when something you usually take for granted, suddenly (albeit temporarily) ceases to be an option, then you need to find an alternative and the prioritising of essential and non-essential becomes imperative; not something you put off until a wet Sunday afternoon.

Likewise, enforced inactivity, with the delightful excuse of not being able to iron, dust and clean does, though,  also take away any justification  not to attack the utilities, broadband and mobile phone minefields. Happily, I did secure, courtesy of an extremely helpful guy at BT, a reduction of £35 per month and a welcome end to my wretched, touch screen mobile and its increasingly (for me) obsolete features. However, my strategy to downsize to a basic PAYG involved much more effort. Even established comparison sites, like uSwitch,  don’t make it easy to secure a non-contract phone and, in the end, it took hours to find a £12 small, ugly Samsung that happily performs the basic tasks I require of it.

It’s rather fitting too that my long-promised and recently facilitated efforts to downsize just so happened to coincide with Carbon Footprint Day (CFD) – “celebrated” this year in October 2nd –  because downsizing certainly does encourage careful consideration of all consumption and requires  a certain resourcefulness to reduce it.

Sometimes in life, good effects arise from bad events and, just as breaking my wrist has given me some valuable time and an opportunity to assess what I need, as opposed to what I’m paying for, then the current economic climate will force many others, as a matter of necessity, to jettison what they now can no longer afford. And while it’s difficult to see anything good at all in our depressing sink into the economic Dark Ages,  if, as an unintended result of diminished financial circumstances, there is some reduction in emissions and carbon footprints, through, say, fewer car journeys, then at least there has been one positive effect.

 However, a far less appropriate coincidence is the sharing of CFD with the start of this year’s Tory Party Conference.  As delegates look back on almost 18 months in office, whatever they believe their other achievements to be, they have absolutely nothing to celebrate (perhaps the axing of Heathrow’s proposed third runway excepted) as far as the environment is concerned.

The record of what was heralded as the greenest-ever government has been absolutely risible, culminating in the farcical proposal from the high priest of over-consumption, Eric Pickles, that everyone has a right to weekly bin collections.  What drivel. What potential damaging and expensive drivel. Rights come along with responsibilities, so why not more about our responsibilities to our planet and how about rewards for those of us who try their best to eat sustainably, recycle, reuse and reduce, rather than making it easier to litter our neighbourhoods with the remnants of fast food and its packaging?

And if that wasn’t depressing enough, on the same day we heard that the government’s transport policy is now officially driven by Clarkson and his Top Gear chums. Raising the motorway speed limit to 80mph must rank as one of the most irresponsible, indefensible and inane policies ever devised. For a possible 10 minute reduction in a journey of 100 miles, there will be a 30% increase in energy consumption, to say nothing of the rise in deaths and injuries.  How stupid; how pointless.

Three days later, we got further proof that whatever else the ConDem alliance might mean, the combination of blue and yellow certainly has not resulted in green. Osborne’s boast that Britain would not now be taking a leading role, within Europe, in trying to cut carbon emissions, is as puerile as it is scandalous. In his desperation to pander to his own irrational right wing, he risks not only making the Tea Party look environmentally compassionate, but also impeding one genuine avenue for both environmental and economic growth.

 Rating Osborne’s environmental literacy on a par with that of George W Bush, Greenpeace’s senior policy adviser, Ruth Davis spelt out the advantages to Britain in adopting a positive approach to reducing emissions:
“In reality it’s in Britain’s interests to lead the world on climate change because the economies that win the race to develop clean renewable energy systems will be the ones that sell them to the rest of the world,” she said.

Every cloud, however dark, usually has something of a silver lining, but as long as this government is in power, the outlook for the environment, as well as the economy, looks like a grey, grim, increasingly deep depression

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