Sunday 15 March 2009

Energy: Borderlines Debate speakers have their say

Two of the speakers in the forthcoming Climate Change and Sustainability Debate talked to our Press Officer, Bill Laws, last week. Their views diverge. Mark Lynas and fellow panelists including Joss Garman, founder of Plane Stupid, the group responsible for the ‘green custard’ protest against Lord Mandelson on March 6, can expect to field some difficult questions: there has been vociferous opposition locally to a planned wind farm (for and against) in North Herefordshire and an anaerobic digester (for and against) in South Shropshire.

Oxford-based Lynas recently angered other ‘greens’ by declaring in favour of nuclear power (“The environmental community needs to move on on this,” he insists). Mark is expected to remind his rural audiences that their carbon footprint is too high. “There’s nothing green about country life,” says Lynas. “Country people have a higher carbon footprint, mostly because of the transport, than those in towns.”

The Age of Stupid is a wake-up call. “The film,” says Lynas, “is absolutely right for being shown both at the Festival’s village halls and London’s multiplexes. This is not a film for the ‘eco-hippy circuit: it’s a worst case scenario and a film that everyone will want to watch.”

Environmental issues have been temporarily sidelined by the economic recession, says Lynas, “but the planet keeps reminding us that things aren’t right.

“The recent Australian bush fires, for example, have a chilling resonance in The Age of Stupid where the opening images show fires raging around the Sidney Opera House.

“Unless we wake up to the environmental damage we’re causing, those hills will one day burn with peat fires and be home to the prickly pear cactus.”

Former Hereford sixth-former Joss Garman who now works with Greenpeace is a founder of Plane Stupid, the environmental lobby group which recently doused Lord Mandelson with green custard in a protest over Heathrow’s third runway.

Direct action, he says, has always been central to bringing about change. “You only have to look at the women’s movement, the anti apartheid movement in South Africa, and the anti roads movement in the 1990s.”

Climate change is the issue that defines today’s young generation, says the 23-year-old who was brought up in Presteigne. “We are facing the environmental catastrophe of all time. And in such a short time frame: it’s not an exaggeration to be talking about the potential collapse of the biosphere.”

Nuclear power, he insists, is not the answer.“Ten new nuclear power stations would bring down carbon emissions by less than 4 per cent and not until the 2020s. The answer lies with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Last week, for example, Spain, produced more than 40% of itselectricity from renewables.”

Garman is optimistic about what he calls the emerging Carbon Movement. But time is running out: “The effort of millions of people to reduce their carbon footprint is being undermined by major construction projects like new runways, nuclear power stations and coal stations like Kingsnorth. People need to concentrate their energies on these issues.”

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