Thursday, 9 October 2008

Re-thinking recycling

First we learn that Wales is recycling more than ever before. Then we hear that the amount of harmful gases Wales releases into the atmosphere continues to increase. This is reminiscent of a story earlier this week about a couple who had recycled enough tins, bottles and cans at their local supermarket to earn thousands of loyalty points that they then spent on two return flights to the US. (Point, the, missed, they).

Recycling is commendable in as much as it develops understanding that many resources are finite, and it is an easy way for people to engage with the climate change agenda. People and politicians alike have latched onto recycling precisely because it is easy, but it is only one aspect of a familiar refrain: 'Reduce, re-use, recycle'. It is obvious that even recycling double what we do now will not prevent the disastrous consequences of climate chaos - especially if that means twice as many loyalty points and twice as many transatlantic flights.

WWF have calculated that if everyone on earth lived as we do in Wales, we would need three planets to sustain that lifestyle. We simply have to reduce our levels of consumption; the way we are living now literally cannot last.

The world has recently been caught out living beyond its financial means and is suffering a massive 'correction'. The WWF research shows that an environmental 'correction' is inevitable, and it would be more devastating in the long term than any financial collapse. Reducing drastically our environmental footprint now will make that environmental 'correction' less painful.

In one way Wales is lucky. Power stations account for over a third of Wales's carbon dioxide emissions and Wales has wind, waves and tides in abundance that could replace dirty coal. If we are going to cut emissions, leadership needs to be evident and big decisions taken about the de-carbonisation of our energy supply.

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