Why this matters

This is why we think it is important to take action NOW on climate change and environmental breakdown.

This is what Highbury Transitioner Lindy Sharpe said at our fist meeting, on 17 July 2019:

You are here because you are already concerned about this. I don’t need to labour the seriousness of the situation. I’ll just share some of my recent reading.
• This month, July 2019, is on course to be the hottest month ever recorded on planet earth.
• Last month was the hottest June ever recorded.
• The past two weeks have seen freak heat in the Canadian Arctic, crippling droughts in Chennai and Harare; and forest fires that forced thousands of holidaymakers to abandon campsites in southern France and caused the Indonesian air force to fly cloud-busting missions in the hope of inducing rain.
• In some areas of India, farmers are committing suicide because drought is causing their crops to fail, while in other areas millions of people are being displaced by severe monsoon rain.
All over the world, the weather patterns that we have evolved to live with are changing, as a result of our voracious use of fossil fuels and the carbon emissions we have put into the atmosphere over the past 200 years. In fact, MORE THAN HALF OF THE CARBON we have exhaled into the atmosphere has come about IN THE PAST THREE DECADES. As the author of The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells says, ‘the majority of the burning has come about since the premiere of Seinfeld’. That means we have as much time to reverse it as we took to bring it about.
With climate breakdown has come ecological collapse. Heartbreakingly, we are witnessing the sixth mass extinction on Planet Earth. This time it’s our fault. The ice sheets are melting, peatlands drying, tundra thawing, glaciers retreating and the oceans warming and becoming more acidic. In a horrible cascade that starts with plankton and insects and goes up to polar bears and maybe humans, via habitat loss and food chain collapse, species are disappearing. We are are losing biodiversity, which is the storehouse of future adaptability. And just when we need natural systems such as oceans, rivers, forests, peat bogs, and indeed agricultural land to help moderate the climate, support wildlife and absorb carbon, we are in fact devastating those environments.
As recently as 1997, when countries first agreed to try to limit emissions by signing the Kyoto Protocol, two degrees Celsius of warming was seen as a catastrophic limit: flooded cities, lethal heat waves, super-hurricanes, islands disappearing. We now know there is almost no prospect of limiting warming to that level. The best we are likely to achieve is around 3 degrees – and even that calls for rapid, drastic and widely supported changes in how we all live and think. That’s why where here.
In my own field, food, I can see that the regions from which we currently import a lot of food are among those likely to be most affected by climate change. Southern Europe, where we get most of our fruit and a lot of our vegetables, will be permanently drought stressed, sub-Saharan Africa more so. The American mid-West and Brazil – where the soy comes from that our poultry and pigs eat – could become unproductive. At the same time, intensive agriculture has been one of the main causes of climate and environmental breakdown.
But the biggest worry for me, having spent years now thinking about all this, is the displacement of people that will be involved. The UN is already predicting 500 million climate refugees by 2050, and on the worst estimates, 1 billion. That will put unimaginable strain on the capacity of less affected places to house, employ and feed them. And it is highly likely, it seems to me, that the ensuing arguments over land and resources will lead to wars.
What all this means is that we have a simple choice. We can either give up, and sit on our sofas and watch the world become a terrible place for our children. Or we can try and act to avert the worst effects of climate change and restore the environment. The experts all agree that we can, do that, just about, if we act fast. We need Government Action, council action, business action and collective action by all of us. Nothing will work if only one of us does it. That’s what this meeting is about.