A Tale of Two Rivers

My August Bank Holiday weekend camp of choice was Greenbelt this year, as I had been invited to contribute to a workshop on campaign activism entitled “Hatching a plot” :-

http://www.greenbelt.org.uk

Greenbelt is a Christian arts festival, and draws creatives from across the world, people often on the very wild, grassy edge of the main churches. Over the last few years it has developed a really green flavour, in great measure due to the work of Jerry and Sue Barr and the EcoCongregation movement :-

http://www.ecocongregation.org

A child stood up on the last Greenbelt stage yesterday evening, and when asked what he thought was the most common luxury item people had brought to the camp, he said “a car”. Ah, the truth. Greenbelt does need to work on its car boot footprint.

I still feel an oddity for travelling to Cheltenham Spa, the festival town, by train and then getting about by bicycle. I counted less than a dozen bikes on site all weekend, and there were more than 20,000 people there.

I went for a walk along the River Severn in Gloucestershire this morning with a close relative, after the festival was over. We went to visit Odda’s Chapel, a Saxon place of worship built nearly a thousand years ago. It is very close to the river.

Close by the chapel is the main walkway North to Tewkesbury, on raised ground, because this is a flood plain. In 2007, my relative explained, this whole area was flooded, and even now some of the local buildings are still awaiting building contractors to become available to effect repairs. People lived in caravans for some time. Some houses have had their paths and doors raised in order to avoid further inundation.

Outside Odda’s Chapel is a water gauge. The chapel itself is built on a mound, and can probably survive the next twenty years of flooding, (because there will be more floods, some perhaps worse than 2007). But I don’t know if some of the local people will be able to remain in their homes. The chapel may become inaccessible by road in time.

Later in the day, I walked along the Thames from Waterloo Station to the Tate Modern Gallery for the launch of the 10:10 campaign :-

http://www.1010uk.org

I was thinking about how the whole of the vibrant walkable South Bank could become unpassable in thirty years’ time. I wondered if people would still come here to relax and entertain themselves, perhaps by boat among the abandoned buildings.

All the great and the good were at the 10:10 launch. Many people I know from other environmental campaigns : a few people up from Climate Camp, Tim Helweg-Larsen from the Public Interest Research Centre, Guy Shrubsole, also from PIRC, Alex the DJ, Dave Hampton the Carbon Coach, Chris Church of London 21, Jim Scott of Save our World. Tamsin Ormond who had been at Greenbelt came up to 10:10 too :-

http://vimeo.com/6347102

At the 10:10 launch, Franny Armstrong was humble, serious and yet welcoming. She asked Chris Rapley of the Science Museum and Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian newspaper onto the platform to address the milling crowds. They spoke, boringly, mumblingly.

I’ve spent the last few years cutting out things from my Energy usage. I no longer iron. I don’t use a hairdryer. I have the thermostat down to 18 degrees C. I don’t buy stuff unless I need it. I re-use and buy from charity shops. I only heat the room I’m in. I only use the washing machine once a week. I don’t vacuum very often. I cook several meals at one time. I gave up flying. I don’t own a car. I’m AV – almost vegan. How am I going to reduce my Carbon Emissions further ?

I signed up to the 10:10 pledge to cut my emissions by 10% during 2010, and I got my little neck decoration made out of dead aeroplane, but I’m wondering what I can do to fulfil my commitment : it has to be making fleece curtains for winter for my home, and doing some airtightness checking.

A campaign is only ever as good as the people who sign up to it. The public relations nature of the 10:10 launch was excellent. Many people, organisations and sectors of business and society had been roped in. But will they all do what they promised ? Are they able ?

We are asked to join in with yet another environmental campaign. The very same people attend the launch event. The usual suspects. How can it go wider ? I have seen thousands of people over the last few days, all busy with their lives, clearly not paying attention. To be honest, I felt very tired by it all.

I had been considering going to Climate Camp for its last evening, but I felt deflated and just wanted to go home to bed :-

http://www.climatecamp.org.uk

I met a Climate Camper at a bus stop on my way back to Waterloo train station. He was wearing a large sticker that said “Shut Down the Tar Sands”, as he had just taken part in a direct action against BP at the National Portrait Gallery.

http://www.ienearth.org/cits

I asked him about the mood at Climate Camp and he was impressed by how peaceful and friendly it was. We discussed the 10:10 campaign. We discussed the science behind George Monbiot’s article from The Guardian today. “Carbon rationing”, he said “that’s the way it’s going.” I agreed, because I don’t see Carbon Trading or Carbon Taxation working.

Later, on the train back home, I glanced over the shoulder of a young man reading today’s print version of The Guardian. He had just turned to George Monbiot’s article. “Be very afraid”, I advised. After he had read the article, we talked a while. I told him I had read the Meinshausen research paper George mentions.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/01/global-warming-emissions-fossil-fuels

The young co-traveller asked if he should sign up to the 10:10 campaign. I agreed. I said I was supporting the campaign, but I wasn’t sure how effective it could be, as only a very small portion of the population would take part. We exchanged views about how the general population just doesn’t care. How very difficult it is to show the Government that a significant proportion of the population back Carbon cuts.

I suggested it is nearly time for big top-down interventions. Although we do still need to make our own efforts (even if nobody else will). I told him I was fed up trying to convert people to good environmental behaviour, and that I am uncomfortable with being asked to do that, as it is preachy. He said he was going to start cycle commuting tomorrow and that he was excited about that. I was very happy to hear it.

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