Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated Lincoln (about the 16th US president, not the East Midlands town*) is released in the UK today. Simon Leadbetter argues that future generations will see our debate about the cause of, and response to, climate change in the same way we view historic arguments over slavery. There was only ever one valid conclusion and one course of action then – just as there is now.
The modern era is unusual in that it does not see slavery as tolerable. For the whole of our human history, trading people as property has been seen as an acceptable form of commerce. It predates written history and it is still with us even today. There are still 12 to 27 million people estimated to be living bondage.
Every single aspect of human progress has been fought for and hard won, and always resisted by powerful vested interests. Expanding the franchise to the poor, emancipating women, creating a framework of education, healthcare and equal rights, better working conditions, fairer pay and, of course, abolishing slavery, have all been resisted and still are to a certain extent.
There are still some today who, if they were completely honest, would say that society has deteriorated since the poor, women and minorities gained rights. Fortunately, for them, an eager media relishes demonising, sexualising and caricaturing these groups to ensure that their voices are regularly diminished.
Whenever someone proposes a ‘wild’ progressive idea, there are always those who raise, amongst other objections, economic concerns. It runs along the same lines every time: if we do this it will damage our economy, the downside is greater than the upside. There is a serious body of academic work on the economic reasons for and benefits of slavery. A similar body of work attacks expanding the franchise to the poor and women.
Oppression of any kind is certainly profitable for the dominant group. Readers of various investment magazines would be the first to applaud and invest in anything that led to profit maximisation, and oppose anything that limited it. If slavery was reintroduced, they would pile in to reap the handsome profits on offer – despite the cost in human misery and suffering.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist” – 13th amendment
Slavery in the UK was effectively made illegal by a 1772 case (R v Knowles, ex parte Somersett) and by statute in 1833, when the Slavery Abolition Act was introduced. Britain used its naval strength to hunt down slave ships. The US followed in 1865 with the 13th amendment, after a four-year long and very bloody civil war. Around 625,000 people were killed and 412,000 injured: representing 3% of the US population at the time.
Visionary, courageous and determined individuals, for moral and religious reasons, fought and won against those that profited from slavery. The Quakers and abolitionist movement sparked the ethical investment sector.
We started our slow realisation that commerce (in this case, the burning of coal) might be damaging the environment, and us, with the Great Smog of 1952. This severe and lethal pollution event coincided with a period of cold weather, windless conditions and lasted for five days. The number of fatalities is thought to have been 20,000, while around 100,000 were made ill. It still took four years to pass The Clean Air Act, imposing smoke control and encouraging the use of smokeless fuel. Progress was slow and smog struck again in 1962. Unfortunately, we had failed to learn the lessons of 1272, when Edward I banned the burning of sea coal in London, due to the problems of smoke.
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country” – Abraham Lincoln
While there had been a nascent environmental movement throughout the industrial revolution, the Great Smog really provided the impetus for modern environmentalism, seeing the movement expand from the ‘60s.
The recent era has been dominated by the philosophy that growth is good and profit is the only goal, regardless of the cost to society and the environment.
However, the Earth’s resources and ability to regulate itself are finite and this imposes natural limits on growth. Industrialisation in the developed world gave birth to environmentalism, as people witnessed the damage being done first hand, and industrialisation in the developing world has made environmentalism an urgent necessity.
As living standards rise in the countries that have populations greater than Europe and the US combined, India and China, so the demand for energy, water, food and consumer goods rises inexorably.
Unless we recognise our planet’s constraints and how ignoring them is having a terrible effect on our climate specifically, and environment more generally, our future will look increasingly uncertain.
But today we are faced by senior politicians, columnists, rogue scientists and celebrities who argue against human-caused climate change or assert that the costs of doing anything would be ruinous for our economy. When you scratch the surface of any of these sceptics they either have no relevant scientific training or have a vested interest in the status quo.
Commerce and industry that threatens the climate is our generation’s slavery, and you either fall into the camp of progress, reaction or apathy. Tragically, the latter group is often the largest on most issues of progress, but are often very happy to reap the benefits of any change. As are the reactionaries, who once defeated seek new and exciting ways to profit from progress.
Slavery was abolished in the UK 180 years ago and we now recognise its abolition as a vital triumph of our nation’s character. One can speculate on how dimly and angrily the people of 2193, in another 180 years’ time, will view our feeble political leadership, indecision and inaction today.
Abolishing slavery took vision, courage and determination and was, put simply, the right thing to do. It birthed an enlightened investment community that rejected profit at any cost.
A sustainable future, one that we would want our great, great, great grandchildren to inhabit, needs people with the same vision, courage and determination to reject reckless and unethical investment and reject those rapacious companies that profit from polluting the Earth.
The way we invest today is harming our planet, its people and everyone’s prosperity. It’s time to say that neither reckless nor unsustainable investment shall exist.
“The struggle of today, is not altogether for today – it is for a vast future also” – Abraham Lincoln
* More’s the pity
UPDATE: Friends of the Earth has pointed us at an inspiring speech made by Labour peer Lord Puttnam on just this very subject in 2007. Read more here.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.
Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.
Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.
Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar
The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.
It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.
The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.
Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.
It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.
And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.
Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.
Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics
Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?
Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.
Minimize Your Water Usage
Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.
Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?
These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.
From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!
Energy2 weeks ago
How Much Energy Does Bitcoin Use, Really?
Environment4 weeks ago
Biggest Tip to Eco-Friendly Car Ownership (Which May Surprise You)
Energy4 weeks ago
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Energy3 weeks ago
4 Energy Efficient Home Upgrades that You Can Install Yourself