By Catherine Ross.
For a long time, it felt like caring about the environment was something a bit weird … a bit alternative. Not something you would talk about at parties, let alone in boardrooms.
But recently, it feels like something is changing; in the last year environmental concerns have become mainstream in a way they haven’t been in my memory.
Why? Three things: money, air, and plastic. Three of the basics of our modern lives.
With money, it is the growing awareness of climate risk. Just this week, we see the World Economic Forum in Davos (hardly sandal-wearing vegan lefties) list environmental risks as 3 of the top 5 global risks in their Global Risks Survey. They are telling us that the top 5 global risks include extreme weather events, natural disasters, and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Companies around the world are starting to pay significant attention to the issue of climate risk, both in their business models and in their investments. Extreme weather events are estimated to have caused a total of $306 billion in damage in the United States last year, making 2017 the most expensive year on record for natural disasters. New York City is divesting of around $5 billion of fossil fuels from it’s investments and meantime suing big oil for their part in climate change. The Norwegian trillion dollar sovereign wealth fund is dumping its oil and gas holdings. They believe doing this will make the country’s wealth “less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices”.
Interested in hearing more on this issue? Come to our “Sustainable Money: Climate Risk and Investment” event during Sustainable St Albans Week : Tuesday 24th April, 7:30pm at Trinity United Reformed Church, Beaconsfield Road, St Albans, AL1 3RD. There will be speakers from CCLA, S&P Global, and Christian Aid.
With air, it’s about the poor quality of the air we breath and it’s impacting on our health. According to the UN, some 7 million premature deaths are linked to poor quality air every year worldwide. The number of early deaths in the UK resulting from toxic air could be as high as 40,000 a year. Recent studies link poor air quality to mental health and even to suicide rates.
In St Albans, we’re conscious of the issues around the district, in spots like the Pea Hen junction. Tests have revealed air pollutants at places in St Albans that exceed EU limits. Both St Albans Friends of the Earth and the Green Party have been running local campaigns. St Albans Council has been encouraging us to take practical action by turning off our engines when we can, with their anti-idling campaign.
Interested in hearing more on this issue? There will be sessions on air quality and what you can do to help at the Know How Festival, the final event of Sustainable St Albans Week: Sunday 29th April, drop-in 10am-4pm at Fleetville Junior School, 228 Hatfield Rd, St Albans AL1 4LW.
And with plastic, of course we have seen the “Blue Planet effect”. This powerful programme has brought right into our living rooms the issue of plastic waste damaging the world’s beautiful oceans and amazing wildlife. People are increasingly asking, “why are we taking such a precious commodity as oil, turning it into single-use items like straws and coffee cups, and then throwing it away?” Blue Planet II has shown us that there is no “away”. Just this morning, we hear that the coral reefs are entangled in plastic.
Recently, there has been real progress. The EU has “declared war” on plastic waste. The rapid rise of the fabulous #RefusetheStraw campaign, including locally in St Albans and Harpenden, has seen the ditching of straws by chains like Weatherspoons and Wagamamas. Pret a Manger have doubled the discount for bringing your own cup.
Around nine billion fewer plastic bags have been used in England since the 5p tax was introduced. Will it soon become as strange to get a disposable coffee cup as it now is to get a plastic bag?
Interested in hearing more on this issue? Come to the launch of Plastic Free St Albans during Sustainable St Albans Week at the Plastic-free Picnic: Sunday 22nd April, 12-2pm in Highfield Park, or at the film screening of A Plastic Ocean at The Odyssey, London Road on Sunday 22nd April in the evening – hopefully with a panel and discussion about how we can reduce single use plastics.
During Sustainable St Albans Week, well over a hundred local organisations will be showing that they care about the environmental by running events and activities. Schools, community groups, faith groups, and local businesses will all be taking part. You can take part; join our mailing list today and look out for the SustWeek18 programme from mid-March, online and at many locations around the district. And let’s make talking about the climate just as normal as talking about the weather.