Old Habits Die Hard With Climate Change

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Britain has been lagging behind its European counterparts in the walk to a cleaner future.

Greater London is home to 8,173,941 million people and has one of the highest levels of pollution in the U.K. The economy thrives off of corporations that generate revenue in this country, but these companies are hugely wasteful. This has a direct impact on the quality of our air and the space needed for waste. A thriving city will not be able to keep its head above water if half of its population is unable to work because of pollution-related health problems – but it does not need to be this way. Switzerland and Sweden are first-world countries that have a high quality of life; they promote looking after nature but also have a booming economy.

Britain has been a hegemon within Europe for decades and this is partly due to the many British businesses, but there is a crisis of sustainability. This is particularly true with energy companies; revenue-rich corporations manage to avoid being subject to investigation under environmental laws and it is rare that their controversial strategies are questioned by authority.

When looking at the damage done by energy companies, the fines paid are a small loss compared to the wildlife and people being affected. Can the publicly funded National Health Service take the pressure of receiving more and more patients suffering from severe asthma and lung cancer in the years to come? Air pollution is one of the problems we have to think about and which the government and local councils need to collectively try to tackle.

The majority of the U.K receives its energy from stations that run off of coal, petroleum or natural gas. Coal releases the most carbon dioxide when burned, adding to greenhouse gas emissions. Vaxjo, a city in Sweden, demonstrates the use of natural gas. The city’s transportation operates by using biogas that is produced from food; organic waste is fed into a large tank that gets digested by bacteria and the methane gas created can be used for lighting, cooking and heating. It is a transformative scheme that would benefit London and other major cities as we have a high level of particulate matter consisting of small particles from construction dust, organic dust and coal molecules that need to be reduced.

Popular supermarkets contribute to the tonnes of cardboard and plastic which are thrown away each day. If the companies took the initiative to only allow brands with minimal packaging onto their shelves, it would in turn reduce the amount of household waste. On 5th October 2015, the 5p per plastic bag law was introduced in supermarkets, and while this is a small step in the right direction, a drastic jump is needed for Britain to be ahead of the game in Europe for being a sustainable country.

In my recent interview with prominent Green Party member, Noel Lynch, he argued that “it will be too late when the British population finally takes recycling seriously”. From an optimistic perspective, the recent law indicates that the government has the crucial authority that is required for policy-making.

The Green Party of England and Wales is a minority group that pledges to protect people and the planet. “The difference between the Green Party and other parties is that we see reducing energy as a fundamental policy”, states Lynch,

“It’s like Victorian times”, Lynch adds. With this thought, his view is that the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. This is especially true with North African and middle-eastern countries suffering the consequences of global warming that western countries have contributed the most to.

Switzerland is known to be very ‘green’ and its domestically produced food feeds 60% of the total population. Food that can be grown in Switzerland is similar to that of the U.K, including potatoes, barley, oats, wheat and lettuce.

Switzerland aims to be self-reliant and this reduces food miles. When comparing the two countries, approximately 65% of our food comes from foreign farms. Many Swiss cities and towns are renowned for their gardens that yield crops, managed by communities. The government also aims to support farmers, whose role in the community is seen as invaluable. For example, a litre of diesel or petrol costs a farmer 60 rappen less than a normal car driver.

When comparing the different sources of power, it is necessary to look at renewable and non-renewable methods of energy production. Hydroelectric power and wind farms take advantage of nature’s capacity and are more suitable for the long term than relying on fossil fuels. Wind farms lose little energy during the process of electricity production and transfer of electricity to a transformer or the national grid. England has the most wind in Europe, “why doesn’t the majority of our electricity come from wind farms?” asks Lynch.

To this day, there are seven operational nuclear power plants in the U.K, compared to the three that Sweden owns. Nuclear power has been the subject of scrutiny over the past twenty years as there is the issue of disposing of the atomic waste – containing uranium and plutonium – that can be dangerously radioactive. It is sometimes illegally dumped into rivers and lakes, endangering marine wildlife, and yet 20% of the British population still receives electricity from atomic power.

Lynch remains positive about the popularity of his affiliation and adds that the Green Party “is still ahead of UKIP and was ahead of the Lib Dems at some point”. Will it be too late when Britain eventually comes to its senses and follows the lead that its European peers have demonstrated?

Global Seven News

Sophia Andersson-Gylden

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