Mike Clayton: ‘Environment’ isn’t just about melting ice caps

Perth is aiming to become UK City of Culture in 2021. Picture: John Devlin
Perth is aiming to become UK City of Culture in 2021. Picture: John Devlin
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On 1 June, ­Donald Trump pulled the United States out of its ­commitment to the Paris Agreement claiming it would cost America $3 trillion in lost GDP, and 2.7m jobs by 2025. Curiously, given his concern for putting American jobs first, it’s estimated that his repeal of Obamacare will cost 3m jobs.

His America First slogan played well to voters, conveniently overlooking that, while it claims to have reduced its CO2 footprint by 18 per cent between 2000/14, the US, with only 4 per cent of the world’s population, is responsible for 33 per cent of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. His hollow claim: “The United States will continue to be the cleanest, most environmentally friendly country on Earth.”

On most days this would’ve been BIG news – longer term, it may prove to be. However, this story has been overshadowed by election news and terror attacks in London and Manchester. The nature of these events has, temporarily, diminished the impact of Trump’s selfish decision.

For many people, the word ‘environment’ makes them think of climate change, ­pollution, melting ice-caps, rising sea levels, homeless polar bears, greenhouse ­gases, sustainable energy. But for others it can mean their immediate surroundings, their towns and their homes.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy demonstrates how appearances can be deceptive: the money spent on refurbishing and ‘improving’ the facade of Grenfell Tower seems to have contributed to its destruction. Cosmetic ‘improvements’ to properties shouldn’t be at the expense of resident safety. Closer to home, Perth & Kinross Council was quick to respond – issuing a statement to reassure tenants in the few multi-storey blocks here. Hoping to win the City of ­Culture 2021 title, Perth is trying hard to improve the cultural and urban environment and the council should be commended.

Investing in civic infrastructure brings employment, improves facilities, and more visitors to the city.

However, before we get ­carried away with self-congratulation, there are still areas where improvement is necessary. In some of the ‘aesthetically challenged’ properties, funding could go a long way in preserving the character of the town’s urban core and improve ­safety and living conditions for ­residents.

Perth has buildings to rival Edinburgh’s New Town, but with better views and ­lower prices. However, not far from the elegant Georgian facades there are ­properties which might be considered ­unacceptable in the 21st ­century.

Tenements with wooden common stairs ­providing the only access, or escape in the event of fire, still exist here. The shared toilet on the stair landing may be gone but little else has changed since the 50s. In March, the entrance floor of a tenement stair in the city ­collapsed, injuring a woman.

The legacy of the ­Grenfell Tower fire should be improved safety legislation and funding, to ensure that all residents have a safe environment to live in. In 2017, is it too much to expect?

Mike Clayton, lives in Perth and writes Paul R. Bear’s enviro-blog http://paulrbear.wordpress.com