Columnist Rachel Beckett is a Stroud-based writer and thinker who is concerned about making the world a better place.

An author, publisher and mother, Rachel will be sharing her thoughts with readers every month.

BY GEORGE, it’s time to think differently!

I have recently been reading the diary of the novelist and wit Fanny Burney. It reveals fascinating details about the late 18th century – a time beloved by all writers of period costume dramas.

Among other colourful details and anecdotes, Fanny gives an intimate insight into the character of George III, who seems to have been good humoured and rather likeable, though living in an age of inequality and crazy protocols.

I was amused at George’s remark that reading Shakespeare could be heavy going “only one must not say so”, because “it’s Shakespeare, and nobody dare abuse him”.

He wouldn’t have made it as a professor of literature, that’s for sure! But what’s interesting is that he was questioning accepted assumptions – a useful, and at times alienating, thing to do. Perhaps this hints at why he went mad in later life.

At precisely this time, the newly fledged industrial revolution was in full swing. It had already initiated a thickening in the blanket of atmospheric carbon around the Earth. This has inexorably continued to a level unprecedented over millions of years.

Flagged up by scientists for over a century, human-induced carbonisation has now reached a level where its damaging effects include melting ice caps, warming oceans, turbulent weather patterns and the decline of many wildlife species.

Yet there is a prevalent assumption, fed to us through entertainment, advertising and the media, that business as usual must continue at any price.

Consumerism has become another inalienable national institution. But unlike Shakespeare, it does little for our cultural and spiritual welfare.

When things aren’t right we need a hero, and again I think of an 18th-century figure, the slavery reformer William Wilberforce.

Atmospheric carbonisation has been likened to a modern equivalent of slavery – it has arisen for complex reasons and is hard to solve because of vested interests and cultural norms.

Wilberforce strove to bring about a seismic shift in thinking, but it took him decades – slavery was finally abolished in 1833, just days before his death.

Our ailing climate has been under discussion for decades too. The time is ripe for a serious push to set our industry and economy on a different course.

This doesn’t necessarily mean more wind farms. We could push for a regulation to fit all new-build houses with photovoltaic panels. Everyone’s ideas and values are important and we must all play a part.

Today’s local heroes can help us. For example, Stroud-based Polly Higgins has set up the Eradicating Ecocide campaign, pushing for legislation to ensure corporations work within a framework of environmental respect.

And our current Prince of Wales, like his ancestor George III, dares to question received norms – but with rather more focus. His Ladybird book Climate Change, written with Tony Juniper and Emily Shuckburgh, is a modest but most useful guide.

Perhaps the perfect springboard for planning a personal response to this problem, it is, I am told, an excellent read – and much easier than Shakespeare.