Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Wednesday 25th November 09

I came down briefly as the boys were getting ready to go to school but as everything was going smoothly, I wasn't needed (infact my presence might have been counterproductive!) so I went back to bed, read and fell asleep. Gill joined me when she got back from delivering our youngest to school.

So, a lazy morning but got going just before lunch by cycling round to the bread shop for 'Yesterbake', the unsold bread from yesterday sold at vastly reduced prices. Great to reduce waste. Good on the pocket too, when on a low income! I called in on Lynne too, to pick up the remaining posters about the LETS Xmas Fayre which I hope to deliver on Friday to places which will display them.

I've been very moved by the scenes of destruction from Cumbria following the heavy rain last week and the flooding which ensued. Lives have been wrecked, businesses disrupted, and it'll take years to recover. But there's something doubly bad about this, and similar weather-related catastrophes. It is almost unquestioned now that a warming world will have more energy in weather systems and therefore stronger winds, heavier rain, greater extremes. So we need to expect more 'one in a thousand year' events, more often. BUT, the aftermath of these events has an even bigger carbon footprint that 'business as usual'. Looking at the Cockermouth example, with bridges washed away, people are no longer able to walk from one side of the town to their work or school on the other... they now have a 2 hour drive. Every house affected by floodwater, often contaminated with sewage, will throw out furniture, electricals, carpets, foodstuffs, cars... plaster off the walls even. And most of this will be replaced. Think of the carbon cost of that! And the same goes for rebuilding the bridges and getting the roads and other infrastructure back in working order... not only will this cost many tens of millions of pounds but it will have a huge carbon footprint, adding to the already vast problem.

I'm thinking ahead to when London floods in the same way as Cockermouth just has, or Canvey Island and the East Coast in 1953. This could happen anytime... in a few weeks, with a storm surge plus high tides plus extreme heavy rain, or in a decade, with higher sea levels and extreme weather, or many years ahead. It will happen, we just don't know when. If the barriers are topped in the next few years, it is likely that much of the damage will be repaired and Londoners will try to get back to 'normal'. But in a few decades, when the price of resources and fuel have risen because of peak oil and increasing consumption, it may be deemed too expensive to try and rebuild in the same place. It may be deemed silly to try to rebuild, as the risk of flooding in the same area will be steadily increasing due to sea level rise and even the fact that the East of England is slowly subsiding, geologically-speaking.

The UK has plenty of land well above sea level, but places like the Maldives, Kiribati, Bangladesh and the Netherlands are particularly at risk. The sea level rose about 20cm last century and that has been enough to engulf a couple of islands in Kiribati, and contaminate fresh-water wells, wash away farmland, etc. Kiribati today, London tomorrow.

These scenarios are just one of the reasons I'm committed to living a low carbon lifestyle. I don't want to be 'blamed' for these kind of difficulties. I really have a desire to be remembered as a 'responsible ancestor', but one who had fun living that way too.

If readers are interested in flood maps connected with sea level rise, visit this interactive map and go to the part of the World you're interested in and put in the level of sea level rise you're concerned about. Predictions are a metre higher by the end of this century, but it could be such a lot more... depending on the amount of, for instance, ice melting off Greenland. If this all goes, we should expect 6 to 8 metres increase in global seal level. This is unlikely to happen in this century, but it does depend on the amount of warming the area is subjected to. Sea level rise is not just caused by melting glaciers etc, but also by the water expanding as it gets warmer. The science is clear and simple, but the predictions are very varied.

I didn't spend all of the day pondering this or researching it... I did a good bit of work in the garden and some housework too, finishing the tomato soup I started yesterday, cooking the other bits for tea, on the woodstove of course, as I get increasingly unwilling to use the gas rings to heat things up. I did some more log stacking as we're going through a lot more now the weather has cooled down and our big stove is going 24 hours a day.

David popped round at lunchtime to deliver the CD with my new Fiddlesticks publicity leaflet on it, and some of the photos he's taken to prepare for this document. Now I have to find a printer who is prepared to use recycled card and run me off a few hundred of them...

I had a phone call from the BBC film-maker to ask a few questions and to find out if I'm available to go into the Look North studios next Wednesday. They'll show the short film with the low carbon footprint person and the don't care person, and then have a discussion live in the studio. They invited Gill and the boys to come too, and watch how the programme was made. This will be confirmed in the next few days.

Anyway, a nondescript evening with the only high point being Justin Rowlatt's one-hour outing recycling much of the Newsnight stuff he did travelling across America. Good to see it packaged up in one programme 'This World: Can Obama Save the Planet' (BBC2, 7pm). Sad not to see Joe Jenkins my composting toilet hero. I watched this whilst peeling pumpkin seeds... I have rather a lot to do!

Later on, more fruit drying and washing up... pretty standard stuff in this house!

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