A lot of the last week or so has been taken up with preparation for, execution of and then follow up from a meeting held in our village hall to discuss, our village’s response to the climate emergency. The Chair of the District Council’s Environment Committee presented to us the Council’s position on the climate emergency. Then we held a workshop to share ideas on what we can do as individuals and collectively in our village to respond. We finished up with a visioning and priority setting session.
The meeting was organised by the Carbon Neutral Horsley group, of which I am a part, with the Parish Council. Coincidentally, but aptly, the meeting was scheduled as Storm Dennis was near its height. The meeting exceeded our expectations both in terms of how many people turned up (despite the weather) and in terms of the quality of discussion and ideas that were put forward.
It has now fallen to me to document and summarise these ideas. Speed in doing so is important since we need sustain momentum and show that action is arising from the meeting. This is quite interesting, worthwhile and almost exciting work. Plus, it brings me closer to the heart of the village community. That is something I am finding rewarding after so many years of working in London and being away from village activity except for weekends (when I just wanted to switch off from any demands and relax).
A wide range of topics cropped up at our village meeting on the response to the climate emergency. Of course, cars (too many) and wildlife (not enough) were prominent themes. These were also, again coincidentally, subject matter of two exhibitions I visited while I was in London in the days just prior to the meeting.
The first was the Natural History Museum exhibition showcasing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I try to get to this every year and the quality of the competition this year was on a par with the best I have seen. Once again, almost every photo is incredible either in terms of its composition, the amazing aspect of nature it captured, or the unimaginable patience that had been required to get just the right shot at just the right time – or all of these things.
The captions accompanying each photo contain some amazing wildlife facts too – weddell seals can stay underwater for 90 minutes, golden eagles reach a top speed of 320km/hour when hunting, and hummingbirds beat their wings 85 times a second. It is mind-boggling stuff.
Also eyebrow-raising was that so few female photographers are represented (though almost half of the competition judges were female). I can’t imagine why that is but I have become sensitised to this sort of thing having been to so many exhibitions in recent years that explicitly underline female contribution.
The second exhibition I went to see (with Youngest Son, which made this visit extra-special) was a major one at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This shows the depth and range of impact of cars on almost every aspect of human life: social life, geopolitics, gender politics, city building, ecology, tourism, economics, landscape, industry, design and more.
This is another excellent show. It covers both the positive and negative aspects of the car as an innovation and possession. For example, on the down side it portrays the impact on Ford’s assembly line manufacture on workers, the incidence and then response to car accidents, and the increasing awareness of the role of the car in accelerating climate change.
Relating to the latter, most ironic was an advertisement from Humble/Esso Oil Company showing an Antarctic glacier and emblazoned with the caption: ‘Each Day Humble Supplies Enough Energy to Melt 7 Million Tons of Glacier’. It showed how we have moved on a bit in our awareness of a climate challenge.
However, this irony and concern is in the midst of more upbeat messages about how the car has delivered freedom, design energy and socio-economic transformation. For example, the car enabled easier access to the countryside and so, a better understanding and appreciation of it. There’s a fascinating section on how car manufacturers had to both create and respond to demand from women drivers and so encouraged gender equality.
Above all, there are some marvellous and very shiny cars on show. Some show off car design in response to the need for speed, some are the ultimate in luxury, others are tiny and economic vehicles built as the car industry responded to the threat of oil shortages. Some exhibits show the demand for mass production, whilst others are pimped up one-offs to reflect the individualism, fashion preferences or status of their owners.
The exhibition, predictably, ends with an item on the future car and the imperative to respond to the climate emergency while delivering more flexible transport. The future progression imagined here includes the further development of the electric car to reduce pollution, the increased safety of an effective driverless car, the shift from car ownership to transport by car as an on-demand service and, finally, flying, electric, driverless cars available on demand. Cars have never been something I have enjoyed driving but I watch these evolutions with interest.