Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Your World. Your (Well, the Independent's selection from its readership) Verdict. And mine.

Took me a bit of getting round to, but here I am at last at the positive, proactive manifesto following the Indy's big enviro splash.

Frustratingly, while the the previous editions are online, this one (dated April 3) does not seem to be, so I am reduced to copy-typing the ideas mooted, but fortunately (for my carpal tunnel if not the planet) there were not that many. I don't propose to go into the 'Fors' and Againsts' they listed, but rather will add my own, with comment, if they agree or differ.

Fit new buildings with solar panels or wind turbines

Sure, why not? And why not encourage the same on old ones? But let's just remember that there are 'issues', such as the article below this very suggestion in their very own paper, which reports 'the solar power industry has warned that it is on the brink of crisis as a result of governemnt incompetence in the awarding of grants for householders'. For guys like me looking at this as an option, not most encouraging. Plus for those in a whirl for a turbines, well, just make sure the house can handle it.

Label products according to their effect on climate

How twee. Why not? But given the choice I'd prefer the space be used to make the thing useful.

Force passengers to pay environmental cost of flying

More like forcing the world's governments to multilaterally force the world's airlines to cover that cost, which would then get passed on as a consequence to the passengers. Frankly I'm feeling more radical, as this smacks of just making the whole thing into a great big income generator like the congestion charge, with little end-benefit to the global environment, and a massive cost in socio-economic inequality. If these things are screwing up the planet as we think they are, and risking the ire of the travel industry, we just have to stop traveling as much. So I'd advocate trading in the right to fly, based on the individual.  How commy is that???! It's a zoo. It's not going to happen. We're stuffed.

Make energy-efficient light bulbs compulsory

Sure. Build in tax breaks and make their purchase a no-brainer. There are now designer models and even halogen spots, but they are pricey! By the same token we should be yanking baths and power showers out of bathrooms, too. Ironic, having scooted a few pages along to read an Indy correspondent ponder health and safety from the security of his bath. Just mentioning, is all:)

Encourage people to work from home

Sure. I am holding my breath. As I write, from home.

Use the law to encourage recycling

See many previous blogs. First get the ways to recycle sorted. Build in incentive-based systems. Next prioritise they real offenders vs. the accidental ones and prosecute on actual abuse and environmental impact and not the ease of prosecution and getting paid. Then worry about forcing.

Ban 4x4 cars from cities

And, while you're at it, anyone from the country, with bad back, the rich, etc. Daft & divisive. If it's a safety issue, prevent them from being built. If it's about emissions, then address fuel consumption through pricing. Same problem as flying. Daft and divisive.

Reduce packaging on products

Yayyyyyyy! Mind you, it may help to encourage products and packaging with a 2nd use. Whadyathink?

Ban patio heaters

I agree these things don't make any sense, but again it seems more damaging by being socially divisive than having any significant environmental benefit to warrant being one of the top 10 best ideas to help save the planet. For this reason it will doubtless have the greatest energy expended on it. Another war I will watch from the sidelines with distainful eyebrow raised .

And one that did not make it from the front page:

Make Public Transport cheaper to stop people driving

Well, ok. But in a relatively affluent country I'd say it would be better to make it really convenient first. A car is a mighty expensive thing, yet we still use it. Why?

Apparently all these ideas are being forwarded to the All Party Climate Change Group, led by Colin Challen MP, who I seem to recall felt his greatest cause a while ago was to have Jeremy Clarkson 'dealt with'. Ken Livingston is obviously on the bandwagon, accusing JC, and him alone, for global warming. Who pays these guys' salaries?I'm encouraged at how this discussion will pan out already.

So out of the ten I see the following:

Positive - Solar/wind on new builds - Cheaper Public Transport - reduce unnecessary packaging
Economic (dis)incentive - Flying
Advisory - Labelling products
Er, how? - More homeworkers
Ban! - 4x4s in cities - Compulsory energy efficient bulbs (ie: getting rid of those existing, and their fittings) - Force recycling - Patio heaters 

No mention of insulation, which I understand is a massive issue as we're talking domestics, Along with electr(on)ics with standbys, etc...

About the only thing I had much time for in the whole paper was much later on, with some chap called Miles Irving foraging the country for edible plants and then selling them to top chefs (ref given: I can't probably can't afford to eat at the restaurants in question, but it isn't hurting me, and is at least an example of actual doing.

Reality Hijacked

When I were a lad, your allegiance to a DJ was based on him (or her)
acting as a proxy for your tastes, haunting places you could not get
to and bringing you what was new, fresh and great.

Nowadays, massively overpaid talking celebrities are given a playlist
generated by a committee, the access to whom is limited by a murky
world of gatekeepers and those with the tools to gain access. Hence,
even in the supposedly egalitarian world of the internet, a back-
bedroom overnight sensation more often than not turns out to have a
label, a PR or at worst a brother who works in the BBC.

So I was touched today to get a an email from one of my new-found
Stalag Luft Ideal Home chums, pointing me at the paper-clip story
(which I had coincidentally already picked up on) and suggesting that
we need a similar 'gimmick'.

Sadly, while I can only agree, I had to opine that the problem is not
so much the gimmick, but rather the mechanism to get it circulated
virally in sufficient numbers, and within a short enough time, that
the next level of hired, connected fixer could persuade the media to
report it.

Little, if anything these days gets in the major print or broadcast
organs without a shove. And if you have enough money, you can make
even the most despicable of entities look innocent and part of the
'people's voice'. It's why we long ago gave up on music contests.

This was brought to mind by a piece in the Mail on Sunday a few weeks
ago (yes, I'm still catching up on my reading, along with my blog)
about advertisers who pose as young girls on chatrooms. Apparently
agents working for multinationals are using these avenues to pop in a
covert message or two hundred thousand.

So... what's new? It's sad, but inevitable. And the only real scandal
is the way so many play along, with unchecked quotes, gushingly
endorsed awards ceremonies and the like, based on such rigged nonsense.

Which is why we are not above asking a few loyal Junkketeers to
mention our name when they're on their forums.

When you're right you're RIGHT! When you're WRONG you're wrong

I need a filing system for my blogs. And a search function. I'm sure
it exists. And equally sure I can't afford one.

So I'll just have to allude vaguely to a blog or two 'a while ago',
inspired by a piece by MRW editor Paul, citing a major national
paper's policy of never admitting they were wrong. I was not in
favour of this approach.

So it was interesting to stumble across a small section in this
Sunday's Times, entitled 'Red Letter Days Limited', when it should
have been 'How we totally cocked up a story big time a hurt a bunch
of innocent folk by being sloppy and now arrogant'.

I couldn't find it on the online section (surprise) to quote, but
basically they have admitted that when they wrote the week previously
that said company's sales 'had collapsed' and it was failing, it is
in fact 'performing well'.

No I remember reading that original piece and thinking 'give that a
miss, then'. I'm not sure the correction I saw comes close to
repairing the damage done.

There is another way to throwaway

A nice little story about a nice little idea that became.... bigger: I've swapped my paper clip for a house...

Basically this chap just kept swapping stuff and gaining a little at each stage (gaining a lot latterly as the inevitable media interest and involvement pushed it to a new, and less genuine level. But I guess we wouldn't have known about it otherwise).

I really only mention it because of the comment by the reporter at the end of his piece: 

'I am somewhat distracted. My attention has been caught by a small blue plastic object on my desk. It is the lid of an old ballpoint pen. Once I might have thrown it in the bin but now I pick it up and turn it thoughtfully in my fingers. Today, a plastic pen top... tomorrow a villa in Tuscany.'