Of all of the thousands of issues, problems, ideas, lobbying, briefings, discussions, which fill up an MP’s life, I am increasingly focussing on the environment- in the widest sense of that rather over-used word. Where we live - and what we pass on to future generations - is something which we can truly do something about. In that it stands in contrast to the economy, health, law and order, where what we do tends to be tinkering at the margins rather than making fundamental change. In contrast, almost every aspect of Government policy, and personal habit, can have direct and immediate effects on the environment, local, national and international. What we do really matters, and we are have the power in our hands to make real changes.
At the most local level, there is so much we can all do. We don’t have to live in a tip. I always love visiting (and fighting for) the many mobile home parks we have in this area. Their homes and gardens are always immaculate. The owners have true pride in their environment, which often stands in stark contrast to some much bigger or more affluent homes and gardens, which quite frankly can sometimes be a thorough mess. And the amount of litter on our roadsides and streets is an absolute disgrace. Why people find it necessary to dump their plastic bottles and take-away wrappings and empty their cars of all kinds of rubbish on the green verges is beyond me.
Then we must use the planning system better to ensure that we get the homes and businesses which we need locally. But we must not give in to the developers who would, if they could, cover us in concrete from Swindon to Bristol, from Marlborough to Badminton. North Wiltshire is a green and pleasant place - beautiful countryside with charming villages and small market towns nestled in its folds. That is why we live here. It is our duty to keep it that way.
Nationally we are at last waking up to the terrible damage which our over-use of plastic does both to our own countryside, to beaches and to rivers, and of course we now know (thanks to the great Sir David Attenborough), to whales, albatrosses and seals throughout the world. It was announced this week that the level of plastics in the Arctic and Antarctic, including within the ice itself, has grown exponentially in recent years. We can make a difference to all of that- and the supermarkets and coffee shops must be forced to make sure that we do. I salute the Iceland chain in particular who have announced the end to all plastic packaging, and hope that we will all follow suit. Wet wipes, cotton buds, plastic stirring devices – all are unnecessary and are clogging up our seas.
And Globally, I have seen for myself at both North and South Poles, what an effect CO2 emissions are having on the ice. The Arctic and Greenland ice is disappearing at an alarming rate, and the dark seas and land left behind when it melts absorbs the sun’s rays rather than reflecting them as ice does, accelerating global warming still further. We must redouble our efforts to reduce our ’carbon footprint’- again something which governments can enforce, but which is down to each of us as individuals to do everything we can to make it happen.
So alongside my longstanding interest in defence and foreign affairs, I am becoming more and more involved in environmental matters in the House of Commons. I am glad to serve on the No 10 advisory group on green campaigns, and my role as Chairman of the All Party Group for the Polar Regions gives me ever-expanding opportunities to do what I can.
We inherited this world from our ancestors. It is all of our duty to do what we can to hand it on in better shape that we got it.