Friday, October 13, 2017

Outlook Stormy

Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report 
I'm Anthony Day  and it's Friday the 13th of October. Lucky for some. Thank you for listening to another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. I haven't kept detailed track but this must be number 224 or thereabouts. Nearly all these episodes, certainly all the recent ones, appear on the blog so if you prefer to read rather than listen go to  and it's all there. I include as many links to my sources as possible so you can find out where I've got these stories from. And no, they don't all come from the Daily Mail. Hardly any.
A big welcome to all my patrons and my listeners in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and 100 or more other countries across the world.– Glad to have you along. And thanks for your ideas as well. PATRONS? Go to to learn more.
So what's new and sustainable?
This week it’s about Our Ocean and the Prince and the plastic bottles, billions of them. More about plastic straws, too. Could the wind be changing? Had you heard that the war is over? That’s the American war on coal. It seems the EPA is fighting a rearguard action. In Siberia they’re using wood - too much of it by all accounts. And they’d rather you went away. Probably a good idea in case you fall down a sinkhole. On the way down you’ll pass the methane - that highly potent greenhouse gas - coming up. 
What can we do about all this? Not a lot, but not nothing either. I’ll share some ideas. And talking of sharing, where’s your nearest community fridge? Community what? Community fridge. Listen up and learn more.
Our Ocean
Last week the EU staged the Our Ocean Conference in Malta. Once again we heard that the volume of plastic rubbish in the ocean was rapidly reaching the level where it would exceed the weight of the fish. 
“The EU seeks to set an example,” it said, “and send a strong message of encouragement to the rest of the world to step up and take action in the face of growing ocean challenges such as plastic pollution, protection of marine life, impact of climate change and criminal activities at sea.”
The commitments – amounting to over €550 million (£482m) – include:
more than €250 million (£219m) to fund marine and maritime research;
€37.5 million (£33m) to ensure maritime security and counter piracy along the south-eastern African coastline and in the Indian Ocean;
€23 million (£20m) of investment in marine environment monitoring under the EU's satellite monitoring programme (Copernicus) in 2017 and 2018;
€20 million (£17.5m) to support the management of marine protected areas in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries;
the launch of a prototype surveillance tool which detects ships to reveal the extent of human activities at sea;
draft measures to reduce the leakage of plastics into the environment by the end of 2017, as part of the EU's upcoming plastics strategy;
phasing-out by end 2017 all single-use plastic cups in water fountains and vending machines 
Enter the Prince
Prince Charles, who has long been an environmental campaigner, represented the UK. In his speech to the conference he said, “As many of you know so well, the eight million tonnes of plastic that enter the sea every year – through our own doing I might add – is now almost ubiquitous. For all the plastic that we have produced since the 1950's that has ended up in the ocean is still with us in one form or another, so that wherever you swim there are particles of plastic near you and we are very close to reaching the point when whatever wild-caught fish you eat will contain plastic. Plastic is indeed now on the menu!”
10 years ago Prince Charles hosted a climate change conference - Mayday 2007. It was held in real-time by video link across a dozen cities in the UK. I was there. There was enthusiasm and determination and a recognition that something had to be done. 10 years on, the prince must be as frustrated as I am as the science has revealed the seriousness of the situation but the issue of climate change has largely slipped away from public consciousness. In fact he went on in his speech this week to confess to mounting despair over how little has been achieved in his four decades of environmental campaigning, fearing we are “no longer a rational civilisation” but are driven by economic ideology.

He pointedly chose not to mention President Trump, who has denied climate change, but warned: “If the unprecedented ferocity of recent catastrophic hurricanes is not the supreme wake-up call that it needs to be, to address the vast and accumulating threat of climate change and ocean warming, then we – let alone the global insurance and financial sectors – can surely no longer consider ourselves part of a rational, sensible civilisation.”
It’s Ubiquitous!
One of the most common forms of plastic pollution is of course the Coca-Cola bottle. It’s estimated that the company produces 209,000 plastic bottles per minute, amounting to 110 billion last year. I’ll say that again. Coca-Cola produced 110 billion plastic bottles last year, but in 2016 just 7% of plastic bottles were eventually turned into new bottles. To some extent Coca-Cola blames the consumer for not recycling more. In the UK the recycling level is 58%, whereas in Germany and Denmark it reaches 90%. The company calls for a deposit scheme on plastic bottles. The government of Scotland - population 5.4m - has announced that it will introduce a scheme which will cover plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminium cans. There are no plans, as far as I can tell, to do the same in England - population 54m. Ah well, as a well-known retailer says, “Every little helps.”
More Straws
While we’re on the subject of plastic pollution, here’s an update on straws 
I complained last week that Wetherspoons were giving all their customers straws whether they asked for them or not, adding to the global hoard of un-recycled plastic polluting the oceans, damaging wildlife and taking space in landfill. They must have heard me because the company has now announced that from January 2018, it’s banning single-use plastic straws from all 900 venues across the UK and Ireland, in a bid to help the environment.  Instead they will offer biodegradable paper straws. Must have cracked that supplier cost problem that my correspondent identified last week. 
 All Bar One, another chain of bars, has announced that they will be reducing the number of straws that they use, aiming to cut the total by one third. In their bars and restaurants they use 4.7 million of the things each year. And they too will provide eco-friendly biodegradable straws for those that insist that a cocktail just wouldn't be the same without one. Their campaign is #strawssuck, which says it all really. In the first three weeks of the campaign they cut the number of straws they sent to landfill by 91,000.
Will the wind change?
I read this week that IKEA has more wind turbines than stores. Lego has wind turbines too, and not just model ones either. It’s part of a corporate objective to become carbon-neutral. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any of these in the UK, at least not on land, because the Tory party decided its supporters didn’t like onshore wind farms and took steps to ban them immediately after it won the 2015 election. Now, though, opinion might be changing. In an article in Conservative Home, the party’s house magazine, MP Simon Clarke praises onshore wind and says, “As things stand Whitehall prevents local people from approving developments that could provide cheap, clean energy and much needed investment in less well-off areas. Surely local people should be able to decide if they want to take part in this revolution?” 
Will the government change its policy? Or will we change the government first? But that’s another story.
Game Over!
The war on coal is over. So says Scott Pruitt, Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This week he announced that he would repeal the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. This is in line with Donald Trump’s campaign promises and enacted by a man who shares the president’s climate scepticism. In the past Pruitt’s election campaigns have been supported by the fossil fuel industry and as a lawyer he was previously active in representing that industry against the EPA. Power generation in the United States accounts for one third of the nation’s emissions. Unsurprisingly environmentalists are protesting at this latest move and the attorneys general of New York and California as well as the Environmental Defence Fund and the National Resource Defence Council have indicated that they are considering legal action.
Quite apart from whether or not emissions from coal burning cause climate change, there can be no doubt that such emissions pollute the atmosphere and lead to poor air quality and the health problems. None of that was mentioned when Pruitt made his announcement in the heart of the coal-mining region. Despite the move, observers say that the decline in the coal industry will not be reversed as renewable energy rapidly develops. Nevertheless it will slow down the progress of the US towards its Paris Accord targets, although of course the president has said that he intends to abandon them.
I'm left wondering what it will take to make some politicians realise that the science predicts catastrophe if we carry on as we are.
News from the East
Have you been watching BBC2’s series on Russia with Simon Reeve? Quite concerning facts about the effects of climate change came out of his first episode. In the far east of Russia where nomadic tribes herd reindeer they find that the weather can become unseasonably warm and rain falls instead of snow. This rain then freezes into an ice sheet which locks in the lichen which the reindeer graze on in the winter. They can dig through snow but they cannot break through the ice, so many of them starve.
In Siberia, Reeve met a man who tracks the Siberian tiger and who told him that uncontrolled logging was threatening the tiger’s habitat and its survival. Apparently Russia is the world’s largest exporter of timber and widespread corruption means that much logging is unauthorised and unsustainable. This is all part of the Northern Boreal Forest mentioned in a previous episode. Do you remember? It was Greenpeace complaining about Velvet luxury toilet tissue being made from unsustainable timber from the Swedish part of the forest. Important, but pretty trivial by comparison.
Despite having all the correct permissions and paperwork, Simon Reeve and crew were repeatedly stopped and delayed by the local police and eventually bundled onto a train and out of the area. Something to hide? They still managed to visit the Batagaika Crater. This is in an area where the permafrost is beginning to melt and as a result buildings are starting to sink and collapse. The crater itself, more than a kilometre long and growing, is a mega-slump or sinkhole. As the permafrost melts the crater gets larger, and as the crater enlarges it releases methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. More greenhouse gas means more warming, more warming means more permafrost will melt, more melting permafrost means more methane released, and so on. Siberia may be a far off country of which we know little, but what is happening there every day is affecting the global climate, our climate, which supports our lives and provides the food we eat, every day. Avoiding climate breakdown is an urgent issue. More urgent even than Brexit. More urgent than saving jobs in American coal mines.
So what can we do? 
It’s the constant question. Well we could remind our politicians of the urgency of the issue. In particular, we could tell UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove that while it’s a good thing to ban the sale of ivory and take steps to stop elephant poaching, (Nice headlines, Michael,) it’s more important to urge countries like Russia to manage their forests sustainably, even by putting tariffs on their timber. To urge the US not to renege on the Paris accord and to recognise and support those US states that are committed to emissions reduction, regardless of the messages from Washington. Let’s support India where they’ve banned the sale of fireworks in Delhi, because the air pollution after last year’s Diwali was so severe that schools were closed for three days, people were advised to stay at home and all construction and demolition work was banned for five days due to the choking smog. 
We should tell our politicians to penalise cars that pollute, even making the dirtiest ones unaffordable. It’s important to phase out fossil fuels from transport and energy generation as quickly as possible. Of course the car industry like the coal industry will scream and trot out that constant claim that it will cost jobs. But what price jobs when your children can’t breathe? And are there no jobs in renewables? OK - let’s not be over-dramatic but let’s look at the evidence. 
In recent months the UK government has been prosecuted repeatedly by lawyers Client Earth for failing to address air pollution and for being in breach of EU regulations on clean air. Each time the government has lost, but each time it has treated the court with contempt and little has been done. Parts of London have exceeded their total annual allowances for certain pollutants before the end of January. In other cities it’s much the same. It’s a medical fact that young children exposed to pollutants and particulates will suffer lung damage which cannot be reversed.
So that's what we can do. We can remind our MPs and ministers, whose role it is to serve our best interests, that the situation is getting worse and it is their duty to do something about it.
And it’s not just air pollution. It’s sea-level rise, it’s violent and unusual weather; droughts and floods, it’s ocean acidification and species extinction and all the rest. 
When the alarm was given on the Titanic that the ship had hit an iceberg some people went back to their cabins confident that she was unsinkable. Remind you of anyone?
Others stayed on deck to find that there weren’t enough life-boats. ‘Nuff said.
More wildfires
At the moment there are wildfires in Northern California. Apparently this is unheard of at this time of year in that part of the world. They say the weather is changing. Or could that be the climate?

And finally…
Last week I mentioned Hubbub which describes itself as
“a charity that creates environmental campaigns with a difference.” 
The campaign I reported on was #Bringbackheavymetal, urging people to recycle some of the 178 million dead batteries which are lying around in the UK and contain valuable metals. (You did recycle yours, didn’t you?)
Anyway, another idea which they are promoting is the community fridge. Sadly more and more people in the UK are having to rely on food banks because of their personal circumstances. Food banks don't usually offer fresh food, because of the difficulty of storing it. Hubbub’s community fridge campaign lets people donate fresh food by providing a fridge in a community centre or similar location. Let's face it, we all waste food from time to time, and those of us with gardens can have more fruit and veg that we can cope with. Find a community fridge near you and give it away in the knowledge it will help somebody out.
You can find them on Facebook.
And that’s it…
And that’s it for another week. There are more ideas already on the way for next time, but if there’s something you’d like me to look into, or if there’s something you know about and you’d like to talk about, let me know on
If you’d like to show your support you can become a patron of the Sustainable Futures Report from as little as $1 per month. Hop on over to and find out more. It helps me cover my hosting and transcription costs.
Thanks again for listening. Thanks particularly to my patrons.
This is Anthony Day. 
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Have a great week.

Until next time.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Planet B

It’s happened again.

Another mindless attack on innocent people. This is the Sustainable Futures Report. It's about sustainability, but I cannot ignore these dreadful events. In the relatively short time since I’ve been doing a weekly Report there have been attacks in Orlando, Paris, Brussels, Manchester, Marseilles and Las Vegas. Let’s remember all those who died, those who were injured and the many more who will have been touched by the loss of of a family member or a friend. Let’s not forget either, those who have suffered the hurricanes across the southern states of America and the Caribbean, those suffering from floods and storms in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, from earthquakes in Mexico, from famine in West Africa and from conflict and disease in Yemen and the Middle East.
Whatever the cause of all these disasters, let’s unite to stand together against these challenges.

Hello I’m Anthony Day and this is the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 6th of October in a sobering world. 
First a welcome and thanks to my patrons and special thanks to John Cossham who has just signed up at as a Silver Supporter. He gets a badge, this shout-out “Hi John!” And answers to any sustainability questions he may have. Welcome John Cossham of York.

This week:
    • Plan B.Earth and why another group is out to sue the government
    • No fracking in Scotland
    • Why London’s mayor is putting out fires
    • Energy from evaporation 
    • Electric planes
    • More on drinking straws
    • Why the diesel market is all at sea
    • Let’s bring back heavy metal
    • And Drawdown. Is this the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming?

Plan B
The aim of the government, as set out in the Climate Change Act, is to cut carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. That looks hard enough, but former chief scientific advisor Professor Sir David King says that the target needs to be 100% to avoid disaster. He’s supporting a small organisation, Plan B.Earth, which argues that Business Secretary Greg Clark is obliged under the act to tighten targets if the science shows it is needed. Plan B.Earth believes that tighter targets are clearly needed, because even if all signatories to the Paris Agreement fulfil their pledges, global temperatures will rise well above 2℃. Even 2℃ is no solution, they claim, and if they receive no response from the government they will go to law. Former government lawyer Tim Crosland, who will lead the legal action, says "If scientists are telling us our current course of emissions potentially takes us to catastrophe, then to stick to the current course is irrational.
"The best available science tells us the risks of crossing tipping points rise very sharply between 1.5℃ and 2℃. And that means the UK cutting emissions to zero.”
Sir David King supports the legal action telling the BBC: 'This is crazy. The Government knows very well what needs to be done but isn't doing it. If it takes legal action to force ministers to behave properly, then so be it – I'll support it.’
Client Earth, another group of campaigning lawyers which has repeatedly prosecuted the government for failing to meet clean air targets, also supports the move.

How can we cut emissions? 
Two news items this week show small steps forward.
It’s timely that this week the Scottish government announced that its moratorium on fracking would be extended indefinitely. This is a good thing not just because of fears of contaminated water tables, escaping methane, expanding road traffic or pollution ponds, but because the objective of fracking is to produce fossil fuels. If we are to avoid climate breakdown, the last thing we should be investing in is new fossil fuel resources.
Meanwhile in England, where preparations for fracking continue, more demonstrators at a site in North Yorkshire were arrested.
Open Fires
Open fires are becoming more and more popular, helped by the controversial belief that burning wood is balanced out by new trees grown elsewhere to replace it. Whether or not this is true - and it takes many years of careful management to grow the amount of timber burnt in an afternoon - in the short term carbon dioxide is released as the wood burns, and polluting particulates - soot - are blown into the atmosphere as well. This is an increasing problem in London, which already has some of the worst air quality in the UK. It is estimated that between a quarter and a third of all of London’s fine-particle pollution comes from domestic wood burning. In January, during a period of very high air pollution, it contributed half the toxic emissions in some areas of the capital, according to King’s College London research.
Now London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has written to the Environment Secretary demanding increased powers which will allow him to ban domestic wood-burning stoves as well as control emissions from river craft and from plant on construction sites.
Clean air craft
And what about pollution from aircraft? London’s Heathrow airport is one of the most polluted sites in Europe, but easyJet announced this week that they could be flying electric planes on short-haul routes in Europe within 10 years. They are working with Wright Electric of the US to develop a prototype, and the plan is eventually to build a plane that can take 120 passengers from London to Amsterdam, Berlin to Vienna or Geneva to Paris solely on electric power. I wonder if they will recharge the batteries in the plane, or just put in a new set, to minimise turn-round time.
Other companies are talking about hybrid electric planes with a range of up to 700 miles. It’s a long way ahead of Solar Impulse 2 which flew round the world last year totally on electric power, but took about 6 months to do it.
I recommend you look at 
…which has a full account and short video of easyJet’s recent innovation day. As always, full links to all these stories are on the blog at 
Evaporation Energy
What we’ll need more of if we are to achieve zero carbon emissions and power these planes is more clean energy. The latest story is about energy from evaporation. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Columbia University estimated that lakes in the US could generate 325 gigawatts of power, equivalent to about 70 per cent of the country’s total electricity generation. Professor Ozgur Sahin, a biophysicist involved in the research, has developed one kind of ‘evaporation engine’, which works by using the movement of bacteria in response to changes in humidity.
Shutters either open or close to control moisture levels, prompting bacterial spores to expand or contract. This motion is then transferred to a generator and turned into electricity.
He warned, however, that harnessing this source of energy could affect water quality, recreation on lakes and other “freshwater resources”. Maybe not quite clean enough.

Talking of pollution…
…you’ll remember that I reported last week on how plastic straws are a problem. They nearly all get thrown into landfill because they are too fiddly to separate out for recycling. And in the US they use - and throw away - more than 500m each day.
Here’s a comment from an insider at a national restaurant chain in the UK.
“Yes, we're working on a few things in this area.  We would have to acknowledge that our self-service style means that we had a comparatively flattering starting position with straws - customers have always had the choice as to whether or not they would like one.  We've never foisted straws upon customers unlike Wetherspoons or Byron.
From there we have been running a trial in about 15 restaurants for two periods whereby we have withdrawn straws from the self service stands and customers need to ask if they'd really like one.  Unsurprisingly, this has led to an 84% reduction of usage with very few obvious grumbles.
We're also investigating paper straws.  They would cost more than ten times our current plastic straws per unit and whilst we're comfortable that anything close to an 84% reduction in usage would make this near cost neutral, there are alarm bells ringing as to what sort of inputs do these paper straws have to be so expensive?  So, we're looking into the supply chain and energy inputs behind the straws.  We're also looking at biodegradable plastic straws made from plant cellulose but we haven't found a supplier who will commit to our volumes yet.  It may be a question of finding the right supplier, or it may be a more nuanced commercial arrangement whereby we help them financially with their volume problems.
Oh, ...and our head of sustainability literally already has the Plastic Pollution Coalition "See Turtle" t-shirt!”

Have you any used batteries lying around? Apparently there are 178 million in the UK which don’t work any more, but no-one’s got round to disposing of them. 52% of us send them to landfill and only 47% of us realise that these batteries contain valuable heavy metals which can be reused. Or which could cause pollution if sent to landfill. That’s lead, cadmium, zinc, manganese, lithium and mercury. #BringBackHeavyMetal is a joint venture between Ecosurety and Hubbub.
Ecosurety is one of the UK's fastest-growing producer responsibility compliance schemes, with over 1,000 clients and big plans to continue driving change and progress towards a circular economy.
Hubbub says: “We’re a charity that creates environmental campaigns with a difference. We're positive and design playful campaigns that inspire people to make healthier, greener lifestyle choices, which more often than not help save money and bring people together.”
So seek out those batteries and get recycling. And while you’re about it, is that an old mobile phone at the back of the drawer? You’ll probably get money for that, someone else might be able use it or if not there’s metal in that which could be recycled too. I’m sure you reduce and reuse. Why not make this week your recycling week!

Is this the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming? Thanks to patron Lucas Smith for telling me about this.
Drawdown is a big book both in terms of physical size and in terms of ambition. If you go to you’ll find that there’s a great deal more to it than a book.
Editor Paul Hawken writes, “In 2001 I began asking experts in climate and environmental fields a question: ‘Do we know what we need to do in order to arrest and reverse global warming?’ I thought they could provide a shopping list. I wanted to know the most effective solutions that were already in place, and the impact they could have if scaled. I also wanted to know the price tag. My contacts replied that such an inventory did not exist, but all agreed it would be a great checklist to have…”
Drawdown the idea, is the point at which the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere peaks and starts to fall. Drawdown the book, is a detailed analysis of how global warming can be slowed and reversed. It covers energy, food, women and girls, buildings and cities, land use, transport and materials. It is the work of more than 60 research fellows, supported by essayists, staff, a board of directors and funders, donors and supporters. Drawdown is an independent non-profit organisation. It is based in California but takes an international perspective. I’m surprised I’d not heard of it before. I recommend you look at I’m sure I’ll be talking about Drawdown again in the future as I read further into it.

And finally…
Last week I reported that Greenpeace were campaigning against the makers of Velvet luxury toilet tissue and accusing them of using timber from ancient forests for their product. The company, Essity, has reacted angrily and you can find their response on their website. Needless to say, Greenpeace hasn’t given up. More on their website too.
And finally, finally…
Why is the diesel market all at sea? Well the market for diesel cars has collapsed since the VW pollution scandal and at the same the standards for fuel oil used by ships have been tightened up. Given that refineries are built with a particular pattern of demand in mind any changes in demand are very difficult, and costly, to meet. Strangely these two current problems may go some way to cancel each other out. For a fascinating insight into how it all works I recommend that you read James Spencer’s September Oil Market Report. You’ll find it at: 

And that’s it for another week. 
I’m Anthony Day. 
That was the Sustainable Futures Report. 
Remember, the Sustainable Futures Report is brought to you without advertising, sponsorship or subsidy, but if you like what I do you can help me cover my costs by becoming a patron for as little as $1 per month at . John Cossham did - thanks John! And thanks to all my other patrons for staying with me. 

See you next week!

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Truth


Hello and welcome once again to the Sustainable Futures Report. I’m Anthony Day and it’s Friday 29th September.
Welcome to you all, welcome to my patrons and a particular welcome to those of you in Australia. After the US and the UK, the largest number of listeners seems to be in Australia, closely followed by Canada. Hello to you in Canada as well. I’ll be in Australia in December, so just supposing I’ll be in your part of the country let me know if you’d like to get together for a chat about sustainability. Contact me about that or about anything else sustainable at
This Week
The Met Office says the slowdown in global warming is over, but does everyone believe it? Is climate change a really urgent issue? Carbonbrief takes issue with the Daily Mail over this. Are we doing enough recycling? The Marine Conservation Society sees straws in the wind, but sadly they’re plastic. The British government announces a Green Finance Taskforce. Haven’t I heard of something like that before? And then there’s the Green Supply Chain. Listen up before you eat that chocolate! Sustainability, or at least renewable energy, seems to be becoming a political football down under, and they’re growing salads down underground. Hot news from the Sahara on the energy front. Energy from there might help us replace all those diesel cars which got another bad press this week. Or maybe we’ll get it from a new solar plant, plus batteries, just commissioned nearer to home.
And would you rather trust Boris or Matilda?
The Truth
The truth is not always clear and may often not be what people want to hear. It's been said before that constantly repeating a lie doesn't make it true. The sad fact though, is that constantly repeating a lie makes some people more ready to accept it as truth. Last week the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, repeated the claim that after Brexit there would be an extra £350 million, some of which  could be spent on the National Health Service. This claim was originally made during the Brexit referendum campaign and strongly disputed. This time it was described as an ‘egregious misuse of statistics’ by the head of the Office of National Statistics, Sir David Norgrove, but there are still many people prepared to believe it.
Last week the Daily Mail claimed that: “Fear of global warming is exaggerated, say scientists: Experts now have longer to reduce amount of fossil fuels we burn”. This was not a lie, but it was a misunderstanding of the facts which, incidentally, fitted the Daily Mail’s agenda. It was based on an article in Nature Geoscience, and the authors responded angrily via to complain that it was a total misrepresentation. Looking at the comments on the Mail website, many people took the article as gospel and further proof in their eyes that climate change is a hoax. They are unlikely to read about the response in the pages of the Mail. If they do track down the report they will find that it is a complex piece of work, and that the full document is behind a paywall.
My point is that if you believe, as I do, that sustainability and climate change and all the related issues are important and require urgent action it’s very difficult to get the message across. Quite apart from politicians and the mainstream press each with their own axes to grind, we now have social media and fake news and stories crossing the world and read by millions in minutes without provenance, proof or verified facts. Fake news frequently hits the headlines. Expert corrections hardly ever do.
Sir David Attenborough was quoted this week saying: “All we have to do is keep declaring the facts as we see the facts, and producing the evidence whenever we can”

There’s No Slowing Down
Meanwhile, the Met Office reports that while a slowdown in the rise of average global temperature had been observed in the recent temperature record, with the last three record years, this slowdown has ceased. The slowdown in global warming is over. Professor Adam Scaife, head of monthly to decadal prediction at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said that with 2015 and 2016 exceeding the 1°C threshold above pre-industrial Global Mean Surface Temperature, there was increasing pressure on limiting global warming to a 1.5 °C warming threshold, as agreed in Paris in 2015. So far 2017 has also exceeded the 1 °C threshold, although the Met Office has forecast that 2017 is unlikely to be a record-breaking year as temperatures this year have not been influenced by El NiƱo conditions.

The Last Straw
There’s been a lot of comment about plastic pollution and particularly plastic bottles recently. The plastic pollution coalition is now campaigning against plastic drinking straws. Plastic straws have the same problems as other plastics. They’re persistent, and unless they have been burnt every straw that was ever made still exists somewhere on earth. Plastic straws are too small and fiddly to be collected up for recycling so they tend to be sent to landfill or just thrown away. It’s estimated that more than 500m of them are used in the US every day. That’s nearly two for every man, woman and child in that country, but when you think about it, many drinks are served with two straws whether you ask for them or not. The key question then is do you need two straws, or any straws, in your drink? If you really do, biodegradable straws are available. Of course they are more expensive, but what price the environment?
UK pub chain JD Wetherspoon has confirmed that from January 2018, all its 900 pubs across the UK and Ireland will no longer use single-use plastic straws. They will only add a straw if specifically requested - and then it will be a biodegradable one.

Water Plants
An update on hydroponics. I featured Bowery Farming in New York earlier this month. They have developed a vertical farm in an industrial unit to grow salads in totally controlled conditions. They can guarantee quality and minimise delivery distances because they are close to their customers in the city.
Now I’ve come across Growing Underground, which is producing salad crops in a similar way in disused railway tunnels in Clapham, southwest London. It seems to be an altogether bigger operation, with a wider range of products and customers. They offer to supply wholesale through New Covent Garden Market and plan to make their produce available through Ocado and other online retailers from January 2018. 
Is this the future of agriculture? It certainly has its attractions. The yield per acre can be greater than traditional agriculture, pests can be excluded, nutrients can be accurately delivered to each plant and any agricultural run-off can be managed long before it gets anywhere near the water table. But when you consider the need to feed 7.4bn people world wide, and the reliance on major crops like wheat and rice which are unsuited to hydroponics, industrialised salad production will probably only ever be a niche product, albeit an important one.

Meanwhile, Down Under…
Turning to politics, the Guardian newspaper reports that former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott says that dumping clean energy targets would help the Coalition win the next election. Abbott has campaigned on energy issues before, and used it as an issue to defeat rival Julia Gillard in a previous election. His chief of staff admits: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax,” Peta Credlin told Sky News in February 2017. “We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and, when he cut through, Gillard was gone.” Surely some things are too important to play politics with. The average Australian has one of the largest carbon footprints in the world. Not likely to change any time soon. 

…and At Home…
By contrast, this week the British government announced its Green Finance Taskforce. It says:
“To build on the UK’s global leadership in the sector, BEIS and HMT will be co-hosting a Green Finance Taskforce that will bring together senior leaders from the financial sector. This Taskforce will work with industry to accelerate the growth of green finance, and help us deliver the investment required to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets. The Terms of Reference will be published following the first meeting in late September.
Proposals announced today [18th September 2017] will build on the UK’s global leadership, including development of world’s first green financial management standards with the British Standards Institute.
The transition to a low carbon economy offers Britain a multi-billion pound investment opportunity, creating high-value jobs and boosting exports.

But didn’t we use to have a Green Investment Bank? Oh yes, but the government sold it to the Australians.

Outlook Sunny for Energy
In Tunisia a company has just filed a request in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energy for the authorisation of a 4.5GW solar energy export project destined to fuel Europe. It’s a solar farm in the Sahara Desert.
The technology that will be used is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), using parabolic mirrors to heat a tower containing molten salt that in turn heats water to generate steam to run a turbine- a technology that has seen significant cost reductions in the past few years. The beauty of using molten salt is that it’s a heat store, so the station can produce clean energy 24/7. I suspect that the mirrors will be cheaper and longer-lasting than PV panels and using molten salt as an energy store is likely to be much cheaper than using batteries. 
The plan is to deliver the power by submarine interconnector cable to Malta, and then to France. There may also be a direct link from Tunisia to Italy.

A more conventional solar farm opened in the UK this week, billed as the UK’s first subsidy-free solar power plant. It’s in Bedfordshire, has photovoltaic panels with a capacity of 10MW and 6MW of batteries.

Cleaning Cars
Diesel cars came in for criticism again this week. We’re well aware of the efforts of VW and others to falsify emissions test results by using specially programmed engine management software. Now there are complaints that the official tests are unrelated to real-world driving conditions. Independent testing has shown that some cars in slow-moving traffic can emit up to 118% more nitrogen oxides than their official rating. So is the electric car, maybe running on solar energy from the Sahara, the answer?

Time to Tip?
Mining company BHP-Billiton said this week that 2017 would be the tipping point for electric cars. They predicted 140,000,000 electric vehicles would be on the world’s roads by 2035. Interesting for them, because electric cars use four times as much copper as internal combustion cars. But this 140m is still only about 8% of the world’s vehicles, which sounds an unambitious number if we are going to meet global emissions targets.
And where are we going to get these electric cars from? James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner man, said this week that he was investing £1bn in developing an electric car and had another £1bn for the manufacturing plant. His car would compete with the Tesla and come to market in 2020.
Do you remember the last vacuum cleaner company which manufactured electric cars? Hoover built the C5 for Sir Clive Sinclair. I wonder what happened to them. 

More on the Green Supply Chain
I’ve spoken in the past about conflict minerals - tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold: the 3TGs. They come from violent areas of the world, sometimes from mines guarded by child soldiers, and end up in our smartphones and other electronic devices. At least they did, but the major manufacturers have committed to do everything they can to end this trade, although traceability is not yet perfect. Depending on supplies which in turn depend on violence and exploitation is not good business and not good PR. That’s why it’s important to keep your supply chain as green as possible.
There are now doubts over the integrity of the supply chains for completely different  industries. Not about violence and exploitation, but about environmental damage. The first case is chocolate. The major producers of cocoa beans are Ghana and Ivory Coast in West Africa. 
Ivory Coast is losing its forests at a faster rate than any other African country – less than 4% of the country is covered in rainforest. Once, one quarter of the country was covered in rainforest. Farmers are cutting down the trees and planting cocoa beans. They are cutting the trees down gradually so as to leave shade for the new plants, but the deforested areas are getting gradually bigger. Without shade the cocoa plants cannot survive, so after a very few years the land becomes useless and may be on the way to desertification. Gone is the forest which preserved wildlife and acted as a carbon sink. It sounds trite to say “Once it’s gone it’s gone,” but it’s no less true for all that. The chocolate companies say they are aware of the situation and are doing their best to avoid unsustainable supplies. Are they doing enough?

Greenpeace is campaigning. Whenever was it not? This week it’s about toilet paper. They claim that the supply chain of manufacturer Essity extends into the Great Northern Forest, a massive area of woodland extending from Scandinavia to China and easternmost Asia and across the northern regions of North America. According to a report by Greenpeace, Essity is sourcing timber from protected parts of this forest in northern Sweden for the manufacture of Velvet luxury toilet tissue. While the Velvet brand claims to be environmentally responsible by planting three trees for each one felled, Greenpeace says that by planting non-native species it is destroying the wild-life habitat and in turn threatening the survival of the tribes which live in these remote northern regions. A luxury for some means the future for others is just being flushed away.
Oh, and apparently Velvet isn’t the only brand implicated in this.
As always, there are links on the blog at so you can read the background to these stories. 

We are coming to the end of this week’s episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. I'm Anthony Day and I'd like to thank you for listening. If you’d like to show your appreciation don't forget Patreon. Go to to find out more.
And finally…
I asked at the beginning of this episode whether you would rather trust Boris or Matilda. “Who’s this Matilda?” you ask. Victorian poet Hilaire Belloc explains.

Matilda told such Dreadful Lies, 
It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth, 
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth, 
Attempted to believe Matilda: 
The effort very nearly killed her
And would have done so, had not she 
Discovered this Infirmity. 
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play, 
And finding she was left alone, 
Went tiptoe to the telephone 
And summoned the Immediate Aid 
Of London’s Noble Fire-Brigade. 
Within an hour the Gallant Band 
Were pouring in on every hand, 
From Putney, Hackney Downs and Bow, 
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow 
They galloped, roaring though the Town, 
"Matilda’s House is Burning Down" 
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud 
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd, 
They ran their ladders through a score 
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor; 
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse 
The Pictures up and down the House, 
Until Matilda’s Aunt succeeded 
In showing them they were not needed 
And even then she had to pay 
To get the Men to go away! . . . . . 
It happened that a few Weeks later 
Her aunt was off to the Theatre 
To see that Interesting Play 
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. 
She had refused to take her Niece 
To hear this Entertaining Piece: 
A Deprivation Just and Wise 
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out- 
You should have heard Matilda Shout! 
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl, 
And throw the window up and call 
To People passing in the Street- 
(The rapidly increasing Heat 
Encouraging her to obtain 
Their confidence)-but all in vain! 
For every time she shouted "Fire!" 
They only answered "Little Liar!" 
And therefore when her Aunt returned, 
Matilda, and the House, were burned.

A cautionary tale. Be sure your lies will find you out.

Till next time!