Stuart Jeffery

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It is perhaps fitting that I’m blogging about this a couple of days after Earth Overshoot Day (it was on 22nd Aug), I seem to have overshot it.

“Together we are stronger” was the last message in their launch video. Research is continually showing how we do better when we cooperate rather than compete, giving lie to the mood music of capitalists for the past couple of centuries. We need to be stronger given that we are tipping over the edge of the ecological cliff, we need to cooperate more but the rapid polarisation of views on social media suggests we have a long way to go. People need to stop arguing over things and debate them constructively while accepting that some people may have a different point of view.

Global recessions reduce our global footprint. You can clearly see the impact of covid on this year and as you look back at 2008, the early ’90s, 80’s and 70’s similar benefit to the Earth is seen. It gives the next lie to “decoupling”. Decoupling is the claim that the impact on the environment can be unlinked to economic growth, i.e. that you can have economic growth and still reduce the impact on the ecosystem. While it might be possible, it obviously hasn’t happened over the past 50 years and is almost certain not to happen in the future,

As a species, we are currently living as though there are 1.6 planets to support us. Not sure if anyone else has noticed but last time I looked there was just one available to us…

We are consuming too much. Way too much. Hooked on lifestyles that revolve around consumption: holidays, new cars, consumer electronics, plastic packaged goods that have flown twice round the world before they hit our plates, dinning and drinking out. I could go on.

Humanity needs to cooperate not just with each other but with the Earth too. We need a fundamental shift in the way we live our lives, the way we relate to the planet as well as to people. We need to realise that we are part of the ecosystem, part of the planet, part of the Earth. What we do to Nature, we do to ourselves.

There are a lot of us on the planet right now. This heightens the need to reduce consumption. The alternative is fewer people and I don’t see a queue of people volunteering for that option.

So my plea, two days post overshoot day, is to go outside and touch the Earth. Put your hands against the soil and ask yourself, how can I help.

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Just a quick post… Yougov’s latest poll out today puts the Greens and Lib Dems on level pegging in the polls nationally. Both on 6%. I don’t think this has happened for quite some time and is great news – well it would be if there was a general election coming soon. Mind you, given the state of the government, who knows!


The owners have devastated a beautiful and important area of Maidstone. They have destroyed hundreds of healthy trees in a wetland area where rare birds were nesting. The owners of the land clearly have no interest in biodiversity and Nature.

The riverside walk was enjoyed by hundreds of people each day and brings them into one of the most beautiful parts of Maidstone and to a place where they were able to experience Nature at her finest.

This woodland also helps prevent flooding by acting as a natural soak and flood plain during high rainfall.

The world is entering the an age of ecological collapse and it is actions such as this that are speeding the extinction along. It must be stopped.


I have tried engaging with them. The trolls, that is. But those times are over for now. There is a growing divide in society between people who understand the difference between science and conspiracy theorists’ fantasies, a divide that like many divides is strengthened by social media and the willingness by some to forget social rules of engagement that we have spent centuries building so that we can debate issues without resorting to name calling and verbal violence.

Yesterday I took my second trip to the local Sainsbury’s (Aylesford in Kent) since covid hit. It used to be my weekly food shop but after a Saturday morning trip around April this year where I found myself in a crowded aisle surrounded by people who worn no face coverings and refused to social distance, I stopped going.

Month’s later, laws in place, I tried again. 7pm, Monday evening, so it was quiet at least. I needed Quorn pieces as my current shop doesn’t sell them. Sainsbury’s Aylesford is a huge shop, yesterday evening there were maybe a dozen shoppers. No security guard on the door when I got there. This set an alarm bell in my head. Every shop that I’ve visited in the past few months has had someone on the door. Not Sainsbury’s. As I said, it was quiet and I was probably halfway round before I started to realise that there were quite a large proportion of shoppers in there without masks. Probably half of them.

I asked the staff why masks were not being enforced. Company policy. Too difficult. Too dangerous. A manager was punched trying to police it.

So what makes Sainsbury’s special? Why are they not prepared to protect their staff, for it is their staff who are at greatest risk from catching covid from a shopper, a far higher risk than shopper to shopper transmission. When a member of their staff dies from covid as a result of company policy, what will the Health and Safety Executive say? What will the courts say? Would this be corporate manslaughter?

I tried to complain online but they don’t do complaints. You have to phone them. I tried to phone but couldn’t get through. So I tweeted them.

I also informed the police. Sainsbury’s said that the police are not interested in the problem. Not interested in criminal behaviour. I do understand that the Tories have cut the police resources to a point where they are forced to make choices. I’ll wait with interest for the response from the police.

The tweets though… Using @sainsburys meant that quite a few people saw the tweet. The response was not great. Sainsburys replied saying they were happy to encourage mask wearing. Big deal, it’s like saying please don’t punch the staff or smoke in the shop. The twittersphere trolls replied with disdain and hatred. Not many of them fortunately, and I have a thick skin. If my skin was thinner it would have hurt, a bit.

Facebook was as bad, if not worse. Colourful language combined with ignorance and an inability to engage. Dickens famously described ignorance in his Christmas Carol:

“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

So, I won’t be returning to Sainsbury’s until they start to care for their staff. I encourage everyone who has an ounce of conscience to do the same. The staff in Sainsbury’s are key workers, they should be protected and valued. We should be clapping them not allowing their corporate masters to put their lives in danger.


I was in Ashford this morning speaking at a socially distanced rally against the proposed lorry park which will see 27 acres of farmland concreted over. Here is what I had to say:

Ashford. Thank you for inviting me here today and it is good to so many of you. I’m Stuart Jeffery, and I campaign against air pollution.

So, air: one of the four “elements”, one of the four humors, it is our inspiration, it is essential for life. Yet we treat the air that we breathe as an invisible dump. A dump that results in around 64,000 people dying prematurely each year, in this country alone.

Air pollution has been linked to cardiac disease, strokes, respiratory disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, lower IQ , kidney disease , ADHD , and potentially every organ in the body. And it exacerbates covid too.

It is one of the biggest killers.

The statistics are frightening.

And the problems is not just long term exposure. This isn’t something that could be endured for a year or so in the hope that a solution could be found. High levels of pollution kill quickly.

In 2019 Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “This is a health emergency. … air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks.”

Pollution triggers heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.

Now I don’t live in Ashford so I have had to do some research and it appears that, according to your council, you have excellent air quality here. Legal limits haven’t been breached in years, apparently. It must be true, the numbers are published by the council.

It beggars belief though. A town with one of the busiest motorways running through it, a town just a few miles from the busiest shipping lane in the world, yet a town with reasonable air quality. As a health care professional I don’t do conspiracy theories, I look at the science, but I am just not convinced by the reports. And you know what they say about statistics!

The council now monitors around 50 sites around the borough but only for one pollutant, NO2. It doesn’t monitor particulate matter or ozone or any other the myriad of other pollutants.

So how will the lorry park affect you?

11,000 lorries a day heading to Dover. The uncertainty about the border – there is currently no deal with the EU. You know more than anyone what happens when Dover is closed or even slowed a bit. You get stack. Stationary traffic everywhere.

So isn’t putting it in a field helpful?

Firstly, using the site as a holding area – stack capacity: Two thousand lorries held one place will create a huge concentration of air pollution. Remember that stack was about 6,000 lorries along 20 miles of motorway, pollution that was spread over a wide area. Lorries run on diesel, the most polluting fuel for vehicles. Air pollution that will spill out into neighbouring areas. And space for 2,000 lorries to wait will not mean an end to the chaos of stack on the M20 or on the roads around Ashford.

Secondly, using the site for pre-border checks: Just as bad, if not worse. Slowly the lorries will creep though here as their paperwork is checked and corrected.

So what is the answer?

We need to get diesel powered freight off the road. Long haul freight needs to be by rail. Short journeys from distribution centres need to be made using electric lorries. That requires investment and political will.

We need to localise our economy. There is a reason that 11,000 lorries are trundling past. We need to grow most food locally and we need to manufacture locally. Globalisation of the economy has brought immense problems.

And we need either a workable deal with the EU, or perhaps we just need to apologise and reapply for membership.

Thank you. I’ll leave it there.

 


Who’d a thought it eh? The economy takes a hit because we were just buying what we needed, over 20% according to the Bank of England. Probably a bit more than we needed would be my guess – the sales of home entertainment must have gone through the roof.

A 21% drop is huge though, add to this the misery of unemployment, the difficulties of isolation and coping with friends and relatives who have died as a result of covid and we really have a sorry picture.

Our economy is unsustainable of course. On every measure and in every way that springs to mind we have a problem. So seeing it tank per-se doesn’t worry me, what worries me is what we do about it.

Perhaps the answer is to give people cheap access to restaurants? £10 off? Get people sitting together, socialising, drinking? Positive covid tests in the UK have just hit their highest point since late June and as we head out of summer things are likely to get worse – so no, we should not be encouraging more spreading of the virus…

What we need to do is reshape the economy. Invest in the areas that will improve lives and let the things that harm us go.

We need to rapidly reduce air pollution. This will save live lives as the second covid wave hits us and it will help us in the coming years too. Invest in trams, cycling, walking, electric buses, but do this at an unprecedented scale so that we don’t need to drive in the future.

Local the economy too. Lots of pollution from container shipping.

And ban the woodburning stoves from towns.

But above all, don’t let us return to business as usual!

 


The cartoon graphic below is pretty accurate in terms of its overall message but I think it is missing a wave, air pollution. Air pollution kills 64,000 each year in the UK, a number which is surprisingly close to the number that covid may take.

The two problems are related, of course. Air pollution makes covid worse, i.e. people in polluted areas are more likely to die. The causes and solutions to air pollution are similar to climate change, much of the cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels (and carbon rich fuels such as wood burning).

The other waves are connected too. The recession was triggered by covid, climate change and air pollution have similar drivers and biodiversity collapse, the biggest of the waves, will be exacerbate by climate change but reduced a little by recession.

Image may contain: text that says "MACKAT BIODIVERSITY COLLAPSE BESURE A CLIMATE CHANGE RECESSION COVID"

It’s the economy stupid. No, it’s the stupid economy. The drive for perpetual economic growth is as stupid as the search for a perpetual motion machine. You can’t have perpetual growth on a finite planet. There are limits to growth as the Club of Rome explained in 1971, learning that still hasn’t landed in humanities mind despite 50 years of opportunity.

One of the most frightening thing about the graphs to the right is that they were the business as usual predictions from Limits to Growth and show the wheels coming off just after 2020. Like now. Just a thought. It is almost as if the impacts growth of pollution and depletion have been quite accurate. What it is difficult to predict is exactly how those wheels fall off.

Not only do we have an economic paradigm of a need for perpetual growth that is not fit for purpose, our economies are exploitative too. We rely on cheap labour. We ignore externalities such as pollution. We value luxury over necessity. And so on.

A recession should benefit the environment except that there will be a drive to mitigate de-growth by cheapening labour future and increasing externalities.

We need a new approach to the economy, one that values necessity, one that accounts for the full cost of goods and services, one that ensures that everyone’s needs are met. One that is sustainable, doesn’t require perpetual growth and one that right-sized for our planet.


Beautiful and poignant new documentary by Michael Shaw examining humanity in these troubling times. Great quote by Stan Rushmore about Native American believing that they are born into heaven and Christians believing that we are here because we have been expelled by heaven. The difference is how we view and treat the world around us.

https://www.livinginthetimeofdying.com/documentary

 


It has been described as an invisible killer. We obviously need air to breathe but when that air is polluted then it impacts on our health. A Lancet study shows that 8% of UK deaths are attributable to pollution equating to 50,000 people each year or 140 every day .

And it doesn’t seem to just be a long term contributor to early mortality. A study by Kings College London on just nine cities showed that high pollution days triggered an additional 124 cardiac arrests, 231 strokes and 193 admissions for childhood asthma.

Air pollution has been linked to cardiac disease, strokes, respiratory disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, lower IQ , kidney disease , ADHD , and potentially every organ in the body . The WHO estimates around 8 million deaths worldwide as a result of air pollution.

It is one of the biggest killers.

The statistics are frightening.

In 2019 Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England said: “This is a health emergency. As these figures show, air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks.”

According to the UK government, the “cost of health impacts of air pollution was likely to exceed estimates of £8 to 20 billion” . There is even a government committee that studies the health impacts, COMEAP.

Outside of the UK the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine of South Africa, Brazil, Germany and the United States of America are calling for a “Global Compact” – a call to action, to tackle air pollution .

To give some specifics, the Kings College London study highlighted:

      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 87 cardiac arrests each year.
      • Living near a busy road in London can contribute to 81 more out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 144 emergency hospital admissions for stroke each year.
      • Living near a busy road in London may contribute to 230 hospital admissions for stroke each year.
      • Living near a busy road in London may contribute to 306 strokes each year.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 74 hospital admissions each year for asthma in people aged below 14.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 33 hospital admissions each year for asthma in adults.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth may result in 7,927 fewer children with low lung function each year.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 390 lung cancer cases.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth would result in 306 fewer lung cancer cases each year.
      • In London on high air pollution days, 142 more children with asthma experience asthma symptoms than on lower pollution days.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 144 babies born underweight each year.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth would result in 138 fewer babies born underweight each year
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 654 hospital admissions each year for respiratory disease.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 153 hospital admissions each year for cardiovascular disease.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 821 coronary heart disease cases.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth may result in 1,885 fewer cases of coronary heart disease each year.
      • Air pollution may contribute to 4,067 more asthmatic children that live near busy roads in London experiencing bronchitic symptoms each year.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth could contribute to 3,685 fewer asthmatic children with bronchitic symptoms each year.
      • Living near busy roads in London may contribute to 1,598 cases of a chest infection (acute bronchitis) in children.
      • Cutting air pollution in London by one fifth may result in 3,683 fewer children with a chest infection (acute bronchitis) each year.
      • If higher air pollution days in London were lower instead, we could avoid 136 hospital admissions each year for COPD.
      • Across the other nine cities in the study: Bristol, Derby, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton:
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days are responsible for 37 more cardiac arrests outside hospital than lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 137 more people to hospital for stroke than lower air pollution days.
          • An extra 50 children are hospitalised with asthma on days where air pollution is high compared to days where air pollution is low on average each year.
          • An extra 35 adults are taken to hospital with asthma on days of high air pollution compared to days with lower air pollution.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 1897 fewer children with low lung function each year.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 158 fewer lung cancer cases each year.
          • On high air pollution days, 90 more children with asthma experience asthma symptoms than on lower pollution days.
          • On high air pollution days, there are on average 384 more hospital admissions for respiratory disease each year than on lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 613 more people to hospital for respiratory disease than lower air pollution days.
          • On high air pollution days, there are on average 93 more hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease each year than on lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 169 more people to hospital for cardiovascular disease than lower air pollution days.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 432 fewer cases of coronary heart disease each year.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 917 fewer asthmatic children with bronchitic symptoms each year.
          • Cutting air pollution by one fifth would result in 798 fewer children with a chest infection (acute bronchitis) each year.
          • On high air pollution days, there are on average 179 more hospital admissions for COPD each year than on lower air pollution days.
          • Each year on average, higher air pollution days can send up to 265 more people to hospital for COPD than lower air pollution days.

Air: one of the four elements, one of the four humors, it is our inspiration, it is essential for life. Yet we treat the air that we breathe as an invisible dump.

Pollution kills, the science is certain. And the more pollution there is, the higher the number of deaths and rate of disease. While the Clean Air Acts of 1952 and 1993 have made a huge difference to visible pollution in the air, there is still too little action to reduce pollution that is less visible.

Many places in the UK have flouted EU laws on air pollution, and with Brexit there is every chance that pollution may worsen, yet at least 40,000 people die prematurely each year due to air pollution and recent research shows the spikes in deaths on days when pollution peaks.

It’s not all about traffic either, even though the effects of PM2.5 and NOx from vehicles has the biggest impact on health. There is less evidence of the impact of chemicals, such as the perfumes pumped out in public toilets, on health but significant evidence that a large number of people struggle with them.

This is why we need to campaign to reduce air pollution.