Blog Action Day - Climate Change
I can't say I'm much of an ecologist, although over the last few years I have - whether consciously or unconsciously - made changes in the way that I live to try to reduce not only what I consume of the earth's resources, but also the amount of waste I generate.
I have to confess that I hadn't really made a huge connection between what I as an individual do in my life and climate change. It wasn't until we had some severe wet weather in the UK in 2007 that was attributable to climate change that I actually gave any serious thought to the subject.
The northern hemisphere is getting warmer - of that there is no doubt. When I was a child in the Midlands the winters were severe. We had no central heating, just a single coal fire in the living room, so the bedroom windows would be frosted up on the inside every morning. Even 20 years ago I remember it snowing at Easter in the Peak District. But our winters have become milder. Conversely our summers have not become significantly hotter (although we did have a couple of hot ones four or five years back, but the last two or three summers have been just blah).
What can I do about it though? Isn't it all the fault of those big power stations in Eastern Europe, or heavy industry in China? It's nothing to do with me - right?
Wrong! I have to look at where I can reduce the resources I consume which contribute to greenhouse gases. I use my car far less often than I used to (largely because of the cost of petrol (£1.05 a litre - or around $7 a US gallon to Americans) but also because I've become aware of the wastefulness of using my car for a single journey. I try to do all my errands at once and to not make short journeys if I don't have to. Yesterday I forgot to buy butter on my way home, so instead of getting the car out and going back to the supermarket for a single item, I phoned a neighbour and asked her if she could let me have a little. The cost to the environment was nil - no petrol used, just a few steps to her door.
I've started eating more vegetarian food (although I do love meat), and to try to eat seasonal, local produce, if possible. I remember as a child that strawberries were such a treat, available for a few weeks in the summer and then no more for another year. But now I can buy them all year round, along with peaches, pineapples, asparagus, Fuji apples imported from China (when we have our own perfectly delicious Cox's Orange Pippins in season), and all sorts of other exotic tropical fruit and vegetables that were unheard of when I was a child. Everything is available, all the time. It might have been forced in a greenhouse and have no taste but the supermarkets are locked in this war for customers where they have to provide everything, all the time. Yes, it's great to have choice, but there is a price to pay for eating raspberries on Christmas Day.
The neighbour I mentioned above lives in a flat the same size as mine. She and her husband are in their 80s, and I know old people like their homes to be warm but - wow! - her flat last evening was stifling. She has electric heaters, and every single one was switched on, as well as an electric fire in the living room. I could hardly breathe. I'd guess the woman who lives in the flat above barely needs to use her heating because of the heat rising from Peggy's flat below. The UK still uses a vast amount of fossil fuel to generate electricity. Ugly though they may be, I'm a fan of wind farms. The wind is free, let's harness its power. Turn that heater off, put a sweater on!
These days when I use the oven, I try to cook several things at once. I have a microwave/convection oven that I use for small stuff rather than heat the big oven. Much of this is due to parsimony rather than any high-minded ideals about conservation or greenhouse gases, but the knock-on effect is that I, in some small way, am helping to slow down the big world warm-up.