Yesterday I walked down Little Britain, a small street in the heart of the City, and thought “well, that about sums it up.”
I was firmly in the Remain camp and since the referendum result I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions – probably like many.
On Friday I woke to find the country had decided to leave one of the largest trading blocks in the world. Within hours our economy had slipped a notch down the global rankings and billions had been wiped off the value of our stock markets. It was not the kind of morning I want to experience on a regular basis.
As the day went on my mood shifted from shock to anger. To me it seemed that our politicians – the Cameronites, the Corbynistas, the Johnsonians, the Govites - had recklessly played out their political differences and their petty manoeuvres through the giant lottery of a seismically important referendum.
The chance conversations I had on Friday did nothing to soothe my temper.
First there was the taxi driver. He told me he had voted to leave and then asked me, “So, what happens now?” Why, I felt like shouting, did you not ask yourself the same question before you cast your vote?
Next came the pensioner. She confided that she’d voted to leave because “a lot of my friends were, and they seemed to know what they were talking about”. She admitted that “my daughter didn’t like it.” I’m sure Christmas will be fun.
Then came the Brexiteer businessman. As he explained that his vote had really been a vote of no confidence in David Cameron, I tried to remember seeing that question on the ballot paper.
Finally, there was the Green Party supporter. He’d voted to leave as a protest against TTIP, the trade treaty currently being negotiated between the EU and US. The UK will now have to negotiate a separate trade agreement with America, but what assurance does he have that this will be any different from a second TTIP?
Of course, there will have been well-informed people that voted to leave rationally and advisedly, having carefully weighed up the pros and cons and decided it was in the UK’s best interests. But these were certainly not the people that I spoke to on Friday as my mood seethed and darkened.
Wherever we end up on Europe, whatever deals are eventually struck, one thing is clear: those of us who believe in the protection of our environment need to stand up and be heard.
The European institutions have a great track record on the environment. I remember when, not so many years ago, UK beaches were disgusting. The fact that they are now clean is, in large part, due to European legislation. Similarly, Europe has held individual states to account, like threatening the UK government with legal action for dragging its feet on meeting clean air standards in London.
Without Europe to challenge and cajole, there is a huge risk that the UK will backslide on its environmental commitments and ambitions. We must not let that happen.
Despite my rage - my desire to scream at politicians that they are bunch of incompetent nitwits - I’m not actually prepared to stand up and seek to take their place. So instead I will champion the environmental cause to them – including to whatever form of government emerges from the current fog. I would encourage anyone who cares about the health and future of our planet to do the same.
And to avoid any criticism that we are talking the talk without walking the walk, I’d also commend to you take 5 practical steps to demonstrate your commitment:
- Email your local MP and ask them to pressure the government to protect our environment
- Switch to a green energy provider
- Join an environmental campaign group – they now become more important than ever
- Ask the companies that you give your custom to what they will be doing to encourage our government not to abandon our environment
- Understand what your own impact on the environment is and take actions to reduce it e.g. http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
Thank you and here’s to making sure that Little Britain is at least green and clean!