Last week Germany announced that 62 former military bases were to be turned into wildlife sanctuaries. While these sanctuaries aren’t going to make a huge dent in the ever-increasing IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, this action is in itself representative of how some countries are taking positive steps where possible. The military bases could have been sold for real estate development. France passed new legislation that all new buildings must have solar panels and/or plants on the roofs, the Dutch government have ordered emissions to be slashed by 25% within 5 years, and in 2014, Switzerland topped the Environmental Performance Index as the world leader in challenging environmental issues. The United Kingdom came 12th, but with the forth-coming expansion at Heathrow, the cutting of subsidies to onshore wind farms and the determination to press forward with fracking, is the UK at risk of dropping further down the index?
Already over 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. This places ever increasing demands on the countryside and rural communities to produce goods for city folk who are accustomed to having everything and anything available at any hour. The consequences of such a ferocious lifestyle are hidden away. Intensive farming is on the up and with it comes the continued removal of rainforests and woodlands at an estimated rate of 13 million hectares per year. Water is disappearing and being used at an alarming rate. It takes around approximately 1800 gallons of water to produce enough cotton for manufacture just one pair of jeans. A cotton T-shirt requires 400 gallons of water. An estimated 39000 gallons of water is needed to make a car, and 1.39 litres of water are required to manufacture the plastic to make a 1 litre water bottle.
it is the political and federal responses that have been, at times, surprising.
It isn’t hard to understand why people want to move away from the pressures and damage that society does. Many people who understand don’t want a hand in destroying the environment for the sake of luxury that soon loses its novelty when the latest trend and gadget makes an appearance. And so people seek to form their own responsible communities and lifestyle changes, like the Lasqueti Island or Brithdir Mawr Community. Food Self-Provisioning (FSP) has continued to grow in popularity, albeit for different reasons. For some, growing their own food means they can save on money, it is a way to bring a community together. Elsewhere, it is a pleasant way to pass the time but has also become trendy. Self-sustainable communities, eco-villages and the small house movement are springing up everywhere globally, but it is the political and federal responses that have been, at times, surprising.
In Florida, off-grid living is illegal, a violation of the International Property Maintenance Code. In the US, sustainable communities have been hassled and some raided, like the Garden of Eden in 2013, for some very dubious reasons. Infiltration and monitoring of grass roots movements has been commonplace for many years, like the London Metropolitan’s Special Demonstration Squad, an example of an infiltration unit that acted like the UK’s secret police. One only has to think back to the Rainbow Warrior, blown up by French intelligence agents, to see that governments will often carry out operations against its own people and organisations that represent a threat to their idea of progression and go against the corporations that pour so much money into a government.
Fracking remains the apple of the government’s eye.
What is perhaps most concerning is the way the renewable energy is approached by countries, governments and companies alike. There isn’t any interest in making the world a better place, that’ll be in the mission statements for sure but its the profits, the market, the bottom line that will be of most interest. But for the time being there are a number of sites located in the UK that have the potential to generate 20% of the UK’s energy requirements, like the Seagen tidal stream generator in Strangford, Northern Ireland and Meygen’s Inner Sound project in Pentland Firth, Scotland. Austerity and reductions of subsidies will affect the futures of these kinds of projects. But they are more vital than ever. George Osbourne’s upcoming budget announcements are sure to include many cuts to the welfare state. These are the cuts that will be the headlines. But hidden away may well be the announcements for cutting investment to renewable energy. Fracking remains the apple of the government’s eye.
People are coming up with their own ways of coping, many are thinking about and beginning to cut their ties to society. If the people are capable of changing their own lifstyles, then governments should be able to change their attitudes. If our government won’t listen to us, then perhaps it’s time to go after those that control governments. We need to affect the share prices of companies that invest in oil, fracking and coal at our expense. We need to target the corporations that continuously flaunt environmental rules. Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We are becoming that change. Whether they like it or not, governments are going to have to change with us.