Part 2: Is climate change really affecting us?
So, part 2 in the new series that questions if climate change is already affecting us in real terms. And by real terms, I don’t mean as proven by science and extensive research, I just mean by talking to the locals who have lived there for a long time or people who rely on the nature of their area and so would notice little changes. In part 1 I spoke to two young guys who teach surfing at Perranporth beach Cornwall. Scroll down to hear their musings.
Now let me introduce Andy Middleton, of TYF and St Davids on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast.
In 1986 Andy setup TYF adventure company, his previous back round being in teaching kayaking and surfing, when it came to finding a job in St Davids (probably the smallest city in the world) he just could not find one he liked. So he decided to create his own. And over 20 years later TYF is still going strong. It relies (obviously!) on the waves for surfing, the rivers and sea for kayaking, on the cliffs for coasteering, climbing and hiking, so who better to ask how, or even IF, the landscape they work and play in has changed.
Andy had just come back from the DO lectures, which he helped bring together, and spoke at too. All buoyed up on the amazing weekend and full of positivity, and with his inbuilt pragmatism, Andy refused to identify any possible changes in the coast he knows so well! Not because he refuses to acknowledge changes to his favourite place but because he is not keen to profess that things are changing solely due to climate change. I totally agree. There is no worse way to feed opposition and deniers than giving them ammo to the argument that our proclamations are based on bad science and theories which are yet to come to fruition. Also, the coast is a completely different terrain to that of inland Britain, where hills change shape over hundreds of years, and the condition of grassland and tracks is maintained. Where the sea is involved storms come and go, they bring with them rubbish from the other side of the world, they crash and bash rocks to the extent where whole areas of coastal paths can disappear overnight. The weather at sea can change in a second, a fact as old as time, and one that has killed so many people.
Why? Why bother even asking then? The only aim I have is to gain some insight into what is or isn’t changing around our isles, what the changes are caused by is not something I have the answer to, but I am just exploring where we are at right now.
The first thing Andy comments on is that tourists to the area around St Davids seem to be cycling everywhere. The roads are narrow but flat, perfect for bikes, crap for cars. Over the years visitors have realised they may as well just take to their bikes for reasons of ease, time efficiency, health and the guaranteed journey time! This is just one of a number of positive behavioural changes that Andy’s noticed being bought to the town by visitors and locals. 5 star eco-hotels are popping up, an appreciation of the organic and fresh produce on offer has led to a revival of the farm shops and a wild food festival every year. All over Wales you’ll come across farm shops with honesty boxes just sitting in the middle of nowhere. They give city dwellers the perfect opportunity to flex their veg box reflex and support local small scale producers.
Andy points out that there is a massive opportunity for the tourism sector to “lead the charge” for change; when families, couples and friends go on holiday they are relaxed and far more open minded to being gently taught that “different is better”. Somehow we need to translate this into main part of their lives, not just the 2 weeks they go away for. Habits die hard.
Andy, a beacon of positive action, says that TYF doesn’t just do the usual educating on things like if you litter it could end up here round the foot of a duck, but takes it a step further, and it makes the small actions far more empowering and wait for it……positive! Informing their adventurers that if they look after their wetsuit properly it’ll last twice as long, and therefore if they apply this rule to the material things in their life, they will eventually be able to halve their carbon footprint! They also teach about the possibilities that lie in biomimicry, for instance, at sea it’s easy to demonstrate how seaweed creates its own flotation in the form of air pockets inbuilt into it’s form; as opposed to our flotation devices which are ALL made from man made materials and petrochemicals-why?! If seaweed can do it so should we. Biomimicry is a really interesting avenue that’s being explored in lots of different ways at the moment, it basically means learning from and then putting into practical practice what nature already does. Mussels have some kind of super human super glue that attaches them to rocks and even when you stand on them they don’t budge! Or how can we use the knowledge that the silk a spider spins to weave its web is one of the strongest materials in the world (weight for weight)?
On a more naturey level, Andy says that at the moment they have lots more puffins, chuffs and other wildlife than they used to, because they coast has been made a Marine Conservation Zone. And TYF has never been seriously adversely affected by changes except for Mad cow disease and foot and mouth which effectively closes down the countryside. So, has Andy noticed a changing climate where he lives, well the answer is a resounding no! Except of course that awareness of the global problem has bought positive changes in behaviour and attitudes to the area. Most importantly, it has not affected his surfing, so the answer is a very hopeful no!