A midsummer of change

When I explain what the local Jersey in Transition initiative is for, and what it’s part of, I get one of two reactions.

This column appeared in the Jersey Evening Post on 22 June 2017

T here are people who say, ‘Wow, yes! We need to change. What we are doing to the planet, to the land and to ourselves is so unhealthy and completely unsustainable.’ There are others who remain largely baffled. Why would we want to change everything? Surely things are fine the way they are. Maybe a few adjustments here and there… They’ll invent some amazing new technology and it’ll all be fine…

I’ve been having these conversations for decades, and I have to say that it’s getting a little easier.

I seem to meet fewer of the latter type now, and more of the first. It’s not just a young person/old person thing, or a woman/man split; I think there actually is a shift going on in the underlying mainstream narrative.

There certainly needs to be. If we are to meet atmospheric carbon budgets to limit global warming, sea level rise, and species extinction rates to anything like sensible figures we have a matter of years or a few decades at most to turn things around. The fish and other life in the sea are down to tiny fractions of what they were before we started polluting and dredging it to within an inch of its life. The soil that grows not just our food but the sustenance of every living creature of the land, is dead lifeless dust that cannot hold up under a summer thunderstorm let alone the current sixth mass extinction. Insect populations are down by a massive 80% in Europe since 1989. The air in St Helier’s streets and on our busy commuter hills is polluted to the point where none of us is safe — whether walking, cycling or driving, and certainly not in pushchairs — while 100,000 exhaust pipes pump out toxins.

It took our industrial society at least a couple of hundred years, some say up to 10,000 years, to get us into the current mess. Now we have at most 30 years to dismantle it. The rise of free-market consumerism, industrial globalism and profit-oriented exploitation has happened only once, and the task of putting it behind us and developing the replacement has fallen upon those alive today. I am glad that so many are now waking up to the responsibility on our shoulders.

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