For this, the first in an occasional series of guest blogs (they’re all the rage these days), I’d like to re-introduce an old friend, a man with whom I braved the horrors of Western and Central Europe for 10 weeks of this bicycle journey… ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Mark Maultby! Take it away…
Hello there. This isn’t Tom writing. What?! Sorry, but I’m hi-jacking this space for my own agenda. Actually, ‘hi-jacking’ is too fierce a word; how about ‘trampling-on’?
I’m Mark. I rode out from the home-lands with Tom and Andy back in 2007, leaving my friends, family and long-term girlfriend for the rainy, sunny, rainy, sunny lands of North and Central Europe. My mission: to ride with the lads for approximately 3 months and then whisk myself home to said girlfriend before desperate, hopeless lovesickness set in.
This was, in some senses, a massive success for me, I managed to hold-off the lovesickness for a good ten weeks and have some of the most memorable, exciting and weird experiences of my young life. To this day I feel immensely privileged to have ridden this relatively small chunk of land (from Middleton to Budapest), and to have done so with Tom and Andy, to whom I am indebted for having the courage, strength of character and sheer bloody-mindedness that are needed to set off long on a long distance cycle tour – dragging me along with them.
If that makes it sound like cycle tours aren’t great then it shouldn’t because they bloody well are. Get on one.
But what the thumping snot-burger have I been doing since? Well, in the 2.3 years in which I have not seen either Tom or Andy, I’ve parted brass-rags (PG Wodehouse expression) from said girlfriend; you’ll be ambivalent to hear. Much more positively, I spent a summer car-touring for 4.5 months, exploring the length and breadth of Europe, delving into her cities and peeking under her many colourful skirts.
And, parent-pleasingly, in July I qualified as a primary school teacher, completing (by the skin of my many remaining teeth) an absurdly demanding teacher training course. Children, it turns out, are the future. I’ve had a wisdom tooth removed (good Lord it was hell), watched my brother get married, and am agonisingly-slowly completing two works of fiction. Amazingly and amazingly recently, I’ve have had some life-dreams come true (Neil Young and Radiohead in concert, a visit to Eel Pie Island, getting Richard Dawkins’ autograph, etc. etc.).
But, by now, Tom will be wondering where on Earth I am going (as many of us have been wondering about him), so I should cut to the chase and stop beating about the bush, even if it is my bush; self-indulgently twiggy.
Climate Change. Unless you’ve been elsewhere (transcendentally) then you’ve probably heard of this phenomena. The scientific consensus is strong, the projections are worrying, but the politics is a little bit limp. I don’t want to talk about the evidence, nor deal with the deniers. That’s all dealt with elsewhere (e.g. here, here, here, here and here).
Instead, I want to do two things with my remaining words: One – remind you all about the things YOU can do to make a difference. Two – share with you some of the very interesting ideas that are, to me, beacons of hope.
In a recent lecture at the London School of Economics (available as a podcast) Ed Miliband, brother to David, advocated a social movement for climate justice in the vein of slavery abolition, suffragettes, racial equality etc. etc. Personally, I’ve been involved with Climate Camp this year. If this is your thing – you want to kick up a big public fuss or do some outreach work – then have a look-see at these (somewhat radical) organisations:
This organisation camps in climate criminal’s backyards frequently to do direct-action and to make lots of hubbub about weak-kneed climate policies and business as usual politics. It is a large and growing organisation with a strong all-for-one attitude and a heavy socialist agenda. It’s spectacularly easy to get involved with this group – simply turn up to a meeting and get involved; their is no leadership. I’ve been involved, doing outreach and helping at camps, including Trafalgar Square.
Rising Tide UK is a network of groups and individuals dedicated to taking local action and building a movement against climate change
The UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the world’s poorest communities. Their combined supporter base of more than 11 million people spans over 100 organisations, from environment and development charities to unions, faith, community and women’s groups.
Climate Rush is inspired by the actions of the Suffragettes 100 years ago, who showed that peaceful civil disobedience could inspire positive change. They are a diverse group of women and men who are determined to raise awareness and affect change, using imaginative methods.
Plane Stupid is a network of grassroots groups that take non violent direct action against aviation expansion..
If these aren’t your bag, and you’d rather heckle the government and the corporations without throwing yourself at chain-link fences, scaling parliamentary buildings or dressing as a suffragette Innuit, then have a look-see at the below organisations who need weight of numbers and generous donations. These are the guys who need numbers because they regularly lobby the governments of the world to act and to act NOW.
Let them know what their voters are thinking. Go on. Words in the right direction are more important than actions…
…for advice on changing workplaces, institutions, establishments to more sustainable ones. Schools are vital, I think, or perhaps I’m biased.
And now. Finally. Here is a list of groups with ideas that need bigger recognition. These are my favourite organisations right now. Long may they prosper.
Fund a wind-turbine-filled future whilst paying competitive rates for your electricity
Help poor communities jump straight to solar worldwide
Promote wind energy
Discover which crops are growing near you and when
Pay a small amount monthly for this charity to buy carbon permits that they then destroy, thus reducing the amount of ‘permissible’ emissions
Pay this charity to preserve acres of rainforest, or (for the smaller budget) individual trees (trees make excellent carbon storage). Or pay them to provide poor communities with the means to green sustainability (supported by David Attenborough and Ricky Gervais).
Build a solar world
Fund renewable energy projects in India
Protect the oceans and buy your fish sustainably (look for their label)
And, if animals are your big thing (they are mine) then may I suggest this organisation:
- fauna-flora.org (supported by Stephen Fry and David Attenborough)
I’ve tried to just give a cross-section of worthwhile causes and directions for further research, which is by no means exhaustive. If anyone would like any more information or wants to discuss any of the ideas I’ve presented here then feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.
Sometimes it’s easy to get very bogged down by the depressing statistics and political failures; I’d like to stress that I remain vehemently opitimistic about humanity’s capacity to solve this dilemma. If you’re at the right place, speaking with the right people, then you can start to believe that there’s enough people out there with their hearts and minds in the right places, who admonish greed and growth at the expense of the truly valuable. I like to be amongst those people, despite not agreeing with them on everything, because it’s important to remember that we’ve put these systems in place and it is we who can do something about them. Yes, there are enormous challenges, but they are political rather than technological or economic. As such, it requires that people lobby their respective governments for change. If those governments don’t show courage and commitment don’t vote for them, criticise them, build your own transition communities. I am fortunate to live in country with leaders that are pressing for change, and that listen to the science. I hope that they mean it and I hope they are successful.
My apologies that this may be very UK-centric. I hope and trust that all of these links will lead to international web pages or other groups.
P.S. Perhaps you’ll hear from me again…
…and maybe you will, if I succeed in my ongoing email campaign to convince Mark to ditch London for a few weeks on the road in 2010!