I’m a student at Brampton College and sit on the Green Committee. Last term, I interviewed the Principal of Brampton College, Bernard Canetti, about the climate crisis and what he’s doing to help fight the situation.
How do you feel when you hear the term ‘global warming’?
I am concerned. I am concerned about whether, as a global community, we are going to do enough to reduce emissions. I am concerned about COP 26 – I am sure all the right noises will be made but the evidence is that the emissions are higher than they were in Paris. I think leaders are making sounds but are not taking the actions necessary. I am concerned about my children and you, the future generations. I think we are sleepwalking towards disaster.
Do you think there is still hope?
I do think there’s hope. I don’t think we are at a point of no return yet, but there is a real danger of reaching a tipping point. There’s only hope if everyone takes action now. My worry is that a majority of people are interested in other things which seem to me relatively trivial. Are we really going to take the level of seriousness needed?
Are you a strong believer that climate change is fully a result of human activity, and if so, what should we do about that?
I am not a climate scientist but my understanding is that the evidence is absolutely clear and unequivocal and 98% of relevant scientists agree. There are some sceptics around, and even if you were unconvinced from the point of view of doing no harm, I think we should take action, because if you’re wrong as a sceptic then the damage is too great. So I think as a precautionary principle we should act anyway. I think the evidence is absolutely clear.
Do you think as individuals we are responsible more so than the government or vice versa?
There is a responsibility for us to reduce emissions and consumption generally. But this is also too big for individuals to resolve so we do need governments to act to subsidise non-carbon alternatives.
Do you think electric cars are going to be the way forward?
Do you own an electric car yourself?
I have a hybrid car where I haven’t put any fuel in for over 2 months. I only put petrol in for long journeys and have a fully electric car on order. My wife has just changed to a fully electric mini. I personally do not want to continue to buy petrol. I am very mindful of gas, heating and so on and don’t want to contribute to burning fossil fuels. But, I have seen a range of stats looking at sales of new cars, the proportion of fully electric between 6-10% which is staggeringly low, and the government subsidy has been reduced from £3000 to £1500. The government has made a commitment which is good because we do need the infrastructure in place. They are definitely going to be the way forward.
Do you think there is more that Brampton can do in terms of transport?
I think there are things we can do. There are more things we can do. I think we can look at carpool sharing. Cycle to work scheme. We have just recruited an Environmental Coordinator to bring these initiatives together and to help move the college in the right direction.
What have you done both personally and professionally to help combat the climate crisis?
I have started to take steps to reduce consumption in general. We compost food at home. We recycle a high proportion of things. We’ve just introduced smart thermostats and most of our windows are double glazed. We use a green tariff for electricity and gas. Electric cars. I am trying to drive this environmental strategy forward as a key part of what the college is about. Obviously, we are here in order to provide the highest quality of education but I fear we are failing if we don’t ensure our students are educated on the climate crisis and we are doing everything we can in the college. We’ve just become members of the ‘1% for the Planet’ initiative – our pledge to donate 1% of all the college’s revenue to non-profit environmental charities. Last year we made donations to seven environmental charities, equating to £32k. This year, we aim to donate even more.
In terms of inspiring the youth, who do you look up to?
Yvon Chouinard is absolutely brilliant (1% for the Planet and founder of Patagonia). I think Bill Gates is doing really good work. I’ve just read his book which goes through all the different sectors to reduce Co2. Of course David Attenborough. He’s absolutely extraordinary and a wonderful, inspiring man. Joanna Macy, an environmental activist and author who talks about ‘Active Hope’ as a way of remedying the climate crisis.
To conclude, climate change is a very real thing, and as a young person, having people like Bernard to provide support has been incredible. In the Green Committee at college, students voices are regularly listened to; we have switched to non-toxic cleaning products and environmentally friendly options where we can. We are discussing further ideas and changes to the college, and I am excited to see what we achieve in the next few months.