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Climate protests have a point - but can they really achieve anything at all?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 26 September 2019

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin at the Global Climate Strike protests on the Cornhill in Ipswich - but he got a tough time from some of the protesters. PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin at the Global Climate Strike protests on the Cornhill in Ipswich - but he got a tough time from some of the protesters. PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE

RACHEL EDGE

Ipswich's new-look Cornhill has certainly proved to be a significant meeting place this month with three major protests taking place - or at least gathering there.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden captured the headlines at the UN this week, but is it possible for people to turn back the clock to reverse damage to the climate? AP Photo/Jason DeCrowEnvironmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden captured the headlines at the UN this week, but is it possible for people to turn back the clock to reverse damage to the climate? AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

The latest, last Friday, was Ipswich's contribution to the international day of protests against climate change and brought out several hundred protesters.

Many were children who had left their classrooms over the lunch period - either with or without their school's permission. Some younger children had been brought by their parents.

I know there have been several comments about this on social media, and I guess they reflect individual views about the protesters - some have had a go at the youngsters for "playing truant" others have praised their "social conscience."

For me, I don't have a great concern about youngsters missing a few hours in school at the start of the academic year on something like this. I suspect anything they learned during the protest will stick in their mind much stronger than anything they would be taught about the subject in a classroom.

Labour MP Sandy Martin's appearance to make a speech to the protesters was a bit of a two-edged sword. He is trying to very elegantly ride two horses at the same time by emphasising his green credentials while supporting the construction of a northern bypass (a project that I am sure the majority of his constituents support).

To be honest Mr Martin didn't really pull off that trick - his argument that by the time the road opened most of us will be driving electric cars didn't really ease the protesters' fears.

They are at least as concerned about building the road through the countryside and putting up thousands of new houses on greenfield sites as they are about the emissions coming out of the back of the vehicles using the road.

The protest itself was a noisy but good-natured gathering with people of all ages taking part - adding their voices to the actions taking place around the world.

There is no doubt that the planet is facing a climate change crisis, and I am not arrogant enough to dismiss the more than 95% of scientific experts who believe that mankind is responsible for this change.

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Quite what can be done to combat it - and what will happen to the planet in the long term is another matter.

Any action we, as individuals, try to take seems so insignificant in comparison with the damage to the Amazon, to the American President's determination to boost the coal industry, and to the general industrialisation going on in countries like China and India.

I have difficulty in condemning Asian countries trying to industrialise and bringing their living standards nearer to those of Western countries.

But when I try to rationalise what is happening, I do find it difficult to excuse those who appear to be complicit in the destruction of the lungs of the planet or use the excuse of cod science as a reason to burn more fossil fuels because it is more convenient that looking for an alternative.

We can't turn the world back to pre-industrial days. We can't live as if it is 1800 when there were a billion people on earth (as opposed to seven billion today) and 40% of children died before their fifth birthday across the globe.

However I do worry that some of the solutions we're being peddled are too easy, too simplistic.

Electric cars sound great - especially as we increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. But what materials do they need? How damaging are the batteries for the environment?

How do you balance the construction of HS2, which should attract many people out of their cars and even planes, against the fact that some woodland will have to be sacrificed - even if new trees are planted elsewhere to compensate?

Insulating homes sounds very worthwhile but where do the materials you pour into the walls come from?

And is it good to scrap a 10-year-old car that was energy-efficient when built to buy a new one that has used up many more valuable resources in its manufacture?

Going green and saving the planet isn't easy. I fear that our current efforts are nowhere near enough in the long term. Are we putting off difficult questions for our children or grandchildren to choose - or is humanity just going to end up putting sticking plasters on a very serious wound and ending up killing the civilisation we all cherish?

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