As we get into the New Year proper, we take a quick look at what the challenges and opportunities are, and what we could collectively do about it.
The floods over Christmas reminded us once again just how precarious our environment can be at times. Climate change almost certainly means that events like these will become more frequent over the coming years and the resources and resilience of local communities will be tested to the full.
Globally, air pollution has been called a worldwide ‘public health emergency’ with millions estimated to die each year. Scientists have also advised us that we are entering the sixth great extinction of animal species with the extinction rate estimated to be 100 times higher in the 20th century than it would have been without man’s impact.
So, after the disappointment and failure of previous climate meetings, the world looked towards Paris COP21 at the end of 2015, to at least give us a glimmer of hope. And, to a certain extent, it did. Although some will argue that it didn’t give us enough hope.
Most scientists believe that the plan, to keep global temperatures to no more than 2c, ideally 1.5c, has the potential to work. Whether it will is a completely different matter.
Despite what was signed and agreed upon in Paris by a government who briefly tried to convince us it would be the ‘greenest ever’, our government have continued to cut away at renewables whilst offering further financial support for the fossil fuel industry. Solar subsidies have been slashed, potentially wiping out over half of all solar industry jobs in one go, whilst at the same time dramatically increasing the subsidies given to the fossil fuels. It’s not been a good start.
But, if the future success of the Paris agreement remain uncertain there is one thing that we can guarantee and that is, if we leave climate action to others, then Paris will also turn into failure. And it will simply be left to us to explain to our children and grandchildren that we potentially had the chance but failed take it.
So, it is clear from Paris that there is a lot we can and should do – individually, locally, nationally and internationally. And what is becoming clearer is the vital role that community led grassroots action will play in this.
Transition New Mills was set up in a few years ago and our focus, as ever, is looking after our shared natural and environmental resources, reducing our energy needs and carbon emissions, supporting appropriate jobs and resources and strengthening community involvement, creativity, confidence and pride in the Town.
2015 was a very productive year for us;
- we led the incredibly successful balsam bashing project as we continue to aim for a balsam free New Mills thus allowing native species to bloom once again,
- we’ve collaborated with Thornsett School in the planting of hundreds of new trees on the Derby Road playing fields,
- worked on a County-wide campaign to try and convince Derbyshire County Council to divest pension funds out of the fossil fuel industry,
- collaborated with Moors For The Future in offering vital bumblebee survey training around Kinder,
- looked into the viability of a community energy project,
- actively lobbied local MP, Andrew Bingham, and delivered a letter and petition regarding the recent Paris talks – we will keep up the pressure on him!
- sent a series of green questions to all of our local parliamentary hopefuls before the General Election,
- promoted local ventures such as ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’ and Torrside Brewery as well as raising awareness about local and not so local green issues.
It’s been a busy year!
This year, we plan to build upon this; an Incredible Edible type project in New Mills, looking into the viability of a High Peak food hub and exploring the idea of a ‘Freshers’ Fair’ type event for community groups in New Mills.
Are these things that you would like to help set up or support? But what about transport? What about recycling? What about a community energy project? How can we support our local high street?
Interested? We need as many people as possible to get involved in Transition New Mills because this is your project, your chance to help shape your town and our future. So, we are also going to make it even easier to become a supporter of Transition New Mills this year, and it‘ll only cost you as much as you want to give – more details as we approach our AGM in late spring / early summer.
Paris showed us once and for all that the cavalry may never come. But what happens if we decide that we are the cavalry? If enough people do, we can make a real impact. So, join us. Join us in trying to create a future whose viability can no longer be ignored. Join us and together we can see just where this may take us.
Three of us from Transition New Mills (Jane Ayres, Sue Cooper and Rick Seccombe) met with Andrew Bingham on 12th December 2015.
We handed him 38 letters, most of which had been signed by constituents during a street leafleting session in New Mills on 28th November. Additional letters were sent by email.
We had a wide ranging discussion with him. We urged him to use his influence to support the government in taking a lead in ensuring that UK greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to keep global temperature rise within 2 degrees.
We suggested that immediate strategies would include the expansion of renewable energy production and the reduction of energy consumption through a massive insulation programme and a tightening of environmental regulations on household appliances.
We said that the priority was to massively reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and that government was in a position to take a lead on this and that it was not enough just to educate people of the need to individually have a lower carbon footprint. One example we gave was the need to make air travel a less attractive means of travel rather than more attractive through building more runways.
Andrew Bingham confirmed in a letter that he thought that climate change was one of the most serious threats that the country and the world faces and he believes that the UK is taking a leading role on the world stage in the fight against climate change.
Lobbying by members of Transition New Mills and Sustainable Hayfield seems to be encouraging an interest in green issues so we encourage further engagement and recommend booking a slot at his surgery.
His contact details and surgery sessions are on his website http://www.andrewbingham.org.uk/
Let us know how you get on!
The governments of more than 190 nations gather in Paris in late November to discuss a global agreement on climate change.
Scientists have warned that unless greenhouse gas emissions start to fall, we will exceed a temperature rise of 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Above this rise, global warming will become catastrophic and irreversible.
However, the UK and other nations with the biggest greenhouse gas emissions are likely to make commitments in Paris that will not be enough to keep the temperature rise within 2 degrees.
We have joined with Sustainable Hayfield in sending letters to our MP, Andrew Bingham, asking him to use his influence in parliament to work towards implementing a greater reduction in CO2 emissions in the UK and a transition from fossil fuels to renewables
Please sign our letter and send or email it to him by 10th December 2015.
If you would like to sign an online petition on this issue you can do so here
We will be in New Mills town centre, on the Prom and in The Torrs Butterfly Café between 10:30 and 12:00 on Saturday 28th November, to ask people to contact Andrew Bingham. If you can help at all with handing out leaflets or staffing the stall, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
There will also be a party going to the Climate Summit event in Sheffield on Saturday afternoon – meet at New Mills Central Station for the 12:17 train.
My guess is that if you’re reading this, you will be only too aware of the crisis we face from global warming. I’m sure you are also only too conscious that, whilst there has been plenty of talk from politicians and businesses, little has been done on a national or global scale to stop or reverse climate change. It looks like we are reaching a point of no return. It’s difficult to give a precise day, month or even year when that will happen (it may even have happened already) but the science suggests that it is around now.
And if humanity (that’s us!) doesn’t do something very radical almost immediately, things are likely to get very unpleasant indeed.
If you have any doubts at all about the depths of the problem and the urgency of the task, you could invest around 20 minutes watching this video by Prof Kevin Anderson speaking at a conference in Manchester: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KumLH9kOpOI
The science is impeccable but the message is still (unfortunately) rarely heard, or if it is heard, easily dismissed because of the way the media usually presents it.
We have a very small window of opportunity.
Planning is underway for a major international day of action on 21 September to coincide with an invitation from the UN Secretary General to world leaders in New York to discuss action on climate change.
Apparently, almost all of them are coming. This meeting will set the stage either for urgent action commensurate with the problem or more empty declarations. It is our best moment to set the agenda for years to come.
If we fill the streets across the world that weekend we could literally make history. Think the anti-Iraq war demo but with a different outcome. This time the issue is about something that will personally affect most of us. I believe we have to at least try to make a difference.
If you can, please consider joining the planned demo in London and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Click here to make the pledge to come: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/join_to_change_everything/?tsTWjdb