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Lords Diary: Earl Russell

Sparky the border collie | Image by Earl Russell

Earl Russell

Earl Russell

4 min read

Reflecting on climate change after sodden walks with the dog – and escaping the pressures of an extra long parliamentary session out on the Downs with his bike

As I sit at home looking back over the last few weeks – they were very wet and bleak. It has also been an extra-long parliamentary session here in the Lords, and we are still only halfway through. The session has been made longer by six extra sitting Fridays – to accommodate the Safety of Rwanda Bill.

As I write this, I am contemplating our common future, the common challenges we face, and the nature of increasingly divided political discourse. If we are unable to hold common discussions, how can we expect to find the common solutions we need to survive our uncertain future?

The recent trends for warmer and wetter winters fuelled by the impacts of climate change are accelerating. February has broken global records. In England and Wales it was the warmest on record and in most of southern England, we have seen well over 200 per cent of our average monthly rainfall. 

I know from walking my border collie in my local London Wildlife Trust Reserve that the ground is like a swamp. The earth beneath our feet is full to the brim with water. Many of our farmers have seen their land constantly underwater since October – obliterating winter crops, with successive floods washing away precious topsoil. I wonder how we will meet our future food security needs if these trends accelerate?

Here in the House I have, in my new role as climate change and energy spokesperson, been working on fully comprehending the enormity of my brief. While I welcome the government’s climate change commitments and the progress that has been made, the scale of the challenge requires that more must be urgently done at scale and at pace to meet our targets. 

I have been asking the government questions on issues such as access to locally available green and blue space, the state of our polluted rivers and streams and our flood defences.

I had two cameras, one wide and one telephoto, swung around me like an upmarket gunslinger

DownsAway from the House I had an opportunity to get out on my electric mountain bike and to pass a few days on the North and South Downs. I have always been an avid walker and time in nature has always been my escape and means to improve my own wellbeing. I have a slight propensity for breaking various bones but thankfully this time I arrived home safe and refreshed.

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Lord Cormack and tweeted as much. I am very new to the House of Lords, and very much learning how this impressive and historical institution really works and functions. 

I had not had opportunity to talk with him directly until I was asked to take some photographs for The House magazine at an event at the end of November. Prior to entering the House, I worked as a political photographer. Of course, I arrived early and had two cameras, one wide and one telephoto, swung around me like an upmarket gunslinger. 

As Lord Cormack entered the room and saw me, he commented, “You look remarkably like the Earl Russell,” to which I replied, “That is because I am the Earl Russell.” 

Lord Russell
Photographing Lord Cormack at a House mag event | Image by Earl Russell

It was a moment, a moment when we became friends. He of course has spent many years of his life supporting this publication. 

We went on to talk later that evening. He was very warm and welcoming to me, as the new boy, offering freely the benefit of his wisdom and experience. 

We talked about the privilege of making legislation, the need for common courtesy, the need for politicians to set aside their differences and work together for the good of humanity and the dangers of divisions in our political discourses.

He was a gentleman from a generation of gentle men and I am personally delighted that as the new boy I had the opportunity to listen to and learn from him. 

Earl Russell is a Liberal Democrat peer

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