Why is it that human beings are the only creatures on the planet who knowingly and intentionally poison ourselves? Alcohol, tobacco, drugs - we know they are fatally bad for us, yet we keep on using them.
The same foolhardiness allows us to wreck the very planet we live on- not only for ourselves but (perhaps more importantly) for future generations. It will be good to see Greta Thunberg (nearly an anagram of Attenborough) in the West this weekend, and I applaud the way she has stirred up the young to protest about the dramatic Climate Change crisis facing us all. I went to the Royal Geographical Society on Monday to attend a lecture by local lad Sir David Hempleman-Adams. He was the first person to sail round the North Pole in one Season. The Northeast and Northwest passages are now so ice-free that his boat, Northabout, achieved in a few months a journey which used to take many years, and cost many lives (Franklin et al). David complained that “I couldn’t find enough ice for a gin and tonic”. Evidence enough?
We must not panic over Coronovirus any more than we do over the common cold or influenza. But unlike them it seems to have been caused by an unnatural relationship with animals- a disgusting market in Wuhan where rare animals like Pangolins are kept in squalid conditions and then slaughtered for their supposedly magical qualities.
One by-product of Climate Change - downpours – is exacerbated by our very efforts to control the resulting flooding. Flood barriers upstream merely result in water moving ever faster downstream to find a place where there are no such barriers. Flood plains, on which we are now so cheerfully building houses were the traditional way of managing winter floods and enriching the meadows at the same time. Ironic how many letters I receive about flooding come from addresses such as “Water Meadows Close, Duck Lane, Frog Avenue, Marsh Farm” and the like. And incidentally, I am not at all sure that the PM turning up for a photo-shoot at some tragically flooded town necessarily helps anyone; indeed it may well hamper clean-up operations through the necessary fuss and security measures associated with all such visits. The newly-appointed Secretary of State, George Eustice is the man with the responsibility and expertise to deal with it.
The people of Royal Wootton Bassett have (perfectly correctly) been complaining about the awful smell emanating from the Thomas Crapper landfill site alongside the M-4. I raised it with Wilts Council and the Environment Agency, visited the site to see for myself, and this week spoke about it during a debate in the House of Commons. Richard Crapper knows my view- expressed in no uncertain terms - and they are doing what they can to correct the smell when the weather allows them to do so. Yet we should not forget that it is OUR rubbish. We still produce vast quantities of it, and have very little regard where it lands up. 280,000 tonnes of local waste arrives at the Crapper site every year. They have done great work in recycling two thirds of that, with only 95,000 tons going into landfill. And now they have ambitious plans to reduce that even further by developing an energy from waste plant, using the electricity to grow fruit and veg for local people. Crapper are to be applauded, not blamed. We are all the ones to blame for our careless use of the planet’s natural resources and throwing so much of it away.
Climate Change, Coronovirus, Flooding, Landfill – all are products of our carelessness. Only we ourselves can now put right what we and previous generations have got wrong. The Environment Bill which had its (unopposed) Second Reading in Parliament this week will help. But it is up to each and every one of us in our everyday lives to make it work.