Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I heart 1970s

Last week I was having a coffee in 'Heaton Perk', our local vaguely Friends-themed caff which has shelves and shelves of books to read, buy or swap (OK, I never saw Joey grab an early critique of the feminist movement in Central Perk, but it does have two big red sofas). Anyway, I spotted "The Environmental Handbook" edited by John Barr and pulled it out for a scan. Published in 1971, the blurb stated that we only had the 1970s to save the planet.

I was born in 1971 so this got me thinking about how much or little the debate (and action) had moved on in those 37 years. The science of climate change kicked off in the 1950s, but there is little or no mention of it in the Handbook - most of the impacts mentioned are due to toxic materials, acid rain and habitat loss. The observed temperature rises were only starting to ramp up at this time, so it is not surprising it was passed over.

It is interesting to consider the scale of the campaigns over the interim: The 1970's 'Save the Whale' rising to 1980's 'Save the Rainforest' up to the global 90's/00's 'Save the Planet', which has suddenly dropped down again to 'Save the Polar Bear' so we can have a symbol that we can mentally comprehend and feel sympathy for.

But it has to be said that in 2008, despite all the talk in the meantime, we have only made progress in very few areas (the hole in the ozone level, protection of certain species and acid rain spring to mind), whereas in most the situation has got much worse. We've done enough talking. Action, and swift action, is required more than ever, at an individual, a national and an international level.

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