If you've read our environment Monday column before, you can skip this paragraph. It just explains what it is all about. So you want to save the planet, combat climate change, leave a legacy for your children that you can be proud of but you just don't know where to start? I started the Environment Monday series of blogs to try and spread a few practical ideas, things that are practical and work. I'd love your ideas, guest blogs and help. The old adage of think global, act local has been my mantra for decades. If we all start with ourselves, look at our lifestyles, look at the small changes we can make in our carbon footprint, on our own we will make a miniscule difference, but if we do it and it works, maybe our friends will sit up take, notice and over time (which is precious), together we can start to make a big difference. Each week, we will explore a different theme, a different way that we can all make a difference.
Did you see this tweet at the weekend?
This got me thinking. The Post Office sorting office in Mill Hill has been there for decades. Most Mill Hillians will at some point have made the journey to collect a parcel or registered letter. We see the posties making their way around Mill Hill, delivering our letters. I know most of them, some I went to school with, others I have had a pint with, some I just know from the friendly morning greetings as letters are delivered. I am a big fan of the Post Office. When I used to work as an IT consultant, I worked on the Post Office Cardholder Account project. This system enables people on benefits to be paid cash at Post Offices. This system has provided the financial support to keep many small post offices open. It is safe to say that I am a fan of the Post Office.
One of the sad things about the Post office is that we've had appalling governments that do not see the opportunities for using the Post Office as a tool for improving the environment. There are many things that have actually been regressive rather than progressive in the way the Post Office operates. Saving cash has been the number one driver in most developments in the mail delivery systems. Delivery of packages is one of the huge growth areas in producing pollution. This demonstrates the lack of joined up thinking.
If I was Prime Minister, I'd enact a 100% tax on all parcel deliveries that are not done using carbon free technology. The Post Office used to be one of the most green organisations, without really trying. They had a dedicated electric railway to move mail around London, producing zero emissions and zero congestion. They used to move most of their regional mail by rail, the least polluting of modes of transport. Posties would walk their rounds. Sadly in the name of cost efficiency, the Royal Mail underground was closed, bulk mail was moved from rail to road, vans replaced a lot of the walked rounds. The reason? The Post Office has to compete with private delivery services that can cherry pick the lucrative contracts. They are always at a financial disadvantage. An enlightened government would recognise the huge amounts of pollution that all of these vans are creating and seek to force these companies to 'go green'. It would be great to see the Post Office go all electric, with long distance mail going back on the rails. This will only happen when it becomes financially viable. This is where government legislation comes in. An added bonus to this would be that the more traffic we have on the railways, the better the case becomes for electrification, investment and line re-openings.
The line of vans parked on Sunday outside of the sorting office is an example of how we've gone wrong. There should be cables charging the batteries of all of them. That can only happen when the government gets it act together. The Post Office is just one example of a large, formerly nationalised organisation which could make a huge difference to climate change. The decision by the government to halt the electrification of the Midland Mainline, ensuring a reliance on polluting diesel traction is a scandalous example of bad decision making. The airports used to be run by the government, British Airways was nationalised these are now all run by private companies. Their whole mission is to promote air travel and footfall at their airports. Their board level decision making process is all about maximising profits. Whilst that means we've got nice, bright, shiny airports it also means that protecting the environment is way down the list of priorities. When it comes to choosing how to get from London to Manchester or Edinburgh, few people ever think of the pollution we produce. We look at the price of a ticket and the time it takes.
When these large companies and corporations were privatised, no one said "is it a good idea to move organisations that could drive social good into the private sector, where profit is the only purpose for their existence?". All the government of the day looked at was how they could make some money. Now we have a global climate crisis and the government has no control over the organisations that are driving the problems. If we want to move to becoming a carbon neutral nation, we need to take tough decisions and these will come with a cost. But the solutions are at hand. Electric vehicles are a part of the solution, renewable energy sources are another part. But changing what we do is a key. For us to buy into it, we need to see the government and big business taking the lead. The solutions are there, why don't we use them.