Monday, September 03, 2007

Offsetting journalistic integrity

This will make me popular. I've tried to answer a Telegraph travel writer's (how do they get to afford 2nd homes?) question: Corporate guilt breeds corporate jargon

At least you care enough to ask the question. I'm not sure the two answers derived so far are going to help much, though. Or indeed most others you may get (from the carbon 'industry') that may seem to be more factual.

Personally I can think of worse things than a second home, so long as you don't leave the heat/aircon (preferbaly it's fan-cooled anyway) running (depending on location) when you're not there. And if it's rented out then the person there is not 'emitting' elsewhere. Other than travel... which is just the start of how complex all this is.

On balance offsetting seems to me at least marginally better than not doing anything at all in mitigation, though certainly not as good as not adding more C02 than you otherwise might (again, a tricky call. I'd prefer you in a villa in France accessed by EuroStar than flying business to report on a property fair in Dubai, staying in a 6* emissions column - read Leo Hickman's Final Call ).

So you're right that we have become a nation obsessed with our footprints, fed in no small measure by 'awareness' campaigns such as the latest, ActonC02, that really do little else than make us worry a lot with little real information. And that opens the doors for the unscrupulous to pounce, seemingly with little regulation.

Because, like you (and with the dubious advantage of being exposed to perhaps a bit more info in my line of work) I have no real idea what 'it' actually involves in all its manifestations. And until I am, preferably with help from those who profess to care about my kids' future (from activist to government - didn't Davids Miliband (when Enivro dude) and Cameron both 'float' offsets trading as part of their respective proposals?), I'll have to suspect those not being clearer about their Green intentions, and hiding behind faceless jargon, are doing so with good reason: serving their interests. I doubt corporate guilt has much to do with it, as they only have that if and when caught out.

And those seem to have naught to do with my kids' futures if it's to create a decent enviROI, which may (another debate, but I'm sold on man's negative contribution) be derived from reduced CO2. You're right that whacking a fir in the firmament hardly seems the best way (better, to me, if you are in the need to 'make up', is to reduce deforestation - I could argue the science from my own limited background, but an existing carbon sink being lost that's in excess the USA's total annual emissions annually seems like a quick fix worth not losing). Though not all offsetters, to be fair, are just in to trees as the 'solution' .

Wouldn't it be nice to have more clarity from all involved in the 'carbon' industry, including preachy media, and rather than ratings-producing 'tis/tisn't facts and debates that get us nowhere, we have tangibles that let us assess the situation and act on it sensibly and in good conscience?

I have tried to be fair and balanced. But I hope my frustration with a media more keen on stirring the pot (look at the replies she got) than getting to a useful solution does not come through too negatively that my point does not get made.

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