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To wonder what it would look like if we all took radical steps to tackle climate change.

113 replies

RHTawneyonabus · 24/11/2019 14:48

Was pondering this when stuck in yet another traffic jam on Friday. It’s a journey I happily do on my bike but not safe to do that when I have my kids with me because of all the traffic. Drastically better cycle lane provision would make my life so much easier! I was looking at the amount of traffic and thinking it’s clear we can’t go on like this.

Then this morning someone on the radio saying that Greta et al would have more impact on the environment if they gave up beef for a month rather than going on school strikes.

So if we do everything we need to do over then next 20 years what does that look like?

  • city centres with no traffic and vastly improved cycle and public transport provision.
  • we all hire electric cars when needed rather than owning one.
  • we eat high quality meet once or twice a week and we are veggie rest of the time.
  • we can’t waste water on our gardens so Mediterranean planting is in.
  • we reduce travelling for work so no flights, Video conferencing work from home more, holiday in UK or France.
  • May have to have a cap on number of kids?
  • houses have to be much more energy efficient and may need drastic alterations

What else?
OP posts:

cannycat20 · 24/11/2019 15:33

If we all did what we need to do....(though I don't think it'll happen in my lifetime. The power companies and their shareholders have way too much to lose for starters.).

  1. Gas would not be a power option. All electricity would be generated via solar panels/wind power/other methods scientists might devise and we'll have to stop warming up our houses and instead do what our ancestors did - insulate ourselves, with layers. Almost all houses will have to have some kind of solar panel or wind turbine or other alternative (electro-magnetism??).

2. We'd all be pretty much vegetarians if not vegans most of the time with very small amounts of animal or synthetic protein, maybe on feast days, and maybe eggs from chickens we'd keep ourselves or communally. Everything would be grown locally, within maybe 10 to 20 miles at most. There'll be some kind of levy on goods transported from further afield. We'd have fewer food choices but what we had would be healthier and more seasonal. Strawberries would taste like strawberries again instead of just watery mush and satsumas would be a seasonal winter treat. We'd all grow a lot more of our own food and bartering skills/resources would be a lot more common. Money would lose a lot of its appeal.

3. Everyone would cycle or walk everywhere, and what motorised vehicles were left would be hybrids/hydrogen fuel cell (or whatever new technologies scientists come up with). People would think a lot more about whether their journeys were really necessary. Public transport would be vastly improved and when people did need to hire a car for long journeys car sharing would be more common and cars would be much more fuel-economic. Those gas-guzzling four-exhaust monsters you sometimes see would be crushed and melted down to make something useful. Air travel would have to be cut to an absolute minimum. I don't cycle but I love the thought of a world where tricycles would be more common, and we had decent bike lanes; on a trip to Holland I thought their idea of having the cycle lanes inside the actual pavement, not at the edge of the road, was a brilliant one. I have never understood why we are so grudging towards cyclists in the UK, and as a driver I am always worried I'm not giving cyclists enough clearance when I pass.

Video conferencing will become much more common, as will working from home/co-worker spaces. With the technology we have now, there is no reason in many cases why people have to cram themselves onto a tube train or equivalent, hurtle through dark tunnels, and emerge into an office coop where they then spend the rest of the day trying to ignore what's going on around them in an effort to actually get some work done. Remote working vacancies are slowly starting to increase in the USA, which means it will happen here before too long. As always, we'll be slower to adopt and adapt.

4. More things would be delivered rather than people adopting shopping as a hobby. This is pretty much in full swing, if you look at Amazon, box deliveries, Tescos and the like.

5. Plastic won't disappear - it can't, in the short-term - if you don't believe me, just look around your home and whatever you're using to read this on. But with any luck recyclable/recycled plastic will become a lot more common. And gradually other materials will replace it - probably ceramics, bamboo, metal, glass, reclaimed wood, hemp (if the government ever work out how to generate money from that last one effectively).

6. People will be a lot more self-sufficient and try to mend things rather than just nipping out to the shops and buying a new one. Manufacturers might have to take a serious look at their built-in obsolescence.

7. Depending on where you live, water will either have to be recycled in the same way it is on the Space Station, or we will have to work out some kind of water purification system. Hydroponic gardening is likely to become more common, especially where space is limited.

8. If the floods continue we might need to start looking at some of the models in the Netherlands and other low-lying countries where electricity sockets are not put at skirting board level or on the floor, but half-way up the wall and some houses are on a type of stilt.

9. Education will change. Instead of teaching kids about the wives of Henry VIII and making them read Shakespeare until they're blue in the face, it will need to be more skills-based. How do you grow things? How do you mend things? What herbs can you safely use when you have a cold? What do you do when things go wrong? I'm not saying there shouldn't be space for things like English literature and art and music, but some of the National Curriculum subjects and their guidelines out there have me practically weeping with how archaic they are now. (English Literature, which used to be one of my favourite subjects, being one. And meanwhile, past primary school, useful skills like growing things and home economics don't seem to be taught much.)

10. Fast fashion and fast consumption would have to come to an end; spinning and weaving wool (for example, or other fibres, again, like bamboo or hemp or even nettles and other plants) would become popular again, and when clothes were outgrown they'd be cut down or let out or shared. People would learn to cobble again, like my dad did for our shoes when I was little. You only took them to the cobbler when you couldn't mend them yourself any more.

10. And the elephant in the room - population. The choice is, the Earth's human population continues to grow and grow and grow with no thought as to whether we have the resources to support it, and the standard of living gets worse; or a conscious decision is made, globally, that everyone has to stop having so many children and the standard of living remains okay. And then you come up against the fact that developing countries, quite understandably, would like a slice of the rather lovely materialistic life it's been possible for some of us to enjoy in the west these last few decades. I don't think there's an easy answer on that one.

Off at a slight tangent, there are masses of science fiction books and films out there that, while they might be fiction, have plenty to say on the subject - Logan's Run, The Hunger Games, Firefly/Serenity and Make Room, Make Room being just a handful. I sincerely hope the future will, in the long term, look more positive, with people being much more nature-focused and living in smaller communities and being much more caring of those around them if they want to survive, but in the interim I don't think it's going to be much fun.

cannycat20 · 24/11/2019 15:33

Ooops, should say number 11. against the elephant in the room!!!


sittingonacornflake · 24/11/2019 15:43

@cannycat20 extremely well thought out post - I'd love life to be like that now!


RHTawneyonabus · 24/11/2019 16:00

Wow! Cannycat that was really interesting. My worry is it all sounds a bit utopian for us to live like that. Consideration for climate just isn’t going to be built into people’s lives until it’s obvious the alternative becomes much worse. So I guess we’d have to content with floods here, fires in California and climate refugees with a scramble for resources.

Today I was going to nip out to Homebase in the car to get some stuff I need for DIY I want to do today. Then I realised I pass by that way tomorrow so the environmental thing to do would be to wait until then and leave the DIY until next weekend. It’s the first time I’ve factored the climate into my thinking like that but I guess transport food policies etc will have to make us change our thinking somehow.

OP posts:

Likethebattle · 24/11/2019 16:17

Stop having children, we are overpopulated as it is. Eventually I think people will be limited the way China was to one child only.


venusandmars · 24/11/2019 16:52

There's brilliant film on release in the UK just now called 2040

It's feel-good, optimistic, positive and practical.


Slightaggrandising · 24/11/2019 16:57

Where do you think synthetic protein comes from and what energy is used to synthesise it?

We all need to look at our cars and disposable fashion etc.


Provincialbelle · 24/11/2019 17:06

Population growth is indeed the elephant in the room. As is the fact that the developing world wants the same toys we’ve enjoyed and won’t be told they should be reducing carbon instead


ListeningQuietly · 24/11/2019 17:10

Stop having children, we are overpopulated as it is. Eventually I think people will be limited the way China was to one child only.
China has reversed the one child policy and is now actively encouraging larger families

An American child uses 10,000 times the resources of an Eritrean child

Deal with the American before condemning the Eritrean


ListeningQuietly · 24/11/2019 17:21

Meat will still be a regular part of the human diet
because arable crops cannot be grown in hilly and stony areas.

Free range grass fed beef and lamb with a seaweed garnish to reduce methane will always have its place in the rural environment.
Pigs are excellent recyclers of leftover human food
Chickens ditto
Deer and rabbits and boar will need culling unless we decide to reintroduce their predators everywhere.

The key point will be to consume less of better


minipie · 24/11/2019 17:22

Tbh I think the only thing that will have a big impact is if the population starts declining, very rapidly. This will take either a collective world pact to limit birth rates, or a series of plagues/resource wars/natural disasters. Right now the latter looks more likely.


MojoMoon · 24/11/2019 17:22

We would live in smaller and much better insulated properties in dense neighbourhoods, mostly in small apartment blocks.

This would cut down on heating and cooling energy usage and transport energy usage - two of the biggest areas of personal carbon production.

We would stop giving some more priority to the needs of drivers and car owners and prioritise pedestrian and cycle travel. People would not own cars but use short term hire/share schemes. This would free up valuable street estate for separated bike lane and pedestrian facilities

We would eat less meat.

We would have more communal goods - from car sharing to tool sharing - not everyone needs to own everything if your dense neighbourhood is home to a rental service for them.


ListeningQuietly · 24/11/2019 17:25

You know that the population in Japan is already declining.
It will start declining noticably in China in the late 2040s
Europe's native born population has been declining since the 70's (only immigration props it up)
ditto North America.
The only continent with birth rate above replacement is Africa
While Americans consume 10,000 times more carbon than sub Saharan Africans
it is the Americans who need to change, not the Africans


simonisnotme · 24/11/2019 17:26

if 'everyone' meant America , china and the rest then there may be some change but if it means just England then i think the change would be negligible and we would pay more tax for fat cats to spend


1Morewineplease · 24/11/2019 17:27

A great post OP but I have a couple of concerns.

Turning our gardens into Mediterranean planting schemes would have a devastating impact on our native species of plants, insects and wildlife.

Have been very concerned, recently, about the devastating effect of large scale deforestation of Argentina in order to meet the recent increase in demand of soya beans. Not to mention the price to the environment of recent increases of so called ‘ superfood’ production ( eg avocados.)

One other thing, with regard to cycle lanes, the UK has large numbers of narrow , hilly and bendy streets. Northern Europe is flatter and has a lot more of the ‘grid system’ of town planning which is why it has been easier for them to create cycle lanes.

Joined up thinking needed re today’s woefully , outdated and ridiculously expensive transportation links.


nitgel · 24/11/2019 17:29

A big impact (imo) would be if everyone used their local schools and all kids walked . This was cut down so much traffic and the knock on effect would improve so much for the local areas eg more pride in local surroundings. I think acting local is key.


ListeningQuietly · 24/11/2019 17:31

Have you ever been to Naples ?
Not many flat streets there.


dontalltalkatonce · 24/11/2019 17:40

'We' stop reproducing and legalise euthanasia across the board. 'We' stop pointing fingers at other countries and stop reproducing ourselves, too.


blackcat86 · 24/11/2019 17:43

I think employers need incentives to be proactive about home / flexible working. I work in social work and we have the ability to work from home most of the time but due to old fashioned bureaucracy this is somewhat discouraged except at the beginning/ end of the day. I would still need to do visit it would significantly cut my travel and congestion around our large office block. Cheaper childcare would also make a difference. I currently drive 20 mins out of my way to drop toddler DD off to DPs or PIL (different directions) 3pw because the fees for the nursery in walking distance are crippling. Our town has only 1 nursery that will take under 2s so there is no other option. Investment in transport is an obvious one especially as we live in a semi rural location.


Stooshie8 · 24/11/2019 18:30

Your list was good @cannycat20 except for The power companies and their shareholders have way too much to lose for starters
Many of the share holders are pension funds, so unless you are wanting to cut pensions, at the same time as leaving the elderly shut up in their homes wrapped in layers of woollies for warmth and with no ability to get out unless they are able to cycle miles on bikes, be careful what you wish for.
What I don't see addressed anywhere is how the present capitalist society is going to function with low employment due to car factories , for example, no longer being required as car use has plummeted, airplanes no longer flying, bus/train drivers hardly needed. I mean we can't all be employed by the service sector - someone needs to earn some money elsewhere to pay for it.
How is that going to work?
Also saying that we must heat homes using pv panels etc - that's maybe feasible in a temperate climate but much of the world is well below freezing in the winter.


ListeningQuietly · 24/11/2019 19:10

Heating : ground source heat pumps and passivhaus standards are the way to go - the UK has atrocious insulation building regs - Scandinavia is already largely there

Low employment : The workforce is already ageing and declining. Automation is driven by a lack of workers, not the other way around.

Power companies : if their remit is to keep as many people warm and comfortable for the least amount of units produced then it still works


cannycat20 · 24/11/2019 19:28

@Stooshie8 I take your point on the pensions, although just because it's legal doesn't make it right. And if oil hadn't been discovered in the US, off the coast of Scotland, and under the desert, we'd have had to find alternatives. I don't really think nuclear is the answer, either, for many many reasons.

I belong to one of those generations that's fairly likely to drop dead in harness, as it were, so to be truthful I'm not anticipating seeing much of my pension. If I do manage to claim any of it I'm expecting I'll have to do some kind of work alongside it if I want to live.

The transition from a capitalist society trading bits of tin and paper and little electronic flashes on a computer screen is the main reason I think it's going to get very unpleasant for several decades in the not-too-distant future. Although so much work is pretty pointless anyway, especially a lot of office-based work, that it would be nice to think it could be replaced by something a bit more meaningful. Agriculture, teaching, healing, creative endeavours... I'm not overly hopeful on that, though, since we've all been sold a Dream of Things paid for by the exchange mechanism of aforesaid bits of tin, paper and computer pulses for so many years. Metal and paper haven't always been the mode of exchange though; just as one example, the Romans used salt for at least some of their wages, it's where we get the word "salary".

I'm not saying we "must" do anything, just that these are some of the likely issues we'll need to address for humanity as a whole to survive and these are some of the possible current solutions, imperfect as they are.

We've survived Ice Ages and Lord knows what else as a species, although numbers were decimated, so I'll be surprised if humanity doesn't survive what's to come. But the world will look very, very different from our own.

On your pv point, at present solar panels are not particularly effective unless you live in an area that gets a reasonable amount of sunshine, so in the UK they work reasonably well in parts of the West Country but not in some parts of Scotland. I'd be surprised if that technology doesn't continue to evolve though. Just as soon as our existing power companies work out how they can make a profit from it. As the ice continues to melt around the world I can't help wondering if tidal power or some kind of steam power will come into play.

I'd like to think we'll end up in a lovely Utopia like the one promised by Transition Towns and the like but I have a nasty feeling it's going to end up more like the Hunger Games, in the short-term at least.

Just as a final thought on water, which is ludicrously plentiful in western Europe and other areas, and yet pitifully scarce in, say, South Africa, what people sometimes forget until it's happened to them or someone they know is that when your house is flooded, it isn't usually nice, clean, sewage plant treated water. It's often raw sewage.

So that's another factor that needs to be taken into account; if floods are going to start happening more regularly, and the current trendline suggests that they are, then this is something that individuals and communities are going to have to start addressing themselves/ourselves.

It's no use waiting for the authorities to come along and help, or, as we've seen more than once in recent years, for the government to step in. Both Somerset and Sheffield know how futile that hope is, just as two examples.


ControversialFerret · 24/11/2019 19:40

According to the carbon footprint calculators the two biggest things you can do to address climate change, are to eat a plant-based diet and have only one or two children.


ListeningQuietly · 24/11/2019 19:43

According to the carbon footprint calculators the two biggest things you can do to address climate change, are to eat a plant-based diet and have only one or two children.
That presumes you are already at Western levels ....

One Australian halves their carbon footprint
4000 Somalians double theirs
net result Zero

Westerners are the ones wrecking the planet, not the poor of the third world


ControversialFerret · 24/11/2019 20:20

Listening yes it does. Which is only fair seeing as it's the Westernised world that's causing 99% of this problem.

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