Dec 2019 - What can I do about the Climate Emergency?

The answer is simple, but not exactly easy

Published in Charlbury Chronicle December 2019

At last the climate emergency has been recognised and the very aged elephant in the room is finally being talked about at all levels. People are now asking what can they do, and looking at other communities to share ideas. Quite simply, all aspects of our everyday lives contribute to climate change so any changes we make to reduce our consumption and our waste will help, but some actions are difficult to achieve on our own, and some will have more impact than others.

We know the obvious biggies – planes, cars, fast fashion, fast food, but the heavy advertising surrounding all these really undermines us trying to live a climate friendlier life. Human nature doesn’t help either, while we might want to change our future behaviour and even pledge to do so, when it comes to it, we find old habits die hard. We don’t live in isolation, we are part of a society made up of family and friends and we do things together, so it is difficult to behave differently, we risk alienation. For example, how do you respond to your friends buying lots of new clothes or talking about their weekend flights abroad. Last year, more people flew internationally on British passports than any other nationality, but an increasing number of people are feeling awkward about flying. The CEO of Ryan Air said that last year there was an 11% increase in passenger numbers but the company had to drop air fares by 5% to get that increase, so cheap flights clearly undermine our good intentions. In Sweden, the Greta effect has reduced air passenger numbers by 5% and increased rail by 8%.

So we need to talk about our concerns for the future with our family and friends and agree together about our activities and aspirations. Many children are taking the lead and begging their families to have different holidays, change their diets and cut their carbon emissions. Things also need to be made easy and cheap enough for us to make the better choices - so we need legislation to help, after all it successfully made us wear seatbelts, stop drinking and driving, stop smoking and drastically reduce single-use plastic bags.

Changing our electricity supplier to a renewable energy tariff is a good step to take, but it is also important to reduce the power we use, so insulating the house and reducing draughts will help. Reducing the thermostat temperature in winter is a simple step but, unless we live alone, it’ll need the co﷓operation of the rest of the family to agree to wear warmer clothes.

Christmas is just around the corner - the time when we traditionally max out on spending and overindulge in comforting sweet foods. Not surprisingly, the District Council finds this is the peak time of the year for household waste, but also for things being put in the wrong bins meaning that recyclable stuff gets burnt and the Council has to spend more. It’s particularly import to separate out food waste, but even better to reduce the amount of food that gets wasted, because this would avoid wasting the emissions that were involved in producing that food. Maybe we could find a different way to enjoy our family time together without spending so much money and creating so much expensive waste? Sometimes traditions take over, talk with family and friends and see what people might really want to do this year.

Many changes that help the planet, such as improving our diets, eating less processed food, being less sedentary and more active in our daily lives, using cars less would also improve our health and the health of our family. Being in a rural town makes it harder to manage without personal transport but we have good bus and rail services and facilities in Charlbury are all within walking distance. The healthier we are, the fewer demands there are on the NHS and consequently fewer carbon emissions.

Charlbury Green Hub