Even though it’s common knowledge that most European countries are more conscious and proactive about solving environmental problems, I was quite impressed to learn first-hand what this actually means during my trip to England. The first thing that struck me was the sheer amount of environmental media coverage. Almost every night I inevitably ran into some sort of TV program related to environmental issues as I casually flipped channels at the end of the day. In my first few days there alone, I came across shows and news segments about gardening, climate change, energy sources, and waste management.
Public transportation in Britain is quite fantastic, and would be even better if it were more affordable. Comfortable and aesthetic trains connect the major cities and even many small towns. Within cities and small towns buses run quite frequently and provide comprehensive coverage. Thanks to its wonderful grid of public transportation, I could travel around Britain quite easily without a car. Moreover, because the public transportation was so good, taking a taxi even seemed like something of a luxury.
Despite its frequency and great coverage, getting around Britain isn’t cheap. Car-drivers suffer from high gas prices and a daily tax of 5 pounds to drive within the center of London. Public transportation isn’t always too affordable either. Single fare trips on the London Underground can cost 3 pounds (almost $6)–compare that to a single fare of $2 on the NYC subway–and inter-city train tickets that can cost up to nearly 71 pounds (nearly $140). Regular riders can get cheaper deals in bulk, membership, or buying long-term passes, but this is not practical or possible for everyone.
Returning to the positive aspects, strolling through the cities and smaller towns, I was also very impressed with their gardening/landscaping ethic. While few people there own as much land attached to their house as an average U.S. suburban family does, many make the most of what they do have by planting beautiful flower patches and shrubs. Parks and green corners within cities also don’t seem uncommon. Despite its urban intensity, London for example boasts many large open spaces: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Hampstead Heath, Regents Park, in addition to many green squares in the city.
Despite the crummy weather, in Britain people walk to get places. They discuss the environment and even though they’re doing much better than us in the USA, they still seem to beat themselves up over how much more they could do. Cheers, mates.