Thursday, October 20, 2005

You can call me 'Al

I just 'invested' half an hour answering a question posed by The
Times Online. Based on an article regarding the woeful response to a
BA initiative (basically voluntarily buying off your eco-guilt for
flying - check it out here:,,2-1833936,00.html )

they asked if airplane fuel should be taxed

(see here:,,564-1834561.00.html )

, to which I replied as follows:

"Probably, yes. This despite working for a 'change through incentive
rather than penalty-based methods’ planet-saving organisation. AND
being married to a Singaporean, and hence having 50% of annual family
obligations 12,000 miles away. IF (it's a biggie) climate change is
due to greenhouse gasses out of exhaust pipes, then no Prius purchase
will match the consequences of annual jaunts to Klosters or Barbados.
And of course those who do probably still will carry on doing so no
matter what (don’t see too many Notting Hillbilly, chattering class
eco-champions opting to camp in Kent or having their conferences in
Cardiff), and hence punts us straight into ‘them and us’ territory.
As does any fuel tax. Now, who is the politician – especially one who
is seeking re-election in a few summer holidays’ time - to tell us we
can’t fly unless we pay? Or stand up to the airline lobby and its
global employee base that faces serving only a minority elite. Fuel-
cell powered Jumbos anyone?"

It's why I like blogs. Even if they don't include me, or worse they
do and I miss it when they do (got a few better things to do than
live on every online forum in case I get featured), or much worse,
flamed by those who do have such time, at least I can get my point
'out there' on my own terms.

What's interesting is that in the short time between starting this
and looking back, the posts are up there and on balance agreeing with
my point(s).

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Talking with Emma we
were projecting to a point where she would not be able to afford to
drive to work here (there is no alternative method) or I could not
visit my UK relatives in Scotland, simply because driving was priced
out of our reach and into the province of an elite.

So can taxing or levies on travel be the answer? It would seem to be
political suicide to try.

Then we debated a non-means-based method. How about we are allotted
so much leisure miles a year by road, sea, train and air? Madonna
gets the same as us. Her call on how she uses it. But then, how about
she really, really wants to go somewhere nice and hence gets to buy
our allotment off us? Woooo. Carbon-trading anyone? I am feeling a
headache coming on just trying to grasp with the social,
environmental and all other 'al' consequences. Good job a bunch of
selfish, self-interested empire builders are doing the thinking on
this for us.

Interesting notion. Soon we'll all be stuck in our villages and can
only communicate virtually unless permitted to travel by those who
know better. Glad we have swans outside our window. At least until
John Prescott concretes them over.

Energy Deficiency

I'm depressed. And I don't even read the Daily Mail (at least not
unless it has a classic DVD I must have, but will never watch). It
certainly doesn't help that the nature of our work here at
involves trawling through masses of information and opinion from
every worldwide media source imaginable. Thanks to these it becomes a
toss up if we'll get to the end of the day before being consumed by a
climatic catastrophe, bird flu, Iranian nukes or pillaging and raping

But my more immediate concerns surround mathematics, and if you end
up agreeing with me by the conclusion of this piece, you can at least
be reassured that I wasn't too terrific at it and hence may be wrong.

I have already broached the inescapable fact that, while the earth's
surface area is finite, there has to be a collision point in the
future between this and the expansion of our population and the
demands of each individual's needs throughout their lifespan.

And it is the individual which again concerns me in playing with my
sums again.

Because there are fewer and fewer people 'making' (I have to put that
in quotes as it's a broad definition) anything useful.

Yet the numbers of people 'feeding' (ditto) off them, and in fact
dependent on them for their existence, is growing exponentially.

So I'm afraid I just can't make the numbers add up.

As an example, some very nice working colleagues in the charitable
sector have just found that money they were promised (and spent) on a
worthy project has basically been sucked into a black hole as a
result of the quango that was to disseminate the money creating a sub-
quango, with the net result (I'm guessing) that a bunch of money was
consumed in the creation of this new entity. Now each quango is
pointing at the other as the reason for the shortfall, with the
result of course of the amount not being honoured.

Where is it going to end? We have legions of folk meeting,
researching, administering, assessing, reviewing, legislating,
policing, fining, taxing, building offices, creating empires, going
to courses, giving time off, ticking boxes, meeting targets, paying
salaries and guaranteeing pensions... but who the heck is going to
pay for this? In the short term I just mean financially, but in the
longer term simply by creating useable resources that these ever-
multiplying drains consume every second?

It doesn't really matter if our various future challenges are natural
or man-made, but we're the only race currently in much of a position
to do anything about them.

So by my assessment of the numbers, the most urgent efficiency we
need to address is in how we deploy our own energies. Make something,
or at least make it better.