I’d be there if it weren’t for my distance from London, my age and my arthritis. Or are these just convenient excuses? (Sorry, can’t go to ’Nam; I have these bone spurs in my foot.) In principle, I’m all in favour of direct action in these world-critical circumstances, and supportive of the current ‘Extinction Rebellion’ in particular (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/19/extinction-rebellion-reports-hundreds-of-people-signing-up). The fact that it inconveniences commuters and shoppers is a further point in its favour, to my mind. People need to be materially inconvenienced, and indeed shocked. Mere publicity has achieved little.
At present the shocking appears to be coming from two directions: from the very old, i.e. the saintly David Attenborough, whose BBC1 programme the other night on Climate Change made the case powerfully; and the very young, represented by the astonishing 15 year-old Swede Greta Thunberg with her ‘School Strike for the Climate’ movement, who features in the Attenborough film, and is hoping to join the Extinction Rebellion in London sometime this weekend. Apparently Theresa May has refused to meet her. (Isn’t it interesting, by the way, that the ‘Thatcher generation’ between David and Greta is less well represented? We oldies remember what it was like before her. And youngsters have forgotten her, and so can still dream.)
But I also get the message. Support ‘in principle’ is not enough. Everyone has responsibility for the current parlous state of the world, and should do everything he or she can on an individual level to put it right. Every little helps. So, what can I do?
Some things are easy. On a political level, of course one should vote for parties that don’t carry climate change-deniers (like the Conservatives – Lawson – and the Republicans – Trump), and which reject the neo-liberal, growth-before-everything, devil-take-the-hindmost form of modern capitalism which has led us into this mess. That means the Greens if you don’t mind wasting your vote, or Corbyn’s Labour party if you really want to get somewhere. I’m of course happy with that.
But then there are the everyday things. Some of those are quite easy too. I’ve stopped using unrecyclable plastic. I even bought a wooden toothbrush the other day. (It’s not very good.) I heat my house by gas, but will be happy to switch to electricity, even if it costs more, so long as I can be sure that it isn’t ultimately produced from fossil fuels. (There are two coal-burning power stations just up the river from me; but also some wind generators, and a great forest of them planned soon for the estuary.) I might look into solar panels, though I suspect my roof faces the wrong way. Kajsa has geo-thermal, boring down into the Swedish bedrock; but I’m not sure that that will work on the muddy east coast of England. I don’t have a car, which means that I use buses and taxis more, but they’ll all be environmentally powered soon, won’t they? The same I assume with trains.
My greatest environmental sin is flying. As a British Swede (now), with a beloved sambo living in Stockholm, and with both of us having commitments (and family) in our native countries, I fly to and from Sweden – as does she – far more frequently than is healthy for the globe. I’d go by boat if I could. I dislike flying anyway; and I assume that, in view of the numbers they carry, boats emit less nasties per person than planes. Am I right? In England I live, conveniently, in a ferry port, which used to service Gothenburg (I think; if not, then somewhere further up the coast), but now only goes to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam. A friend has found that there are cabins for passengers on container ships from Immingham, which is just over the river from me, to Gothenburg; but costing £700 each way. (And I don’t fancy being carried in a box.) A lot of the more convenient cross-North Sea routes were axed as flying got so ridiculously cheaper. (I can fly from Gatwick to Arlanda for less than the train fare from my home to Gatwick.)
North Sea Ferries are OK. From Rotterdam you can get a train through to Stockholm with two or three changes, which is pleasant – cabaret on the boat, comfortable German trains, a pleasant stopover in Amsterdam, a less pleasant one in Hamburg in the middle of the night – but takes about 48 hours, and can be expensive. We’ve done it a couple of times. But it really would help if the old ferry routes could be restored. Then I’d feel I could look Greta in the eye, if I ever bumped into her in Stockholm.