We Go Now Live To The Historic Battlefront…

Where just last week what has been hailed as one of the most monumental global agreements in history was made… but we maybe can’t relax just yet.

COP 21 is now concluded &, it would seem, the fate of our planet decided. By and large, people seem happy that we have achieved what was set out to do: To agree to a less than 2ºC temperature rise (above pre-industrial levels), by reducing our emissions, phasing out fossil fuels, wealthy, developed nations giving $100Billion to developing nations by 2020 to help them do that, and the nice establishment of a 5-year-review where everyone can get together to see how we’re doing. Hurrah!

Main-stream media seems very happy with it all. Politicians seem very happy with it all. Even 50% of the organisers of the Global Climate MarchAvaaz.org – seem happy, saying in a recent email to members that “We did it!… World leaders at the UN climate talks have just set a landmark goal that can save everything we love!
The other 50% of the GCM organisers, 350.org, seem somewhat less thrilled by the result of these talks:

And I think quite rightly so because, as much as it may be great to make this deal and have the world on board… it is still a slightly inadequate deal – mostly in the gross lack of actual targets, and that none of it is legally binding – and there’s still a huge amount of work to be done. The simple fact that the UN have agreed and produced a very vague document about it doesn’t mean that the rest of us can turn to each other and say “Wehey, that’s that then!” dust off our hands and clock-off.

For the last year, momentum has been building up for this to be huge. We knew it was going to be tough, but there was the hope that, with sufficient preparation, the world would be able to pull something together that was appreciably ambitious. Though even Barack Obama is noted as having optimistically called the very notion of agreement ‘ambitious‘. Throughout all that there was hope, and with this hope I (and countless others) watched COP21 unfold, as they steadily drafted out reems of proposals, identified disagreements and sought remedies. But, thanks to The Guardian’s live feed of the events, I was able to pinpoint the moment when the wind was taken from my sails, and the vectors of my face & palm converged…

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It was the moment the actual targets were removed from the draft. The moment apathy set in, and the points of contention – like how much reductions we were going to commit to, or by when – were, instead of decided upon, simply removed and left as fluff. I know scientists who say this is a good thing, that if we had a target of, say, 50% reduction it’d be interpreted as an excuse to still emit a full 50%… but I honestly disagree. Do we really think such lenience won’t be taken advantage of? It’s like choosing not to say to your child “You can have only have half of this chocolate bar” because you think they’ll only have 2 squares if you keep schtup.
And to make it worse, this is all voluntary anyway. No countries are under any obligation to actually do anything! At least they all agree now that something has to be done.

Of course, such dissatisfaction can be taken too far, and this is where my sympathy for activists breaks down. While it’s important that The People exercise their power, certain types of activism do ring with a bit of small-man syndrome, disguised as disestablishmentarianism. For example, I don’t agree with the message in this video by New Internationalist that the only way forward is to take the power from the hands of the corporations.

Like it or not, corporations pretty much are the developed world. They are huge, almightily powerful and influential – even to our governments. It’s something I’ve been discussing with students over my One Man Climate March – we need the phasing-out of fossil fuels but by investment in something else. Do you think we could continue to function if we just cut out all fossil fuels right now? No, absolutely not as our way of life – that we all fight for and, to certain extents, deserve – depend on that too much. Similarly, our society is made and managed by corporations; we can’t get rid of them. What we DO need to do is to help/incense corporations to change the ways they do what they do, to make the world a better place. As we know, they have huge amounts of power and money; they are better equipped than any of us impoverished eco-warriors to change the world right now.
In light of COP21, the head of Europe’s coal lobby spat his dummy out and declared that the coal industry is going to be ‘hated and vilified like slave-traders‘ now.
(“Well, Duh?” was my first thought on that)
But I seriously do wonder why these companies – who currently supply our power through one means or another – don’t just commit to continuing to do so in a cleaner way! We, the customers, don’t necessarily love them because they give us coal, it’s because ultimately they power our homes. And if they complain about loss-of-jobs – what, you think wind-turbines just grow on trees? Or couldn’t stand any improvements?? It’s a lucrative sector, get in there!

I was happy that, smack in the middle of COP21, a huge forum was also held – 2 whole days devoted to presenting sustainable solutions – the 6th Sustainable Innovation Forum. Check out their YouTube channel for what they talked about. Unfortunately this year this became a target of anti-corporate activism, and now there’s great contention around how much elements of this forum can be classified as ‘greenwashing’ for big corporations. So that bit was kind of a mess.

But, ambitious as myself and my eco-peers may be, it’s still apparently very difficult to change the world. I mean, yes, it very much is, but that’s no reason not to try. There’s huge things to consider, almost infinite ramifications of our actions, and always more people & livelihoods to consider, but the answers are out there. But still, here’s a clip of David Cameron practising telling his grand-children that it was just too difficult:

“…No-one is being asked to pre-ordain what that [5-yearly] review would say…
No-one is being asked to sign-up for automatic decreases in their carbon emissions…” 
Mr Cameron says in this pre-COP speech.

Umm, YES, Mr Cameron, that’s almost exactly – word-for-word – what we were asking you to do.

But apparently it is difficult. Apparently it is going to be a hard-slog to kick this habit – but no-one (apart from Mr Cameron there) ever said it was going to be easy. The closest thing any expert has ever got to saying it’ll be easy, is saying it’s going to be easier now than it will in the future. And we’re all going to have to pitch-in.

So that’s what I implore of you all. This is a very big issue, and we have some very big opinions on it. We have some very big hinderances to our efforts, but biggest of all is just our griping about it. Please, can we just get over ourselves and get on with the task in hand. Focus on how to make the world better, and DO SOMETHING about it, rather than distracting yourself on how it’ll be hard, or miserable, because if you do, you’ll be right.

A year ago Prince Ea released this beautiful video that, I think (hope), had the same intended message behind it as Mr Cameron’s before the UN. But from Prince Ea it was much better delivered, and is still resoundingly true today.

And if you don’t think enough has been done… if you want something to do… Then follow Prince Ea’s advice, offset your carbon with Stand For Trees, or with Saving Species. Take pride in the world that you are a part of, and consume less, eat less meat – particularly beef. Help prevent fracking. Share happiness and unity and pride and hope and empowerment. Let this impact your life now so that it will impact others less – and less badly – in the future. Act in such ways that you can take pride in the impact that your life has on this world. And if you ever think that not enough is being done, that is your opportunity to do something more.

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We Marched Through London & I Met Bill Oddie

Humanity is at a pivotal point in our history. The Earth, including all known life in the universe, is at a similarly pivotal point as a result. Attention-hungry as all the petty human conflicts right now may be, I’m actually talking about climate change and the COP 21 conference of world-leaders that’s going on right now. That’s a big deal, and last Sunday as many as 70,000 people took to the streets of London to show quite how big a deal we think it is.

One of the things I loved most about the London Global Climate March was the unity that came in the throngs of slightly rain-dampened people – all 70,000 of them in London, and all 785,000 around the world. All there for a common cause, and a common good. All there to show that they’re willing to stand up to protect our world, and show our leaders that we’re willing to support an encourage them in making this world a better place.

And that nice element of ‘support’ is remarkable, as there was also a very strong trend among the speakers & public that the last twenty COP conferences have been… somewhat unsatisfactory. We were reminded at the finish line by three inspirational young girls from Children Against Global Warming that so far, in supposedly getting together to tackle the biggest threat ever faced by mankind, the world’s leaders have accomplished “NOTHING”. So in short – these people who give a shit about the future of the planet, they’re nice, forgiving people.

But a huge highlight of the march for me was meeting the great Bill Oddie. Apart from being an all-round wildlife-lover & enthusiast, Bill is probably best-known for bi-annually enthralling the British public with our own wonderful wildlife via Spring Watch and Autumn Watch. I can also report that he’s one of the most lovely people there’s ever been.

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We ended up chatting for a good half-an-hour about what a great event this was, and his years of both entertaining and inspiring the British public. Throughout his career Bill’s become established as somewhat of an expert on wildlife, and so it was great to be standing with him as we addressed our world leaders. An over-riding theme of the day that developed was the notion that, for quite some time now, our leaders have taken the environment somewhat for granted, and failed to represent the voices of the masses and the real experts.

“The principle to me,” Bill told me, “that really really matters, is that the politicians and the people who make the policies – in cahoots with big businesses etc. etc. – have got to start accepting that they don’t necessarily know best.”

Furthermore, he described the long-standing trend in environmental policy from our government in this country to be filled with “Great Ignorance and Arrogance”.

The attitude of the march was not one of fear, but of faith. Though at the same time, I think everyone there would have called themselves a realist as we all appreciated that the world is in danger, and things could still go very very wrong. We were there to support our world leaders, but couldn’t go without remembering that they have let us down so far… so it was with a modicum of fear in our hearts we were asking them not to do that again.

Bill was warily optimistic of the outcome of this COP21, stating “The tragic thing, if you can imagine all of these politicians getting together over the net couple of days…  if they can look at marches like this, gatherings like this, protests like this… if they can dismiss those, then we really are in big trouble.”

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Could they dismiss this?

But almost worryingly, this march has received very little by way of media coverage – though that’s even from The Guardian, and they organised the event! And sadly that’s despite a remarkably good speech from Jeremy Corbyn, and some wonderful words from Francesca Martinez – this event transcended your standard shouty activism.

Unfortunately most of the coverage of the Global March was focussed around the failed Paris March, at which those who gathered were forcibly removed/arrested – due to the recent, terror-induced ban on demonstrations in the city. Nicely that event has now been replaced by a vigil of shoes to commemorate the lost march, but we’re still waiting to see if the waves of change that were hoped from this event will amount to any more than ripples of disappointment.

Whether you were there at a Global March or not, you have not spent your chance to get involved with the COP21 conference & change the future of the planet. You can still put into action, in your own life, the changes that are being called for – to divest from fossil fuels, support renewables, eat less meat & generally practise compassion and consideration. Directly show your support by Tweeting your leader. And me, I’m off on my own, One Man Climate March.

My One Man Climate March

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COP 21 is just around the corner, and to environmentalists, scientists and people who think life on Earth is OK, that’s a big deal. Essentially, our world-leaders are coming together to decide the fate of the world as we know it. Over the 2-weeks build up to COP21, starting on 28th November, everyone else is banding together in a huge global effort called the Global Climate March – in association with 350.org and Avaaz.org – taking to the streets to show support for the world’s leaders in their thousands, and reassuring us that there are a huge number of people out there passionately committed to saving the world.

In the build-up to COP21, I’m doing things a little differently and undertaking my own One Man Climate March. Something that I’ve learned in the last few years of conservation & environmental management is that the world is facing some serious threats right now, and that actually doing what’s needed to be done about that is very very difficult. Saving the world is going to be about a lot more than blustery promises and lower emissions. About a lot more than shouted protests and activism. It can only be done by properly understanding the issues and finding great solutions to them. My One Man Climate March will tell that lesser-known part of the story.

With jungle-grown anecdotes, loop-hole-laden legislation and a strong dose of environmental fanaticism, I’m going to be visiting schools, sharing my experiences and  engaging students in debates all over Nottinghamshire and beyond. And together we’ll be standing with our world-leaders, understanding what needs to be done, and changing the fate of the world.

The Tipping Point

Who works best under pressure? Were you one of those kids who’d put off their homework, procrastinte until the last possible minute – or even pull all-nighters because you just feel that you work better under pressure? You’re not alone.

Have you noticed how for a really long time now it’s seemed like that’s exactly what we’re doing with climate change? We’ve known since the 70’s that we’re seriously messing up the world and that – at some point in the future – we’d have to deal with the consequences & sort it out. The last decade or has seen numerous (largely failed) attempts to address the climate issue on a global scale – just take the ambitious belly-flop of the Kyoto agreement. We’ve had countless warnings, heard innumerous scientists and politicians say the time to act is now, that we really need to address this… and then they’ve largely gone back to *metaphorically* checking their Facebook.

Have you also ever noticed how people only seem to really care about shit once it’s hit the fan?  Things go: Inaction. Inaction. Inaction. Inaction. HUGE SUDDEN ACTION! (There’s actually a phenomenon within ecosystems like this, known as “Alternate Stable States” involving a sudden switch at the breach of a critical threshold, but today I’m talking about human behaviour.)
Well there might just be a reason for this.

Throughout human history, as we’ve gone about learning, taking examples from each other, trying to work out how to be and ultimately forming ourselves and culture, we have had one remarkable and treasured ability: to tell stories. You may be shocked to learn that, as a species we’ve actually only ever had one story, but, a bit like the 4-chord song, we’ve repeatedly just dressed it up a bit. One of my heroes, a guy-cum-science-communication-guru called Randy Olson (author of Houston, We Have A Narrative), reveals this in his book titled Connection.
This one, fundamental story of the human race is yours to play with for free in The Connection StoryMaker app, and it goes like this:


“In an ‘ordinary’ world, a ‘flawed’ protagonist gets their life upended when a catalytic event happens. After taking stock, the hero commits to action. But when stakes get raised, the hero must learn the lesson in order to stop the antagonist, so the hero can achieve their goal.”


Simple, right? Pause & think about it… yep, every story you’ve ever heard (the ones worth hearing anyway) has followed that pattern. Now let’s fit it to one of the stories that we’re collectively struggling to tell, and see how it goes: this is the story of Climate Change.


In an ordinary world... (that’s ‘the world’ in this case; doesn’t get more ordinary than that)
A flawed Protagonist… (that’s you, and the rest of the human race)
…get’s their life upended when a catalytic event happens. (it’s discovered & announced to the world that we’ve kinda messed it up, & fossil fuels etc. need to go).
After taking stock… (>97% of the world’s scientists agree the shit’s well en-route to the fan)
…Our hero commits to action. (Kyoto is attempted, things are said and vague assertions made. World leaders agree “we need to do something about this”.)

But when stakes get raised… (umm, hang on… nope. Things are still the same as how they were two steps ago, right?)

And herein lies the problem. Our stakes have not, yet, in any single remarkable event, been raised. Threats are still the same as those they’ve been warning us about for ages. We have not yet collectively felt the kick up our arses, had the ground taken out from beneath us, that tells our instinctive human brains that it’s now actually time for serious action. And to make it worse, we may not even believe that we can achieve our goal (or want to try to) until we’ve had the wind knocked out of us & we really have to fight for it. The story would lose quality if the hero were to win at stage 5, if they just went for their goal & achieved it. It would fail to satisfy.

But the reality of it is that the stakes have been raised, are rising, and will continue to rise, and the longer we let them harder the antagonist that is climate change is going to hit us. In our version of the classic story, we’re at the point where the Death Star is within range of Dantouine. Neo is about to open a door to see Agent Smith. Scar is about to tell Simba that he killed Mufassa. Jesus is about to be betrayed by Judas. Peter La Fleur is about to meet White Goodman in his hotel room… I could go on…

In fact I will go on. The Nazi’s are about to take France. Nelson Mandella is about to be imprisoned. Lance Armstrong is about to be diagnosed with brain, lung & testicular cancer, all at the same time. Malala Yousafzai is about to be shot in the head.
(And, back to movies and just to make things worse, in how many disaster-movies is there a Scientist who’s lengthily ignored yet ultimately gets to say “I told you this would happen”? )

The scary thing is that this could be really bad news for life on this planet. Though no Martyr ever died in vain… I just hope that we don’t need too big a martyr. I hope we don’t need to see too many climate refugees, to see too many species go extinct by collapsing  home-ranges before we take the hit & say enough is enough.

But could we have reached that tipping point?
This last week has been a week-long celebration of the new UN Global Goals – 17 things that we’re striving for as a global community to make the world a better place. World leaders have come together, and in remarkable turns of events have committed to changing what we do, and how we do it, and that includes our impact on the climate & natural world. On 17 different points, the UN have said “Enough of this shit. We’re gonna fix this!” And they might actually mean it this time.

The US and China have made radical deals on reducing emissions already. To a country like the UK, which was recently bumped-off the top-10 renewables ranking by China, the stakes could have been raised to levels of Global ridicule – if not blame – if we don’t get our act together & fiercely become sustainable.

Like a shroud pulled from your eyes, let this be the shock and the wake-up call you need to raise your game. With this slap in the face, let the immortal words “What have I/we become?” slip through your lips, and then suit-up. Learn the lessons that need to be learned, and rise victorious. You may even get the girl & ride off into the sunset, if you do it right.

#GlobalGoals

The Week That Could Change The World

By Guest-Author, Marine Biologist Beth Francis.

Tomorrow, September 25th 2015, is a big day. It’s the day on which 193 leaders from across the globe will meet at the United Nations in New York City, to officially adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda introduces 17 global goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals or the Global Goals, and these 17 goals aim to build upon the eight Millennium Development Goals of the year 2000, to help end extreme poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. September 26th will be the start of a week-long effort to get these Goals seen by all 7 Billion people on this planet.

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The 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

I for one am thrilled to see that some of issues closest to my heart are addressed by the UN in these global goals. While I can’t believe that we live in a world where the need for gender equality still has to be written down as a target to be achieved over the next 15 years, the success of the Millennium Development Goals, reported by the UN in July, gives me confidence that by setting these goals and targets, real steps will be taken to achieve them. I hope that we will see similar successes to the 45% decline in maternal mortality since the last time goals like this were set.

As a firm believer in the important links between humanitarian and environmental causes, I was pleased to see that alongside the poverty and equality concerns, “Life Below Water” was highlighted as one of the main global issues we are currently facing and that the UN has set out ten targets to improve the ways in which we use (and abuse) the oceans. But are these enough? The announcement of these Global Goals comes just days after a report by WWF concluded that the populations of marine fish, mammals, birds and reptiles have declined by half in the last 45 years.

Upon reading these targets, I was desperately hoping for a clear way in which we are going to act globally to save the world’s oceans which face such varied and increasing threats. I wanted to know exactly how the UN plans to, for example, end Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by 2020, when all actions thus far have fallen short. Since the 1990’s the UN has drawn up several regulations aimed at controlling IUU fishing, such as the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, yet IUU fishing is still rampant. Will this target finally lead to enforceable regulations on fishing?

Other targets, such as the aim to protect at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020, seem to simply echo previous targets. Target 11 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets laid out by the 2011 meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity already set the aim of 10% of marine and coastal habitats being protected by 2020 (revising a previous target date of 2012), yet as of right now, just 2.12% is protected. Both the current figure and the UN 2020 target fall well below the 30% needed to preserve biodiversity, as recommended by the 2014 World Parks Congress.

The targets set out under this Global Goal, seem to me a strange combination of ambitious and timid, of vague and constrained, yet what I have realised in researching this article is that raising these issues is one of the most powerful things we can do. The simple fact that the UN has identified the need to set these targets and been ambitious in its aims to protect the seas, I believe, is part of a huge step forwards from the old-school attitudes of “plenty more fish in the sea”.

Highlighting the challenges that we face on a world stage really does have the potential to encourage huge global progress, so could this be the week that changes the world? I hope that these goals provide the foundations from which we can hold governments and businesses accountable against all of these global targets, as well as ourselves as individuals, and use this opportunity to work to create a better future.

So, what can you do? TELL EVERYONE! The real power in these development goals is to inform and inspire people across the world to work together and make the world a better place. So read, learn and share. I will leave you with this video from Professor Stephen Hawking who speaks eloquently about quite how important these goals are. As he says “the time to act is now”.

#GlobalGoals