Saving the planet
I am sometimes accused of having too many books. I can’t include a picture of upstairs because I have books on three of the four walls (the other one is for food storage, although it would make a great set of bookshelves), and I might have the odd book in other places around the house which weren’t originally intended for book storage. And in fairness, I do have at the last count five boxes of books under the eaves as a temporary solution for books I think I won’t need for a bit. And opinions in the family vary anyway. Abbi is largely indifferent and LoLo quite likes the fact that when she gives me an “I haven’t got anything to read”, we can disappear upstairs and I’ll find something for her which she didn’t know I had. Actually, upstairs probably has more books than some bookshops. And yet – I can’t find the one I wanted to comment on today. I have looked, I think it’s in one of those boxes. But I couldn’t face getting them all out.
The topic that keeps coming back without a solution is climate change. Of course it’s sometimes very politicised with enough interest groups (from oil companies to Greenpeace) anxious to be heard and a good proportion of them with pecuniary interest in the topic. Kyoto, Rio, all the agreements that have been made and not met for decades. And the increasingly strong wording of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning us of the consequences of the lack of action.
It’s not something that we as individuals can sort by ourselves. I feel a degree of happiness at our solar panels and biomass heating but I also know that I wouldn’t have either if financial support hadn’t been made available, it’s simply too expensive. And climate change can’t be tackled properly by individual governments alone. Especially when the governments of some of the largest economies won’t play and the resultant playing field is even more uneven than normal.
The UN is about to engage in another large-scale discussion on climate change and we are experiencing several days of protests around the world demanding a co-ordinated response to deal with something which will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren if we don’t take action together. Of course, you could also point to possible evidence of more immediate effects of climate change. Hurricanes affecting the US’s east coast (Katrina and Sandy are names familiar to millions), devastating flooding in the Far East, polar ice caps melting and, nearer to home, both hotter summers and generally more rain than in the past, including floods in large parts of England.
I still remember the first time I was in Bavaria in the late 1980s. It was the middle of summer and 25 degrees was the hottest I had ever experienced. A couple of years ago we were much further north in Germany and it was over 40 degrees. Anecdotal rather than scientific of course and I still maintain we had better summers when I was a child but they certainly weren’t as hot. Berlin in the summer is close to unbearably hot already, even in t-shirt and shorts, never mind having to work there. There are certainly times when the milder weather in the UK is a real blessing.
A few years ago, James Lovelock came to the Edinburgh International Book Festival and spoke about climate change (and wrote the book I can’t now find). He views the earth as being like an organism, which he calls Gaia. And like any life form, Gaia will protect itself. Humans are of particular importance to us humans, but the earth did just fine without us for long enough and doesn’t really need us for, well for anything really. If we let the earth heat up too much, it will adapt, it’s been a lot hotter and a lot colder than this before. It’s we humans that will have the issue, and it could be an existential issue.
In common with many other cities, Edinburgh staged a climate change march in the run up to the UN meetings. And for the first time in my life (I know…) I went on a protest march. LoLo came along with me and neither of us was really quite sure what to expect. We arrived to a lovely choir singing with lots of banners flying.
There were so many people there that the police had to take a more active role in shepherding everyone than I think was anticipated. Which meant closing one side of Princes Street, then North Bridge, then the Royal Mile, then the Mound. Thank goodness it was a Sunday, but we did feel for all the people in their cars or on the not-so express bus to the airport (hope you all made it to your flights on time!). And LoLo and I enjoyed a spot of chanting, singing a song along the way and seeing how many people we knew there (seven in the end, which meant that LoLo’s guess was closest. There was no prize).
So we decided that we should find another march to go on sometime as we enjoyed it so much. As did tens of thousands of others around the world. The march wasn’t the point, the planet was. Although I am not sure everyone there was entirely focused on the cause in hand – methinks some people just go to every march going. And why not…
We decided afterward that, having saved the planet, it was time to go home and cook dinner. Powered by our solar panels. Of course.
Random observation of the day – popped into Sainsburys (other supermarkets are also available) to find mince pies on sale on a small Christmas stand – really?!?!?!