Apr 5, 2019
Plastics: governments need to take action. So can we
Television and radio broadcaster, journalist and environmental campaigner Lucy Siegle is full of admiration for the recent children’s street protest to force governments to take the issue of climate change more seriously.
The protest, she says, was ‘Immense. Young people have been short changed by a lack of access to education and access to the debate. When you prioritise the health of the planet and the future health of the biosphere you make different decisions. They should be free of prejudice and often run counter to established political thought which are subsumed by vested interest.
‘So when it comes to kids, society tells us they are too young to vote so not important. But factor in climate change and that is completely reversed. They are going to be spending more time in the future, and therefore they should have a bigger say.’
Lucy Siegle is one of the main speakers at this year’s Guernsey Literary Festival, which runs from 1-6 May. She will be talking first and foremost about plastics, the subject of her recent book Turning the Tide on Plastic, which provides a powerful call to arms to end the plastic pandemic, along with the tools we need to make decisive change.
She writes and broadcasts for the BBC, including on The One Show, ITN and the Guardian and Observer newspapers, often making use of her extensive experience in humanizing environmental science, from climate change to consumer energy use.
Her interest in all things environmental started when her school started trialing an environmental science course in the 1980s. That and her grandfather being so irritated at single use plastic that he carried out his own one-man protest – 40 years ago.
Education is key to understanding, says Lucy Siegle. ‘I subscribe to the idea that we are naturally in tune with the biosphere and seek out connection with nature. Those connections are degraded through lack of circumstances, distraction and a constant drip-feed of the idea that it's not our business. Our eco-agency is stripped away from us.’
‘Every kid should be given access to environmental science and sustainability, not just geography,’ she says.
What about the often-heard idea (including in Guernsey) that small communities and individuals are unable to make an impact on this huge problem?
‘I refer you to the much used quote “if you think you're too small to make a difference, share a sleeping bag with a mosquito”, a form of which is attributed to the Dalai Lama. When it comes to an island, I would be as ambitious as possible.’
‘When it comes to plastics the important thing is to not rely on end-of-pipe infrastructure to deal with the waste/pollution when it's too late. Plastics recycling is a final strategy not a first line of defence, and it's in a mess. At least two thirds of our [UK] plastic waste goes overseas for 'recycling'. An Early Day Motion is going through the House of Commons in an effort to ban this.
‘So don't be dependent on a bad idea, but stem the flow in the first place. I just see immense opportunity: with the right action and energy on plastics and controlling their flow you could lead the UK and become the first plastic free jurisdiction or whatever, a hub for beyond-plastic living and businesses. There are lots of challenges of course with a place reliant on imports (and their packaging) but there are some incredible examples of small island projects, from Maldivean Atolls to the Aran Islands.’
And what about individual action on plastic?
‘Get control of your kitchen bin - no really! You need to come up with a strategy that will halve the current flow of plastic into your life by 50% (at least!).’
Turning the Tide on Plastic contains a host of strategies for reducing plastic use in everyday life, says Lucy. ‘My strategies are based on the 8Rs: Record, Reduce, Replace, Refuse, Reuse, Refill, Rethink, Recycle. Note how recycling is pushed to the end, the key is to minimise your plastic consumption first. All strategies should start with you 'recording' data about your own consumption first. I stick a grid up on my fridge and note down all the plastic that flows into my life that way. This grid ultimately drives my success!’
Lucy’s talk is sponsored by PraxisIFM Group, which is supporting the festival for the second consecutive year. Kevin Scott, Group Chief Operating Officer, believes Lucy’s talk will strike a chord with islanders. ‘This event should help us as individuals to make positive changes and therefore help reduce the plastic waste that we’re all aware is having such a negative impact on our environment.’
Lucy Siegle will be speaking at St James on Thursday 2 May at 1pm.