Friday, September 11, 2020

Going Vegan?

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Apologies once again - Blogger has sabotaged all the formatting I put in!
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:




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.


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.


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 shelfs 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 its 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.


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.


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.


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 Im 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 citys 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.


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.




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





And Finally

Thanks Zoe Cohen -