Burn Baby, Burn

Issue 72

With fires across Europe, floods across China and indeed across parts of the UK throughout the year now, anyone denying climate change must be far closer to the "flat earth society" than the scientific community or indeed reality itself.

There have been many references in recent years to the “Anthropocene” era, testament to the fact that economic models of constant growth in post-Thatcherite/postmodernist variants on the American dream may enhance the well-being of individuals, but is frankly toxic to the planet and other species upon it.

It is the supreme arrogance that we prioritise our species over others. The position of “species supremacy”, licences us to dominate the earth unchallenged, except our very ecosystem is now telling us that this cannot go on.

Now I’m not into apocryphal messages, life will go on however hard it gets, but does it absolutely need to be this way? We heard about the loss of life in Algeria fighting fires, we have also heard about the loss of life and homes in America, Greece and elsewhere. These numbers pale into insignificance next to the lives lost in the animal kingdom in those very same areas of which the reporting is negligible. A child fell into a gorilla enclosure in an American zoo last year. The resident gorilla paid for that poor parental supervision with his life. This happens routinely. We have less than 1200 mountain gorillas remaining to eight billion humans. Yet species supremacy brings out that result. How would I feel if it was my child exposed to increased risk with a “no kill” extraction policy? Well, my child might be a bit better supervised anyway, but it might be the consequence we all have to live with by keeping animals in captivity to preserve species as a primary aim rather than preserve Homo Sapiens. Many parents will rebel at what I’ve just said, but the fact is that if we are serious about avoiding the extinction of major species and extinction events ourselves, we have a very limited understanding of the behavioural and attitudinal change we will have to effect to make a difference. It will involve meticulous conservation, high penalties for ecological crimes such as dropping litter. Hypothecated taxation to offset the effect of industry activities and their impact on the environment whether that’s deposit schemes for bottles and other packaging or boycotting polluters. The problem is the biggest polluters are China and America. Globalisation models have led to a high dependency both in supply chain, investment and economic futures of the wellto-do and influential in our community. We have been happy for China to pollute in exchange for low prices and investment opportunities. How do we feel about paying more, shareholders receiving less as we produce things locally and for fair wages? Are we at last entering the realm of Eco-leadership in corporate life? How will we feel about banning all journeys of less than two miles unless they’re in electric vehicles? How do we ensure that policies are integrated? It’s very well switching to electric cars, but that’s not a whole solution. The production of lithium is less impactive than coal but significant nonetheless and we need a lot of it. Remember you might switch a car to electric, but the micro plastics in the tyres remain the same ending up in the sea where they are assimilated into the food chain. We must embrace the complexity of this if we are not to have unintended negative consequences. It was unimpressive when a certain cheese company recently advertising nationally its packaging as 40% less plastic. Sound positive, but 60% remains in the packaging and unless complete biodegradable without toxicity, it’s effectively a ‘virtue signal’, a fop to the public to salve consciences that does far less good than it implies. Like the Emperor Nero, we literally fiddle, only this time it is the earth that is burning.

You didn’t open this magazine to have such apocryphal reading. You wanted to see your business featured, promote some new approach, you wanted some business intelligence and what’s happening in the market, what your rivals and colleagues are doing, you wanted upbeat messages, messages that collude with the illusion of onwards and upwards. Then Cliffy comes along with this critical realism and his penchant for ‘inconvenient truths’. Do go to a nicer coach than me! We all need to take action. Whether that’s eating less meat, turning the thermostat down a bit, walking instead of driving, flying less and sharing things a bit more. Repairing rather than replacing, can be fun in a world, where pushbuttons are preferred to the kinaesthetic joy of tools. It’s about learning some of the things we gained in lockdown about being together, enjoying our homes, experiencing the benefits and joys of our own land rather than jetting off somewhere else!

Most of all it’s about recognising that every species matters, and we have in our hands the preservation and stewardship of the planet. We need to lobby politicians and effect a raft of radical behavioural changes.

Political commitment, Individual behaviour and corporate and social responsibility that embodies radical, real change, not palliatives, virtual signals or small measures in the ‘direction of travel’, is really the only way.

Most importantly, speaking truth to power is paramount both locally and nationally. Don’t sit on your hands on this one, its everyone’s responsibility!

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