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.