Going for Green: Why a culture shift is needed to tackle the climate emergency

CHANGE doesn’t just happen overnight.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 11:35 am
The Portsmouth Climate Action Board believes a culture shift is needed to make real change to tackle the climate emergency. A view over Hayling Island looking SW over Langstone Harbour towards Portsmouth, Southsea and the Isle of Wight. Picture: Shaun Roster

And when it comes to adapting multiple areas of our lives to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly it is not expected that we can do this straight away.

Instead, the Portsmouth Climate Action Board is suggesting we need an overhaul in our culture and our way of thinking about climate change - so that it no longer has to be a conscious choice to do something that benefits the planet.

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The Portsmouth Climate Action Board believes a culture shift is needed to make real change to tackle the climate emergency, including how climate change is taught in schoools. Picture by Paul Raeburn

Alternatives to GDP to measure growth

One suggested way forward is to quantify the benefits that nature provides instead.Take a wooded area in a town: it absorbs carbon, prevents soil erosion, cleans the air of pollutants, reduces surface flooding, creates a habitat for much-needed pollinators and wildlife, raises nearby property prices, and increases our mental and physical health by providing somewhere calming and beautiful to exercise and relax, which reduces burdens on health services.These broader benefits are now being called natural capital or ecosystem services and can be given a monetary value, which is used to inform economic decisions.If someone wants to pull down the wood and build a shopping centre instead, the costs and losses to our health, well being and economy can be better quantified, or so the argument goes.Circular economicsInstead of a linear approach of extraction, manufacture, and disposal as waste, where the system rewards high consumption of short-lived, readily discarded goods, a circular economy would focus on designing products and processes that minimise the use of natural resources and build in the potential for repair and re-manufacture/reuse. It’s been estimated that this business model could generate four times more jobs than waste treatment, disposal and recycling.EducationForest primary schools are growing popularity and in 2017, an A-level qualification in environmental science was introduced for the first time.The purpose of the lessons would be to help children and teenagers develop a love and respect for the natural world and to better understand its central role in our prosperity, and survival.However, there is a growing movement of young people and parents that want the state to go further: they are asking for a radical overhaul of UK schooling so that:

- The climate emergency and ecological crisis are taught as key content in all subject areas, not just geography or science.

- Teachers are trained how to teach about these difficult topics sensitively and to be given the funding and resources to do this.

Going for Green

- Vocational courses include the green skills necessary to bring the UK to net-zero emissions by 2050 and make us world leaders in sustainable technologies

Fratton resident Sara Collins, who is the deputy chair of the Forest School, said: 'The Committee for Climate Change has recommended that the government should consider the wider role of the education system in supporting the transition to a net-zero economy and preparing for the risks of climate change – including the need for greater public awareness and understanding. Getting kids into nature would be a start.'Becoming a sharing community

Many items such as DIY tools, gardening equipment, sewing machines can be expensive in terms of resources to make them and the price to the consumer but may spend 90 per cent of the time unused and taking up space in house or garden. Sharing these items and sharing skills and unwanted possessions too, within the immediate neighbourhood, both conserves resources and builds community.

This approach makes even more sense in relation to cars. It would also improve congestion, air quality and carbon emissions. Car pools for school runs and lift shares for work commutes, or car club membership for shorter, less frequent journeys, would all save money, emissions, and space in the neighbourhood that could be used for other things.From driving to walking

The Portsmouth Climate Action Board believes a culture shift is needed to make real change to tackle the climate emergency, including swapping driving for walking and cycling. Pictured: Goldsmith Avenue, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire Picture: Malcolm Wells (191014-8331)

Many people now see driving as an essential part of life: and for some people it is and will remain so. The impacts of walk and cycling on physical health are well established but what about the impacts on our sense of place and belonging? For many these benefits have been felt during lockdown.

For years, Southsea resident Stephen Rose drove to his job in Whiteley most days, and couldn’t imagine living without his car. Now, due to the pandemic it’s a completely different story.

‘I‘ve only filled up my car once in the last year,’ said Stephen.

‘I get out to exercise every day, either for a bike ride in the morning or a run in the evening – it’s really important to me because my job is so sedentary. When I worked at the office I used to do walking meetings whenever I could, but it’s much harder to stay fit when you’re online all day.

The Portsmouth Climate Action Board believes a culture shift is needed to make real change to tackle the climate emergency, including choosing walking over driving. Picturerd: The junction of Anglesea Road and Park Road.

‘There were lots of roads I’d never been down before, even some quite close to home. My plan now is to have walked, run or cycled every street on the island by the end of the year.’

Rewilding

It’s probable that one in 10 species in this country, including a quarter of native mammals, are facing extinction and, shockingly, the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.

Locally there are two rewilding projects in the pipeline: restoration of what was once a thriving population of oysters and also replacing our native seagrass beds that have been decimated in the last century by dredging, and pollution.Tim Ferrero, from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: ‘The Solent’s internationally important and protected seagrass meadows provide a key role in our fight against climate change, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide in huge quantities. Seagrass meadows are one of the most efficient carbon-storing habitats on earth, performing better than tropical rainforests.

‘They also increase biodiversity and support species like sea bass, cuttlefish and spider crabs, providing feeding, breeding and nursery grounds. Add in their role in natural coastal protection, absorbing wave energy and helping to protect against the impact of sea level rise, restoring lost seagrass meadows would provide an incredible range of valuable ecosystem services and natural capital.’

Thinking about where we keep and spend our moneyThe choices we make as to where to keep and spend our money can have significant impacts.If you have spare money, consider Community Municipal Investments in infrastructure like solar farms. Or become an investor in initiatives to help small farmers grow food sustainably.

Many banks and pension funds continue to finance fossil fuel extraction despite the scientific consensus that we need to transition rapidly away from burning them.

One way to try to influence this behaviour is to switch your account to a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels or ecological destruction. Another measure that people are trying is to put pressure on pension funds to divest from fossil fuel stocks.

There is no doubt that in the year 2021 all of us have some concept of what the consequences of climate change are and could be.

But if anyone is unsure of how they can help to make a change you can refer to the Portsmouth Climate Action Board website, or consider any number of The News’ Going for Green pledges.