Climate Change Conservatives

23 September 2010

I read with interest yesterday about Chris Huhne’s fight to save his Government Department that deals with Climate Change.

Climate change secretary Chris Huhne is fighting to defend his department’s funding and independence, fending off a suggestion that his civil servants should be moved to the Treasury to cut costs.

Huhne is having to resist the Treasury on numerous policy fronts. He has rejected the relocation idea, fearing his department’s civil servants would “go native” if they moved into offices in the Treasury.

Critics assert that this is the Tories true position on Climate Change – the ‘greenest Government ever’ that never ever was… consumptionist, trampling over the environment, uncaring.

It reminded me of something I recently heard about one of the earliest pioneers in the field. A scientist and politician who fought to get Climate Change issues recognised on the world stage who said:

  • But the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.
  • We have become more and more aware of the growing imbalance between our species and other species, between population and resources, between humankind and the natural order of which we are part.
  • it’s sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it’s sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it’s sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it’s sensible to tackle the problem of waste

That politician? Margaret Thatcher.

Earthquakes in London, you should be shaking in your seats

23 August 2010

Last week I went to see Earthquakes in London at the National. A play about the legacy of the babyboomer generation on the planet it’s certainly food for thought about climate change.

How many people can this planet sustain? What kind of world are we leaving future generations? They’re questions that have been posed before: “When environmentalists say that the world is overpopulated, they mean that the environmental consequences of the excessively high human population are destroying the biosphere–the Earth’s life-support system”. What are the environmental consequences? How many people can the Earth really support? What kind of world do you want?

If you have children, or – as in my case – a new niece, you surely must wonder what kind of future you’re leaving your child. A world where populations displaced by climate change – climate refugees. If you think that immigration and refugees in your country now are a problem, what about a future where whole populations are displaced?

Mike Bartlett hit the nail on the head with his play. It can’t be an easy topic to encapsulate in a script, but he does incredibly well. And it’s a topic that perhaps drama needs to address. It’s a medium that can bring a subject to peoples minds and make them think.

Jason Hall has a much better review of the play than I ever could. Read the review. See the play. Then contemplate what kind of future you’re leaving.

Climate Change Repackaged

16 January 2010

I saw this post on a friend’s facebook wall and, with his permission, am posting it here… Some good arguments:

The problem with selling climate change is that the world typically divides into two camps: those who care about ‘the environment’, by which they mean non-human organisms, on aesthetic or moral grounds, or more often on an unclear mix of the two, and those who don’t.

The former group, let’s call them Camp 1, champion the eating of lentils and the wearing of hair shirts because they wish to preserve the non-human parts of Nature at the cost of convenience to ourselves. The latter group, Camp 2, don’t share those same aesthetic/moral values and therefore live by their OWN codes of morals and aesthetics, which does not involve any particular consideration for non-human organisms.

Now we discover that the climate of the entire planet is rather unstable, partly or mostly due to our own (largely unwitting) actions. In fact our best guesses, based on the evidence we can gather, suggest that huge changes may be imminent which will wreak major destruction on (a) non-human organisms (so-called “Nature”) and (b) our own species.

Camp 1, the hair-shirters, respond to this with calls for less consumption, more protection of ‘Nature’, and spiritual improvement. In short, they continue to put out the same message. And of course this message does not reach Camp 2, because they still do not share the same aesthetic and moral values.

But tragically Camp 2 don’t realise that in fact this is not a hair-shirt, Nature-aesthetic issue AT ALL! It just seems to be, coincidentally, because some of the same policies (reducing our impact on the environment) are involved. But actually climate change is definitely a Camp 2 issue: massive destruction on a global scale is all just a part of Nature’s own feedback loops, and undoubtedly in millenia to come other forms of life will come to prosper. No, the reason we should act to stop climate change is because it is going to hurt US!

The problem is that most activists are Camp 1 type people who don’t even really understand Camp 2 people. It is pretty hard to understand people who don’t share your aesthetics and morals (Islamist jihadists, pedophiles, etc). So they continue to suggest we ‘protect Gaea’. Camp 2 people continue to ignore them and also don’t act on climate change.

I suggest that any and all people interested in saving what we still can of the planet immediately STOP presenting it as an environmental, ecological, green issue, and instead present it as a straightforward issue of SAVING OUR OWN NECKS for two reasons: number one because this is the most effective way to present the issue to Camp 2 types, and number two because, much as it might seem unpalatable, it’s true.

Meat, Fur and Blood

27 October 2009

So restaurant critic AA Gill has admitted he shot a baboon on safari “to get a sense of what it might be like to kill someone”. For fun. He’s apparently been attacked on Twitter and by columnists for the insensitive way he expressed his desire to feel what it’s like to kill a person. The League Against Cruel Sports. “If he wants to know what it like to shoot a human, he should take aim at his own leg”.

A food blogging Twitter friend of mine rightly said that the Twitter mob out to get him was ‘absurd’: “Can’t believe AA is now [a] trending [topic on Twitter]. The twitmob is absurd sometimes. Yes, it was a cruel, stupid thing to do. Get over it”. But he then went on to link to a piece by AA Gill “arguing fur is a good thing”. You know, he may have a point (I admit, I didn’t read the article). But I Tweeted back – “You have no problem with fur?!” I said, “Maybe if you’re in the arctic – but there’s a difference between ‘fashion’ and ‘practicality'”, then got very riled by his response “Fur predates concept of fashion. Arguments against it based on same class hatreds as arguments against fox hunting.”. I replied that “fur is generally unneccessary, unlike leather (where good alternatives are rare and expensive) – i am fine with it’s use when necessary but not as a fashion extra. [The use of fur] predating [fashion] is a ridiculous argument as [there have] been many advances in fabric technology since”. My friend pointed out that he’d bought a rabbit fur hat in Russia (to which I replied “let the russians wear rabbit fur hats. it gets cold there. you don’t need a rabbit fur hat, or fur trim collar, in London”) which he wears for skiing. Now I have no problem with the use of fur where justified but i think that “if there’s a viable, affordable alternative that works well, fur is unnecessary & shouldn’t be used”.

The debate continued, moving into the realm of fox hunting – the argument being that arguments against fur were based on class hatred, just as for fox hunting – dislike of “arrogant horsey people” by “angry poor people”. The argument was put that recreational hunting is “not pretty, but it’s not evil either, and nor should it be banned” and that “The fox isn’t tortured: it’s ripped to pieces in seconds. And the chase is as natural as anything you could think of”. Now I have no problem with nature, animals chase and kill each other all the time. But they do so for a reason (usually food) – not generally for sport, followed by a bunch of men in red coats with horns. Another friend of mine joined in and pointed out that an official inquiry identified that “foxes were often not killed by bites to the neck but further down the abdomen”. Not only that, but the argument that – prior to the (to my mind, traumatic) kill – the fox is chased counts as torture. I argued that “fox hunting is clearly an unnecessary, cruel and barbaric blood sport”.

There was another, far more important story, in the papers today about animals. It’s not about going vegetarian to save the planet, it’s about the need to think about the implications of your diet on the environment. Climate change expert Nicholas Stern has said:

I think that once people understand the great risks that climate change poses, they will naturally want to choose products and services that cause little or no emissions of greenhouse gases, which means ‘low-carbon consumption’. This will apply across the board, including electricity, heating, transport and food. A diet that relies heavily on meat production results in higher emissions than a typical vegetarian diet. Different individuals will make different choices. However, the debate about climate change should not be dumbed down to a single slogan, such as ‘give up meat to save the planet’.

I’ve posted about this before but it’s worth saying again. Food production accounts for 15-20% of the UK’s carbon emissions, much caused by livestock. One study from 2007 suggested that the CO2-equivalent emissions of global warming gases from beef production could be as much as 50 times the weight of the meat itself. Chris Goodall has pointed out that “the reaction to Lord Stern’s statement has been unpleasantly vicious. People have seen his views as another illustration of how “climate change” will be used as an excuse for the elite to limit the choices of ordinary people. We are already being told to drive less, not to fly and to buy dim lightbulbs. Stern’s comments suggest a future campaign to reduce our hamburger consumption”.

But we certainly need to do something. Perhaps a large climate footprint can become as socially unacceptable as drink driving, as Stern has suggested. Do you really need to eat meat as often as you do? Think of the impact you’re having on the planet (let alone the impact on your own health) next time you’re grilling your sausage or buying a chicken sandwich.

I’m saving the world

19 June 2008

John Harris has written an interesting comment piece for the Guardian about being vegetarian. He raises interesting points:

The decisive arrival of the current food crisis must be making them feel even more righteous. As daily news reports now remind us, there are three key factors behind the rocketing price of the most basic foodstuffs: the rising cost of oil, swathes of agricultural land being given over to biofuels, and the fact that the increasing affluence of China and India is spearheading an explosion in the demand for meat and the feed needed to produce it.

Now, thankfully, there comes this new vegetarian(ish) agenda, and the chance to make the case against meat-eating on more level-headed grounds: that even if meat will remain part of most people’s diet, they are going to have to eat less of it; and that right now, this is actually more about human lives than those of animals.

It’s been known for a while that using scarce resources to breed meat for consumption has a bigger ecological footprint than simply growing crops themselves. According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, livestock contribute more to global warming than transport, producing 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Toronto Vegetarian Association published a very interesting article too with a lot more detail. As a vegetarian it’s good to think that my diet is less likely to contribute to climate change then prolific meat eating, but the issues are wider.

As poorer nations become richer and diets ever mote meat-focussed it’s important for the richer nations to lead the way in thinking about what impact what we eat has on our environment, as well as ourselves. I’m not going to be a millitant vegetarian and talk of the evils of eating any meat at all, but in doing our bit for the environment we shouldn’t forget about what’s going in our mouths as well as thinking about whether we should drive to the supermarket or fly Ryanair from Glasgow to London. It’s about thinking and reducing meat intake, it’s about local food, organic food. Most importantly it’s not just good for the environment, but it’s good for our short term and long term health.

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