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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.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Climate Change: HRH, scientist & fashion voices in London

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK in order to reduce our impact on climate change. So how do you get people to do something about their impact on the planet? Compare and contrast methods by HRH Prince Charles, climate scientist Dr Emily Shuckburgh and Pacific Islanders from Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).
PNG style, model with London Pacific Fashion
Collective designer (r) Sarah Haoda-Todd
thinking clothes and climate change.
(c) LPFC
Give Dr Emily Shuckburgh a TV show.

That’s my verdict after hearing the British Antarctic Survey scientist, who measures trapped bubbles of carbon dioxide in million-year-old ice cores, describe the thinking behind the Ladybird Expert Book For All Ages – ClimateChange which she co-wrote with Prince Charles and former director of Friends of the Earth, Tony Juniper. The 24-page booklet, which crams in 200 words per page, was published in January this year (2017) and has become a best seller.

“We wrote the book to appeal to normal people. People think there is much less scientific agreement about climate change than there actually is,” says Emily who is an unusually plain-speaking professional climate scientist. “This is fuelled by the media and the way the BBC insists on [reporting it with for and against so climate change deniers are given airtime] and Daily Mail headlines.” 

She’s also able to make the science simple to follow. It’s not just the Ladybird book, which condenses many 3000-page reports, it’s also her ability to tell it as it is. She tells the Archway with Words audience that scientists are in agreement that the climate is changing, and that it is man-made.  She then explains that there are three major risks from the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  1. Coral reefs are dying (she is very negative about this, “coral reefs are dead”)
  2. Extreme weather
  3. The collapse of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet.

“If the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed it would be irreversible. The sea would rise by two metres and change coast lines. This would bring the sea into London and up to Cambridge. Ely might be an island again,” says Emily. She has a way of speaking that talks truth, but without hammering it home with an explosion of facts. The risk is high – there’s a 1:10 chance. To make her point she explains that “When I was pregnant a 1:20 chance was high risk medically. You could say the world is in a high risk category of disaster.”

Scientists calculate that the maximum amount of carbon dioxide our atmosphere can hold is 3,000 billion tonnes. Two-thirds of that budget has already been used.

She’s willing to speak out because she’s also a mother. “It’s precisely because I’m fully aware it’s going to impact on my children’s future [they are 2 and 4 years old]. I don’t want in 20 years time for my children to say ‘You knew! Why didn’t you do more to communicate that risk?’. It’s a sense of duty.”

Emily Shuckburgh talks climate change at the Archway Methodist Church
(c) around Britain no plane
So who’s turned up to the Archway with Words Festival to hear this talk? The wrong generation, that’s who. Most of the audience are grey headed. Admittedly it’s a Saturday talk, kicking off at 6.30pm when families with young children are busy making dinner and those 20- and 30-somethings with jobs are Whats Apping their evening out plans. My teenage daughters have also found something better to do – one has just moved into new uni halls, the other is on a sleepover to Netflix binge. 

Behavioural psychologists might draw other conclusions, as George Marshall makes clear in his book Don't Even Think About It: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change.

“It’s quite demotivating,” admits Emily adding that "Martin Luther King didn't give an 'I have a nightmare' speech. “So in the book we wanted to emphasise that it’s not necessarily doom and gloom. Responding to the climate change challenge can bring huge opportunities. A low energy lifestyle could be an improvement. It could improve air quality which is good for people’s health and it could drive new technologies, for example electric vehicles.”

I’ve worked at Friends of the Earth in the past and know that stuff. But so do we all. What I hadn’t realised is that people measure the increases in climate change from 300 million years ago because that was the time of “the greatest mass extinction ever.”

Winnie Kiap, PNG High Commissioner. (c) LPFC
Despite the warnings from Emily Shuckburgh too many of us do too little. But that’s not the case for Pacific island countries.  “For us it is a matter of life and death,” says Winnie Kiap, the Papua New Guinea High Commissioner when I met her at the first fashion show I've attended.  “We already have climate refugees in the outlying islands of Bougainville, the Carteret Islands [1.5m above sea level see here ] . In PNG we use funds for building early warning systems and infrastructure to build resilience,” said the high commissioner.

Pacific art and fashion both include hashtag climate change.
Winnie was speaking at the London Pacific Fashion Collective which used their London Fashion Week runway to highlight #ClimateChangeInThePacific . At the far end was artist Rusiate Lali’s absorbing picture, Shark Attack (metaphor!) and against this fabulous outfits by designers Pania Greenaway (New Zealand), Robert Kennedy (Fiji), Warlukurlangu artists (Australia), Sarah Haoda-Todd (Papua New Guinea/PNG) and Lucie from Samoa displayed their work.

Winnie Kiap, PNG High Commissioner introducing the
London Pacific Fashion Collective designers with
Fiji's Robert Kennedy on the left. (c) LPFC
“Was it just lavalavas (sarongs)?” asked my eldest daughter imagining a collection suitable for humidity and the beach. The answer was absolutely no. London Pacific Fashion Collective – in particular the designers from Samoa and PNG – used their love of their country to create striking designs. The repetition of PNG’s national emblem, a bird of paradise, and patterns borrowed from weaving and cultural tattoos was a winning collection from Sarah Haoda-Todd.  Given the endless criticism of fashion shows that it’s a monoculture of anorexic white beanpoles, an added bonus was that almost all the models were women of colour and several were plus size.

London Pacific Fashion show focusing on #climatechangeinthepacific
 at the Lloyd George Room, National Liberal Club.
(c) LPFC
So who was at the London Pacific Fashion Collective show? All sorts – men and women of all ages, hopefully with some purse power. In contrast to the dour, worthiness of the audience at the Ladybird books (it’s ok I’m only thinking of me) the Polynesian and Melanesian islanders have played an excellent trick. Take the people what they want – beautiful clothes – add national pride and a dose of cultural chic, and then add on the awareness raising about #climatechangeinthepacific. 

“The most important thing you can do is vote. Environmental issues are not high up the political agenda so they don’t get addressed,” says Emily. And of course we all need to inspire people to get involved in the solutions. Bludgeoning us with facts hasn’t been a game-changer. But like the Pacific island nations Britain is an island – and one that has been increasingly blighted by flood damage - and that ought to make us all pay a great deal more attention to tackling climate change.  

In Prince Charles, Tony Juniper and Emily Shuckburgh's Ladybird Book the simple wins include turning down the thermostat (or using the timer effectively), using public transport or low-energy transport more often, take less flights (just one transnational flight uses all of your annual carbon 'budget') and eating less red meat. All of these changes also save money… and go a small way towards saving the world. 

And not just your world, but people living on the coastline like so many people in Pacific nations.

The public scepticism about whether climate scientists are in agreement or not has to be resolved, fast. So perhaps the take home message should be read and share the book. Or get it ordered for your library. And yes, several people have sent a copy to President Trump, and, just as importantly, ordered a copy for sceptical friends and family.

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