Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I just read a motoring piece about a new Mini 4x4 on the cards, which
these days inevitably ended up with a swipe (though on balance fair
enough) as to what the Mayor of London would make of it (it seems
he's talking of banning them as an eco-measure).
That's the problem with flip, narrow-minded, poorly thought-out,
agenda-driven , 'ist' campaigns; they almost always end up biting you
on the bum.
I'm not against a smart bit of well-considered, harmless, thought-
provoking, egalitarian protest to effect change, but when you take an
aggressively negative, and highly exclusive (but sloppily targeted)
stance such as the '4x4' efforts of some anti-dolts, you tend to
negate, or worse actively detract from any positives.
One obvious solution would be to move on to the more appropriate SUV
sector, but this would still consign all sorts of innocents to the
misery of censorious missionary zeal. There are many who, for sure,
it wouldn't hurt to inspire to drive more appropriate chariots based
on actual use, but is the collateral damage really worth it?
The final sentence here is not a defence of the unwarranted use of
such vehicles, simply a hint as to better avenues to explore in
trying to persuade people to change their purchase habits.
4x4s don't cause greenhouse gasses, burning lots of petroleum-based
fuels does. There's a difference.
In an ideal world, everyone would would cooperate in doing what's
best for them. Glad I got that out of the way.
In the real world, everyone has a different view of what's best...
for them(selves & us). A pol with an eye on a few decades tenure with
a legacy to enjoy while he/she is still alive (I don't think they
worry too much about the afterlife). A manufacturer with an eye on
shareholder value. A lobby group with an office, ad budget and staff
pension to pay for. A family with a fixed income, uncertain pension
and the prospect of a cold winter ahead.
So I was looking last night at my utility bills. Gas, electric,
telecoms, insurance, water and rates. Can't do much about the last
two, so I was concentrating on the the first few.
Trouble is, I ended up pretty confused. And that is not a good way to
arrive at a valid decision. It should all be so simple. All I need is
a cost per unit. Even with some jiggery-pokery on standing charges
and payment plans, that's all I need to make my decision. BTUs,
kilowatts, you name it. It is but a consumable item I don't see, that
has to meet certain quality standards to get to me and do its job,
whoever it comes from. So if I can get to the number I seek, it's
simple. I'll buy the cheapest.
What about the planet? So now it gets a wee bit more complicated. But
really it shouldn't, at least financially. If there is a loading, so
be it. Just so long as I know how much and can make that financial call.
Where is this money going to? And where is this energy coming from?
Am I paying for green energy, or funding some alternative energy
subsidy to a system tasked to meet targets rather than best-case
solutions (whatever they may be), or to help fund some pressure group
I may not endorse who are lending their name to promoting a
commercial, competitive, enterprise?
I don't know.
And inasmuch as a lot of my day is reading waaaaaay to much on this
issue already, and am still none the wiser, I'm pretty sure not many
other members of the average working public are either.
So I think the best way to sort this out before we discuss our way
into oblivion is to try to get someone to give us a big, juicy (no
endorsement intended or implied) KISS. Please! Is it not possible to
strip away all the political and activist baggage and pare down the
big issues by Keeping It Simple & Stupid?
I'll offer my thoughts on developing that naive, idealistic plea in
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
As for the end of the world, there is much thinking going on at high level, with a sense of urgency.
Junkk.com has two (there may be more, and I am sure we'll be told
what they are in due course. Rest assured, if valid we'll try and
address them) main obstacles to 'use' as an online resource.
Research after research in this field shows that high on users' pet
hate lists are asking for personal info and, sort of the same thing -
but not always - long forms.
Well, we're trying to address the fact that we have, to an extent, a
bit of both.
So soon there will be some stuff you can dip into on site pretty much
anonymously and unrecorded.
But the majority will still require agreeing to our terms &
conditions and/or registering.
We simply can't let folk read about ways to make things, much less
upload them, without accepting that some common sense needs to be
applied. And that means, in this litigious age, to provide a free
service with the cooperation of major brands' products requires some
protections for the good against the scamps we know exist out there.
Similarly, without knowing the postcode we can't very well tell you
what's happening in your neighbourhood, now can we?
Plus, of course, without a name and email we can't ensure you are who
you say you are and playing by the rules, few though they are.
Which brings me to a game called Runescape. It's an online, virtual
world that you can log on to and play, it seems, with all and sundry
out there in cyberspace. And from what I have seen of it, it is
pretty awesome, not least because it is free. And it also doesn't
seem too shabby on social development, maths and all sorts of other
stuff, with the possible exception of the killing and maiming. But
anyone with an X-box or PS2 knows that excess violence in games is a
lost cause anyway.
I just found out my 9 year-olds were playing it. And I was concerned
a bit because we had had a chat about online behaviour, and one of
our many rules is no real names, which they were using.
So I insisted they used noms de plum, which in the changing had some
deleterious consequences to the credits they'd built up. Oops. Bad
Sadly, being about the same age of Bart Simpson (at least this year),
and Gawd knows why, one of them also chose as his new 'handle'
something like Ruinpoop.
Along with crud (previous blog), 'poop' is a word we don't deem too
awful. In fact it's part of a ship, far as I can recall, as much as a
device to carry when you walk the dog.
Which is why him getting banned from the game for using offensive
language was a bit of a shock. Actually, he was desolate, as all the
levels he had built up were lost and he is weeks behind his chums now.
I was just angry. My wife had tried to appeal to their 'customer
services', or whatever the correct title for their nanny brigade is,
to at least get his credits transferred to another name, but she got
slapped down by some petty jobsworth citing 'the rules'. And that,
dear reader, is the end of this chapter.
Yes, rules will always be required. But how they get applied is
equally important. And, obviously, by whom.
So Runescape, for messing up with no good reason a lovely little boy
who could have easily been guided to the path you favour, I hope what
goes around comes around.
Monday, November 28, 2005
First up, I have had a reply from Sir John Whitmore of the Telegraph Motoring page, which inspired a previous blog. Pleasant enough and I appreciate that he did reply at all, though I'm still weighing up whether progressing the debate by getting back to him will be productive. Suffice to say that I suspect we may at best end up in 'agree to disagree' territory, or worse if his 'anything less is unacceptable' last word is something to go by. Watch this space.
What got us to this point was my wondering whether some of his more overtly critical comments (he had accused some drivers of being 'selfish' in an article) or thoughts on others' actions (he was fairly warm to some 'direct' activist behaviours) were going to further the cause.
Let's say for now he favours doing whatever is necessary now, as time will permit nothing less. I agree with him on the doing something bit, and the urgency, but still not with what he seemed to be advocating under the 'whatever we can' banner.
Which brings me, for all sorts of relevant reasons to this thread, to Greenpeace. They, as you will know from earlier blogs, I have mixed feelings about. And in the way of Junkk.com, may I share again by raising an eyebrow that can only be described as... 'enquiringly critical'.
Last weekend I was with the family in Gloucester. As we parked I noticed several cars bedecked with a windscreen 'sticker' and wheel-sized cardboard clamp emblazoned with the following: 'Greenpeace: this gas-guzzling 4x4 has been clamped to stop climate change'.
Uh-oh, I thought, along with wondering why the mud-spattered 1.6l Vitara with the 'Young Farmers' badge got this treatment, and not the dirty great 5.4l Jag next to it. Or the plane the happy clampers will doubtless board to snowboard Verbier this Xmas.
And when we came back later, my sons wondered why it was allowed to have all this litter on the ground, as the folks who had been 'spoofed' obviously didn't feel like taking these fine bits of promo material to the cardboard recycling bin (doubtless to create no carbon consequences at all being turned into such materials and then distributed around to be re-affixed).
And I then had to also wonder how it was allowed to fly-post commercial ad messages in this way. Because interestingly, and I told you this would all tie together, it also had the following website emblazoned upon it: http://www.choosecleanenergy.com
This actually links to a section on the Greenpeace site. And if you really work very hard navigating around it, it gets you to a link (which doesn't work at time of writing! D'oh!) to Juice, which is part of npower.
No problem at all with that. Renewable energy is a great thing to promote. But as you'll note from my last blog, it seems npower is not the only bunch offering it. So why is that the only one offered by Greenpeace as an option?
No, really, why?
On Junkk.com we'll happily put any such thing, for free, in our diRE:ctory, should anyone offering such things go to the effort of telling us about it (that, by the way, includes organisations such as Greenpeace - we may not agree with all they do, but you still should hear what they have to say). We'll also write stories/reviews about them once we feel qualified to do so, and update them if we have not been fair in sharing all the options... again... only if we're told about it. Fair enough?
And to be able to afford to do so, we'll also happily take paid ads from folk wanting to push their commercially-based CSR initiative over those of anyone else. But we'll stick them where they can and should be, on the ad sections of our own site, so you can make choices without guilt or threats to cloud the issue.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
My parents were, for their day, quite adventurous travelers. So I have vague, and fond, memories barelling down to the South of Spain in a state of the art Morris 1300 (something Dad had read about hydroelastic suspension being the pero's cojones in dealing with Iberian tracks), overnighting in exotic paradores and having my (then) blond (then) hair ruffled by cooing black-clad matrons with moustaches.
And it was on this trip that we ended up at a wondrous spot that is now in the news:
Greenpeace activists have seized a vast hotel under construction on a protected shoreline near Almeria in southern Spain, saying the project was illegal and should be demolished.
The skeleton of the hotel reaches down bare volcanic rock to a beach of spectacular beauty in the protected area of Cabo de Gata.
So without knowing all, or indeed needing to go into the detail of this (such as feeling it a pity that the preventative occupation has taken place once a heck of a lot desecration must have already occurred), I have to say this is the kind of thing I remember, and applaud the likes of Greenpeace for.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
The Sunday Times magazine had a photo feature this week called the
World on a Plate taken form a book: What the World Eats, by Peter
Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. It compared the shopping of 'average'
families from around the world, including UK, Chad, China, Egypt,
Philippines, Australia, India, Turkey, USA and Germany.
The main thrust of the piece was the cost rather than the dietary
side (in fact the weekly shopping was broken down into similar
categories, such as grains, dairy, beverages, etc). And while the
West/Others divide was not unexpected, I couldn't help but notice
that the UK family spent half that of the German one, though the
national weekly income figures included seemed to show they were not
necessarily applying like with like.
But the thing that struck me most in these photos was the amount of
packaging the 'Western' families' foodstuffs involved: bottles,
Tetrapaks, cardboard boxes, etc. Especially... the Germans. But I
guess they do at least recycle all this stuff. In Chad of course,
they shop local and practice 'reduce' above all.
(Reuters) - Environmental activists accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday of failing to tackle global warming despite many pledges of tough action. As Greenpeace dumped five tonnes of coal outside Blair's London residence in protest at what they said was his backsliding, the World Wide Fund for Nature accused him of saying one thing but doing the opposite on climate change. "Blair has gone from being the great hope to being the great threat,"
A report last week by a European think tank, the International Council for Capital Formation, said hitting the Kyoto targets could wipe out at least 200,000 jobs each in Italy, Germany and Britain and more than 600,000 in Spain.
Hot on the heels....
This from the Sunday Times quoting Michael O'Leary, Chief Executive
of Ryanair, 'rejecting claims that his low-fare model is increasing
"If preserving the environment means stopping poor people flying so
only the rich can fly, then screw it".
I don't think he's actually rejecting the claim. He's saying he
doesn't care. Which is almost a bigger worry.
Because he's in a corner, and in defending 'his' business he's kinda
showing what I have been banging on about for a while is coming to
pass, where we're seeing trying to deal with this getting swallowed
by a 'them and us' war.
And I can see a good few folks squaring up against each other here.
With only one set of losers. Us.
Sample : Although rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and other gases are almost certainly driving the global rise in temperature observed in recent decades, the natural greenhouse effect - without which the world would be considerably colder - is largely down to atmospheric water vapour.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
I was the other day reading about a memo from senior Wal-Mart exec.
that was advocating something pretty scummy get done (probably
legally, if not ethically) to the workforce to make a tad more
profit. And just now about the public-schools price fixing fall-out
(which involved compromising e-mails hacked by subsequently expelled
students). These of course come hot on the heels of Ms. Let's-
careers, whoever thought HMS Sheffield didn't need expensive
fireproof conduiting and, of course, the daddy (hey, at least with
the new ones the ladies are breaking through the glass ceiling when
it comes to being corporate weasels) of them all, the some bright
spark (no pun intended) at Ford who figured it was better to let the
Pinto blow up and pay the compo than actually redesign it.
What really beggars belief is that they:
a) Can think such things
b) Write such things
c) Send such things
d) Think they won't get caught out
e) Don't get censured by superiors on the spot
f) Don't lose everything soon thereafter
The answer of course, probably kicks in at 'e'. They do it because
there is a culture at their place of work that will reward
'results' (usually, but not always, profit. Protecting reputations or
defending policy can rate highly, too), to paraphrase and mangle
Ralph Nader, 'at any cost'. The risk is usually, at most, 'looking
bad', which is unlikely to trouble those who can come up with the
notions that pop them, fleetingly (what is Jo Moore doing now?), in
the glare of negative pubilicity.
What also beggars belief is that the organisations who employ such folk:
a) Are so cynical to think they can get away with it, and dumb as to
think that such a culture does anyone any good, especially their own.
b) Survive despite the consequences, along with the individuals at
the heart of it all.
So, ultimately, the fault can only be laid at our own doors. We let
them get away with it.
Life is too short (sadly, our attention spans are even shorter, along
with our thirsts for justice). The world is too small. Genuine (and I
know that can be a tricky one to assess) whistleblowers should keep
their jobs rather than losing them, and weasels should lose their
jobs, including benefits, rather than getting promoted sideways.
Friday, November 11, 2005
There was an interesting post the other day by the editor of Materials Recycling World, Paul Sanderson, regarding editorial integrity, from which I quote a small section:
"Over the last few years there has been a lot of debate in the media industry about editorial integrity. It used to be the case, and indeed it was how I was taught, that you should never admit to any mistakes you made.
But increasingly, many media organisations, with The Guardian at the forefront, are attempting to always put right any genuine mistakes that have been made through talking to those who have been affected and coming up with an agreement on how to do this. "
He sought some feedback, which I provided, and he has kindly published:
"It got me to thinking about a similar situation we found ourselves in. At some mysterious point it struck me that Junkk.com was a medium, with all THAT entailed. We are sent information, or we go off and find it ourselves, and then we put up there for folks to access.
I guess I'd somehow not thought of us as a 'media' organisation in the classic sense, and in any case we were free, plus a few other notions that all seem rather quaint now. But we do have an audience who trust us, and hence many obligations to them, many of which carry professional if not legal consequences. So I am very glad we created the site with the advice of the very best media/copyright lawyers you can get.
[Here I'd like to give a 'big up' to Alex & Alex at BRIFFA http://www.briffa.com, who helped us create the site to protect our public, our clients and ourselves in this over litigious world, and still keep us on the straight and narrow]
So even though we perhaps did not set out to be a 'news medium' or 'journalists' in the same way as did the publishers of MRW or yourself, there is not much difference in responsibility and accountability. Even in what we imagined (at first.... boy, were we wrong!) to be the fairly uncontroversial world we both inhabit.
Not everyone (and certainly not us) has your level of experience of hands-on editorial training. There may even be rules we don't know about (and ignorance of these may be no excuse... yadayada... but the murky world of online at least presents us with certain precedents to carry on). But there are certain things that just seem worth adhering to in my very simplistic t'pennyworth feedback. These would be:
1) Tell the truth
2) If necessary, and it probably almost always is, put it in the context you learned it and now share it
3) Be prepared to accept it may turn out to be inaccurate and have in place procedures to prevent, and continually check for this happening; and cope quickly if it does
4) Better yet, make sure everyone knows that you are so prepared (which forms part of 2)
5) If you are party to something incorrect, put it right, preferably with a 'weight' in excess of the initial story that needs to be rectified (I consider BBC's Newswatch to be a poor example of this latter, with a Sat morning mea culpa slot to deal with primetime howlers).
For us, other than the odd opinion piece where I may make someone grumpy with a twitching eyebrow, I don't think we're going to venture too far into controversial territory. But by placing or acting as a conduit for 3rd party materials we're given, we are of course in danger, if in good faith, in sharing information that may not be correct.
I hope it is enough, but somewhere we cheerfully try and explain this in our own way by saying 'If we know, we'll tell you. If we don't we'll say so, and then try to find someone who does.' But what if that person is wrong? I guess we have to fall back on number 5, and our metaphorical swords, too. We certainly are putting more opportunities to provide corrections at source all around the site.
So as a 'reader' of 'news' for a few decades, I am appalled to only now learn that it was taught in journalism never to admit to mistakes, and only recently that any effort was being given to actually putting things right should you do so. So good on you guys for having that as policy.
I wouldn't expect it any other way. Honestly."
I should stress, if it is not clear enough by my reply, that Paul and MRW are obviously very committed to a policy that I, and I would hope all right thinking folk (notice I didn't pop an 'other in there), would applaud.
But who'd have thunk? I'm still coping with his revelations about mainstream media, who really do have the power to influence our way of lives seriously. But it is also an eye-opener that such considerations are troubling editorial departments in the more niche media areas such as recycling. But then, this is all getting pretty serious. Not just the millions of pounds being 'used' in our (tax and ratepayers') names, with little or no real appreciation of how or why by the general public, but also the very real consequences such decisions and expenditures are going to have on our futures.
One final thought. Errors of inaccuracy are one thing. Errors of omission can be equally, if not more troubling. That is where trust in your medium really comes to into play. Will you be told something that may not fit the publisher's own personal agenda or commercial interests? Wooooo. Scareeeee.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
In this time-poor age, gatekeepers are inevitable. But still frustrating. I have used this blog before, am now and doubtless will again to 'note' (ok, whinge a bit) about the less than helpful aspect of relationship-building which they represent to anyone trying to launch a new service, yet is confronted by everyone from Tracy on Reception ('Hooshlisayscallin'?) though Mrs. Miggins on her IBM Selectric ('Does He/she - I'm being PC here, not inferring any Ladyboy tendencies - know you?'') to a middle management minion with the power to say no but not yes.
These folk are facts of life. And you have to learn to deal with them, and the system.
But when it gets automated the problems can really kick in. How do you negotiate with a machine?
I recently was talking with Paul Sanderson of Materials Recycling Week (quick plug for them: www.mrw.co.uk - not a magazine perhaps for most of Junkk.com's audience, but if you want to stay on top of the 'business' of re-everything, well worth the sub), who had kindly got in touch because he was concerned something we'd sent had not got through.
So our discussions turned to servers, firewalls, spam filters, etc, and indeed it transpired that thanks to a new IT-thingie their end, we were now being consigned to the junk folder, which would be flattering to have thought as our own little outpost in their office, but for the lack of that extra special k.
We are also still desperately trying to sort out how we get through without interception and deletion to the majority of our own opt-in users who have a hotmail, aol, g-mail, etc, address, and are tracking down a rumoured 'white list' that will deem us non-pornographers or member-extenders.
But it seems we must also face the possibility that legitimate B2B communications may also find themselves headed off at the pass. It certainly doesn't help having @junkk.com as an address, but there's not much we can do about that. And it takes a certain leap of the imagination at ISP-central to imagine a spammer would name their product so imaginatively.
But sadly I think I will soon have also to consign our nifty 12k logographic signature to the... er... junk bin. And forget about ever sending an attachment.
It's just another of the growing-pain joys and tribulations of the online world. It was in many ways meant to speed communication and make it more accessible. But in protecting ourselves from something that may be harmful, we've almost gone full circle and created a situation that we actually don't get exposed to much of anything that is not pre-filtered.
So if you would like to hear from us in future, I think I will need to engage a nice fellow with a cleft stick to pop it around. Ain't technology wonderful?
Complex problems require innovative solutions, writes John Whitmore
Since I last wrote about global warming, to the irritation of proud owners of 4x4 Silly Ugly Vehicles and other ego-mobiles, we have had a tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and a huge earthquake.
We have also broken a number of planetary heat records and the icecaps are melting, yet some still bury their heads in the sand.
I recently read about the New Puritans, young people who are against all the unhealthy stuff: fashion, consumerism, brands, smoking, Esso fuel, binge drinking, pollution, junk food etc.
He referred to and linked to another, earlier, piece:
Of course all movements have rogue or radical arms that we deplore, at least in public. In Paris, Les Dégonflés (The Deflated) are a band of guerrillas, or terrorists if you disapprove, who each night let the air out of the tyres of some 40 SUVs in the city. England's eco-terrorist is Sian Berry, who hands out fake parking tickets informing SUV owners of the error of their ways. If we can't save the world with common sense, let us do what we can with humour; if we are lucky, we might die laughing.
John Whitmore argues that we must change our motoring ways
I was going to write a light-hearted piece this month but the motoring magazine shelf at Heathrow airport persuaded me to tackle something more controversial.
I equipped myself for the first leg of a flight to Australia with three leading motoring titles,
Such assets become uncomfortable or illegal at a brush of the accelerator, so why should they be of interest or relevance to ordinary motorists? Are the magazine journalists boy racers? Are their readers? Do ordinary motorists read such stuff?
When are we going to wake up to the full implications of environmental degradation? Will we continue to buy and drive greedy status symbols while waiting for the apocalypse? Will we continue to offer the pathetic platitude that "anything I do won't make a difference, so why bother?"
That is why I support Ken Livingstone, fuel tax, road tolls, lower speed limits, enforcement cameras and traffic calming. I would even be happy to see a ban on cars of more than, say, 100bhp.
"I recall a recent spat in the world of rock god luvvies, where I believe one didn't want to attend another's 'save the whatever' concert because the other hadn't attended his. It seemed to be a case of two rights making a wrong.
Hence I always feel a little circumspect when reading, much more commenting on, passionate views held regarding the behaviour of others, especially in an area of interest we obviously share.
But you have kindly invited a reply in the spirit of good-natured debate, so I thought I'd commit digit to keypad.
Whatever the cause(s), there is no doubt that something very nasty is brewing with our climate, and it's very unlikely that what 'we' are doing with 'our' many and varied manifestations of conspicuous consumption are doing much to help. Though I have to here express doubts that anything 'we' have or have not done, Hummer-wise, would have greatly influenced the Asian tsunami or Kashmir earthquake.
And much as I am concerned for my kids' future about what's going on, I also worry how easy it can be for certain views can take us in ‘unproductive’ directions; especially when these are often from those with greater access to the media, and hence end up predominating.
I wasn't quite sure, but there did seem to be a tacit admiration, and even passive support, on your part regarding certain censorious actions in support of various beliefs. It's easy to be against things. True skill lies in being for things, and promoting them in a positive way.
I live in the country, and I don't own an SUV. My lifestyle does not require it and my wallet would not sustain one. But I do know a few folk who do, with some justification. If I were one of them, should I decide on a trip to some merry eco-prankster’s urban 'hood, I could easily laugh off a witty fake parking ticket. Perhaps I’d be less impressed by a deflated tyre or, not that it could ever happen, a key down the side.
So I just wonder if it possible to stray a tad into 'my cause is better than your cause' territory, especially when we throw around emotive words like 'selfish' to embolden those more single (simple?)-minded in their means of expression and desire to express.
It's just possible a planeload of these born-again enviro-types leaving behind a Prius-laden carpark may not be so impressed if Greenpeace chained themselves to the 747 about to whisk the family off to a week's skiing in the Rockies.
So I simply caution against any route that involves the pointing of fingers, as this inevitably ends up with fingers being pointed back. Hence valuable emotional resources are consumed defending turf, and egos, when we could better apply our efforts to working together in discovering proactive solutions.
I couldn't agree more that we need to effect change with good humour. But I would like to complement this less with accusations, and more in a constant search for incentive-based solutions designed to inspire folk to move in a 'better' (oh dear, who's to judge?) direction because they WANT to, by seeing the BENEFIT.
I am not above what I call the odd 'eyebrow twitch' in my personal comment section of our own small attempt at making the difference. But it is usually directed at those in authority who have set themselves up to steer us on path of righteousness with fingers wagging. As a poor slob myself, I have a certain empathy with other poor slobs trying to do their best with what they have got to go on.
So I do try promote wherever possible avoiding the accusatory, guilt or, heaven forbid, 'fabbo fines first, sensible solutions second' paths. It tends to all get a bit ‘them 'n us’ for the humour route to be sustained for long.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Junkk.com is nothing if not a roller-coaster ride. And just when you
least expect it, a little boost comes in that makes things look that
littel bit more rosy. A while ago we'd been invited by BusinessLink
to apply for a Business Growth Grant, basically a 'keep up the good
work' cash boost. As we had already enjoyed fair support we were not
to sure whether we'd be in line when this was doled out, but it would
have been silly not to apply.
Well, we got it!
The project that it will fund is where we feel we need the most
urgent 3rd party help (sadly grants seldom can go to 'us'), which is
to get the siet from a B2B entity to a truly consumer-friendly
portal. Not before time, as we are now actually 'live and out there'.
And we are aware that there are issues of design and navigation
within the site that need to improved to tell people what is going on
fast, and give them what they want faster.
So tomorrow we're meeting our It gurus sound-i (www.sound-i.co.uk) to
initiate it all. We had planned for it, but the money simply was not
there before, and now it is. We feel it will be a critical upgrade.
But also we are further encouraged by the endorsement this implies.
This is an investment in a business that sees the environment as
something worth making as accessible as possible to the general
public, and in so doing becoming self-sustaining as a consequence.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
1: SET LEGALLY BINDING ANNUAL CO2 REDUCTION TARGETS
New law to commit the Government to reducing CO2 every year by a fixed amount - say, 3 per cent - audited by an independent body. A radical programme would then have to be implemented to meet the target.
As a consumer this means nothing to me. Hard to comment. But I don't like targets. That smacks of more people using money talking and not doing. Or doing what meets targets, which often means the opposite of what's best to achieve the result we really are after.
2: DECENTRALISE THE ENERGY SUPPLY SYSTEM
Do away with the vast power stations serving the national grid: think microgeneration. Give every city, every town, every village, its own power station, fitted with a combined heat and power (CHP) system, which cuts CO2
This... I like. So long as the funding to make it work is sensible and not for everyone's benefit except the consumers.
3: ALL NEW BUILDINGS TO BE CO2-FREE
Put a power station in every basement: change building regulations to make all new buildings provide their own power, with solar panels, mini-wind turbines and CHP systems to soak up wasted heat.
Sure, why not? The future starts now.
4: INSIST ON USE OF ENERGY-EFFICIENT LIGHT BULBS
Ban standard light bulbs all over Britain and force us to use energy-saving bulbs instead, which soak up less than a quarter of the electricity. Hugely symbolic gesture which would save enormous quantities of CO2.
How did this get here? I don't like the word ban. And has anyone figured out how most of us afford to restock our existing fittings to take the new bulbs? Better to figure out ways to make the new bulbs fit our fittings and then price them attractively enough to make their use within our budgets.
5: BOOST NEGLECTED RENEWABLES; SOLAR, WAVE, TIDE POWER
Start giving proper funding and backing to renewable energy other than wind: solar power, and power from the waves and tides. These have vast potential to supply CO2-free electricity, yet are underdeveloped.
Yes!!!! I am not a big fan of wind yet. The numbers don't add up, unless you're a German contractor with an MEP meeting you for lunch.
6: FOCUS AGAIN ON OFFSHORE WIND POWER
Renew the impetus behind wind farms based in the sea with 1bn of subsidy: after a good start, development is slowing, because of technical and financial difficulties, yet we have unparalleled offshore wind resources.
OK, offshore. But still, so long as the ROI makes sense to more than a turbine guy's pension plan.
7: GET RADICAL WITH ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Make sure every house in Britain that can be properly insulated is insulated; bring in much more rigorous labelling that can enable any consumer to see how much energy is used by a product.
Ooooook. Insulation is no-brainer. Labelling... hmmn. If our expereince is any guide, labelling is not likely to make a big difference. Looked at a fag packet lately? More money being wafted away on 'campaigns'.
8: TACKLE THE GAS GUZZLERS
Raise vehicle excise duty (VED) on cars such as 4x4s; make it more than ?1,000 per vehicle and set it to rise further. If you want to be radical, insist on a health warning on the side: This Vehicle Damages The Environment.
Why 4x4's? This smacks of city folk (who tend to write for newspapers) applying their urban experiences and prejudices without thinking it through. We're also now in social engineering territory again. Be careful, guys.
9: CURB THE GROWTH IN CHEAP FLIGHTS
Raise air passenger duty to end the cheap flight bonanza, as CO2 emissions from aircraft are the most rapidly rising in Britain and also the most damaging: they go straight into the stratosphere. A vote loser and a tough choice.
Got the last bit right. Same problem as the car fuel one above. Price use down and you're an elitist. By why just cheap flights? Does rather smack of one still wanting one's skiing and safari trips around the globe, but just don't feel the plebs should get to go to visit Granny in Glasgow at half the price the train costs.
10: HAVE A LATE-NIGHT TALK WITH GEORGE BUSH
Do anything you can to get George Bush to change his mind about climate change. The world needs America, the biggest CO2 emitter, to lead the fight against global warming. The President is denying the evidence.
Sure. But when do we talk to the Chinese? I guess it's rude to mention until after the Olympics at least. And who'll be popping over there, I wonder?
It's easy to snipe. And all these are really no-brainers. But the probelm is that everyone who is making the most noise seem blind to the fact that they are usually applying their own limited agendas. And I'm convinced the vast majority of the population are feeling a little bit less than enaged by these rather highbrow notions.
As an example, the paper's Green Goddess column was featured in a link to the article above. I'm afraid that I only got as far as her taking a taxi from her London pied-a-terre to visit her bike-riding eco-consultant or somesuch, before I had to return to my world.
Another one of my 'media missives' that I'll copy here so at least it
is in the public domain if they choose to ignore it.
Although it is specifically about speed cameras and those tasked with
enforcing them, it could equally apply to a lot of environmental
issues that get covered.
My greater concern is the fact that many of our news journalists (not
all) these days are so factually unprepared on topics that all they
can do is invite public submissions which they then dish out to the
interviewees, and then seem unable to challenge the replies sensibly.
They are not always so fawning as the example I cite from today, but
still it seems enough to ask and not be too worried about how
accurate the response is before moving on.
In fact they often ask the most stupidly provocative questions sent
in just to stir things up rather than with any intention of having
an informed debate - " Whoopsie, that's all we have time for
regarding the end of the world. Thanks Osama from Way East of
Norwich). But now a puff piece on our very own [insert bouffant or
vanilla code here], who has been tripping the light fantastic with..
Anyway, this was to the BBC watchdog programme, Newswatch (crack of
dawn at the weekend for anyone interested. Always a good moment to
air any linen you soiled at peak evening time.) by way of feedback:
"What is the point of inviting questions during Breakfast TV?
Indeed, now that journalism has given way to presenting across almost
any news programme, why bother with any challenging items at all?
Certainly getting an answer, clarification or the truth does not seem
to be the intention any more. It's enough simply to pose (in more
ways than one).
Today the new senior police officer in charge of speeding issues was
given an opportunity to trot out a bunch of old, obvious, official
statements unchallenged, and pretty much allowed to ignore the myriad
real discrepancies that are driving a massive divide between
motorists and the police over this issue. And at the end we get
admonished by the presenters 'if you don't want to get a fine, don't
speed'. It wasn't an interview; it was more like a pre-vetted feed
and stock answer session.
The one real question* I did hear, from a viewer (a magistrate, who I
presume would know about their profession, and whose validity in
doing so was checked by the BBC to be allowed to pose the question),
was why a magistrate would be asked to step down from their position
if they had a similar number of points for speeding as did this
officer. The officer said this was not accurate.
Is it? I remain none the wiser. There was no comment from the
presenters (maybe one was still smarting from being asked about his
record - or possibly worried he'd be targeted). That was simply it.
Question posed. Answer given. No matter that it may or may not have
Not what I need and expect from my news."
But certainly what I fear we're going to get more and more of from
the BBC. No wonder it is hard to decide on major climate issues when
officials, lobbyists and the like can pretty much make up whatever
they feel like and get away with it.
*[Mine were: Should he gain a few more points and lose his licence,
would he be able to simply carry on doing his job by being provided
with a driver? Why do the actual cameras not have the limits on them?
If it is only about safety how does he answer those who point out
that where there are these things there are higher accident rates,
and where they are not they are lower?]