Green Alliance: can politicians save us? (Jul07)

Giles Chitty and Julia Hailes at Green Alliance Debate Jul07

Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) whispered in my ear that he didn’t suppose I would make any jokes in my presentation because women don’t make jokes! He looked a bit surprised when I said that I was starting my speech with an anecdote about Stuart Rose, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer, telling me that he liked my tights. OK, so that’s not exactly a joke – but it was light-hearted.

However corny his jokes, the audience responded to Matthew’s laid back approach (he said he didn’t care whether he won the debate or not). We were supposed to be jointly opposing the motion ‘Is it up to politicians to save us?’ in a debate organised by the Green Alliance. Supporting the motion was Mark Lynas, a writer and environmental activist and Phil Bloomer, campaigns and policy director at Oxfam.

Not surprisingly there was actually a significant amount of agreement between the ‘sides’, which meant there was possibly more debate about the validity of the motion than about the question.

But from my perspective a couple of points emerged. First is that leaving the environmental agenda to politicians leads people away from taking personal responsibility. So, for example, when government sets targets for a significant reduction in CO2 I think many people feel that these objectives have been achieved and there’s nothing more to be done.

The second is that changing consumer behaviour has both a direct and indirect impact. So, for example, you may make a small difference by being more energy efficient but have a larger impact in demonstrating to both business and government that you support green measures.

Perhaps I was biased but when the audience voted at the end by raising their hands, there seemed to be an increase in those opposing the motion. Matthew’s jokes won the day!

Posted originally on Telegraph Blogs by Julia Hailes on 24 Jul 2007 at 13:56
Tags: Politicians, Environment, Matthew Taylor, Green Alliance, Mark Lynas, Phil Bloomer, personal responsibility

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