Friday, September 11, 2020

Going Vegan?

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Going Vegan?
It’s Friday, it’s 11th September, it’s the Sustainable Futures Report and I’m Anthony Day.

This time I’ll be catching up on stories shared during August, by listeners from Australia, Japan and other parts of the world.  Closer to home, XR’s protests continue to make headlines, although you may not have seen them as XR blockaded several presses last weekend and many papers did not make it to the shops.
But first, let’s talk about diet. If we’re environmentalists should we be vegan? On the Sustainable Futures Report  this time I have two guests: Sammy Bishop, a recent graduate in human physiology and a vegan, and Deirdre Lane who describes herself as a green finance expert who’s morphed from traditional commodity markets to empowering citizens on sustainable actions. She is not a vegan.
Anthony: What started this all off for me was the idea of veganism and some quite strong opinions. And I believe there are some quite strong opinions on veganism. And therefore I was very interested to hear what Sammy said recently about being a vegan. Now, I understand that you've been a vegan for about two years, so that suggests you weren't brought up in a vegan household.
So what was your motivation in becoming a vegan in the first place Sammy?
Sammy: Um, no, you're right. I've been vegan for just over two years now. And veganism stemmed from hearing about the, the climate change and the challenges that our planet is facing just in general culture and across the news and seeing the pretty irreversible direction we're currently traveling in.
And I started by making the very standard changes of my reusable coffee cup. and trying to use less plastic when I can. Um, just reading and watching documentaries about the overwhelming evidence for the positive impacts that a vegan diet can have on our planet. It just about two years ago became the inevitable next step that I took to try and minimize my personal impact on the planet.
And that's my vegan journey, really. And I've been going strong for two years ever since.
Anthony: So two years without any backsliding or any secret, um, burgers or
Sammy: Nothing ever intentional. I once drunk from the wrong cup of coffee, but I don't, I don't put myself down for that.
Anthony: Okay. So your right cup of coffee has got almond milk or something like that in it.
Sammy: It's  a soya cappuccino is my go-to.
Okay. Okay. Now I've spoken to you about this, Deirdre, and you express some cynicism about the value of veganism. Do you want to expand on that a bit?
Deidre: Well, starting with the almond milk, if you consider the plight of the bees, the commercial harvesting of, of the almond with the bee population. So more bees are abused in the U S and they're classified actually in the U S as livestock. So more bees die every year in livestock. In the U S above fish and above, um, agricultural ingestion of, of animal protein and animal meat. So it's quite incredible that yes, we do want to do the right things, but are we doing it in the right way?
And are we considering all of biodiversity in our circular thoughts? So, yes. Let's go for the almond milk, however, let's have a rethink of it. How is the almond milk coming to you? Is it in a plastic container? What's the carbon footprint and biodiversity footprint of your almond latte, but it's fascinating how you can phrase the coffee consumption. I was in a cafe in London and they said, do you want to have an 80% less carbon coffee? And of course I said, yeah, it was actually an oatmeal coffee. So yes, absolutely reduce the, the input of dairy, but how are we going to do that at what price to nature? And you mentioned plastic as quite curious as part of plastic free July audits um, I went through all my presses and most of my plastic food sources were actually, um, my vegan food sources. So, you know, the packages of Plasta and the packages of the, um, all the other lentils, et cetera. I was really, um, concerned that even if you do want to go vegan and vegetarian, it really increases your use of plastic, which I was quite concerned about  actually. So you're trying to do the good things. You're trying to change your diet, but in fact, are you accidentally damaging nature and increasing your plastic use?
Anthony: Well, how do you find that Sammy? I mean, tell us about what you eat now. I mean, I think a vegan menu to many of us is, is a completely closed book, so to open it up and give us some information, would you,
Sammy: yeah.
Um, and just to know, I am not by choice gluten free as well. So perhaps my vegan diet, isn't the most representative in some ways, but, um, My main, especially to begin with my main vegan diet, as you say, was very great in pulses - things like chickpeas and lentils, either tinned or from a packet. And  very vegetable, nut heavy and as I say, things like burgers and things being gluten free, certain a lot of the vegan meat alternatives, mince and chicken and things like that. The vegan alternatives aren't in fact, gluten free. So perhaps mine isn't the most representative, but a lot of pulses and grains to get that, um, variation in the vegan diet is where I focus mine.
And I think your point about plastic is interesting. I know from, uh, from my personal experience, before I bought lentils in plastic, I bought for example, chicken in plastic. And so. Although, that is a very important point that you can't focus on the food solely for the average person walking down the street, trying to do their bit, even if it's not a perfect, and there are complications and confusions about how to make your diet completely zero planet impact, which is of course it's never going to happen.
If you're growing consuming products, you've got to at least be trying to take a step in the right direction. And I think if you start saying overloading people with too much information about the meat, the vegetables, the plastic, am I better to have a can of chickpeas or a bag of chickpeas, it can become overwhelming.
And an individual may just panic and say that I can't process that much information. Let me just carry on as normal. And that's what I think. You've got to think of the nuance of these situations, but be careful of the average person over analyzing every single thing that touches their lips.
Anthony: Okay. And how do you feel?
I mean, some people say that a vegan diet is defective. It is defective in certain nutrients or vitamins or things like that. Do you feel as healthy, more healthy, less healthy than you did two years ago?
Sammy: I can with total honesty say yes, I felt no difference whatsoever. Some people claim that it is more healthy and I'm sure that's true for me, not a single thing changed in how I felt, how much energy I had, how much I performed.
I know it obviously is different for different people, but, um, we, some world class athletes, even are vegan. And so for most people, one would assume if you have less energy demands on your body, then a world class athlete, perhaps. So for most people, I would assume that it is an entirely healthy way of life.
Deidre: It's interesting for female health that I found as, um, females get older, those of us who choose, um, a vegan diet actually have issues with their bones and osteoporosis, and also the depression can be linked to, um, Having a deficiency in B12 as well. So a really good friend of mine who has chosen to be a vegan for the last three years.
She now has osteoporosis,  she now has to have medication for it. And she has, she's a doctor herself. She, she shrunk three inches as well. So now that she has chosen vegan living and really healthy living as well. So she eats her carrot tops, for example, as well, carrots. And they're delicious. I'd never thought of doing that before.
So, um, her combinations of tastes from a vegan diet are amazing. Her brother is an organic farmer and he farms organic beef. So his point about having heart attacks, eating red meat is processed industrial farming practices. They take the beef, they bring the animal to the, to the slaughter house. The animal can smell the fear and death.
And then you're digesting something that is full of chemicals and hormones with fear, and then we're getting the heart attacks from the red meat. So I just spoke to my dad inside. I just cooked the dinner. Dad, would you ever be a vegan ? And he went no. And thumped the table,"I like my traditional diet."
So fish on a Friday and pig all year long. And they did not waste a single ounce of that pig. So the neighbors came in and they had the black pudding and nothing, nothing was wasted or spared of the pig. Um, and even the, the processing of the pig manure as part of the refertilisation of the ground, it was very much a circular system.
Everything enclosed included. Uh, we have this great words in Irish called mehel . So it's, it's, uh, let's say at the moment it's Apple season. So you're calling your friends out to help you, or if it's a hay harvesting, you'll have a mehel and people, all your neighbors come along and we have so very much the killing of the pig was a mehel.
Anthony: Wow.
Sammy: I just want to quickly add that. I totally agree that for many people. Veganism may not be healthy. I know you stay. Um, as a young woman, I know a lot of people that suffer, for example, with eating disorders and things like that. And the one of the worst things for someone with a history of disordered eating is tightly controlling what you can and  can't eat so, so although I think for many people, it is healthy.
If it is not healthy for you, I think it's important that everyone should respect that.
Anthony: Okay. So you're not then saying that we should all become vegans or are you saying ideally we should all become vegans?,
Sammy: I would say undeniably, I think a vegan diet would have a positive impact on the planet. If we were all to undertake it. I think saying that everyone should become vegan is not taking into account far too many factors, including for example, your health, where you are, what access you have to be vegan, food, vegan alternatives, whether you have the time to make the changes to become vegan whether you have the financial stability and the ability to become vegan.
And so I think those who can should, but I understand that many can't and that is absolutely fine. I think if you start telling people off for not being vegan, because they can't, then that can be a very counterproductive way to continue
Deidre: You probably know the restaurant "Cranks". And I often, um, I used to go there beforehand.
So for me, how do you know someone's a vegan as they tell you? So oftentimes my vegan friends, it's just, it's, it's difficult to invite them to events, et cetera, because they come with a list of, of cranky, still considered by some, notions, but vegan food it's fantastic. But I think that the question is how do we sustainably balance our  diet?
So how can we shop sustainably from a local support, a local source of protein. So, where do you get your protein from? Is it a high caliber? How has that protein even farmed? So for example, you started talking about almond milk, but the amount of chemicals now put on the almond milk, that we're now digesting ourselves.
We really have to re-envisage how we digest food, how, where we get our foods from regenerative farming and exactly what is the more sustainable solutions and choices, economical choices we can make as well. So there's one point in Dublin. It was fascinating for years they were trying to get ladies to eat more healthily and feed their families healthily and the women joined a fitness club and the fitness people, they had to pay to be part of this fitness thing. And the fitness group said eat chickpeas. And all of a sudden they're eating chickpeas. So it's a mindset so should come away from, as you suggested somebody that cranky you should should, should to " here's a suggestion."
You know, if you eat this it's healthier, it's better for your family. It's more economical, less plastic. There are other solutions that we can and may explore. And, and the way you, you suggest those changes to the diet as well. It's so important that we do get a choice and vegan food is delicious, but so is my steak.
Anthony: So Sammy, you are committed to veganism for the foreseeable future then.
Sammy: For the foreseeable future, I'm certainly not tempted to. Yep. Although I love a steak. I'm not tempted to go back that's for sure.
Anthony: Right. On the other hand, Dierdre you're not going to give up your steak or your black puddings.
Deidre: Oh, lovely black puddings. But it's funny, the healthy choices you make. A vegan colleague gave up cigarettes and started eating wine gums  instead. She didn't realize where gelatine came from. So really have to ask these people in the choices that you're making. What are you swapping? What for very important that we, we, we, we balance the situation.
Anthony: Okay. Well, thank you both for your, your thoughts on this very important topic. And before we close, I'd just like to ask for your thoughts on what's been going on with extinction rebellion over this last week, because you're aware that, uh, they generated a lot of controversy by blockading the printing works and stopping a lot of newspapers from being distributed on Saturday. Um, the, there is a rumor that the government wants to reclassify extinction rebellion as organized crime and extinction rebellion itself says the police are being extremely heavy handed in these later stages of the demonstration by using all sorts of legal excuses, uh, using in particular the, uh, the COVID regulations to drive people off the streets.
What's your reaction to what's going on? Should people break the law or, or what? Um, Deirdre, would you like to go first?
Deidre: So having been part of extinction rebellion in Britain and the UK and a fantastic convivial festival ambience outside parliament square in London. I can vouch for the behavior when I was present at the time.
And it was very encouraging, positive intellectual debate involving young people and families on the future of our country. So using COVID regulation to hinder the meeting of more than six people can be viewed very, very suspiciously. So we have the right to protest. We should regard that right. And save that right preciously. Extinction rebellion are doing a really good job in actually sharing that conversation in a meaningful way. So being heavy handed with young people is really going to backfire. I think in Brexit, your country seriously is in trouble. And the last thing you want is to make malicious militants, teenagers and families oppose the forces that are in power. So there are ways to do things. Of course, um, nonviolent dialogue is extremely important and very well practiced by extinction rebellion and to be commended. So I I'm pretty horrified by the corralling of rebels, how they're being treated currently, especially with the religious dimension.
So we've had some really great faith groups involved in extinction rebellion in the UK. And this is how you're being rewarded in 2020 it's, um, it's quite fearful and some of us who are peaceful and who do want to have a positive change.
Anthony: Thank you. Well as a, perhaps somebody not so heavily involved, but nonetheless, uh, affected by the future of the planet as we all will be.
Although you'll probably be effected by it for quite a lot longer than some of us Sammy. What's your, what's your take on what's been going on?
Sammy: Yeah, I'd say on the whole, I agree with what Deirdre said, particularly peaceful protests, um, should have a mutual respect between the protesters and those who are enforcing or overseeing it.
It's really important that although obviously at the moment, our country is facing some some serious things. they're dealing with COVID particularly, we can't use that as an excuse to let every single other thing fall to the sidelines until it's a convenient time to deal with it. Um, and so I think it's really important that protests are allowed to  and do continue with respect, assuming that they are undertaken with respect and fairly and um, that, so I think, yeah, it's really important that they can and do continue in an appropriate way.
Anthony: Just on the point of blockading the presses. So that four national newspapers did not actually get out to the newsstands on Saturday. People have said that's a denial of free speech. Would you, either of you see it as that?
Deidre: Is the press free in the UK? My question. Who owns the press?
Anthony: Well, we'll leave that hanging. Shall we? Uh, Sammy, what do you, did you, did you get your paper on Saturday?
Sammy: Um, well being a 22 year old graduate, I do not read the paper. My news app did update as normal. So my access to the free press was not impacted.
Anthony: Okay, well, thank you both. So thank you for your thoughts on this and on veganism.
I think that's really interesting. And, um, I much appreciate your taking the time to talk to the sustainable futures report. Thanks again.

You can follow Deirdre Lane @ShamrockSpring on Twitter and on FaceBook as well. Both Sammy Bishop and Deirdre Lane are on LinkedIn.
And in Other News…
Nations suing governments, deforestation and population, and CO2 as a fuel.
Carol Dance draws my attention to an action by Torres Strait Islanders. Climate change is putting life on the islands of the Torres Strait at risk. Advancing seas are already threatening homes, as well as damaging burial grounds and sacred cultural sites. Many Islanders are worried that their islands could quite literally disappear in their lifetimes without urgent action, with severe impacts on their ability to practise their law and culture.
The Islanders are taking a climate change complaint against Australia to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. This case is the first of its kind in the world.
They will ask the UN committee to find that international human rights law means that Australia must increase its emission reduction target to at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030, going net zero by 2050, and phasing out coal.
The outcome will undoubtedly be watched with interest around the world. We in Britain have come to know that former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott believes that actions to tackle the climate crisis are about as sensible as making sacrifices to appease the volcano gods. Such attitudes are shared to a great extent by the present Australian government, which keenly advocates fossil fuels. Understandably, as coal exports provide a major element of the national income. How much longer they will find a ready market may depend on how much more the government annoys the Chinese, but that’s another story.
Circular Carbon
If you burn fossil fuels you release CO2. Not much you can do about it at the individual level like vehicles, but at major industrial sites and power stations carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) is the holy grail. If you capture the CO2 what can you do with it? Now Argonne National Laboratory in the US announces a new electro-catalyst which efficiently converts carbon dioxide and water into ethanol. Ethanol is an ingredient in nearly all U.S. gasoline and is widely used as an intermediate product in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
“The process resulting from our catalyst would contribute to the circular carbon economy, which entails the reuse of carbon dioxide,” said Di-Jia Liu, senior chemist in Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering division and a CASE scientist in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago.
Certainly the process would slow down the release of CO2, but it’s not a closed circle. CO2 will be emitted and lost if the ethanol is used in road fuel, and will be re-emitted when the products of the other industries are eventually discarded.
Patron Esteban Velez Vega contacted me about an article he saw in Nature on “Deforestation and World Population Sustainability.” The authors’ opening remarks include,
“We evaluate the probability of avoiding the self-destruction of our civilisation. Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10% in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse.” They continue,
“it is highly unlikely to imagine the survival of many species, including ours, on Earth without [trees]. In this sense, the debate on climate change will be almost obsolete in case of a global deforestation of the planet.”
Of course some people are not fazed by this at all. Elon Musk, of Tesla cars and SpaceX, believes we should leave the Earth and colonise the planets. He has said he would be happy to die on Mars, as long as it’s not on impact.
The authors of this study have considered the idea. Here’s what they say: “We connect such probability [of survival without facing a catastrophic collapse] to the capability of humankind to spread and exploit the resources of the full solar system. According to Kardashev scale, which measures a civilisation’s level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy they are able to use, in order to spread through the solar system we need to be able to harness the energy radiated by the Sun at a rate of ≈4 × 1026 Watt. Our current energy consumption rate is estimated in ≈1013 Watt. As shown in the subsections “Statistical Model of technological development” and “Numerical results” of the following section, a successful outcome has a well defined threshold and we conclude that the probability of avoiding a catastrophic collapse is very low, less than 10% in the most optimistic estimate.”
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is another not fazed by all this. Under his rule the chainsaws have never stopped.
And finally…
Someone recently sent me an email which started like this: “Climate change doesn’t stop for anyone. It doesn’t pause for pandemics, it doesn’t go on a Summer recess and it doesn’t reward good intentions.”
And the wildfires in California haven’t stopped, either.
That’s why I’m concerned at the measures the British government is taking to suppress the current XR protests. Calling the activists criminal lawbreakers is particularly ironic in a week when a government minister has announced in Parliament that the government intends to break international law.
And that’s it!
That’s it for this episode. Thank you for listening and I'm delighted to say that people are listening in rapidly increasing numbers. I must be doing something right but please do get in touch and tell me what else you'd like me to focus on. At the moment I get my stories by scanning the media and picking up what I think is interesting, but some people do write with ideas and I'm always grateful for more. As always you can contact me at
Thanks also to my ever-loyal patrons who contribute a small amount each month to help cover the costs of hosting and researching for this podcast. Your support is immensely appreciated. You too can become a patron and the details are at .
Before I go here’s an item from the i-newspaper which shows why you should be kind to wildlife.
“A gentleman, in his 80s, was eating his dinner when he became annoyed at a fly buzzing around him. He took aim with an electronic fly swat and tried to dispatch the insect for good, unaware of a gas leak in his kitchen. When he took aim a spark from the swat ignited the gas. The gas cylinder exploded, demolished part of his kitchen and caused a section of his roof to blow off. Local reporters said the man managed to escape with just a burn to his hand but the house is currently uninhabitable. The fate of the fly is unknown.”
I’m Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Deforestation and population

Carol Dance

Friday, September 04, 2020


It’s a podcast! Listen here:

Apologies - Blogger has removed all the formatting from this post. The Sustainable Futures Report will shortly move to a new platform..

 Rebellion Welcome back to the Sustainable Futures Report. It's Friday, the 4th of September and my first full length episode since the 31st of July. Hello I’m Anthony Day. News You can imagine that the news hasn't stopped during August and in fact I've got five pages of hyperlinks, each of which could lead to many minutes of podcast. As I said in last week’s trailer to this episode, the Greenland ice sheet is still melting at up to a million tons per minute, and millions of tonnes of GHGs are still being released into the atmosphere. Yes, that slowed down a bit during the lockdown, but not enough to stop the total quantity in the atmosphere from continuing to grow. And now we’re back to close to normal and the British government is urging people who work in offices to go back to them so the sandwich bars don’t go out of business and eventually they hope we’ll be back to business as over-consuming and polluting as usual. This week This week I’m going to look first in detail at the latest news from the Arctic and then I’m going to talk about rebellion, because rebellion is seen by many as the only way to get governments to react and take the action that’s essential in the face of the climate crisis. Extinction Rebellion is staging mass protests in London, Manchester and Cardiff this week, as I’m sure you already know. Their central demand is for the government to pass their Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. You may not have had time to read it. I have. I’ll tell you what it says. Arctic First, though, there’s news from the Arctic in the journal Nature. “We have been clearly underestimating the rate of temperature increases in the atmosphere nearest to the sea level, which has ultimately caused sea ice to disappear faster than we had anticipated," said Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen, a University of Copenhagen professor, "Changes are occurring so rapidly during the summer months that sea ice is likely to disappear faster than most climate models have ever predicted," he said. A recent study from Britain's University of Lincoln concluded that Greenland's ice melt alone is expected to contribute 10-12 centimetres to the world's rising sea levels by 2100. Another group of researchers recently concluded that the melting of Greenland's ice cap has gone so far that it is now irreversible, with snowfall no longer able to compensate for the loss of ice even if global warming were to end today. Meanwhile, the last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic lost more than 40% of its area in two days at the end of July. The Milne Ice Shelf is at the fringe of Ellesmere Island, in the sparsely populated northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. “Entire cities are that size. These are big pieces of ice,” said Luke Copland, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa who was part of the research team studying the Milne Ice Shelf. The shelf’s area shrank by about 80 sq km. By comparison, the island of Manhattan in New York covers roughly 60 sq km. “This was the largest remaining intact ice shelf, and it’s disintegrated, basically,” Copland said. The difference between these two ice masses is that the Greenland ice cap is on land and therefore the meltwater pouring into the sea will raise sea levels, while the Milne Ice Shelf is already floating, and therefore will not affect sea levels as it melts. Any reduction in sea ice affects the earth’s albedo or reflectivity, however. Ice reflects sunlight and heat back into space, but the darker ocean absorbs heat. Wild fluctuations in temperature have been observed in the Arctic this year with temperatures peaking at a record 38C in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk on 20 June 2020. Wildfires By the end of August wildfires in the Arctic had already emitted 35% more CO2 than in the whole of 2019. They are continuing to burn in Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada. They are now at "unprecedented levels", says Mark Parrington, a wildfires expert at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams). Soot falling on the snow reduces albedo and makes the situation worse. Many of the blazing forests stand on peat deposits which are likely to burn throughout the winter and break out again next Spring. Scientists complain that these earth-changing fires have had minute media attention by comparison to the fire in the cathedral of Notre Dame last year. We have a problem. Scientist James Hanson warned the US Congress of a problem back in the 1980s. British PM Margaret Thatcher - herself a qualified scientist - warned of the threat to the climate about the same time. Rio In 1992 the UN Earth Summit in Rio decided something should be done and the developed nations set targets to rein in their carbon emissions. In 2006 economist Nicholas Stern advised the British government to take immediate action as delays of only a few years would make the costs of mitigating climate change many times greater. That was the year when Al Gore published An Inconvenient Truth. Paris In 2015 the world’s nations came together and signed the Paris Agreement, committing them to take action to keep the increase in global temperatures below 1.5℃. At the time it was estimated that the published commitments would only be enough to keep the rise below 3.6℃: COP26, scheduled for this November, would receive the 5-year report, but of course the conference was postponed for a year because of the pandemic. COP26 Glasgow Britain will host the event next year and even before it was postponed there was criticism that the UK was not making the essential diplomatic preparations for the conference. Making business secretary Alok Sharma the president of COP26, a politician who has voted in favour of expanding Heathrow Airport, is not a good sign. And the United States, the second largest global emitter, has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. We have a problem. As every year passes it becomes more urgent. That’s why XR is demonstrating in London, Manchester and Cardiff this week. Protesters are demonstrating against the banks and pension funds that invest in fossil fuel producers, against HS2 the high-speed rail line that will cost £100 billion, tear up the countryside and eventually reduce the London to Birmingham journey time by 20 minutes, and against the inertia and inactivity of politicians. The key demand is that Parliament should accept, debate and pass into law the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. Governments are actually doing a great deal to reduce carbon emissions. The problem is that they are not doing enough to meet their own targets of net zero by 2050, and 2050 is generally agreed to be far too late in any case. The Bill From the start of the week XR was concentrated in Parliament Square attempting to urge each MP as they arrived to support the Bill. Behind the scenes hundreds of activists were phoning their MPs with the same message. You’ll find a link to the text of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill on the blog. It’s described as, “A BILL to Require the Prime Minister to ensure that the United Kingdom achieves specified objectives in tackling the climate and ecological emergency; to give the Secretary of State a duty to create and implement a strategy to achieve those objectives; to establish a Citizens’ Assembly to work with the Secretary of State in creating that strategy; to give duties to the Committee on Climate Change regarding the objectives and the strategy; and for connected purposes. In more detail, and I’m paraphrasing, the Prime Minister’s objectives include: To reduce GHG emissions to a rate that is consistent with limiting warming 1.5℃ in line with the Paris Agreement To restore and regenerate the nation’s soils, biodiverse habitats and ecosystems and, wherever possible, expand them To reduce human impact on wildlife and the land To do this the PM must work with the Committee on Climate Change and environmental protection bodies throughout the UK. The Secretary of State, presumably the secretary of state for DEFRA, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is required by the legislation within six months of the passing of this Act, to publish a Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy (‘the strategy’) specifying the measures that will achieve the objectives. The draft bill then goes into specific detail of how this strategy should be drawn up and the scientific factors and technical issues that should be taken into account. In addition the bill calls for the establishment of a Citizens Assembly to work in cooperation with the Secretary of State and to recommend measures to be included in the strategy. The functions of the Assembly are to—
(a) consider information provided by experts, and by any other persons who have submitted evidence to the Assembly;
(b) deliberate how the objectives can be achieved;
(c) vote on measures proposed for inclusion in the strategy;
(d) seek agreement with the Secretary of State on the content of the strategy;
(e) propose revisions to the strategy The Bill was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday afternoon as a Private Member’s Bill by Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, supported by just 20 of the nation’s 650 MPs. Historically, unless they are adopted by the government of the day, Private Member’s Bills sink without trace. In this case the bill has been given a second reading date: 12th March 2021, which is the equivalent of kicking it into the very long grass. Understandably XR are more than angry at this deliberate delay. Protests were planned for a full 10 days from last Friday. How they will develop from here is not clear. Citizens’ Assembly The bill itself seems pretty reasonable to me. The most controversial item is probably the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly, but such assemblies are increasingly common across the world. The principle is that a random group of people is brought together, selected on the same basis as people are chosen for jury service. The intention is to create a representative cross-section of the population to consider the issues and advise the government. It is an advisory body. It is not subverting democracy, it is strengthening it. A citizen’s assembly was used in Ireland to inform the debate over abortion. In France the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat was established in response to the gilets jaunes protests and is already taking evidence to understand how France can meet its Paris targets. In the UK Bristol City Council is set to carry out a Citizens Assembly to advise on the city’s coronavirus recovery while the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland will shortly report to the Scottish Parliament on how best the nation can overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century. Demonstrations Why the demonstrations? People say, “I agree with what they stand for, but they’re going about it the wrong way by disrupting ordinary people’s lives.” After arresting multiple protesters Commander Jane Connors of the Metropolitan Police said: “The reason we have implemented these conditions is that we know these protests may result in serious disruption to local businesses, commuters and our communities and residents, which I will not tolerate.” You couldn’t expect her to say anything else. Without disruption no-one will take any notice. That is why thousands of people are involved in these protests. Apart from the thousands on the streets there are those who are phoning MPs, who are providing back-up and legal advice for those arrested and who are organising accommodation and transport for those on the streets. As with the protests last year, those on the streets come from many different backgrounds, different ages, different sectors of society. Many are ready to be arrested, which takes immense courage. Courage, not because they fear the ill-treatment like protestors in Belarus have suffered. Our police have some problems but they are generally pretty respectful and civilised. I remember at last year’s protests seeing them warn activists that if they didn’t move they would be arrested and giving them ample opportunity to move before they did in fact arrest them. Initially the worst that protesters will suffer is the inconvenience of being held overnight and eventually a fine of several hundred pounds when found guilty. What is far more serious is that once you have a criminal record you may face difficulties in getting a job, getting a loan, getting a mortgage, getting insurance, renting a property, travelling to certain foreign countries and in many other situations. It is truly life-changing. That’s why I have immense respect for such people who take these risks for the sake of their principles and for the sake of the rest of us. Why aren’t I on the streets? Well, I haven’t got that sort of courage and I’m conceited enough to believe that passing on my views through this podcast will do as much good as being one extra person on the streets. No Violence The protests go on. Anything that happens after Thursday afternoon will not make it into this week’s Sustainable Futures Report. To be honest, not a lot has appeared in the UK’s national press so far. XR will have to raise the pressure to make an impact and maybe that’s what we will see in the coming days. One thing that’s certain is that XR is committed to non-violent direct action. There may be some minor criminal damage, like spray-painting or people supergluing themselves to doors, buildings or street furniture, but the group is absolutely against any form of violence. It runs training on non-violent direct action. Is the government listening? As I close, another 90 people have been arrested and there are suggestions that the new legislation designed to prevent illegal raves could be used against protestors. Anyone organising a gathering of more than 30 people is liable to a fine of £10,000. More next week. And Finally… Zoe Cohen shared a link to a story about the melting permafrost in the Arctic. It means that structures that previously relied on the frozen ground as a rock-solid foundation are suddenly suffering from subsidence. There is a solution however. Engineers plan to instal massive chillers to refreeze the tundra beneath their infrastructure. The infrastructure in question is oil production equipment owned by ConocoPhillips. Hang on - isn’t oil production part of that fossil fuel problem which is causing the warming that leads the tundra to melt? You couldn’t make it up… And that’s it! Thanks for listening to this week’s Sustainable Futures Report. You’ll appreciate that I’ve had to hold over most of my five pages of leads to climate stories until next time. Many thanks for all my patrons for staying with me and thanks to those of you who wrote to me during August. I’ll share your ideas next time. By the way, if you’d like to become a patron, and your support would be most gratefully received, just hop across to A word to the wise. For the moment you can sign up from $1 per month. From October the minimum will increase to £1 per month, although existing subscribers will not be affected. A final reminder that you can find the full text and links to the stories in this episode on the blog at I’m Anthony Day. And that’s all for now. Sources Environment Lockdown will have 'negligible' impact on climate crisis – study Greenland ice sheet lost a record 1m tonnes of ice per minute in 2019 Carbon emissions from Artic wildfires up more than a third NEW WEATHER INSTITUTE Politics And Finally Thanks Zoe Cohen -

Friday, July 31, 2020

And Finally...

And Finally…
I’m Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 31st July.
And finally…no, this isn’t the last episode, just the last episode in July before I close down for August. Hold tight - there’s a lot to get in.

I’ll be talking about transport, climate, too much water, too little water, energy, campaigns and opinions and I chat briefly about pollution with Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio. There are pages of links to all these stories on the blog at This is probably the longest episode I’ve done at 6,700 words, but then, you’ve got a whole month to enjoy it.
Let’s take to the road.
Recently we spoke about electrifying transport and in particular about using electricity for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). It was pointed out that you would need something like five tons of batteries which would significantly reduce the payload which vehicles could carry, given that there is an overall limit of 44 tons. It also occurs to me that those batteries would all have to be in the tractor unit, leading to a much increased axle load which would restrict the routes on which the vehicle could be used. 
I reported some months ago on a scheme in Canada for overhead electric power for HGVs. In this particular case the lorries had conventional diesel engines plus electric motors. The overhead wires were installed over a relatively short distance, but the idea was to reduce pollution and noise from large numbers of HGVs passing through a residential area on the way to a port.
Now the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight has published a White Paper which suggests that overhead electric wires, like those on a railway, should be installed over the inside lanes of motorways. Heavy goods vehicles (HGV) would pick up current from these to power them through the major parts of their journeys. They would then use smaller batteries to complete the last off-motorway part of the trip. 
The White Paper says: “A total investment in the region of £19.3 billion would be required to electrify almost all the UK’s long-haul freight vehicles, corresponding to 65% of road freight movements. The estimated CO2 saving would be 13.4 MtCO2e per annum, along with substantial air quality benefits. The remaining 35% of freight movements are mainly urban deliveries that are expected to move to battery electric lorries over the next 10 years. The investment compares well with the size of other planned infrastructure projects. Work could get underway immediately with an £80 million pilot project in the North East of England.”
65% of road freight movements electrified for £19.3 billion! Compare this with HS2, the high-speed passenger railway under construction from London to Birmingham, budgeted at some £80 billion and confidently expected to cost over £100 billion. That will carry no freight, just passengers wealthy enough to afford the premium fare to save them 20 minutes on their journey.
The Guardian newspaper is a rich resource for many of my stories, like these about the climate.
The Climate is Changing
One evening back in June, ripples of electric blue clouds shimmered in the twilight sky after sunset. These were noctilucent clouds, the highest clouds in the world, more than 80km (50 miles) up on the edge of space, and looked like something from another planet. 
These clouds may also be a warning sign of the climate crisis. They were first recorded in 1885 and were rarely seen for years afterwards, largely in polar regions. But in recent times the clouds have appeared much further afield and are growing much brighter.
Much of the moisture needed to form the clouds comes from methane, a potent greenhouse gas that produces water vapour when it breaks down in the upper atmosphere. And as methane pollution has increased, so noctilucent clouds have grown more common and more widespread.
Getting Warmer
As the climate changes, a study published in the journal Nature Communications predicts that the UK could see 40°C temperatures every 15 years instead of every century or so.  Lead author Nikolaos Christidis, of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: “The rate of change is remarkable.”
“Last year, we had the record temperature in the UK and [Public Health England] reported spikes in mortality,” he continued. “When these kinds of events happen, we have detrimental impacts to our transport infrastructure, agricultural catastrophes and water shortages. We need to reduce our vulnerability to these kinds of impacts.”
The government’s official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, said, “the UK is poorly prepared for the very serious impacts of climate change, including … overheating”.
Not Enough Water
According to the BBC, the Public Accounts Committee warns that some parts of England will run out of water within the next 20 years unless "urgent action" is taken.
People in certain parts of the UK, particularly in the South East, already have less water available to them than those in countries like Morocco, according to several water companies in the region. With 20% of water wasted, the committee is calling on the government to establish a league table for water companies to pressure them into dealing with leaks. It also wants efficiency labels on domestic products like washing machines and dishwashers to be made compulsory.
Vanessa Speight, professor of integrated water systems at Sheffield University, told BBC News: "The UK has some of the oldest water infrastructure in the world, and while it has served us well, it is now time to look to the future with significant water infrastructure investment that will address leakage as well as related reliability and water quality issues.”
Too Much Water
While there are serious risks from drought, we are still at risk from floods.
The government’s long-awaited strategy for tackling floods in England does not go far enough and appears to conflict with Boris Johnson’s “build, build, build” plan for more housing, experts have said.
Prof Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist at the University of Reading, said the government’s pledge to review house building on floodplains did not “sound in tune” with the prime minister’s commitment to cutting red tape to build new homes more quickly under “Project Speed”.
Cloke said: “A fortnight ago Boris was attacking ‘newt counting’ and bemoaning the pace of progress in the UK. Dealing with flooding shows precisely the difficulties behind his promise to build better, faster and greener. Sometimes being better and greener requires building more slowly and carefully, or we risk long-term economic and social costs that we cannot afford.”
About 20,000 homes a year are built on land at the highest risk of flooding in England, equating to one in 10 of all new homes since 2013.
Planning policy says housing should be based in areas at the least risk of flooding, yet local authorities, which face penalties if they miss house-building targets, say they feel powerless to stop developments and are concerned these construction projects will only increase in number.
Meanwhile Up North (a long way up north)
Between January and June, temperatures in the far north of Russia were more than 5C above average, causing permafrost to melt, buildings to collapse, and sparking an unusually early and intense start to the forest fires season. On 20 June, a monitoring station in Verkhoyansk registered a record high of 38C.
In a study by World Weather Attribution, scientists from France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and the UK collaborated to examine whether and to what extent human-induced climate change had a part to play in making this heatwave hotter and more likely. The results showed with high confidence that the January to June 2020 prolonged heat was made at least 600 times more likely as a result of human-induced climate change. They noted that even with climate change, the prolonged heat was a very rare event expected to occur less than once every 130 years.
Stormy Weather
Global warming, of course, isn’t just about heat. A study published in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that the unusually large discharges of meltwater from Greenland and the Arctic in the last few years created a lasting freshwater pond at the ocean surface. Because freshwater cools faster than saltwater this pond has increased the temperature difference from north to south and helped to trigger some of the extreme winter storms seen in northern Europe. The authors anticipate that increased melting in future years is likely to whip up storms of even greater intensity and barrel them towards northern Europe.
Leslie Field, founder of, wants to sprinkle 19,000 sq miles of ice with reflective silica granules to slow down the melting of the ice. The cost is estimated to be around $750m, not including labour. The continual funding for such an effort will have to come from private donors, or the UN, or perhaps the World Bank. That, too, isn’t certain as yet, despite a “large-scale launch” of ice covering earmarked for 2020.
“It’s not chump change, but compared to other options it’s cost effective,” she said. “It’s a matter of trying to prevent the horrific list of things, such as sea level rise, storms and so on, that will come from climate change. Things that will cost us trillions, not billions.”
Meanwhile, a team of scientists at Arizona State University want to add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic’s current thickness by spending $500bn on a network of 10m wind-powered pumps that would be used to push seawater on to the surface of the ice where it would freeze.
“Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels,” lead physicist Steven Desch said. “It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.”
Elsewhere there is the plan to use 16tn miniature robots to deflect the sun’s heat away from Earth; or the project to pump aerosols into clouds in order to “brighten” them and bolster their reflective power. Another scheme, devised by the scientist who developed Australia’s polymer bank notes, is trialling a thin “sun shield” to be placed over parts of the Great Barrier Reef, which has recently suffered from severe coral bleaching.
Will it work?
The problem with all of these geo-engineering ideas is that no-one knows how well they will work, if at all. And if it all goes horribly wrong we won’t be able to just walk away.
Even if it works, another study found that the temperature reductions as a result of the drop in carbon dioxide or other emissions because of Covid-19, were so small they would not be measurable. 
The message seems to be that if we continue business as usual atmospheric heating will soon reach dangerous levels. However, if we ever did manage to cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently, the temperature would become stable but we would not see reductions for a long time. We could perhaps take comfort from the fact that the next generation would benefit.
Writing in The Guardian, Dr Tamsin Edwards, a senior lecturer in physical geography at King’s College London, explains how sprinkling fields with basalt rock dust could remove CO2 from the atmosphere through the natural process of weathering.
“But,” she says, “we cannot escape the fact that limiting global warming to 1.5C would require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in energy, land, urban infrastructure and industry. The point is that there will be no silver bullet for climate change. No easy choice for the best action to take, no get-out-of-jail-free card. We have left it too late for that: we need to do (almost) everything, and fast.”
Turning now to pollution, research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, reports the discovery of a methane seep at a 10-metre (30ft) deep site known as Cinder Cones in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The study provides the first report of the evolution of a seep system from a non-seep environment, and reveals that the rate of microbial succession may have an unrealised impact on greenhouse gas emission from marine methane reservoirs.
Antarctica is estimated to contain as much as a quarter of earth's marine methane. The methane cycle is not perfectly understood, but it is well known that methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, so any reports of it leaking into the atmosphere must be a cause for concern.
The authors say, “Climate change will increase the release of methane from subsurface marine reservoirs and while predicting the impact of this release is multifaceted, methanotrophy in the oceans is expected to minimise the atmospheric footprint of this release.” Methanotrophy is the consumption of methane by bacteria and other organisms. What the scientists are saying is that while methane is seeping into the oceans, most of it is being absorbed by organisms so very little is escaping into the atmosphere. They go on to say that methane-consuming organisms grow very slowly, so presumably if the seepage speeds up they may be unable to absorb it all. An area for more research, and careful monitoring.
And now a dispatch which I thought initially came from the Department of the bleedin’ obvious. A study has found that car tyres are major source of ocean microplastics. Well, I would have thought it was obvious. We all know that car tyres wear out, but they take tens of thousands of miles to wear out so must wear out by shedding extremely fine particles. These fragments are deposited on the roads and when the rain comes they are washed into the ditch. All ditches run into streams which run into rivers which run into the ocean. Hence there’s a lot of microplastics from car tyres in the ocean. 
I was wrong 
It seems, actually that I’m wrong. The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals that these particles are actually blown across continents and into the sea. We agonise about the millions of microfibres that we release every time we wash our clothes, but lead researcher Andreas Stohl, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, said an average tyre loses 4kg during its lifetime. “It’s such a huge amount of plastic compared to, say, clothes, whose fibres are commonly found in rivers”, Stohl said. “You will not lose kilograms of plastic from your clothing.”
Airborne transport has received much less attention than rivers because only the smallest particles can be blown by the wind and their size makes them difficult to identify as plastic. “The really small particles are probably the most important in terms of health and ecological consequences because you can inhale them and the very small particles can probably also enter your blood vessels,” Stohl said.
Fly tipping 
Disposing of worn-out tyres is a problem in itself. Disposing of anything has become a problem during the pandemic as public recycling and refuse centres have been closed. An egregious example is to be found in Glasgow where people have created a mountain of waste tyres on an industrial estate in that city.  And that’s only one example of fly tipping which has expanded dramatically during lockdown. There is probably an element of the herd instinct there, that Roger Hallam was talking about last week. If everybody else does it, why shouldn’t I? Pity that it’s not balanced with a sense of responsibility.
The Interview
Julia Hartley Brewer of Talk Radio got in touch this week to talk about pollution.
Julia: Alright, now let's move on to very different matters, not inside the home, but outside of the home, what happens to all that stuff we do buy and where it disappears because almost 1 billion, tons of plastic waste is going to be dumped on land and at sea by 2040, according to a major new study, let's talk about this with Anthony Day, environmental consultant, also presenter of the sustainable  futures report podcast.
Good morning to you Anthony. 
Anthony: Good morning, Julia. 
Julia: Well, this study is entitled Breaking the plastic wave . It's been written by academics at university of Leeds along with 17 other international experts. And it's talking about this 1 billion tons of plastic waste. First of all, where is it coming from? And second of all, where is it going?
Anthony: Well, where's it coming from mainly it's coming from single use plastic, which I suppose is, um, uh, wrappings packaging and so on and an awful lot of, uh, drinks, bottles, billions of drinks  bottles are produced and used  and an awful lot of them thrown away every day. Where's it going? A lot of it, uh, 8 million tons goes into the oceans every year.
Uh, and an awful lot of the rest of it is just scattered around on the land. 
Julia: Um, and why does it end up scattered on  land and sea? Because when you know it, this isn't just people just littering. This is stuff that people have thrown away. Uh, presumably in their rubbish bins or in their bins, in the, in the high street that somehow ends up in the land and the sea.
But how does it get there? Because one of things I've always been crossed about. It's like, Oh, you can't use single use plastic economies, plastic bags, or, or bottles of water because these end up in the sea, I'm not putting them there. 
Anthony: No, no. It's only people who litter, which, which causes this. So the 8 million tons is from litter, but it's 300 million tons, which is produced annually.
And yes, a lot of it is actually recycled or it's put into landfill, it is treated as waste and it's under control. Although landfill is not a particularly good place for it. Uh, it's people who litter it's just dropped. And  we've seen examples of that recently with people going to beauty spots and abandoning all their rubbish, Uh, and that ends up in the sea and it just ends up on land as well.
Julia: Yeah. I mean, the trouble with this is, you know, what are the penalties we've seen a massive upsurge in, uh, uh, in dumping of, uh, of, uh, big, big items of, uh, of litter, you know, the, the household goods. So then I partly because I'm, I mean, certainly my area for about four months of the lockdown, you couldn't actually get to the dump.
And even then after that, you had to make an appointment to the night and waiting weeks, weeks. Um, and they're very, very strict about it, but yeah. And lots of rubbish isn't collected properly anymore. I mean, round my way trying to get anything collected is a, is an absolute nightmare. So  no wonder, I mean, not saying it's justifiable, but people do go and break the law.
But is this not down to some of the new policies that we have? As we've made collection of rubbish, less, uh, less regular and more expensive. What a surprise. We see more littering. 
Anthony: Absolutely. But I think we ought to look at this from both ends because at the moment the manufacturers produce something in plastic wrapping, they sell it off and that's the end as far as they're concerned.
Yeah. So I think we should be looking at legislation, which makes them think twice and makes them think, well, perhaps glass would be better. Because glass of course is far easier to recycle and it's not environmentally damaging or cardboard or paper or things like that. But at the moment, manufacturers can go for the cheapest and what happens to be the most polluting.
And so they will, because they're in a competitive environment, there's no regulations to stop them. 
What I should have said
Of course the point I should have made, and this is clearly stated in the report, is that this is a global problem. It’s not down to untidy holidaymakers, it’s due to the fact that 2 billion people in the global population have no access to any sort of waste collection service. If they have waste, all they can do is dump it.
I firmly believe that a national waste recovery policy is overdue for the UK, but we need to be part of of a global action to stem global pollution. We should stop sending our rubbish abroad for disposal. As a TV documentary revealed a few months ago, British rubbish is just stockpiled and abandoned in some developing countries. Other countries have just sent it back.
Plastic in the oceans decomposes. Particles on the surface can gather oil and other pollutants and eventually sink to the deepest ocean depths taking their polluting cargoes with them. As plastics decompose they release all types of chemicals. These have entered the food chain and are present in virtually all plants and animals, and ourselves. Such pollutants are now found in human breast milk, in concentrations which would be illegal in products for sale. An international action to clean up pollution in faraway countries is in the interests of all of us in this globalised world.

Keep it clean!
This week’s review of energy news kicks off with a statement from the UN that a CleanEnergy Future is vital.
Speaking at the International Energy Agency's (IEA) Clean Energy Transitions Summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, 

"Stop wasting money on fossil fuel subsidies and place a price on carbon”.
He told the meeting that a new analysis of G20 recovery packages shows that twice as much recovery money has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy.

The Climate Compass describes that as a crime against humanity.


There’s a link to that video and to The Climate Compass on the blog.
Turning to technology…
…Faraday Insights, the journal of the Faraday Institution, reports that “Lithium-sulphur technology has the potential to offer cheaper, lighter-weight batteries that also offer safety advantages. After initially finding use in niche markets such as satellites, drones and military vehicles, the technology has the potential to transform aviation in the long-term. Electric aircraft offering short-range flights or vertical take-off and landing (including personalised aviation and flying taxis in cities) are distinct possibilities by 2050. The UK, which is already home to established lithium-sulphur battery manufacturers and to leading academics in the field, has a great opportunity to be the global leader in this ground-breaking technology.” Watch this space.
Spinning the Wheel
Of course batteries are not the only way of storing energy. There are plans to install a giant £25m flywheel in Scotland. Linked to the grid, it will be spun up with surplus electricity and will return electricity to the grid via a generator when required. The inertia of this massive unit will help to maintain the stability of the frequency of the grid, offsetting the very variable inputs from renewables. And of course it does this with out any sort of emissions or pollution. £25m for a wheel sounds a lot, though.
Turning down the regulator
Energy companies have accused the regulator Ofgem of putting Britain’s climate goals at risk by clamping down on returns for green investors in an effort to shave £20 a year from home energy bills.
Ofgem has proposed halving the returns that companies can make over the next five years through a £25bn green investment plan designed to prepare Britain’s energy infrastructure for a low-carbon future. Major energy companies including National Grid, SSE and Scottish Power have warned that setting investor returns at 3.95% – down from the current 7% to 8% – could slow the pace of Britain’s energy transition by making the UK less attractive to investors.
There is also concern over Ofgem’s decision to cut the total investment allowed in new electricity grid projects to between £5.9bn and £9.1bn for the next five years, which falls short of the £9.6bn invested over the last five years. The proposed limit is well below the spending proposed by the industry at £10.8bn to prepare for a surge in power demand from electric cars, hobs and heat pumps.
Long Cable
Meanwhile, work begins in Lincolnshire on the world's longest subsea power cable. The 475-mile (765km) cable is a joint-venture between National Grid in the UK and Denmark’s Energinet. By 2023, the high-voltage, direct-current link will transmit the equivalent of enough electricity to power 1.5m British homes between Bicker Fen in Lincolnshire and the South Jutland region in Denmark. There are plans for other cables, including one to Iceland where renewable electricity is generated from geothermal energy.
Still wind in the sails 
The pandemic lockdown has had little effect on wind power. Global offshore wind investment more than quadrupled in the first half of the year.
A report has found that investors gave approval to 28 new offshore windfarms worth a total of $35bn (£28bn) this year, four times more than in the first half of 2019 and well above the total for last year as a whole.
Taking back control
At the other end of the scale the town of Wolfhagen in Germany has taken back control of its energy supply. When its contract with EON came to an end citizens decided to take the local grid back into local ownership. They installed wind turbines and solar panels and now supply electricity at a lower rate than EON. Reversing privatisation of utilities has been carried out in many places across Europe. A contrast with the UK where we put up with high prices and poor service, and it’s probably illegal to take anything from the private sector into municipal control.
Looking Ahead
Last week I expressed the hope that someone would be doing some scenario planning. National Grid has published its Future Energy Scenarios for the next 30 years. The introduction explains that, “Our Future Energy Scenarios (FES) outline four different, credible pathways for the future of energy over the next 30 years. Based on input from over 600 experts, the report looks at the energy needed in Britain, across electricity and gas - examining where it could come from, how it needs to change and what this means for consumers, society and the energy system itself.
“Three of the four FES scenarios modelled show Great Britain reaches net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier, but make clear this requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas, with fundamental changes for energy consumers, particularly in transport, heating and energy efficiency.”
“.. immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas,..”
Is the government listening?
A link to the full report is of course available at
Addicted to solar
A final note on solar power which is now extensively used by farmers in Afghanistan. Previously they used diesel pumps to raise water to irrigate their crops. The diesel was expensive and often of poor quality, damaging the engines. Now, after the initial investment in panels and pumps the water is effectively free. Areas under cultivation have expanded and yields have dramatically increased. For example, production in 2012 was 3,700 tonnes rising to 9,000 tons in 2017 and by 2019 Helmand province where the major investment in solar had been made, production was 6,000 tons in that province alone. Production of opium, that is. Well it’s an ill wind and so on.
Good Read
If you’re looking for a holiday read I recommend Good Cop Bad War by Neil Woods. This is the true story of an undercover policeman and his work infiltrating drug gangs. He believes that by his actions drug dealers have been imprisoned for more than 1,000 years in total. He believes it has made absolutely no difference to the drugs trade.
What are people saying?
Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg is back in the news. Well, presumably she can’t go to school. She’s accused EU politicians of failing to acknowledge the scale of the climate crisis and said its €750bn Covid-19 recovery plan does not do enough to tackle the issue.
“They are still denying the fact and ignoring the fact that we are facing a climate emergency, and the climate crisis has still not once been treated as a crisis,” Thunberg told the Guardian. “As long as the climate crisis is not being treated as a crisis, the changes that are necessary will not happen.”
Greta and fellow activists have written an open letter to EU leaders demanding they act immediately to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

The letter, signed by 80,000 people including some of the world’s leading scientists, argues that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that most leaders are able to act swiftly and decisively when they deem it necessary, but that the same urgency has been missing in the response to climate change.
“It is now clearer than ever that the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, neither from the politicians, media, business nor finance. And the longer we keep pretending that we are on a reliable path to lower emissions and that the actions required to avoid a climate disaster are available within today’s system … the more precious time we will lose,” it says.
US on the way out.
The US will officially exit the Paris Accord one day after the 2020 US election and architects of that deal say the stakes could not be higher. Trump’s opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden, has vowed to rejoin the climate agreement.
“The choice of Biden or Trump in the White House is huge, not just for the US but for the world generally to deal with climate change,” said Todd Stern, the US chief negotiator in Paris. “If Biden wins, November 4 is a blip, like a bad dream is over. If Trump wins, he seals the deal. The US becomes a non-player and the goals of Paris become very, very difficult. Without the US in the long term, they certainly aren’t realistic.”
I fear that all we can do from this side of the pond is watch and wait.
WEF Vision
The World Economic Forum has published a report entitled “The Future of Nature and Business.”
The Great Acceleration of the world economy over the last 70 years has brought an unprecedented increase in output and human welfare. Human population grew from 2.5 billion in 1950 to close to 8 billion today. At the same time, the average person has become 4.4 times richer and lives 25 years longer than in 1950. Since 1990, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has reduced by one-half, and roughly 700 million more people entered the mushrooming global middle classes.
Yet, the Great Acceleration carried important costs, among which were its profound impacts on natural systems, including the degradation and loss of whole species and critical ecosystems. COVID-19 has brought the Great Acceleration to a screeching halt.…scientists have warned us against returning to “business as usual” in light of the looming nature crisis. Nature loss brings a whole new set of risks, including potentially deadlier pandemics; we are sleepwalking into a catastrophe if we continue to ignore this reality…
…It won’t be easy or straightforward, but a failure to act will be even more painful. We need to commit to this path and be willing to work together. The World Economic Forum, as the international organisation for public-private cooperation, pledges to help public, private and civil society stakeholders reset their relationship with nature as part of the Great Reset agenda in a way that will be nature-positive, value- creating and job-rich.
Fine words. Who’s listening?
Who wants to be happy?
Maybe journalist George Monbiot is listening. He’s been warning about the climate crisis for decades and is increasingly strident about inequality. “People want a greener, happier world,” he says, “Politicians don’t.”
The main thrust of this latest article is a criticism of the government’s strategy for post-Covid recovery. 
“Normal is a fairyland to which we can never return,” he says…. 
“When business as usual resumes, so does the air pollution that kills more people every year than Covid-19 has yet done, and exacerbates the impacts of the virus. Climate breakdown and air pollution are two aspects of a wider dysbiosis. Dysbiosis means the unravelling of ecosystems. The term is used by doctors to describe the collapse of our gut biomes, but it is equally applicable to all living systems: rainforests, coral reefs, rivers, soil. They are unspooling at shocking speed due to the cumulative effect of “normality”, which entails a perpetual expansion of consumption.”…
“…But the Westminster government is determined to shove us back into hypernormality regardless of our wishes. This week the environment secretary, George Eustice, signalled that he intends to rip up our system of environmental assessments. The government’s proposed free ports, in which tax and regulations are suspended, will not only exacerbate fraud and money laundering but also expose the surrounding wetlands and mudflats, and the rich wildlife they harbour, to destruction and pollution. The trade deal it intends to strike with the US could override parliamentary sovereignty and destroy our environmental standards – without public consent.”
No need to worry about Trump, then. We have plenty to deal with at home.
One last thing
Well three, actually. The first is an article and accompanying short video by Simon Sinek. He seems to be a speaker talking about the climate crisis rather than a climate activist becoming a speaker. 
He says we’ve got the communication of the climate message all wrong, and echoing the remarks of Roger Hallam reported last week, explains how the average person gives little importance to things which are remote in space or time. Hence warnings of a disaster in 2050 are simply ignored. He sees “global warming” as a misleading term: it sounds too cosy and people confuse climate with weather, so when there’s a cold snap they believe that global warming can’t be happening. He suggests that we should be talking about “climate cancer” to bring home the seriousness and urgency of the situation. 
We should not just concentrate on remote targets like net-zero by 2050, but set near-term intermediate targets, and engage everyone in achieving them. And we shouldn’t talk about saving the planet: the planet will always survive. Our task is saving humanity.
I’m involved in a group of speakers who are examining the best way of delivering the climate message. I’ll let you know how we get on. In fact I’ll probably try out their techniques on you.
Second last thing…

XR is planning actions in September. I’ll bring you news of that next time.
Last thing

Doubt: it’s much more subtle than flat denial. It’s insidious. It’s been used by oil companies to delay regulations and used notoriously by tobacco companies to confuse the message on the dangers of smoking.
A series of 15-minute programmes on doubt were released by BBC Radio this week. Find them on the BBC Sounds app, or via the link on this blog.
And that’s it!
Yes that was the last Sustainable Futures Report until September. As always, I hope that you are safe and well and that you continue to be so. If you have the opportunity for a holiday I hope you enjoy it and I hope this podcast and the related references will give you something to pass any idle time you may have. I am Anthony Day and I shall be back with the Sustainable Futures Report in September. Thank you for listening and thank you as always to all my patrons for their support. It's a pretty exclusive group but that doesn't mean you can't be a member and you’d be most welcome. Just pop across to and find the details.
I’m Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Until next time.


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