Daddy, What Did You Do?

Too often I have that uncomfortable feeling when I think about the environment, about how little I am doing in the pursuit of a lifestyle that does not drain the planet's resources.

This has been acerbated recently by my becoming a father. I'm not of course the first to say that becoming a parent changes your whole outlook on life. It's a common occurrence. You find yourself contemplating your place in the whole scheme of things. Thinking about those big old cogs slowly turning round.

Cogs, it would seem, that all too frequently and at great expense need oiling. And according to reports, oiling at the rate of around 85 billion barrels a day globally. It's a staggering statistic to take in. Numbers - and so many of them. So many that it's quite demoralising to even contemplate just what can be done.

And that's a key problem here. Presented with such figures, we're convinced that there is absolutely nothing that can be done to alter the behemoth of global industry. Rather than feel galvanised by scientific reports, it's a cruel irony that we descend back into inertia.

I can't think that there's a single person who isn't convinced that we're on a one way ride to an environmental catastrophe, yet trying to halt this just feels impossible. Trying to slam the brakes on by filling your water cistern with a plastic brick feels ludicrously na´ve and pointless.

Recycling the potato peelings from Sunday's roast cannot conceivably alter the trajectory of the potential disaster that is indeed, if not in our lifetimes, going to increasingly affect our children's.

Depressingly, Europe is increasingly being run for the benefit of multinationals, not its citizens. The government and these businesses must surely take more responibilty in helping people tackle climate change and environmental problems by getting the damaging products out of the shops. According to the government's own advisory body, the Sustainable Consumption Roundtable, consumers need to be able to buy green products and services far more easily.

These findings confirm what I think we already felt. They're preaching to the already converted. And if someone would just convert that car sitting in my drive, and at an affordable cost, I'd gladly get behind the wheel.

In a recent report the Roundtable stated that the government and businesses are currently waiting on consumers to choose more green products and services. Consumers are ready and willing to act on climate change and the environment, the report confirmed, but can't see the point, because they'd feel their efforts would be isolated and in vain. This says to me that the government is placing the onus on us, using the consumer as a scapegoat. This is just wrong.

Ed Mayo, co-chair of the Roundtable, said: "Going green can be smart and stylish. But it is not yet simple. We want to call the bluff of politicians, to take action to make the sustainable choice the easier choice."

This is concurrent with the views of the Green Party. Speaking to a spokesperson from their press office, they had this to say: "The government haven't created the right infrastructure to make it easy and obvious. Going green can mean a whole host of things; making sustainable choices about the food we eat, the energy we consume and the way in which we get to places. These activities are guided by rules and regulations that ultimately are decided on by politicians. Particular cause for concern would be our government's energy policy, looking to outmoded technologies like nuclear power and the same old fossil fuels for sustaining an over consumptive lifestyle that they are scared of curbing."

They added that buying fresh and locally sourced food would be a lot easier if the government used its legislative power to ensure small businesses and British farmers weren't squeezed out by massive corporations who fly in cheaper food, damaging both local economies and the environment in one fell swoop.

But is it entirely hopeless? Fortunately, this is not the case at all. They concluded: "We have a shrinking window of opportunity in which to act. But an opportunity to radically overhaul our economies and lifestyles should be seized upon as a positive challenge."

It's not entirely depressing by any means. There are indeed success stories which are directly down to a positive lead from businesses and the government. For example sustainable wood products, fair trade coffee, dolphin-friendly tuna, energy-efficient fridge freezers, washing machines and dishwashers; these are all welcome steps towards a more environmentally secure future.

But I'm wary of these successes. They tempt me back towards that inertia. Though of course they are positive, they are still very much isolated incidences.

And so I am no longer going to wait around for the politicians in Westminster to catch up and add some substance to their rhetoric. David Cameron's photo opportunity astride a pushbike was revoltingly patronising to me as a viewer. And as far back as January, 2003, the press revealed that Jack Straw had inadvertently let slip what we already knew; that the war in Iraq concerned oil and the further securing of oil supplies for the West.

Changing my lifestyle might feel nigh on redundant when I see news footage of another icecap melting and plunging into the sea. Replacing my lighting with energy saving light bulbs, putting that brick in the cistern and taking plastic bags with me when I go shopping may feel hopeless. And I know that single-handedly I won't be changing the world as I once thought I could, whilst a teenager with my meat-free diet and dressed in slogans.

But from now on I'll be able to do something that, as yet, no politician will be able to do when my daughter turns 18 and heads off into the world. If the politicians won't take responsibility for their own actions, I certainly will for mine, setting an example for my daughter to follow. Only then will I be able to look her straight in the eyes, my conscience clear, knowing I'd tried my best.


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