THEY say self-awareness is a good thing. I pride myself on being aware of a deep-rooted competitive streak and so manage to keep it well hidden, except when faced with a pub quiz or a board game.
During these unfortunate occasions, the monster is unleashed. This week, my focus is outward rather than inward and I am tripping over green awareness weeks. During the next seven days we will experience World Poetry Day, World Forestry Day, World Day for Water and World Meteorological Day. I know what you’re thinking. One of those is a red herring. Wrong! Environmental poets are alive and kicking – what better subject to agonise over than the fate of the planet?
Wordsworth’s musings about daffodils are all very well, but if he was around today he wouldn’t just be admiring them, he’d most likely be querying whether early blooms were due to climate change. World Poetry Day (on Wednesday) was established by the United Nations in 1999 and today you can find some truly awful environment-themed poems online on a par with “man is bad, it makes me sad, using Earth’s resources for his own evil purposes”. That one was a Pearson original, but you get the idea. Luckily there are more credible alternatives – poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s collection, The Bees, includes a response to the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit. Al Gore has penned a global warming poem too, a wistful ditty where “a floating continent disappears”.
Let’s move on before my glaring lack of knowledge about poetry threatens to melt this column faster than Al Gore’s ice caps. World Forestry Day (also Wednesday) is closer to my heart. According to the UN, forests cover 31 per cent of Earth’s land and store over a trillion tonnes of carbon. The more trees the better, for many reasons – habitats for wildlife, building materials, medicines, fuel and food, and for just looking fantastic. I could stare at trees for hours. I couldn’t read poetry for hours. Feel like celebrating World Forestry Day on a bigger scale? Hurry along to a voluntary tree-planting event – organisations to try include the Community Woodland Association, BTCV, Trees for Life, Borders Forest Trust and the Woodland Trust.
Another day, another cause and this time it’s World Day for Water (Thursday). The big picture this year involves the water required for food production. The UN informs us that, of the seven billion people on the planet, most of us drink from two to four litres of water every day, but the majority of this is embedded in the food we eat. The UN’s aim is to highlight water shortages and encourage us to follow a more sustainable diet, consuming products that are less water-intensive. You can delve into the cold, hard facts at www.unwater.org/worldwaterday.
Finally, Friday is World Meteorological Day (www.wmo.int/worldmetday). Scientists tell us that weather is not the same as climate, usually in response to non-scientists who scoff at the idea of growing pineapples in Hawick any time soon. The UN wants us to start thinking on a global scale about everything from farming to flood-protection. I’m intrigued but struggle to find a personal level.
None the less, the UN’s initiative is going to help countries manage risks and “seize the benefits” of a changing climate. Pineapples in Hawick? Not impossible.