Green cre­den­tials are chal­lenged af­ter visit

Evening Times - - NEWS -

IF there’s any­thing that makes you feel bad about your en­vi­ron­men­tal choices, it’s shar­ing your home for a week with a Swede. This, in­ci­den­tally, is all per­cep­tion on my part, rather than any­thing the Swede said or did.

But my friend from Malmö came to stay for a week and, in my mind, she merged with Greta Thun­berg to be a much bet­ter ver­sion of hu­man­ity than I am.

Last year I counted up the num­ber of flights I had taken and came to the ap­palled re­al­i­sa­tion that I had been on 31 flights in 2019.

That’s un­ac­cept­able.

Two of them were to Malmö and back and I was glad that Miss Thun­berg was trav­el­ling by sea at the time be­cause I didn’t want to bump into her and have to ex­plain my­self to the teenage en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paigner.

I couldn’t ex­plain my­self – I had no good ex­cuses.

My friend Dan bought me wax wraps for Christ­mas, which you use in­stead of cling­film or tin­foil to wrap your food and store it in the fridge.

At the end of the wax wrap’s life­span it is fully com­postable.

And I felt vir­tu­ous hav­ing these in the house as my Swedish friend also has them in her home.

The thing that re­ally struck me, though, was how of­ten my friends and I use our cars.

Six of us got to­gether in Fin­nieston one evening and five of the six drove there in our per­sonal cars – the sixth was my guest. For ev­ery fes­tive event, a flurry of text mes­sages went back and forth ask­ing who was driv­ing and who wanted to car­pool.

In Swe­den, none of my friend’s friends have cars and this re­ally preyed on my mind.

All the wax wraps in the world are not go­ing to bal­ance out my car use.

COP26, the 2020 United Na­tions Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence, is com­ing to the city later this year and it can­not be over-em­pha­sised how im­por­tant the event is for the city.

All eyes will be on Glas­gow. It’s a time, also, for res­i­dents to think about how they live and what im­pact their choices have on the en­vi­ron­ment.

The SNP-led ad­min­is­tra­tion is very much try­ing to push us in the right di­rec­tion by mak­ing changes to how we can use our cars in the city cen­tre.

In­tro­duc­ing a low emis­sions zone is part of this. So is bring­ing in Sun­day park­ing.

Tack­ling car use re­quires two things, though – for peo­ple to buy in to it and for the al­ter­na­tives to be there so that they do.

I talk a big game about car use.

I cy­cle to work and to the city cen­tre if I’m com­ing in for any rea­son other than shop­ping. But am I in de­nial about my car use? Prob­a­bly.

I don’t cy­cle in to the city at night for a late night film be­cause I’m usu­ally rush­ing to, firstly, get to the film on time and, se­condly, too lazy to con­tem­plate cy­cling home again when I’ve al­ready done one cy­cle com­mute that day.

If I have shop­ping to do then I’ll bring the car. Again, too lazy to carry heavy bags on the bus.

Or I’ll drive to Glas­gow Fort where I can park for free rather than pay to park in town, thus dam­ag­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and the lo­cal high street.

Be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious has be­come fash­ion­able and it has be­come im­por­tant to busi­nesses to be seen to be car­ing about their car­bon foot­print.

But, be­cause this is cap­i­tal­ism and cap­i­tal­ism rarely re­ally cares about any­thing but cash, an in­dus­try has sprung up to help us con­sume more stuff in the name of help­ing the planet.

Just at the time when it’s vi­tal we live lightly and have fewer things, “car­ing con­sumerism” is giv­ing us carte blanche to buy more things and pre­tend­ing we’re on the side of right.

So, you can re­place your plas­tic lunch box with a bam­boo lunch­box. Or you can buy a wa­ter con­tainer made of metal and plas­tics re­cy­cled from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Buy, buy, buy and still feel good about your­self in the morn­ing.

Ex­cept, you’d be bet­ter keep­ing your orig­i­nal plas­tic lunch box and mak­ing sure you ac­tu­ally use it.

Or reusing your ini­tial wa­ter bot­tle un­til it be­comes ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary to buy a new one.

We need to be smarter, make sure we are well in­formed about our choices and not get sucked in by the prom­ise of shiny new things.

Un­less you’re Don­ald Trump – and if you are, hiya! – you know that cli­mate change is a global emer­gency. Aus­tralia, where I was born and grew up, is lit­er­ally on fire.

The dis­as­ter is hap­pen­ing now. It seems lu­di­crous when peo­ple are be­ing killed, homes de­stroyed and wildlife on the brink of ex­tinc­tion to worry about los­ing the con­ve­nience of driv­ing to the shops.

It is time for ev­ery­one to make big changes – and to put pres­sure on the politi­cians and cor­po­ra­tions that can make vi­tal struc­tural changes.

COP26 is an op­por­tu­nity for Glas­gow we should all use.

Catriona was glad she didn’t have to ex­plain her­self to Greta Thun­berg

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