The New Home Front – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The New Home Front (Report)

Written by Andrew Simms (co-author of The New Economics and Fellow of nef) for Caroline Lucas MP to launch the New Home Front initiative.

Published by: Caroline Lucas MP, House of Commons SW1A OAA, email:  web:  

nhf_coverThe New Home Front report was launched by Caroline Lucas, MP (Green Party) at the Imperial War Museum on Thursday 20th January 2010.

This report, which states that Britain needs to be put on a war footing to tackle climate change, energy security and several other ills, appears to be a politician's approach to wrap bad news in a palatable wrapper, such as the fact that we are near – very near actually – the end of cheap, abundant oil.

All I can say is that it was about time that something like this report was done that also the ordinary person can understand. Now the ordinary person must be able to get it and read it. We now need this publication sent to each and every household in this country so that everyone can read it. Downloading it is one way but not everyone has that capability.

We all need to get geared up and onto the “war footing” that is being referred to in the report as regards to climate change, energy security and the rest. There are so many issues that fall under that heading and with an approach as with the Home Front during World War Two we might, just about, be able to tackle a fair number of those.

Waste is one of those: Waste is such a big issue and that is waste as in waste – things thrown out, including food – to waste of energy, etc. We are throwing out tons and tons of food every day, much of it before it even gets to you and me. Then there is the food that households throw out, as well as restaurants, the kitchens of institutions, including the Houses of Parliament. While, in the days of World War Two that food waste was fed to thousands of pigs – not, not flying ones – nowadays that is no longer permitted.

During the days of World War Two things also were still repairable and there were people who could fix things, professionals as well as amateurs, and wireless sets, shoes and boots, etc. all were fixed by the people themselves or by the menders for this or that product. Today we lack the skills to do that and, and that is most important, the possibility to do so.

Most products today can no longer be repaired. They have been designed in that way so that no one, not even a mechanic, can open them to fix them, and as long as those conditions remain it just is nigh impossible to make things last, as they are designed not to. Only a change in approach can alter that.

What the report's author(s), however, forget to mention is that many people during World War II resented the rationing, the “utility” clothes, etc. and while most lived with it, so to speak, others used every measure possible to circumvent them. Spivs and smugglers did a roaring trade in some areas.

As far as the changes that we are facing now are concerned, and especially the serious pollution of our Planet, the exploitation of finite resources and, last but not least, the changing climate and energy security we must change our ways and we must do that yesterday.

With cheap, abundant oil nearing its end our way of life as we know it is going to change whether we like it or not. Cuban can and must be seen as an example and the war time experiences of fuel rationing also.

Heating will be a problem for many, if not most, as the majority of us in Britain have to rely on gas for our central heating system and on electricity to run the heating pumps, or even heat electric. Others who rely on heating oil for fuel their furnaces are probably worst of still. Wood is only used by a minority for heating and in some areas it is not permitted to burn any fuels that would smoke, such as wood, coal or even wood pellets. However, this will have to change.

What will also be an obstacle in implementing the New Home Front ideas is the fact that far too many people live, mentally, in an “entitlement society” believing, falsely, but nevertheless, that they are entitled to fuel for their cars, etc. and I can see the fuel thefts that are happening already and other thefts increasing.

The carrot and stick approach indicated in this report, and it seems to be more stick than carrot, where fines for waste and taxes are mentioned and suggestions that having a huge TV could be considered anti-social behavior is also quite obvious. I must say that I have seen this coming for along time. Never is a proper carrot being offered though.

Why are the British government and politicians in the country not prepared to pay people for recyclables, such as tin cans, bottles (plastic and especially glass), glass jars, and such? Other countries do it and it works very well indeed there.

This report, like so many other writings as regards to climate change, peak oil, etc. has already, within a day or so after its launch, attracted deniers and derogative comments. But what these people just don't want to see and understand is that the “business as usual” model of doing things can no longer (be allowed to) continue and they use all means to fight against the very notion of having to change and make changes. Nor can carbon credits and carbon trading get us anywhere.

The path outlined in “The New Home Front” may just about get us somewhere and the time for transition to this new path is now. There is a way to be won.

The report, “The New Home Front”, or shall we call it a booklet, should be sent, and I am serious here, to each and every household in Britain and goes hand in hand with the “Make Do & Mend” booklet that was produced and published by the John Lewis Partnership in 2009. This booklet could also do with a distribution to all households in the country.

We must get back to a semblance of the life that was the wartime years in Britain and America and people must learn the necessary skills to do all the things that will be needed. “The New Home Front” booklet will give some food for thought and the John Lewis' booklet would give them ideas as to whet to do and how. There is a war to be fought and won.

© 2011