Pubs must warm to the idea of the green agenda

Related tags Climate change Global warming

Combating climate change should be at the top of everyone's agenda, including local pub owners, says Andrew Jefford Imagine that you're lying on a...

Combating climate change should be at the top of everyone's

agenda, including local pub owners, says Andrew Jefford

Imagine that you're lying on a beach of white sand. The VAT return is done; takings are 20% up on last year; and the pub's been left in good hands. Suddenly, in the far distance, almost on the sea horizon, you notice a giant wave. It must be 20 or 30 miles away, but there's no mistaking it: a tsunami. Do you:

(a) turn and run like a greyhound?

(b) carry on reading your novel, telling yourself that it's still miles away and won't get to the beach for ages?

(c) assure yourself that it's probably a mirage, a trick of the light or the result of the

tequila sunrise you finished at the beachside bar half an hour ago. Anyway, you're quite happy where you are so why the hell should anyone or anything make you change your behaviour?

Climate change is that tsunami. And answers (b) and (c) represent the mindset of most of the world's citizens to the problem. Answer (a) may not be good enough, of course, but running like greyhounds is humanity's only chance. We are raising the percentage of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere by 2.4ppm (parts per million) every year at present; that's hard science. The reason for pessimism about the consequences is simple: it has happened before. Not within human history, of course; but the geological record shows that the earth has warmed in this way in the past, due to natural phenomena such as volcanic explosions. The results? Rising sea levels, desertification and extinction

episodes. Indeed, the fact that present-day

climate change is caused by human activity is, in a way, good news. In theory we can do something about it, whereas if the Norwegian Sea floor explodes - as seems to have happened 55.5 million years ago, releasing huge quantities of methane - we would be entirely


Our future at stake

Our challenge is that we have woken up to the problem rather late in the day. The full impact of the global warming we have already caused won't be felt for 50 years. It will - according to the University of Leeds's research published in Nature in 2004 - result in the extinction of 18% of all species on earth, even if we froze carbon emissions overnight. Of course, emissions will continue to rise for several decades, ensuring even more dramatic

consequences half a century down the line.

It's hard to believe that small individual actions on our part can make a difference - but what's the alternative? If you have any sort of stake in the future, and for most of us that means children and grandchildren, then we have to act. Not to do so is feckless, and an abuse of their love and trust in us.

Cut energy consumption

An environmental audit of the average pub is nothing to be afraid of. In principle, and

providing the majority of customers haven't made lengthy journeys to get there, a pub is an environmentally attractive location, where many people can gather in one place and

consume resources such as heat and light communally rather than individually.

Many licensees, of course, will be struggling with high gas and electricity bills, so there is every incentive to make buildings more fuel-efficient through grant-aided insulation and double glazing.

Solar panels and a wind turbine or two could be just the things to make a pub stand out, especially if your pub happens to be called The Green Man, The Windmill or

anything involving The Sun. Favouring local food in the kitchen is win-win formula, since it will be popular with customers and will cut back on carbon-pumping food miles.

One of the biggest disincentives for people wanting to make positive changes to combat global warming, is that reducing one's

carbon footprint is such a miserable

process. It involves staying at home, rather than spending the weekend in Venice or Reykjavik; it means driving a Honda Insight rather than a Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon; it means shopping at the local Spar, rather than belting off to Bluewater or Brent Cross; it means wearing thick jumpers in a cold house, instead of skimpy lycra tops in a show home.

Keeping it local

Here again, the pub can play a vital role, although it is the role it has always played in British society: chief spirit raiser for those whose lives are less exciting than they'd like.

British pubs and the environment stand to gain enormously by the locals staying

local. Any pub, which is also sustaining its community and providing service facilities over and above the normal pubby ones, is helping to cut journeys and save carbon.

Finally, the role of the pub as a debating chamber should never be forgotten. We are at the early stages of this subject entering public consciousness, and most people's thinking on it is far from joined-up.

There is no point being an assiduous

recycler of newspaper if you pig out on cheap Ryanair flights. The way we talk about

global warming to each other will change as time goes by, especially if the number of

climate-related catastrophes increases. Hosts shouldn't underestimate their power to

influence, as best they see fit, that debate.

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