Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Quick fixes

A helicopter is bearing down on me, not 100 feet above my head! The noise is deafening. From below is slung a large bag bulging and swinging worryingly. The helicopter now turns and deposits its load just behind our house on the mountain side and without a pause returns to the far mountain from where it came to be loaded up once more.

It does this time and time again. A never ending circuit, that’s been going on for at least the last 3-4 hours.

The heavy cargoes suspended below the helicopters are stones, slates and rocks; they are being dropped in massive canvas bags on the popular mountain path above us. Later National Park wardens will lay these to strengthen the path, make it safe and mitigate the effects of severe path erosion from the hundreds of tourists and walkers who climb here every week. It is particularly busy (although not today, obviously) as it forms part of the increasingly  popular  ‘coast to coast ‘ long distance path that allows you to walk across the UK at one of its narrowest points through some of our loveliest scenery.

This work in progress is the local ‘fix-the-fells’ programme in action. It’s now our turn. The money to pay for this needy work is raised by voluntary donation, partly an optional £1 per night levy on hotel guests in the area.

It makes me think that many must be aware of the possibility of environmental damage and are prepared to share some responsibility, however small, when they come to such a beautiful but pressured place. Surely the principle extends further, and we have responsibility for many other actions in our lives, not just on holiday. The challenge which fix the fells has cracked is to make that responsibility real and secondly to make a way of contributing practical and easy to do. This is what green24 is helping to do as well. Help all of us to see our responsibilities and also show us ways of dealing with the consequences. Big business has long been in the frame and can always do more but it is a responsibility of each and every one to be involved at an individual level.

If we don’t we will soon find that delightful places that we all take for granted will no longer be so accessible or pleasant and other elements of our environment will give way just as fast.

David Jackman

Jubilee weekend

In the UK and across the Commonwealth, we are celebrating the Queen’s 60-year reign. In our village we are having a big lunch, races for the children, the service of thanksgiving and a drama performance. The highlight will be the lighting of beacons across the mountains which will be visible from miles away!

In London of course, there will be a pageant of over 1000 boats on the river, a procession and a concert starring, amongst others, Paul McCartney, Jesse J, Take That and Tom Jones (an event that I am sure the Queen will enjoy!)

It is good to have moments to mark the passing of time and to reflect.  If you look back over this second Elizabethan age, so much has changed. I recall my parents telling me that they, like many others, bought their first television to watch the coronation, now many will be watching the jubilee online. Many have enjoyed relative prosperity, while for others, inequalities seem to have increased.  Mass consumption has placed great pressure on resources; we have been labelled a throwaway generation. We have reached the Moon, but managed to confuse the climate. 

How much have we actually ‘grown up’ in the last 60 years? Are we more responsible, or just taking anything on offer? I’d like to think that we have in recent decades been able to think beyond ourselves, and nation, and to have some responsibility for the wider community and environment. We are more equipped to deal with complex and interconnected problems, and have achieved great progress in combating poverty and the abuse of human rights, although there is still much to be done.

Sustainable development is a great expression of this progress and shows how having an eye to the common good can be achieved without creating havoc in economic terms. The emergence of public support for sustainability shows that individuals and companies are getting involved without top down direction. However, the green agenda needs to expand in order to reflect and engage with wider interests involving social progress. The emergence and continuation of sustainable development is an important initiative that should be implemented during what will hopefully be many more years of Elizabethan reign.
David Jackman

Gardens by the Bay

It’s surprising the assumptions we make sometimes. Recently, I was lecturing to a group of young professionals and asked how many of them knew what sustainability was. Incredibly none had a clue. The closest we got was the sustainability of a business in financial terms, not exactly what I had in mind.

Maybe it is different terminology. It seemed that while sustainable development was not a familiar term, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was. But they are not the same in most accepted definitions and the environmental angle of sustainability need not be prominent in CSR.

This apparent gap in mutual understanding is all the more surprising as it is in Singapore, a first world developed state, where everyone talks about the weather and climate change is openly accepted as the reason for the quirks experienced here, such as the lack of rain in the last two weeks! So the symptoms are familiar enough and being ‘green’ is commonly discussed. And to cap it all, this is a country that is about to open its spectacular ‘Gardens by the Bay’, a recreated tropical paradise, in the heart of the city. This Asian version of the UK’s Eden Project is designed to bring awareness of the balances of nature into a rapidly growing and teeming hub of urban living.

What was evident, when we had explained each other’s versions of ‘green’ was the absence of a sense that there was much that any individual or company could usefully do, or any strong sense of responsibility. This could be a bit of an unfair summary, and may be the result of being a small country in a highly competitive region, but the disconnection was clear.

green24 is a way of re-connecting people and companies to a larger framework and set of ideas. Employees and customers must become aware of what it means to be green and how they can contribute to this initiative. Overall, it is about disseminating more information, because greater awareness creates more options. Also, creating more discussion breaks down misconceptions and builds common understanding. Maybe at the end of our discussion in Singapore some eyes were opened. Building understanding, responsibility and environmental education, or whatever we wish to call it, is a large project in which each of us can play a part. The advent of internet technology gives us all the opportunity to spread awareness through information services like green24 and demonstrate – dare I say – sustainable commitment.

David Jackman