Tomorrow is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (at 04:19 on Sunday 22 December, UK time).
The winter solstice, also known as midwinter, occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. The winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest in the sky.
At this pivotal time of year, in the Southern hemisphere, Australia is literally on fire, Africa is experiencing severe drought and Chile has a mega drought, from which it may not recover.
I write this journal in the context of a failed Chile COP25, hastily moved to Madrid because of citizen led demonstrations in Santiago (Citizens are demonstrating for the basic human right to water and food). Meanwhile children as young at 13 years old are being threatened with arrest in Australia, for simply asking for a liveable future. It feels as if we have indeed reached dark dystopian times.
My feet are firmly rooted in this reality. I will not look away from these unprecedented crimes; the consequences of years of inaction and disinformation on Global warming /greenhouse emissions.
It sometimes feels like my heart cannot break any more. But I am here both to acknowledge the reality of the escalating Climate crisis AND to illuminate a clear pathway to minimise and reduce further suffering. The tension between these two can be very challenging. But by raising our consciousness, i believe we can unite as a global force for good.
My individual net carbon zero journal is a very personal journey; my inglorious mistakes and human failings are recorded in the small details of my daily consumption. I am an imperfect prototype. However my struggles with carbon intensive gas heating, mobile phones, food cravings, transport, data, emails, repairing /buying stuff on net carbon zero are hopefully mundane enough to resonate with many global citizens.
I am rapidly changing my value system. It’s not ‘cheap’ if it blows my / our carbon budget.
When I see a car driven a mile down the road, in congested traffic, I know that journey uses up 2.2Kg of my entire daily budget of 2.7Kg carbon. When a friend eagerly tells me about their cheap holiday to India, I know that just in one week they have used up more than my yearly one tonne per year carbon budget. (I also know that many global citizens are already living on or below One Tonne of carbon per year).
I value the food that I buy from my local farmers market and the farmers who grow it. We cannot take for granted a healthy supply of food when unpredictable climate related weather conditions are already affecting crop yields. And clean water supplies are under stress.
We often chat about how the food is produced. I welcome the nibbled frilly mustard greens grown by Nigel because I know the soil is alive! He refuses to use pesticides and chemicals that kill the bugs. In fact he knows that keeping his hands in the living earth means he never gets ill.
Do I /we need to get into the details of individual lifestyle choices when the cry is for system change?
We cannot easily separate the consumer from the corporation. They are fundamentally intwined. Every consumption sends a message to produce more. And has a consequence for our living planet,
Q: How can can we minimise our carbon footprint NOW?
A: There are multiple ways in which we can cut back on our carbon footprint right now, with intelligent, informed choices.
Cycle and walk whenever possible. Choose public transport rather than cars. Go flight free. Stop buying airfreighted food. Buy local, seasonal, organic food where possible for healthy nutritional content. Grow your own (carbon freebies) Minimise meat, cheese, egg consumption. Reduce heating to the recommended World Health Organisation 18/19C and put on warm clothes (unless you are a pensioner)
Minimise mobile phone calls on 3G 4G. Communicate by text. Minimise the high carbon footprint of emails, Don’t watch video on demand / streaming on 3G 4G (hopefully we never get to 5G) watch on broadband / wifi. Don’t buy anything new you don’t really need. Buy new with quality and longevity in mind. Or better still buy pre-used, Start mapping a pathway to net zero carbon in your home, work and local community.
Q. And what needs to be put in place to enable a net carbon zero lifestyle at a system /Government level?
A. Safe Cycling and walking infrastructure that can be used for the majority of journeys within 5 miles radius. Car free towns, cities and villages. A national cycling network that is safe enough for families to travel between cities/ towns / villages. Accessible food growing /allotments and local farmer markets. Technical and financial help with decarbonising current building stock. Retraining and core basic income to support the rapid transition. A supportive, engaged and knowledgeable local community
Expansive ambition rather than reductive dead ends.