by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management’s recently published Manifesto, the Institution calls for the introduction of an education and citizenship program on the environment for the entire UK population.

Technology will not provide all of the solutions we need to meet the challenges of climate change. We must instigate behavioral changes in order to become low carbon citizens, so CIWEM calls for the next Government to lead by example and begin an effective program of education and engagement.

It is not just a behavioral change that is needed but a total cultural change as well, as Daniel R. Wildcat says in his book “Red Alert! - Saving the Planet with indigenous knowledge” and he sure is right in that.

We must, and that pronto, reduce our impact on the Planet in the way we live and must understand that man is but a part of the web of life and not apart from it.

People often feel that they are not able to engage in behavioral change unless enabled to do so by institutions with wide ranging powers. Wider understanding of environmental challenges is therefore essential in order for the electorate to grant Government permission to impose potentially unpopular behavioral change that will help combat climate change.

The CIWEM’s Manifesto cites the success of the introduction of compulsory seat belt wearing and the smoking ban as clear indicators of how action at government level can measurably save lives through behavioral change.

The CIWEM is encouraged by existing programs on citizenship but believes this should be expanded to include environmental responsibility as part of a lifelong citizenship strategy. The CIWEM also supports calls to develop carbon literacy, which would help educate the public with regards to the levels of carbon emitted from various activities.

The CIWEM’s Manifesto says: “The public looks to the Government for strong leadership; this is not the time for procrastination. The Government, general public and business must recognize their responsibility and role in tackling climate change, in order to make more controversial policy measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change easier to implement. Informed and responsible citizens are more willing and able to become active within their own communities and engage in the political process.”

There is one word and attitude that disturbs me in the CIWEM’s statement and also the Manifesto and that is the call for government legislating things as to carbon reduction, etc.

I believe it must come – ideally – from the grassroots, from the people, with government acting but as a facilitator, for if we let government legislate then we can nigh on bet our lives that they are going to use this, and not just the British government, for controlling the people more and more.

This is where we have to be careful for our governments are far from benign and we let them do things at our peril.

© 2009