S. J. Farthing


The Environment - page 2

If you missed page 1 you can find it here: www.farthing.me.uk/world/environment.html

Trivial Acts

A lot of people observe that if everybody did a small thing to reduce their use of fossil fuels, the measures from millions of people would combine to make a big difference. This seems to be what the government is advocating. They quote the number of tons of CO2 emissions which would be reduced, and it sounds a lot, BUT however many millions of tons it is, in the end it is the percentage of the total which matters, and unfortunately the gross total of emissions is far far more than these minor savings.

The sort of things which we are asked to do are:

It is good to get people motivated into helping the environment but I think there a considerable danger that people will think that they are doing enough by taking minor measures like this. Well at least people will feel good as we sleep-walk to disaster.

There is one REALLY BIG THING that most young people can do to make a huge difference. It is this:


I'm sorry to say that all the minor savings are absolutely negligible when you compare it to the environmental consequences of having a child. Every additional human being on the earth will give off an entire lifetime's emissions. There is no such thing as carbon neutral. Human beings in the modern world consume a huge amount and give off a large amount of emissions in a lifetime.

It is a paradox that some of the people most concerned about the environment, are concerned because of the future welfare of their children, and they have good reason to be concerned.

Many of the above measures relate to transport.


There is a question of how we can accomplish our transport needs in an environmentally friendly way. There are organizations such as Sustrans, who aim to promote better solutions to transport, including public transport. However, I have a better solution. We simply need to...




The best way of solving the transport problem is to make greater use of electronic communications. There should be no reason to do so much travelling.

Statistically, people now commute much greater distances to their workplace, on average, than they did 20 years ago. I think about 20 miles per day is typical. In my experience, employers seem to prefer their workers to come from some distance away, though I cannot explain why they should.

The city of Portsmouth is in fact an island, and every morning you can observe large numbers of commuters who live outside coming into the city to work, and at the same time, large numbers of people who live in the city leaving it to work outside. They get in each other's way too, clogging up the roundabouts. There are queues of traffic trying to get out, impeded by the endless flow of those coming in. It seems that the office jobs in the city are held by people in the expensive suburban areas outside the city, whereas the more humble residents of the city typically work on industrial estates outside.

Some personal experiences

In the 1990's I worked locally at a site whose head office was about 60 miles away. However the company closed the local branch and encouraged people to commute the 60 miles each way to the head office.

I have had more interest shown in my skills by companies based a long way from my home, and indeed in 2000 the best job I could get was 65 miles away. (In fact I would not commute such a distance daily, and took accomodation locally).


Taxation of Motoring

Since global warming has at last become accepted by the government they have taken some measures to increase taxes on motoring apparently to deter driving. This has also been done to avoid congestion on the roads.

Two taxes are involved

There is an anomaly between mere ownership of a large car and the heavy use of a car. The C02 produced depends both on the fuel consumption of the car per mile, and on the distance travelled per year. In Britain there is higher road tax on cars which pollute more, and fuel-efficient cars have had their road tax reduced. However, this can unjustly penalize those who simply own a large car but use it little. The question is, how can you take both factors into account. The answer is very simple, it is to tax fuel. The fuel consumed is directly proportional to the CO2 produced. Taxing fuel will penalize all emission of CO2 whether it occurs as a result of moderate use of a large car, or large use of a small one.

Road tax should address the question of congestion (including parking). It is paid for the use of the road and so should reflect the amount of space the vehicle takes up and not its fuel consumption.

The blight of traffic

People are so accustomed to traffic everywhere that they do not realise what a terrible blight traffic inflicts on our environment. The obvious issue is noise, but there is also the hinderance to free movement due to the need to wait to cross roads. There is no relaxation. In the city there are zones where most transport is excluded, but there is increasing mechanisation in everything now, so that parks have occasional vehicles driving round the footpaths simply to empty litter bins etc.

Anyone who has ever spent time in a city without motor vehicles will realize what a great difference their absence makes. I can only think of one city which is free of cars, Venice, but freedom from traffic sometimes occurs temporarily, for example during a festival or carnival. One notable time that large parts of London are traffic free is during the London Marathon.

Preservation of our Heritage

For thousands of years mankind has strived to conserve its treasures of the past. That is why we still have them. The art of the ancient Egyptians, the works of Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Literature. We have done a good job.

More recently, say in the last 100 years there has been the accumulated body of scientific knowledge, also valuable. Medicine was one of the oldest sciences, but other scientific knowledge has exploded in the last 20 years or so with all the technical data we have accumulated. Electronic design, computer design. There are masses and masses of data. Then there are such things as technical standards such as those which prescribe the principles of web design. It is all carefully managed and maintained.

Some of us are also trying to maintain our natural world by conserving species and preventing extinctions.

However there is one thing me MUST conserve above all else, because its loss will make much of the other preservation worthless, and indeed unsustainable, that is OURSELVES, i.e. mankind and our civilization. All our art and science is worthless without civilzed human beings being around to appreciate it.

We talk about saving the world or saving the planet. It has been pointed out (e.g. by James Lovelock) that the planet will survive whatever happens. Even life will survive, and probably the human species will remain in existence. What is really under threat is the vast part of human population and our civilization. There is a danger that the more brutal elements of our civilization will prevail and the earth will become somewhat like the Planet of the Apes.

See Also:

The Environment (page 1): environment.html

Population and over-population: population.html

Farming and food: farming.html

Nature and wildlife: nature.html

The contents page for my environmental pages is at:


Sustrans - sustainable transport

Campaign for Better Transport, formerly Transport 2000.

Friends of the Earth
www.foe.org - The USA and international site.
www.foe.co.uk or www.foe.org.uk - The UK site.


The Hadley Centre for climate prediction and research.

Ecological site. Estimate your footprint.