Who cares about our planet? Not the USA

WITH an estimated 65,000 people travelling to Johannesburg from all over the world this week, the Earth Summit gives the impression that green issues are being taken seriously.

WITH an estimated 65,000 people travelling to Johannesburg from all over the world this week, the Earth Summit gives the impression that green issues are being taken seriously.

But there is no more depressing element of the political agenda today than the environment – frankly it looks as if nothing is going to stop humans destroying the earth.

On a small-scale, here in Suffolk, there seems to be little we can do to protect the environment – and even if we can do something we don't want to.

Sure, we can recycle paper, cans, and bottles – but what else can we do? And is it really worth driving your car to the local recycling banks anyway?

Only last week we heard that some of the glass collected in Woodbridge had to be destroyed after a contamination scare – did that have a major impact on the environment?

Paper recycling I can see the point of – most of the pulp making up the newspaper you're reading today has been recycled and the virgin woodpulp comes from sustainable forests (where felled trees are replaced straight away).

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But how much energy is saved by recycling bottles?

When I was a youngster, the Corona van came around our estate every week and you'd take back last week's bottles to get 3d knocked off this week's price.

That was real recycling.

But now it's different. Before the glass you take to the bottle bank can be reused it has to be smashed, melted down and reshaped. How much energy does that use?

Ipswich is proud of its brown bins scheme – but only a small proportion of the town has these bins to recycle compostable waste.

While those of us with gardens may have compost bins, there's only so much you can recycle in your own backyard!

The problem is that if you want to do anything green you have to make an effort – take your bottles, paper, tins, garden waste etc to a recycling centre.

It's easier to shove it all in the wheely bin.

But being green involves more than just recycling – it's about sustainable development, about cutting down on pollution in an attempt to slow down the change in climate.

And this is where it gets really depressing.

On a global scale, not enough people care about the environment.

We saw that in Britain two years ago with the fuel protests. People might say they want to help the planet – but they're really more concerned with driving their cars wherever and whenever they want and paying as little as possible for that privilege.

We're seeing it in domestic politics – all anyone's interested in about the Earth Summit is whether Tony Blair will still be in the conference hall when Robert Mugabe speaks.

Issues like flooding and climate change are a mere footnote.

And most worryingly of all, the international scene is bleak.

Countries in Asia like India, China, and Indonesia are developing fast and more of their population will, not unnaturally, want to use more energy-using devices like cars, fridges, televisions etc.

And the government of the world's biggest economy doesn't give a damn about the environment.

President George W Bush marked the start of the summit by going out on to his ranch and cutting down some trees – clearly sticking two fingers up to environmentalists.

He couldn't care less about the state of the world in 50 or 100 years time.

He's just anxious to retain the votes of Red Neck citizens in his own country in two years' time – let them fill their gas-guzzlers with cheap petrol and to hell with the planet's future!

What difference can my recycling paper, glass and metal make to the world when the world's largest economy is prepared to carry on belching pollution into the atmosphere?

Frankly I can't see any hope of avoiding climate change in the next 100 years. Millions of homes will be lost through flooding, our climate will change totally and more people will suffer from asthma, allergies, and other pollution-related diseases.

In 100 years time our descendants may well look back and say of us: "They could have changed things, but weren't prepared to do anything!"

But why should we care? We're not going to be around to hear them.

STILL don't believe global warming is happening here? Hasn't the absence of any meaningful snow for the last few years been a bit of a clue?

One of the key ways of measuring climate change is to see how the wildlife reacts – which species are arriving and which are departing.

Last year we reported that Little Egrets, a species that just a few years ago was only found in the Mediterranean, was roosting on the River Orwell – and that was at the end of November.

I know lots of people like the prospect of warmer weather – personally if I want Spanish weather I'd rather go to Spain for it!

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