36arn

Environment

Global Warming

Or anthropomorphic climate change, as some people call it. It's happening, it's obvious, and we've got to do something. The world's governments are too gutless to take the necessary action, at the risk of damaging the economy or upsetting rich capitalist donors.

It will be incredibly economically damaging to protect the world's major cities from sea-level rise. 36arn is 90m above sea-level, whereas The Houses of Parliament aren't. They are already talking about a new Thames Barrier at a cost of £20bn (almost certainly an underestimate). Bear in mind that a general hospital costs perhaps £50m - £100m to build. But what about the small island nations (who don't emit a huge amount of greenhouse gases) that will disappear completely if sea-level rises as predicted?

In the UK, the summer floods of 2007 (the worst ever recorded) and the searing temperatures across much of Europe illustrate some of the effects of a relatively small global temperature rise and the resulting atmospheric instability and shifting weather patterns. The winter of 2013/2014 has been the wettest on record, with several months of widespread flooding. In the UK, electrical storms used to be something that happened at the end of a typical 3-day British summer, but now they seem to occur almost all year round, due (I guess) to the increased heat energy in the atmosphere.

The Tory government seems determined to undermine investment in renewables whilst promoting non-conventional gas exploitation - fracking - and hence increasing the release of fossil carbon. In the absence of concerted government action to tackle the cause rather than the symptoms, we must all do our best and try to make a difference (perhaps by voting Green).

The IPCC report in March 2014 made it clear that we have to mitigate and we have to prepare, since the time for corrective action has passed. For how much longer will the world's governments prevaricate? Probably until the oil and gas runs out, unfortunately, by which time it will be too late.

Energy

Use less, it's as simple as that. Switch things off, keep doors closed, boil only the water you need for a hot drink, run washing machines and dishwashers fully laden. We now have a solar hot water system which helps reduce our gas consumption - although because of a lack of subsidy in the UK, it will take a very long time to pay for itself.

Here's something that annoys me: retailers leaving the doors of their shops open, even in the coldest weather. For example, I've seen shops in Malvern with their doors open in temperatures below -5C. Even worse, they usually have a hot air "curtain" on the inside, pumping even more heat onto the street. This is a ridiculous waste of energy, ultimately paid for through increased prices. I have started boycotting those shops, so please support the Close the Door campaign.

Transport

The inhabitants of 36arn own 3 cars between us, which is frankly not great. However, my car is driven for under 15,000km every year, and I walk or cycle wherever possible. I try to reduce air miles too, for example by avoiding non-European wine - why ship a bottle of wine 18,000km when France, Spain and Italy make perfectly drinkable wine at comparable prices? A recent report claimed that "local" milk from a major supermarket had travelled several hundred miles before it arrived on the shelves. Madness.

I'm not keen on the concept of biofuels - being allergic to pollen and horrible yellow fields. The hybrid car (e.g. Toyota Prius) is a fairly useless invention; they don't offer much gain in the way of economy (in fact none, compared to a modern, clean diesel). Also, obtaining the constituent materials for the batteries (lithium, nickel etc) is not an environmentally friendly process. Regenerative braking and hybrid transmission are great ideas for saving fuel. Ultimately though, you have to charge the thing up using green energy to make a real difference. Keep the fossil fuels for emergencies only!

Public transport in the UK is not great, and British people seem to expect public transport to run from their front door to their required destination - and if it doesn't, then they use their car. It's a cultural thing. Ultimately, people need to travel less. Simple. The UK has an increasingly good broadband network infrastructure and many people could and should work from home to reduce transport emissions (although this does increase home energy use).

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The UK will soon run out of big holes in which to dump rubbish. The UK lags a long way behind many other European countries when it comes to recycling. Why is this? Perhaps it is because we are too lazy. Those of you over 40 years old may remember the time when milk was delivered to your home in reusable glass bottles, by electric vehicle. Perhaps you even remember taking your empty glass lemonade bottle back to the shop to reclaim your deposit. Where did it all go wrong?

My local council operates a recycling facility. It's on the edge of town, and you have to drive to get there. Worse, at weekends you usually have to queue (with your engine running) to get in. Worse still, the layout is dire: if you want to recycle some glass, say, once you've done that you have to queue past the main skips in order to get out again. Madness. Fortunately, door-step recycling has improved recently, with the adoption of lovely green wheelie bins accepting a wider range of types of waste.

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle and Refuse. That is, refuse to accept things like excess packaging, pointless air miles, or 3 for 2 offers when you only want or need two. I think the fourth R is a great idea.

So what do you do if you can't recycle something you no longer want? You can sell it on eBay... it's amazing what people will pay money for. You can also give it away to a good cause. We've have given away quite a lot of things via Freecycle and Gumtree; it's a great idea.

GM Food

I don't like GM food. I remember when strawberries looked awful and tasted wonderful. Alas, food is now mass produced (cheaply) and is engineered for looks and shelf life. Buy local, buy organic, buy seasonal. At 36arn, we pay more, but we walk to the local shops to buy our food, rather than waste a couple of quid on fuel. We don't need genetic modification; we just need common sense and a healthy non-processed diet.

Unfortunately, global food production may soon be unable to match demand, due to climate change and increasing populations. Perhaps then, the solution is to genetically engineer crops to make then more tolerant to the extremes of climate; but not simply to make more money for the agro-chemical companies. I sincerely hope this doesn't become a necessity, and I will continue to buy local, organic, and seasonal whenever possible.

Nuclear Power

I don't like it. It's dangerous (Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, increasing stockpiles of spent waste), expensive, and a security risk in a world which is increasingly threatened by lunatic zealots. Hinkley Point (if it goes ahead) will be a huge burden on the UK electricity bill payer for decades to come. It will then become an enormous burden to the UK tax payer when it has to be decommissioned. On top of that, the profits will largely go to the French and Chinese. There are viable alternatives to supply our base load - tidal lagoons, barrages, and increasing deployment of hydro - together with deployment of domestic solar, smart meters and better demand planning is a better solution. We must move to renewables, and nuclear fission is not the answer (nuclear fusion might be the answer, if it can be made to work economically before we fry the planet).