Exhausted after seven days of doing up the house and garden, we drove our little used car from our tiny high street. The verges of the country lanes burst with blue forget-me-nots, white daises, cow parsley, pink campion, yellow buttercups and they put us in holiday mood, a state many have felt during lockdown. Horses galloped across sunny fields. The roads rolling across the coastal ridges were devoid of the cars of second home owners and all the traffic generated by cafes, pubs and the great variety of things tempting people when they have free time. It was like being in rural France where the local economy lacks stimulation, empty, sad.
The exciting wealth of mini-enterprises everywhere, something you only see in arty corners of the wealthiest French settlements - the coast, the famous cities…, are closed. Will they ever rise up again? What will this corona-destroyed world so stimulating and alive two months ago look like two months hence?
Nature, it is certain, has gained, but for how long? Will we now strive to return to the world we once had, the place where money flowed in all directions? Or for the next decade will England be like rural France, sad, empty towns? A million English have lost their jobs... France again. Money is scarce in this recently healthy local economy, there’s a food bank three hundred metres from this house. Yes, here. Here where the World’s first mechanised flight took off in 1848, where famous brands are made in small factories tucked out of sight in the backstreets.
Nature has sighed, but as we regenerate will we be able to retain this more sustainable balance with the wild life surrounding us? Desperate “To get back to normal”, how will we react to Climate Change, that big elephant in the sky which coronavirus has shoved from our attention? Even before that little recognised flight in 1848, our little country burst with technological invention, but we’ve given away almost all our ideas. Take giant windmills, invented and made here, but now made in their millions elsewhere. Yet inventors continue to thrive….
Three days horse-ride from where I write, one solution has been ignored for a decade - ten hydrogen powered busses have been carrying passengers through busy city streets without any problems. Gallop your horse further up the country and you’ll find two factories producing systems which will enable hydrogen transport to be widely used and the entire power chain relies on wind farms. How brilliant is that. And a stiff trot from here, a whizkid has created a climatisation programme popular with large office blocks - it factors in issues such as wind, sunshine and internal temperature generated by clumps of works to adjust, in real time, internal energy use. This simple (yet complex) solution is saving vast amounts energy. Then there’s the person who has worked out air flow around houses to regulate temperature and save huge amounts of energy. Annually, world-wide our homes consume as much as our cars, as much as a single long-haul flight.
Within our field of activity, we are each capable of finding small ways of saving energy. In 1993 I devoted a volume of the widely read environmental education magazine I created and edited to simple things teachers could do, such as switching off lights as they left a room and this ploy had its avid followers. Parents began complaining that their children were telling them what to do to save energy, I remember one person snarling, “Lights! Leaving them all on makes for a brighter, happier house!” What happened to all that effort we put in over a decade via articles, punchy activities, street events, intellectual as well as practical conferences, campaigns of all sorts and more? It kick-started nationwide action, but those sustainable ideas were soon forgotten by most.
As we unlock, where ever we are in the world let’s remember our duty to the environment. We are not separate from nature, what we each do now has an impact on those birds we have enjoyed hearing due to the diminished traffic. In each country we can create a new economy based on environmental, sustainable industry. It will create millions of jobs, jobs which are worthwhile for they will be saving the Planet. When we shop, we should buy with sensitivity to the destructive chain of activity most industrial systems generate and select things which create the least impact.
Yes, I know I’ve written this before, but we have now seen what a lighter life can be like and we’ve liked it, so let’s ensure the world we rebuild is wiser, more sensitive, more sustainable.