Ask the Climate Expert: Tamsin Omond
Following Ultimate Library’s excursion into sustainable travel options, and as COP26 draws nearer, we take a look at the climate crisis more generally by speaking to Tamsin Omond. Tamsin has worked as a climate activist since leaving university, from dropping banners against Heathrow Airport’s third runway from the houses of parliament to being a founding member of Extinction Rebellion. They have now released a new book, Do Earth, looking at what we all can do to contribute to fighting the climate crisis. This book takes inspiration from people around the world including Indigenous peoples and community leaders, looking at different relationships with the environment.
COP26 is looking at the climate crisis from a government point of view, something not many of us can influence or help with. By having Tamsin as our expert we are bridging the gap between policy influencers and your average joe. Tamsin is currently running alongside Amelia Womack for co-leader of the Green Party. We are employing their expertise in finding out more about the climate crisis, how they became interested in activism and how our lives may change over the next few years.
A large number of books on climate change are being released and they are increasingly popular. Do you find it promising that more people are taking an interest in their impact on the climate? What prompted you to take an interest?
In some ways, it feels inevitable that – because climate change is more present in our lives – we’re becoming more interested in understanding it, and understanding what it means for us and our futures. It used to feel like someone else’s problem, or perhaps that someone else would sort it out, but I think that illusion has been slowly shattered. The climate is unstable now, even for us in rich Western countries that are more able to protect against – or recover from – floods, extreme storms, intense heat etc.
So I guess now that we live in a context of increased vulnerability, one way to help us handle that is to better understand it, and also to learn about what actions we can take to limit climate change and to live in more balance with the earth. I do find it promising that people are interested, and wanting to know more because I think the only way we’re going to build a sustainable future is if a lot of us get organised in demanding it.
For myself, I’ve been worried about climate change since I left university, almost 15 years ago. I had a friend who explained it to me and since then, I could never really shake this knowledge that we were heading towards an emergency for planet earth (and all of us on it) and that our governments and business leaders weren’t doing enough about it. In some ways, my whole life has been defined in relation to that fact.
You’ve been involved in climate activism for quite a while now. What can people do to support climate activism or negate climate change on a personal level?
Ah, this is everything that my book is about, so of course, I have to encourage you to buy it and read it and take as many of the suggestions in it as feels right for you, and then, push yourself to take a few more. Really every individual’s response will be unique to them. For some people, it will be important to bring their personal carbon footprints more in line with what is sustainable (through cutting out meat or choosing low-carbon transport or changing their energy to renewable energy providers, etc), but other people might find that they want to use their influence differently. For example, if you’re a leader in a community – or in a corporate sector – then the power you have to do things differently and to begin to shape the culture of that place to being planet-friendly, is perhaps more important than making personal or lifestyle changes.
We work with the travel industry a lot, how do you think holidaying will change to become more climate-friendly?
It’s hard to admit because we’ve got so used to cheap flights and city breaks but, we are going to have to fly less. Especially if we’re people who fly a lot. Of course, that doesn’t mean stop holidaying or never fly at all. I think part of it is remembering how magical it is that we can fly at all! And maybe choosing to – once every few years (at most) – and making a big deal of it when we do. So that holidays become life-enriching adventures, rather than short breaks that we take as often as we can.
I’d also say that we need to fall in love with places that are closer to us, yes – of course – the places we’ve been discovering within the UK because of how we’ve all had to respond to travel restrictions during the pandemic, but also – once those are lifted – just really enjoying the fact that we are in Europe and that we can take trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc, and from there very quickly further into the continent. I haven’t taken a short-haul flight for over 10 years and it’s been such a pleasure to sit on trains, to work if I need to (because they all have wifi) and to arrive in the heart of a city, ready for my break.
You’re currently running for co-leader of the Green Party and COP26 is coming up in November, what changes should we expect to see over the next few years in terms of tackling the climate crisis?
I think it’s going to become everyone’s priority, which is exactly where it needs to be. For a long time, governments and businesses have looked the other way and it’s been the job of a handful of activists and campaigners to keep bringing the issue to public attention. We’re now at a point where it’s impossible to ignore the damage we have done to the planet and all the devastation that this damage will create. It’s a shame that we didn’t deal with this back in the 1970s when the world’s leaders held their first ‘Earth Summit’ but, although that would have been the best possible moment to create solutions to climate change, the second-best moment is right now.
What are your top 3 books that inspire your work and why?
I love reading. There are so many worlds that we can visit and all of them are just waiting there to enrich our imaginations. My top 3 books would be…
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler
Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown
Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
All three contain such wisdom for how we can support ourselves to become more resilient and kinder too; to enjoy the good things that life is always abundantly offering, and to get ready so that whatever the changing climate brings, we are able to stand strong, live up to the promise of our better selves, and keep moving forward.
We want to thank Tamsin for agreeing to be our expert this month, especially when they are so busy with their political campaign and the release of their new book. You can find out more about their work and Tamsin themself on their Twitter and Instagram, and if you would like to find out more about COP26 please visit their website.