Recently, a conference on climate change was held in Britain involving political parties from throughout the country that gathered in an effort to find some solutions to the impending environmental problems linked with climate change. In a simultaneous effort, The Independent asked its readership to share ideas about how to save the planet via legislation and government pressure. These are necessary elements in a practical plan that the government itself has yet to latch on to. The feedback was rather impressive. A ten point manifesto was drawn together that is relatively simple yet effective. The following ten points are taken from the April 3, 2006 article published in the Independent).
1. All new buildings should be fitted with solar panels or wind turbines.
Making new homes and buildings self-sufficient when it comes to power means less burning of fossil fuels and consequently, less pollution going into the atmosphere. This way, in the future when fossil fuels are hard to come by, the buildings in our cities will be ready for the change in power sources. Many buildings in Australia are already built to take full advantage of the blazing sun. Not only is it an environmentally friendly solution, but it is an affordable alternative as well!
2. Products should be labelled to show their cost to the environment.
Picture the energy rating charts on light bulbs and you will have a fair idea what these labels might look like (e.g., red is costly and blue is economical). The problem with calculating environmental cost is deciding what factors to value, and what elements to take into consideration for each item. Simplified, a working ratings system for food products might consider how far the product travelled, how much packaging it has, whether it was organically grown, and whether the farmers received a good price for it.
3. Urge more people to work from home.
That said, most people would already like to work from home. The reason they don’t is because
a) their job description will not allow them to be off-site, or
b) their boss won’t allow them to be off-site.
Many jobs in the quaternary sector of the economy (i.e., information-based jobs) can be performed from home quite easily with a few adaptations. Why would this help ease environmental damage? Simple! A few million fewer commuters going to and from work each day means a lot less pollution from car exhaust.
4. Cities should be able to ban all four-wheel drive cars.
Easily said in a country like Britain, but perhaps not so much in Canada or especially the United States. To a certain extent, four-wheel drives are necessary for transportation in bad weather and on icy roads. Are they needed in inner cities every day? It’s debatable.
5. Public transport should be made cheaper to stop people driving.
Here is the same logic applied again. Fewer vehicles running generates less pollution. The trouble with most public transport systems (especially in rural Alberta, speaking from experience) is that they could not possibly be used daily by a working commuter. There aren’t enough buses and/or trains at the right time. Therefore, a person is left with one option — a truck. On the other hand, when there is a fairly reliable system of public transport set up, chances are that using it daily means a weighty drag on the pocketbook. These systems stand to alleviate environmental impact a great deal if only they could be made undeniably useful!
6. Make the use of energy efficient light bulbs in the home compulsory.
It’s no secret — using energy efficient light bulbs to illuminate your home means using only a fraction of the energy needed to operate regular light bulbs. Changing legislation to ban the use of energy-guzzling light bulbs, while being an obvious infringement of civil liberties, may be necessary to stop the manufacture of non-economical bulbs. If there is no other option, the public will be forced to use environmentally friendly products that they would otherwise ignore for the sake of saving a few dollars in the short term.
7. Efforts should be made to reduce unnecessary packaging in products.
Amen! This is one thing that really gets under my skin, namely plastic. It is used to excess. There is no place for it in the recycling bin. And worst of all, it does not biodegrade. Each day, tons of the stuff is dumped into garbage heaps and left to litter the streets. Enough of the packaging! Items do not need a box, plastic holder, shrink-wrap and foam guards.
8. The law ought to be changed to persuade more people to recycle.
Interesting use of the word “persuade.” Yes, recycling needs to be done by everybody, but it is disheartening to think that so many people really need issues put into law before they’ll do the right thing. Soon there will be an all-encompassing “Common Sense Law” and we can all start using our brains again. Conclusion: bring it on.
9. There should be an immediate ban on patio heaters.
The theory behind this is that patio heaters are excessive and not necessary for our existence. This can be said of many things, but apparently these, in particular, are being overused. Patio heaters are used for obvious reasons. For example, people having an outdoor party when the weather is a bit too cool. This does seem a bit silly.
10. Force passengers to pay the environmental cost of flying.
This last point is surely born of the age of cheap flights that we are living in. People zip back and forth between continents and countries with virtually no thought for the vast amount of exhaust coming from the back end of the plane. You know that white trail you see marking the path of an airplane in the sky? That’s not a good thing.
Paying the environmental cost of a flight would be, like marking produce for environmental impact, a difficult task. Maybe instead of upping the price and making flights available only to the upper classes, we should all be awarded a certain number of Air Miles per year (not affiliated with the cheap flights scheme), making travel by air less overall. When you’ve used up your Air Miles, you will have to wait until next year to do any flying.
All in all, this is not a bad set of environment-saving guidelines from simple civilians. Why are politicians struggling to come up with the same?
Kirby, T. and Phillips L. (2006, April 3). Your world – Your verdict: The small but beautiful ways that can help the fight to save the planet. The Independent. Retrieved from http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article355342.ece