Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I don't know whether I had theories when I was little. I suppose I probably did, though perhaps not so much theories about the world, the universe and everything as theories about earthworms and goldfish and other little things that fascinated me. However it was, these days I have Annie Theories (with a capital T). Other people also have Theories, although not everyone. Recently, some of the theories I've been talking about with friends and acquaintances have been about the environment (as it seems to be a 'hot topic' at the moment).
Last Thursday, when I returned from singing Mahler in the Auditorium, it so happened that I was chatting to Jérémie in the kitchen of our flat (I think he was doing the washing up, which needs doing a lot here!). Jérémie also has theories, and I forget where the conversation started, though I know mad cows came into it somewhere. Either way, he expressed an interest in hearing more about my theories, so I decided he should hear what is probably my most extreme Theory, which is about how we should take drastic action to save the planet, and stop faffing about reducing carbon emissions by some piddling percentage in the next goodness knows how long. I don't think Jérémie was expecting it to be quite so drastic, but it made for a good discussion (although when Mylene came in she thought we were having an argument, rather than a theoretical debate).
In a recent "silly thing" that I posted on my facebook profile I wrote "I hate…the way we are consciously destroying the world". This is what my Theory is about. It's not a practical theory, in the sense that modern society being what it is, there is no way it could become practice. BUT my theory says:
1) We are destroying the world
2) We KNOW we are destroying the world
3) We all think it would be nice if we weren't destroying the world

and proposes
1) That we simply remove cars and aeroplanes from our world. Totally. Utterly. Altogether. Buses, trains, trams, bicycles and boats can remain.
2) That every house be fitted with solar panels to its roof, every floodplain not with houses but with windmills, etc.
3) That we stop putting food in ridiculous amounts of packaging and content ourselves with making that little extra effort, for example, to shop more often or to wash up a few bottles and tupperwares.
4) (a little aside) that Playstations and suchlike cause unnecessary production of useless equipment and should be removed. If babies can play with cotton reels then big boys can play with a football or table tennis ball, read books, play cards…
5) That if we can produce clothes and food within 100km of our house, then we shouldn't buy stuff from 3000km away.
6) In other words, NOT that we should return to the middle ages but that we should remove the aspects of modern life that are made ONLY for our superficial comfort and ease, and that achieve something we could just as well achieve by another means.

Of course, I expounded (what a nice word) this Theory to Jérémie and he said "but you can't do that!" where he in fact agreed entirely with my 'ideals' but, like 99.9% of this world, believed it to be impractical and therefore no point even considering it. Well, says I, it's clear that if everyone takes that line, then there is no point.
Amongst his other thoughts were "but what do I do if I want to go to America?" and "never mind if we ruin the world, it's ours to ruin and we'll go and live on the moon". Obviously the latter is as radical as my theory to start with, and I won't report on our whole discussion here, but perhaps it will make someone think anyway.

Two further things to say in this post:
Firstly, part of the reason why this became and Annie theory and why few other people feel they can adopt it must be that I grew up with no car (for which, see also recent post on "how to be green"). And so yes, I honestly do think that it would be possible to run a country in which there were NO cars. Incidentally, I worked on a french island with no cars two years ago and (although it's small and has a tiny population) they managed just fine. Obviously one would hope to have a better public transport service, but if everyone were using it that would be much easier to put into effect.
Secondly, on Friday, I met up with Richard Van Noorden, who went to nursery with me way back when, at St Anne's College Oxford (to which, incidentally, I went by bike). These days he is a reporter for Chemistry World, and he had popped over to Lyon for the weekend to visit another friend, also a teaching assistant. We went to the Epicerie for lunch and had a great time talking about all sorts of things…including Theories. Apart from the big theory hereaforementioned, I also mentioned my Soya theory–that, not only is soya a big mistake, but is probably the cause of CJD and all sorts of other modern health problems, and is an example of how modern science throws itself into "new solutions" without properly pausing to think of long term potential consequences. Suffice it to say, it interested him so I shall be intrigued to find out whether he discovers anything more about it in "real" science.

I have another theory that has emerged this year, which is that a lot of people, especially the French, don't seem to realise that medicines are not always either good for you or a solution to a problem.


Matthew said...

Interesting ideas. Scrapping cars is putting the cart before the horse, somewhat. You need to sort out public transport first. For example, to get to Cambridge from here takes 80 minutes by car, or around 180 by train. To visit friends in Oxford by train, and be able to get home again, I have to leave Oxford by 9.30pm, which is rubbish.

I avoid flying at least some of the time - our honeymoon was all done by train (including sleeper to and from Italy).

Annie said...

Yes–but until you have the need to change, you won't have the means to effect that change. N'est-ce pas? While people have cars they have no motivation to improve transport, and the transport doesn't have the money to make improvements.

Matthew said...

We could hope that our elected representatives could do something about the public transport, though?

OK, maybe only when they've ducked the flying pigs...

Annie said...

Incidentally, I just glanced at the headlines and saw:

Climate change 'affecting' China

and felt like shouting at my computer screen:
Well of course it is, it's GLOBAL! Fools.

Catherine Osborne said...

I do agree that you have to start by eliminating the cars and planes. Then public transport would instantly become economically viable, regular and timely, easy to use and not delayed by traffic problems.
It could even be entirely FREE. More people would be employed as bus drivers and the economy would be boosted by their wealth so the result would pay for itself.
I suppose that the road tax people pay and the tax on petrol would be lost, but then we wouldn't need so much road-building and maintenance (and in any case, that money would still exist and could be brought in in the form of some other kind of tax).