The environment has been in the news recently. You may have seen the reports of the Extinction Rebellion protest last month in London. Whether you feel the methods of their protests were acceptable or not, there is no doubt that they attracted a lot of publicity. From their spokesperson, the articulate and passionate Swedish schoolgirl 16-year-old Greta Thunberg to camping in Parliament Square and gluing themselves to street furniture and tube trains – all of these tactics were used to generate news and to get the public to stop what they are doing and consider the environment and the future of our planet.
The environment has been part of the public consciousness for a long time and previous governments were at the forefront for enacting change. Going back several decades, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader of a major economy to recognise the threat of climate change. In a speech back in 1990 she said “The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations,” It is the future generations that we are thinking of and the need for our generation to leave the planet in a better state than in which we found it. Climate change and the need to protect our planet is something that Conservatives have always been concerned with. In more recent years, since we came back into government in 2010, we have cut single use plastic bags by 86%, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, we have generated record levels of solar and wind energy and have gone coal-free for an entire week for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.
These are some of the very big improvements on a national scale, but everything must start on a personal and local level. Locally, West Suffolk Council is one of the greenest in the country - and has invested in solar power both to cut carbon and keep council tax down.
And then there’s the personal. The small changes each of us make in our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment all add up to significant gains. We can make the decision whether to drive versus walking or cycling, to shop and eat seasonally and locally, to reduce water usage, turning the thermostat down a couple of degrees, and to reuse and recycle as opposed to buying new. All of these are simple measures that we can work into our daily lives, and if done by all of us, cumulatively add up to fewer carbon emissions and will go a long way to reducing our carbon footprint.
Protecting and preserving our environment is something that needs to start with the very young and our schools do an excellent job of passing on that message to pupils. In many cases, it is children who are more on board with this thinking than older generations. And living in a predominately rural area, like West Suffolk, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by the beauty of the natural environment – it’s something we can enjoy and share with our children. I was able to see this first-hand on a recent visit to Lackford Lakes, located just north of Bury St Edmunds. Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve is operated by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. It is an area of exquisite beauty and offers the opportunity for everyone, from very young children to much older people, to take part in educational and social events and courses run by a fantastic team of staff and volunteers. There are beautiful walks to take and hides to observe the wide variety of birds and other wildlife that make their home at the reserve.
Lackford Lakes is the perfect place to appreciate our natural environment - we are lucky to have it on our doorstep. But when we take in the beauty of such a place like this, we must also remember that it is in our power and it is our responsibility to protect our environment for future generations. We owe it to our children to make changes in our lives in order to reduce our impact on the environment and so, as previously quoted, “we do not live at the expense of future generations”.