'We all have a part to play to tackle the climate emergency'

'Engine-deep' flooding visible from Roger Gulhane's car in South End Green

People are talking about flooding like the one in South End Green - Credit: Roger Gulhane

Last Saturday morning was wonderfully autumnal: fresh, sunny, especially delightful after a week of work. Perfect for sitting in a pavement cafe with or walking on the Heath. But the morning was instead to be spent at a Somers Town TRA hall to workshop a community action climate strategy. Was it all worthwhile?

Recent reports (Chatham House) make distressing reading: the trajectory that we are on, following the Paris Agreement, gives us only a 5% chance of staying within a safe level of temperature rise. But the often-silent majority would like action taken. Not many are willing to chance the future of humankind. There isn’t any real possibility of a flight out to another better-governed planet. So what we need, I thought, are local plans, priorities, actions, coalitions that mobilise the silent majority to help achieve a low-carbon economy. With focus and fresh faces, we can keep up the pressure on governments, businesses, bankers, etc.

But on the other hand...the arguments for a relaxed morning of leisure were strong. Inaction may come with a price tag, but if we’re lucky we can leave those costs to the next generation – surely our children and grandchildren won’t begrudge our choices. They can blame governments or businesses. We’re not to blame. We just have houses to heat, places to go, new things to buy.

Maya de Souza shows the connection between investment and climate change.

Maya de Souza is not 'inactive' when it comes to the climate emergency - Credit: Archant

And then some of us have been banging on about wildfires, droughts, flooding for so long, we are almost worn out. Time to leave things to others? Maybe politicians will act, even though complaints about rising gas bills are drowning out complaints of a failing planet. Maybe they won’t worry that voters don’t seem to care. Maybe they will have that resolve to act without worrying about being out of power.

In the end, I made it to the TRA. The hall – run by Think&Do volunteers – was cheerful and charming. Members of Climate Emergency Camden were there, as were a few local residents. We looked at the evidence, examined Camden’s plans, and prioritised possible initiatives. I spoke to Bangladeshi women aware of increasingly frequent flooding in their home country and the few new young people, enthusiastic about playing a role.

Once we had come up with a list of next steps, we left the hall with a little pearl of hope. By taking individual action and also by working together, everyone can help that pearl to grow.

Maya de Souza is an environmental campaigner and chair of the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum.