“Rosamund: What do you think makes the English the way we are?
Violet: I don’t know. Opinions differ. Some say our history, but I blame the weather.”
The weather is a perennial obsession here at Highclere – and the certain uncertainty means at any planning meeting, John the Castle Manager immediately questions what is the wet weather plan? I might hardly have begun to sketch out my bright idea…
As a geographer, my husband would note that the UK is an island and thus close to the path of the polar front jet stream, there are often frequent changes in pressure which means unsettled weather is rather typical. Every day we may experience different fleeting moments of sunshine or cloud, warmth or cold eddies of wind and Geordie will remind me that the enchantment of spring blossom and flowers may yet go into a sudden reversal.
I have to remain undaunted and retain some optimism.
As a result, watching the weather is something of a national preoccupation in the UK and many of our TV weather forecasters are household names to whom we pay much attention: they are both scientists and seers. Added to this is our new worry for the environment.
Every month I hold a book club at Highclere and like all of you, the concerns and consequences of climate change are never far from my thoughts. Laura Tobin is a meteorologist and physicist who has written a book about how we can do our part for climate change: Every day ways to save the planet.
It is a very practical and readable book, one to keep by your bedside and it details what we can do to help in our everyday life from the food we eat, the clothes we wear and how we travel.
It is full of advice, facts, tips and suggestions on how each of us can live in a way which is more sustainable for the planet on which we live. From the outset it is about what each of us will gain, rather than about making sacrifices or finger pointing. Furthermore, many of the ideas are simple, free and some even save us money.
Why does it matter? It is the speed of change not just the change that is the problem though at least we are not in the position of the Marshall Islands which may have disappeared or have to be abandoned within 12 years.
Yet we cannot look away and Laura’s book explains why. Further away the Arctic is warming 2 to 3 times faster than elsewhere on earth which means that the ice shelves are melting and breaking up. The oceans matter as they cover 70 % of the world, absorb 25% of C02emissions and are responsible for producing 50% to 80% of the oxygen produced on earth. More C02 makes the oceans more acidic which in turn makes them less able to absorb the very CO2 that we need them to. If distant islands will be lost to rising sea levels, so too will parts of the Scilly Isles as well as other low-lying areas of the UK.
Trees absorb 30% of the CO2 but an area of forest the size of a football pitch is destroyed every SECOND. Consumption from goods we import “taxes” our world by 37% more than emissions from UK based products. Furthermore, 40% of UK emissions are from our homes so if everyone of us was only a little more efficient we could achieve 11% of our carbon emission target just by that alone.
Some of the points I gleaned from the book include:
Turn the thermostat down by 1 degree (save money); close the curtains; use LED’s; eat more vegetables and fruit (meat is more of a treat); plan meals and waste less as food waste accounts for 10% of global emissions;
If I turned my computers off at night, over a year it would save me money and stop me filling a double decker bus with CO2.
Transport in the UK accounts for 27% of emissions. 56% of car journeys are under five miles and 20% under 1 mile. Walking would be better for us physically and take cars off the road. I know I drive less and take the train where I can and walk in London rather than take the bus or tube.
Laura asks us all to Rethink, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Reduce, Rehome and Rot down (where appropriate) and she begins her book with a letter to her daughter Charlotte promising her that she will do what she can. I too hope to do what I can (promise) and have started to look at the little changes I could make in my life. If you have time, you might enjoy the podcast Laura and I made together and I know you would enjoy her book.
“Look after the land and the land will look after you, destroy the land and it will destroy you.” —Aboriginal Proverb