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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog 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. 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, 7 November 2016

We've got to keep tackling 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. Forgive me please for worrying about climate change - whoever gets voted into the White House on Tuesday 8 November 2016. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Steve Malkin, founder and CEO of The Planet Mark
There's this man. Nicholas Stern. He's an economist and 10 years ago he produced The Stern Report (2006) which warned that climate change was going to cause huge social and financial costs. Stern is now an extremely sprightly looking 70 but unfortunately he's clear that his 10-year ago warning has not been acted on in the way he expected.  "It's worse than I had feared," he tells Robin McKie in the weekend Observer. (06/11/16)

Over the past 10 years sustainability services have crept on to the high street - from juice bars,
food waste campaigns, charges for plastic bags and even repair and reuse shop, but it hasn't stopped
carbon levels going up far beyond the level Stern advised had to be the cut off point. 
Thinking back on my life over the past 10 years I haven't exponentially increased my environmental footprint. But I certainly haven't reduced it much either. 

  • I've made just one long plane journey (to the other side of the world in 2011 where my family and I stayed for four months), but that's the only flight. I haven't bought a car or used one much. (I can hear Tim Smit calling me a po-faced do-gooder, but luckily this blog's readers' cannot!).
  • This year so far I've only rented a car for 2 hours and that was to go to the recycling centre.
  • But I haven't improved our house's eco-efficiency for a few years now - and i am a far less fierce opponent in the Cold War battle raged over the thermostat by my husband and I than i was in the year Stern's Report came out.
  • And frankly I haven't done much bigger picture stuff either. My street isn't using less carbon, nor is my daughter's school, the university where I teach or the city where I live, London.

I don't think my suck-it-and-see (aka head in the sand) attitude towards climate change is unusual. For the past few years the climate has made headlines - think extreme weather, unseasonal and violent flooding, the big Californian/Australian drought - but it hasn't inspired corresponding action. As PM David Cameron promised to be green and yet managed to  cut support for solar panels on people's homes; kill the Green Deal which helped people insulate old homes and got rid of green building standards for new homes. All would have fitted in fine to an austerity budget - who knows why they were snuffed out.

The only glimmer of hope is the Paris Agreement - ratified in November 2015 and now, a year on, signed and sealed. It's aim is to get the world reducing their carbon emissions to a safe - or effective level. But now Nicholas Stern says, "I cannot say that I am confident it will happen".  It is all very depressing. So, it was with some curiosity that I went to an event recently celebrating a range of businesses' efforts to be more sustainable via The Planet Mark - a certification system that gives participants incentives to cut their carbon emissions - which was held at the sassy Hospital Club. 

The Planet Mark
The Planet Mark is an idea created by founder and CEO Steve Malkin just three years ago. During The Planet Mark sustainability week (this November) various great and good shared their learning, and on the night I attended it was all about the ways sustainability changes you and your business.

Sir Tim Smit from the Eden Project at The Planet Mark 3rd anniversary

You'll find this at the Lost gardens of Helligan,
close to the Eden Project.
Charismatic boss of Cornwall's Eden Project (a place you absolutely must go), Sir Tim Smit gave a rabble-rousing speech about doing good at the same time as being a capitalist. Tim is smart and funny and woos the new generation of concerned citizens just as effectively as he has done their elder brothers and sisters. This time he looks like he's having more fun though.


Steve Malkin encouraged the audience - predominantly suit-wearers - to go on the Hothouse training that the Eden Project has created in a bid to transform the way business leaders think, react and lead. He urged us to "infect five people" with the sustainability bug. A nice challenge...

Matthew Owen from Cool Earth speaking at The Planet Mark 3rd anniversary.
Cool Earth
And Cool Earth's Matthew Owen talked about the need for a new way to save the rainforest because the old methods weren't working at all. Cool Earth likes to save the rainforest a village at a time by working with the forests' inhabitants. His talk captivated my teenage daughter who is living away from home for the first time and has clearly been starved of eco-bunny conversation. Matthew is an amazing speaker and Cool Earth appears to be doing what it wants - saving rainforest - very successfully in Peru, Congo and even PNG. Saving rainforest isn't just good for those villagers, it's also good for reducing CO2 levels.


Summing up
The Planet Mark is quite a new certification system -  its oldest projects are just three years. As a result I don't know that much about it - and after involvment with organic certification and the Forest Stewardship Council I am surprised that any set up can secure immediate accreditation just because you have a commitment to cut your carbon emissions. But the people in the room are big influencers - including engineers responsible for surfacing runways, building roads and other infrastructure.  To get people behind cutting carbon, dealing with climate change or even tackling sustainability (that old Rio phrase) you have to win their hearts, minds and possibly pockets. These guys definitely are good at doing that.

My daughters in Cornwall
contemplating big plants (a
few years ago).
I don't think it is possible to create the world we need by doing business as usual - especially if that business keeps hopping on to planes, demanding new runways and evading tax. But if business won't change - or certainly won't change enough for Stern to have confidence in it - then efforts to cut carbon have to be the next best approach. Climate change is a huge problem - one no individual can solve on their own. But schemes like The Planet Mark help empower individuals to make changes in their work and life that my mean the world is left a little bit of a better place. And that is enough for me to applaud this fascinating attempt to get businesses cutting carbon.

Besides I love a challenge: perhaps using some of The Planet Mark ideas in my home might mean I could get back on track with my own sustainability mission? The answer to that will be in another post.

But as Sir Tim pointed out - it makes sense to learn to communicate what we know better. 

For most of my working life I've written about saving the rainforest and, frankly, tragically, it hasn't done much to save it. Cool Earth claim to have taken a new direction for saving the rainforest. So when it comes to climate change another method of making a bigger difference might also be to improve the message, perhaps by using the tips in climate campaigner George Marshall's most recent book, Don't Even Think About It

Whatever you are doing to raise awareness about climate change and sustainability - and however you are doing it  I wish you the very best of luck. If Stern is right, we certainly need it.


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