“Carbon Detox” by George Marshall

At Woking Local Action 21’s AGM on Wed 10 June, George Marshall presented his amusing and provocative one-man show, “Carbon Detox”. Based on his book of the same name, his show illustrated how to detect and overcome climate denial.

Using amusing anecdotes and analogies, George asked us to imagine how we would feel if we awoke on a roller coaster once it was under way. That, he suggested, would be how we felt if we did not wake up to the fact that climate change was already happening and accept the fact, acknowledging in the process how scared we all were. This would then allow us to start acting appropriately.

He went on to describe how to take personal action to respond to climate change, using a simple carbon footprint walking demonstration. Using one pace to symbolise a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, he demonstrated that the average UK emissions per person, excluding flying, equated to ten paces. Flying, averaged over the whole population, equated to another 4 paces (ie 4 tonnes per person). By contrast, eliminating plastic bags would reduce one’s footprint by one millimetre, and turning one’s TV off at the wall all the time, was equivalent to about 5 millimetres.

He elaborated on a number of simple and effective ways to reduce national and individual footprints, including improving all houses to current insulation standards (1 ½ paces), decarbonising electricity (2 ½ paces), eating a local, seasonal and low meat diet (1 pace) and a number of other solutions, relatively easy to implement.

He highlighted that a positive response to climate change would inevitably result in a greatly improved quality of life, as we found more time for friends and family and local entertainment, ate a healthier diet and found time to become involved in meaningful pursuits. Lower traffic levels and shorter commute distances would improve air quality and noise levels too.

Questioned about whether individual actions would provide a rapid enough response to climate change, or whether political action was needed as well, he replied that he didn’t believe that political action would happen until there was sufficient groundswell of public opinion to motivate policy changes. In the long term, he anticipated that there would need to be a number of significant policy changes, including some form of carbon rationing and financial measures to incentivise a low carbon economy.