Momentous global events can often pass us by here in our relatively quiet corner of the English countryside, even with twenty-four-hour television news, relentless social media posts and technology that keeps us connected wherever we are.
We see dramatic events unfold before our eyes from the far reaches of the world but how often do we feel involved or responsible, rather than just have a passing concern? From the wildfires in California and floods in India, to the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s so easy to feel a twinge of sadness but then just switch off and return to the ‘more important things’ in our own lives.
The rude intrusion of coronavirus into our routine was an unwelcome exception. A threat generated by a human activity out of balance with nature, that we had to take seriously and accept the disruptions to our everyday way of life. But, for those who were not directly affected or involved in some way the threat quickly diminished and many lost patience with the restrictions imposed, wanting a swift return to ‘normality’, regardless of the suffering elsewhere.
As that first wave of coronavirus subsided the dire state of our planet came back into sharp focus and suddenly concerns for our climate and the life that exists here seemed to be taken more seriously. Global leaders announcing firm actions to completely eliminate carbon emissions, investment promised in the technologies required, with associated employment benefits, and support promised for many green initiatives.
Now it seems the risks of not preparing for climate change might be taken seriously and given a higher priority, but how quickly will the bright light of optimism be dimmed by the arrival of the second and third waves of Covid-19 and its economic aftermath? Will our enthusiasm last to overcome the challenges in shifting our way of life to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?
The lesson that we must learn from this pandemic is that we are not immune to the impact of global events. Just as an earthquake sends out destructive waves many miles from its epicentre, so the effects of global climate change are reaching us. The geographical location of the Harrogate District means we are unlikely to see the worst of the extreme weather events, at least in the short-term, or be threatened by rising sea levels, but we will not escape the fallout from these events occurring elsewhere in the world and from the biodiversity loss that we all face.
What might the future hold for the Harrogate District as the climate changes? Do we leave it to chance and risk our legacy for future generations or do we bring to life dreams of a sustainable society in a low carbon future? The actions we need to take are clear, there is no confusion. What is missing is the desire to implement change and the support for those in positions of power to implement the necessary legislation.
For some time now the younger generation have been our conscience and born the burden of responsibility for seeking change. We cannot continue to lay that burden at their feet. We must all become engaged and ensure that we take personal responsibility for the future of our district and our planet.