Monday, November 07, 2005

What have the 'mentalists ever done for us?

It's all a bit of a jumble this, but better late than never.

I'm looking at the front page of the Independent from Nov. 1, which is entitled '10 ways to save the world', on which I have added: Number 11: engage better with the public, which all of this will impact.

And if any of of you watched Monthy Python's Life of Brian, it explains today's title - ten is but the start of how we can go about saving ourselves, and I just keep thinking of more and more.

But lists need starts and finishes, and this all makes for an interesting one, as much for what isn't there as what is.

Let's have a gander:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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'.


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.


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.


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.

Ask, and you shall receive... ratings at least.

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..
Robbie Williams!"

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
been correct.

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?]