Smarter Cambridge Transport

Will your New Year’s resolutions be for a more sustainable future?

This decade we learnt that, beyond any shadow of doubt, humanity is on course to devastate the planet. Yet we’re in denial. BP’s most optimistic forecast for transitioning to a “lower-carbon fuel mix” still has oil and gas production in 2040 surpassing 2017. That almost guarantees large swathes of the planet, especially coastal regions, will be uninhabitable.

“So, what am I supposed to do about it?”

Firstly, don’t delude yourself that you can’t make a difference. You have consumer, political and social power. It doesn’t need many people to use their powers in unison to make a significant difference.

Secondly, don’t focus on the negatives. The future isn’t sackcloth and ashes, and the present is hardly nirvana. Recall what you dislike most about life today: stressful commutes; knowing your children are inhaling toxic fumes – even in the safety of your own car; isolation and loneliness; peer pressure to consume conspicuously. Now build a vision of a more fulfilling and healthier life that brings family, friends, work, school, shopping, sport, leisure and culture closer to home.

Here are a few ideas of what “living locally” might mean.

Imagine you cycle with your kids to school; walk to your office and remote-work alongside people from other companies; have larger purchases delivered when you’re at home (efficiently grouped with other local deliveries); and can rely on buses, trains and shared taxis to get anywhere. If you live in a market town or village, imagine the local school, hall or church has a full programme of films, touring theatre, livecasts, music and comedy; the car park hosts farmers’ and craft markets; the mobile library and NHS wellness clinic visit regularly; the local pub-restaurant has a top-class touring chef on some nights, and street-food vans on others.

Together, we need to create a vision of a future we actively want to strive for, and to enlist politicians’ assistance in enabling and delivering it – instead of demanding road upgrades and a continued freeze on fuel duty.

Will you help make 2020 the year ‘business-as-usual’ ends and a better future begins to take shape?

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 25 December 2019.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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