Wednesday 1 July 2020

Lockdown Day 100 - The end of the beginning

This is the final blog of my lockdown series, little did I know that when I started these on the 24th of March that I would be still on lockdown and furlough at the start of July. The dreadful COVID-19 virus has claimed many hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide and the UK has had around 65000 of these. This high death toll could have been avoided here in the UK if lockdown had happened earlier and been stricter and if many elderly and vulnerable patients had not been discharged without being tested from hospitals to care homes. No doubt there will one day be Inquiries, Reports and maybe one day those in charge will be held to account, but as happened with the Hillsborough disaster, it may be that the true story is covered up for years.

I hope that my readers are still safe and well, and continue to be so, and I extend my sympathy and condolences to anyone reading this who has lost a loved one or friend to this awful virus.

We have been lucky, no one I know personally, no one in my family to my knowledge has been affected by the virus (although I have heard about others on the grapevine) but that does not mean we will stop being vigilant and taking what precautions we can for months to come. There is also the looming No Deal Brexit here in the UK which has the potential for serious disruption to supply chains just as maybe the UK economy is recovering and I will be continuing with actions and preparations as outlined in my small steps and prepping blogs, as well as of course the allotment and preserving the food we grow.

Whilst I spend a lot of time out in the countryside, this lockdown has given me a chance to identify more plants and wildlife, to spend "slow time" out in nature, to enjoy the peace and quiet with no traffic noise and just birdsong for company. We are lucky here compared to many people with countryside all around a few minutes walk or cycle from home, but even in the cities and former industrial sites there are many places where nature finds a home and my Edgelands blogs are an insight into that world in the margins of the urban sprawl.

It has also been a chance for me to delve into my photo library from many trips and holidays and my "Remembering" blogs have been a chance to relive many special wildlife experiences we have had in countries around Europe.

Whilst in many parts of the world, and indeed in the UK, there are many places where nature is protected, there are serious threats to this biodiversity all over the planet, whether through human destruction, pesticides and other chemicals and pollution, climate change, microplastics, road building and many other threats. It is so important that the recovery from COVID-19 is a "green" recovery, an attempt to "build back better" and a chance to change the whole economic model from one of excessive consumption and a throw away society to one where our needs are met through environmentally sustainable methods of production. There are unfortunately, many people, often excessively rich or with vested interests (such as fossil fuel) who seek to undermine this transformation for their own gain, who seek to influence governments and indeed the fabric of democracy and accountability itself. My "Road to Recovery" blogs were based on a letter I wrote in response to a request for feedback from a civil servant in the Cabinet Office in the UK Government. These are an attempt to show what needs to be done to achieve that more sustainable, democratically accountable and fairer society that we need if we have any hope of keeping our small blue and green world a habitable place for all the people and wildlife on it. (There is of course a particular focus on the UK in the blogs)

The allotment has had a lot of love these past few months and the fruits of this are being realised, quite literally, with now at least ten punnets of blackcurrants picked, several punnets of raspberries and strawberries, with blackberries and blueberries to come, along with apples, pears and damsons for later in the year. We've tried to create a home for nature too, leaving some nettles and wild poppies to grow, keeping the marigolds and nasturtiums and comfrey going and planting more lavender. At home we are trying to expand the number of flowers good for pollinators even though we have quite a small space to do this in, and given that today yet another front garden down the street was concreted over, more important than ever that we create that haven in our locality.

2020 will be regarded as one of those defining years in history where everyone can remember what they were doing when lockdown started and everyone will, unfortunately, end up knowing someone who has suffered or died from COVID-19, and everyone will have a lockdown tale to tell to a future generation when they are much older. I hope that the beneficial shifts we have seen in behaviour, whether such as more cycling and walking, using more local businesses and food, more home working, online meetings and collaboration to name but a few, will continue post lockdown. The desire for equality and freedom for discrimination for BAME people, and the toppling of statues has also been a defining moment in history and this fight will need to keep being fought given that there are many in our society both here and in other countries that are racist and intolerant, and this extends into positions of power too.

We need to move quickly in de-carbonising our energy supply and supply chains. We need to urgently reduce the amount of plastic being used and move to a more circular economy without excessive consumption. Deforestation and other environmental harms need to come to an end and habitats restored, there are already climate and environmental tipping points being approached or reached in the Amazon, Arctic and Siberia and serious harm being done in our oceans.

Our own contribution to improving the environment and making more sustainable choices may seem miniscule in comparison with the challenges we face. But consumer pressure works - the plastic bag tax has substantially changed behaviour, campaigns on fair trade, palm oil and many other things have changed the operations of big companies. Many governments have responded to the challenges of de-carbonisation and campaigns such as the opposition to fracking here in the UK have effectively brought a halt to this destructive form of drilling.

Everyone has local representatives, whether in local or national government. I've written to my MP on several occasions and had letters back from two different ministers via the MP. There's so many different charities and campaign groups out there for different human and environmental issues. For the next few months at least it will be even more important to support the vulnerable in our society and those that care for the environment in which we live as many charities have a very steep loss of income at present and the needs are still out there and increasing. Over the next few months pressure needs to be brought to bear so that the recovery from coronavirus, particularly any infrastructure spending, is sustainable and is in keeping with meeting our climate change mitigation commitments.

Auditing our own spending is worthwhile, whilst it is good to have a treat or two for time to time, do we really need the latest phone or computer, or spend a hundred pounds or more on an item of designer clothing made in a cramped factory with poor working conditions in the Far East? A lot of my clothes have come from charity shops in perfectly good condition, some even still new, we've bought crockery, books, furniture and many other things from charity and secondhand shops, supporting good causes and local businesses in the process as well as re-using goods that may have otherwise gone to landfill. Over time we've donated many things we no longer have use for to feed back into the circular economy and allow more money to be raised for charities.
There's many local craftspeople and local businesses that can supply new sustainable goods, again keeping money in local economies and the "fair trade" movement extends this out to many parts of the world to support particularly third world producers in a decent living.
There's many "green" energy tariffs out there and if you can afford it, the switch to electric vehicles or bikes, and perhaps your own household renewable energy generation is a possibility.

I hope you have enjoyed my blogs as much as I have enjoyed putting them together. I've learnt quite a bit about nature these past few months and had some lovely wildlife moments, as well as reliving some special occasions from the past. Everyone can do something for our environment, everyone can grow something for themselves, everyone can buy the things they need more sustainably, everyone has a voice in the debate and collectively we can change our world for the better.

Best wishes, stay safe and well and good luck!
1st July 2020

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