The crushing austerity politics of the UK is deeply unsettling: the wealthy section of society dominates the poorest. The UK, compared to other developed countries, is already at the top of the list in inequality ratings, with the biggest gap between ‘haves’ compared to the ‘have-nots’ since the second world war. The chasm is widening every year and if we carry on at this level, within 20 years, we will have reached Victorian levels of inequality.
The consumer-driven ideological economics of more money, more things is not only outdated, it is simply dangerous. It’s pretty rational that growth economics cannot be sustainable indefinitely, and we should be looking at alternative models of business that ensure a good level of living for all, rather than benefiting the rich only.
Professor Danny Dorling of Oxford University talks about how inequality is the real risk to our climate. In his recent interview in The Ecologist, he outlines how population is not a primary concern: it’s the inequality amongst people that is increasing. He believes that this will be the risk to increasing climate temperatures:
“If we don’t reduce the inequalities in the world and in our individual societies, we are not going to slow down the rate of burning and the rate of pollution. You don’t have to worry about the exactitude of whether 2 degrees, or 4 degrees is bad. Unless we reduce inequality we’re going way up to 6 degrees and beyond. And it’s so obvious that we don’t want to go there.”
The inequality of the UK population is stark. Since the Conservative party took power in 2010, with the accompanying Liberal Democratic shadow puppet show, food bank usage has rocketed. From 56 Trussell Trust food banks in 2010 to 424 in 2016, the increase in food poverty has become a shameful indicator of inequality and need in a supposed-wealthy country.
The Trussell Trust reported over a million three-day emergency food parcels distributed in the 2015/2016 financial year. Chief Executive, David McAuley, stated:
“Today’s figures on national food bank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are still far too high. One million three-day food supplies given out by our food banks every year is one million too many. This must not become the new normal.”
The biggest reason for food bank usage, at almost 30%, is benefit delays. This is closely followed by low income. The disastrous austerity mandate as executed by the Tories is testament to the poor becoming poorer. Benefit sanctions were rife under the Iain Duncan Smith administration of the Department for Work and Pensions, with thousands of people dying after being declared ‘fit to work’. How, in a modern-day world, can we have allowed this to happen?
Fuel poverty has also seen a discernible increase. In 2013, it was estimated that 2.35 million households were in fuel poverty. Household income, fuel costs and energy efficiency are indicators of fuel poverty measurements.
If we are to become true climate leaders, we should be at the forefront of renewable technology solutions. The One Million Climate Jobs report is not just a fantasy: it contains valid and powerful suggestions to tackle the growing environmental risk of climate change, by divestment from fossil fuels and shifting onwards to the jobs-rich milieu of renewable energy.
We have legally binding climate targets to adhere to through the Climate Change Act. With the Conservative party’s reckless policy on fossil fuels, nonsensical culling of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and an all out fetish for fossil fuels, it is bewildering to imagine just how the UK will ever achieve a zero-carbon future. The newly-installed Tory leader and Prime Minister, Theresa May, has already reaffirmed her party’s regressive commitment to maximise oil and gas recovery within the UK. This is, of course, against all scientific research and guidelines that we have to leave 80% of all fossil fuels in the ground unburned.
And the spectacular waste of money, also known as Hinkley Point C, is another rock in the road of renewable energy progress in the UK.
Do the cash-hungry Tories know better than world-renowned academics and researchers? Or do they prefer to listen to their donors and wealthy party members for sway and direction?
May’s handed-down Tory hymn sheet command to frack the bejesus out of this tiny island has already proved how far removed the Conservatives are with the crucial worldwide need to decarbonise, and fast.
Climate refugees are already widespread. Just recently Shishmaref, an Inupiat Eskimo village in Alaska, voted to relocate themselves due to rising sea levels from climate change effects.
Latin America also suffers the effects of climate change, with many Bolivians needing to relocate to avoid the serious droughts that have impacted their ways of earning a living from the land. One of the most significant indicators of climate change in Bolivia is the second-largest river basin, Lake Poopó. It used to stretch for over five square kilometres. Today, it has withered to a small pool of scant water, measuring only a metre in depth. The drying-up of such a significant body of water is thought to be a combination of the continual droughts, El Niño phenomenon, pollution from mining and overuse of water by the agricultural industry.
Again, it is the poor division of the population who are suffering most; forced to live in shantytowns and without their livelihoods of agriculture or tourism: visitors no longer come to adore the beautiful Bolivian Andes, lagoons and wildlife due to the droughts.
We need the UK not to be climate underdogs, but world climate leaders. We have the resources and the skills to trail-blaze an all-embracing new and powerful industry in clean, renewable energy technology.
The Tories recent slashes to renewables subsidies, continual tax breaks to their friends in the fossil fuel industry and a blinding inability to comprehend the scale and urgency of global warming, suggests that the party as a whole could in fact be climate change deniers. It also begs the question, what exactly are the Conservatives conserving?
Religious leaders are lending their voices to strive for strong climate action. Pope Francis, in his compelling 2015 encyclical, discussed global inequality and the impacts of this upon the poorest in society: these are the people that will be most affected by climate change. He called for tough action on our excessive consumption and throwaway culture, citing pollution and industry as prime causes of climate damage. Pope Francis said:
“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
“Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption.”
We should be investing in and funding renewable technologies; phasing out the dirty and dangerous fossil fuels that are increasing emissions and damaging the climate further beyond repair each day in time. London alone has dangerous levels of emissions, specifically nitrogen dioxide. The city broke its annual emissions allowance within just one week. Air pollution within the capital kills up to 9,000 people each year.
The need for powerful climate activism has never been so acute. We need to become loyal climate advocates. We need to elevate our voices and actions in order to diminish the snivelling, braying rhetoric of fossil fuel proponents: it is them who are preventing clean energy replacing the carbon-intensive oil and gas industry.
Resonating with the most excellent musical line from the ‘beautiful, bold, frontline folk’, Seize The Day, their Frakka Hakka lyrics ring true for so many climate activists who are battling against big industry and bad government policies, to fight on for the health of the climate and future generations: