Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Drive, he didn't say

I could have sworn I had seen, and mentioned, this before, but no harm no foul in doing so again: CO2 car rankings site launched

Can't hurt. Though I'd hazard more will look at the tax than what comes out of the pipe.

Which still means you can drive all day, emitting away, in a 'good' car, and drive a few miles and park but still get slaughtered by buying a 'bad' one. Not quite so sure how the latest Minister for Jams and Sources (of income) arrives at his figures, but I'm sure a full department created them, which means they must be good.

Maybe the best solution is buy a good one and not drive it very far. Or not drive it. Or not buy it at all! Or...

Just call me the lean, green love machine

Well, the green bit maybe.

As I look at a stack of worthy press releases that should be properly written up and archived on the main site (lack of holiday support being my reason, if not excuse), I just have to post this here, and now, pretty much as is. And in so doing, give much needed PR and cred to that well known environmental magazine, Nuts. But it's fun, so... um.. oh, nuts. See, I have been seduced to the trivial side already!


Key to a modern woman’s
(well, 1,500 at least, which is a better sample than most research I've seen on actual issues that matter) heart is saving the planet. Of the personality traits that they found most attractive in men topping the list is showing you care about the environment. Demonstrating you’ve got green credentials and is now the number one quality modern British women seek in a partner.

This change in attitude can in a large part be put down to the recent green- avalanche of star-studded eco events such as Live Earth. Global heart-throbs from George Clooney and Brad Pitt to Justin Timberlake and Johnny Borrell (who?) all now all proudly endorsing the green agenda - meaning that being green is no longer just trendy – it’s down right sexy.

The results set a precedent for legions of UK Green Men who may soon need to trade in their gas guzzling cars for greener bicycles in a bid to impress women. Toppling the classic ‘Good Sense of Humour’- GSOH - for the first time, the research proves once and for all that recycling and growing vegetables in the back garden are no longer the preserve of wellie toting hippies.

Nuts magazine relationship expert (a what?) Louise Prior said: “There’s something sexy about a man who recycles, it shows that he cares about more than just himself and shows he has a sensitive side and thinks about the future. As for some of the other traits, you can’t go wrong with making a woman laugh, but modern women want their men to be caring. It started with the new man back in the 90s, more recently we’ve had the whole Metrosexual phenomena and green man is an extension of that really!”

The top-ten personality traits women find attractive:

Caring about the environment - tick
Good sense of humour - er, have you seen my bank statement?
Confidence - in spades. No really, I think they are the best for digging holes for compost.
Intelligence - moving quickly on.
Well travelled and worldly-wise - that would be 'then', 'cos if we're saving the planet travelling anywhere, much less well, would be a 'no-no', surely? And that makes me wise, hmmn?
Empathy and understanding - I feel your pain... reading this.
Good dress sense / style - Er, we are talking guys who mess around with rubbish here.
Ambition - If wanting to make the planet a better place counts... tick! An Aston Martin would be nice, too. Once they have the hybrid version sorted out.
Knowledge of current affairs - Hilary who? Go on, ask me....
Good with children - I'll ask the boys when they have finished sanding the roof lintels all day.

So OK, laydees, who would like to see my composting bin?

Environmental Audit Committee Report Issued

For anyone with sufficient time on their hands to wade through all 216 pages, including all the oral evidence given, the Seventh Report of Session 2006–07 from the Environmental Audit Committee was published yesterday.

Entitled "Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill", it is a huge tome of information covering every issue you can shake a stick at. Sorry but I personally could not possibly find the time to go through in depth, so a few choice excerpts from a speed read skim are all that I can manage for now.

"Climate change is on a different scale from any other political challenge. Its potential effects could be both physically and economically devastating."

Can't see anyone arguing with that.

"The science linking 550ppmv to 2°C has moved on:
550ppmv CO2 has ~88% chance of exceeding 2°C
450ppmv CO2 has ~70% chance of exceeding 2°C
(% probabilities from Meinshausen, 2007)"

"It is clear to us that the Government will have to introduce more radical policies into its Climate Change Programme very soon if it is to meet even the 2020 target as currently set."

"The Government’s policy towards the UK’s 2050 target is clearly incoherent. The Government remains committed to limiting global warming to a rise of 2oC; but it also acknowledges that, according to recent scientific research, a cut in UK emissions of 60% by 2050 is now very unlikely to be consistent with delivering this goal."

I.e. The targets are NOT going to be met with the current plans.

"We recommend that the Government should admit the uncertainty range of its emissions projections. It should also regularly publish a review of its previous projections, comparing them against outturn data and latest projections, and analyse what it got right, what it got wrong, why it did so, and what lessons it has learned."

So that'll be something radical, a government that might have to admit that it got things wrong! Maybe if there's an X in the month!

All in all it doesn't look too good. Science is refining the temperature predictions and suggesting that less CO2 may well produce the 2C effect, and although the UK's targets were some of the most stringent on the planet, they are already inadequate and woefully behind schedule.

Addendum: 3/8/2008
But, of course, any criticism was bound to be rapidly and effectively deflected by the government. Apparently ignoring the key points made, Hilary Benn in The Guardian, insists that the Climate Change Bill is a world's first, and "ambitious by any standard and consistent with our leading position internationally".

Are the facts that: a) its probably not enough, and b) its way behind schedule already, not considered important?

It wasn't me, Guv!

From that well-known bastion of eco-awareness, the Guardian, about another, er, bast... newspa.. er... well, anyway, The Sun:

Yet more embarrassment for a TV indie. Production company Renegade Pictures has apologised for fly tipping while filming a documentary... about green living. The Sun reports today that crew members left piles of cardboard on a street in Bath after shooting Fix the World in the city. Producer Paul O'Connor apologised 'unreservedly' for the mishap, telling the paper the crew expected the rubbish to be picked up by binmen. The Sun P16

Couldn't find it on the Sun's woeful website (though they do have a 'green' section, and it's not just naked girls sprayed with broccoli*) to link to, but what a hoot.

And that excuse! Up there with Pete (I was just doing research) Townsend et al.

ADDENDUM - Keeley Hazell's ten green tips - stand (oo, missus) corrected. I was joking.

I wonder if they got away with it? ''Wot, I left them 20 old fridges on the layby 'cos I expected the bin men to pick it up!' Bless.

I am still giggling at the EST 'Do your 20% ad' that had everyone swithcing off their lights in a leafy London subaurd before jumping into a dirty great balck VW Touran to go to the shops. I bet that was the director's car!

Meanwhile, what comes down the pipe to your home is...

It's a better than nothing, I guess but I couldn't help but crank a slight eyebrow at this: NPower launches eco-friendly ads

I've always been a bit dubious on nPower since seeing their activities at the Ideal Home Show 'eco' (Ahem, not) theme year, when they were a major sponsor. And Juice has been low on my estimation since seeing a bunch of Greenpeace cardboard stuck on 4x4s at Gloucester train station, sponsored by same.

At least the Guardian has at least put it that 'the energy company says the initiative is the UK's first eco-friendly campaign'. Up there with carbon neutral, I am unsure what the heck that means, or does. Or anything.

Or indeed what the actual enviROI is, as opposed to just winning advertising awards and spinning a green story.

Read all abart it!

Is Thelondonpaper's recycling push enough?

We'll take that as a 'no' then.

On the positive, proactive side, I have to say I prefer the notion of a reward to encourage good behaviour as opposed to a fine or somesuch to penalise bad.

I don't live there so I don't know, but what are the others doing?

But realistically, it's probably going to need to be a mixture of both.

The future of wind power?

These have been talked about for a few years now, but this is the first time I've come across any comments on their potential size and projected efficiency. This article from Gizmag details the design and concept of giant maglev wind turbines. With no friction to overcome, it is claimed that these will prove to be very low maintenance, but more importantly, will be efficient at wind speed as low as 1.5 Metres per second.

The concept projects that a single maglev turbine as big as a block of flats could have an output of almost 1 gigawatt and have an ROI of less than 1 year!

No doubt some will find them objectionable as being ugly, evil, unnecessary or even just a touch of NIMBYism may come into play. But, if the ROI is as low as claimed and running costs are as low as stated then perhaps we can expect to see these appearing on the UK landscape over the next 10 to 20 years.

Hmmm, I wonder if anyone is working on a domestic property scale model?

Putting green in the shade

I recently read this - Who's the greenest of them all? , and decided to pursue it a bit further. The editor has kindly replied.

It kind of highlights what has been mentioned earlier about 'looking' green without actually 'being' it becoming a worrying trend.

3 into 2 will go

I guess I do have what it takes when it comes to (vast) sums: WRAP Board Extends Its Strategic Skills Base With Appointment Of Three New Non Executive Directors

We look forward to their contribution.

Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by Government funding from Defra and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I wonder if they have a bonus structure like the Environment 'but we promised them huge amounts before it all went pear-shaped on their watch' Agency?

I'm still trying to get to grips with the lack of conflict in interest to using public money to spend on comms budgets, to drive up rates that their measures of success are based on, and then subsequently richly rewarded on a personal basis for meeting such 'targets'.

Since when did not-for profit public service end up with such money-dripping schemes beyond a decent salary for a good job?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Focus on carbon and miss the point

That's the conclusion of Eamon O'Hara in a thought provoking piece about this week's story for The Green Room.

His general suggestion is that by concentrating almost entirely on reducing carbon emissions, we are missing the underlying cause, which is a direct consequence of our western, unsustainable mode of living.

This, he says, "has led to the assumption that if we reduce emissions then our problems are solved, hence the focus on carbon sequestration, renewable energies and environmental technologies."

Which is (and I like this analogy) like
"relying on methadone to cure an addiction to heroine."

"We urgently need to think about the more fundamental concept of sustainability and how our lifestyles are threatening not only the environment, but developing countries and global peace and stability."

I don't think anybody can realistically disagree with that statement. (Well, except perhaps the usual 'anti-brigade' comment posters who have immediately branded him as a hippy!)

It's a well and logically argued article, well worth a read. And as one of the comment posters has pointed out - look what happened to the inhabitants of Easter Island when they had consumed all their available resources; they became extinct!

Human beings tend to have a habit of NOT learning the lessons of history and commonly missing the point. Maybe now is time to take a more over-arching view whilst keeping historical precedents in mind?

It's not just what you switch off. But what you are now switching on.

This is worth a gander: The Ampere Strikes Back

I am so relieved that we set up Junkk.com to be inspirational as opposed to judgemental. Because there are a lot out there who are telling us what do or simply being snotty that I reckon would fall pretty foul of a few pithy comebacks.

Don't like my bottle or Perrier? Betcha ditched the old TV for flatty as soon as Comet dropped the prices, eh?

And look a DAB radios. This is the direction we are being forced in... by whom?

Pass the remote vicar!

Looks vs. deeds

An interesting dissection of the current state of political, commercial and consumer 'engagement' with things 'green' : The Make-Believe of Green Politics

I'm not very interested in lifestyle statements. More just getting on with mine best I can ... and not screwing up the kids' future too much in the process.

As a consequence I know a bit, but was surprised with some things that I read here.

Like the notion of driving a car means you are doing 'your bit' to save the planet. Sweet.

The comparison with the Civic shocked me. Though to be fair I'd say a full 11mpg on the city cycle, at 20% better gives the Prius quite an edge in the thrift stakes. At least for this usage. I recently visited the Hay Festival here in the West of the UK, and this year was very green themed. So the car park was like a Prius lot. Trouble is, almost all had probably come from London down the motorway, which means they were mainly lugging a dormant, and vast amount of weight. Image is all, as you suggest. I'm interested as to where the Prius get used in the US to assess the actual value it does confer, for which I have coined the term enviROI.

This is the actual benefit of any product/ initiative to the planet, and future generations. It can have a woeful financial ROI, (most do), but so long as in making running and disposing of the thing it means less of what's 'bad' (definitions seem to vary daily, so I'm not getting into footprints), then more power to you elbow... or electric drivetain.

I'd have to agree that the Prius has a distinct design, but, subjectively, it is a dog. It looks like something out of a 70's futuristic TV show. And that is a shame, because that may mean appealing only to a minority who are only governed by making a statement, rather than a lot to more who simply have other factors (style being one) that do matter along with (and may outweigh) a few mpg.

Pity. And yes, hence a parable for the broader politics of global warming. Along with the positive suggestions, well said.

Have your say on the future of nuclear power.

The government has launched a public consultation on the future use of nuclear power generation in a 'low carbon UK economy'.

Anyone in the UK can contribute, all you have to do is register. See Nuclear Consultation for full details.

They claim that "Your views will contribute to the shaping of the policy on the future of civil nuclear power".

Well, as they say, time will tell; this government's track record on listening isn't exactly one to be proud of.

Who's dissin' who?

When is branding disingenuous?

As with all things, it can span a range. I certainly think a lot are making things worse for themselves and the message by being so darn clunky, especially with the environment. If a plane is more fuel efficient or a bank goes 'carbon neutral' then great, but it really only helps their bottom line or CSR report at the AGM. Hardly worth an ad. And cars with leaves blowing out their exhausts are plain daft. And some are just desperate. I have AdSense on my blog and often click on intriguing, if vague, ads covering many green areas. Almost all seem to lead to Exxon Mobil. If I thought poorly of them before, I think even less now.

Best Global Brands: How valuable is green?

I think consumers do care about the environment more than some reports claim, and this may be a reflection on the questions asked and/or actions measures.

For a start, it's hard to care too much if there is no end-benefit. Sounds selfish, but it's true. I still get a PR almost daily expecting me to run a piece on why so-and so has gone carbon neutral. Despite that term having almost no rational meaning and now being almost worthless, while it's great a bank recycles its paper or uses green energy, that really only effects their own internal bottom line or CSR report.

Also so much is about things you can DO. It's hard to get very excited about anything that simply says 'isn't green lovely' when that's about the substance of it all.

The consumer needs to feel a sense of reward. This can be 'making a difference', so long as it is clear and measurable, and trusted, but there is little better than saving time, saving money... and the planet. Few brands deliver on that yet.

Exploiting a brands's green appeal

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I share, in the hope that they will share back

That doesn’t have to go on the dump...

Floods & Tears 2 - Apres le deluge

It's still raining, and it's still wet. It's also Sunday, so the supps are out, along with the TV round-ups, and this is not quite going away.

I have just returned to my keyboard with the dulcet tones of Hazel Blears, Minister for something, ringing in my ear. I'm not sure, but I don't think she answered a single question, but told us all sorts of stuff we probably already knew about how awful it all was. And how she, personally, had been to see it. It was also interesting how she, personally was going to look at doing at lot, which begs the question as to what she had been doing the last decade.

And again, the thing to remember is that it was/is all unprecedented, and could not have been predicted. When is wasn't, and was.Hmmn. I guess if they say it enough we'll end up accepting it.

I've decided therefore to pop in another staging post of what's out there so far to see what we do know, and can do. Don't hold your breath.

Times - Flood chiefs get big cash bonuses - good start. I am really unclear as to why all our quango heads seem to be on nice little extra earners at all, much less like this. Especially when “The management of flood defences in recent years has been a sorry tale of budget cuts, failure to act on planning policies and inadequate precautionary measures"

Times - Century of neglect means the land can’t take it any more - "All this has happened despite the furrowed brows of the insurance industry and the protestations of the Environment Agency, which until recently was not even a statutory consultee in planning for flood plains." ps: I have Sea Change standing ready to read and review soon.

Times - After the flood, a surge of anger - And no wonder: “Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, might look at these and say, ‘Great! They didn’t flood, so you can build on flood plains!’ But that’s because they raised the level of the ground under the new houses - which meant that our road flooded instead.' That's the ways to a bonus these days, or a boosted career: shunt the problem downstream, preferably long enough to not be held to account by moving job.

'A recently leaked memo from the government’s spending review shows that before Gordon Brown became PM he was planning to cut millions from the EA’s flood defence budget later this year.'

There will be more.

Telegraph - 'I warned ministers of extreme flooding' - So... it couldn't be predicted then?

Telegraph - Why it is ministers who must carry the can - Quite: "Ministers were warned they should have reassessed the risks three years ago. My bet it was them, not the agency, that slept on their watch.'

Express - BROWN'S £1BILLION FLOOD PROFIT - That's an interesting stealth 'income generation scheme': spend 10 years doing sod all, blame God, 'unprecedented' events that have happened before and unpredictable situations which were warned about for whatever happens, pledge a pittance and then rake in the gravy mopping up. No wonder Dear Leader and his merry crew are happy to create ever more departments and bonus-bought-off, crony-headed quangos to keep the wheels of revenue spinning through ineptitude.

Guardian - Up to our necks in hype Plus quite a lot of precedented, predictable and hence avoidable flood water.

Swords & Ploughshares

It must be hard for those who see livelihoods threatened not to see some issues in terms of potential conflict: BPF to battle green backlash

So I am pleased to see the tone being adopted here.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is much in the world of plastics that may not be 'necessary', and hence contribute poorly in an environmental sense. And yes, packaging is copping more than its fair share, again probably with some deserved. But I am trying to assess if all I see and hear in the media, from politicians, pressure groups and, indeed, the media, is warranted in the greater enviROI scheme of things.

For good or ill, we are talking about a fundamental part of a capitalist, consumerist society, along with everything else that may be associated with buying and selling, from design to advertising. So when it comes to what is, and isn't 'necessary', I find the icons of evil that get selected to be so far very, well, selective.

And way too much onus is being placed on the consumer to effect change using hype, spin and, in many cases guilt or threat. I guess you guys may not like where I am going with this, but a lot is simply at the wrong end. If a 4x4 or a bottle of water (which may have been missed in some areas of late if 'banned') is legal to make and market, if they are so bad why on earth is there all this official effort to stop 'us' buying them only once they arrive on the shelves?

So maybe this can work to 'your' advantage. Once you get to legislative measures the argument has to be a bit more sensible, with all pros and cons evaluated. Which will eliminate the ill-informed, the knee-jerk and the bandwagon jumpers. Having been to such as Total Packaging recently and been persuaded by some of the arguments and explanations, I think the public has a right, and definitely need to know the reasoning behind many choices to help them arrive at sensible purchase decisions. But there are limits. I live in dread of the CD-Rom that will come with my crisp packet to explain its health, food miles and carbon consequences in every format accepted by all parties just to tick a few more boxes.

One simple fact that struck me from the show was simple economics. Why would anyone spend all this money if they didn't have to (ok, there are truly excessive design/materials to encourage purchase - who decides, though, what is and isn't... in any industry?). But also there is such as the enviROI of food waste versus that of the packaging to prevent it. Or the cost to consumer, and planet, of damaged rejects.

Green cannot, and should not be viewed just in terms of black and white.

All concerned have a duty to make the decisions behind what is done with good reason clear. And, I would suggest, not as an industry on the defensive but, as a brand that is, as you suggest... confident, but concerned. But make sure the public believes you are concerned for the right reasons or, as with Live Earth, the message can be undermined by the credibility of some messengers.

While I have mixed views on plastic bags (and certainly on all that is wrong with the massively wasteful bits of media-nonsense such as the 'I am not a plastic bag' effort), they should be, as you say, a pretty trivial issue. Yet you need to be careful how you defend them. If they stand up environmentally in comparison to other options then I would like to hear the justification. And would be more impressed if it's not just on a point of principle, but rationality. If the argument strays into whether it's 'worth it' as the money is mostly from overseas then one moves to murkier waters.

The environment is not a problem to be dealt with; it is an opportunity to embrace. And to secure your industry's part in protecting the future you need to demonstrate how integral it is to every aspect of consumer life... and that there is a commitment to mitigating the potential downsides.

I'm not so sure where the fault (opportunity?) lies, but speaking as a consumer I for one am astounded at how woeful the provision of adequate mechanisms of proactive disposal (primarily via recycling, or my personal favourite for obvious reasons: reuse!) still are, or indeed adequate information on how, when and where to do anything 're' properly. Despite the squillions so far blown on campaigns that may better have been first invested in infrastructure. So yes... be part of the solution and be seen to take a lead in making sense of all this... and embarrass into silence, or support, those who would seek easy capital as a consequence.

Stick with the facts, but remember we do live in a world where these get dressed up for 'sale' just as a slickly by all protagonists as a box of Ferrero Rocher (I am sure every Lib Dem's and Independent journalist's partner looks forward to their bag of boiled sweets on Valentines as they pop off for a weekend in Barcelona). So I look forward to some interesting times ahead.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's not natural

I just had to share this as the wording struck me as funny (even if the message isn't): Green Party Speaker to appear opposite man-made climate change denier Johnny Ball.

Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall will this Sunday appear
opposite man-made climate change denier Johnny Ball, of children's TV
fame, on Sky News at 11.20 AM.

Anthropomorphic Man!

Sorry, it's the weekend, it's early and I needed a laugh.

I am not a plastic bag.

Or... just another over-hyped, negative enviROI, truly insane way to make even more useless rubbish on the back of a bunch of faddish green sheep and their trendy magazine cheerleaders. Or this, the real thing: Make Plastic Bag Yarn

Then you can make it into fleeces to offer customers who need to keep warm outside the pub instead of using patio heaters!

Bears thinking about

And that's not all they do in the woods. Along with many other furry friends of a more domestic nature: The Pet Economy

You know those Clarks shoes we had when we were kids. The ones with the footprints?

I wonder what the carbon version of a Tibby or Rover is?

See how that one plays with the HuggyLuvvies.


Friday, July 27, 2007

How hungry are you?

Last night I was watching, shock-horror... Dragon's Den!

Now some may know that I have not been a fan. I watched the first series and really didn't take to the set up. Then I was invited to take part and managed to get myself bounced pre-heats (I suspect by letting on too much of my 'no such thing as bad PR' agenda) so sulked a bit. Then I met several lovely people who had taken part and really didn't like it for hwo they had been treated. Then I took part in SKY's Big Idea and saw just what I could have got into, and so liked the whole thing even less.

But this was a 'where are they now?' compilation.

Now, as we all know, many things can be conjured in the edit suite, so it's odd that I hung in for the first 50 minutes because it conformed to all my worst imaginings. Mostly this was a bunch of poor sods being set up for a nasty fall. And the sheer arrogance of the judges was simply breathtaking. All my previous misgivings about how poorly this represented the inventor/entrepreneur/VC process was reinforced in spades. Why does it have to be like that... well, good TV of course! At least a few who were ill-served by the finance process were still doing OK riding the wave of the BBC audience base.

Then we got to the final one. And this was a true success. So its position was not surprising assuming the BBC has a modicum of ethics and desire to at least tilt to the notion that it's trying to promote a public service, and not just muck about boosting ratings. How that Evan guy has any cred elsewhere as a consequence is a mystery.

Ignoring for now that the BBC machine is putting a scag load of wonga in other people's pockets by playing along (and if I could do it, I would, so no harm, no foul), this was an interesting set-piece in how it could/should be done.

Shame the product was vile, being some kind of TellyTubby Teddybear (I would have thought the IP would have been interesting) so your kid can truly do without any parental input at all (which the usually less than my favourite Duncan noted and bailed from the off), and bust it within a day.

But the process was more than interesting. The pitcher, a bright young lad, had really got his plan together, and it pushed the moneymens' buttons big time. Plus he sucked up to them in all the right ways, which got them on board. But he also seemed to listen and respond... quickly, which really got them proactive. To the extent that, instead of almost all else I have seen pumped out on the BBC news by way of a commercial for whatever they are trying to push to success to justify the show, the principals actually seemed to be taking part beyond dropping chump change... along with the poor sods they toy with.

Of course, the lure of personal profile with a running camera (oddly Argos got a mention, plus a corporate shot... nothing to do with their being a partner) and the chance of turning a buck may have helped.

I still think the whole thing is pretty despicable, but at least with this one, small exception, I saw a glimmer how all the parties could pull together to make something work.

Something to bear in mind as today I have just posted the package for the IP competition to throw some serious weight behind RE:tie. I just hope that when I hit the VC trail, they are nothing like most of what I saw on display last night.

If I am putting money in another's pockets, I not only want to do so knowing it's justified, but they deserve it too. Plus I'd prefer to like 'em and know they at least have some soul.

The Big Green Gathering

It's on the site, but I really should mention it here as well: http://www.big-green-gathering.com

Because, amongst many other fine things, our very own First Lady and her band greenhaus will be appearing there!

I'll be the one with the bright pink Vac:Sac on his pack taking pictures.

ps: Yes, we're driving down (4-up plus tents... what to do?). No we're not likely to pledge much that we need to do more than we are. And until I can trust one, my offsetting choice is blowing yet more on Junkk.com and RE:tie.

Funny Ha...ah?

Last night I was watching the very derivative, but still hugely funny 'Mock the Week', where the usual comic suspects gather to show how witty they are... after some editing to 'enhance truth'.

In this case it is a stretch I can cope with, as it is in the name of entertainment.

Anyway, something did strike me, and that was/is the power of humour... for good or ill.

Because one topic was the re-designation of cannabis. And, as good, upstanding folk who get up at midday and work all night in dark clubs, the 'panels' were not in favour. So we were treated to a series of one-liners around the notions that weed is much less this and that than just about anything. Comics being on the cutting edge of such things 'n all.

Cannabis 'raises psychosis risk' would suggest that it is not really that benign.

Whoa... dudes.

BBC - Cannabis harm worse than tobacco - another channel I guess

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ozone back in the equation?

I understood that the ozone layer being destroyed by CFCs problem had been sorted out, and that the holes were now contracting. But it now seems that ozone has yet another trick up its sleeve, this time to do with accelerating global temperatures. Full article is on the RSC - Chemistry World.

"Ozone was already known to have a significant direct greenhouse gas (GHG) action. But the new effect is an indirect one, resulting from the toxic effect of high ozone levels on land plants."

Apparently, ozone in the lower atmosphere directly affects the way that plants absorb CO2, reducing the land carbon sink capability.

"Land plants absorb CO2 through pores in their leaves called stomata. When atmospheric ozone levels reach about 40ppm - already reached in many parts of the world - these stomata contract, reducing the plants' CO2 uptake. Moreover, ozone levels are expected to reach 70ppm in many parts of the world by the year 2100. This will suppress the land carbon sink, push up the equilibrium level of atmospheric CO2, and boost the greenhouse effect"

This "could boost average world temperatures by a further 0.5-1.25°C - compared with the 2-5°C that will result from a doubling of atmospheric CO2."

This appears to suggest that things could get even worse than predicted; but no doubt there will be some counter argument that suggests that this is all a load of guff too!

Is it just one more straw on the camel's back to worry about?

ADDENDUM 1 (from Junkk Male):

Real Climate: Ozone impacts on climate change
The Ecologist: Rising ozone levels could stunt plant growth

Claiming neutrality

I happened across this bit of ad-world navel gazing: Green meanz beanz and couldn't resist a few thoughts...

Well the water cooler vote should be interesting!

Hijacked??? The green agenda seems to have been kidnapped, the hostages killed immediately and then a never ending series of ever more outrageous videos pumped out to substantiate even more outrageous ransom demands.

Ok. Make that a qualified yes.

You are right to be suspicious. And Mr. Whitehouse has every reason to be outraged.

However, I would advocate some caution in how the discomfort 'we' are feeling gets manifested, especially as the core key to making a difference in the fight to mitigate man (PC-alert! Person...) made factors in creating negative climate change (For what it's worth I'm one of those who is not sure, but I simply hate waste and, in any case, for my kids' sake I figure it's better to be safe than sorry. So if the majority of climate experts say it's big and needs addressing now, I figure saying 'Are you sure?' will be a poor legacy. Make a great headstone, though: 'Yup. I guess they were right about global warming after all!. Sorry')

And almost everyone is playing silly b*ggers with the agenda for various selfish, self-promoting reasons, and not just most politicians. Though they are pretty top of a stinking pile. As with the recent floods. A bunch of Chicken Little's pointing at the sky and blaming climate change (which for sure may not have helped much) for creating an 'unprecedented situation that could not be predicted', when it wasn't and it was, respectively.

Which all gets the average Joe's trust factor on the first train straight back to Clarksonville.

You are so right that almost everything is twiddling about at the wrong end of the supply chain, throwing the onus on poorly informed, woefully supported and ill-equipped consumers to deal with all manner of things that is really nothing to do with them. If it's legal to manufacture and sell, why on earth does it end up with the punter to deal with the consequences of a 4x4 purchase, a bottle of Evian (those seeking to ban those two not living in a flood zone I'd hazard) or the packaging of a box of chox?

And I'm afraid that you have rather hit the nail with 'employ lots of people'. How many bazillions are being spent on government departments and unaccountable quangos to assess, research, monitor, and otherwise fiddle about with all this? And with comms budgets squandering amounts that could fund soooo many actual, tangible, plants, initiatives and programmes to really DO something and make a real difference. How many more TVCs pointing at Flash-enabled sites to 'raise' awareness of things people patently can't engage with even if they can be bothered. Forget my favourite measure of all things 'eco', the enviROI... what about simple ROIs? I've seen public websites getting excited at monthly hits in the tens of thousands. My granny's blog gets more than that! And if my agency had ever toddled along to a client and tried to make out 'improved awareness' that hadn't even made double digits was a success having blown several millions (and ignoring massive complementary PR), I'd be shown the door. Who accounts for all this waste of resource?

I'm sure hordes of boxes are being ticked as we speak, but are my kids' futures being protected here? Or a bunch of folks' pensions' plans and bonus structures?

I applaud any corporate who is getting on board and actually doing something here and now that's real and going to make a difference. But I dread the total horse manure that we will also end up being fed in A&P as a consequence. One more car ad with a leaf sticking out of its exhaust and I'm buying a Hummer. And as for going carbon neutral... great. Do it. Just don't shove it down my throat in such a crass way. The definition hasn't even been properly established yet. What's it mean? Are they reducing output? Simply being more efficient? Or trading a carbon credit to make more stuff elsewhere? Is it simply going to help the books internally, or will it a) help the consumer and b) the planet in any way? How many 'green ads' are getting booted out by the ASA at the moment to a tabloid fanfare? Think of the damage to consumer trust and the credibility of brands... and the genuine message.

As co-inhabitants of this planet of course 'we' should take responsibility for green becoming more about wealth generation than the planet.

But I'll leave you with a thought. Maybe, just maybe, with a bit of creativity, a dash of honesty and a smidge of ethics, some things can be done that not only help the planet, but also could lead to genuine marketing opportunities too. And if you'll allow a plug I'll mention in closing one that's dear to my heart that's doing all it can in this regard: Junkk.com

ps: Not all that's green can be viewed in black and white. That avocado? It may well be it's mostly marketing. But food waste accounts for waaaay more than packaging, so which would your prefer? A pile of bruised veg in the dumpster, or a bit of protection to help it through the distribution chain to Mr & Mrs Fussy-Yuppy? And in any case, do they even grow here? Yowser! Food miles! Carbon labels! Another debate for another time....

MPs to investigate if biofuels are truly sustainable

Why do I dread finding items like this from EnvironmentTimes?

Because of that first little acronym - 'MP'.

After months of investigation no doubt they'll come up with some half cocked conclusions that miss out most of the salient points and ignore loads of the key information and evidence.

"Concerns have also been raised about food security, as a large agricultural shift to fuel production might dramatically increase food prices"

'Concerns'? Its already happening - the evidence is out there for all to see! (See the post on 'Agflation' below).

At least they're asking for input - let's just hope that they accept it, review it, consider it and take it into account! Unfortunately, many parliamentary committees seem to have a tendency to do none of the above very well.

Oh well ...... at least they are actually looking at biofuels now; after all, it's something that just might turn out to be very important in the future of this planet.

Let's hope they include in their deliberations things like ethanol production from a dairy by-product as reported via AutoBlogGreen today.


You've already got it, it's already affecting you and you just don't know it! But just what is agflation then?

Well, you've actually heard it described on this very blog on several posts from Peter over the last few months - he just didn't know, like me, that there was a term for it.

"Global corn stocks have fallen to their lowest levels since modern records began as ethanol plants consume an ever-growing share of output".

"The price of wheat has flown up by 53% since March last year to £130 a tonne"

And this is all before the impacts that our rather wet summer will have on local food prices here in the UK.

Crop and foodstuff prices may start to track the price of crude oil? Ridiculous? Well, read this from The Business and figure it for yourself!

I think I'll pop along and put my name down for an allotment tonight!

Nuclear waste not a problem?

I always find this sort of article fascinating. From The Guardian Comment, the writer suggests that the development of additional nuclear power capability is crucial in the fight against global warming. OK ........ I think I can follow the basic logic of that argument.

But, and its a BIG but, we get the same old argument about how to dispose of, store, throw away the inevitable nasty stuff that's left over.

"When we need to deal with the leftovers, we'll have the technology."

Errrrm, go on, prove it to me then. And while you're at it, just what is the EnviROI of storing stuff for decades while scientists play around with ideas on how to dispose of it properly, pray?

Although I still believe that nuclear will inevitably have to be part of the mix in terms of future power generation, I'm sorry, but that sort of argument about disposal of the horrendous waste that spent nuclear fuel represents is just not acceptable.

The article suggests several disposal methods that are in the research stage including some that actually make the waste safe (or, at least, a lot safer), but most of these ideas have been around for some 40+ years now, and yet there is still no safe way of dealing with the spent fuel.

The article is entitled: -

Nuclear waste is hardly a worry when the climate change threat is so urgent"

Sorry, but even measured against the worry that climate change induces in many of us, it IS a major worry to anyone concerned about the environment of this little lump of planetary rock.

ADDENDUM - Junkk Male to CiF site

I must share the compliment offered to what has mostly been a civilised and highly informative series of exchanges.

Just one thing.

If we are to squirt the stuff elsewhere rather than doing without or dealing with it (a human trait), can we wait until the tehcnological solutions that have so far resulted in our current extra-orbital attempts scrape to a slighly more reassuring succcess rate.

Oh, and please make it over someone else's head, not in a jet-stream, etc.

Ta very much.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Any Old Plastic

Let's end the day with a picture.

I was passing a local coffee shop t'other day, which happened to be bin collections.

And there, on the pile, were these crates. I asked them if I could have them, and as they get charged for disposal they were more than happy.

And I now have a supply of nice plastic stacable trays for my growing Junkk collection.

Now, if only there was a way to connect such opportunities around the place. Oo, oo, I know.... JunkkYard!

Looks green. May be green. By by golly...

Some of the world’s leading technology brands are failing to convince consumers of their green credentials - Freelance UK

Seems they are sceptical about the ethical statements made by sellers.

So, in response to this issue, some of the biggest names in the technology sector are actively engaged in 'eco-proofing' their business operations, which does seem to have at its heart a bit more than puff, but the name hardly inspires one to think they are thinking that positively. It smacks, as always, of defensive measures.

Report author Added Value is holding a next Branding for Good Summit called “Green:2.0 - Avoid the Greenwash” in November. Oooo, another summit! Ok, so I'd like to go, too. I think though, just to be different, I'm going to call mine a 'get-together', or 'bit of a chat'.

More information is available at: www.added-value.com

I could do with some of that, couldn't I?

I was catching up on some tearsheets and came across A Life in the Day of the UK Wikipedia 'run-person', reading it with oddly mixed feelings.

Of course I'm jealous, because to have such passion and commitment 'as an unpaid volunteer' would certainly ease the burden a tad. Of course I do have a few (and growing) loyal folk who chip in, and it is much appreciated. But her level of input is... beyond the call.

If a little scary.

'Two years ago we had almost no income; this year our budget will hit $6m. We receive donations but we need more money to pay for servers, among other things – we have 500 servers now. Advertising is out of the question: it’s a moral issue for us. So we’re seeking sponsorship from private companies, who could give us shares, and we’re going to ask the EU for subsidies.'

So advertising is immoral, but sponsorship from private companies isn't. Hmnn. Plus if I got a grant from the EU it would need to be without strings, but I certainly won't say no if they are up for that.

As for: "It’s possible one day I’ll be more proud of Wikipedia than of the kids", I'll always be proud of Junkk.com and the legacy it may leave my kids, but it will never come close to them in my heart; as they are flesh and blood and already showing me what the future can be.

I guess that's the difference between us. That, and when I find the money, I'll gladly share it with anyone who helps make the site better.

Sadly, I find too many charities, not-for-profits and volunteer groups to be stocked with people waaaay to scary to deal with.

The 'R' Word

It's waaay up there with 'population', only seems to get bandied about a lot more: Polluting minds

I think I can just about see what you are trying to say. But sadly, it's hard to agree with much of the reasoning.

For a start, I await an adequate definition of 'racism' in any of the contexts it gets so wilfully misused all the time. I actually celebrate many of the differences that exist between races, cultures, etc, but as it is only ever levelled in the negative, I just wonder at what point one is to be censored (where free speech is allowed, natch) from identifying, much less commenting upon, a culture difference. Especially if it is bent on mutually assured self-destruction.

You surely cannot be trying to say that, having arrived at a point where climate change is accepted as most likely being accelerated by the vast amounts of gunk that ever more affluent consumers pour in the air through having the cash to buy ever more 'stuff', no one can question whether one sixth of the world's population may need to get on board with the notion of restraint a tad.

Ok, so the 'rest' of us are pretty darn woeful, especially a certain continent to the left, but at least there are existing and ever-developing mechanisms of restraint that are enshrined in their governance, and which the people can use the power of the vote to enact. Along with the freedom to mention some nasty facts to those whose careers extend to the end of a political term as opposed to when they shuffle off to join their ancestors.

Meanwhile, the guy behind you telling you to stump up for the bullet is...?

The Know People

This looks like a good thing for bad times: Turn to Google Maps for flood updates

As does this.

What does not, is this: '... a useful point to wonder whether information on flooding that is already collated by various arms of government should be made more freely available to members of the public. After all, it was only a couple of weeks ago that property site OnOneMap, which uses Google Maps as its engine, got into a battle over the flood data it was offering browsers. Because the mapping data showing flood risk is owned by the Environment Agency, they were forced to remove it.'

Just so's I get this straight...

There is public information, paid for by the public, that can be of help (or made to be) to the public, and it's ring-fenced 'not for the public's benefit' by quango turf defences?

Well, at least they were honest:(

We get a lot of surveys. And there is usually a disconnect between what folk say, what they really think, and actually do. So this is... interesting: Consumers reject "green" taxes

When it comes to social behaviour, we are a little less prone to the truth, if the discrepancy between those who say they recycle and those who actually do is to be reconciled.

But when it comes to cold, hard cash, well, the people have spoken.... at least to a guy flogging insurance policies.

I just wonder how many resent paying more tax (well, D'uh), but in terms of green don't see how paying it actually ends up helping the planet with the gold-plated shower we have in charge of things these days.


BBC - Teenagers support 'green' schools - as opposed to...?

First they came for the 4x4s, and I did...

With all due deference to the seriousness of Pastor Neimoller's words, it looks like next in line for a bit of high priority trendy liberal media angst is... patio heaters!

And for once I am quiet happy to be on the side of good... er... green. At least, so long as it's basically letting all and sundry who think they're nifty that, on balance, they are not perhaps the greatest contribution to global warmin... er... climate change. In fact I was livid when the Ideal Home stuck my stand during their 'Environmental Theme' next to one selling the blooming things.

So we have the usual perky BBC blonde bouncing around post flood duty asking some outdoorsy types 'what they think'.

My favourite was the girl who said they were required because 'we need to experience the outdoors'. Sweet. Then there was the pub landlord who reckoned they stopped people flying to Spain. And the pub chain CEO who was dead against them and had commissioned much PR to get the BBC to advertise him.. er... them... er the good works they are doing. Plus fresh prawns at £6.99 and a bottle of Chilean red thrown in...:)

Seems this is the unintended consequence of the new anti-smoking laws; all the smokers don't like to be chilly when they are outside, so need the exterior brought up to speed temperature wise, along with the rest of the planet, it seems. Actually I never found out what the carbon cost of a fag was. Must check.

It has coincided with a minor debate I was/am having on an eco-blog (members only, don'tchaknow) following a post asking what was the best way to heat outdoors. Sadly my idea of either buying woolly jumpers from the local charity shop, or commissioning the knitting circle to whip up branded shawls (think of the PR!) was not favoured.

I am currently having an exchange with a guy who is telling me underfloor heating is radiant and only heats the person and not the air, which I'm having trouble grasping.

So to a long and growing list we can now add patio heaters. I just hope Dave's Humveee terrorists don't get wind of it or they'll be flying over to blow them up.

Meanwhile, the forests get cut down, the oil shale is being strip mined, etc, etc. Oh, and the floods were soooo yesterday.

BBC - 'Dump patio heater wear a jumper' - I'm sure they don't mean dump it. Just don't use it anymore. JunkkYard - hatstand?

Indy - Hot Air - How do you 'secretly own' one? And 'environment hypocrisy is a new concept?
Indy - Enemy of the planet: The ethics of consumption

Guardian - Not in my back yard

I think there are few that can disagree that the things are hard to justify on any count, but especially in an era when unnecessary man, er, person made emissions are figured to be accelerating climate change.

I, for one, was livid that my (eco) stand (of about 6 out of 700) at the supposed Enviro-themed Ideal Home Show a few years ago was positioned next to one flogging the things by the score.


In the great scheme of things, I would dearly love to have some kind of understandable comparative table that shows where the areas of greatest enviROIs are. There will of course be those of a communal nature (governmental, local authority and corporate), and then individual.

Such as patio heaters, 4x4s, budget airlines and Evian bottles will fall under the latter (noting that two of those might have been missed somewhat in certain areas lately had they been fully banned as advocated by some).

Whilst recognising every little thing adds up, matters and makes a difference, I am more than interested in where these iconic examples of activist and selective action chattering class ire actually rate against, say, home insulation.

With such information to hand perhaps we can more effectively prioritise the big hits that will make a real difference first, and sweat the small stuff later.

Especially as the shrill nanny nature of most efforts I am seeing so far seem almost inevitably destined to create a backlash from those who are less likely to chain themselves to the local pub's heater whilst sipping a nice chilled Chilean Chablis. And are the ones who really need to be brought onside.

But I guess it sells a few more papers and fills a slot at the end of the news stirring the pot.

Ask, and you will... er... um...

A bit more water-borne fun & games with Newsnight

I prefer to 'watch' the PC feed the next day, but as seems to happen every so often it is pointing elsewhere. So it is hard to comment in detail.

And as I am also getting a pop-up when I do (on my PC, requiring me to log on from another) which says rather baldly, and unhelpfully, 'you are not allowed to comment' (er, why?) it gets even trickier.

So may I express a frustration with such posting efforts that when very pertinent questions do get asked, they almost inevitably do not get answered.

How about an on-air follow-up when it is obviously warranted and you have some nifty one-liners to pose?

I am still trying to understand how these floods are described by all levels of government from Dear Leader down as 'without precedent' and 'unable to predict', when I keep hearing that they have happened before (on Newsnight) and were predicted (Guardian Front Page).

Who doesn't know their facts, or is simply enhancing the truth?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

32.78m AOD

That is the height, in metres, that the lowest corner of my house at damp course level is 'Above Ordnance Datum'.

I know this because a few years ago some chappies were at the end of the road doing hard hat/high-vis jackety-type things with levels, and I asked them to give me that measurement.

I figured it would come in handy one day.

Hopefully it still will. I am a great believer in prevention being better than cure, so rather than mopping out the utility room and having a fight with the loss adjuster, I would like to try and make my house as flood proof as possible, against the chance that this 'one in a hundred year event' might happen again next month.

Thing is, I am not off to the best of starts.

The best the Environment Agency floodline could come up with was the offer of a sandbag. Now I am sure they are better than nothing, but I have a few grander plans in mind. Slotted posts with neoprene sleeves to accommodate tapered slats, for one. Quick to erect. Easy to store. With luck, using the best of Junkk.com. Already I have sealed the (now defunct) dryer outlet with a nifty sweet can lid that slid over a treat.

But to figure out what's for the best I need to know what height to make them. And this is proving an effort. I can't seem to get any sense out of anyone so far on what 'might' happen. Which makes planning tricky.

All I have managed so far is to get on a list that sends an email to tell me I'm about to be flooded if I'm in. And a text if I'm out. And as to the brook alongside that is copping the run-off from the new housing estate on the hillside farmland, that's not included as it is another department.


ADDENDUM - You want some fun? Try getting a definition for Ordnance Datum, much less what it is in your vicinity.

The best I have, so far, is:

chart datum Set reference point on charts for water depth in relation to tides. On metric charts for which the UK Hydrographic Office is the charting authority, chart datum is a level as close as possible to Lowest Astronomical Tide (LAT), the lowest predictable tide under average meteorological conditions (from Ministry of Defence, 1987). This is not the same as Ordnance Datum, the fixed reference point for heights and contours shown on Ordnance Survey maps, which is based on mean sea level (MSL) as recorded at Newlyn (Cornwall) over a seven-year period from 1915 to 1921.


Having signed up to them, I just had an automated mobile call and email to tell me to 'stand down'. So that seemed to work, at least.

Sadly this is not going to help me with the fact that the continued high levels seem to have opened a breech between the brook and my cellar such that the pumps are now working 24/7. I fear I need to get tanking. ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££:(

Telegraph - Bogged down with bureaucracy

My pride and joy Hummer - What a bummer!

An interesting article from last Friday's Belfast Telegraph reporting on an act of eco-vandalism that has divided the USA into two factions.

A poor ( intentional ironic pun ) chap has had his Hummer severely beaten up by a gang of eco-warriors who caused $12,000 worth of damage to his pride and joy.

The really odd thing is that although polls in the US show that more and more Americans are becoming environmentally aware, the hardest thing for them to give up is their gas-guzzlers. As the New York Post put it - “We buy gas guzzlers, but we vote for gas sipping.”

And, yes, you've guessed it, the sale of Hummers is still on the way up - "in June, according to the latest figures from General Motors, the world’s largest car manufacturer, Hummer sales were up by 11 per cent."

I bet Arnie's glad his runs on Hydrogen! Mind you, imagine the bang if they managed to split the fuel tank on his with a baseball bat!

The funny side of things

There is always a humorous side to everything, and Matt of The Telegraph inevitably manages to produce a cartoon that sums things up in a way that can make everyone smile.

Genius is a rare thing, but Matt has it in spades.

I predict a riot

Oh, dear. This if this is the best we can do I'd advise buying bigger wellies - Newsnight Floods

Unpredicted power cuts. Something without precedent I am sure at the BBC. It must be climate change. Lessons must be learned. Debates will be had. But, for now, let's move on.

First up, let me just say how bang on - 'watching TV without electricity. LOL' - almost all the comments have been so far, and forgive me for rehashing any, but there is much to rake over.

'Without precedent'. So says Dear Leader and his gang. Well, is/was it, or not? Especially if, as advised, 1903 was the wettest on record and 1947 & 1956 were a tad damp, too. And what has happened 'was no different' to 1968 in the West Midlands or 1912 in East Anglia.

Which rather makes a mockery of 'Acts of God' along with 'No one could have predicted'.

Surely to [that same invoked entity] this was entirely predictable, and should have been anticipated. And as we are getting hit with climate change awareness communications (via PR and massively-funded ad campaigns of questionable value) daily, might we not suppose that in a joined up government a projection may have been made from such historical data, a few factors such as increased population, consequent building, drainage and run off bolted on, to arrive at the notion that, at some stage, it was going to happen again, and maybe even a bit worse?

I have never heard such woeful backsliding, and backside covering so far (with a prediction of more totally precedented examples to come).

If Mr. Brown's solution so far is to swim in and promise a bit more money to make up for what he was part of removing in the past, I'd say the only bounce from any location near water he'd see if he called an election was out! How long are we going to be treated to an erasing of any complicity in the last decade, when all those responsible for what is happening now were part of the obvious failures in policy and action (with all due, obligatory, praise to those at the sharp... er, wet... end of the public service delivery systems who actually have to mop up their bosses' foul-ups) that has brought us to this point?

And if... when this money arrives, forget the Environment Agency two Labour MPs so virulently trashed various for 'rubbish systems' on this very point (this would be the same Agency a Minister of Government subsequently has very confidence in? How disjointed is that!?), how can we trust this shambolic bunch to utilise any more cash any more effectively than they have already? We have the evidence of our own pruny toes to show what they are capable of at a strategic level. The only defensive systems I see deployed so far are career-covering words. As Baroness Young said: 'there is no accounting'. Quite.

I'm not quite sure how many Ministers of Mud (Ok, the environment) we deserve, but Mr. Phil 'No Point Trying' Woolas was an inspired choice of spokesperson to help us through this. 'Not the time for lessons learned', just as all around are trying to bail themselves out by rehashing this rather tired mantra enough times in the hope it will all soon pass over. And speaking of tired mantras, there is, apparently, 'a big debate to be had'. Well we're having it now matey, and the likes of you are looking pretty poor in the showing so far.

Was he really saying that as it was going to be really bad the lack of doing anything in some places was excusable. With a system that is claimed to be totally 'fluid' (excuse the pun) from one hour to the next, you don't even try? And big up to the commenter who noted he doesn't seem to have grasped the Thames Barrier's actual function. Funny if not tragic. It sure doesn't fill me with much confidence in the competence being brought to bear so far.

And Newsnight, why, oh why do you persist with the 'twofer' bookend debate style. Actually the flood victim lady was at least quite well-informed and confident, but for an issue this massive she's all we get to go head to head with a Minister backed by a bazillion assistants and briefings (not that it did him much good)?

And as a tax, local rate and licence fee payer with the River Wye looking to do the same thing one day, and wishing to prevent a lot more than I can cure or see excluded on insurance, why did we not get an answer to the question of DEFRA's Flood Resistance Grants? I would like, no... need... no... demand to know!

Along with why we are not spending money wisely on tangible preventative measures as opposed to p*ssing it all away on more and more quangos and ad campaigns to make 'us' aware on our carbon footprints. I'm pretty sure some were quite relieved that 4x4s and bottled water (last week was it that Newsnight jumped on that trivial bandwagon?) were still available at the moment, and a bit more concerned about the much bigger carbon footprint pictures that might be responsible for such massive natural phenomena.

So let's not just look to the skies to explain what has happened on the ground here. I'm afraid what I am seeing and hearing is indeed caused by man (PC-alert: men and women), but mostly all living in one small village in Westminster.

I was more than interested in the Climate Change discussion (no so much a debate as they were really agreeing with each other) between Meteorologist of 30 years' experience Philip Eden, and environmentalist of, er, no obvious fixed qualification, George Monbiot. An interesting pairing.

I'd have loved to have seen Mr. Eden across the table from Mr. Brown or Woolas to hear them deal with the fact that there was indeed plenty of precedent, and all this could be and indeed has been predicted. Maybe even mitigated?

In fact this should be the end of the story, along with their over-spun careers. But no, one can say almost anything outright wrong and get away with it pretty easily these days.

Especially in the current media climate where there is an attention span... of oh, that's all we have time for. Meanwhile, in other news... I for one would like to return to the hundreds more concerned with Jeremy's tie. Not.

I'll leave the final words to the only qualified scientist I heard all night: 'If this is what happens within our current limits of experience, what is going to happen in the future?' I'm just not sure if he was talking about the weather, or the guys tasked to help us address its consequences.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Boogey me... er... atmospheric phenomena

Get used to 'em: Floods force many to face climate change reality

While there is a (pretty valid) school of thought that 'we' need a pretty big 'something' by way of a climatic kick in the pants, I do wonder if pinning everything on 'climate change' isn't going to get to be a common, and convenient, catch-all, and hence lose its effect PDQ.

I don't know for sure, but at the moment I'm guessing that these floods could equally force a few to face the facts of overpopulation, woeful political priorities, disastrous land management practices and even that most awful of all: stuff happens.

Sitting in my room on July trying to figure which water borne menace will get me first - the river coming up or the rain down/sideways - it's hard not to get the feeling that this is all a tad 'odd'. But then it is not, it seems, without historical precedent. Any hence if nature is just doing its funky thing, then all the billion £ claims are more a matter of how many of us there are now, where we were told/allowed to stick our homes, and fill 'em with expensive kit for insurers to try and get out of paying for.

So when I see such as this: "...mechanism may well explain an observed rise in flash floods in Europe over the last decade.." I worry a bit. Especially with the all too wonderful 'may'.

At least this is definitive: '... parts of China have seen the heaviest rainfall since records began,' though I have expressed caution on 'toll' figures bearing in mind our race's spread over the planet. The Boxing Day tsunami killed a lot more than Krakatoa because in those days Swedish tourists were not skinny-bathing in Phuket, and half of India hadn't cut down the mangrove swaps to get a sea view.

I'm no statistician, so I'll go with this: 'This year's UK floods were an event statistical models say should happen once only every 30 to 50 years, Mehlhorn says: the floods in 2000 were a 25-30 years event. Two such events in only seven years are not statistically impossible, but they are unlikely. Other countries have seen similar increases in such disasters.' But again I think it too easy to just say that it's down to what is dropping from the skies and not a lot to do with what it is all dropping on.

And, frankly, one (while critical) is in the future, while the other is now. So while both need addressing, let it be for the right reasons, and not to get a lot of pretty key questions off a load of folk who should be tasked to explain themselves. Because if we don't have the right folk, with the right abilities, and the right motivations in charge of the future... we're screwed.

And that IS scary.

Floods and tears

I think this whole deal deserves a dedicated page. Let's start off with this from the Green Party:

Greens condemn government response to flooding

Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall today condemned the
government's management of floods in the UK:

"The chaos caused by flooding over the last few weeks is just a tiny
taster of what climate change will mean in the future. Climate
change will lead to more extreme weather rather than simply warming

"It's as if Evesham has been hit by Hurrican Katrina and Gordon Brown
is showing all the signs of leadership of his climate change denying
ally George Bush

"Government failure to prepare for the flooding is matched by
government failure to tackle the causes of climate change. On the
one hand the government is encouraging the building of new houses on
flood plains, on the other it is expanding Heathrow and our motorway

"We need to cut CO2 by 90 per cent in the next few decades.

"At present Britain is neither cutting greenhouse gases nor
prepaparing to deal with the consequences of climate change. It is
like a Doctor would will neither prevent nor attempt to cure an illness.

"We must stop building on flood plains, invest in flood protection
but above all, cut back on the expansion of roads, airports and new
fossil fuel power stations.

Hard to argue with most of that. Written in a hurry, looks like!
More to come, I'm sure.

Reuters - Thousands without water after floods in England
Indy - A 21st century catastrophe - '...a disaster caused by 21st-century weather. This weather is different from anything that has gone before.' I don't know, so I merely ask: is this the case? I merely note the meteorologist's opinion on Newsnight in an associated blog post. The rest is worth reading though, but I must confess to being confused now.
Indy - Ministers under fire as experts warn of worse to come - And when it does, I am sure it will be unpredicted... again. How is that we can't even get the financial numbers straight?
Indy - Get used to floods - actually quite rational

Guardian - Ministers warned three years ago over flood defence failings - All together now, 'Oh no we weren't!'. "Oh yes you were!" It's a bad pantomime.
Guardian - Going under - some explanations

BBC - Floods: At-a-glance - If your feet are wet it's too late
BBC - Claims over floods to 'top £2bn' - And I think the wrong folk end up paying
BBC - Humans 'affect global rainfall' - I'm pretty sure we affect a lot more than that!

Indy - Amid this latest apocalypse, the prophets of doom are all peddling their own agendas - But I'm guessing most will have no blooming clue what they are on about if this is a sample.
Indy - Drought, growth and a changing climate
Indy Letters - Some interesting views

Times - Shocking news: Britain’s a wet country - 65 posts! 66 now:

It's a pity this has become an is/isn't climate change issue.

But then that's probably fine by those in power and heading up various quangos who have been saying that it's all 'unprecedented' when it isn't, and 'couldn't be predicted' when it was.

So while this diversionary argument - though a key one, globally - rages, those who should be held to account for why the water that fell (for whatever reason) ended up in a suburban semi's living room. And why my insurance rates go up to compensate.

It's not just the planet that ends up paying for such ineptitude.

ADDENDUM - actually it's an archive I just got round to:

Times - Labour plans flood defence cuts as Britain flounders in the deluge - I'm guessing not, now. A fun read, this way round.

Times - If this is a national disaster, I’m a tomato

I suppose it's open to a semantic debate as to how bad it needs to get before we hit 'disaster' as an acceptable term, but as the discussion is what one sees in the media I was just looking at your own paper from earlier this month: Labour plans flood defence cuts as Britain flounders in the deluge And then I was trying to reconcile this with 'The Government has proved itself calmly competent. ... the pragmatic, unhysterical approach of the new Prime Minister has suited the country well. No soundbites; no grimaces; no posturing.' as the words from this same person and his calmly competent acolytes are still ringing in my ears: 'This is unprecedented... there was no way to predict it'. When, of course, it isn't and it wasn't'.

Remind me, and those currently not in theri comfy sitting room, is a tomato a over-ripe fruit or a tastless vegetable?

The Ecologist - High Tide

You're quite right. 'We' do tend to be moving towards a blame culture, don't we?

But then again, I think that refers to the trend of not holding ourselves accountable for things we pretty much do to, or bring upon ourselves.

There are still quite a few instances where 'we' are required to play ball and/or pay a bunch of folk an awful lot of money to make things run smoothly and safely.

So when something is immediately pointed anywhere but where it should be by a cabinet of Chicken Littles and their chattering class supporters, especially solely skywards, as 'an Act of God (well, that plus anthrowhatsit climate change)' that 'is without precedent (not according to the meteorologist with 30 years' experience I saw on Newsnight) ' and 'could not have been predicted (not according to the front page I read in the Guardian)' I'm afraid I do start to wonder who is doing what for the money, and whether they are doing it effectively or even competently.

Especially when the water I am more worried about is not coming up from the river but down from paved over farmland or drainage systems that cannot cope through poor planing or maintenance.

Of course 'we' are not in control. Thanks to our ever-increasing spread across this planet there is a ton of stuff, which yes, does happen, and there will doubtless be tons more. But we try and prepare, mitigate and, if all else fails, cope.

If those tasked to do it screw up, and then try and blame the boogey man, I'm sorry, that's not finger pointing, asking why is just an absolutely necessary demand for accountability.

And to try and redirect the appropriate questions from some very key areas and people means that history, and nature, will just repeat itself. Which will not serve future generations very well.

And yes, weren't the fireman super? But might it not be better to keep them for the fires and get in place guys who might do their jobs well enough that these noble souls are not called out to pluck grannies from floodplain-located housing estates it would be 'unrealistic' not to build?

Just a thought.