If I hear this again, I’ll scream. “Your blog is all very well, but it’s pointless trying to do anything to save the planet until China and India go green.”
Three people have said this to me, and I’m already sick of it. It’s a cop out. A bloody cop out. We all have to try. All of us. Every day. Of course India and China need to get on board, but that doesn’t give us the excuse to go on polluting. It’s like defending the fact that you poop in your front garden because your neighbours have 100 lodgers who poop in their front garden.
Just roll this thought around your mind. James Anderson, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard, says that we have five years left. In those five years, we have to transform industry as rapidly as possible – it’s not just a matter of cutting carbon emissions, its a matter of removing it from the atmosphere completely.
Five years. (And we all thought we had the luxury of a decade…!)
Here’s another thought to mull over. Anderson says, “The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero.”
So don’t mull too long, or that five year period of grace will be over and the world we live in will become a very uncomfortable place.
James Lovelock, the eminent scientist and long a hero of mine, originally earned his fame when he came up with the Gaia hypothesis. This posits the theory that the Earth – which he calls Gaia – is a single self-regulating super-organism, and that we are a just part of it, much in the way that the bacteria on our skin is a part of us. That’s a very inadequate little explanation of a great big theory but it will have to do for now.
Lovelock believes that we human beings have multiplied too much and that Gaia is now trying to get rid of us. Catastrophic weather changes, storms, typhoons, desertification etc., and the heating up of vast areas of the world, thus making it uninhabitable are becoming the norm.
So can we do anything personally? He thinks not, and I don’t know if we can, but I passionately believe we should try. We in the West are largely the architects of the Armageddon to come, so we bloody well have to try. Here are some suggestions.
- Fly less
- Drive less
- Eat less meat
- Eat more locally produced food
- Waste less
- Buy less
- Protest more
- Have fewer children
- Heat our homes less
- Write letters – to government and companies and councils and anyone else you feel needs a nudge.
Note that I don’t proscribe anything completely. I believe that to be unrealistic. Changing the habits of a lifetime is hard work.
And gestures towards greenness are often just that – gestures. For instance, I own a diesel car, and I can’t do without the car as I live in a country village with a lousy bus service. I could get rid of it and replace it with an electric car instead. But it would be a pointless gesture, because it would mean that someone else would then own that car while I polished my halo. Much better for me to own that car and drive it as little as possible. If I’m running errands, I try to get them all done in one trip every few days. If I have to go anywhere farther than our local town, I go by train if at all possible. This means I’ve got my mileage down by several thousand miles per year. No, not perfect, but trying hard.
So don’t come to me with the China argument again, because it’s an excuse of the flabbiest kind. An excuse to go on living our indulgent, destructive lives, and that is true Shit You Don’t Need.
Oh, and by the way…
Letters can work. Proper letters, mind you, not emails and armchair clicktivism. A letter is counted as FAR more significant than an email. That’s because it’s a bother to write the letter, find the correct address, buy a stamp and walk to the postbox. It’s estimated that every letter of protest represents up to 10,000 similar opinions. So imagine if 1,000 of us wrote the following to our outgoing Prime Minister…
Dear Mrs. May,
Whilst I welcome the fact that you have committed the UK to a legally binding “net zero” emissions target by 2050, I believe this is not ambitious enough and we should be “net zero” by 2025.
Yours sincerely, A Person.
That would represent ten million opinions. It might make a difference. And at least when Armageddon comes, you can say you tried.
And no, buying a bag-for-life isn’t enough. Try harder.
Here endeth the rant. And here is a picture of Piper who emits a tiny amount of methane, but counters this by eating our leftovers with a will. She is very fond of my cooking and does not tolerate waste.
Unfortunately, she does not tolerate my tapestry cushions either. She believes them to be woefully old-fashioned, and thus they need to be destroyed.
Meanwhile, please keep passing this on!
12 thoughts on “THE CHINA ARGUMENT”
Excellent per usual! thanks.
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Thanks so much, Katherine!
Your comments are laudable Dillie, but it goes a lot deeper than that. We have to cure ourselves of the insatiable desire to own the latest stuff. Clothes are being sold with the intention of only being worn once. Devices are made with the intention of being replaced by the next generation device within a year or less. Philip Kotler, the architect of modern marketing, has a lot to answer for. We now live in a society where we are bombarded with messages that convince us that we need all manner of goods that we don’t and that they have to be replaced frequently and cheaply.
Getting them made cheaply relies on cheap labour, which we find in India, China, Malaysia and other rapidly developing economies. They are more than happy to satisfy our avarice for new goods with a short lifespan. In order to save the planet, we need to cure ourselves of the desire to own stuff that is bright, shiny and cheap.
Goods need to be manufactured with built-in longevity, not built-in obsolescence.
Where possible (I hate say it, but on this point, Donald Trump may be right) manufacturing needs to be brought closer to home.
The power of marketing needs to be limited.
China and other countries will suffer as a consequence, but if less stuff is made, fewer resources will be consumed, especially in those areas where manufacturing techniques and power consumption are less “green”. We will also suffer, because the stuff we buy will inevitably be more expensive, but isn’t it better to own a washing machine that costs twice as much and lasts three times as long than one with an almost identical carbon footprint that goes to the dump after five years? Shoes that last half a lifetime, not six months?
Of course, these are all pipe dreams. Fortunately for Gaia, we are the architects of our own demise.
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Various points raised by your lucid and informed post.
1. I entirely agree with you, but if I made all those points, it would be a lecture, not a blog, and no-one would read it. I’ve deliberately chosen to write about one idea or one product at a time, to make people think about whether they are going to go on buying/using/believing that thing or not. 2. Life is difficult enough, if we all stopped buying things immediately, a lot of people would suffer a great deal, especially in the developing countries who rely on us to buy their stuff. 3. Some of the kind of changes we need to make have to be done at government level. I’m deliberately sticking to things that we can do at home and at work. Please do keep commenting, I really enjoy your input.
I read your blogs with interest, and often take the subject (translated into my mediocre French) to discuss at my U3A French group. This gets it talked about, and often acted upon, then gets taken away and shared with a new set of people. It can’t all be up to one person, one government, one country – we all have to work out how to play our part.
Thanks so much – that’s very encouraging!
Terrifying and inspiring in equal amounts.
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Thank you for your rants. They are life changing. Keep them up. My pen and paper are out already.
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The key thing is to link reduction and stabilisation of global population to a rethink about what growth means and the traditional focus of governments on investment and creating more employment. These are increasingly outmoded in a digital world. The focus should be on improving wellbeing and sufficiency everywhere, not on growth for its own sake and certainly not just producing more stuff for more people to consume, with the consequent pollution and resource depletion that causes.
The neo-liberal orthodoxy of trickle-down has never worked and won’t save us in the future. Neither will utopian thinking from the left. We have to trust that the aspiring middle classes in China and India and elsewhere grasp their role in the problem – even though they did not create it – and that they won’t repeat the same mistakes we are still making – but that’s a long shot.
Limiting growth is not a popular argument – and politicians don’t like to hear it, at least not yet – but we need to make it in as many ways as possible. There are limits to growth and we have reached them. Five years to turn things around seems impossibly short, but in the meantime I’d forgo that riverfront property.
I intend to write a post entitled “Growth” fairly soon, so your comment is very timely. Growth really is SYDN.
Another riveting read Dillie! I especially like the idea of using the car less and as such will use the train when we come down from Scotland to see FA in December. Keep up the good fight!
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