In my time as a trade unionist and Member of Parliament for Erdington, I have seen tremendous change. Though there is much to applaud, the fact is that goods we consume are as likely to be produced thousands of miles away and not locally. This has led to a profoundly damaging impact on the lives of those who, traditionally, would have found employment in businesses producing the items we use. Birmingham, which may claim to be a ‘spiritual home’ for the car, has suffered a marked decline in the production of vehicles.
Industrialisation, particularly the internal combustion engine, made Birmingham, the ‘city of a thousand trades’, the destination for many immigrants, including the Irish like my Mum and Dad, who secured employment and better futures for their families. However, the pollution created as a result of this has led to a legacy that harms the continued existence of many millions. Greenhouse gases that have created climate change are a clear and present threat. According to the World Health Organisation, much in the news because of the coronavirus pandemic, climatic change that’s already occurred is estimated to result in over 250,000 premature deaths annually across the globe. Without policies explicitly dedicated to dealing with the way in which our economy functions, we risk reaching a ‘tipping point’ of average temperature increase which will make life impossible for, potentially, many hundreds of millions of people in areas of the world in which survival is perilous. It is essential that we support policies explicitly intended to ensure the rapid reduction of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon, that have proven so detrimental to the environment. Collectively we can alter our own lives as part of efforts to create a greener society that will protect the earth for the long-term.
I am passionate in my belief that change is possible. However, as my experience as an MP for a constituency with high levels of inequality and poverty, it is crucial that any change is not just ambitious in the objective of dealing with climate change, but radical in creating opportunity for all. The contributions presented by authors in this book underline the argument that developing a greener economy will potentially improve the environment through production of goods and services that are less harmful and benefit the economy.
Equally important, developing an economy based on green principles in which pollution and waste are drastically reduced will offer much needed employment. As such, the potential for a green economy will collectively make life better in terms of prosperity that is based on improvement in the prospects of future generations but not, as hitherto has been characteristic of traditional orthodoxy, through destruction of the earth’s precious resources and delicately balanced environment.
There is much to do and little time to achieve it before it’s too late.