An Interview with Green Party Candidate Emma Dawnay; from Dinosaurs to Economic Bubbles!

Ah Silbury Hill, mound of mysterious meaning. Yet most plausible, visually, is the pregnant belly of Mother Earth. A burial mound akin to the womb-shaped West Kennet Long-Barrow, both symbolic of the body returning to the earth, at a time when we worshipped the physical things we could see; the sun, moon and Earth. Science proves we decompose; we’re a product of the planet. Yet with climate change we argue if we’re responsible, or nature; as if we’d sue if she did it! Why have we detached ourselves from nature, it cannot be justified by the laws of man? Why are we even wasting time debating this while implementing doable solutions should be the priority? Is there something we could learn from our ancestors? I put it to my elevenses invitee, it’d be a no-brainer for ancient pagans, they’d vote for The Green Party!

Poor Emma Dawnay, our Green Party candidate, she thought she’d come to New Society for a standard campaign interview, instead she got my insane ramblings! But she nodded, “yes, most people, I think,” she approved, “feel we’ve disassociated ourselves with nature, that we can somehow control nature and manipulate it, but actually that’s not the case, we are part of it, and if we don’t change our ways, it’s going to get the better of us.”

I’m liking Emma already; she accepted my folly. After an hour of discussing environmental issues on both international and local levels, I reckoned I could’ve chewed her ears off for another few. I even took it to the next level in suggesting if dinosaurs could’ve known their fate, and had the means to prevent the asteroid hitting Earth, they wouldn’t think twice, or argue about it, they’d stop it, because that is nature’s way, a defence mechanism. It’s as if humans have lost that basic mechanism, we have to sort this problem out regardless of the political things, or costs in our way.

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“We managed to develop the scientific understanding of how things work enough to see we now have a problem. We have solutions, it’s so frustrating we cannot implement them,” Emma reacted, “we have been doing a little, but not enough. With the 2015 Paris agreements, those commitments needed to be five times higher to stay below the 1.5% warming, we’re not on track to reach our 2023 target.”

So, let’s rewind this back to the beginnings of our interview, because we’ve received a few whinges that Devizine is getting political, despite you know no one locally will cover this election in quite the same bizarre manner. And I apologise for not attending the husting, through fear of either dosing off or spouting some rubbish about dinosaurs! I’m not politically motivated, you see, but confess I’m enjoying one-to-one chats with our local candidates; let’s see how I fair with Danny next week!

So, it’s another cuppa with another candidate; I’m such a political flirt! Emma though, from a hamlet near Marlborough is perhaps the most intriguing character among our chosen four. For I spend our time trying to decide if it’s politics or environmental campaigning which drives her motivation most.

 
The extent of my scrutiny was to breeze through their manifesto, from it I asked Emma if when the party makes such claims as they’d have 70% of the electricity via wind power by 2030, have they been researched fully and ensured it’s possible. “Yes,” Emma responded, “We absolutely believe that we need to decarbonise as soon as possible, and the IBCC reports have given us lead when this needs to happen by, we need to turn the economy around in the next ten years. We have some amazing experts to work out what we need to do, they are looking at what’s possible offshore and on shore. I think the big problem is going to be training up enough people to do the work. You can’t just say let’s build, without the people trained to do it.”

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Does Emma think any of the other parties will achieve the needed targets. “The other parties are either totally thinking the old way of thinking, that we can only do it if the economy is working, or else they’re, like Labour, coming around to our way of thinking,” Emma replied, stating she was unsure if they were “completely there yet. The Liberal Democrats want to make sure the deficit stays down. If we only do what’s possible from the economy point of view, you end with climate destruction. We think we need to do what we need to do from the climate, or planet’s point of view, so we don’t get devastation, and if that means more borrowing then so be it. But let’s make sure the future of the planet is saved, rather than an economy.”

Unsure how she’ll take my notion that in an ideal world we shouldn’t need a green party at all, that all parties should be putting environmental issues as top priority. Not worth having policies if you’ve no planet to conduct them on; that’s the logic. Emma was concerned Labour have “watered down” their targets, once similar to the Greens. I asked if this was pressure from the oil and gas companies. “Might be pressure from the unions, worried about losing jobs in old industries,” Emma interjected, “but our argument to that is actually, the amount which needs spending on building renewables, insulating people’s homes and electrifying transport, that is going to generate many new jobs.”

We talked over lack of funding for companies creating renewable plastics. “We want to get more localised banking enabling lending to these sorts of enterprises, because that’s really important too.” I asked Emma if she’d like Claire Perry’s job, or if it’s a scapegoat position! I mean, it’s not for me to sing Claire’s praises, as she sings her own on these apparent climate triumphs, then she signs off fracking, but I wonder how much her arm was pushed to do that, from these companies. Emma agreed, “a lot of the large donors to the Conservative party have interests in fossil fuels, and that makes a difference. She had meetings with the fracking companies off-record, what’s that about?! Why are we allowing these companies access to our governing ministers, it doesn’t make sense to me?”

Still unconfirmed if she’d like Claire’s job (!), but my aim for asking was building to the question of coalition. I mean, if, god forbid, I was in charge, I’d reason The Greens are the climate experts, allow them to take that ministry role. Emma explained they don’t have a whip, their MPs are allowed to vote with their conscious, probably making it difficult to join a coalition formally, because I can’t imagine our MPs following a Labour whip. So, we’d certainly support any party which is doing what we believe is important to do, but it’s more likely to be informal.”

 
Keen to know if Emma cringes when the focus is on other issues, like Brexit. After all, Mother Nature is not going to spare us if we leave, or if we stay in the EU! “We’re wasting so much time discussing Brexit,” Emma clarified, “when we should be turning our economy around, to be low carbon. It is such a pity, and horrible the way it’s made people so polarized. It is a big distraction. Personally, I think if it happens, and the Conservatives are in power, we’ll end up losing sovereignties to the United States because we’ll be making trade deals. They’ll insist on us accepting their agricultural products which are made with much more pesticides and hormones, and lower animal welfare standards, and also insist we sell our NHS, and it’s all very well at the moment as we have the Conservatives saying, of course we won’t do that, but actually, they’re a big economy and if they say they’re not going to sign on the dotted line until…. At least with the EU we do have elected MEPs who could do something about it, in the US we wouldn’t.”

We rapped about influencing on a grander scale within the EU, Emma pointed out the Green Party is strong there, the third block of about seventy MPs. “We can actually do stuff there, which we are doing, we are pushing to ensure big companies pay their taxes, which is far easier at an EU level than a national level.” The scale of the operation concerns me, I mean, how important is it, really, that I fish out one plastic bottle that I’ve accidently thrown into my bin, as that’s trivial compared to the massive issues with Greenland controlling their waste, and if you can fit Britain into just Texas two and a half times, well it doesn’t bear thinking about coping with the global operation necessary.

Still though, I note some locals’ harsh reactions to Extinction Rebellion, seemingly taking it personally, or patronised by Greta, when surely, it’s an attack on the governments of the world to make it easier for the ordinary person to adapt to the changes? “In reality for most people,” Emma said, “so busy in their lives , put under such financial stress, because inequality is getting worse, lack of wage increases, they don’t have the money or time to work out how best to do things, therefore it needs government regulations to come in, to enable people to do the right thing.”

Emma accepted organic produce is more expensive, I added while the wealthier have driveways to park and plug in an electric car, if you live central in a town or city, you’ll consider it lucky to have found a spot to park, let alone close to a charge point. This got us nicely onto local issues, lack of public transport, electric charging points were key to the tangent. How does Wiltshire compare with other counties in reducing our carbon footprint? “I think we do fairly well on solar,” Emma enlightened, “obviously we’ve got lots of trees, on some measures we do well, transport is essential.” I pointed at the garden waste, well, not directly, not in the café! It’s an extra cost we cannot afford, and recycling in other counties is much more efficient. We need a food waste bin; I can’t eat it all!

Emma highlighted the Westbury incinerator plans sends out the wrong motivation, “to make it finically viable, it’s venturing into wanting to go on producing the waste, otherwise it doesn’t work and waste will be shipped in from other places. So, having huge incinerators means there’s no pressure to change, or it becomes too expensive to run it otherwise.”

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It was a lovely and meaningful chat, not helping with my dilemma of where to put my X; can I do two at least? Need I also spoil it towards the end by stating if there’s one greener change I cannot bring myself to consider; becoming vegan, not while the smell of a bacon butty wafts my direction?! I asked Emma how important veganism is, and was pleasantly surprised to hear she is not a vegan either, but stressed how she has been trying to eat less meat, and said she thought that was adequate; phew!

Not surprised that Emma seemed unaware of Hollywood’s stab at an environmental catastrophe in the movie 2012, where, conveniently the ice age seems to envelope the area marginally slower than our heroes can run, making for a dramatic escape in the nick of time! It seems to me at times the consequences of climate change are out of our sphere of understanding, consumed by fictional apocalyptic scenarios and dystopian themes, I wondered aloud if it has to take a monumental disaster to finally wake the masses up to the seriousness of the issue. “I hope not,” Emma gulped, “statistically we’re likely to see more of it, and I hope without it getting to a catastrophic level, we’ll start to think actually we do need to do something about this. To me, what’s so frustrating is the measures we need to take to change things are slight; we can still live happy prosperous lives, it’s not that we have wear hair shirts or something!”

That’s the positive message Greta was suggesting in the last video I watched, if you subscribe to her channel, you’ll see a different side to her the mainstream media simply doesn’t portray, she does smile, with every new tree planted! But, aside, what else could we expect from a Green Party?

Emma added, “we’re suggesting there should be a four-day working week, allowing people more time to do things outside their jobs, and we offer a universal basic income, trying to relieve financial stresses.” Now here’s a policy which when I first heard of, I thought it was too radical even for me, but given thought, I’m warming to the notion. Yet it’d take a compete rehash of our way of life, of capitalism. So, despite it being an intense and fascinating chat, that’s when I started waffling about prehistoric man and dinosaurs!

Yet through it I never nailed down if Emma comes from an environmental motivation or a political one, they seemed to merge for her as one and the same. “My training,” she enlightened, “was originally as a scientist, and then I became fascinated by economics since the year 2000. I was working for a successful company in the dot.com bubble, which went to nothing in the end, making me think there’s something wrong with these economic bubbles. The way the predominate economic theory was, was that if we have growth everyone will be better off, but you know, this simply hasn’t happened. You find things are going really well if you’re in the top five of wealth, despite the economic crisis, but it isn’t working for everybody, wages are not going up. We even have hedge fund managers who are billionaires saying, look here, this existence isn’t working. And, I think because of the pressures put on everybody, that meant that people don’t have the capacity to worry about climate when everything else is a struggle. That’s the really sad thing, this economic theory that we’ve bought into, in the eighties and nineties, has led us up a garden path, making us incapable of looking at the real problems, and that’s the real tragedy of it….”

“And that’s what,” I finalised, “you aim to turn around……”

“Absolutely!” Emma laughed. With the tactical vote still locally confused, Emma entreated we voted with our hearts, and with that notion, you could do a lot worse where you put your cross on December 15th; be like the ancient pagans, I reckon they had better ideas than us!


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