This weekend we’ll be thinking about the environmentalists. Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Rodney Trotter. Lanky youthful Rodney gave a voice to green issues in the 1980s when few others took it under their notice. It was all thanks to John Sullivan who wrote Only Fools and Horses. He allowed Rodney to be an eco-champion. Sullivan may have been inspired by the writers of The Good Life but his gags were better and the environmental discussion between the younger Trotter brother and the gormless Trigger delivered some classic lines.
They were chatting about the danger to the planet from fossil fuels when Trigger claimed he didn’t use any. “I don’t have none of them in my house, I use gas and oil,” said Trigger.
“Trig, they are fossil fuels,” replied Rodney.
“Are they?” said Trigger “Well, I’ll switch to coal in future.”
If only we had listened to the real experts back then and taken action we might not be in the dilemma we face now as COP 26 gets under way.
My old uncle was the first person I heard talk about the environment. He worked in the docks in Warrenpoint. He knew coal was a major pollutant. He handled it every day shouldering bags on to trucks and emptying boats coming in from Liverpool.
He would arrive home on his bicycle caked in dust and after a quick wash he would fill his lungs with farm fresh air and start a second job milking cows.
He was the most organic of organic farmers. He insisted on a no fuel no fumes policy on the farm. He made an exception for the small farmhouse as smoke billowed from the chimney but there was no machinery nor tractors of any type allowed on his land.
While neighbouring farms in the 1970s were purring with the sounds of balers, threshers and harvesters Uncle Peter was operating from a horse and cart.
He had the traditional wooden cart with the steel rimmed wheels. It was a light shade of orange and it was pulled by Stormer, a huge plodding Clydesdale.
Stormer and the cart were used to spread manure on the fields. When the grass grew it was cut by hand with a scythe. My uncle made hay cutting look like an Olympic sport. He would have been a gold medallist.
The hay was then turned and forked into small stacks before Stormer hauled it all to the farmyard where a hay rig the size of a three story house was built and that was used to feed the animals through the winter. Unfortunately in the late summer of ’76 something happened that would change the face of farming there.
Stormer in his 24th year while pulling the hay cart collapsed in harness and died instantly. It was the end of a truly green era as a week later a large David Brown tractor was introduced and with it the smell of diesel and the plumes of smoke in every field.
Nobody listened to my uncle when he expressed concerns for the planet. He was viewed as a bit odd and old fashioned. Today, if we still had him, he would be in demand for the lecture circuit but even the most eloquent are not being listened to today.
This week I spoke to the German environmentalist Arnd Drossel. He has travelled to Glasgow for COP 26 via Ireland inside a self-propelled steel ball to raise awareness for sustainable transport. He explained on U105 how vital it is for us to change our attitudes in the hope of saving the planet.
Most of the people who contacted us after the show were complaining about the gesture and one caller summed up the sense of local frustration.
He said, “That German fella should take his steel ball and dump it in the river. He’s so slow, he’s caused a traffic jam in Moira.”
There are many who won’t listen to the message whether it’s from an old uncle, a sitcom character or Sir David and sadly among those turning a deaf ear are world leaders who are ignoring the importance of COP 26.
Frank presents U105 Phone In Monday-Friday from 9am-noon