On Thursday, the UK government gave the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow, sparking fury amongst environmental pressure groups. Celebrities Emma Thomson and Alistair McGowan are amongst a group of people who have bought a one acre field on the edge of the village of Sipson, the area of the new runway, intending to sell off thousands of small parcels of the land to others who are similarly opposed to the scheme. It’s a clever ploy, but I imagine that compulsory purchase orders will soon sort out the problem for the government.
Emma Thomson was on Thursday’s lunch time news talking about this issue and, to use her word, is ‘incandescent’ with rage that the public are being treated like idiots. As she says, while we are being urged to go green by turning off appliances, walking instead of using the car for short journeys and recycling everything under the sun, our government gives the go-ahead for a scheme which, when fully operational, will make Heathrow the biggest single source of CO2 emissions in the UK.
She has a point, of course, although I’m not surprised by the hypocrisy shown. Governments in recent years have undergone a sudden evangelical awakening to environmental issues, jumping on the green bandwagon that now hurtles along at breakneck speed, sweeping up all but a few in its wake. It’s a terrific vote winner, in fact you daren’t be anything but ‘committed’ to green issues if you expect to be in government come the next round of elections. If I sound cynical as to their real motivation it’s because I am, and for good reason. When you really pay attention to what is going on under our very noses you realise that things are not quite as they should be. Those whom we entrust with our future certainly appear to be, at best, a bunch of idiots.
At the end of 2007, a UN summit was held to discuss ways of curbing climate change. It was held in Bali – a destination that would have required every one of the fifteen thousand delegates attending to fly hundreds, and in the majority of cases, thousands of miles to get to. If, for some magical reason, the task of organising this had been given to me, I might well have opted for a destination like Geneva, which many of those attending could have reached by environmentally friendlier train. I, however, would have overlooked an important fact – that Geneva, whilst being a very nice city, cannot compare to the heat, colour and sheer glamour of a south sea island.
Then there was the meeting of world leaders held last Summer to discuss the global food crisis – the ‘silent tsunami’ that has plunged an extra 100 million people into abject hunger and poverty. The meeting was held in Japan, over an 18 course gastronomic banquet, accompanied by champagne and wines flown in from Europe and the US (there go those unnecessary plane journeys again). I want to laugh at the irony of all this, but really it’s just not funny at all.
At home here in the UK we have been beaten over the head and fined until we comply by collecting, sorting and rinsing our recyclable waste. What has happened to it? It languishes in great piles in enormous warehouses. Reasons for this range from a lack of skilled staff to an inability to find companies to take it. (I suppose that now there is a glut of the stuff prices have fallen). Over half of it may end up in landfill, just as it used to, and our failure to meet targets means that Britain now faces EU fines of £180 million per year. If we were really serious about environmental matters, we’d get our act together, train or import staff from other European countries that are meeting targets and pay what it costs to recycle, because that price would ultimately be small in comparison to the cost to the planet.
You may think I’m overly cynical. I’d say I’m a realist.