Wednesday 16 October 2019

Pláinéad amháin

One Planet [ta-daaa L]! There is no spare, no back-up. We've been fucking it over for the last 200 years since the Brits, and then everyone else, started digging coal out of the ground and converting it to carbon dioxide to make individual entrepreneurs spectacularly rich and supplying people with things they didn't realise they needed: gravy-boats; knives, forks and spoons for everyone in the family . . . and guests (no need to bring your own spoon); cast-iron, wrought-iron then steel bridges; skyscrapers; concrete bridges and roadways; billions of nails, safety-pins, screws. Later on it was hula-hoops; cuff-links; one-use water bottles; paper tissues; "disposable" diapers designed to last forever in land-fill.

In any society, even in Bhutan, someone rises to the top: by accident of birth; by election in representative democracy; by bloody coup; by promotion from apparatchik to chairman of the praesidium of the supreme soviet Президиум Верховного Совета. Those people are Leaders but, In Ireland at least, we no longer expect them to lead; for many years we know that our government will be craven in the face of adversity, incapable of doing anything bloody, bold or resolute in a crisis. We have a choice of two centre-right main parties which blame each other for the unpretty pass we have come to and an pathetic in thinking beyond the next election - where they will have to please everyone to win enough seats to get re-elected. Thus Paschal "Craven" Donohoe, the Finance Minister, having failed to put any increase on the carbon tax for budget 2019 last year has now put an additional €6/tonne on fuel . . . deferred till May next year for home heating oil. 6€/tonne is less than 2c/lt for unleaded and diesel. It's a token because far too many voters love their cars far too much to be offended by a painful increase in their fuel taxes. One of the points of taxation is to change behaviour to better serve the community - it's not only about raising revenue, Paschal.

On Tuesday 8th October, I was down in the next county, at the second annual plenary session of the PPN [Public Participation Network]. I don't only go to these things for the cocktail sausages afterwards; I'm also there for the cocktail party chatter and networking. One of the consequences of getting old is that I no longer hide in the t'ilets but wade in to talk to randomers to see what they do - heck, you never know how they might be interesting or useful or both. The theme of the meeting was Sustainable Communities and the PPN praesidium had arranged two separate speakers and a panel to discuss the subject. The first talk was about Bee Aware and the All Ireland Pollination Plan. It was astonishing to me that someone can have a job as liaison for this vital aspect of the future of farming [no bees; no apples, no oranges, no almonds] and be quite shameless about knowing no science. Quite apart from the fact that the All Ireland Pollination Plan is barely aspirational, let alone articulated and implemented. The second talk was about Sustainable Energy Communities. When we came back to Ireland 30 years ago The Beloved worked in fuel poverty, sustainable energy and domestic energy efficiency. Nearly 1 million homes have been built in the Republic since then, with a barely perceptible nod towards insulation or fuel efficiency: just fire up the boiler, lads! Retro-fitting is so much more expensive. At least the speaker was competent and on top of his data, even if the story was so distressingly short-sighted.

We were left with a panel discussion, the most useful part of which was a "speed-dating" session where each invited panellist was invited to name one thing that would make a difference to our planet in these "interesting" times.

  • Damn single use water bottles: make them illegal, or tax them up the wazzo so that their 'convenience'becomes painful
  • press windfall, part bug-eaten?, apples into juice
    • make ponds for invertebrates
    • damn wet-wipes: make them illegal, or tax them up the wazzo so that their 'convenience' becomes painful
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate
    • LED lights have a smaller footprint
  • luv your daisies Bellis perennis; mow the lawn less often; feed the bees (all same thing)
  • Greener cleaning products

You can see that some people are incapable of focussing on one big thing. cf Fox and Hedgehog. My friend and neighbour Mary White, who secured the last seat in the constituency for the Green Party in the 2007 general election, affirmed that in minority politics you can only hope to achieve one thing while in office. As a county councillor she sponsored a bye-law making recreational quad-bikes illegal on the uplands of the county. I guess she reckoned that the balance between pain and political gain among her fellow councillors would allow her that much of her green agenda. If she pitched higher she might get nothing.

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