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.