Simple Things

Sometimes, we get so busy looking at renewables, insulation, flange mufflers (see, I got that one in the first sentence!) and electricity meters that we forget why we’re doing it all in the first place.

There are, of course, financial reasons to reduce and generate our own energy but by focussing solely on that argument we miss the moral imperative for action.  The simple fact that, as M&S so succinctly put it, there is no plan b.  It’s easy to forget the why in the rush to think through the how and deliver the what.

I’m sat here typing with a river running through the street outside and looking at the news there are stories throughout the SW of personal tragedy and lives ruined by the impacts of flooding and storm force winds.  So let’s get back to the why and recognise that this isn’t solely a short term effect of the weather, it’s quite surely a sign of the shift to a more violently unpredictable climate.  It’s hard to believe that in March this year my local rivers were on their bones, dried to nothing but gravel by over abstraction and a succession of dry winters.  We all know how quickly that turned around come April/May and now they are quite literally running free.

As a business planning for this sort of uncertainty is extremely challenging.  How can you begin to accurately predict business needs when conditions swing violently from dry to wet, cold to hot, calm to storm.  If nothing else how do you know whether to stock sun hats and ice cream or wellies and waterproofs in your shops?  There’s one thing I’m certain of, and one thing that every business in the UK should be really grappling with by now.  This is no ‘blip’.  We can’t go back to business as usual next year, unless we want to be caught out again the next time we have a drought, storm, snowfall or other ‘unexpected’ event.  We need to plan for uncertainty and look to how we can better cope.

A huge proportion of the National Trust properties across the SW were closed at the end of last week as the worst of the weather hit.  Not only does that equal no sales through tea rooms or shops but it also means a significant impact upon property staff, diverting them from the things that they would normally be busy doing.  At Tyntesfield for instance the property teams were having to check the drains and clear them of debris on an hourly basis until about 2:30 am to avert flood damage to buildings.  Personally I believe firmly that the climate change message has been watered down (excuse the pun) in society over the last couple of years and it’s about time that it was bumped back up the agenda but in a way that makes it real to the wider population.

The message needs to be made local and personal; To reinforce the likely impacts on peoples own lives and the places they know and love.  Here’s where the National Trust, to my lowly world view, has a really important role to play.  Not as faceless global scientists or companies out to make a quick profit, but as the caretakers of the places that contribute hugely to the character of our local areas and our own personal sense of place.

So I’ll pass on a brief personal story about the effect climate change has had on my own life in the last few days from the rather soggy Southwest.  The wellies are on, cars aren’t leaving many places and as a result the local market has been thriving.  Of course, the conversation around the village is about the weather but then we are British after all.  I’ve popped out and bought veg from the local farm from the market, I’ve made a simple soup and friends have come over and sat around the fire.  A fire fed by wood supplied from the copicing work on the watermeadows.  It’s a simple picture I know and please believe me, I’m no hessian underwear promoting eco-warrior but the flooding in this one latest example of our changing climate has really made it obvious to me that the model of self sufficiency on a local scale has got to be the more prevalent in coming decades.

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