There’s still time … just
Just to clear up any confusion, this is not a site through which you can buy willow coffins, although booking one for the future might be a good idea. Instead, Green Willow is very much about living. It’s not a blog which sells eco-friendly cleaning or beauty products, neither does it disseminate hard core science. It’s an attempt to navigate, practically and emotionally, the strange territory in which we now find ourselves.
My friend Sue reckons Green Willow is bland and sissy, and I’d be better calling it The Gobby Eco-Bitch. She knows me well and has a point, but I chose the name to signify both resilience and sorrow. Plant a stick of green willow in Somerset and you’ll have a tree you can shape into all sorts of things in no time, like the Willow Cathedral in Taunton’s Longrun Meadow. Magic. At the same time, folklore is rich with stories in which the willow stands for sadness and loss.
And this is sort of what this blog is about…finding resilience and hope, turning despair into action. I’m trying to manage my own sorrow about what we have done to the planet, for surely, we were given Paradise, and look what we’ve done with it. Part of me wants to wrap myself in a duvet for the next twenty years and watch The Vicar of Dibley on repeat because the future feels so terrifying. But like many of you I have children and grandchildren, and the prospect of us all going to Hell in a handcart long term is unbearable.
Not only that, I’m so unspeakably angry about the way in which political leaders and multi-national corporations are failing to respond to this crisis, I want to fight bare-fisted and spitting until we see change. Hardly a week since the latest IPCC report informs us we have 12 years in which to turn the ship around, and climate change is a non-news item on TV and radio; the Conservative government announces that grants for new plug-in hybrids will be scrapped and discounts on all-electric cars will be cut by £1000, while fracking has resumed in Lancashire after a last ditch legal challenge with three environmental activists jailed for their protest. Fracking! What happened to renewables?
How naïve I was to think that this report might actually prompt a state of emergency in which all political parties came together with other world leaders to work out a war plan, implementing changes to the production and use of energy that, however inconvenient, will slow carbon emissions sufficiently to make a difference. Instead, Michael Gove failed to turn up at the European emergency meeting in Brussels sending his deputy instead.
Okay, rant over. I’m doing selective reporting and I don’t believe all politicians are crazed megalomaniacs. Economics is complicated. So is turning the big ship around. But really, can’t we do better than this?
So, what about the hope, you are thinking. Well, hope is part of the human condition and right now a green revolution, aided and abetted by social media, is taking place on an unprecedented scale. Organisations we might once have thought marginal – Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace – we are now turning to for guidance. All those jokes about hemp skirts and tree hugging and they were right all along. And although this is a global problem, we instinctively turn to Community as a means of action. As Rebecca Solnit writes, “Taking action is the best way to live in conditions of crisis and violation, for your spirit and your conscience as well as for society. It’s entirely compatible with grief and horror; you can work to elect climate heroes while being sad”.
Not long ago my daughter started up a local facebook group called Taunton Green Parents with a fellow mum, anticipating 20 members. They did it because they felt anxious about the future for their small children. Within a few days there were over 450 participants, sharing information on how to move towards zero waste and more sustainable living. This has been replicated in community groups all over the country. The Great Plastics Crisis has turned into a Great Plastics Campaign. People who have never seen themselves as activists have taken to the streets with placards. It’s heartening, it’s hopeful. It’s bloody wonderful.
As individuals, then, we are rising to the challenge. But it’s going to take more than that. I was in Northumberland when the IPCC report was released. To my shame, I went by air to Newcastle. It’s a lot to expect people to travel by train, or not travel at all, when flights are so cheap and rail travel is so expensive. We can’t expect to fight climate change on the backs of conscience alone. As Martin Lukacs says, “While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%.”
The only way we can fight this is through collective action and political engagement. The time for sitting on the fence, for not upsetting people, is over. If you don’t like what the current government is doing, harangue your MP. Find another party you think might do it better. Engage with their local representatives. Get involved. Start local. Make a nuisance of yourselves. There’s still time.