Earth Notes: Direycast - I'm All Right Jack (2021-08-28)Updated 2021-11-14.
Hi, I'm Damon Hart-Davis, and welcome to Earth Notes' podcast on all things eco and green and efficient @Home!
28th August 2021.It's dire: a lament to all those out there who think it's up to everyone else but them to help fix climate change, driven by three separate communications today...
(So this is a Dire-y-cast rather than a diarycast, but if a pun isn't the lowest form of heat where are we?)
I came back from a few days away from home to (amongst other things) two emails from friends on green-blocking obstinacy and a piece in New Scientist with the quote:... Natural England’s research reveals that, despite widespread concern about biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, the proportion of people willing to accept changes to their lifestyle to protect the environment is low — just 1 in 6 — and has hardly budged in the decade the agency has been asking the question.
One of the personal emails I caught up on this morning, sent by a trader friend from the City and before, noted (lightly edited):
... we have a [famous financial institution] trader chat that has been going since before the US Election last year.
I did pose the question —Would you be willing to stop flying to help climate change?
Given the prolific amount of flying nearly all these guys do (not just themselves — whole families as well) there were no volunteers.
Apart from me! — who said —if Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos were willing to give up their portfolio of 15 seater private jets and annual 100,000 - 200,000 air miles — I would be willing to follow and not fly at all.
It's difficult to know what the really frequent flyers (a few percent of flyers are responsible for a huge chunk of the emissions) are getting from it other than willy waving, ie status.
The other email that struck home was from a friend nearby who is being frustrated trying to improve the energy efficiency of his home, in a borough that has acknowledged the climate change emergency.
He said:... [the] more general point is that there is no clear and easy route for people to gain permission to insulate their homes. Feels like a significant blocker to people doing what needs to be done.
This sort of improvement, being done sensitively to the look of the property, should be like pushing on an open door, not wading through treacle.
In a note to a (helpful) councillor he said (again, edited):
... I’ve been trying to get permission for many months now to fit external wall insulation to the side and rear of our house. Coupled with a number of other improvements (including internal wall insulation at the front), this would allow us to significantly improve the efficiency of our house and allow us to stop using fossil fuels. Although expensive, seems like the right thing to do.
The process to gain permission has been very unclear and my application was twice returned to me on technicalities. After several months it has been rejected because the appearance of the house will change. The front view from the street will be unchanged, but the side and rear will change from brick to painted render. Many houses on the street are already rendered, so I fail to understand the decision.
Fitting a fake brick finish is an option, but it is expensive, has a higher embedded carbon, and in my view would look worse than render - you can tell it is fake.
Part of the problem is that it has not been possible to talk to anyone in the planning office. Everything is by correspondence and replies from them tend to follow what appears to be a pre-defined format, never really answering my questions. It’s extremely frustrating.
Climate scientists are saying that we need to stop using gas very soon, which requires us to insulate our homes properly. It seems clear to me that we need councils to put in place a simple and cheap process to allow this to happen that only rejects applications for very good reasons. My experience with the planning office leaves me feeling that we have little hope.
Any help you could provide would be hugely welcomed. My application is pretty insignificant in the scheme of things, but if it is this difficult for everyone, I can’t see any significant improvements being made.
When someone is willing, careful and has the money, and is one of the 1-in-6 showing some altruism, why are we getting in their way?
There's more on my "Earth Notes" Web site at Earth.Org.UK.