‘We may not have all the answers, but we’re hopeful’
George’s top five things that need to change
Claire, from Cambridgeshire, asks this:
What are the top five big things that urgently need to change to really make a difference; in policy, regulation, how money flows, in industry, agriculture…etc, and in what timescale?
1. Dethrone GDP as the measure of our well-being, and replace it with indicators whose optimisation does not require mass destruction.
2. Leave fossil fuels in the ground within 5 years, using a crash programme similar to the comprehensive retooling when the US entered the second world war, to replace them with low carbon alternatives.
3. Introduce a moratorium on new fossil-fuel dependent infrastructure.
4. Change farm subsidies to incentivise the retirement and rewilding of unproductive land, while encouraging a shift towards a plant-based diet.
5. Change the presumption permitting the exploitation of the seas: commercial fishing and other extractive activities should be permissible only under special licence, to be granted in exceptional circumstances.
Reader Harriet, 34, in Devon, says:
I think the school strikes are really inspirational. However, as adults we seem to be sitting back and allowing students to fight on our behalf. Would more pressure not be placed upon government policy if, for example, it was teachers themselves who were striking? How can we mobilise the adult population, which seems to be currently unwilling to face up to the reality of climate change?
Yes, I think there’s a lot to be said for adult strikes in this area. As long as we made it clear that we are following the lead of the young climate strikers, and not trying to make the movement ours. They are the leaders now, we are the followers. Where they want our help, we should be ready to provide it.
Hugh, 28, a reader in New Zealand, says:
I feel powerless to make any real change in regards to climate change. I do everything I can but ultimately I know that on a person to person basis these actions don’t make enough of a difference. What can I actually do to make any difference to the industrial scale pollution, destruction, or consumerism that are the main contributors?
As a consumer, you can make no appreciable difference, except in two areas: switching to a plant-based diet and changing your travel patterns (particularly cutting down/cutting out flights and cycling/walking/taking the bus rather than driving). In these two areas you can make a lot of difference. But you will make very little in seeking to buy a better kind of biscuit or cotton bud.
However, as a citizen, you can make a huge difference across all areas. Our struggles are primarily political, but we have been gulled into believing that we can win them by changing our buying choices. The media has put great effort into persuading us to see ourselves as consumers, not citizens. Don’t fall for it. Get political.
Reader Janette Ward asks a question related to some of George’s recent writing on cars:
How can we compel the government to stop building roads and invest in public transport? How can we change the culture of cars as a status symbol and ensure that people travel by public transport whenever possible?
This is a crucial issue, especially as, in rich nations like ours, transport has now become the top source of greenhouse gas emissions. Last week I called for a 90% cut in car use within a decade.
This might sound extreme, but it seems to me to be commensurate with the scale of the multiple crises cars are causing: climate breakdown, air pollution, resource use, use of space, domination of urban life etc. There’s a series of steps in any such process: think it, say it, debate it, campaign, change the system. There are lots of great organisations campaigning on these issues already. Join them.