I think we need to go through three stages to reach carbon nirvana. Each requires very different policies.
- Stage one: enthuse
- Stage two: build
- Stage three: chill
Let us use P.G. Wodehouse, the greatest author ever, as our guide.
Unlike Wodehouse, however, I will start at the end. In the end we have to be living a life which uses as few resources as possible. It means that we have to chill out. The more ambitious we are, the more driven, the more we demand resources. It’s not quite as simple as that, but it is broadly true. Once survival is secured, we use resources in our relentless drive to find meaning and avoid boredom.
We have to take the resource-requirement out of our ambition. It could be by making our ambitions spiritual and intellectual. It could be through finding security, happiness, fulfilment and physical satisfaction at home. Those 9 billion people will have to slow right down. So much so that the ultimate human achievement will be pottering about at home.
Lord Emsworth is our model. He spends his life pottering about in the garden. Clipping a faded rose here or there, passing the time of day in quiet communion with his prize pig, the Empress of Blandings. He is utterly satisfied with that simple existence. The thought of having to travel to London fills him with horror.
But before we get to that state, however, we need to consider Lord Emsworth’s home. Blandings Castle is a sprawling country house in Shropshire. We can safely assume it has single-glazed windows, no roof insulation, no wall insulation and no draft proofing. Although it is caressed for eternity by the warm evening sun of Shropshire, it has no solar panels on its roof. So before we can rest, we have to build.
(Lord Emsworth would probably be happy to knock Blandings Castle down and build a smaller, passive cottage in the grounds. If only it were not for his sister, Constance, and her acute sense of social status and propriety!)
So in the second stage we need to embark on a war effort to build very low energy homes and deploy highly efficient transport for the little bit of moving about we do. And we have to create zero-carbon energy sources for switching on the lights in the early hours when there are strange sounds down the corridor.
We cannot rest until something like 20,000 power stations around the world have been knocked down and replaced with something safe. Most of the houses in the word need rebuilding. And that needs to happen in record time.
Now all that is technically possible. But it is not happening. And it is not happening because too many people don’t want it to happen and not enough people want it to happen. That is what the first stage is for: to build enthusiasm and unity.
Who should be our model? Who can galvanise us into action? Could it be Roderick Spode, the black-short rabble-rouser? Or Lord Emsworth’s brother Galahad, with his infectious joie de vivre and bonhomie? Perhaps Freddie Threepwood, Lord Emsworth’s son and salesman for an American FMCG company (dog food). Should it be through the ministry of Stinker Pinker, former rugby player, now curate of Market Snodbury? All that, for we all have responsibility in our respective callings to challenge ourselves and our peers to action.
But most of all it should be, Lord Emsworth himself. In his heart dwells a deep love of nature and peace. Only by instilling that in our hearts will we bring ourselves to care properly for the earth and ourselves.
1. What about the pig? We should let her life to a ripe old age in peace. The simplest way to cut emissions is to avoid the consumption of meat and dairy.
2. To this day Shropshire’s planning authority does not approve the installation of solar panels on the visible roofs of listed buildings. So it is unlikely that Lord Emsworth would have got permission anyway back then.