As I read Mat Osmond's piece in I felt angry. I wasn’t just angry because of the things he was highlighting - who wouldn't be, but rather because I got the feeling that he felt that everything was lost. This was probably not helped by the fact that outside it was grey and miserable, and all I wanted to do was go back to the blue skies of the Alps.
I wondered if it has always been like this. Have we always had such a negative attitude when it comes to trying to save the world, or at least trying to slow down its decline? I called my parents.
Both my parents were born in the 70s and grew up in the ‘80s in Italy. My mother remembers having lessons on how to save the earth during science lessons. She remembers the horror stories of Acid Rain in the Black Forest in Germany, The Hole in the Ozone Layer over Australia, Chernobyl, the Cold War and threat of nuclear war and her babysitter from Scarborough wearing t-shirts with "Save the Whale". She also remembers when it was considered OK to burn rubber tyres on the outskirts of Rome (she said you could tell from the colour and smell of the smoke), and it made sense to use plastic bags instead of paper bags because humans were cutting down too many trees ("yes. ... we were trying to save the earth by using plastic bags, if only we knew then what we know now").
“I guess we were a bit distracted by the Cold War, and in Italy we also had a lot of internal terrorism as well as a few terrorist attacks from foreign groups, but the (English) school I attended was instrumental in teaching us the basics of looking after the world - with the knowledge we had then. Our attitude was not so much we’re all going to die, but rather what should we do in our every day life to make a difference. I think we were conscious of the fact that whilst we waited for our governments to do something decisive, it made sense to do our little bit. Which we did, from cleaning beaches, to reducing our paper consumption and actively recycling (I don’t think we had plastic recycling then), to turning off the tap when brushing our teeth. We also looked at what our parents were doing. I remember your grandmother wanting to buy a fur coat and your aunties and I battling to the bitter end to stop her (we won!). Your grandfather used to pop over to the local spring (https://fontecapannelle.it/) and fill empty glass bottles - we never contemplated buying bottled water in plastic bottles as compared to the spring water it had a ‘funny' taste!
In turn we taught you children what we learnt. We taught you to pick up (our and others') rubbish at the beach from a very young age, and to respect nature. We showed you examples of where a complete lack of respect for nature, and inconsiderate building has led to floods in areas close to our hearts e.g. the Island of Elba in 2011.
We invested in a geothermic heating system -I still don’t know what it does (other than funny groaning noises from time to time) but apparently it’s helping nature and our heating bills are significantly lower than our neighbours' who haven't got one so it can’t be all bad, and your Dad got a company to redo all our windows and glass doors with triple glazing and internal blinds. I love them ... no blinds to clean, no curtains to wash and the windows look much cleaner, and I can close them when I want privacy, not to mention that the house is so much warmer too.
So to answer your question: I’m not sure if we were less negative, or maybe we were just more ignorant, but what I can say about me personally was that I was lucky enough to attend a school whose motto was “NIL DIFFICILE VOLENTI” - Where there’s a will there’s a way” (plus it was carved into one of my favourite buildings in Rome)- and that’s probably why I’ve always looked positively to the future.
If we look back at where we were and where we are now, I’d say it’s a pretty major improvement! Could we do more? Of course we could! But should we be so negative? I don’t think so”.