From plastic to planes: How has the planet changed in the 70 years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II?

Record-breaking queen Reign for 70 years spanned a huge social period, technology and political turmoil.

For the UK and the world at large, the second half of the 20th century saw rapid changes in the way we live, work and consume. From the widespread adoption of plastics to the rise of cheap flights, since Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, the world has changed dramatically.

The first quarter of the twenty-first century only saw things accelerate again. While Climate change It wasn’t a concept that was at the forefront of most people’s minds in 1952, but it is now one of the most pressing issues of our time.

How did the public’s attitude to climate crisis Evolution in the Queen’s reign, and how green was the Queen herself?

We look at some of the most important environmental developments during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and how they have adapted to growing concerns about global warming.

What was the great smog?

When the Queen took the throne, there were already signs of climate stress in the UK. Ten months into her reign, in December 1952, London was covered in a great smog.

Resulted from a combination of cold weather, anticyclone (a system of winds circling around a center of high atmospheric pressure) and wind conditions, the London smog was made up of airborne pollutants. Most of these came from large scale coal burningwhich was still used in homes.

A thick blanket of pollution hung over the city from December 5-9, finally dispersing when weather conditions changed.

Smog has even made its way inside buildings in what is now believed to be the worst air pollution event in UK history. Recent estimates suggest that between 10,000 and 12,000 people died as a direct result because the London Ambulance Service was out of action due to poor vision.

The Severe effects of smog It led to Queen Elizabeth II’s first major environmental legislation.

The Clean Air Act received Royal Assent in July 1956 and was intended to reduce the effects of air pollution from coal burning and manufacturing. It restricted the burning of coal in home fires and created clean air pockets throughout the city.

But while politicians were grappling with the switch away from coal, another major pollutant was flying through the sky.

The rise of air travel in the late 1960s and 1970s

The rise of the foreign holiday has been one of the biggest changes in the Queen’s 70-year reign.

Once mass transit was available only to the rich and famous, the growth of mass transit led to the birth of the vacation package, as many people began traveling abroad for the first time.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, perhaps the impetus for the 1972 movie ‘Carry on Abroad’ was for the package vacation to be big business.

While the Queen hasn’t strictly “goed on vacation”, as she has always traveled for work reasons, she has certainly seen a lot of the world.

According to the Telegraphwhich assessed the distance the Queen had traveled, during her lifetime the Queen visited 117 different countries (out of 195 possible countries).

For comparison, according to a YouGov survey conducted in 2018, the average Briton visited 9.58 countries.

In terms of miles, that amounts to more than 1.6 million kilometres, which is equivalent to traveling around the circumference of the Earth 42 times.

Although in recent years, due to her age and ill health, the Queen carbon traces Significantly fallen, she traveled more than any other royal in British history.

What is the Queen’s carbon footprint?

Since the royal family is partly funded by taxpayers, the Prince of Wales is legally required to publish annual reports on the family’s carbon emissions and travel schedules.

In October 2021, before Queen’s Speech at COP26And the Environmental experts They analyzed this data to determine the carbon footprint of members of the royal family.

According to their research, the The royal family has a combined carbon footprint of 3,810 tons per yearcompared to the average Briton who has a footprint of only 10 tons per year.

Despite this staggering amount, the Queen’s travel footprint in 2021 was by far the smallest in the family, coming in at just 7.7 tons compared to Charles and Camilla’s 432.3 tons.

What about the carbon footprint of the royal family?

The Queen has had six official royal residences, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Although not all of Buckingham Palace’s 775 rooms are used daily, it still requires a lot of energy to heat this historic building.

According to the Prince of Wales Annual Review in 2021, 100 percent of the electricity a household uses and 89 percent of all office and home energy now comes from Renewable sources. About 49 percent of this is generated on site by biomass boilers, heat pumps, and Solar Panels.

The family also buys credits from sustainable projects to offset net zero carbon emissions. Trees are widely planted in Royal gardensThe Queen herself planted oak trees for each of her four children in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

The Queen and the Age of Plastic

While green causes are usually more related to King Charles III From the Queen herself, she has in recent years played a role in improving the environmental impact of the royal family.

Plastic, first patented in 1907 by a Belgian-born American inventor, Leo Bekeland, was perhaps the most important material of the 20th century. It’s a legacy we still live with today.

Although the Queen wasn’t born until 1926, it wasn’t until after she assumed the throne that mass production of plastic began. In the 1960s and 1970s, this popular material began to reach a much wider audience, with plastic bag I started taking over paper in the late ’80s.

To put the growth of plastic use in perspective, according to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), global plastic production reached 2 million tons in 1950 – by 2015 this had increased to 380 million tons.

Just three years after production reached such dizzying heights, the Queen, inspired by David Attenborough’s documentary Blue Planet II, has banned the use of plastic straws and bottles in all of her estates.

The Queen was a huge fan of Attenborough, and when presenting him with the Chatham House Award in 2019, she said, “Your ability to communicate the beauty and vulnerability of our natural environment is unparalleled.”

Cafes at the Royal Collection can now only serve food and drinks in compostable or compostable packaging.

The Queen at COP26 in Glasgow

Perhaps the Queen’s most influential actions came towards the end of her reign.

a few weeks ago COP26 Summit in October 2021was videotaped at the opening of the Welsh Parliament.

“I’ve heard all about COP, I still don’t know who’s coming in. I heard she says it’s very annoying when they talk, but don’t.

If there was anything that would bring home the importance of the upcoming climate summit for the British people, it was the Queen’s wrath that no action had been taken.

she gave a speechVia the video link at the summit opening, he told the assembled dignitaries: “This is a duty that I am particularly pleased to do, because the impact of the environment on human progress has been a topic close to the heart of my late husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”

Surprisingly, the Queen, a neutral diplomat, has put the concern for the environment on the shoulders of other members of the royal family.

She continued, “It is my pride that my husband’s leading role in encouraging people to protest our fragile planet, lives on through the work of our eldest son Charles and eldest son William. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Queen has now left the burden of protecting the environment to the younger members of the royal family.

What does the future hold for the royal family and environmental protection?

Since we are only in the early days of his reign, we have yet to see how King Charles III will rule.

However, his environmental views are more clear from his mother’s. New King, an avid gardener who told reporters he loves talking to his plants, has spoken about climate change for many years, telling delegates at COP21 in 2015:

“It’s very simple: We must save our forests, because there is no Plan B to tackle climate change or the many other critical challenges facing humanity without it.”

is even I met climate activist Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2020. Now the king gave a speech in which he said, “Do we want to go down in history as people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink in time to restore equilibrium when we could have done it? I don’t want to.”

How the new king will be able to align this passion for the environment with the carbon-intensive duties of being a king is yet to be seen. However, unless he changes his personality overnight, there’s a good chance he’ll be more outspoken about green issues than his late mother.

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