My neighbour’s child made me laugh this evening. We were playing a homemade version of pictogram, where you draw pictures to represent TV programs and films, with the rest of the family guessing what it is. Her sister drew a cloud and then an arch over it. The youngest asked for clues. Her sister said “religious people talk about it all the time”. “Global warming?” was the rather disbelieving reply.
However, this led me onto a train of thought. I am seeing the direct effects of the earth warming up in my garden and allotment. I have hyacinths which have not only grown but flowered and already started to die off, my poppies started growing in November and I have not had to bring any of my plants inside, it has been so warm. I now have full blown roses on the same stems as the previous year’s hips. This winter has been the warmest in who knows how many decades and the previous summer one of the driest. If the scientists are right, global warming will accelerate and the effects will be more and more noticeable over a shorter period of time.
When politicians and activists talk about global warming, the emphasis is always on our children and the future of humankind. Humans can make a direct and immediate difference and we are completely responsible for the pickle we now find ourselves in, with the earth’s resources stretched to the limit. The plants, animals, birds and insects with which we share this world are scarcely given a mention and they are the innocent ones.
TV and news companies do ecologically expensive (all those flights and set designs) documentaries from exotic locations on global warming, with the excuse that people need to know about it in order to act, governments put together focus groups and fly people all over the world to attend conferences in five star venues to debate whether it exists, we see heartbreaking statistics about the latest species to have succumbed to climate change, exploitation and poaching and shake our heads but we rarely get out of our centrally heated houses to do anything except vote the same lot of losers back into power, with their policy of warfare and pseudo-scientific ways of combating the problem.
All this talk and all that education and our children are aware of the term and also some of its effects but do not understand how they contribute to it and what they could do to make a difference.
I live in a country where the government is a joke, albeit a sick one. They have spent the last 12 years putting a new meaning to political spin and self-aggrandisement and in doing so have given us a country which considers nuclear power a green alternative, have given us a fox hunting ban which doesn’t work, and who have direct business links with Huntington Life Sciences, who practise vivisection and then they protect the same by enacting anti-terrorist laws (pre-September 11) so that anyone protesting against this odious practice not only can get banged up for inciting violence, but they can be put away for terrorism and treason. And that’s before you try and extract Tony Blair from George Bush’s backside.
I would have more respect for the man and his policies if his support had been consistent. However, as soon as Mr B-Lair realised how deeply his backing for the Iraq War had affected his poll support, he started a rather messy withdrawal from said orifice, leaving the two countries with completely opposed policies to the continued presence of their armies in Iraq, something that can only harm everyone’s troops and the people they have been sent there to assist.
So why do I hope that someone, somewhere in the cabinet will take global warming and environmental matters seriously. Perhaps it is because I have trouble believing that they are all corrupt two-faced overpaid gurning idiots. But I believe my hope is misplaced and we should resign ourselves to a government more committed to staying in power at any cost than the people and country they are supposed to serve.
So what can we do in the meantime? I guess the first step is fully understanding our impact on the earth, from the disposal nappies we use for our children, to the tins we use to feed our animals, to the amount of packaging we buy (and have to dispose of) with our food and the content of the food that we buy, to how we vote, to the cars we drive and why, to the holidays and flights we take, to how our medicines are sourced, made and tested, to how we are buried and where.
Once we have this understanding and also know what is in our power to change we can begin to work at limiting our damage to the earth and all its inhabitants. Let’s campaign to vote the losers, spongers and whingers out and get proper representation in government.
Let’s find the time to demolish the apathy we see around us. When we went into Iraq, I was the only one at work who believed it was an immoral war, waged for profit not people and boy, did I take some (well intentioned) flak. When the first demonstrations happened, when 50,000 people marched in London, was when my colleagues first lifted their heads and understood that other people felt this way too. This then allowed them to express their concerns and doubt over the morality of it all. They needed to see that other people felt differently to them and weren’t afraid to express it, that they needn’t be sheep. Did it help in any big way? Probably not, but I like to think that at the next elections there will be one or two people who remember how they felt and vote against the liars and cheats, who vote not because they should but because they want change and want to exercise their right to work for it,
We may not be able to afford the more expensive decomposable diapers and have to stick with the ones that create more landfill than any other product in the US but we can buy food with less packaging and write to our supermarkets to protest at the amount of plastic used to protect our foodstuffs.
My local butcher closed five years ago as he couldn’t afford the noxious combination of extortionate business rates and rental required to run a shop on the high street. I used to go there and be able not only to see him cut the meat but bring it home in a plain paper package rather than plastic and polystyrene. He made his own sausages and ham and if I bought chicken breasts, used to take them off the chicken in front of me before giving me the carcasses to boil up for the foxes (bones removed of course). My butcher had been trading there for 35 years and his father was there before him. Neither of them had ever had hygiene issues or sick clients.
There is still a local travelling fishmonger where on a Sunday morning, I can get all sorts of sea food, from coley to prawns to whelks and mussels. They too come wrapped in paper and the only plastic used is a carrier bag if one is necessary. All his produce is freshly caught and not only does he have more variety than the supermarket but all his fish is beautiful.
These are two examples of how traditional ways of food preparation are far more environmentally friendly, but we cannot save our local traders unless we buy from them and if we are no longer lucky enough to have small local vendors then we should be writing to our supermarkets to demand that they cut down on the packaging they use. The UK-based Independent newspaper http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/ is currently running a campaign to get supermarkets to do exactly this and are publishing not only what they are doing but also the companies’ reactions (not particularly positive for the most part – it makes amusing reading).
Of course, purchasing organic produce and meat is another way we can directly affect how our food is grown and animals are cared for. I’ve said this before, but if enough people bought organic food we could fundamentally change the way farmers have to grow their crops and are forced to rear their animals (due to supermarket purchasing power and ludicrously applied government grants).
You can ask your corner shop to stock organic milk and then get the news around your neighbours. That way, the farmer should end up being paid a decent price for his milk and the supermarkets would lose customers until they too complied. And comply they will – eventually, given enough pressure. They are not there because they want the best for us – they are money-making organisations who want (i) to make more money and (ii) sustain a good reputation so that they can do more of (i). If we can show them that we are not prepared to buy from them unless they behave morally then they will change.
Let’s educate our children properly. Talk to them about how they can make a difference. Who knows how much of the environment would be saved if our children boycotted the latest games consoles because they are made in China in factories which care nothing for the environment. Let’s boycott the shops that buy from corrupt manufacturers, petition the government to limit the amount of goods imported by countries who refuse to sign up to the Kyoto agreement.
Be aware of how global warming affects your wildlife and try and supplement feeding and care to balance where possible. Biologists reported last year that the warm winter would have a devastating effect on the hedgehog population. This is because they were mating at the wrong time due to the warmer climate and their babies born in the autumn would not have enough time to put on weight before hibernation and would die. This theory has been partially proven although it will take some years for a trend to become apparent.
We can all make a personal difference – let’s get out there and do it!