Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Even Clouds of Volcanic Ash have Silver Linings

Two days spent indoors during what have been the clearest and brightest days of 2010 left the sun-worshipper in me feeling mildly anxious. The Eco-warrior in me, on the other hand, was pleased to be soaking up the warm company of like-minded people at UK Aware. As the event drew to a close some curious and ironic connections between clear blue skies over London, volcanic ash clouds from Iceland, free merchandise from 10:10 campaigners and a slightly tamer-than-expected exhibition attendance began to reveal themselves. A clear success for its 3rd year running – UK Aware was certainly more than just about buying eco products. Inspiring activists such as founder of The Big Green Idea Brigit Strawbridge, and international environmental lawyer for planetary rights, Polly Higgins, shared their own personal passions with the public. Nevertheless, the footfall during the gathering was somewhat lower than expected. But who can blame potential punters for being drawn away from a conference centre whilst the weather outside was so stunning.
What interested me though was the reason for the skies of London being in such unusually pristine condition – attributed to the absence of vapour trails from the usual flights to and from airports in the capital. According to Plane Stupid this has saved 200,000 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted by the aviation industry each day that flights were cancelled. This is the same amount that would be produced by 100,000 households in a year! So it seems that the commuter's loss can be the campaigners gain – even if it did dampen the spreading of eco-messages at the UK Aware.
A further irony is added to the situation when we learn that the metal neck tags being handed out at the event to people signing up to 10:10 are made from the jet engine of a British Airways 747 which flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung in Indonesia in 1982 – resulting in the failure of all four engines. Read the full story of tags here. With the return of sunny weather and spring flowers to the UK, Mother Nature has put a smile on many faces this week. Many faces will still be frowning at her tremendous ability to bring international travel to a standstill too. It’s time to listen to Mother Nature’s minor grumbles of volcanic indigestion – maybe she’s trying to tell us something about our lifestyle.
Ian Tennant

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