Thursday, February 22, 2007

I will if you will...

First, a sing-song: Did you ever sing this on the bus? (To the tune of 'She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes'):

Singing....I will if you will I
Singing....I will if you will I
Singing, I will if you will,
I will if you will
I will if you will, so will I.

That was the chorus. There were several quite rude verses which we, as schoolboys, sang with gusto on field trips. (Let me see, how did it go? 'Oh she's got a lovely bottom set of teeth.' I'll leave you to work that one out.) Oh, and there's a Scots version which goes 'Oh ye cannae shove yer grannie aff the bus'. Thought you should know that before getting down to the heavy stuff!

What can we do? No, I haven't taken leave of my senses: just trying to inject a little humour into a serious subject: climate change and what we can all do about it. I expect, like me, you're rather tired of reading endless stuff about how serious it all is and how we have to start doing something now. But no-one answers the massively begged question: What exactly do we do? One of our organic veg customers made exactly this point to Val (my wife) a couple of weeks back: We can all see there's trouble ahead but what are we supposed to do? Changing light bulbs and recycling obviously isn't enough. It's up to the politicians, isn't it?

I will if you will: Politicians usually follow where the public leads so we all should have have our say and do our fair share. All of us. That's the point of the song: I will if you will... Most of us are ready to make sacrifices if only we knew that everyone else was doing so too. At present, we see friends flying off on absurdly cheap polluting holidays, driving around in gas-guzzlers, keeping their houses nice and warm with coal and oil, buying food from far and wide so why - the reasonable argument goes - should I be the first to downsize my lifestyle? I will if you will... but you probably won't so why should I?

Practical action: Here's some ideas. Please add more in Comments if you wish.
  1. Get involved in a climate change network such as This sort of environmental social networking site stops you feeling alone and gives you an opportunity to see what others are doing and how they are doing it. It also helps you to start or join a local network or group based on where you live or at your workplace, though it can be as global as you wish. The possibilities for forming such groups of like-minded people are legion. (No doubt we'll have climate change dating agencies soon. Now there's a good idea!)
  2. Get in touch with your local political representative. Tell them what you think should be happening and what you're prepared to do. is a good start for those in the UK if you don't know who your MP is or how to get in touch. Carbon rationing is an idea whose time has come but the politicians need to know there is grassroots support. Try the Carbon Rationing Action Groups for details of how this works and see how inherently fair it is. I will if you will...
  3. Get together with your neighbours and form a group. You could start off by viewing Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' which should set things in motion. It's now available on DVD.
  4. Calculate your carbon footprint. Start by reading It's carbon judgment day by Mark Lynas.
  5. Get in touch with your local newspaper to tell them about you and your group are doing or plan to do. That could be anything from installing unexciting but essential building insulation (the single most worthwhile thing to do for which there are grants available) to making serious carbon-reduction commitments or pledges. How? Join Cred and make pledges to save carbon.
  6. If you have kids, remember they're the inheritors of this awful mess we and our forebears have unintentionally made of our planet's atmosphere, ocean and land. It doesn't have to be like this. Think 'out of the box' about your lifestyle. If you come up with any smart ideas, tell everyone in any way that suits you. Al Gore has a small army of people trained to present his 'slide show'. Could you do something like that? There's nothing to beat getting the word across by actual local contacts if you have that kind of charisma! (I don't so I blog instead.)

And me? What am I doing? If all the suggestions about sound a little prescriptive, please note that I really do practice what I preach. I'm typing this with a warm blanket wrapped around my legs, a wooly hat on my head and I'm wearing a thick fleece. It's not too cold today (about 12 degrees C both inside and outside) and I'm confortably warm with no heating. Val, who is a convert to being the change you want to see in the world (thank you Gandhi) like me, wears similar outfits. We travel very little, never fly (obviously or I wouldn't be writing this blog) and I've just asked her if she would calculate our carbon footprint. We do have a very efficient wood-burner for the evenings and use Green electricity and I'm in the process of building a passive solar structure onto the south-facing house front... more on this.

Everybody's doing it, doing it, doing it! Well that's what we'd all like. So let's all sing from the same hymnsheet, eh? Someone has to start the ball rolling so let it be you. Remember the refrain: I will if you will, so will I!


Corey K. Tournet said...

One practical tip is to use a spin dryer. Tumble dryers account for approximately 5-10% of US household energy use. Spin dryers use a small fraction of the electricity that tumble dryers do.
More information is available at

Bry Lynas said...

In our household, washing goes on the line to be blown in the wind: solar tumble drying!

Derek said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head.
The "I will if you will" mantra is effectively what nearly everyone in the world thinks.

Jolly difficult to do much about it.
"Jet setter" sounds so much more enticing than "Subsistence farmer" to most people.
If only there were a way to sex-up sustainability!

(What does "mur crusto" mean?)

Bry Lynas said...

So how do we achieve a 'critical mass' of people who will really get down to making the changes we need? If we knew this, the problem would be solved, so will everybody in the world please read this blog!

The farm name 'Mur Crusto' is a bit of a mystery. 'Mur' means 'wall' in Welsh but 'Crusto' is anybody's guess.

Derek said...

I think there are only two ways:

1. change by force
(economic, legal or scarcity)
2. voluntary change
(via information and shaming people, as with sexism and racism)

The status quo is just so convenient and comfortable that people can justify it to themselves as easliy as taking a breath.

The scientific evidence has rapidly been getting stronger. I think it's only a matter of time before we reach critical mass in people's thinking. If 2007 proves the hottest year ever, the important minds will be won over, but it will take many years to reorganise civilisation to live sustainably.

If only the people who created the pollution suffered the consequences! This is another version of the tragedy of the commons.

Perhaps Mur Crusto = "encrusted wall"
Do you have a lot of lichen?

Alex Smith said...

There are a lot of solutions, in audio files, at That's the site for a non-profit 24 hour green radio and download service. E.g check out "Best Climate Speeches of 2006".