Despite our everyday grumbles and continuing political strife, Britain remains one of the best countries in the world to live in.
Argue as you may about Brexit, austerity, and whether our social safety net is big enough, the UK has a greater degree of safety, prosperity, freedom and opportunity than most of the rest of the world.
But modern day Britain is also a country that demonstrates what happens when you trust authorities and companies to do the right thing and take your eye off the ball.
Companies flooding the consumer economy with unrecyclable packaging, industrial farming damaging the land and waterways, water companies polluting rivers and the sea, relentless airport expansion against local opposition, poor quality housing and dodgy leases, closed hospitals, full schools, rip-off trains, run down bus services left to private operators, a lack of meaningful public transport outside big cities, the list goes on.
The Government says we need to tackle climate change, yet at the same time it backs airport expansion and a third runway at Heathrow
There is a growing mood that this has to stop, but how?
We tried trusting the authorities and business and they failed us, so we need to get more engaged and use the power we have as citizens and consumers.
We should pay more attention to what is going on around us and actively demand things are done better, voting with our feet and wallets when possible.
For too long anyone objecting to things near their homes – even when regularly doing so for good reason – has been stereotyped as a Nimby – Not In My Back Yard.
We should change that mindset and coin a new acronym: Layby – Look After Your Back Yard.
To demand that things such as airport expansion, new roads, or housing on the green belt are fully justified (and if done, only done properly) isn’t objecting for objection’s sake, it is the way to look after the country we live in.
We are told we must tackle climate change, but how can we do that and look after our country better without taking a very critical look at expanding airports, building more roads, and waving through poor quality housing developments?
We need less flights not more, to encourage people out of their cars with better and cheaper public transport, and higher quality housing with lots more carbon-capturing green space.
And that’s just to name three issues.
Demanding that if new homes must be built on the green belt that they are of a high quality, with plenty of green space and that we protect the countryside people value on the edge of towns should not be branded Nimbyism
The best way to push for this is at a grassroots level, using our collective power to make businesses change their ways and politicians act.
We should also listen and engage with those who come up with well thought out and brave ideas and policies, rather than dismiss them with kneejerk reactions and opt for more of the same.
Ideas like regenerative farming and rewilding, an incrementally rising frequent flyer tax rather than flat air passenger duty, pulling buses and trains under local transport authority control, buying lines of land to build off road walking and cycle paths between towns, are things we should at least be considering and discussing sensibly.
Plastic packaging that cannot be recycled is an example of companies pursuing convenience and profit for themselves over what’s better for the population
We took our eye of the ball a long time ago on looking after the country we live in; over the past decade this has been compounded by the financial crisis, austerity and then Brexit.
But people aren’t daft. They look at the world around them, see the problems and want solutions. Look at the ground swell of support for a plastic bag tax, more action on recycling, and better protection for nature.
And this doesn’t even need to be about climate change – don’t trash where you live is just common sense.
Unfortunately, businesses have been allowed to casually ignore that in the race for profits.
You don’t have to go full-on Extinction Rebellion, instead you can use your power as an investor and consumer – and there has never been a better time than now to put pressure on organisations and businesses to start behaving better.
If everyone looked after their back yard, we would look after the country better.