Friday, July 13, 2007


As a free public information website, I was as equally fascinated by what was in this piece - Government urged to improve Web sites - as what was not.

First up, tell us what we don't know: they are too complex and are difficult to navigate. Well, D'uh.

The we get to the provision of information about the cost and usage of government Web sites.

I find it MIND-BOGGLING that the government spends £208 million a year (of whose money?) on its Web sites... but knows little about who access them or how they are used.

If ever there was a case to get them out of the public sector's dead hands this was it. They don't know what they're doing. They patently don't know why they're doing it. And they don't seem to care whether it works so long as it looks like they are doing something. And the heck with any ROI, which any sane business would apply to its comms efforts.

These are tools. Their only value is in being used. Not just for being there. I mentioned recently about a site that was all excited about 7,000 'hits', which a kennelcam of a dead dog rotting would exceed.

I'd also love to know what the breakdown of costs of design , build, operation and maintenance are for some, especially in the enviro-arena.

I'm betting several have 'departments' (which explains them looking like camels), all on salary with pension. has one bloke... so far... plus a few nice mates helping. And as and when it does need to grow, it will be funded by ads.

Which is better value?


That'll teach me. Now, when the heck will I find the time to read it?

Exec summary
Another thing - 89 pages!!!!

Postives and negatives

Carbon neutral homes for mere mortals

You cover a lot of interesting, and valid points, and it is hard to disagree with most, if not all.

But the devil can be in the details, so in the spirit of debate may I raise a few points for consideration.

First up, and it's a doozy, is to try and get towards an acceptable definition of 'carbon neutrality'. To my eyes and ears it is ever so slightly loose and, depending on who decides to embrace it, the poor old public/consumer could be forgiven in thinking it is all manner of things that it may not actually be.

Personally, I have been trying to advocate the notion of enviROI, which is different to the financial version because the amount of money is nowhere near as relevant (though a factor - money poured into black holes may more usefully be redirected to green ones) as the impact on our planet, and hence kids' futures. So you may never get a return on an eco-investment, but it is still worth doing if reducing CO2 is your bag. The corollary of this is that you may make all sorts of noise on the green hue of it all, but actually the initiative may work out worse once every factor has been taken into account. This does have a bearing on construction issues as mentioned later.

In defence of aged rockers, so long as Metallica insulate their homes with their beards, and otherwise do as they say, I see nothing odd at all. What I do find less than compelling, however, is Squander Spice standing up with her newborn to plug her next concert whilst saying her presence was 'for her daughter's future', and then barely a week goes by before it turns out the group is getting a Lear jet each in case they have a hissy fit with each other. One reason why some felt the messengers rather undercut the message in this case. So which topic actually did get out there? I'd hazard it's more 'anyone else but me', which is hardly a motivational kickstart to the masses.

And while the last few days the media wires have been humming with such vastly critical topics as plastic bags and water bottles, I am glad to see that here we do have some thoughts on what is a more major issue, namely personal home energy consumption.

Back to the CN definition, even without heating I'd say that, without offsetting (a whole other, and equally mine-strewn topic), the CNzeroHome is still going to err on the negative simply because quite a lot would be involved in making it. See, new stuff does have a carbon consequence, the minute you dig its building blocks from the soil.

And while I am very happy to consider solar, heat-pumps, wind turbines, etc, beyond ROI I still have to be convinced with some on the enviROI.

Insulation is a bit of a no-brainer, so I can't quite figure out why vast amounts of effort is not being made to maximise this aspect's benefits RIGHT NOW. How many homes, for instance, could be insulated with the £5M blown on the latest carbon footprint ad campaign?

And as one who lives in a dwelling where carbon footprints are what you walk from the fireplace to the outside loo, I get nervous when the ODPM new-builds on flood plains look like getting a tip-top rating in the HIPS stakes, but without a cavity wall to fill in my very much already existing structure, I worry about being unfairly discriminated against by some rampant, half-cock, ill-considered box-ticking process over product.

But if we are to have new-builds, then yes, for heaven's sake let them be as you describe.

UK builders will of course take note, and will charge accordingly, no doubt.

Packaging & Marketing 5 – Consumer & Environment 0

"What’s that you’re doing Walt?"

"It’s a new idea I’m working on for marketing products that are waaaaaay too cheap."

"Really? So how’s it gonna work?"

"Well, you take a dirt cheap product, like a really cheap shower gel, and you put it into sexy bottles that cost three times the product it contains. It’s a real winner."

"Come on Walt! Get real! So just how do you plan to make people buy it then?"

"Easy, you spend huge wadges on neat advertising, like loads of telly time; price it at five or six times what the entire package is worth, and people will rush to buy it like lemmings."

"But that makes no sense at all Walt!"

"Maybe not to you, but I reckon I’ll make a fortune out of it."

"Sorry Walt, I’m not really with you on this one ……. I just can’t see how it can possibly work, people just aren’t that stupid. And just what do they do with the sexy bottles when they’ve used up the shower gel? Oh ...... I’m with it now ....... they’re paying for the sexy plastic bottle so they can use it for something else, aren’t they?"

"No! They just chuck ‘em away!"

It all sounds absolutely crazy, doesn’t it, but that’s exactly what’s happening with many health and beauty products on the market today. Another little expose from the Daily Mail which neatly demonstrates the massively over-inflated cost to the consumer of some products, and even touches on the downstream cost (to the environment) of throwing the container (that cost three times more than the contained product, and will take more than 400 years to decompose) into landfill sites.

"It's crazy. You pay more for the packaging than the ingredients and then you have to pay again to chuck the wretched stuff away."

Quite! I couldn’t have put it better myself. We live in a mad, mad world.

A week is a long time in climate change

I hate to tell you I told you so, but: Tell Us What You Flaunt, What You Really Really Flaunt

This would not be the same Geri Halliwell who stood up at Wembley and reckoned that it was 'for her daughter's sake' was it?

Nothing blows cred like a two-faced celeb.


Meanwhile, across the pond: Will.I.Am Scraps Plan to Blow Up Hummer

With the funniest comment I've seen: 'He could ship it to Baghdad. That'd be like recylcing it and blowing it up.'

And was this the follow-up 'awareness' the organisers were really after: Where is Fergie's love for her HUMMER?

BBC - Jeremy Vine Show - Interesting debate, if a twofer

I wrote to Prof: Luckhurst:

I was just sent an email linking to the Jeremy Vine discussion you had (I presume a while ago at the time of the BBC withdrawal) regarding Live Earth.

I just wanted to say how nice it was to hear a calm, rational and considered analysis of the situation.

As a committed environmental campaigner and sometime commenter, I was saddened how polarised the discussion around this issue became, though not surprised in light of how anything climate change is immediately consigned to extremes. The media is more than complicit in setting up this situation. So your comment on the blue waters in between that are seldom acknowledged or addressed really resonated.

As did the point, which was key to my lack of enthusiasm, that previous such efforts simply had not worked. And if 'awareness' (itself a rather vague target at best) was all, then as far as I could see the main result was the vast majority of normal folk were further put off by the superficial posturings of a celebrity-obsessed green elite.

And frankly we are seeing it again with the latest surrounding Mr. Gore. However sincere he might be, I cannot separate the messenger from the message. And there seems a huge disconnect between what is being said by a minority of hugely rich and privileged folk who can afford to play with such things (and not really doing that much to mitigate their own lifestyle excesses, frankly), and the general population that are being talked down to from rather shaky pedestals with populist pronouncements that are almost exclusively negative, scaremongering, guilt-tripping, fine-laden or... plain wrong and open to damaging rebuttal (and what will get remembered more? The good stuff or the cons?). Which makes the efforts of methodical, reason-based, pragmatic and incentive-based attempts at persuasion all the harder to 'sell'.

I want to see this planet turned around. It's my greatest possible legacy to my kids. But by heavens those who have taken it upon themselves to do it 'for our own good' are making a mess of it so far. And the media sure is not helping. And I often have to wonder what the motivations are.