Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We're all going on a summer holiday...

As the summer holidays loom, tea time time talk has inevitably turned to 'Where shall we go?' and 'What shall we do?' Just the prospect of spending six weeks at home while the kids run riot is already driving me crazy so that's out of the question. We've got to go somewhere and got to do something, but what?

How about that wilderness trip of a lifetime canoeing down the Yukon? Or a fortnight on safari in Africa? What about biking in Cambodia and Vietnam? Or trekking in China or Nepal? The travel supplements, family adventure brochures and guide books are full of ideas and inspiration. But just thinking of flying five of us to an exotic destination for a hedonistic family adventure doesn't seem very responsible any more. So it's just as well we can't afford it financially as well as environmentally; makes my unfulfilled dreams a little easier to live with.

And so thoughts turned to holidaying at home, which has not been so immediately full of inspiration. After arguing a lot about the best place to go we agreed to compromise and make our destination a journey. So having established that we couldn't go somewhere and that going nowhere was not an option, it was obvious we had to go everywhere. And so emerged a somewhat absurd plan to take on a classic road trip, from one end of the country to the other; from Lands End to John O Groats.

Only thing was we couldn't possibly do it by car; never mind environmentally, just mentally, cooped up in a tin-box day after day, guzzling fuel, enduring the great British summer and accompaniment of traffic jams. No, there's only two green ways to do Lands End to John O Groats - by foot or by bike. And with just six weeks of holiday and three kids, one is clearly impossible and the other..... Well, there's only one way to find out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Small Stuff

World Environment Day had sent Carbonlite into a tizzy. He was beavering away at letter writing when I returned from Weightwatchers. ‘Oh God’ I thought, ‘here we go again.’ I went to the shed to get my bike out.

“I thought you had a meeting in Kendal soon,” Carbonlite muttered.
I confirmed that I had, “We’ve been asked to do one thing to make a difference on Environment Day haven’t we? Well I’m going to cycle to my meeting.” I had hoped to pledge to cycle to all of the days meetings but looking at my schedule it would involve seventy five miles of cycling, and I wasn’t that committed to change.

I grabbed my cycle helmet; if I didn’t move quick I was going to be late for my first meeting with a new client and I had at least twelve miles to cycle. “Oh and while I’m cycling to Kendal, Fenella will be buying eco washing balls and Natalie plans to plant and recycle a tree. It doesn’t have to be the big stuff you know.”

At the mention of a couple of our more environmentally aware friends, Carbonlite looked up. “How do you know what they're doing ?”
“Because I asked them to do something for World Environment Day last night. If you want to save the planet, you have to think ahead.” And I waltzed out of the front door.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just one more thing....

It's UN World Environment Day and the great and good Climate Change and Environment Minister Ian Pearson wants us all to mark it by thinking about our impact on the planet and committing to do one thing differently to reduce it.

Well, that's just great. As if I don't spend enough time already fretting about this. And now the government without the backbone to commit to any radical action to really address the causes of climate change wants me to do more.

Well I want them to do more, to move beyond aspirations and rhetoric and show some real leadership with tough action, even if it might be unpopular. I want to see them toughen up the climate change bill, commit to reduction targets that are based upon best scientific evidence, ban energy inefficient products, invest big time in renewable energy, tax to the max high polluting cars, invest in world class public transport infrastructure, tax, discourage or ban non-essential flying, look seriously at personal carbon rationing, and stop waiting for the enlightenment of the masses or the markets to sort the problem out. It's not going to happen.

So what's my one thing? Well, I'm going to write to my MP and the government and respond to their consultation paper on the climate change bill, asking them to toughen it up.

So, if you''re stuck for an action today, then why not do the same. The Friends of the Earth Big Ask campaign website makes it very easy for you - with letter templates, details of your MP and a way for you to email them directly, making you doubly environmentally pious by saving ink, envelopes, stamps and letter miles. You can email your MP or respond directly to DEFRA's consulation. But don’t leave it too late, the closing date for responses is 12th June.

Go on it only takes a minute or is your planet not worth that?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apple crumble

What a fuss about half an apple. All I said was it seemed a terrible waste to throw it away. I mean it had only been nibbled around the edges and there was plenty of apple left to offer round, make juice, cook up a crumble or chuck on the compost. That's all I was trying to say but the point got lost in a stupid row.

It was an argument about something and nothing - the fate of a half eaten apple - but it stayed with me for days. And you know why? Because it's not an argument about apple, it's about attitude. The attitude that says it's OK to be wasteful, to bin without thinking, to dispose of the inconvenient or not quite perfect, to not to think about our everyday actions or concern ourselves with how all the small stuff adds up. Like we do most of the time. Like I do a lot of the time. Like the Washingqueen did with said apple.

And it makes me mad; mad with the Washingqueen, mad with myself, mad with the mindless masses that continue living wasteful, carbon guzzling lifestyles, acknowledging the very real dangers of climate change, debating it at dinner parties, making the right noises in the recycling department but still not really sweating the small stuff, preferring instead to put their energies into making excuses. "Well…. does it really matter? I mean what's the point in me bothering if no-one else does? It's not easy being green you know. And besides what difference is one apple/lightbulb/plastic bottle/journey going to make anyway? We all know there are bigger fish to fry than me, bigger problems that need solving elsewhere first eh? "

That's the apple attitude and it will make the world crumble. While we all wait for someone else to do something, making excuses about why we can't.

Small stuff matters, no matter how small. It matters because it makes us more mindful and requires us to take responsibility for our actions and the consequences that follow. It matters because it makes us part of the solution not part of the excuse making problem. And it matters because it may encourage others to do their small stuff too, in their own small ways. And as every charity will tell you, every little helps.

Anyone for crumble?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It's just an apple

The littlest Carboncopy has been up all night with a cough, so I keep him off school for the day. At lunchtime Carbonlite rings to ask for a lift home from the station. He’s been in Manchester for a business meeting. On the way out of the door, the Carboncopy begins to whine. He’s hungry. My first reaction is to give him a picnic lunch, but then remember the new rule. No food in the car. What’s to be done? An apple. A lovely fresh green organic apple, full of vitamin C. Well it’s fruit not food isn’t it? No calories, you see. The Carboncopy munches on it happily as we drive to the station.

“Which platform for the Manchester train?” I ask the ticket man.
“Platform number two, under the bridge and last on the left,” he replies.
“And do you have a bin?” I enquire, feeling like a model citizen, as I hold up the remains of the apple by the stalk.
“Platform number two, under the bridge and last on the left,” he says, without glancing up from his computer.

I carry the apple, arm outstretched through the ticket office and into the tunnel. It has hardly been touched, but bears a neat circle of nibbles all the way around its circumference. The Carboncopy spots his Dad as we turn the corner under the bridge. He runs to him. I pass them by. They clasp each other tightly, while I hold the apple stalk at arms length. Carbonlite raises his eyebrows in a silent question.
“ I’m looking for a bin. Platform number two, under the bridge and last on the left, apparently” I tell him.
“You’re putting that in a bin? Why? It’s a perfectly good apple.” he exclaims.
“It’s a perfectly munched apple,” I say, pointing to the ring of mini teeth marks. “What do you suggest I do with it? ”
“Eat it.”
“No thanks. Second hand spit. Not my thing.” I head off towards platform two once again but Carbonlite grabs me by the arm.
“Take it home then.”
“What for?”
“To eat. You could….make a crumble.” says Carbonlite.
“A crumble. With half an apple?” I ask, turning around reluctantly and starting to walk back under the bridge behind my husband and son, all the time holding the apple by its stalk.
“Yup, its called Recycling.”
“It’s called a stupid idea.”

I catch up with Carbonlite as he reaches the car.
“I’ll drive,” he says.
Oh no you won’t.” I reply. “You can hold the apple. Here, take it!”
“No, it’s yours.” The other passengers who spilled out of the station with us are now staring as I open the door and thrust a half munched apple into my husband’s lap. He puts it on my chair and starts the engine.
“It’s not my apple!” I cry, then, “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.” I plonk myself down into the seat, once again holding the twig at right angles to my body. “It’s ridiculous and pedantic.”
“It’s a perfectly good piece of food.” Carbonlite replies. “And it’s not me being pedantic. You still don’t get it do you? It’s symptomatic of the way we live and this whole wasteful society. Just because an apple is cheap and easily available, you throw it away.”
“I don’t normally waste them, but I happen to be at a railway station miles from home…and the teethmarks aren’t my own and…it’s just an apple!” I am shouting again.
“Yes it is just an apple and it may seem like a small thing but if everyone in the UK threw away an apple every day of their lives then it’s not a small thing any more. It’s the same as the argument as the lightbulb; if everyone changed to a lower energy lightbulb we could shut down a power station. And in any case, didn’t I ban food in the car?”
I sigh, my thumb and finger aching from holding the stalk..Another argument lost. Our Carboncopy has tired of us and fallen asleep. Carbonlite starts the engine and I am left, like Eve to his Adam, still holding the now discoloured apple. “I am so not going to make you a crumble when we get home.”