Updated: Dec 7, 2022
I was a political journalist. I turned out to be quite good at political analysis. I miss it. So I’m turning to the village we live in. What power has a village to make a change?
Villagers face the same huge issues as everybody. But politically a village only has a tiny budget and minimal “agency”, in the form of its Parish Council. That can easily slide into: “We can’t make a difference so what’s the point of trying?”.
Dealing with the climate emergency will take trillions of all the world’s major currencies. It must get collective action from every nation on the planet. Our tribalised species finds that desperately difficult.
So what can a village do? With hardly any powers and hardly any money?
At a talk the other night the speaker mentioned the “1 in 4” theory. It awoke a vogue word from a few years back - “nudging”. “Nudging” meant achieving political aims by getting people to do something they like. “1 in 4” means a new custom may start slowly but it can zoom up the curve and catch on when it reaches 1 in 4 people.
Most people in villages have gardens. Many love their gardens and take a pride in them. Take an estimate for the average size of a domestic garden. Multiply by the number of gardens in the country. You get an area 60 miles square.
The best way to store more carbon is keeping it in the ground, locked up in roots and branches of plants and trees.
If you like gardening, you probably like trying new things occasionally, so fashions can change quickly. That way even small communities could be collectively reducing carbon emissions.
Charles Dowding (who lives in Somerset) promotes his No-Dig videos on YouTube. He has nearly 600,000 subscribers. They regularly get 50,000 views. His ideas are already well up the curve. Low-carbon gardening is on the way to being a fashion.
There’s a growing literature, like the book by Sally Nex, who lives in a neighbouring village, called “How to Garden the Low Carbon Way”.
Villages like ours have “Greener” groups to try to make these things happen.
Another thing a village can do is encourage people to retrofit homes by providing trustworthy information about insulation, solar panels, air-source pumps, etc. Saving energy, is getting to be worth doing without subsidy.
Next time you stand on a motorway bridge looking down on a stream of vehicles venting emissions from fossilised trees, whose carbon was once safely locked in the ground, you’ll be able to say: “At least I am doing something."
David Graham. 04.12.2022
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David Graham. 04.12.2022