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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Who's the monster - Cyclone Pam or climate change?

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. So when Cyclone Pam began its destruction in the Solomon Islands, where I used to live, I was deeply concerned for my friends. Turned out that the next country that this cyclone hit - Vanuatu - has been devastated. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Years ago I was on a plane that landed at Port Vila airport as we crossed the South Pacific on the way to a media training event in New Zealand (back in the days when I used planes a lot). I remember looking out of the plane window and thinking how developed and big Vanuatu's airport looked for an island state. There were rumours that Vanuatu was the dream Pacific state with French restaurants, fresh croissant and bread on sale, well-maintained roads, excellent water supplies and services, opportunities for kids to go through school and a functioning bureaucracy... a proper paradise.

Seaside coconut palms.
But now there's been a cyclone with 168mph winds and Vanuatu's been badly effected. The President Baldwin Lonsdale says his country has been devastaed - and this ironically while he's in Japan at a UN disaster risk reduction conference. I listened to President Lonsdale's speech in Japan appealing for help at a time when he still doesn't know if his own family living outside Port Vila are safe.

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale called Cyclone Pam, "a monster... All the development has been wiped out. So it is we have to start again. Necessary household items have been destroyed."

This clip from the Guardian is residents talking about the homely things they lost and how they felt as the cyclone ripped their homes apart.

After Lonsdale's to-camera message journalists asked him about the "monster" and Lonsdale blamed its ferocity on climate change. This is the quote in the Independent (16/3/15): “We see the level of sea rise … the cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected … This year we have more [cyclones] than in any year … yes, climate change is contributing to this,” he told reporters.

Here's how to donate to the Vanuatu relief appeal, via UNICEF-UK.

Vanuatu may have been whacked by a storm, but its ingenious people, who've had centuries of dodging cyclones may be survivors. We all pray they are because Vanuatu ought to be lucky: it may be an archipelago of 83+ islands, but it has hills and contours and even some caves

In contrast neighbouring Kiribati is flat as a pancake. When storms or big waves hit their island chain there is literally nowhere for people to shelter. 

The president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who was also at the disaster risk reduction conference, told delegates that action on climate change was essential (this quote is from the Guardian (16/3/15)).
“It is time to act … Let us match the rhetoric of these international gatherings with pledges and commitments as leaders to do our best to improve conditions and lives of those who need it most,” he said. “For leaders of low-lying island atolls, the hazards of global warming affect our people in different ways, and it is a catastrophe that impinges on our rights … and our survival into the future.” ANOTE TONG, KIRIBATI PRESIDENT
Three weeks ago I was talking to a British man whose mum is from Kiribati at the Pacific Islands Society of UK and Ireland. He told me how hard it had become for his Kiribati relatives to get fresh water on islands that people have lived on for centuries. I paraphrase but he told me: "The sea is creeping nearer and the water sources are spoilt. It's hard now to grow vegetables."
This book is excellent. Read it or give it to friends.
This is what climate change looks like on the TV: strangers on the beach without a roof relying on donations and cash to rebuild schools, health clinics and homes. 
Whatever we give will be too little. 
Whatever we do at home to offset climate change is too little. But don't let that stop you doing a bit.
What can I do?
Anyone can do something in 2015 about getting policy makers to tackle climate change, and we can do that just by talking about climate change. Here are some other ideas:

  • We can re-skill ourselves (what do you need to know to cope with a disaster - first aid, how to light a fire and cook on it, how to purify water - and do you know how?).
  • We can re-educate ourselves cooking wise. The Fife Diet is the best ideas, see this useful summary on the excellent kitchen counter culture blog here.
  • We can disinvest from fossil fuels (assuming we have shares).
  • We can organise hustings focusing on climate change (ie, pester MPs). Tips on how to do this from Friends of the Earth here.
  • We can read Don't Even Think About It: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change the marvellous book by George Marshall to help us understand the climate change deniers and avoid the common pitfalls of feeling too strongly and in so doing turning off people who might be willing to do something (though not that!).
Climate change awareness raising march in autumn 2014
We can go on climate change awareness raising marches (there was one on 7 March 2015 see more about follow up at time to act, here). The next will be after the election.

Climate change march in London March 2015
Be brave, talk about Vanuatu & talk about climate change. Don't accept this is just another big storm. Good luck.