Will Anderson: The green house

You don't need to be a politician (or superman) to save the world. start with these five steps
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The Independent Online

Doom-mongering is supposed to kick in five years before a millennium, not five years after, yet here we are in 2006, the pointless fluff of the actual event long blown away, and the end of the world is finally taking centre stage.

David Attenborough did not put it quite in these terms but his new-found pessimism rings loud. Al Gore, on the other hand, has been telling it straight: if we don't get our act together in the next 10 years, world civilisation is finished. This view chimes with James Lovelock's recent prediction of descent into anarchy, though, unlike the Father of Gaia, Gore believes that the necessary political will can still be mustered to do something about it.

Unfortunately Gore's clarity about the threat of climate change is not matched by a clear vision of what the response should be. He emphasises the potential of market transformation through using energy and resources far more efficiently but, if we only have 10 years before the point of no return, we have to combine such transformation with massive state investment and significant lifestyle changes.

So here are my top five radical carbon-cutting actions that match the scale of the threat.

1. Keep your heat in - all of it. Space heating takes the biggest slice of the domestic energy cake, so do everything you can to reduce it. Consider every component of the external envelope of your house - roof, walls, windows, doors, ground floor - and identify the maximum you can do to improve insulation and draught-proofing. Ask a local energy efficiency advisor to visit and clarify your options. The Energy Saving Trust will put you in touch (0845 727 7200; www.est.org.uk).

2. Stop driving. Not easy if you live in the backwoods of Powys but, wherever you live, reflect on the car journeys you have made in the last fortnight and consider how you would have coped without a car. How many journeys were really necessary? How many could be achieved by other means? Would your life really disintegrate without the beast in the driveway?

3. Stop flying. Make a commitment not to fly for, say, five years and see what effect this has on how you view the world. In my experience, the loss of distant destinations is more than matched by a greater appreciation of the riches near at hand. Is there really anything you desire that cannot be found in Europe?

4. Buy local. If you don't know where your supermarket fruit, vegetables, meat and flowers come from, you can reasonably assume it's the other side of the world. Farmers' markets and local suppliers are the best alternatives but, wherever you shop, check the source every time and opt for the local, or British, or at least European option. (There are exceptions: I will still be drinking tea when the flood waters lap at my feet.)

5. Make your own renewable energy. A solar thermal panel will provide you with hot water even on cloudy days. Every roof should have one. The Energy Saving Trust provides details of grants available for all forms of renewable technology.

Whatever this list may be, it is not a recipe for misery. We are an adaptable bunch, we humans, but the familiar routines of our daily lives make us oblivious to this fact. Of all the things we need to save the world, perhaps the most fundamental, and most readily available, is simply imagination.

Will Anderson's 'Diary of an Eco-builder' is published by Green Books at £14.95 ( www.greenbooks.co.uk; telephone 01803 863 260).

w.anderson@independent.co.uk

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