WORDS Grant Runyon
ILLUSTRATION Tasha Reis
Spring is the season of renewal, of new beginnings, of giving yourself diabetes from too many hot cross buns. It’s a time for reflection and with every year I have more reason to focus on the green new beginnings part. I spend the winter holed up like a depressed bear, grimly ruminating on the state of the world and the environmental doom that awaits us – nevertheless, all it takes is daffodils and one weekend of sunshine and I abandon apocalyptic thinking in favour of eating all my meals in the garden and trying to go to work in flip flops.
I don’t entirely forget about the environment until October, but there’s a tendency to let things go on as they are as long as there’s fresh new potatoes and the possibility of sunburn. This voluntary amnesia is comparable to my other vice, hitting snooze on the alarm clock, with the difference that being late to work probably won’t result in a future where Grouville resembles Atlantis.This year I’m taking the theme of new beginnings seriously and trying to imagine a future, a green future, where our Island doesn’t just weather the problems of climate change but embraces new ways of doing things to become a leader in sustainability. I’m tired of imagining a world where we choke in miles of traffic (a.k.a. the first rainy morning after half term) and will use my green Spring energy to dream of a better future – where either we sort the environment out, or I miss the traffic because I’ve spent another 45 minutes in bed.
GREEN DREAM #1: BECOME A ZERO WASTE ISLAND
Like all developed societies Jersey generates an obscene amount of waste. Unlike other places we don’t have the liberty of ignoring it – we have finite space to bury things and there’s no point dumping rubbish in the sea because the tides will circulate it around the coast like manky plasters in a hotel jacuzzi. The solution is to produce less waste, but we need to do more than leaving our Amazon cardboard out for the Parish once every two weeks. We are comfortable blindly consuming every product of modernity but I suspect that if we had to pay the actual costs of dealing with waste we’d revert to a level of thriftiness not seen since 1943. Newcomers often say that Jersey people are inherently stingy: give us enough of an incentive and we’ll buy all our clothes from the Hospice shop and repair everything until our houses resemble the set from The Wombles. It will be easy to remember that food waste is a bad thing when carrier bags are a tenner each and you get prosecuted for throwing away a bruised apple. Disposable baby wipes? Rinse them off and hang them out to dry, or use a handful of sea lettuce. Want a new TV? You’ll manage with one from the 1990s that only shows repeats of Noel’s House Party. Kids won’t need expensive textbooks at school, because they’ll be learning to read from old issues of this magazine; I’m already well ahead of the curve by recycling my own ideas.
GREEN DREAM #2: EUROPE’S TOP SPOT FOR ECO-TOURISM
Tourism has been experiencing a slow decline since the 1980s, much like my hairline, and most of the solutions that have been offered have been making the best of a bad situation – the equivalent of wearing a hat indoors. We urgently need to change course before we reach the comb-over stage. I dream of a future for Jersey as a destination for eco-tourism, when the problems caused by the impact of air travel encourage people to consider a more planet-friendly trip to a destination close to home – via a carbon-neutral passenger ferry powered by sails and a solar panel the size of People’s Park. We don’t have the whales and jaguars of eco-tourism destinations like Costa Rica, but I’ve been to the Eden Project and am confident that we could whack a few more domes on top of Fort Regent and convert the place to a real-life jungle gym. Durrell already has the animal breeding centre, so perhaps we could encourage them to share knowledge with Tamba Park to breed some very special animals for a very special tourism attraction. What could possibly go wrong?
GREEN DREAM #3: A PIONEER OF ECO-HOMES
One of the largest contributors to humanity’s carbon footprint is the effects of construction, and if there’s one topic that universally interests Jersey people it’s the positive and/or negative effects of building new homes. We can solve this problem by ensuring that Jersey is a world-leader in sustainable home building. Aspiring home owners might have to change some of their expectations, but the bottom rungs of the property market are so competitive you could sell anything that isn’t literally constructed out of depleted uranium and asbestos. This would mean that my proposals for a “charming, hobbit-like eco village” (flats, but mostly underground) will be snapped up in minutes, as well as an “ecological animal lover’s paradise” – a network of Ewok-style treehouses constructed in the Tamba Regent Durrell dinodome. We also joke about having a bridge to France, but it would be more cost efficient just to extend the moorings in Gorey harbour about 14 miles to the East and offer a discount for houseboats. You’ll be able to walk to Europe right across the solution to our housing crisis.
GREEN DREAM #4: A DESTINATION FOR THE ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE
The big story in the news in recent months is the suggestion that we might put some of our retired glasshouses to work growing a very profitable crop: medicinal cannabis. The promoters of this scheme have “high hopes” that we can corner the market in strictly-regulated legal weed, although they’re all at pains to suggest that we shouldn’t want to actually smoke any of it ourselves. I personally don’t need help from drugs to doze off during Countdown or overdose on Jaffa Cakes, but many people feel that medicinal cannabis doesn’t go far enough. The same “medicinal” argument was initially used in places like California – before they quickly moved to full legalisation after working out how much money it would bring in. If we’re trying to secure first mover’s advantage in the wacky-baccy market we may want to cut to the chase, and go full Amsterdam straight away – although maybe we can do without the brothels or the appalling service in restaurants. This is a different kind of green tourism, but it fits very well with my other ideas. The type of people who go to California or Amsterdam for herbal holidays will be even more attracted to a place where the locals recycle all their clothes and live in kooky Hobbit burrows underground. The steamy jungle domes that dominate the St Helier skyline will tempt them in, and like the Eden project we could use the revitalised Fort to host festivals for the hordes of ganja-loving cruise passengers that will disembark at the Gorey mega-marina. We need to turn Mount Bingham into Mount Bongham before Guernsey steal any of my ideas.