The Green Problem

So I did my little slot on the Beeb last week, and it went pretty well. My Luddite counterpart was a very nice woman. But I think if we had spent much more time in each other’s company, things might have got a little heated.

Comments like:”I hate car drivers, they are just selfish and pay no attention to cyclists,” and “all that stuff about dishwashers being more eco-friendly than washing up is just propaganda,” were really starting to get under my skin.

Why? Because I consider myself basically a greeny. I may not live in a yurt, survive on a diet of home grown bean-sprouts, and knit my own sandals out of yoghurt, but the majority of people never will. Instead I try to make the best choices I can to minimise the environmental impact of the life that I lead.

For example, I spend a bit extra on longer-lasting, higher-quality, energy-efficient appliances. I buy my electricity from a 100% renewable source. I choose to drive a car that has reasonable performance but is also extremely low on carbon emissions and high on economy (and I am very careful around cyclists). Would I rather walk, cycle, or use public transport? Absolutely. But even if it were possible, it would take me three times as long to get anywhere (I could be working at either end of the country on a given day) and cost many times more. In short, I couldn’t do my job without a car.

So to hear sweeping statements being made about me and the other two thirds of British households with a car is quite frustrating. It is possible to own a car and NOT be a cyclist-murdering, oil-loving, climate change-denier. But as long as either side portrays the choices as black and white, the greenies will never carry the argument.

That is why, despite the scientific consensus, so many people still (want to) believe that it isn’t yet certain that climate change is caused by humans and that there is anything we can do about it. Getting people to live in a yurt and give up modern comforts is simply not an option. But ask them nicely and they are more than likely to meet you half way.

This post forms part of my Future of Cities series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Cities page.

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Tom Cheesewright