Elizabeth II - Queen for 21,900 days
Elizabeth II - Queen for 21,900 days

Queen Elizabeth will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee – 60 years  – in 2012. I can still remember the Silver Jubilee in 1977, when I was at the grand old age of 9. Mine was one of probably millions of gaudily illustrated children’s cards winging their way to her Majesty to congratulate her on her 25 years on the throne.

I remember doing an exercise at school to say what I would do if I were queen for a day. I seem to recall imposing some horrendously over-the-top punishment for dropping litter, so maybe even then I had a certain awareness of the need to take care of the Earth.

Now my decrees might be a bit different – but still mostly Earth-oriented:

– no plastic or styrofoam packaging – including takeout containers, coffee cups, and packaging on technology. ALL would have to be biodegradable – as would all doggy poop bags.

– free broadband wireless internet in every town center

– government subsidies on public transport, with schedules for trains, buses and tubes all coordinated so that it is quicker, cheaper and easier to use public transport than private cars

– massive investment in extending the network of paths for cyclists and pedestrians, so it is safe and pleasurable to use human-powered transport

– an end to global hunger, war and injustice – so we could stop fighting each other and start fighting our shared problem instead

Hmm, I think that will do for my first week in power, anyway…

From our western democratic perspective, it’s almost impossible to contemplate 60 years in power. Although 60 years of a bad ruler would obviously be undesirable, it would be interesting to see if the longer term in office encouraged a shift towards longer term thinking – in itself a kind of wisdom. We would have to think carefully how we would exercise our power if we had to live with the consequences for the next 60 years.

Our prevailing system of short term government has many advantages, but (at least) one serious flaw – it discourages leaders from addressing long-term problems. We have been aware of the possible existence of anthropogenic climate change for the last 20 years, but it was a political hot potato, being tossed rapidly from hand to hand down the years. Nobody wanted to deal with it. There was a perception that to tackle the problem would be costly, difficult, and unpopular with the electorate. So leave it to the next government.

So we are now 20 years deeper in trouble, with CO2 reaching critical levels, and still there is reluctance to hang onto the hot potato – and it’s getting hotter all the time. In Copenhagen, will our leaders finally have the moral courage to do what needs to be done for the long term future of our species – and the many other species who are suffering the side-effects of our addiction to fossil fuel? I hope so.

Public perception is changing, and decisive action on climate change would now be popular with a significant proportion of the electorate. Most people are concerned about it, and are looking for strong leadership. Although in an ideal world we would all take responsibility for going green, in the real world most people are too overburdened already. If national policy made it easier to do the right thing – to recycle, use public transport, and so on – this would be a huge step in the right direction.

Do you ever think about what you would change if you were running the world? For the purposes of this exercise in fantasy, you don’t have to get anything passed by Congress. You don’t even have to worry about whether you will be re-elected. You can choose whatever you like – a ban on facial hair, mandatory training in good manners, a three-day working week, free caramel lattes for all.

What would you do, and why?

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  • This is a hard one :). Although I agree with you on all your ideas the one that sticks out the most, for me, is no styrofoam or plastic. I love that one. Why? Because every time I buy something there is always a pang of guilt about what this is doing to the environment and if the manufacturers fixed that problem I wouldn’t have to worry. (I know sounds selfish but, there you go) Also, I think I would make everyone become a waiter for at least 6 months, just for kicks. Why? Tipping is a lost art. 🙂

  • I would put an immediate and total stop to any and all fishing of every kind in any saltwater on Earth. A moratorium of any and all harvesting of anything from any ocean or sea.

    And I’d put in place Pollution Police to clean the Earth’s rivers and streams. Roz, you have missed rivers and estuaries, unlike friends who cruise on sailboats to South East Asia and many other places. Their descriptions are saddening, at best.

  • No more Plastic? No radio or television, no computers, no telephones, no ocean rowboats…

    No saltwater fishing? How many people aroung the world will then starve to death?

  • I absolutely believe Abraham-Esther Hicks teachings about the Law of Attraction. So if I were in control of all human beings for a day I would require everyone to learn about their guidance system. I would teach them how to appreciate diversity and learn how to be in sync with their greater selves so as they can learn to control themselves instead of trying to control each other.

    The second thing I would do is have humanity stop working against nature. Nature has cycles and I believe people would be a great deal happier and healthier if they learned how to get in sync with nature instead of challenging it or working against it.

    I believe learning both of these things would heal the earth and humanity. The biggest adversary in achieving all of this is fear which makes me believe that people don’t understand or trust the Creator of all creation.

  • After reading the comments in the SF Chronicle or for that matter any article in MSN, it is way apparent to me that this country has an epidemic of emotionally challenged people.It is way aparent they don’t understand their emotions and they certainly don’t know how to control them and in so doing they have absolutely no control of their own lives. They are miserable and in return they try to make everyone else’s lives miserable. The earth is being effected by this ill behavior.

  • re: “government subsidies on public transport”

    The more subsidized something is, the less efficient it is, by definition. I analyzed our county government’s bus system 20 years ago, and concluded that it spent so much money that it generated far more car trips (by the people paid by the transit system) than it eliminated (by people who used the transit system). The more you increase a subsidy the more problematic this irony becomes.

    Even without regards to the economics of subsidy, the giant diesel-belching buses were simply not efficient transport, compared to modern compact cars, and made the roads less efficient for everyone blocked by these behemoths. Most of the time they drive around mostly empty, and the more subsidy you add, the more and emptier buses there are driving around. Private cars operate only when utilized, and get more efficient every year (apart from SUV’s, and those drivers won’t get on a bus, even if you pay them).

    I forget who made the observation, but it is apt: “Most people support public transit on the theory that *other* people will get off the road, but have no plans to change their own driving habits.”

  • At the risk of sounding very far out on the edge, I would say that “Peace on Earth Begins With Birth”. When our mothers and babies are subjected to technological and frequently unnecessary interventions, when birth goes on someone’s clock other than the baby’s, when we hurry to separate mother and babe by clamping and cutting the umbilical cord as fast as we can, and rush to “extract” the miraculous organ–the placenta–that sustains growing life, only to throw it away, how can we then expect them to care about nature, or even recognize their relationship to the natural world? The Inuit believe that if the placenta is not buried near where the child was born, the child will not know where its home is. Many Inuit women have to fly far south to give birth because there aren’t enough midwives in the far north of Canada and those babies’ placentas are lost to their families. When we disconnect ourselves from nature, when we educate our children about nature by showing videos and PowerPoints instead of going out into the natural world, how can we expect them to honor it, let alone have any understanding of it? See “Last Child in the Woods” for more on this latter topic. The western world has become rich on technology and in doing so forgotten that we are all in relationship with nature, all of the time. And . . . we have forgotten how to trust birth and the mothers and babies who have been doing it in the longest clinical trial in the history of humankind. What are a baby’s first imprints as it enters the world? A bright light, cold air, a suction tube or bulb, flying through the air to a warmer and unknown hands drying, rubbing and manipulating, only returning to the known world–the mother, once examined and bundled up so no skin-to-skin contact can reassure the little one that they are home and safe. Such careless handling gets paid forward during life with disregard for nature’s needs. Sorry to be so verbose, but if we want to change how people treat the natural world, we have to begin by treating new people with the loving respect we wish them to accord their world.

  • When our mothers and babies are subjected to technological and frequently unnecessary interventions, when birth goes on someone’s clock other than the baby’s. – Claire

    You have no idea how that hits home with me. Last Monday I accompanied my and son, grandson and daughter-in-law to the hospital for the birth of my granddaughter. The first thing they did after she was born was to insist that the newborn infant have a hepatitis B shot. I will leave it as this…..I was a completely beside myself. I agree with you whole heartedly.

  • When we disconnect ourselves from nature, when we educate our children about nature by showing videos and PowerPoints instead of going out into the natural world, how can we expect them to honor it, let alone have any understanding of it? – Claire
    How true is this? You have to remember nature is now “owned”!
    You can’t even imagine how I can relate to this.

  • Claire, Roz was thinking what is it that we should do to make people aware of the environment issues. When you see video’s and PowerPoints one has NO IDEA what is going on in our environment. The only way people become aware is when they interact with it and in order for children to become aware of it someone needs to teach the parents. Parent are too busy in their cubicles to pay attention. Children should be a number 1 priority.

  • You heard that the government is thinking of keeping our children in those cubicles longer, eh? Won’t that be a good thing!

  • When I’m queen for a day, all new construction and development will be turned to renovation and refurbishing and improvement instead. There will be no more cutting down of forests for buildings and parking lots.

    Leaf blowers will be outlawed and people will have to use nice, quiet non-gas-powered rakes.

    Abandoned housing and business developments would be converted back to wildlife habitat via mostly manual labor.

    My marriage would be recognized outside of Canada.

  • Joan – totally agree about leaf blowers! Absolute bete noir – cannot stand the things!! What is wrong with a rake?? Quieter, more effective, and a lot less polluting.

  • I fully support each individual being environmentally responsible, and have great disdain for those that use climate change to line their pockets and give them self importance and promotion.

    What we all can do is behave responsibly, and not turn environmental issues into money making scams such as carbon offsets cloaked in phony righteousness, lies and “solutions”. Some environmental groups say that instead of buying carbon offsets, each person should do the hard work themselves: use less electricity, switch from coal to wind power, drive less, get on a bicycle.

    And yes, if you are seriously concerned how about fly less? It’s disingenuous to pay into the carbon offset scam to allegedly “offset” the carbon cost of flights for a filmmaker arriving in the UK from America. Why do you need a film make anyway? I thought this was all about saving the planet, but instead it is again to simply draw attention to your own self-centeredness. People are usually uncomfortable when they are deceitful. For your book promotion flying back and forth across America, and flying your group out to take you pictures of you in Tarawa you put over 92,594 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere, not exactly an accomplishment to be proud of. That is what the average UK citizen produces in carbon into our atmosphere over the course of three and one half years.

    If global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call it is so bad that the planet on which we live is literally on the brink of catastrophe, as you have continually told us, I would think you would do anything it takes to get the job done — including giving up your vanity and money grabbing under the guise of environmental concern. Can it really cost $5,000 to make a 200 mile walk? What about using your book advance, stop scamming people.

  • IMO whining about leaf blowers is a mistake – an easy way for would-be environmentalists to alienate the general public. In addition to the naked hostility, it parades one’s ignorance of technology. Leaf blowers do jobs a rake can’t, e.g. clearing large areas of concrete in seconds, or removing leaves from an area where a rake would destroy the landscape (e.g. mossy areas). FWIW I spend as much time raking as blowing, and both of my blowers are electric.

    Some carbon credits are legitimate, a market mechanism that efficiently allocates money to projects that offer the most bang for the buck, either reducing carbon emissions or sequestering carbon.

    Some carbon credits are fraudulently created as a form of foreign aid, ironically aggravating the CO2 problem instead of mitigating it. Environmentalists buying such credits are wasting their money.

    A major design failure of the Kyoto accords was treatment of foreign aid as interchangeable with actually doing something about CO2. If environmentalists want to be taken seriously (and address global warming), we must repudiate this mistake and eject the foreign aid parasites from the system, to allow dollars paid for CO2 remediation purposes to flow to real remediation projects.

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