Is that? Is that really? It is. It's an ostrich.
A flat light fighting through the drizzle at the top of a one kilometre climb and only the sound of my thoughts for company I considered whether our 258 mile cycle from Bristol to COP21 in Paris would change anything, I pondered how else I could communicate the scale of the problem of climate change. Just at the brow of the hill though, my breathing heavy and my legs burning, out of the corner of my eye I saw an ostrich, with its head buried in the sand. My musings after that point focused on whether I would in my mind call that ostrich Dave, or George.
Cycling from Bristol to Paris in November isn't something that immediately springs to mind as a great idea, but that was kind of the point, we needed people to ask us why we were doing it. This initial thought process was compounded when I told friends and colleagues that it was to get to COP21, and they responded by asking what COP21 was. I explained that COP21 is arguably the most important climate conference yet and the platform for negotiations about the greatest challenge the planet and its people face; a bigger challenge than terrorism, than migration and than the pursuit of limitless economic growth. The questions that tended to follow were more pointed and can be summarised in the following sentiment: 'alright then, you go and sort that out, and leave us real people to deal with the real problems.'
This to me highlighted one of the Government's biggest environmental failures. The 'greenest government ever' has failed to communicate the scale of climate change, the urgency of climate action and the impact and relevance of climate injustice. Removal of solar subsidies and willful ignorance of the economic benefits of investment in renewable energy alone is enough to raise the blood pressure of anyone who cares, for example, about food shortages leading to increased prices hitting the poor the hardest, extreme weather events that will leave many less developed areas of the world isolated, diminishing biodiversity and fish stocks and increasing global inequality.
So why doesn't the government care? Why did it abandon its 'zero carbon homes' policy? I suspect the pressure from industry outweighed the passion of the people (a balance I strongly believe needs readdressing). When short-term political gain defeats meaningful long-term strategy, we must stand together and say that everyone's voice counts, especially those who are going to be the most affected when the proverbial hits the fan.
So that's why I cycled to Paris. Passion. It was of course fitting to use a low carbon method of transport, and it was certainly a bonus for the wallet, but really I just felt I had to do something else, something more. If everyone did just a few things differently, the horizon may look a little brighter. I've always thought cycling is a great metaphor for challenge. And so to mix my metaphors, I want the people of the UK to put pressure on the government to get their heads out of the sand and get back on their bikes and pedal up the hill, not stand around mid way talking about the quickest route to the bottom.