Chris Beales | climate change & music
Chair’s blog – Silver linings in these dark times

Originally posted as: https://readingcan.org.uk/chairs-blog-silver-linings

This Covid-19 crisis is a devastating, sobering reminder that the structures, that make up our world, are not so invincible. My deepest sympathies to anyone who is affected by the virus. It feels so very unfair. And I share in the worries that we all face at the moment.

I am awe-inspired by the health care workers, shop assistants, and everyone else bravely protecting us in this crisis. Meanwhile I am holed-up at home, like most of the country: trying to get into a rhythm; trying to get some work done (which is a real challenge with a cooped-up two-year-old); and trying to ration the amount of heavy news for the sake of my sanity.

All sorts of emotions flood around at a time like this. In addition to the worry, I have been wrestling with a bit of grumpiness, which seems completely self-indulgent. After a hard winter though – overloaded and going through one cold after another – I’ve been desperately looking forward to the Spring. I’ve been looking forward to enjoying the final part of my journey as RCCP chair. And looking forward to the buzz of sharing our new ReadingCAN Climate Emergency Strategy and all the good and important things we’ve been building over the last couple of years.

We are where we are though. As the RCCP board, we know that now is not the time to push our public consultation or to decide about the launch we planned for July this year. We are going to re-assess the situation after Easter. Noting that until a cure is found, we could be in-and-out of lock-down for many months. And it could be a while after that before many people are able to engage with the Strategy, feedback their thoughts, and hopefully think about getting involved.

 

photo
Rush hour at Cemetery Junction (covid-19 lock-down)

 

So Covid-19 has put a real cloud over this year but I know I am very lucky compared to what many people are going through. I want to think about some silver linings to these dark clouds though: I get to spend more time with my wonderful son and wife for one thing…

…for another thing, we are all being treated to a bit of a wake-up call. Our non-stop, high-energy lives have been put on hold. Money and busy-ness are not what matters at the moment. It’s all about keeping each other safe and well – and remembering how precious life is.

There are many positive impacts as well just looking at how our lock-down has reduced our impacts on the environment. An increasing number of scientific and media articles are picking-up on this, and thinking about the positive impacts on climate change.

It has certainly been on my mind. I have been talking about climate change a lot, especially over the last couple of years. I’ve been talking about need to cut our carbon emissions – and that we can do it if we put our minds to it. It will take some adjustments to lifestyle and investing money to save energy…but let’s face it, these the changes and costs are nothing like what this virus is forcing us to do at the moment.

I’ve also been talking about the risk that extreme weather-related events pose to us. These extremes events (e.g. heatwaves and floods) are made more likely by climate change…and here in Reading – not just anywhere in the world. Covid-19 isn’t a climate-related event but it should ring alarm bells: remind us that 1-in-100 year events do happen, and that can have severe consequences for our lives. Also that getting prepared (adapting) in advance can make a big difference to how well we get through these things.

We are going to learn a lot through this crisis. We’ll learn a lot about pandemics, and whether our health and social care, and emergency planning systems were ready for this. We can also learn a lot about ourselves, and how we could adjust our lifestyles to be more climate ready. The following have been on my mind recently.

  • How much cleaner the air is without all that traffic. And how much quieter it is – I’ve certainly noticed a lot more birdsong, and that’s really nice.
  • I wonder how much less food waste there is. Maybe that will be a positive to learn from all that panic buying.
  • The internet has been buckling under the strain of video calls and home working. There is more infrastructure to build for the telecom companies but many of us will realise that there is more we can do form home now. Hopefully encouraging a future with fewer car journeys and an opportunity to build up our local communities.

I’m looking forward to hearing more observations…as well as looking at the dip in global carbon emissions that we will see from this.

I wish you all well. Take care and stay safe.

 

Chris Beales
RCCP Chair


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It was great to be able to share some of the things we are planning to do in our new Reading Climate Emergency Strategy last night. Many thanks to Michael Bright, and all at Reading Town Meal, for organising the event and for keeping things going despite the Covid restrictions.

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