We need the environment. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Without it we’re dead. Not just dead as a species, but dead as individuals. Without the environment, we don’t have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. Can this issue be any more simple? If we don’t look after our most precious resource we will cease to exist and cause the extinction of other species. How’s that for a cheery mid-week pick me up?
How can we help protect the environment? There are lots of things we can to do to help. Recycle more, create less waste, better use of small-scale renewables, reduce food miles, eradicate fuel poverty through effective insulation in every household. All of these things are good and worthy but they are limiting the damage, not eradicating it. Over the last thirty years green issues have become more mainstream, to the extent that now every party talks about the environment. How much of that is greenwash to make them look good is another matter. For the record, nuclear power stations are not green. Creating waste that stays toxic for hundreds of years, that we have to encase in concrete in the hope of not polluting the water table or the soil is bad for the environment. Yet again, it is that simple.
I could write many fine words about how we can improve our environment. I can play around and use terms like nature and biodiversity at the same time as well. Trouble is they all really mean the same thing. That’s what we have to stop, though – cut out the rhetoric and make these things a reality.
Yes, we can cut down on waste but the idea of making Scotland a zero waste nation is an impossibility. When the packaging that products come in is not suitable for recycling, you create waste. When a memory card the size of a stamp comes on an A5 sheet of cardboard, at least, then either shrink-wrapped or covered in plastic, you have unnecessary waste. When you put four tatties on a tray and then cover it all in plastic, you create waste. We can call on companies not to do it, but they will carry on as it is easiest for them. That’s what we have to remember when trying to improve something – the status quo is easy, which is why people like it. To paraphrase, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are right.” If we don’t push or challenge ourselves we will still send waste to landfill sites and pollute our environment and its component parts, such as the atmosphere.
We have good environmental laws in Scotland. However, we need to strictly enforce them. We also need to increase the scope and have a co-ordinate approach. Yes, we do need a change in attitudes and behaviour. We have come a long way – Scotland is no longer the dirty man of Europe; but while we are moving at a good rate, we are playing catch-up after decades of inaction. We need to halt the loss of Scotland’s natural habitats and our wildlife. We need to act decisively and ambitiously to help the country adapt and mitigate the climate change that is affecting us NOW. Climate change is not something that will happen to us, we are suffering from its effects already. Flowers are blooming earlier and earlier each year, species are changing their habits and their location due to its effect. Scotland will see these effects more and more, year on year, unless we act quickly to help our environment cope. As I said earlier, reality, not rhetoric.
The environment is not something that we can improve by gradual tinkering at the edges. We need great effort to protect the key parts of our environment – species, habitats and our use of the land itself. There are issues we can address:
- improve our land management practices;
- reduce emissions and waste;
- do more to protect endangered species;
- educate people about the changes they have to make to their behaviour; and
- improve our respect of Scotland’s wonderful and diverse environment.
To hammer the point home once more – we need action now and not grandiose plans about how we would like to make things better. We have to protect, repair and respect the environment. After all, we are an integral part of it. If we want to survive, we have to change and change now.
- The Guardian’s Jonathan Glennie recently reported on how President Evo Morales is seeking to give Bolivia a radical development model based on equality and environmental sustainability.
- Yesterday I issued a press release explaining how important the environment is to the economy and how we need strong legislation to protect it.