A few weeks ago the UK were proudly announcing that they were no longer burning coal in power stations. On the face of it this was good environmental news, a sign that we’re moving away from using such fossil fuels for our daily energy needs, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, and instead turning to renewables and greener forms of energy such as solar and wind. [link]
The key part here though is the reference to the Industrial Revolution. It’s not only that we have made a switch to greener power supply for our homes, but that there are less demands from big industry for big energy, for which solar and wind just wouldn’t cut it. Instead, the reality is that our country is no longer an industrial one and this news about the lack of coal burning is simply a reflection of the point we have now reached.
We shouldn’t necessarily be proud of this but instead consider where that industry has gone. The typical answer being China.
From China we get to import vast amounts of manufactured goods, from cars to kettles. They’re manufactured cheaply and we seemingly avoid the pollution caused by their polluting power stations which are largely coal-based. China continues to build coal power plants at the shocking rate of about one a week, while here in the UK we spend a decade squabbling over a single nuclear powered one and then give up (aka Wylfa B/Newydd). There is some good news from China though; there are “record increases in power generation from hydropower, wind, solar, nuclear and gas”, only now we have to see if they can reduce coal usage.
The buck doesn’t stop here though. With all of that stuff being manufactured in China and shipped to the UK, one has to think about all of the waste that we have to then deal with, a lot of it being plastic. Again, it’s cheaper for us to get someone else to deal with it, avoiding us the energy and environmental burden. Not good I think, and others are being landed with the burden for which they didn’t ask for:
Malaysia returns plastic waste to Britain saying it ‘will not be a dumping ground’ is a headline today. Shame on us; I think we need, as individuals and a country, to take responsibility for our own rubbish and this begins with thinking carefully about the things we buy and how it’s packaged, and what happens to that packaging once it is discarded. I just hope such containers like these don’t end up afloat in the ocean somewhere between countries while no one one takes responsibility.