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The nature of environmental change on a shrinking planet is such that all human actions are interconnected and interdependent; hosepipes in England link to parched lands in Africa. The effects of climate change in the UK are becoming so pronounced that many rivers have already run dry this year. The media reports that the drought is so severe that seven water companies are proposing a hosepipe ban. This is presented as contentious in a mass media seemingly more concerned with neat rows of dahlias in suburbia then in engaging with the reality that our planet is getting harder to live on. The media fails to either extrapolate this forward to consider how this situation will be worse from now on, year after year, or to connect our behaviors to the suffering of peoples whose lands are already being ravaged by the climate change that we have thrust upon them.
Developed nations do two things that are abhorrent and cruel. Firstly, we reinforce our boundaries with steel and say, “you shall not pass.” Then we ignore the plight of countries further south that are drying up. The tropical plants may start migrating north but the people are denied that adaptive agency. We do not even reduce the flow of green house gasses, started with Englishmen shoveling coal into the first iron machines of the Industrial Age that would empower our empire to colonize the world and turn large parts of Africa into plantations supplying us with tea, coffee and cotton rather then local food for local people or the vital ecosystems that would retain their watersheds. We lock down our boarders, abandoning our poorer neighbors to suffer our actions, whilst steadfastly continuing to live in the way that drives the global change.
What happened in this country’s history that ever made us think it was okay to pump drinking water into our neatly trimmed and boxed repositories of nature so that our fashionable plants get the edge on what’s-her-face over the street? Mains water from the hose has been processed to be of a high enough quality to be drunk by humans. This means it is filtered, treated, disinfected, fluorinated and pumped for miles through pipes, all at high energetic expense. When your infrastructure is fossil-powered, mains water has a climate impact. Doing anything other than drinking or washing in it is debauched.
Every year the English media crow on about a hose pipe ban as if it was some infringement on our human rights, as if it was a patriotic duty to stand in the garden, the tail end of our communal canteen, clutched between our white knuckles as the watery goodness flows out past the bedding plants and into the neatly mowed, turf monoculture, which we treat with fossil fuel-based fertilizer and herbicide before mowing with our personal fossil-powered mower.
Of course, the real human rights infringement is happening in the poor countries around the equator with variable rainfalls. The impact of climate change for them is life and death, a bitter irony seeing how little green house gas they have emitted. They are getting the first taste of what a radically warmed world will be like. We would be wise to take note.
If you doubt the gas we are releasing by the gigatonne is deadly, try the fast version. Sit in your garage in your car and put a hosepipe from the exhaust through the window. You may have just enough time to ponder how many chimneys are releasing gas into our communal garage and that perhaps all of us should do everything we can to stem the flow.
I do not want to seem ungrateful to those early industrialists or even to those colonizers. Let’s be honest, the wealth of developed countries comes from their actions. However, it is precisely because we have benefitted so much from their endeavors that we owe it to less developed nations to make up for the harm caused. Third World debt? Seriously!? Who really owes whom?
We urgently need to radically expand our compassion and concerns beyond the small confines of our suburban gardens to encompass the whole world and all its inhabitants. She needs our broadened minds and so do our brothers and sisters clinging to life in fast-changing lands. Locking down our borders, like locking down our minds, is a shortcut to runaway climate change, climate wars and death, a slow suicide; a hosepipe to the brain. We need global not national solutions.
The alternative to rigidity and death is adaptation. We need to adapt everything: how we think, how we live, how we as a species respond and how we keep our gardens. For hosepipe enthusiasts the message is clear, it is time to transform your garden from being a drain on nature into a diverse ecological reserve that helps the biosphere recover. So, store and use recycled rainwater, dig up the lawn and plant diverse indigenous plants and food. These measures flip your garden to be a sink not a source of carbon. As your patch of land connects to the millions of others also adapting we see a planetary scale solution come into focus and the flipside of our radical new interconnectedness. If we all change together… we can succeed!
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