Climate Communications

Friends, as you may know I am frustrated at the inappropriately slow response of our government to the climate emergency we all face.

And I have had a dawning realisation that no superbly written blog article, no gem of a Tweet, and no YouTube presentation is going to change things.

So this week, I took a step inspired by a (completely fictional) scene in the movie The Darkest Hour. In this scene, Winston Churchill ventures onto the London Underground in search of ‘the mind of the people’.

Similarly, in search of grasping ‘the mind of the people’ I spent a few hours this week standing by a small table on Teddington High Street asking passers by what they thought about about our Climate Crisis.

Unsurprisingly, a solid 99% of people politely ignored me. But a few people did stop by and I took pains to note down what they told me. And below is a non-fictionalised account of what happened.

In search of ‘the mind of the people’ on Teddington High Street. 

Monday 25th July

10:45 I set up in front of the sorting office at the end of Elmfield Road.

11:10. A lady stopped by to ask “What can we do?” The lady lived locally and came back a few minutes later and gave me a Bakewell slice she had just bought from the bakers. She said I looked lonely! I was touched by her kindness.

11:50 A DHL driver asked where Nando’s was?

12:00 A South African gentleman stopped by to tell me he didn’t believe climate change is caused by humans but that it was a natural process caused by volcanoes. I told him that humans emitted more CO2 than volcanoes and asked him where he thought the balance was between volcanoes and people in terms of emissions. As he left he told me solemnly that the “World will end with fire”.

12:10 A lady approached me to tell me about a neighbour of hers who was an architect with multiple cars. She also spoke of the Beckhams and their celebrity lifestyles with multiple flights, the Cambridge’s and their palaces that they use helicopters move between, the evil of people keeping dogs, and the many flights and helicopters associated with racing horses. 

13:00. A single lady aged 73 stopped by with lots of positive ideas. She had looked up installing a heat pump but thought she needed to change absolutely everything in her flat. At the same time a lady I had seen earlier with a Fortnum and Mason’s bag wanted to complain about the tactics of extinction rebellion which she thought just put people off. She had herself been delayed by an Extinction Rebellion protest on the way to a funeral

13:30 Stopped

Tuesday 26th of July.

10:51 Set up outside CarpetRight

11:09 A man passed by and said he didn’t want to talk about the climate crisis because it was upsetting

11:21 A nice lady stopped for a chat. She was very sympathetic, acknowledged that this was really a crisis of capitalism and consumption, and was sympathetic to extinction rebellion. She had been off meat for many years and had avoided flying for eight years. She had no real idea what we could do collectively.

11:30 A lady stopped by who seemed know everyone, E.g., the Pope, and Greta Thunberg, and she spoke to me for a long time.

11:40 My neighbour and one-time colleague at NPL, Gordon Edwards stopped by and said hello.

11:54 A nice lady was concerned and knew all the regular things one could do, but agreed that it didn’t quite match the scale of what was required. She was depressed by the previous night‘s Tory party debate in which nobody paid any attention to the climate crisis. Or indeed the crisis in health and social care.

11:58 A young man with a rucksack, nodded his head and said good morning. But didn’t stop

12:19 Interesting talk with lady from a nearby road. She was very worried and very concerned but didn’t know what to do. She lived a very frugal life, and she and her husband had no children but said that if she had children she would be very concerned for what they would inherit

12:31 Another one-time colleague stopped by. He said that it seemed like there was a cloud hanging over the world in the form of climate change, politics, and geopolitics. We agreed that it was important just to keep raising the subject when one had friends who are sceptics: Silence was an enemy.

12:44 A lady who works at TearFund, (a Christian International Development Charity with its headquarters in Teddington) stopped and said they have a kit to allow local churches to declare climate emergencies. She spoke about how Tear Fund saw action on a Climate Change as a theological issue (I said I think I would call it moral issue), because it involved justice and fairness and inequality.

13:07 A young man stopped by who is doing marketing and PR for a company called PATCH which is looking to market direct carbon removal for different companies. He suggested many things including that I focus on the monetary aspect of going green. He was enthused by the fact that private companies were becoming involved in the face of government inaction.

13:20 Stopped.

Reflections.

Friends, I don’t know what to make of this experience, but I felt it was valuable and I will keep doing it.

For the 99% of people who passed by, I feel they saw a person raising the issue on the street. Many would be embarrassed or fearful to stop and talk, but they saw the words ‘Our Climate Crisis’.

Of the 1% of people who stopped, several were profoundly concerned and were doing what they could in their personal lives, but they had more or less abandoned hope of coherent and serious government action on this.

In Winston Churchill’s fictionalised visit to the London Underground, the ‘mind of the people’ became apparent to him in just a few minutes, and with dramatic clarity. I am finding it a little more difficult to decipher their message, but I intend to keep trying.

9 Responses to “Climate Communications”

  1. Ross Mason Says:

    Action Man. No soapbox but.

  2. Ross Mason Says:

    One thing always springs to mind when I see a person standing – and usually protesting – the final few lines of Alices Restaurant.

  3. Michael Glossop Says:

    Fantastic effort Michael. Keep going!

    Mick

    >

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Thank you Mick. I don’t quite know what I’m doing – but I hope to find my way!

  4. Valerio Says:

    Hi, just listened to the show on bbc4 let me know when and where you set up next time. Happy to discuss. Best, Valerio.

  5. Paul Says:

    Could a sand or concrete heat sink use excess solar electricity and release as heat into a large living room. How would this design look like.
    Could it be a cheap design requiring no pumps or complex expensive items?

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Paul, Good Morning.

      Thermal storage overnight or over a few days is already part of building design. There are passive elements – large walls and floors – and some partially active elements such as wall-boards containing phase-change materials that stabilise the temperature.

      But the concept of the sand battery – in which a large quantity of cheap material is heated to extremely high temperatures with the aim to store heat for months – doesn’t really make sense because the heat losses are large for materials stored at high temperatures.

      Best wishes, Michael

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