Monday, December 04, 2006

WRAPPERS - 50cent... or free

Of course, we could mention another alternative for that over-stretched budget: newspaper!

Getting my goat (or not)

Confusing times.

Here I am, trying to figure out what's best for the family, budget and planet, and so I turn to the Sunday papers for inspiration.

And what do I find? Ads for buying goats for the 3rd World, neatly indispersed between articles (quoting charities) saying it's a bad idea!

Which is it!!!?

This is a serious issue. Twerps like me have little time to get into the minute details of this, and once we suspect it's going pear-shaped we turn off.

And when that happnes, what goes first, the head office pension fund or what the poor sods in the field need?

Just one last, wafer-thin mint

Gotta love the chattering classes. They can chatter all right: Global warming? I'll bring you some back from Macy's

"Remember Mr. Creosote? It was a fairly gross, but effective, satire on the notion of testing one's ability to sustain excess by the expedient of blowing up when you reach the point of no return. And now we have the latest commentator for this fine organ pitching in with another 'we really must stop... soon' piece. And that's about it. Bless. I guess it was just delicious irony I'd popped over from Mr. Juniper's article about how we are no longer the dirty man of Europe. If it's shopping, maybe it's now 'The dirty man and woman not in the UK but Macy's?'. Even better, there's this ad at the top offering me the prize of a holiday to the Caribbean. And, puh-lese, can someone explain to me this trading thing? Is it only between those in Notting Hill and Luton, or can the rest of us join in, including the entire population of sub-Saharan Africa?: link - “We can trade, but that doesn't stop emissions. And what of those who share the air we breathe, as opposed to flying through it?"

You have to love this post:

Um, these wouldn't be the shopping trips to New York thoroughly covered in Saturday's Guardian, would they?

Just saying.

Thanks Ian!

Big in the City.

I'm seeing a trend here, and it is a worrying one. Half thought-out notions being floated, seemingly with reasonable concerns, but by folk who live and work in places most set to benefit (or at least suffer least) from them: Admit it, we’re travel addicted. Let the taxman put the brakes on

My reply:

Dear Mr. Jenkins,

I admit it; 'we' are. But while I have to agree with all you have identified (and applaud that you have, at least, unlike most commentators, researched broadly and attempted a fair assessment of the situation along with most possible options), on present evidence have to raise a question mark as to the best person to apply the brakes.

I have some experience of all this. Well over a decade ago, when living and working in Singapore, the road pricing system had already well and truly 'popped up'. I also happened to meet a local lady, who is now my wife. Subsequently we moved back here to the UK; not to where my source of work was most conveniently located (London), but to be close to my dying father, and now dependent mother. There are compensations, such a massive boost in quality of life, and even the work issues are now mitigated by such as broadband, but there's no escaping our social and business communications - in person - are not optimal. For a start, one half of the family is 11,000 miles away.

Hence we not so much crave mobility, but by any reasonable measure need it through circumstance. No one sane seeks to spend 12hrs in a plane or 2hrs on a motorway. But yes, to an extent that has been our choice. So you are right that we have worked within an existing framework in planning where we are and will need to be, along with the associated costs of time and effort.

These of course are now changing. Radically.

I suspect you are right that the easiest and quickest way to restrict me... us.. is price. It has worked already. I cannot afford to fly, so come a family affair I am not sure what we will do when the need arises.

And when you say 'Rationing is by congestion or it is by price', why not also develop on the component of rationing itself?

Of course, for a start it would be a logistical nightmare. And while congestion is a vote loser it's not really accountable, whereas price is more easy to apply to the author, and hence erring on political suicide. Especially when there is the very real accusation to be made that it favours those in cities (when we are being told to become home workers, and many do not live in a city) with reasonable transport systems and is, in a related way, favouring the rich over those less able to fund their addiction, necessary or not.

Rationing could (if agreed and applied fairly, which it won't be. If the reduced eco-tax on a ODPM new build plonked on a flood plain in Kent is equated to the penalty on my 17th century cottage - insulated as best it can be - is anything to go on) be fairer and attempt to take into account the infinitely complicated impact we are all having on the environment. And yes, if it's gas into the atmosphere, stopping it has to be the priority.

But when it comes to fair, we are forgetting the global element. While I might reasonably be awarded a trip to the rellys once a year, what is poor Madonna to do to conduct her job, and to acquire more children (at least she is addressing - though I doubt for the reasons I allude to - the greatest actual problem the planet faces, namely population expansion, which puts travel in the shade whilst adding to its necessity. If you can't survive where you are, you need to move), in comparison to my more modest needs? Well, we could trade, and I get richer (along, I suspect with much-traveling City types trading in it all) as a she travels more, but that doesn't stop the emissions.And what of those who share the air we breathe, as opposed to flying through it? If we 'assign' one long haul, two short haul air trips and 10,000 miles in a car and 20,000 in a train to a every Kalahari bushman and Mekong boatlady, the potential for planetary disaster is magnified as they gain new items of value to trade with the addicted.

It's also a matter a of priority. As you rightly point out. How can we tax travel when the reasons to need it (more distant hospitals - I will soon blog on two signs in our City - not local, as I was require to take my Mum 20 miles away - hospital; one advocating the use of friends or relatives to help with transport, the other saying appointment priority would be give to those who use an ambulance. So I help and am penalised?!) are multiplying. It's the result of a political and administrative culture where success is measured in isolated targets, and the process is more important, and career-rewarding, than the final result.

It should be, but is less travel really the intention? Because fewer cars and travel means less revenue. And while a reduction in congestion may be nice in central London, if the same amount of fuel is going up in the sky at the periphery, then the planet is not gaining, while the policy wonks fly to Bali for a conference on global warming, funded by the money made on the charges. As you say, heaven help us if these guys stay in charge.

On Wednesday I am bringing the family to London for a show has been invited to appear in. There is no alterative for reasons of practicality and sheer cost (£40 petrol (at least Science Museum is giving parking to me- like the event, free) vs. £200 train fares) or time (last reliable train home 6pm; show ends 8.30pm). I have no choice, socially or for my work. Penalise me by taxes alone, set by and supported by those who live in a city earning a lot more, and the urban/country divide over something as petty as fox hunting will extend to a massive gulf.


ps: I doubt this will fit in the blog reply section, and so will attempt an edit. So forgive my sending direct first. But as you will have gathered, this is not something that can be dealt with in a pithy phrase or sound bite piece of legislation.


Call me a suck-up (and, let's face it, few do), but I am pleased to say I have had a reply from the author, and when it is one of the few commentators I truly respect I take total pleasure in sharing it:

Many thanks for your e-mail. I appreciate your predicament, but am not sure what your proposed solution is, unless we simply learn to live with global warming. As for choice, everyone thinks their own is a necessity.

With best wishes,

Simon Jenkins

He has stung me with that comment on a lack of a solution, which I feel moved to address. Watch this space (or maybe one above)

BBC: Youth Poll