x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sending out an SOS to the world

Trudie Styler is a hero of our time. "Trudie who?", you may be asking. Let me enlighten you.

Trudie Styler is a hero of our time. "Trudie who?", you may be asking. Let me enlighten you. She is the co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation and a UNICEF global ambassador. She is a film financier and environmental activist. She also happens to be married to Sting, a pop singer and member of the band Police. The pair have a string of houses around the globe. When they are not in their Tuscan home drinking Barolo and plotting tirelessly how to save the world, they travel.

Trudie does not like to fly on commercial airlines. This is quite understandable - frankly, who does after 9/11? So she takes the Gulfstream, occasionally flying her hairdresser or cook to events, but only when she needs them. Rather unfairly, she has been attacked by a number of newspapers and websites, who have dared to suggest that fuelling up the private jet sits rather uneasily with attacking oil companies such as Chevron, who after all produce the stuff to power the jet engines, as she did in her documentary Crude.

Last week she sought to protect her reputation by replying to her critics. "Of course I use aeroplanes," she wrote in The Guardian. (Use? Is that the verb? I use lots of things, but rarely aeroplanes.) "Even the most dogmatic and dictatorial advocates of environmental reform would be hard pressed to suggest that Ecuador (and, yes, Washington) are practical places to reach by wagon train or boat." This is surely irrefutable. I commute to work along the busy streets of Abu Dhabi by wagon train, and I can tell you it takes an age to get from 25th Street to 15th, and that is even if we gallop up the strip of land in the middle of the highway.

She continues: "The Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading scientists, says one day's deforestation equates to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying from London to New York. "According to Nicholas Stern, over the next four years alone the destruction of forests in the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Indonesia will pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to 2025."

I am sure she is right, particularly if she has the backing of experts such as these. Nicholas Stern you will all know better as Baron Stern of Brentford, the former chief economist of the World Bank and now a wise man to Gordon Brown, the British prime minister. I do not know who the leading scientists are, but they are probably the same crew who warned us of the perils of the Millennium Bug. You will recall that while the turn of the millennium was greeted as an opportunity to have a big party, for others it was a time to panic.

The problem, we were told, was that computers had not been programmed to deal with the date change from the 1900s to 2000. Who knew what would happen? Planes would fall out of the sky, stock markets would plummet as computerised trading went haywire, and the London Underground would no longer run as clockwork. Bank computer staff were sent on training courses to Dartmoor; air traffic controllers were put on standby and airlines were grounded, except in Russia where nobody bothered. So what happened? The Russians were right. Nothing happened, although nuclear war could have started in Moscow and no one probably would have noticed, so hectic was the partying that night.

Now I am not so naive to suggest that climate change is not occurring. I have no idea whether it is or it is not, although it seems to me that the summers of my youth were sunnier but I am told this is a common phenomenon. I am not, however, inclined to believe these scientists now, any more than I was nearly 10 years ago. The latest report is that the earth has not got hotter in the past 10 years. Good news, you might think. You'd be wrong. The scientists warn that this lull is the portent of doom to come.

We must all switch to alternative sources of energy, such as windfarms and solar power. Soon the Empty Quarter will be full to the brim of solar panels, while the Downs in Sussex, England, will be alive with the sound of whirring windmills. This week, Greenpeace and other interested parties claimed that 25 per cent of the world's electricity could be produced from solar power plants based in deserts, even though the panels do not function when there's too much sand.

Most windfarms do not generate enough electricity to power a transistor radio. It is ironic that the advocates of these technologies are also those who proclaim to love the landscape. They are willing to see the outer and inner Hebrides covered in gyrating rotors that flash at night, mutilate birds during the day, and do not function when there is too much wind. A pal of mine made a fortune selling windfarm concessions in Italy a year ago, so much so that he now flies around in a private jet. I can only hope that he managed to sell the sites on all the hills surrounding Ms Styler's 45-room Tuscan mansion. I would guess that she would be unlikely to want to listen to the whirring rotors.

We are all for the environment, until it cuts down on our own pleasure. She would want to take her message to Rome, or Washington, but should be forced to travel in a dug-out canoe. Or if she really wanted to cut down on emissions, she could send her message in a bottle. rwright@thenational.ae