Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Prime minister's questions live - as 'interpreted', self-evidently, by the Guardian

Always interested in seeing things reported by our feral... excuse me... mainstream, good old media press.

As I have also noted a plethora of broadsheet articles and Newsnight specials lately about how blogs are dragging us into a subjective gutter zone, and hence it should only be left to the professionals to give us the facts and tell us what and how to think, I for one am very grateful that around 30% of the facts (maybe I have got that wrong.. who cares?) quoted in the original piece had an unpaid proofreader on hand in the ether to ensure it's all accurate... or at least point out where something is plain wrong.

I guess 'we' at least should be grateful this blog allows such unmoderated posts.

But it does make me wonder how much else we are served up unchallenged and/or unchallengeable hews close enough to the line.

A little... make that a LOT... on the side

The Guardian Climate Change Conference review is turning into something of a magnum opus, so I am revisiting, adding and editing to do it justice, so it may be a wee while in arriving.

So, by way of an interlude, I thought I'd share this.

One of the more relevant, useful... and welcome... additions to the delegate goodie bag was bottle of belu water.

Now, if instead of a near free, and just as good glass of tap I have to go for a bottle, I can't really think of any more deserving brand. Because its packaging is also a wee bit better than most others, too.

But... and it's a... nah.. let's make it just a niggle.

In light of my recent labelling ponderings, what with all and sundry doing all from just discussing to already jumping the entire armoury, I have to say I looked at my bottle and thought: 'what the heck does that mean?'.

Because, with the promise of food mile traffic lights, charts and all manner of other money-wasting nonsense yet to come from a doubtless wildly diverse collection of directions, I can now already add 'No Global Warming - Penguin Approved'. While one word may well make it technically accurate that this the 'first carbon neutral BOTTLED water and does not melt the ice caps (actually... I think they may struggle with justifying that second half. It probably melts them less quickly than the rest, but getting it up, in, out, back and down from production to compost does, I suspect, have a carbon consequence), I have no clue what that means.

And I rather suspect that, along with a load of meaningless other icons and initiatives yet to come, we will simply end up with more guff on the shelves for us to ignore.

Whinge Power

That title describes what got me to the Guardian Climate Change Summit - pretty much describes what I found when I got there... and, probably, a lot of what I've written here, my 1st review of the event.

I say first, as there is a danger that by trying to get everything down, the news will get old in the time it's taken me to write. So I have decided on instalments, either subsequent blogs or additions to this, as and when I get a mo'.


As I said to the organisers, who asked me for my opinion of the day in my capacity as he who closed the event down (when you have invested this much in getting there, it rather amazed me those who blew off the end of the conference to get home early, much less not grabbing every second of networking time at the post session 'do'): "I'm very glad I came. I am even gladder I didn't pay for it".

Whilst thanked for my honesty, it was not, I think, quite what they expected, or wanted, to hear. Because being there cost £800 for the privilege. And I was only there thanks to a massive whinge, having mistaken an 'invitation' to me in my capacity as a 'mover and shaker in the environmental world, concerned about the directions we are taking', as anything more than a way to score a wadge of wonga from every govt, local govt, NGO, commercial green washer and media luvvie who see their profits and/or careers getting enhanced by being 'part' of the green wave.

The event was billed as (and indeed on several occasions throughout the day we were reminded it was...) not just a talking shop, but a genuine attempt to make a difference. Er... no. It was a talking shop. And, for the most part, it was a 'talking down' or 'talking at' shop.

So, on top of travel, per diems and accom (too early a start and too late an end to not straddle the day with a sleepover), if I had forked out that kind of cash from my wallet, I'd have been downright livid. Fortunately, thanks to the kind assistance of my benefactor, speaker David North of Tesco, plus my long-suffering London mates (that's me crashing with them rather than any comment on their fine city) I only had to contribute 3 of my days and a bit of cash getting around and back.

So, let's get into the meat... and greet. I arrived, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to be greeted at the hotel entrance by 3 of the dirtiest-great biggest BigMobileWillies (thanks for that tip on the basics of car design, Mr. Livingstone) I'd ever seen. These were from sponsor, and acronym, BMW. Good start. 16 and 3/4 series monster cars at a climate conference. Oh well. Anyway, it seems they were the hydrogen jobbies I have 'mentioned' before. Hmnn. Here was a chance to see if I'd been fair in my eye-brow-cock (as we're on a roll), before. As they had DE plates, I asked how they'd got here. Own power? If so, petrol (at 6 litres a pop. And why 6L? Why not 2L?), or hydrogen? And if so, how were they filled? How's the H2 separated from the O? Sun, wind... or power station 'leccy? One tank for a round trip? Or followed by a truck, one presumes diesel, or maybe a hybrid 4x4, car-sharing David Cameron's lunchbox. Sadly, no one at the stand was too sure. But I did get a card from a bloke who knows a bloke, and there is a brochure (one picture and one line per double page spread jobbie, so it may take me a while to read. Plus stop giggling at how much recycled stock was used in the printing) and a website, so I'm on the case.

Are you getting the impression I was/am a man that saw a mission unfurl? And it is critical. There's what is. And there is what you get told. They can often be... different.

GOODIE GUM DROPS (Or, at least, a tube of mints)

Next up, there was the goodie bag. This is becoming sort of a thing, and I think I'll keep it up, whereby I share all that has been consumed to help me save the planet by consuming less. Check out the picture at the top. As my Vac:Sac was doing duty elsewhere I had to improvise on a mobile billboard, and so decided on a mini-trashcan on wheels, which worked well. Astoundingly though, I needed every cubic inch of it to hold all 'we' were given.

Now, just like a kid at a party, I do get a bit disappointed if I don't get something to take home, or even read on the bus. And frankly some things are just plain essential, not to mention relevant, and if one is honest unavoidably necessary, such as a bottle of water. So I was quite happy to get my belu.

As to the rest, well, it varied. For a start, I really have enough jute bags that I half expect to learn of a campaign to ban them. Because most are designed more to look eco than be useful, at least when you get home. What is great for a bunch of A4 folders and a 500ml bottle is pretty darn useless for the weekend shopping. And mine was stuffed with a large tract of the Amazon rainforest, with all sponsors, co-sponsors, etc vying for my attention with various knick-knacks (I felt a certain irony at the the left over copies of the 'Artists Taking Action Against Climate Change' CD from the Observer a while ago (so now I have two) and the pencil that was made from old CDs. Reuse vs. Recycling?).

One that was... interesting... came from our dear Mayor of LondON and the diy planet repair campaign, in the form of a 4 minute egg-timer (with instructions on use... is there something about the state of education in London we don't know?) to help save water in the shower. As one who is in there about 2 minutes, that seems generous (my wife, on the other hand...), but in the circumstances I'd also have to question the way it was presented, mounted on a card... in a plastic bag. And, in the spirit of Junkk's true DIY ethos, not really... er... DIY as such, really.

I don't have a problem with giveaways, but at events such as this I do feel some imagination could go into them to make better points at least.

One massive absence was that of a delegate list. I came to network, and squinting at five hundred folks' chests to read their badges is not optimal. I know there are data protection issues, but this smacked more of a commercial decision. And at £800 for the day, I expect to be aided in meeting and following up with all who came for the same reason.

The mints were nice though.


So, where do we go from here? Well, if this is what you get when you fork out the big bucks, I can now see how what gets 'decided' in our name gets decided by those who can afford to attend, but with little real incentive to do much except keep chatting to those they already know.

So I have had the germ of an idea for a truly different kind of conference. I even shared it with my benefactor to see if they would be interested in sponsoring. He didn't say yes. But then again, he didn't say no. I'll give them first refusal. It's the least I can do.

OK, let's get to the 'conference' proper.

I've never been too clear what a conference (or, the much posher 'summit') was, but always assumed it may involve some conferring. Nah. Usually it's a bunch of pretty special folk getting up on a podium and reading to you, often with a PowerPoint behind them. Maybe you get to ask some questions. Maybe you don't. Maybe they answer. Maybe they won't. Then, they scoot off before you can nab 'em, leaving little but a website URL in their wake. This was pretty much what the day consisted of.

However, there can be nuggets, which is why one tends to invest a ton of time and money to see what pans out. It can be a bit of a mixed bag, though.

First up, we had Ken Livingstone. And boy, is he a good speaker. Not a voice that you would want to listen to for long, but the delivery was 100%. I don't think he referred to any notes at all, and it was a fair old crack of time.

Being vaguely aware of his set-to with our Dear Leader I guess I should not have been surprised, but he didn't really seem to be too enamoured with HMG. And it showed. Plus this audience was... receptive. Which may have egged him on to some rather heady heights of hubris, where I honestly felt I was not in the presence of a UK elected official, rather some potentate who was most happy deciding what's good for us with his mates in the C40, which comprises the mayors of the world's biggest cities.

Despite this, there were some interesting initiatives shared, for instance a £30B fund to retrofit old buildings. Makes sense if it's just money, as the enviROI should be tops.

We were also treated to many facts. Actually, the whole day was a fair goldmine of these, but of late I have started to go 'Oh, wow, I didn't know th...' before pausing to wonder if it is, in fact, true.

Ken is not so in favour our new energy schemes, including renewables, if they are marching to the old order of centralised systems. These, he told us, account for a waste of 2/3 of energy. And that half of all water used is in cooling, and then flushed. Is this true? That's massive! And, if so... why? Apparently, the government is 'studying' it. I didn't even know about it!

Any road up (and that is, really, his main skill), he's big on micro-generation on a local level. I am prepared to be swayed, but lurking in my mind is some facts of energy production and consumer and industry demand that may render the ideal less than well, ideal. More to check. Or get advised on by 'those who know.'

I'll leave it there for now. More to come!


* A politician doesn't really answer my question - shock
* 4x4s are just penis extensions - if so, why are they mostly driven by school-run Mums?
* The corporate disconnect - technology is just not meant to make doing more less polluting
* Seeing the trees - and saving the forest
* A politician refers to political will - sweet
* Q&As - almost spontaneous
* Corporate pitches - mostly guys reading their company website's CSR section (BAA was fun)
* Activist pitches - mostly guys being 'passionate' about the corporates (and government)
* Jonathan Porritt's closing speech - We are doomed. No wonder a lot had left already.

Postscript (which may also evolve as subsequent coverage is located/provided):

I have waited until Sunday following just in case there is a weekend follow-up, but interestingly, in light of the avowed significance of the event, all I have so far located about this event elsewhere is this which, if you accept my version... even just factually... gives an interesting insight into what today's media, and those seeking to inspire a story, are motivated by :

Livingstone lends support to Tory tax on frequent flyers

Businesses accused of green hypocrisy


I don't know about you, but other than a story on opposing political camps agreeing on a tax, that doesn't smack of the most positive or proactive outcomes for the public to learn about.

Pains, Trains and Automobiles

Just grabbing the opportunity to get a few more blogworthy bit and bobs off my chest from my trip before further addressing the Guardian climate change summit review again.

Thanks to a few coincidences and some nice friends, my trip was a very efficient one.

Combining another trip, my wife had dropped my off in London, so I was on public transport all the way, commuting around whilst there, and making my way back home.

I must say, probably thanks to more than clement weather, all trips around London were more than pleasant, with delightful scenery to enjoy.

Speaking of which, look at what was parked outside the station. Now, as readers of this blog will know, I find the whole 4x4 issue simplistic, trivial and a distraction, but I have to say the serried ranks of the monsters in the heart of urban London was enough to shake one's head and wonder why. I am prepared to bet that these were not en route to pulling out a stump, negotiating a rutted track or even ferrying 7 kids to school.

As noted in my conference review, Mayor Ken had a few views on the subject, most of which involved dissing those who drive them as penis extensions. I have to say that he might be missing a trick with the voters a tad here, as almost all those driving them that I saw didn't look like a penis was involved in their physical makeup.

I also include something on the back of one such behemoth that tickled me. Not so much the 'my cause is better than your cause' aspect, but simply the way I read it, which was across and not in two columns. It conveyed a slightly different message.

Thing is, I don't know what can really be done to make this 'right'. These things are patently not 'necessary' for the function but, as noted more than often before, if one gets on that kick then we end up on a slippy slope with the 'what's necessary' police telling us how to live. If these things are 'wrong', they should not be allowed to exist (+VAT), and throwing legislative pressures at the consumer at the output end on a spurious basis (M5 at dead stop parked all day: charged. Hybrid buzzing about emitting all day: free. This deals with congestion, emissions, etc, how?)) seems disingenuous. And if our farming industries and support services (plus a few private souls in my neck of the woods, literally) are to be allowed that a vehicle of some sort is necessary, then for purely commercial reasons enough must be allowed to exist to make them viable. I'm not sure we'd fancy our troops rushing round Iraq in a Prius.

The other picture is the railway station, with a lonely poster that serves to show the sheer amount of money being wasted on pointless eco-ads instead of actual doing anything (and, of course advertising that in We'll take the pointless eco-ad too, mind).

The final, and significant part of the story was my trip back. London to Gloucester for £9. Amazing. It costs almost that to get from Wandsworth Common to Paddington, and a third of that for the interminable bus trip from Gloucester to Ross. Scenic, but not repeatable any time soon. The other thing was it all gobbled up most of the day, which shoots your time management to pieces.

But as value it couldn't be beaten. My only real issue was, having arrived an hour early, I could not take the earlier, almost empty train to get back sooner, as this required a new, full fare ticket. That lack of flexibility is a real turn-off.

The Truth Is Out There...

... That 'they' cannot, or will not, see that they have moved beyond caring that it is, and needs to be shared without spin or agenda or self-interest, is a tragedy.

The media is a "feral beast"


Having been away for a few days on a quite important 'mission' regarding the future of the planet, it seems extraordinary to have come back to this, and feel moved to comment on it before all else.

This is what I was moved to contribute:

As acknowledged, how 'we' reach each other in all things and, more importantly set about persuading each other to think and act perhaps differently or more quickly, is in this modern age pretty much down to 'use' of and consequent practices 'of' and 'by' the media.

I don't often agree with Tony Blair. But in much he had (and at long last felt compelled, allowed, freed from restriction, etc) to say (a tad late), I'm afraid there was great truth.

Sadly, and has already been pointed out and pounced on unmercilessly, too much in his past, both in deed and and word, makes him a blooming poor example of rectitude (on any count) to pass such comment. Good message. Not so great messenger.

But if there was some small glimmer, what has happened as a consequence is as poetic a QED as he, or anyone who thinks our media is broken could hope for. And, along with it all (not just politicians') relationships that could so productively be had, especially for the honest and professional communication and exchange of information, the betterment of 'our' understanding of issues through skilled and objective analysis, and a commitment to the value of the story over tomorrow's next set of ratings.

Whilst by no means the only one, the Newsnight piece in reaction was about typical.

Though not the usual twofer, we this time were treated to a threesome, presided over by Mr. Paxman as stirrer. If this was the best debate the BBC and Fleet Street's finest could inspire, there could have been no more eloquent live example of Mr. Blair's point.

All came from (and doubtless were selected for that very reason) extreme entrenched personal viewpoints. And they well proved that, as a pack, for petty personal point scoring they would cherry pick and boost the most extreme at the expense of considered thought and well-crafted sharing of relevant information and convincing argument.

Having just come from a conference/debate on the fate of our future where it seemed pretty obvious that top of most of the communications industry protagonists' minds - and certainly more than answering the main posed questions of what 'we'.... 'do'.... to change a patently woeful situation - pursuing personal or corporate gain through the profitable world of hype and spin and driving inflammatory talk was waaaaay more important than actually answering anything.

I was there, and the little I have seen written about it so far has been solely on who knocked spots off another. While interesting, and worthy of being in the mix, I really think those who were not there will be interested in, and deserve a lot more.

It's a shame there is a level of trust in the public's intelligence, a commitment to what society needs and deserves, and a pride in one's profession and craft to deliver that with passion, commitment, courage and honesty, which is so sadly lacking across all our major media today.

And trying to distract us by proving a politician's point by focusing solely on him rather than what he was saying is simply one thing, and one thing alone:


And now, I must get back to my report on the Guardian Climate Change Conference I just attended.

Cif - Blair's message for the media
Guardian - Blair keen to lead way on relations with media
Indy - Blair's attack provokes anger among newspaper editors and broadcasters - No, really? And by slecting the blogs that agree with them, they prove his point really.
Indy - Simon Kelner: Would you be saying this, Mr Blair, if we supported your war in Iraq? - I take the point, but again this is using the messenger to avoid the message.
Guardian -
Spin and scandal: how New Labour made the news
Right sermon, wrong preacher - I guess this is one editor not provoked to anger, as covered by the Indy (above)
Blair still doesn't get it & Fix yourself first - there again...
The feral beast is out
The front pages he hated - Fun, but , er... so? I rather liked the ad for the paper below: 'Home entertainment made simple'. Apt.

I guess, for balance, I should post those from the Telegraph and Times, but if the mainstream press can't be fussed about facst or balance, why the heck should I?

BBC - "Feral" media - my thoughts - Bearing in mind Mr. Blair had a lot more to say than the 'feral media' bit, the lead in this case says a lot in its own right

Indy - Media standards: It's all a matter of opinion
Indy - Steven Glover on The Press - get the impression they are having trouble letting this go?