Friday, November 28, 2008

the silver enemy

“You’d better take your Christmas presents home with you today as we’re off to the Caribbean soon,” says my mother, clearing the dinner dishes.
The Carbon-copies, the Carbon-baby and I have made a quick dash over to Liverpool for the weekend. The carbon cost of a 100 love miles to see granny? 30 kg’s at my reckoning. But it’s nothing like the environmental cost of a cruise around the Caribbean. I bite my tongue and stifle my opinions about those climate-corrupting fun factories and the 24 hr buffet fuelled hedonism that she indulges in three times a year.
“I just hope you’re cutting down on clothes this time,” is all I say, referring to the start of her last cruise where she was fined £93 in excess baggage after stuffing more than 40 evening dresses and ball gowns into her suitcase and trying to get on a plane.
“I wouldn’t say I’m cutting back, but we’re definitely not taking the fancy dress pirate costumes this time,” she says. “I think half of that fine was probably the weight of the parrots.”

She brings in the pudding, scooping out a large helping of tiramisu, while informing me my brother will be flying his family to his French second home for Christmas. I sigh.
“I can’t help but feel a bit jealous,” I tell her. “I can’t imagine justifying flights like that for fun again.”
She looks up at me in astonishment, and the spoon of tiramisu does a nosedive into a bone china espresso cup. “Not fly again? Why not?” I shake my head.
“Haven’t you heard there’s a climate crunch going on mum? Don’t they cover the environment in the Daily Mail?”
Her response is a snort. “Oh, don’t give me that climate change nonsense” she says. “That’s Carbonlite speaking, not you. You like shopping and going on holiday. Has he been indoctrinating you again?”
“I do NOT like shopping,”I begin to shout. Why do all my family seem to think I spend my days shopping?
“Most of my clothes come from Oxfam,” I tell her, banging my spoon into my bowl.
“Not that lovely coat,” says my Mother, “that’s from Boden. I saw the label when I hung it up.” I enlighten her to the fact that it was once from house of Boden, but not for at least two owners.
My mother shudders. “Please don’t mention that to your sister. I don’t think she’d ever speak to you again. And by the way I don’t want any second hand clothes for my Christmas presents thank you very much.”
I remind her that she’ll be cruising the good ship lollipop by then, destroying the future for my kids.
“Well thank heaven I won’t be around by then,” she says.
I stand up and push my chair back. “That’s just typical of your generation,” I cry. “It’s only 90 years since the war you know. Think what they had to live on…darned tights and marrow soup. You’re the first generation to have everything and you abuse it. Fat pensions, a house that will net you a quarter of a million in disposable income, cheap short haul flights, and cruise ships the size of the Starship Enterprise. And you think you can leave the mopping up to my kids? Why should they have to spend their adult years continually cruising Cumbria because the sea levels are so high due to your carbon addiction?”
But she’s not listening. “A nice case of wine would be fine for my Christmas present,” she says.

The eldest Carboncopy looks up from his pudding. “Mummy, I know that you buy some presents as well as Father Christmas,“ he says. Now I can no longer stay at the table, but start pacing round it.
“Now is not the time to shatter my illusions about Santa,” I yell at him. To diffuse the tension, my mother clears the plates and takes them into the kitchen.
“I’ll just put the kettle on again. Now would like a nice bit of brie before we go and admire my new outfits?” she trills.

Monday, November 03, 2008

ride the climate rollercoaster

Carbonlite and I are climbing steeply. We push ever higher and suddenly the whole of Coney Island bay stretches before us. But no time for admiring the view as we hurtle over the edge and shoot back to earth, screaming and waving our hands in the air along with 50 other riders.
The rollercoaster we’re all on is the usual mix of anticipation and terror. But this is no ordinary ride. With the help of a screen, a short film, a dose of audience participation and some facts from our host, we are riding the Climate Change Rollercoaster.
“London’s underwater and two thirds of the world’s glaciers have gone,” he shouts as we plunge downhill, screaming. “Oh crikey moses the whole climate system has gone into reverse,” he bellows, as we wave out hands wildly in the air.

I glance at Carbonlite and he catches my eye. Just for a change I’m responsible for organising our latest eco outing; to a climate change stand up comedy night at our local theatre. Our entertainment is provided by the Carbon Detox writer and climate change campaigner George Marshall, who runs an environmental charity and teaches others to lecture about the world’s problems. But tonight he tackles the issue through humour; highlighting our denial strategies, pointing out the eco stereotypes, myths and contradictions, and making us laugh at an issue that others portray as dry, boring, or downright scary.

We disembark the rollercoaster and our comedy coach continues with an education about evil carbon twins.
“Last year I dropped in on my neighbour to settle some minor boundary dispute,” George tells us. “There was a walloping four-wheel-drive tank in the drive, his house was as hot as a sauna with the back door open; every room was lit up like an operating theatre by halogen spots and a 1.8 metre plasma screen TV was going full throttle in the corner. As soon as I saw his house I realized all the energy that my own energy efficient house and low impact living was saving was being used up by him.”
He pauses for a moment before throwing his hands in the air in despair. “I might just have well have run cable between our houses and sent all the energy that I was saving over there.”

On the way home Carbonlite and I discuss our evil carbon twins and who they could be.
“Well it isn’t our next door neighbours,” I say. “One heats their whole house with just a single real fire; I’ve seen her out collecting fuel. And the other goes on the Wheely Good Communities trolley dash to get her shopping.” But I admit it could be some of my friends, many of whom still fly for fun and breed 4x4’s faster than they produce children. And as for my mother, currently and always ‘off on a cruise,’ well she sucks out more energy savings than a family of sextuplets. I’m thinking all of this out loud when Carbonlite interrupts.
“Don’t you get it? You’re my evil carbon twin,” he says, “I go biking to make more space on the road for your tin box. I wear an extra jumper all day and you blow our carbon rations on heating the house at night. I replace all the lightbulbs and you….”
“Hey ok, ok.” I say, my hands up in the air. “I might be your evil carbon twin but we’re stuck on this climate change rollercoaster together. So you’d better hold on tight to me and we can ride the cyclone. Let’s face it baby, I could be the only thing between you and the abyss.”