It is my belief that we all need to think about our impact on the environment, and take urgent steps to reduce our individual carbon footprint. The way of life we in “The West” currently enjoy, which people all over the world understandably aspire to, is simply not sustainable. If we don’t change our ways the future looks bleak for the human race (to say nothing of the rest of life on Earth).
The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has caused a slowing of global energy demand and largely put a temporary halt to unnecessary luxury travel. According to a study published in Nature, this only means humanity is destroying the environment we all depend on to live at the same rate we were in 2006! This was recently compared on The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe to gently squeezing a hose – it does practically nothing to stem the flow of water (i.e. CO2).
Permanent systemic change is needed. Unfortunately people keep electing politicians who don’t even believe climate change is a problem, and who often have vested interests in doing nothing about it. On top of that everyone wants their SUV and a holiday in the sun.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governer of California in 2003, he was criticised for claiming to care about the environment whilst driving around in a Hummer (of which he owned six). This incrediblymasculine status symbol gets around 10 miles to the gallon, and is the exact opposite of what anyone that actually cares about the environment should be driving.
In 2019, in Orkney, it seems that everyone now drives the equivalent of a Hummvee: 4×4 SUVs and pickup trucks such as the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lwhatever, etc., are everywhere. These vehicles are so obnoxiously huge, they stuggle to stay on one side of the road. They are also an environmental disaster.
As engine technology has supposedly become more fuel efficient (notwithstanding vehicle manufacturers cooking the figures and illegally colluding to retard development of emissions reduction technology), the public has responded by buying larger, heavier, less efficient vehicles.
The above cartoon was drawn to accompany an article written by Fiona Grahame of The Orkney News foriScot magazine, which states that Orkney has far more cars per head than the Scottish average:
At the last count Orkney had 753 cars per 1,000 people compared to 385 in Edinburgh and a Scottish average of 533. It is not that Orcadians are richer or lazier than the folks of Edinburgh , in fact Orkney has a low wage economy but to get to work you most likely will need your own transport.
The unfortunate necessity of private vehicular transport does not justify the choice to drive the most environmentally destructive vehicle that money can buy.
There is also a chicken-and egg problem in that few people in Orkney can rely on public transport because public transport in Orkney is totally inadequate, but the reason it is so inadequate (and expensive) is in part because almost everyone chooses to drive everywhere!
The benefits of cycling to an individual’s health, the environment, and consequential knock-on financial benefits to the public purse (e.g. the NHS), are enormous. So enormous that Professor John Parkin of Bristol University, author of “Designing for Cycle Traffic“, stated in an interview with Carlton Reid on the Spokesman podcast that he thinks government officials often simply don’t believe the figures!
Thanks to the volume of vehicular traffic and the aggressive, dangerous, and inconsiderate behaviour of people behind the wheel, cycling on the roads of Orkney, like most places, is a scary, life-threatening, experience.
The story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society
A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm, the animated story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, as told by The Orkney News is now available to watch online on YouTube, and also via the open-source peer-to-peer PeerTube network:
Campaigning for women to have the right to vote took place from the latter half of the 19th Century up to the start of the First World War. Orcadian suffragists were part of that activism.
Researched and scripted by Fiona Grahame, the hand-painted animation by Martin Laird is stylised to make some reference to the world of 20th century art. The artist Stanley Cursiter was associated with the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, having designed its banner and married Phyllis Hourston, one of its members. The design of characters and locations was derived from period photos.
The narration by Orcadian Kim Foden is upbeat and enthusiastic. The original score by James Watson sets the perfect tempo for the flow of the animation.
Thank you to the staff at the Phoenix Cinema at the Pickaquoy Centre, who made it possible for A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm to premiere on the big screen in Kirkwall. It was shown alongside a week of films celebrating women in cinema, to coincide with International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2019.