Breaking bad laws


Cllr Shane Collins.

Leader of the Green Party group on Mendip District Council. Director of the Green Gathering CIC.

We should be under no illusions. Unless we make big big changes the way we live now is destined to cause the collapse of what we know as human civilisation.

The finite resources of the world cannot support a system based on perpetual economic growth. The polluting side effects are changing the climate and will cause famine, fires and resource depletion. The vast economic inequality splits us apart and leads to a less cohesive society with higher crime, ill health and mental health.

The science is clear, to have a reasonable chance of keeping below 1.5°C we have to get to net zero emissions in the UK by around 2030 and worldwide by 2050. We have the green tech to do so but totally lack the political backbone to try since it will mean offending the ‘rights’ of the powerful to continue making more money.

Without a cohesive society and with a shortage of resources and an increase in migration there is a tendency for ‘men with guns’ to try and control things aka fascism.

So are we going to knowingly destroy our future? Since climate change first came to the fore in the late 1980’s we have spent 30 years ignoring the need for systemic change. Are we going to waste the last chance we have?

Us older generations need to apologise to younger generations for knowingly doing nothing and vastly increasing the risk of runaway climate change.

We have to move away from neo-classical and neo-liberal economics, to move from the politics of expansion to the politics of contraction in just over a decade.

Whilst the transition to a low carbon economy should have begun 30 years ago, the longer we leave it the more abrupt the transition will have to become.

We need the biggest cuts from the highest 10% of energy users who produce 50% of world emissions - an uncomfortable fact for many of us in the developed world.

The good news is that a low carbon, green lifestyle is far more healthy and nourishing for individuals and society.

Our five basic needs in life must go green: food, energy, housing, transport and money.

Food needs to be local with the lowest food miles possible. We need to actively support local food producers where employment and money stays local and actively avoid the supermarkets where the profits go far away and often to tax avoidance. Let’s remember the most productive piece of land is the allotment with a skilled grower!

We all need energy. How ironic to love and nurture our children when we pay monthly to fossil fuel energy companies to destroy our future. Green energy companies such as Ecotricity, Good Energy, Bulb etc are all about the same price, easy to switch but most of us can’t be bothered. As a further incentive East Mendip Green Party will pay you £40 to switch gas and leccy to a green supplier. If you have a south west facing roof your energy is free once you have installed PV panels. What’s not to like? Frome TC have a discount scheme for groups of people installing PV.

Housing needs to use less energy and be cheaper to run and rent. As well as getting rid of old inefficient gas boilers we need a massive national insulation programme which would create 1000’s of jobs and cut CO2 and bills.

Electric cars and bicycles are changing transport rapidly. We need to. 40,000 people die early in the UK due to air pollution. Car emissions are around a third of our C02 output. Not flying, making sure the next car is electric, using the bike is the way to get to zero emmisions.

40,000 people die early in the UK due to air pollution

In a system divorced from access to land we all need money. Yet most of our bank accounts and pension plans, including Somerset County Council, actively invest in fossil fuels… The ethical Triodos Bank now offers current accounts and the Unity bank and Coventry rate highly on ethical scores. Are you and your bank supporting fossil fuels. It takes 15 mins to switch accounts…..

Less emissions come from less consumption which, along with artificial intelligence (AI), will mean a lot less paid work. We need a Citizens Income Scheme as a mattress through the next few tricky decades as we transition to a low carbon society. This will replace the current bureaucracy and stigma of Universal Credit / benefits / student loans and encourage people to do the unpaid but needed work at home and locally.

So how do we makes these huge changes? It’s easy! Consumer power, campaigning, peaceful protest and politics.

As consumers we vote with our money every week, do we vote for local green companies or do we vote for large fossil fuel based PLC’s? Our money is power.

People will get arrested and jailed to force the issue onto the front pages and onto the political agenda.

Most campaigns win – eventually. In Mendip District Council the Green Party motion to declare a climate and ecological emergency passed with cross party support. It is now being acted on. We are fortunate to have a myriad of local campaign groups who would welcome more people. What can you do? Probably more than you think with other people!

Bad laws get broken before they become good laws. Peaceful direct action works from votes for women 100 years ago to stopping the Conservative’s road building programme in the ‘90’s. In the Spring Extinction Rebellion, the largest acts of very civil disobedience seen for decades took place, with over 1000 people arrested and sites occupied for up to 11 days, aiming to get the government to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ and allow Citizens Assemblies to bypass Parliment. Prepare for the Autumn Rebellion. People will get arrested and jailed to force the issue onto the front pages and onto the political agenda.

It’s questionable if we can make these huge changes in just over a decade without Councils and the Government leading the way.

But ultimately we, the people, vote in political representatives at local, district, county and national levels. Make sure they understand and will act on climate change or we don’t have a chance.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson said ‘The dinosaurs never saw the asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?’

We can have no excuses. Let’s get to it, we have just over a decade and everything to lose and much to gain.