An independent magazine about climate change
IFLA! is a new, independent 3 magazine with a fresh perspective on climate change. Too often, environmental discussion is polarised into one of two categories: the remote, technical language of science, or the hotheaded outrage of activism. This magazine finds the middle ground, inviting writers and illustrators from a variety of fields to give us their take on how climate change will affect – and is affecting – society. We want to help untangle the climate tensions and choices that our generation will have to navigate by platforming as many different perspectives as we can find. IFLA! provides original, engaging and surprising content – widening environmental discussion and offering a range of vocabulary and insights not found elsewhere. IFLA! features bright opinions on our greatest challenges. Foreword
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Before We Burnt Coal, We Burnt Witches
Pollutants in the Playground: why some children are worse affected by our polluted air
Writing About Climate: ‘there are lots of gaps’
Breaking the Link: economic growth and environmental degradation
Let’s Talk About Saving the World
Becoming the Engineers Needed in the 21st Century: jumping off the techno-fix treadmill
Climate and Gender: an interview with Shanar Tabrizi
Bikes and the City: are bike schemes a viable green lifestyle option?
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Flooding the Market: commercial pressure on infrastructure is a climate change problem
The Last Straw: picking your sustainability battles
Dirty Garments: reducing the carbon footprint of your wardrobe
Greenwashing: how Big Energy is gagging international climate politics
Setting the Stage for Climate Change: place
Environmental Litigation: doing justice by our planet
How Vegan Fairs Can Make Your Diet More Sustainable
List of resources
Society creates the rules, relationships and conditions that support economic activity, but the environment is the service provider that enables human society to exist. Finlay Prescott, Breaking the Link
Before We Burnt Coal, We Burnt Witches 8
Illustration by Matilda Ellis
Grace Richardson Banks takes a look at 9 the alarming history of human response to major environmental change, uncovering a correlation between witch trials, social imbalances and climatic shifts.
At the end of 1815, Mount Tamboro erupted in Indonesia. As the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, its immediate impact was devastating. Deaths across Lombok, Sumbawa, East Java and Bali have been estimated at around 88,000, with ten thousand people dying in the pyroclastic flow itself. The effect of the eruption on global weather patterns was yet more extraordinary. The pollution from the eruption caused heavy rainfall and low temperatures globally throughout the following year. Red, ashy snow fell around the Mediterranean and there were frosts across Europe in August 1816. This harsh weather caused crops to fail from China to Canada, civil disruption in both town and country, and a death rate (from famine and illness) double that of surrounding years. Yet to me the volcano’s most fascinating impact was its ripple effect on popular culture. The high levels of tephra (a mixture of ash and volcanic rocks) in the atmosphere created a yellow tinge seen at twilight throughout the year. This touch of yellow is a particularly noted and idiosyncratic feature of Turner’s sunsets. When Karl Drais realised that the poor harvest could not provide enough oats for his horses, he began to investigate horseless transportation. This pursuit lead him to invent the velocipede, an early ancestor of the bicycle. The particularly poor weather forced Mary Shelley and her friends inside on their holiday in Geneva. Mount Tamboro had erupted on the other side of the world: not only were the days sinisterly dark and cold, but inexplicably so. To entertain themselves during the ‘incessant rainfall’ during that ‘wet, ungenial summer’, these friends – Mary and Percy Shelley, Byron and Polidari – had a contest to write the scariest story. Byron wrote A Fragment, the inspiration for Dracula,
and Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein. Cultural trends can have a climatic cause. This is great when it generates bestselling novels, but it’s not all bicycles and sunsets. The cultural impact of climate change can be found on a much larger scale in the link between Medieval witch burnings and the Little Ice Age (1300–1800). When harvests consistently failed, it was subsistence farmers who starved year on year, not the ruling classes. It was the poorest in society who felt the effects of climatic shifts the most – and they needed someone to blame. Catholics and Protestants and, more broadly, ecclesiastical and secular thinkers across this period agreed on the existence and powers of witches. The Malleus Maleficarum, c. 1486, codified some of their powers. Significantly, these included weather-making and crop destruction. Pope Innocent VIII highlighted this particular power: ‘[witches] have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees’. An entire chapter of the Malleus is dedicated to ‘How [Witches] Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning’. Around a million witches were killed across Europe in this period – but these killings occurred in waves. The pattern across Europe was of an initial surge of burnings in the 15th century, followed by later spikes in the 17th century. Initially, these trials were centrally run by the church, and were deeply linked to the Catholic Inquisition. However, purges became increasingly difficult to oversee – as the church faced deep rifts – and the subsequent peaks and troughs became far less driven by central policy. Unpicking why these waves occurred has preoccupied a number of historians: possible explanations include trends in
moral policing and the medical profession’s need to get rid of midwives to cement their own position in society. Some believe that an increase in syphilis led to a rise in the number of mentally ill individuals – who were more likely to be seen as witches. Emily Oster makes a persuasive argument that witch trial peaks are a product of economic deterioration brought on by food shortages due to cold temperatures. Over the period of the Little Ice Age, the weather was spectacularly poor. In the 20th century Venice’s lagoon froze twice, but between 1300 and 1800? Thirty times. For seven weeks in 1432 and again in 1491, it was possible to travel to Venice from the mainland by carriage. Tournaments and frost fairs were frequently held on the frozen Thames in London. These decreasing temperatures correlate with an increase in witch trials, with a particularly cold spell towards the end of the Little Ice Age appearing to catalyse their resurgence. Famine, price rise and panic became the norm in rural communities in Europe, and witches became the perfect scapegoat. Historians study witches for a clear reason: their position as outsiders. Their treatment can be broadly interpreted as a barometer for the position of the socially excluded. They were women – single women, old women, women with scarce social or economic capital and little-to-no agency. As weather patterns caused crop failures that nobody could explain, they were punished for these changes and scapegoated for the inexplicable. Today, it is still those with the smallest purchase on the world’s socioeconomic stage – outsiders – who once again are going to bear the brunt of climate change. It is not a new idea that the poorest in society are the smallest contributors to climate change yet will be the most seriously affected and least able to adapt to it. Yet this irony is generally discussed in purely economic terms. It is essential to acknowledge that social imbalances will also exacerbate the differences in how people experience climatic shifts. In periods of economic stress, social cohesion repeatedly fails and outsiders in their varying forms consistently face greater ostracisation. Since the 1940s, historians have studied how poor economic conditions are consistent contributors to civil conflicts. Lynching peaked in periods of economic stress. Already there are studies linking rising crime rates to hot weather. Social privileges will have a significant impact on the success with which individuals can navigate the changing climate. No doubt there are important studies to be made on the treatment of women and minorities in areas worst hit by environmental shifts. In modern day Tanzania, Environment Economics Professor
Edward Miguel has found that extreme rainfall leads to no increase in violent crime other than the religious murder of elderly women. Since the turn of the millennium, in years when the rainfall is poor, there is now a one in 500 chance that a woman over fifty will be attacked or killed because she is a witch.
As weather patterns caused crop failures that nobody could explain, witches were punished for these changes and scapegoated for the inexplicable.
Pollutants in the Playground: why some children are worse affected by our polluted air 12
Illustration by Jiye Kim
With London set to gain a new ‘ultra low 13 emission zone’ next year, Harry Lloyd explains why air pollution accentuates systematic inequality in education, and what more we need to do about it.
When Black Lives Matter activists chained themselves together on the runway of London City Airport in 2016, they were protesting the fact that climate change accentuates and feeds off economic disparity. It is disproportionately a product of the rich, they said, and disproportionately affects the poor. The average annual salary on a passenger jet through City Airport is £119,000. Nearly half of those living in and breathing the air polluted by those jets in the surrounding borough of Newham survive on £20,000 a year or less. This inequality is as prevalent across the rest of London, where air quality distributions discriminate along both economic and racial lines. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are responsible for about half of the health problems caused by air pollution, and areas with higher percentages of white populations have lower NOx concentrations. The problem extends to one of the groups most vulnerable to pollution: children. In 2010 a quarter of London primary schools were in areas that exceeded the EU’s mean annual average NOx limit of 40 mg/m3. In an economically deprived school, children were nearly five times more likely to be inhaling air that exceeded recommended limits than peers being educated in betteroff areas. London’s two main pollutants are NOx and tiny particles less than a tenth the width of a human hair, collectively called particulate matter, or PM. NOx inflames the lungs, shortening the lives of those with lung and heart conditions. PM has the same effect, and the smallest particles can get into the brain, with links drawn to conditions like
dementia. By working out the likelihood of dying at all ages due to the effects of air pollution, King’s College London estimated that in 2010, the two pollutants caused 9,400 deaths in London. A 2010 study in Delhi, largely ignored, found that half of all children there will grow up with irreversible lung damage. London’s problems aren’t quite so severe, but we still risk handing our children serious and preventable health problems. Areas with fewer green spaces near industrial zones and busy main roads are more likely to have polluted air. These are places with populations who, due to historical inequalities, cannot afford to move elsewhere. In Newham, 90 % of the borough’s population fall into the lowest third of Londoner incomes. This is how air pollution builds on economic disparity to entrench the barriers perpetuating inequalities. So what is being done? The level of response from the government on different parts of the issue varies. This May the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published its latest Clean Air Strategy. In a political environment where legislation is scarce due to the strain Brexit has placed on resources, the consultation nevertheless makes commitments. It recognises that domestic fuel burners produce more than a third of PM pollution, and claims that councils already have powers to set up enforcement zones where only approved appliances and fuels can be used. However, councils have rightly argued that it is difficult to ensure people only burn approved fuels in their own homes. To reduce
A 2010 study in Dehli, largely ignored, found that half of all children will grow up with irreversible lung damage.
inequality, less affluent areas will need financial support to make expensive but environmentally beneficial changes to heating arrangements. Regarding road transport, the suggestions become more vague – partly because roadside emissions are such a localised issue. Much of the detail is about getting local government to tackle hotspots as quickly as possible, backed by a £255 million fund to plan and enact suggestions. The money will come from existing budgets though, and eventually taxes on diesel vehicles. Such redistributions take time, and it’s frustrating that extra money can’t be made available more quickly, especially given that the government is currently being sued for its lack of progress on reducing NOx below EU limits. Acting swiftly to prevent such action is surely in the government’s interests. In London, school-specific policy has been pushed. Last year Sadiq Khan funded air quality audits for the fifty most polluted schools to help tackle the problem. Released recently, there are some straightforward proposals, like shutting the closest roads when pupils arrive and leave, while more creative suggestions include turning teacher car parks into gardens. Each school will now get a one-off payment of £10,000 to make ‘non-transport interventions’: schools themselves don’t have the power to close roads. They will need to work with councils to do this and, depending on the road, that may prove difficult. Subsidising public transport in the worst affected areas might be an easier solution. One intriguing suggestion is to make air quality data more accessible. ‘The information is there,’ says Doctor Alex Archibald at the Centre for Atmospheric Science in Cambridge, ‘[but] there is a visualisation problem.’ No matter how informative data is, presenting it in a way that’s hard to grasp hinders public understanding. Archibald suggests making the data that describes changes to pollution at postcode-level easier to follow. ‘People want to see that emissions near them are going down, or if they’re going up they want to know why.’ Reliable monitoring of air quality is difficult without specialist equipment, so an easy way to see trends would be a vital step in giving people agency. It could also help alter habits. You can reduce your own emissions by not driving to school and using cleaner fuels to heat your home. If a community does these things and consequently sees a drop in pollution, they might be buoyed to go further. The clean air strategy also aims to ‘[catalyse] public engagement through citizen science’. This engagement could contribute information to emissions catalogues to help explain trends, and according to Emily Norman, headteacher at a Westminster primary, students are
working on exactly that. ‘[The children have] led the way by monitoring traffic on nearby roads’, she says. This gives students a voice in the issue, and their influence over the adults who care for them is is not to be underestimated. Getting involved in the issue is empowering for school children, and they should be included at every turn. Air pollution needs to be reduced as part of a wider climate change strategy, and we must focus efforts towards the most deprived communities, where the negative effects are the strongest. Education can be an incredible springboard, providing people with opportunities to escape cycles of inequality. Children should be able to take advantage of this without fears of chronic respiratory problems (or worse) taking them back to square one. By acting urgently to tackle pollution in the worst affected areas, we will make sure that the potential power of education isn’t lost in the haze of a problem we can fix.
Writing About Climate: â€˜there are lots of gapsâ€™ 16
Illustration by Charlotte Ager
When asking questions about the future of 17 our landscapes, Alice Attlee wants to hear from a wider set of experiences.
Ground Work, a new anthology of landscape writing edited by Tim Dee, has high aspirations. ‘We are living in the Anthropocene’, Dee announces. ‘How best to live in the ruins we have made? This anthology of commissioned work tries to answer this as it explores new and enduring cultural landscapes.’ Possibly, this is a mission statement doomed from the start. Like putting out the recycling as sea levels rise through your front door, it’s probably fair to say that Dee and his contributors know that this collection can’t actually solve the problem proffered on its own dust jacket – but that really, it’s the thought that counts. Read through the list of 31 authors who contribute to the anthology, however, and a familiar ‘enduring cultural landscape’ is revealed. Dee glances at it briefly (though not comprehensively) in the concluding paragraph of his introduction: My thanks go to all those who have written here. The idea of writing something for Common Ground made many say yes very willingly. Some wouldn’t, and I also failed to find anything other than white contributors. There are lots of gaps. Reading those final two sentences is like reading a shoulder shrug – the editor waving away anticipated criticism with an impatient hand. These are not lines intended to bear much weight, but they are heavily loaded in a text that wants to be about ‘one soft-skinned, warm blooded […] pedestrian species’ but asks just one small group to speak for the whole. Besides these few sentences in the introduction, the issue of representation is not raised in the text – by Dee or by any of those commissioned to contribute to it. Yet like the attention Dee feels demanded of him by
places, the issue remains ‘stubbornly there, itchy, palpable, determining’. The problem with creating a monoculture within an anthology such as Ground Work is that perspectives can take root without any real challenge or contrast being made for them. In the text, Hugh Brody describes the years he spent away from home doing anthropological work in the North Baffin, Canada: ‘My parents were in the north of England; my girlfriend lived in London... But when living in the Canadian north I felt alive.’ There is no voice within the anthology (‘there are lots of gaps’) to suggest a critique of an Oxbridge-educated man able to leave one world behind in order to find life in another – and who can continually return to both. Instead, the author is trusted to produce his own critique, which amounts to: ‘I gave little thought to the difficulty this might cause to those who had wanted to make homes for me.’ Brody goes some way towards acknowledging the privilege of his own position, and speaks eloquently of (but also, for) a culture that ‘took sharing and equality for granted’ (the Canadian north), in contrast to one riddled with ‘social and economic exclusions, the basis and expression of great inequity’ (the English north, his childhood home). These are vital issues, and speak directly to the challenge of living ‘in the ruins we have made’. But nowhere is the expression of ‘inequity’ clearer than in an anthology made up only of ‘white contributors’, of which only seven are women, and in which only men (three of the total 24) find themselves in circumstances in which they are able to travel to, and write about, landscapes outside of Britain. The women stay at home. In Findings (2005), Kathleen Jamie writes succinctly of the challenges of making time for her
own sense of place within the landscape in which she lives. She finds herself located somewhere between domestic and wild places (though she questions whether such places truly exist), and between the many everyday tasks that must be done, no matter if a Peregrine is calling her out of doors, as it is when she writes: ‘Between the laundry and the fetching kids from school, that’s how birds enter my life.’ For some, feeling a sense of place, of being-in-the-world, is snatched between other obligations; a fleeting thing felt once in a blue moon. Not everyone can (not everyone would want to) make this their priority. To do so is a mark of a particular kind of privilege – but Dee has told us that a sense of place can be found in ‘a hollow tree or the dark at the end of the street, a childhood bedroom, a roundabout…’ The feeling, Dee acknowledges, is accessible and universal: the anthology is anything but. In 2015, Mark Cocker wrote an article disparaging ‘the predominance of white, upper-middle-class men’ in ‘so-called new nature writing’. Scan through the contents pages of Ground Work – which its own editor acknowledges do not include ‘anything other than white [I would add, mostly male] contributors’ – and you will find an essay by Cocker included in the list: sixth from the top. To gesture towards a problem, as Dee, Brody and Cocker all do, without taking any meaningful steps to attack, investigate or change it, is no better than refusing to notice it at all: it is just virtue signaling. No book, and certainly no person, can be perfect, or perfectly representational. We should not expect unattainably high standards from our literature, but we should feel able to hold authors and their works to standards they themselves have set. If a text posits a question as important and universal as: ‘How best to live in the ruins we have made’, and invites 31 individuals to answer, it is worth making note of who is asking, and who is being asked. Who creates the ‘ruins’, and who has to ‘live’ in them? Who creates the kind of writing included in Ground Work, and to whom does this kind of writing appeal – who does it exclude? In each issue of IFLA!, this section of the magazine will be handed over to a different contributor to explore these and other questions. Within our reference pages is a collaborative list of writers who might have been asked to contribute to Ground Work, who write powerfully about feeling a sense of place, the Anthropocene, and the complex dynamics between the two. It is not a comprehensive list – it couldn’t be – but it includes more of the voices we need to hear if we are to come up with an answer to Dee’s question.
If a text posits a question as important and universal as: ‘How best to live in the ruins we have made’, and invites 31 individuals to answer, it is worth making note of who is asking, and who is being asked.
Breaking The Link: economic growth and environmental degradation 20
Illustration by Sean Oâ€™Brien
Can we trace the effects of big business 21 across the world? By marking out the significance of our industries on the environment, Finlay Prescott highlights the increasing urgency of creating an economic system that respects environmental issues.
The need to break the link between economic growth and environmental degradation is acute. Conventional economics is founded on the premise of maximising profit, irrespective of the long-term impact it might have on the environment and society – the resources and services of which companies are dependent. Of the nine planetary boundaries put forward by the Stockholm Resilience Centre,1 beyond which human-induced stresses will irrevocably destabilise the earth system, four have already been transgressed, another is close, and two are as yet unquantifiable. The comparatively stable 11,700-year Holocene period, where humankind thrived in a ‘safe’ operating space for global societal development, has given way to the Anthropocene: an era of global environmental degradation caused by human beings. These impacts can be attributed to our current unsustainable economic paradigm. Humans are now key drivers of environmental system change on a scale that is unique in the Earth’s history. The unpredictable nature of these changes has led to increased risk of drought and fire because of longer, hotter summers. The frequency and intensity of 100 and 1000-year storms has increased because a warmer atmosphere holds more water. Sea levels are rising as global warming causes oceans to expand and ice caps to melt, which becomes especially problematic when paired with hurricane-force winds. We are facing ocean acidification, which has dire consequences to aquatic life, as well as reduced agricultural output and desertification, mass ecosystem loss and extinction – to name but a few consequences of degrading the environment in favour of economic growth. Automotive and energy companies offload the impact of petrol, diesel and other fossil fuel emissions on to the global community and the environment.
Degraded air quality in urban areas, caused by the products they produce, leads to increased rates of lung cancer and asthma, as well as the ocean acidification and stresses to aquatic life previously mentioned – both of which are closely connected to the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels. These emissions are partly responsible for the greenhouse effect, the melting of the ice caps and sea level rise. All of these impacts go unaccounted for on the balance sheets of big business. Industrial and agricultural companies are also damaging the planet without consideration of future environmental and economic costs. Subterranean freshwater supplies are being depleted at an alarming rate in order to manufacture new products and irrigate huge swathes of infertile land. The impacts of groundwater depletion are apparent across the world; in coastal regions it is causing saltwater to move inland and upwards, contaminating freshwater supplies and poisoning ecosystems. In other areas, the loss of physical support due to over-extraction of groundwater is resulting in ground collapse – or subsidence. Monoculture production in agriculture aims to increase yield (and profits) through the application of pesticides, toxic chemicals and fertilisers. This has the effect of eliminating biodiversity, building organism resistance to chemicals, promoting soil degradation and causing water pollution. Mining and mineral processing companies cause severe and often irreversible damage to biodiversity through the destruction and extreme modification of landscapes. Acid mine drainage, metals contamination 1
A non-profit, independent research institute specialising in sustainable development and environmental issues.
and the chemicals used in ore processing can cause water pollution. Deep-sea mining operations due to commence in 2019 will destroy vast swathes of hydrothermal vents containing gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc in densities not found on land. Hydrothermal vents host the only form of known life on Earth independent of the sun and were, until recently, unknown to science. Financial bodies provide the capital needed for the sustained economic growth of these industries, their profits, and the continued externalisation and degradation of the environment. The accumulation of these externalities2 has the potential to create impacts on a scale not witnessed before. Sea level rise in Bangladesh is likely to displace tens of millions of people, creating a refugee crisis that dwarfs that of the Syrian Civil War. Overexploitation of Jakarta’s aquifers3 has caused the port city to sink by up to 14 feet in recent years, rendering entire factories awash. If current rates of degradation from poor farming practices continue, all of the world’s topsoil could be gone in sixty years, resulting in intercontinental famine. Three centimetres of topsoil takes 1000 years to form. Given the 2 °C limit for global climate change, it has been calculated that no more than 500 Gt of CO2 can be released into the atmosphere and the world still retain an 80 % chance of meeting this 2 °C target. Global proven coal, oil and gas reserves contain approximately 3,000 Gt of CO2 – six times this amount. This means that to stay below the 2 °C limit, 80 % of these reserves can never reach the market – possibly creating the largest and most far-reaching financial crisis the world has seen. If we continue on the current path, adapting to all these impacts will cost society hundreds of trillions of dollars and leave the planet in a very different state – one that will be considerably less conducive to societal development.
Sea level rise in Bangladesh is likely to displace tens of millions of people, creating a refugee crisis that dwarfs that of the Syrian Civil War.
These harsh facts aim not to dishearten, but to illustrate the extent of the impact on the environment, society and the economy of conventional economics. If nothing is done to break the link between economic gain and environmental degradation, these problems will only get worse. The consequences of these global environmental changes will increase volatility in all sectors of the economy, making it increasingly difficult for companies to succeed. A sustainable economy is dependent on the rule of law being upheld and on individuals and companies earning enough money to create a reliable market for goods and services. In turn, society depends on a stable environment, and must respect and support all aspects of the global ecosystem, allowing individuals and companies to indefinitely use its resources and services. Society creates the rules, relationships and conditions that support economic activity, but the environment is the service provider that enables human society to exist. Sustainable economies are therefore inextricably dependent on a functioning society and on a stable, predictable environment. In our current economic paradigm, we are rapidly accelerating out of this ‘safe operating space’. As such, it is in a company’s selfinterest to break the link between economic gain and environmental degradation; to no longer maximise financial returns at the expense of the environment, or cause mass environmental degradation for the betterment of a balance sheet.
‘Externalities’ are the negative consequences of various industries that are forced onto society and the environment.
An underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated material.
Letâ€™s Talk About Saving The World 24
Illustration by Laurie Avon
Andy Clark talks language and values, 25 sharing his experience as an environmental communicator with IFLA!
Climate change is the biggest threat to existence we’ve ever faced – the added irony being that we’ve brought it upon ourselves, yet don’t seem to care enough do anything about it. This is the eternal headache for environmentalists, and while the planet is speeding towards severe climatic change, there is still discussion between scientists about how bleak a scenario we should present. Some believe that a level-headed approach that preserves absolute academic integrity is the way forward, laying out data as if facts alone will be enough to inspire change. Others’ hearts pound and guts twist every time the weather is a bit unusual, and feel that we just need to scare people into action. These approaches don’t work. We’re still failing to connect with the people we hope – and need – to. In order to align yourself with an audience and inspire change, you have to relate to, and with, their values. However, many of the core values held by environmentalists are intrinsically at odds with many of those held by the rest of the world. Environmentalists push for a scaling-back of industry, pollution and consumption, advocating and enacting sacrifices at individual and societal levels for the sake of the bigger picture, while the global economy is driven for a quick buck. This can be deeply annoying – at times even offensive – to those on both sides. How can we bridge such divides to bring about change? So often, science communicators fail to inspire change because we fail to see that a transfer of knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to a transfer
of values – but if we want people to feel passionately about the planet, the most important and profound impact will come from precisely this transfer. The conveyance of knowledge – and I know this grates with some scientists – is actually far less important. Occasionally, conservation scientists will try to ‘value’ nature – that is, to contextualise the environment through qualities we already feel are important. Biodiversity Hotspots are catalogues of severely threatened ecological zones that have a high density of biodiversity. Biodiversity Hotspots are a ‘realistic’ approach to spending the limited pot of money made available for conservation: a way of delivering the most ‘bang for buck’ to investors. It’s a neat way of working with the system – but it’s not changing it for the better. The criteria that designates Biodiversity Hotspots are ‘number of species’ and ‘percentage [of] habitat lost’. Both must score highly for a region to be classed as a ‘Hotspot’. This appeals to an inherent cultural phenomenon: scarcity drives demand. There is a clear reward to saving the last polar bear, or the last fragment of rainforest, or the most endemic-rich mountain range. By doing so, we can feel we’ve achieved something extraordinary. I get that. We crave scarcity. Collectively, we go daft for limited-editions, fixed-term bargains and one-ofa-kinds. We prize and reward the fastest, strongest, smallest, etc. We are suckers for superlatives. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this: when I am telling an audience a story of climate change, superlatives are
Superlatives are the difference between a story and a great story – they’re the difference between some polar bears and the last polar bears.
the difference between a story and a great story. They’re the difference between some polar bears and the last polar bears. The object may not change, but how we feel about it does. When the appeal of superlatives drive conservation, however, something underpinning the approach worries me. No matter how remarkable an ecosystem is, no matter how biodiverse and pristine, or how useful a service it provides humanity – no Biodiversity Hotspot got its title before 70 % of the original habitat had been lost. Regions must be effectively doomed to qualify. Could we reward scarcity so much that we actually wait for – or even cause – a situation to get worse before we are moved to make it better? Does a species have to be at the edge of extinction before we take notice? And if that’s how our audience currently engages with climate change, should we resign ourselves to it, pursue extreme climate scenarios for the sake of dramatic action? Our systems of belief and our experience of the world is shaped by the words we use to define it. I hate the term ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’ because it’s unemotive and over-complicated. Defining it is an exercise in cliché, but if you’re going to talk about it to an audience, as I do, you’re going to have to. Explaining biodiversity should not simply elucidate the word, but provide the frame through which we conduct our work, our thought, and ourselves. Imagine how differently we might view the world if we understood biodiversity as: • • • • •
All the different plants and animals. Number of species. Genetic variation. What makes life worth living. What makes living possible.
How might our values and our priorities change if our definition was taken from different places in that list? All of the above are true for me, and while I will adjust the definition I use depending on my audience, I will never give an academic definition of ‘biodiversity’ without an equally emotive description. I would rather refer to anything to do with climate change as ‘Saving The World’. Some have corrected me on this point, reasoning that we can only ‘save the world as we know it’. If you tell someone that it’s only the fate of the word as we know it that is at stake, somewhere in the back of their mind will be a little voice saying: ‘Well, change isn’t all bad... It’d be nice if it was a bit warmer...’ All you’ve given them is a get-out clause. ‘Saving The World’ conveys something more personal. To some, ‘The World’ is Planet Earth, and
all the stuff within it. But to many others, ‘The World’ is their world: their home, their family, their friends; the food they eat and the things they like to do. That’s what we must recognise and respect as we communicate the need to save the world. We don’t necessarily need to scare people into action, or bombard them with science. We can connect with each other, and move people to change, using language that is true to shared values.
Andy Clark is an environmental filmmaker (The Top Of The Tree). His award-winning work ‘High Water Common Ground’ presents an environmentally-holistic and community-focussed approach to flooding in the context of climate change. ‘The Carbon Farmer’ deals with peatlands and climate change, and is due to be shared with UK Parliaments later this year.
To some, ‘the world’ is Planet Earth, and all the stuff within it, but to many others, ‘the world’ is their world: their home, their family, their friends; the food they eat and the things they like to do.
Becoming the Engineers Needed in the 21st Century: jumping off the techno-fix treadmill 28
Illustration by Haeun Kim
Kelsey Reichenbach introduces this sect- 29 ion on Technological Development. From pesticides to electric cars, she discusses the problem with quick fixes, and argues that we need more breadth and imagination in our climate change solutions.
When technological problems are defined in ahistorical and single-disciplinary ways, and without consideration of ecological feedback loops, the technologies designed to solve them only address a single facet of the original problem. When implemented, these technologies create new and increasingly less straightforward problems that future technologies will be called upon to fix. This is called the ‘techno-fix treadmill’. The simplification of problems in technological development creates ‘band-aid solutions’ that only address a small part of a problem and simultaneously exaggerate other aspects of it. Understanding the historical context of problems can help illuminate past and present band-aid technologies – the removals of which are usually the first step on the journey to truly holistic technological solutions. Though she didn’t call it the ‘techno-fix treadmill’, in 1962 Rachel Carson highlighted the need to look at technologies (specifically harsh chemicals used liberally as pesticides) in a more critical and expansive light. In her seminal work, Silent Spring, she described the widespread ecological destruction and bioaccumulation of the pesticide Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane – or DDT. Its use as an agricultural pesticide in the United States began in 1945, and during the thirty years of legal use, 1.35 billion pounds of it were used in that country alone. Carson described how DDT killed not only the target pests it was advertised to remove, but impacted entire ecosystems. Many insects were killed instantly, followed by the thinning of eggshells laid by the birds which fed on them. In the process of trying to reduce specific agricultural pest populations, DDT ended up blighting vital predator-prey relationships that – at a bare minimum – had kept target pest populations down. The interdependent relationships between bugs and their
predators was not a key consideration in the application of this chemical meant to indiscriminately impact the nervous system of a wide variety of insects. Ultimately, pest populations rebounded as they gained resistance to the chemical over time and were no longer inhibited by predators – whose numbers had been greatly reduced by the use of DDT. By traveling through the atmosphere, water, and the food chain, DDT traces have accumulated in the fatty tissues and blood of humans and other animals around the world. It has been linked to numerous health concerns: cancer and liver tumors, adverse effects to reproductive systems, and genetic defects. All animals, from commuters on the tube to polar bears in the Arctic, have been exposed to this persistent pollutant, which, while reducing in concentration, is still widespread today. The solutions to these unintended consequences are not straightforward and are potentially even impossible to manifest. Thankfully, in the case of DDT, steps have been taken to drastically reduce its use in agricultural practices. Unfortunately, the widespread use of toxic chemicals as an approach to pest management is still a hallmark of modern industrial agriculture. An overview of the ecological impacts of contemporary farming can be found in The Global Food Economy by Tony Weis (2007), in which he examines the contradictions of mass production, widespread malnutrition, obesity, and hunger. In his more recent book, The Ecological Hoofprint (2013), Weis provides expansive historical and socio-political context for the growing criticism levelled at the meat industry. Common criticisms around meat consumption focus on the emissions associated with the cow digestive system. Some branch out to include the general resources needed to support increasingly meat-centred diets.
Weis goes further, showing the matrix of relationships sitting behind the increasing consumption of factory-farmed animals: the large subsidy, policy, and agro-chemical networks propping up production, and the global grain-livestock complex with its inherently inefficient use of calories. For example, if the methane-producing cow digestive system is seen in isolation, technologies like in-vitro (or lab-based) meat builds the next step on the techno-fix treadmill – it’s a way to grow muscle for human consumption without the methane-burping belly. However, little research has been done to show that this ‘fix’ would actually emit less greenhouse gases as it trades metabolic process for electrical and industrial equivalents. This expensive research project also fails to incorporate existing food justice concerns like the concentration of power over food production – a trend that has already had adverse impacts on the equitable distribution and nutritional quality of food. Furthermore, it fails to consider the opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing soil, animal, human, and waterway health by moving animals out of crowded, air conditioned warehouses and back onto the land. The techno-fix treadmill is also emerging in our transportation systems. While most solutions centre around reducing emissions of single-occupancy vehicles, we’re also being faced with crowded highways, increasingly sedentary and socially isolated lifestyles, and discrepancies in mobility based on income levels. Currently, solutions are focusing on only the first issue, taking the form of electric, single-occupancy vehicles. However, if we were to consider all five of the concerns listed at once, solutions might include safer and more numerous bike lanes and increased electric public or mass transport. These options not only reduce emissions (and do so more significantly), but also create more opportunities for exercise, social interaction, and accessible means of transport for all sectors of society. Bundling interconnected problems together can help push technological development towards holistic solutions that by their very nature tackle multiple problems at once. Recognising the social nature of technological problems is a crucial component to building more complete holistic solutions, because technology both emerges from and shapes the political landscape. The inventions and ideas we create push the boundaries of what is seen as possible, and their acceptance is simultaneously constrained by our collective value system. The fossil fuel industry has understood this connection for decades. It puts $115 million a year
towards building the political landscape necessary for their products to be used everywhere by diminishing and obstructing efforts to reduce carbon emissions in governmental bodies and spreading doubt around the legitimacy of climate change more broadly. By refusing to isolate climate change from the broader context out of which it has grown, we have a chance at mitigating it, and simultaneously creating a more just and fair world. To alleviate climate change we’ll need policies that support scientists, engineers, and everyday citizens in their endeavors towards ecologically rational and socially just technologies. We also need to create and maintain policies that ensure that the costs and benefits of implementation and use of new technologies are distributed fairly. Ultimately, we have to start developing technology differently. From climate change to growing wealth inequality, the criminalisation of migration to persistent food insecurity: technological development lies at the heart of global issues. With systemic changes to how it defines problems, it can also be part of the solution.
To mitigate climate change we’ll need policies that support scientists, engineers, and everyday citizens in their endeavors towards ecologically rational and socially just ends.
Climate and Gender: an interview with Shanar Tabrizi 32
‘There is some comfort in the fact that the younger generation feels a greater sense of responsibility to the environment. But climate change won’t wait for them to become leaders and steer the ship around.’ IFLA! spoke to Shanar Tabrizi about Swedish environmental policy and her work on gender roles in climate technologies. I look at incentives and barriers for women’s inclusion in climate change decision-making. I am interested in the traditional roles of men and women – relations and power dynamics in the context of climate change and technology. I enjoy the surprise on people’s faces when I mention gender and climate change in the same context. I try to spread awareness about how women and men can approach climate technologies in different ways, and explain that women are often more vulnerable and exposed during the chaos of cyclones, floods and other climate disasters. However, women are not victims in this story. They often have close ties with communities and can inspire resilience to climate change. Working with women to strengthen their position as agents of change is an effective way to both reduce emissions and help communities adapt to the adverse effects of global warming. My background is in energy and environmental engineering, but working with grassroot organisations in South Africa and civil society in Sweden has
convinced me of the need to close the gap between the implementers of large technology projects, which often have a top-down approach, and the voices of vulnerable communities, whose expertise and input are not always taken into consideration. Now I support the internal and external knowledge sharing of climate technologies and intersectional topics such as gender at the Climate Technology Centre & Network. We are co-hosted by the UN institutes UN Environment and UNIDO,1 so we are in a unique position to partner with organisations and governments to create a positive impact. On the issue of gender, I also support the CTCN’s work with gender mainstreaming. This includes integrating gender indicators in our monitoring and evaluation systems, and partnering with organisations working on climate and gender, to
United Nations International Development Organisation
provide capacity-building for female entrepreneurs. It also entails reviewing some of our climate technology projects in developing countries and providing guidance on how women can be more included in decision making, or offering a gender analysis of the technical solution proposed. For example: does a newly-proposed public transport system have stops in places where women feel safe to board and exit? Do these stops correlate to places that women need to access, such as healthcare centres and schools? Do the climate-friendly agricultural practises developed for Uganda take into consideration that men and women do not have equal access and rights to land – and how can that be overcome? Luckily, there is a great network of women and institutions out there who have been working on these issues for many years who we can learn from. In Sweden, the challenges we are facing are different compared to other countries we work in. Sweden’s climate strategy tries to integrate the climate issue into all sectors of society, and has the ambitious goal of zero net emissions by 2045. But the devil is in the detail. Sweden enjoys presenting figures of our national greenhouse gas emissions decreasing year by year. But when we look at how Swedish consumption is contributing to emissions globally, not much has changed. The Swedish climate strategy currently doesn’t include any targets for reducing our consumption-based emissions – but this is key. Public opinion is an interesting paradox in Sweden. Recent polls found that almost nine out of 10 Swedes think that climate change is serious – they worry about it as much as they worry about terrorism. At the same time, eight out of 10 of those polled don’t believe their neighbours would be willing to make the lifestyle changes needed to effect change. There is some comfort in the fact that the younger generation feels a greater sense of responsibility to the environment. But climate change won’t wait for them to become leaders and steer the ship around. In order to persuade people and companies to do more and do it sooner, environmentalists need to become better at communicating through narrative persuasion. Yes, there is great urgency: we are well on our way to reaching the tipping points of disappearing Arctic summer sea ice, collapse of coral reefs, and release of methane from ocean floors. But people respond better to positive messages and solution-oriented framing. We need to make doing the right thing easy. We also have a consumption problem in Sweden. Our consumption per person is above the EU average, and if we look globally, that means we’re buying things we don’t need and creating a whole lot of waste – some
of it ending up in our oceans and waterways. The government should support a transition from our linear take-make-waste society to a circular economy where waste is considered as a resource and where we try to find innovative business models for companies to move towards providing services rather than products. Civil society movements all over the world are connected, and come together to share lessons in a way few other sectors can. I think that us Northernern Europeans could learn from the way movements in other countries are willing to put themselves out there, take greater risks, and treat environmental threats like any other civil rights violation. In South Africa and Mozambique, the organisations I’ve come across have stronger links with communities directly affected by pollution, climate change and industry-driven displacement of people. This connection means that governments don’t have the privilege to not act. On the other hand, civil society in Sweden has at times had great success working with, rather than against, government and companies in their transition to sustainability. I’m just getting started. Gender. Climate. Waste. Energy. Consumption. It’s all connected. I have conviction and passion. And that’s what matters for now.
Shanar Tabrizi is a Swedish-Iranian environmental engineer living in Denmark. She has previous experience from Mozambique and South Africa on topics like efficient cook stoves, waste picker rights and anti-coal movements. She also spent time in Sweden doing research on electronic waste, and developing circular economy construction strategies. Her current position considers knowledge-sharing, gender and climate at the Climate Technology Centre & Network co-hosted by UN Environment and UNIDO, operating under the UNFCCC. To follow on Twitter: @schwanar To learn more about gender and climate change: http://womengenderclimate.org/
Bikes in the City: are bike schemes a viable green lifestyle option? 34
Illustration by Matthew Armitage
Grace Duncan reviews the London bike 35 share scheme against its counterparts worldwide. She asks whether anything can be done to make cycling a more viable transport alternative in our cities.
Last year, Santander launched a crowdfunding competition for universities to win a Santander cycle scheme on campus. Five universities made it to the final round where each had to raise funds towards maintaining the bikes in order to win a £100,000 startup investment from the bank. Swansea University and Brunel University London were the victors. This competition is just one example of the many schemes which have appeared across the country following the installation of bikes and docking stations in London in 2010. London now has 750 docking stations with over 11,000 bikes. This growth has been echoed nationally with 17 additional cities in Great Britain and Northern Ireland now offering similar cycle schemes. The London scheme was heralded as starting a ‘cycling revolution’ by the Greater London Authority – and it did. The bikes were used for nearly 43 million journeys in its first five years. Some were less confident in its success, with notable figures such as Bradley Wiggins calling it a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. Despite such speculation, the British Medical Journal reports that bike-share schemes improve cycling safety statistics more than helmet laws, perhaps because drivers are warier of cyclists using these bikes, and give them a wide berth. But who uses the scheme? A problem acknowledged by Will Norman – responsible for helping Sadiq Khan deliver his pledge for more cycling in the capital – is that the majority of users are white young men living in London. Women use the bikes significantly
less than men, accounting for only 20–30 % of users. This pattern is reflected in cities without schemes, where women make up roughly 25 % of bike commuters. Ethnic diversity is an even greater issue in the cycling world. Of those using the cycle scheme in London, around 20 % of casual users are from ethnic minorities. This is perhaps indicative of wider issues in Britain in which social projects continue to be dominated by the white middle class despite the scheme’s low cost and apparent openness to all. Ethnic minorities make up 40 % of the capital’s population, yet the percentage of scheme users from ethnic minority backgrounds is significantly lower than this, which suggests that the problem lies in the accessibility of the government scheme, rather than the level of diversity in our cities. The cost of using the bikes is highly prohibitive. London has one of the most expensive schemes internationally, outranked only by Copenhagen and New York. The New York scheme’s cost – £131 a year subscription compared to £90 in London – can be attributed to the fact that it is privately funded. This indicates what could happen to the London scheme if it were to lose state involvement: higher cost and less accessibility. In terms of fleet size, seventeen of the 20 highest-ranking cities are in China. The remaining three spots are filled by London, Paris and Barcelona. The success of the Chinese model is due to their good value – some of them are free. Although the environmental benefits of cycling are clear, 65 % of of UK bike share users stated that their main reason for using the schemes
Bike schemes epitomise the beneficial influence that cities can have over a nation’s environmental behaviour.
over other methods of transportation was for exercise. The other most important factors people referenced were their convenience and time savings. And yet, in swapping a car for a bike, the average commuter could make their journey to work 25 times more efficient. Not all cities have seen such success. Seattle, for example, shut down its Pronto scheme in March 2017 as the 500 bikes that had been made available through the initiative were used on average only once a day. Seattle’s rainy weather and steep hills may well have played a part in this failure. The poor uptake of Melbourne’s cycle scheme has been attributed to legal requirements enforcing users to wear helmets. Despite the installation of helmet dispensers, the scheme’s success is still limited. The advantages of these schemes are numerous: users become healthier and cities become less congested. Bike schemes epitomise the beneficial influence that cities can have over a nation’s environmental behaviour. Really, the positive effect of cycling on individual lifestyles goes without saying, but the effects that the schemes can have on city life are extremely significant. A survey found that 22 % of trips taken by the bikes were previously made on buses, and the same percentage of journeys had previously been made by car. The rise in cycle scheme usage has been met with a growth in London cycle paths in an attempt to protect amateur cyclists. Congestion is primarily caused by too many motor vehicles on the road with too few people in them. Cycle paths like the Victoria Embankment Superhighway are an important part of the solution. Will Norman reports that the bike lane, opened in 2016, carries 46 % of the people travelling on that road while occupying only 30 % of the equivalent space. Within the first two weeks of its opening, the cycle path was carrying 5 % more people per hour than the road had done previously. The number of people using these new protected routes has grown by up to 50 % in some cases – which, Norman claims, proves that with the right resources, ‘it’s not the English weather stopping people cycling’. While there has been national support for making cycling more open and encouraging – as the Santander competition shows – cycle commuting rates in the UK remain fairly static at 3 % and there is still a long way to go for city leaders to fully embrace the bike. The issues that remain with the schemes nationally, such as cost and limited diversity, mean that the schemes still have a way to go. However, as we can see from the domino effect prompted by the London initiative, for many, cycle schemes have already become irreplaceable.
Flooding the Market: commercial pressure on infrastructure is a climate change problem 38
Illustration by Imi Black
With the scale and incentives for private 39 investment in cities escalating, Martha Dillon questions the influence of corporate projects on the social infrastructure of cities faced with environmental change.
Amazon, at the time of writing, is running a public bid to choose the location of ‘HQ2’, its next headquarters. To win 50,000 high-end new jobs and $5billion in investment, your city may apply, but only if you can offer Amazon a ‘stable and businessfriendly tax structure’ in return. While applicant cities have volunteered everything from tax breaks to, in Arizona, 23 foot cacti, the process has triggered some controversy. As urban growth and climate tension mounts, this blasé approach to influencing complex urban development decisions is a major point of concern. In particular, it is conspicuous that many of the twenty shortlisted cities in the bid are already engaged in notable struggles related to gentrification. To take two examples: Miami (‘We have great weather, and we’re a noincome-tax city and a no-income-tax state’) lost around 100,000 locals between 2010 and 2016 as house prices skyrocketed and incomes stagnated. In the same period, Chicago, where the gentrification debate is defined by inequality along starkly racial lines, saw its African American population drop 5 %. Chicago has promised Amazon $2 billion in tax incentives and infrastructure spending, and $250 million for workforce training. Commercial deals involving an influx of high-earners and settled using financial incentives fly in the face of commitments to alleviate issues of inequality: ‘an Amazon deal would… represent a massive transfer of resources to a wealthy corporation – resources that should instead be invested into communities’ (Chicago Tribune).
Gentrification is not just an economic tension. Projects such as Amazon’s are being planned at a time when infrastructure is becoming critically vulnerable to climate change. They work on a timescale of decades, taking us into a period where the consequences of climate change may well be extremely serious. The crux of the issue is that climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.1 If you live in an area with fewer transport links and emergency services, you are more at risk of being affected by these events. If your house is old or poorly constructed, it may not be able to cope with them at all. These are not trivial points. When poorer communities are ‘relocated’ to less desirable, less central areas of cities – by, say, an influx of 50,000 Amazon HQ2 employees with average earnings of over $110,000 per year – they are forced into locations with inadequate infrastructure. These areas are also further from hospitals, services and local authority support. One San Jose resident of 31 years recounts what he has witnessed in Silicon Valley to the Guardian: ‘As the corporations continue to “improve” their holdings, the rest of the non-tech workers must make do with eroding public services.’ Richer areas will have the means, insurance and the government support to better resist and recover from disasters. New Orleans is a case in point: Hurricane Katrina disproportionately effected low income, predominantly
Richer areas will have the means, insurance and the government support to better resist and recover from disasters.
(see our resources page to read more about this)
African-American communities. Back in Miami, one study found that property prices already correlate with geographical elevation and associated flood risk. It’s ironic that bringing escalating flood risk to the attention of the market is more likely to reinforce the issue of housing inequality than persuade anyone to solve it. The problem can only escalate. ‘Disaster-proof areas’ will become a driver of gentrification in their own right. An additional element of what has recently been coined ‘climate gentrification’ is the physical quality of homes. In both Miami and Chicago, around a fifth of residents live below the poverty line. Further afield, European cities like London and Berlin suffer from ageing social housing stock. With deaths from heat waves set to increase tenfold in US cities over the next sixty years, and with storm and flood frequency rocketing worldwide, it is easy to predict which households are going to be most affected by a degrading climate. Those lobbying for better housing infrastructure need to make these arguments more clearly: it is imperative that we recognise, let alone relieve, the pressure of the effects of climate change on the members of society who can least afford to shoulder it. This is not to claim that urban planners have ignored sustainability. There has been brilliant work done on sustainable building, and many projects have included social housing admirably. The Mexican EcoCasa project and Landsea Design in China have successfully completed large-scale affordable housing projects with excellent sustainability credentials. Other companies like Radian in the UK are setting standards for retrofitting social housing to make them greener and safer. The problem is, these schemes remain focused on carbon footprints and energy bills, not gentrification or affordability. Large scale success stories of development projects protecting communities are few and far between. Even attempts to entirely redesign the system with utopian ‘new city’ projects have not managed to safeguard a diverse urban system. Oscar Niemeyer’s purpose-built ‘Brasilia’ city is a case in point. Built as a socialist project, it was designed to hold 700,000 residents in sharply defined, six-storey ‘superquadra’. Buildings were designed with stilts to encourage freedom of movement. Public spaces were a priority and rent was to be controlled by the government. But the project failed to meet its egalitarian ideals. The population quickly ballooned, and today Brasilia has the highest per-capita income of all of Brazil’s major cities, with millions of impoverished Brazilians confined to satellite towns. It is perhaps too easy to be critical of new projects or technical solutions without appreciating the many factors that underpin them. But the devastating
effects of gentrification on communities are more worrying than current debates suggest. The infrastructure that we build today is the infrastructure that will define our lives under climate change, so we have to start discussing these issues now – and seriously. Authorities must implement policy and tax systems that protect communities in the long-term, paying close attention to the climatic changes that will shape our cityscapes in the decades to come. There are a number of examples of cutting-edge, climate-resilient, social equity-focused urban planning projects that can provide inspiration. For our governments to offer financial incentives to commercial projects like the Amazon takeover, while communities face devastation as a result, is not acceptable in this climate.
The infrastructure that we build today is the infrastructure that will define our lives under climate change, so we have to start discussing these issues now.
The Last Straw: picking your sustainability battles
Illustration by Daise Rowe and Sienna Collins
In the wake of heightened public awareness 43 of the plastic waste crisis, Chris Barton takes a look at its real scale. He examines how the issue has been tackled so far, and asks whether we are focusing our attention in the right place.
In December 2017, the UK public was just waking up to its damaging addiction to single-use plastics. When David Attenborough and the Blue Planet II team chose to dedicate their final episode to the devastating impact of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, people started taking action. Shocking footage of turtles trapped in nets and albatross feeding plastic to their chicks were particularly hard to ignore. Since then, all major British supermarkets have pledged to remove single-use plastics by 2025, while the government has promised to ban microbeads and is debating a ‘latte levy’ of 25p on all disposable cups. What is particularly remarkable, though, is the strength of public opinion driving these changes. ‘Plastic’ was the Oxford University Press’ Children’s Word of the Year for 2018, following an analysis of the 134,790 stories submitted. Last year’s winner? ‘Trump’. A special place in this war on plastic has been reserved for the plastic straw. Difficult to recycle, seemingly easy to litter but simple for most to do without, it has become the poster boy for everything unnecessary about single-use plastics. Public feeling is at its strongest here: the three most signed petitions advocating a UK ban gained a combined total of almost 550,000 signatures. A ban has already been planned in Scotland. Since January, institutions from Wetherspoons to Tesco to Costa Coffee have all moved to phase out plastic straws. McDonalds, in particular, has been singled out for some less-than-gentle encouragement to ditch the 1.8 million straws it uses every day – a significant step towards ridding ourselves of the 8.5 billion straws we use in the UK every year. As the chain cuts its use of plastic straws, the question remains: what difference will this actually make?
At a global scale, the UK’s impact on plastics in the ocean is relatively minimal. With extensively managed waste systems, the USA and Europe combined (of which the UK population represents 7 %) contribute only 2 % of global plastic pollution. Straws and stirrers accounted for just 4 % of larger marine debris in a global survey – by number, not mass. A rough estimate would then make UK straws responsible for 0.0056 % of the global ocean plastic problem. Cutting out straws does represent an easy switch and an accessible way to engage the public with environmental activism, but the impact of this quick win is not the only issue here. We need to consider the ‘bigger wins’ we might miss if the focus of our efforts remains short-sighted, removing offending single-use plastics from UK shelves one by one; campaign by campaign. In doing so, we would lose focus on the remaining 98 % of ocean plastic pollution, 90 % of which is generated by just ten rivers – two in Africa and 8 in Asia, where waste management systems haven’t yet been able to catch up with the rapid industrial development of the past decades. Cutting our plastic use in the UK will have a limited impact on this. Meanwhile, nineteen of the top 20 plastic manufacturers, whose products are produced, used and thrown away in huge volumes in the developing world, have their headquarters in the US or Europe. As both McKinsey and Company and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation point out in their report ‘The New Plastics Economy’ (2016), genuine investment by these companies into product redesign and new bioplastics could turn the tide in the fight against plastic waste. Wouldn’t a public campaign to encourage these companies to invest in real change have a greater
impact, tackling the root cause of plastic pollution rather than cutting out a few straws? There is also a real irony in asking a fast-food chain like McDonalds to ban straws when their true impact is hiding in plain sight. Virtually all straws binned within a McDonalds will go to landfill. On the other hand, a single 30 g beef patty produces the equivalent emissions of 3000 straws.1 That means 3,000 times more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, with 3,000 times the contribution to warmer, more acidic oceans, sealevel rise and climate change. Since McDonalds sells approximately 3.5 million meals a day, estimating one patty per meal, the footprint of the entire UK annual straw consumption is produced in less than a day in McDonalds burgers alone. The straw is a powerful example of how an issue with a relatively small impact can become a bogeyman that hides the real monsters under the bed. While plastic packaging of our food is being criticised as a catastrophe for animal welfare, the loss of wild land for food production – the leading cause of mass extinction of wildlife – is constantly overlooked. This extends beyond the food sector: Ryanair’s announcement that it will make all its flights plastic-free by 2023 is laudable, but possibly missing the point. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem. We can cut our plastic waste, change our diet and fly less frequently on shorter, plastic-free, flights – a win-win-win, surely? Unfortunately, try as we might, individuals do not have an unlimited capacity to remember and consistently act on every environmental mitigation, every issue and every campaign in the media. As a society we can only juggle so many campaigns at the centre of our collective attention. Which campaigns dominate – and which lose out – has a very real impact on our potential to become a more sustainable society. We are already seeing the side-effects of the crusade against single-use plastic: this May, Sainsbury’s quietly ended its ‘Waste Less, Save More’ campaign against food waste, citing ‘broadening and changing’ customer priorities. Sweden remains the only country to properly address sustainability in its dietary guidelines. In the same week that the EU announced a new directive to ban single-use plastics, leaked documents revealed that a proposed clampdown on pharmaceutical pollution in animal farming had been scrapped. As individuals and as a society, we have an opportunity like never before to make a difference and no one can fight our battles for us. Let’s just not forget to pick which ones we fight in the first place.
A single 30 g beef patty produces the equivalent emissions of 3300 straws.
Taking the average footprint of 100 g of beef protein as 50 Kg CO2-equivalent (Poore and Nemecek, 2018), a 30 g beef patty containing 10 g of protein would generate 5 Kg of emissions. Comparing this with a 0.37 g plastic straw (since 35 straws weighing 13 g), with emissions of 1.61 kg CO2 eq./ kg (Boonniteewanich, 2014), we can estimate that its emissions are 0.0015 kg CO2 eq./kg - making the emissions of a beef patty 3300 times that of a straw.
Dirty Garments: reducing the carbon footprint of your wardrobe 46
Illustration by Grace Dickinson
Joycelyn Longdon takes a look at the intri- 47 cate impact of the global fashion industry, and explains how she fights for a more neutral way to dress.
Between March and April this year, the parent group of fast fashion brands BooHoo, Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal reported soaring revenues, increasing by 53 % to £183.6 million. Such successes are widespread across the fast fashion industry: launched only a year ago, I Saw It First have achieved the highest levels of social media engagement of any Snapchat campaign this year – undoubtedly thanks to their high-profile social media collaborations with models such as Bella Hadid and Demi Rose. The company’s customers are drawn in by the affordable prices, sometimes as low as £3 for clearance dresses, leading to thousands of orders a week in hundreds of countries. To add to the industry success, 2018’s largest fashion brand so far is Spanish fast fashion retailer ZARA, with current sales at $30.97 billion. Business is booming for fast fashion brands and with the volume and value of used clothing decreasing, it’s safe to say that they’re on to a winner, right? As with any story, there are two sides to this one, and all that glitters in the fashion industry is not gold. It is one of the top five most polluting industries on earth, alongside the petrochemical industry, agriculture, road transportation and livestock. Fast fashion works on quick turnaround cycles, shrouded in secrecy and surprise, imitating catwalk and social media trends for a fraction of the price. The nature of the industry causes a buzz that excites and influences its thousands of followers. Fast fashion brands spend millions of pounds each year in order to perfect the ‘next big trend’ but the ecological and social cost to our planet is much greater. Apart from the obvious downsides of receiving garments that have travelled halfway across the world in shipping containers (90,000 in the world to be exact) that emit 260 times more Sulphur Dioxide than the world’s entire car fleet, there are many destructive
effects of fast fashion. As new trends come in, our old clothes get thrown out, leading to 70 kg of textile waste per person per year in the UK. These discarded clothes end their journey at landfill sites, where they will release the toxic chemicals and dyes from their materials for 200 years. With much of the industry unregulated, its consumption behaviours are leading to water shortages in China and India and predicted rises of 60 % in CO2 emissions. The fashion industry is aware of its shortcomings and is making efforts to reduce its carbon footprint through initiatives in-store and behind the scenes. The increasing number of critiques of the fashion industry has also galvanised fashion giants such as Stella McCartney, who has teamed up with environmental activist Dame Ellen MacArthur, to change the landscape of the fashion industry. A report released by the MacArthur Foundation stated that: ‘If the industry continues on its current path, by 2050, it could use more than 26 % of the carbon budget associated with the 2 °C Pathway.’ Brands such as H&M stand by McCartney and have introduced clothing collection boxes in their stores where customers can recycle their used clothes, no matter the material or the brand. These clothes are then either exported around the world, mainly to developing countries and to the ‘H&M Foundation’, with €0.02 being given to local charities per kilogram donated. However good the intentions of these initiatives may be, they could prove futile anyway – especially when China, which produces half of the world’s textiles and imports the largest amount of recycled clothing, is banning the import of textiles. Despite the initiatives of organisations such as H&M and Zara, donating your clothes for overseas exports may be more destructive than beneficial.
351 million kilograms of used clothes are exported from Britain annually, and the majority lands in SubSaharan Africa. Once shipped overseas, the clothing is not given to ‘poor African people’ as a donation, but are instead sold as a commodity. Market sellers buy clothes from the charities instead of their local textile companies as it is cheaper to do so and although this might have a positive influence on employment, it has stifled the native textiles industry in many African countries. This is a saddening fact when post-colonial African countries hoped to become economically independent through the manufacture and exportation of their own clothes. Unsurprisingly, there are organisations that are not impressed by the existing efforts of the fashion industry and are taking matters into their own hands. Remake is a non-profit organisation focused on creating sustainable fashion, educational resources and supporting female factory workers. Their website explains that 100 pairs of hands touch our garments before they reach us. 80 % of the 75,000 people that make our clothes are women aged 18 – 24, and the average garment worker takes 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO earns in a lunch break. It takes 2,720 litres of water to to make a t-shirt. Clearly, the industry needs to change. However, not everyone is privileged enough to be able to afford these well-made clothes that last years and years, and it is safe to say that for a working class student like me, just able to get by on their student loan with the supplement of freelance work, Remake is expensive. The organisation stocks items from independent brands such as Outerknown who retail a hat at $48, and MUD who stock jeans around the €100 mark. Well-made, ecologically considerate clothes come at a price, and this is more than understandable and fair, especially when the factory workers are allegedly ensured fair wages and treatment. However, it makes the prospect of buying sustainable fashion inaccessible to a large group of people, especially young people. It is a daunting task to navigate our shopping habits around the myriad of detrimental environmental effects while avoiding breaking the bank. For me, the answer is local charity shopping. It’s cheap, reduces the amount of clothes being shipped abroad, is a form of recycling and it is one of the most relaxing forms of procrastination I know. Charity shops are easily accessible: nearly every town high street has at least one and they are usually very quiet – allowing you to zone in on your bargain hunt and maybe have a chat with the volunteer on their shift. The possibility of uncovering a classic gem or massive bargain is incredibly rewarding and it allows for some of the nicest outfits to be created – ones that nobody else will have.
The average garment worker takes 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO earns in a lunch break.
Greenwashing: how Big Energy is gagging international climate politics 50
Illustration by Ruby Martin
With directors of fossil fuel companies 51 routinely paying for seats at the table of major climate talks, Lily Hosking calls for greater transparency in global climate governance.
Fossil fuel corporations continue to have privileged access to international policymakers. The discussions leading to the Paris Agreement (2016) demonstrate clearly just how closely connected Big Energy1 and policymakers are. During the EU’s climate policy development in relation to the agreement, the EU’s Commissioner for Climate, Miguel Arias Cañete, met with representatives from across the energy sector. For every meeting he had with representatives from the renewable energy sector, he had 22 meetings with the fossil fuel industry. Contact with politicians and officials gives Big Energy an opportunity to undermine climate change policy, influencing and pressuring authorities to dilute environmental initiatives. This constitutes one of the biggest obstacles to effective climate policy both nationally and internationally. Big Energy routinely operates by ‘greenwashing’ – a form of corporate capture which occurs when legislative and regulatory bodies are unduly influenced by corporations. As a result, corporations can obstruct climate policy in a number of ways. They do this by engaging in the policy deliberation processes between governments and international organisations such as UN Climate Change (UNFCCC). For example, the Paris COP21 climate conference (2015) was sponsored by Big Energy companies such as EDF and Engie. Their involvement provided an opportunity for these companies to depict themselves as part of the solution to the climate crisis. In reality, this ‘green’ image helped them to cosy up to politicians and influence climate policy in their favour.
The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) exists to advance the economic agenda within climate policy, build international energy markets with ‘high environmental integrity’, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a non-governmental organisation, IETA is a regular participant in international climate policy discussions. IETA also co-organises Carbon Forums – gatherings of stakeholders in the carbon market – around the world. These Forums are conducted in partnership with the UNFCCC and other UN bodies, offering IETA members ‘platforms to discover new opportunities around the world’. Among the directors of IETA are senior staff from BP, Shell, Chevron, and BHP Billiton. If such corporations are pursuing profits in fossil fuel and working with the UN on climate policy at the same time, how committed can they really be to combating climate change. In sponsoring climate talks, fossil fuel corporations can ‘greenwash’ themselves as legitimate climateconscious actors while having the ear of politicians, who are then more exposed and susceptible to their lobbying. During the Paris negotiations, corporate sponsors such as Engie and Suez Environnement were given privileged access to the rooms where negotiations were taking place. Another case involved the Green Climate Fund, part of the UNFCCC’s financial arm. Institutions and organisations have to be accredited by the fund
Big Energy constitutes one of the biggest obstacles to effective climate policy both nationally and internationally.
A convenient term for the largest and most influential energy companies worldwide – all of which rely on fossil fuels.
in order to receive financial support from them. Several of the institutions receiving accreditation are transnational banks that have a track record of financing fossil fuel projects. Free speech is heavily restricted both during and after the accreditation process: civil society observers cannot speak out before a decision is reached. Furthermore, if the organisation in question is approved, it is then exempt from explicit criticism. Activists have pointed to examples in other fields where corporate capture has been successfully overcome: most notably, the tobacco industry. For decades, the industry thwarted attempts to implement effective international tobacco control using many of the same methods as Big Energy today; lobbying, funding scientific research and political campaigns, philanthropy, and downright intimidation of those who supported tobacco control. This only changed when the World Health Organisation’s introduced the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003. Now covering 87 % of the world’s population, the framework has curbed a globally powerful and harmful industry with a healthy dose of public regulation. There have been calls for supranational organisations, such as the UN, to regulate fossil fuels. However, stopping global consumption of fossil fuels (and regulating against corporate capture) is a more complex issue than tobacco. We cannot simply stop using fossil fuels in the same way we can stop using tobacco: its consumption is a recreational activity, while energy underpins most of human existence as we know it. There are plenty of viable renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, but for the time being, these do not provide us with sufficient energy to meet our current consumption levels. While this persists, Big Energy will continue to wield significant leverage. Although the financial and political power of the global tobacco industry is considerable, it pales in comparison to the fossil fuel industry. Worldwide, the tobacco industry’s revenue reached $643 billion in 2016, but this was dwarfed by fossil fuels’ $5 trillion revenue. The global total income generated by fossil fuels is nearly double that of the UK’s nominal GDP2 – or, the combined GDP of 75 % of the world’s least affluent states. This level of financial power is perhaps most alarming when considering that many of the poorest states, which are most vulnerable to corporate capture, are also the ones most affected by climate change. The issue of corporate capture and greenwashing may seem insurmountable but a knee-jerk reaction, banning corporate interests in climate policy discussions, is unfeasible and perhaps even undesirable.
The more Big Energy is framed as the ‘enemy’, the more they will use their financial and political power as a defence mechanism to undermine policy processes in increasingly belligerent ways. The way forward remains difficult to navigate, but I see a need to introduce monitoring mechanisms that hold corporate involvement in climate legislation to account. The members of these bodies should be selected through a transparent and rigorous process that rejects individuals with a stake in the fossil fuel industry. Funding from Big Energy ought to be prohibited unless no conflicts of interest can be determined. Without independent supervision, international climate policy will struggle to introduce the political changes our planet sorely needs.
The value of all goods and services the produced per year.
Setting the Stage for Climate Change: place 54
Illustration by Jade Delmage
Ellie Warr asks how we should approach 55 sustainability in our performance spaces. She finds a gap between creative expression and responsible production, arguing that it is a divide which practitioners can, and should, reduce.
The Mayor of London’s 2008 practical guide to ‘Green Theatre’ reported that the total carbon footprint of London’s theatre industry is approximately 50,000 tonnes a year. You would need to cultivate 3 million seedlings every year to offset this, equivalent to a plantation three times the size of Regent’s Park. The report breaks down this total by department, stating that the majority of energy is consumed front of house (35 %), while the heating and cooling of rehearsal spaces comes in second at 28 %. Theatre offices and stage electricals, such as lighting and sound, contribute 9 % each, while overnight and pre-production theatre management are responsible for 6 % and 5 % respectively. Production materials – that is, set and props – contribute 5 %. This breakdown excludes pre-production emissions and ‘indirect emissions from audience travel – although since the latter is estimated at approximately 35,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, it is worth considering what spectators can do to travel to shows more sustainably. Venues nationwide have been addressing in-house energy consumption with commitment and creativity in the last ten years. The dedication shown by backstage teams to reducing carbon emissions led me to wonder: what efforts are being made onstage to explore climate change? How does green practice in the conditions of production interact with representation onstage? Joanna Reid, Executive Director of Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, established a green policy for the venue as early as 2008. After watching Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006), the award-winning film documenting Al Gore’s efforts to educate America about climate change, Reid reflected on her own environmental responsibilities. She saw an opportunity to apply the collaboration and imagination of her team to sustainable initiatives, and called for
volunteers from every department of the theatre to form a Green Team, which pooled information and oversaw the implementation of greener practices across the theatre. These included replacing the three hundred 60 watt bulbs in the theatre’s iconic chandeliers with 28 watt energy saving halogen lamps as well as the careful refurbishment of Red Lane, the theatre’s workshop facilities, during which a more energy-efficient gas boiler was installed that reduces gas usage by 36 %. The Chamber of Commerce’s Carbon Trust in 2012 commended the Belgrade’s efforts, and the theatre’s six-point plastic waste reduction plan, announced earlier this year, has been greeted with enthusiasm by local publications such as the Food Covolution, a guide to independent food and drink businesses in Coventry Reid describes the difficulty of reconciling artistic practice with the Belgrade’s green policies: ‘Onstage artistic decisions are not taken with a green filter at all – all we can do is to provide the greenest equipment we can and to reduce its use when not required by the performance.’ Statistically, this makes sense: stage electricals and production materials contribute to only 14 % of total carbon emissions in the theatre industry. Yet as Una Chaudhuri, Professor of English, Drama, and Environmental Studies at NYU, writes: By making space on its stage for ongoing acknowledgements of the rupture it participates in – the rupture between nature and culture… the theatre can become the site of a much-needed ecological consciousness. Chaudhuri identifies site-specific theatre as a prospect for ecological theatre – productions that ‘directly
The audience was challenged to interrogate their relationship to the theatre space by relocating halfway through the show.
engage the actual ecological problems of particular environments’ and analogously provoke the audience to reflect on their responsibility to the global environment. Alternatively, Chaudhuri suggests the theatrical tradition defined by ‘its embrace of performance space, and rejection of setting’, exemplified by Robert Wilson and Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine. Jeff James’ production of La Musica at the Young Vic in 2015 explored these sites of ecological theatre by provoking the audience to consider the kind of event they were attending and ‘eliminat[ing] what was unnecessary in the production’. Marguerite Duras’ play is a two-hander about a couple revisiting their relationship. It does not deal with environmental questions directly. However, the production was staged as part of the Young Vic’s ‘Classics for a New Climate’ series, an investigation into ways of making ‘more environmentally sustainable theatre’ that began with a production of After Miss Julie in 2012. Working alongside Julie’s Bicycle, a London-based charity that supports creative community action on climate change and environmental sustainability, the theatre aimed to reduce La Musica’s carbon emissions by 60 %. La Musica generated 9.78 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (or CO2e, the standard measurement for carbon footprints) overall. This was 64 % lower than the average of the theatre’s other productions that year, and represented 2.5 % of the Young Vic’s total carbon footprint for 2014 –15. La Musica was site-specific. The Maria studio, in which the play was performed, has a large window close to the ceiling that is typically blacked-out for performances. In this production, James and designer Ultz kept the window uncovered, and created a platform that allowed the performers to sit aloft and look out through the window during the first half of the play. The actors looking out of it were lit by the street lamps or daylight outside, depending on the time of the show, minimising the need for artificial lighting. As the actors
were required to sit with their backs to the audience in order to look out of the window, a video camera recorded their faces and a live stream was projected to the audience. The platform was accessed by a scissor lift, which the performers used to descend to the floor of the studio mid-way through the show, constituting a ‘scene change’. The production embraced the performance environment as an opportunity to create ecological theatre – as described in Chaudhuri’s essay. The audience was challenged to interrogate their relationship to the theatre space by relocating halfway through the show. Initially seated on a balcony parallel to the raised stage and window, the audience was later encouraged to move down to the studio floor, taking up seats in an arena-style setup below. A pre-recorded video of audience members performing this action was projected to induce spectators to move – James chose to use a projector rather than a sound system during the show on the basis that the former used less energy. By inviting the audience to dislocate themselves during the performance, James undermined the typically passive relationship between spectator and space of reception, drawing lessons from immersive or promenade theatre to perform an environmentallyconscious activity. La Musica aimed to inspire a sense of agency in this relationship. The ‘austere’ aesthetic undermined forms of representation that we customarily anticipate when we go and see a show, celebrating the efforts of backstage teams working to reduce material consumption for representational ends. Time for more creatives to meet them halfway.
Environmental Litigation: doing justice by our planet
Illustration by Holly Mills
Eleanor Leydon reviews the capacity of our legal systems to deal with the consequences of climate change.
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment at which humans began to alter our planet to the extent that our impact warrants its own geological epoch. Similarly, there are many metrics by which to debate the point where we began, substantially, to do something about it. When, and how, did we start trying to do justice by our planet? LSE’s Grantham Research Institute database on climate law suggests two starting points. Firstly, there is the first recorded piece of climate legislation: the USA’s Clean Air Act, 1963. This was followed over the next twenty-five years by 11 further climate-related acts worldwide, until a surge in the Nineties brought us to a total of 124 legislative tools so far. Now there are 1,200 climate laws worldwide – though notably only 47 have been added since the Paris Agreement of 2016, at a slowdown from the 2009–2013 peak of 100 per year. Legislation is vital to achieving climate justice, setting legally binding targets and mandating regulation across all sectors. It occupies a vital place in dualist states like the UK, where international agreements have no binding force until incorporated into domestic law by an Act of Parliament. Of course, not all legislation is a reflection of international agreement, and it is important that national measures set ambitious, statespecific goals. In a post-Brexit Britain, devoid of EU environmental protections, there will need to be huge public demand for such legislation if the pattern of increasing and more effective climate legislation is to continue. Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for the Environment, recently quipped that ‘Michael Gove is fast becoming the Secretary of State for Consultations, with no primary legislation brought forward by DEFRA1 since the General Election with only months to go until Britain leaves the EU.’
Legislation provides one possible metric for climate justice. We entrust lawmaking powers to our elected representatives, and petition them with our demands. But we can also challenge the exercise of these powers, and those of private bodies, in court. ‘Environmental’ law disputes have been in the courts for some time, but LSE’s research offers us a starting point for ‘climate’ litigation in 1994 – over thirty years on from the Clean Air Act. In 1994, Greenpeace Australia challenged the state’s decision to grant consent to the development of a new power station by using the precautionary principle – arguing that its emissions would exacerbate the greenhouse effect. Greenpeace lost. So too did applicants in the four other climate lawsuits logged before 2000 (all seeking wind turbine planning permission). Yet as our database of legislative tools has expanded, and as the UK in particular has taken an increasingly generous approach in determining who may bring a claim against government decisions, climate litigation has flourished, now totalling 267 lawsuits. Though environmental law still has some way to go, its potential has attracted fierce interest. In March, the Guardian asked: ‘Can Climate Litigation Save the World?’ The article notes that litigants are inspired by a historic path to progress paved by landmark rulings. Worldwide, novel legal precedents are holding governments and emitters to account. Most famously, the 2015 Netherlands Urgenda case held that the Dutch government must increase its cuts to emissions (although this is currently under appeal). In the US, 1
Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs
state counties in California and New York are taking Big Oil2 to court. In the UK, activist law firm Client Earth has won three successive court battles against the government over its failure to adequately combat air pollution and Plan B are seeking a review of the adequacy of the 2008 Climate Change Act targets in light of the Paris Agreement. Successful litigation is incredibly powerful: court rulings articulate the boundaries within which bodies may act, and the extent of their obligations. Their findings can compel governmental review of policy. But public interest litigation in particular can face substantial obstacles. The resources needed to bring a claim are significant, particularly when facing affluent opponents like Big Oil. In fact, LSE’s 2017 snapshot shows that the most common plaintiffs in climate lawsuits are corporations themselves, bringing 40 % of suits. Despite this, over half of lawsuits enhanced climate regulation, with only 35 % leading to a pushback in regulatory policy. There have historically been major problems with proving legal causation in climate lawsuits. This is particularly true of tort law, where liability for civil wrongs is founded on evidencing that an individual’s wrongful behaviour caused harm. Yale Professor Douglas Kysar has written: Built as it is on a paradigm of harm in which A wrongfully, directly, and exclusively injures B, tort law seems fundamentally ill-equipped to address the causes and impacts of climate change: diffuse and disparate in origin, lagged and latticed in effect, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions represent...a collective action problem so pervasive and so complicated as to render… all of us and none of us responsible. Yet there has been a notable resurgence of tort litigation, including Urgenda and the California and New York suits. A Peruvian farmer won his right to appeal against RWE, Germany’s largest electricity company: Lliuya is suing RWE for 0.47 % of the total costs incurred for flood protections against the melting glacier near his Peruvian hometown. He estimates that this reflects the company’s annual contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. New analysis suggests that advancements in attribution science could become a major driver of litigation. Our increased ability to foresee extreme weather events and attribute their harm to climate change fills an essential gap in the ‘chain of causation’ necessary for legal liability. This
will mean greater potential liability for governments and businesses which fail to act on preventable climate-related harm. Can climate litigation save the world? Given the modest rate of momentum so far, and the significant obstacles facing litigants, it would be imprudent to lay all responsibility for world-saving in the hands of those (often tiny) organisations working creatively and on a shoestring to set precedents and hold key players to account. Yet precedents have been set, and the pathways to climate liability are increasingly clearly mapped. Promisingly, in the California county lawsuit, judge Alsup convened a novel ‘tutorial’ on climate science in court. India’s National Green Tribunal, established in 2010, is composed of judicial and scientific members adjudicating together. Britain has its own versions of Lliuya v. RWE: law firm Leigh Day specialises in bringing international group claims against multinationals based in London. But the UK, poised to rip up the environmental protections mandated by EU law – the basis on which Client Earth’s pollution challenges were won – will need strong legislative protections to take its place. Whatever the global trends towards climate litigation, a firm basis from which to mount claims is crucial. This is something that the ‘Secretary of State for Consultations’ has so far proved reluctant to offer, and must be the subject of enormous public pressure if we hope to see increased momentum in climate accountability.
The world’s largest 6/7 publicly traded gas and oil companies.
How Vegan Fairs Can Make Your Diet More Sustainable
Vegan Markets UK is a sponsor of It’s Freezing In LA!. We visited their inaugural Derby Vegan Market to find out how they are improving the sustainability of the UK’s food consumption. At the front of the entrance to St Peter’s Church, there are four pots and a bag of counters. When visitors arrive at the Derby Vegan Market 2018, they have to put a counter into the pot that most reflects their diet: vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or other. One teenager arrives with her family in tow, and drops five counters into the ‘vegan’ pot. As she marches into the church her father hangs back and, slightly sheepishly, moves his counter into ‘flexitarian’. This is the first time Vegan Markets UK, who select sustainable and plant-based businesses to participate in day-long vegan markets around the UK, has hosted an event in Derby. It is a resounding success: 1,000 people pass through St Peter’s, buying hundreds of vegan cakes, curries, oils, clothes and groceries. Its popularity reflects the astounding growth of the vegan movement in the last decade. With the number of vegans in the UK now reportedly in the millions, the pressure is on for the ‘flexitarian’ Derbian father: Twitter has reported an 85 % increase in the number of posts containing ‘#veganlife’ since 2016, one third of restaurants on takeaway delivery site Just Eat have a vegan option and vegan chefs like the inimitable Jack Monroe are revolutionising our ability to eat more sustainably on a budget. According to Vegan Markets UK founder Lewis Beresford, a core goal of this movement should be to encourage improved dietary sustainability: ‘Eating
more plants and less animal-based products reduces your impact on the environment.’ Flyers at the Derby market prove the case clearly – globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole transportation sector, and these emissions are set to increase up to 80 % by 2050. But the vegan industry is not straightforward. Veganism may be popular among millennials, but Lewis is clear that this is not necessarily representative or sustainable in the long term: ‘We’re seeing rich communities follow a fashion’. Big business also distorts the ethical credentials of veganism. Supermarket shelves full of branded vegan products arguably distract consumers from interrogating the underlying origin and carbon footprint of their food. Vegan markets have traditionally been a way for vegans to explore what’s available, stock up on products and meet members of a community. In vegan-friendly areas like Bristol and Brighton these markets have been providing such a space for years. In places like Derby, where veganism is less established, markets can play a further role in helping people new to a vegan diet learn about their options. This is all about making it easier for people to do something they know is good’ says Lewis. ‘Vegan products are not very easy to get at the moment, but
events are ways of exploring [this]… we’re saying ‘you can do this easily, and here’s how. Ananda of Ananda Foods, a vegan marshmallow company, agrees that the fairs help people find new ways of enjoying their diet. Customers, she notes, are always excited to expand their choices with options you still can’t find in supermarkets. For Ananda it is important that her marshmallows do not necessarily fit the stereotype of a health-focussed movement: ‘You have to have a balance in all things, you have to have that bit of sweet or you will crave it… we are sweet, and marshmallows are not healthy!’ The vegan events show people how to follow better and more long-term vegan diets. They give you ideas, options and motivation. They demonstrate the best of veganism. To quote Jack Monroe: ‘[since going vegan] I have found my cooking has taken on a whole new life, a veritable riot of colour and flavour and deliciousness.’ While misleading statistics about vegan food abound (deforestation for soya farming is a real problem, for example, but there is more soya in a steak than a latte), it is still true that some plant-based options are greener than others. Lewis agrees that many vegans are poorly informed about sustainability. Only 10 % of UK ‘Veganuary’ fundraisers were motivated by environmental concerns, as opposed to animal welfare (43 %) and health (39 %). Personal motivations are not in themselves a bad thing, but they do show that there is room for projects like Vegan Markets UK to raise the standard of environmental responsibility in the movement. As well as providing information on dietary sustainability at the events, the team vet all businesses – ‘products and services must fulfil our requirements of being healthy, sustainable and ethical’ – and rigorous terms and conditions are used: ‘No plastic bags are to be given out. Eco, hessian or paper bags are suggested as alternatives.’ It works: all stallholders we spoke to had a genuine concern for their environmental impact – all shopped locally, provided biodegradable packaging, and were strict on their production methods. Remedy Roots, who sell organic tea blends, are dedicated to improving the sustainability of their packaging. They use compostable linings and work with individual suppliers to improve the footprint of incoming materials. ‘We’re finding the little wins wherever we can’ they tell us. Other stalls were firm that reducing their carbon footprint was a priority over traditional business choices. Balanced Nature, a health food company, say that plant-based detergents in their factory cost two or three times more than traditional products, but they are uncompromising:
‘Some shops think we’re too fussy, too much, exposing the others. But we want to be setting high standards.’ By demanding good practice of its contributors, the Vegan Markets UK fairs ensure that the excellent work it does making vegan diets more accessible is also environmentally responsible. Diets will always come with some kind of environmental impact, but events like these can help consumers to shop, store and source responsibly, and are a striking reminder of how much can be done. The surge in interest in plant-based diets is incredibly exciting for the effect it could have on our future food-related emissions, and projects like Vegan Markets UK are crucial to achieving these aims. Plantbased diets, even ‘flexitarian’ ones, can have a powerful impact on our carbon footprints, and vegan markets are a brilliant way to help make such choices positive and attainable. ‘We want people to be impressed by what they eat’, says Lewis, ‘Break down those barriers of boring rabbit food.’ Vegan Markets UK was chosen by IFLA! as a partner organisation because of their important work in making sustainability more accessible. They pay for IFLA! to be hosted at www.itsfreezinginla.com. We thank them for their support, and the stallholders at the Derby Vegan Market 2018 for their contributions to this article.
History Interested in the ‘Year Without a Summer’? Watch excellent historians taking apart the cultural ripples of the volcano in depth: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b077j4yv ‘Making it Rain’ is a podcast episode that takes on the inevitable historical attempts to weaponise weather. Fascinating: www.99percentinvisible.org/episode/making-it-rain/ Princeton’s cross discipline History and Paleoscience conference has thrown out some interesting links: www.pnas.org/ content/115/13/3210
Jessica J. Lee, author of ‘Turning: A Swimming Memoir’ (2018), is launching ‘The Willowherb Review’, which will ‘provide an initial platform to celebrate and bolster nature writing by emerging and established writers of colour.’ Economics Advocates of the Circular Economy model, as opposed to our current linear paradigm, argue that its adoption would be the systems-wide change of thinking that we need to overcome degenerative climate change. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation provides excellent resources on the idea, with case studies, articles and different industrial application examples: www.ellenmacarthurfoundation. org/circular-economy
Pollution To get to the heart of the effect our throwaway society has on the environment you’ve got to get your hands dirty. Lots of organisations run clean up days on London’s waterways and these are great ways to meet an amazing range of people, improve ecosystem health and learn about the weird and wonderful places trash ends up. Thames21 (www.thames21.org.uk/events) or the Canal & Riverside (www.canalrivertrust.org.uk) for events across London. For an inspiring cycle on the damage humanity can do to nature and how we reverse it, try Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’, then ‘Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life’ by George Monbiot. Carson’s is a must-read milestone in poetic environmental writing that mobilised 1960s America to fight apocalyptic pesticide use. Monbiot’s a much more recent, but no less eloquent, exploration of a rewilding movement that at its most fervent calls for half the planet to be totally given back to nature. When it was released in 2015, high profile journalist Chai Jing’s documentary ‘Under the Dome: Investigating China’s Smog’ had a transformative effect on the debate over air pollution in China. The documentary taught people how bad the country’s air quality was, and what it was doing to people’s health. It clocked up 200 million views before it was censored, for fear of what the outrage it caused might become. In the same vein as ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ (http://youtu.be/V5bHb3ljjbc). Literature Inaya Folarin Iman, Maria Paradinas, Nuzhat Tabassum, Nadhya Kamalaneson & Priya Guns are all emerging talents being given a platform over on the incredible gal-dem. All write powerfully and variously on identity, the places we inhabit, and climate change. Amitav Ghosh explores and exposes climate issues in fiction and non-fiction. ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ (2016) works to grasp the scale and violence of climate change, at the level of literature, history, and politics. Satish Kumar is an environmentalist and writer. He edits Resurgence & Ecologist, a magazine covering environmental issues, engaged activism, philosophy, arts and ethical living.
For a very good example of a company reducing its environmental impact, have a look at manufacturing company Interface. They believe that their ‘new industrial model’ ‘can serve as an inspiring model for others to embrace’: www.interface.com/EU/en-GB/ about/modular-carpet-tile/Redesigning-Commerce-en_GB If you’re interested in the idea of Planetary Boundaries, have a look at Kate Raworth’s website on ‘doughnut economics’. This builds on the earth systems concept, drawing societal and behavioural elements into the problem using a striking doughnut model: www. kateraworth.com/doughnut/ Technology Cooperative Energy Programs (www.cooperativeenergy.coop/why-us/wesupport-community-energy/) consider switching your energy provider to one that is customer owned – this alternative business model allows for more democratic decision making around where your energy comes from. Also, community-owned energy production, with no shareholders, can redistribute profits into public services and interests For projects near you about implementing diverse, interdisciplinary, and creative technological solutions, see: https://solutions. thischangeseverything.org/%20Global This article, ‘Should Climate Scientists Fly?’, provides a succinct and compelling case for social pressure against the ‘very, very bad actors in this space of climate accountability...who gatekeep our collective action on climate’. Dr Sarah E Myre, a paleoceanographer who founded the Rowan Institute for climate communication, wants us to think about climate as a question of ‘moral courage’: https:// blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/should-climatescientists-fly/ Cities: London Cities across the world from Bogotá to Brussels, host a Car Free Day on 22 nd September each year, and others more frequently. Campaigners are aiming to bring this initiative to the capital as the effects on pollution are astounding – on Paris’ first car free day in 2015 pollution fell by 40 %. Individuals in London are encouraged
to take part in the event by giving up their car for the day although currently there is no provision made by the state for a wider movement. You can follow the event on Twitter at @carfreedayldn or, if you want it to be state sanctioned, you can sign a petition at: www. change.org/p/sadiq-khan-let-s-have-london-s-first-car-free-day If you are a London cyclist and want to find out more, or work towards improving cycling conditions in the capital, get involved with the London Cycle Campaign (www.lcc.org.uk). The campaign wants to pedestrianise Oxford Street, improve lorry safety for cyclists and make London a ‘liveable city’. Their website also offers cycling advice, route planners and information on their events. Most other major cities have similar campaigns. Waste Veganuary, Stoptober, Movember, Plastic Free July? The Marine Conservation Society want to help you try. Daunting it may sound, but the challenge quickly becomes addictive. There’s also a big community contributing ideas and support. Sign up on their website:www.mcsuk.org/plastic-challenge For a comprehensive and balanced take on all the research ongoing into the impact of our food on the environment, including packaging, then Foodsource by the Food Climate Research network is a fantastic resource: www.foodsource.org.uk/ A very short video in the wake of ‘cauliflower-steak-gate’ in early 2018, examines whether the concerns about packaging killed off a product that was actually doing a lot of good: www.bbc.co.uk/news/ av/uk-43174323/did-ms-overreact-to-cauliflower-backlash
Politics ‘Cold Dispatch’ is a fortnightly radio show that discusses Arctic issues such as culture, trade, heritage, and politics. Being a region so vulnerable to climate change, it’s interesting to hear what is happening in the area. Find on MixCloud. Theatre River Stage Festival 2018 Free outdoor festival (July–August, across UK) Who needs walls and air-con when there’s theatre to be had in the Great (Urban) Outdoors? Plus, free show means no tickets – hurray for paperless marketing! Cabaret Drag from ‘The Glory’ already confirmed, full line up released 6 June: www. nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/river-stage-2018 Sol Cinema – Mobile, 8-seater cinema in a vintage caravan powered by the sun (on tour). Sol Cinema are hard to pin down, but the chase is worth while. Their 120 W photovoltaic panel makes the most of the British summer and can be caught on the Continent as well. Find them at Boomtown Fair (9–12th August) or check online if they’ll be appearing near you soon: www.thesolcinema.org The News from Nowhere stage Walthamstow Garden Party (14th–15th July) The Walthamstow Garden Party celebrates local talent in a green environment. Free wheel into ith Del Taylor’s project to create ‘a forest of bicycle wheel propellers and windmills’ at the News from Nowhere stage: www.walthamstowgardenparty.com/whats-on
Infrastructure Law If you want to know more about the links between climate change and extreme weather, www.climatecommunication.org publish wellresearched reports. They look at the connections between climate and weather, droughts and floods, and present the latest climate research and solutions in ‘plain language’. Difficult but important reading. If you’re looking for inspiration for exciting green design and housing projects, the Ashden Awards have a website with a huge database of exceptional work. They look at projects of all scales, all around the world, and with a focus on energy and communities. Search for local initiatives near you, or apply for an award yourself: www.ashden.org Ashley Dawson writes about societal vulnerability in the face of climate change. His book ‘Extreme Cities’ looks at the way in which cities drive climate change and will be most threatened by them. ‘Extinction, A Radical History’ goes on to call for ‘radical conservation’ to save our wildlife: “industrial capitalism... [is] pushing it to the point where we’re decimating the vast majority of life on the planet”.
Climatecasechart.com – a further database of climate litigation divided into US and non-US claims. Divided into suits against governments, corporations and individuals and searchable by topic. PIEL (Public Interest Environmental Law) UK are a student-founded organisation inspired by PIEL US, organisers of the world’s largest environmental law conference. PIEL UK host an annual conference in London aiming to strike a balance between those affected by, and those who practice in laws that affect environmental justice. They are always looking for organising members. Plan B (www.planb.earth) is a registered charity founded to support the growth of strategic legal action against climate change. They are currently taking the government to court to challenge the adequacy of the 2050 carbon target set by the 2008 Climate Change Act. On their website you can help crowdfund their legal action, read more on the grounds of their claim, and sign up to volunteer your time for this growing movement.
Independent magazines are a powerful medium for new ideas, images and opportunities. However, there are many ways to ensure sustainability standards are kept high. IFLA! has taken all possible measures to ensure our production has minimal impact, without compromising on quality. Printing – We are working with The Sustainable Print Company to use responsible printing strategies. All our paper is 100 % recycled and we use laser toner printing. Compared to litho printing, laser printing has less VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that damage our environment. We also reduce waste to the bare minimum during the production process. Postage and packaging – All postage materials are recycled. We ask that you reuse the envelope that your copy of IFLA! comes in, or at least recycle it. We do not post copies outside of the UK while we only print in the UK. Web hosting – Our website is hosted by DreamHost. We chose DreamHost specifically because of their attention to the energy supply to and the footprint of their data centres and offices. Events – our launch was hosted by Grow Tottenham, a community garden project in North London. Grow London C.I.C. is a social enterprise that works with local communities and landowners to create spaces for gardening, learning, and social life. Diversity – IFLA! is committed to including diverse voices, backgrounds and experiences in order to explore and understand all possible insights into our future challenges. In this issue 77 % of our team are female, and 23 % are from BAME backgrounds. We welcome all submissions and expressions of interest to: email@example.com.
Alice Attlee Chris Barton Andrew Clarke Martha Dillon Grace Duncan Lily Hosking Eleanor Leydon Harry Lloyd Joycelyn Longdon Finlay Prescott Kelsey Reichenbach Grace Richardson Banks Eleanor Warr
Editing and Fact Checking
Robin Brinkworth Seán Thór Herron Lily Hosking Beatrice Liese Joanna Lee Joycelyn Longdon Elana Sulakshana Christiana Smyrilli Pheobe Radford Aranya Ram
Charlotte Ager Matthew Armitage Laurie Avon Imi Black Jade Delmage Grace Dickinson Matilda Ellis Ruby Martin Holly Mills Sean O’Brien Jiye Kim Haeun Kim Daise Rowe and Sienna Collins
Nina Carter and Matthew Sequel Spencer
Matthew Sequel Spencer
James Astell Amira Damji Joseph Dillon Shanar Tabrizi
Op. Cit. Ibid.
The yellow and orange graphics in this magazine are taken from global surface temperature maps dating back to 1884. Between then and now, the average global temperature has increased by an unprecedented 0.8 °C. Two thirds of this occurred in the last 43 years. Source: NASA Earth Observatory
Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee - I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax! Donald Trump, 2013
It's Freezing in LA! is a bold, bright take on climate change and our futures. Order a beautiful, 100% recycled print version at www.itsfree...
Published on Nov 2, 2018
It's Freezing in LA! is a bold, bright take on climate change and our futures. Order a beautiful, 100% recycled print version at www.itsfree...