Comment: Ice creams are great – but we’ll have to eat them faster

It’s not often ice cream vans and big banks have something in common.
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But they are both a sign we’re not yet ready to save the planet.

Running a diesel engine to produce ice creams is an enduring but harmful feature of summer. Big banks’ multi-billion pound investments in fossil fuels are pretty damaging too.

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They’re why Extinction Revolution was protesting in Sheffield again this week. This time it was Barclays, HSBC and Santander, last week they were hanging banners off road bridges, last year they were stopping traffic.

The Star Business Editor David Walsh.The Star Business Editor David Walsh.
The Star Business Editor David Walsh.

But is it doing any good?

“Definitely,” said co-ordinator Steph Howlett. Look at the hundreds of organisations that declared a climate emergency last year.

It sounds impressive. The government legislated to go carbon neutral by 2050, triggering a domino effect of declarations.

But a year on and the impact is indiscernible.

Extinction Rebellion Host Bankers' Tea Party in Sheffield.Extinction Rebellion Host Bankers' Tea Party in Sheffield.
Extinction Rebellion Host Bankers' Tea Party in Sheffield.

People still fly, buy 4x4s and burn logs for fun. Sheffield City Council still builds roads. Banks pump money into oil, and ice cream vans chug away at seasides and beauty spots, like Burbage Bridge in the Peak near Sheffield, just as they always have.

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The pandemic has temporarily put a brake on a lot of projects. This one requires a fundamental restructuring of society without too much pain, sacrifice or disruption, or it won’t be acceptable to people. And that’s going to take decades.

But right now, saving jobs is top priority. Dealing with a no-deal Brexit could be next. And so on.

This time last year The Star produced a Survival Plan supplement with experts in plastics, food and energy at the University of Sheffield. They all agreed that technology exists to stop the planet warming. But it would need government to commit fully.

‘Earth overshoot day’ was on August 22 – the date when consumption in 2020 exceeded the planet’s capacity to regenerate.

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“It’s still possible to turn things around,” said Steph, “but the years are slipping away.”

They have been since the 1970s.

Progress is painfully slow. Despair at this point understandable.

Mr Whippy anyone?