Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stating the bleedin' obvious

Yet again, we have a study that has dug up an amazing fact - research, as reported by Reuters (amongst many others) has shown that rock stars have a tendency to die younger than most!

Well, slap my thighs, that's just an amazing discovery - I can hardly believe it!

This is yet another in the long line of pointless, stupid, wasted research projects that conclude with what everybody knows to be the case anyway. It's from the same mold as the study in the early 1980's which concluded that people who smoked cigarettes tended not to suffer from Alzheimer's - whilst totally ignoring the fact that people who smoked heavily actually died before they were old enough to develop Alzheimer's disease.

Why is so much money squandered on such bloody useless research?

If the hurricanes don't get you ......

..... the killer storms might!!

This from NASA published via Sci-Tech Today predicts that much of the central USA will suffer from more of, and increasingly worse, storms, as global warming takes hold.

6% more lightning, heavier, prolonged rainfall, and really huge hailstones are amongst the predictions.

"some of the severe hail that should be increasing could be baseball-sized and come down at 100 mph" Ouch!! That sounds painful!

But, as ever, it's all based on computer models - but then again so was the study that predicted what could happen to New Orleans if it was hit by a category 3 or 4 hurricane. And along came Katrina.
Meanwhile, Glacier National Park in Montana will probably not have any, errrr ........, glaciers within the next 20 years or so. As reported in VOA News today.

There were 150 glaciers when the park was first created, now there are 27, and these are disappearing at an astonishing rate!

Strange bedfellows!

Isn't it amazing just how many strange partnerships that would have been utterly impossible to predict have come about as larger British business gear themselves up towards being 'green'?

This latest one really made my eyebrows rise - Marks & Spencers agreeing a tie up with the WWF (no, not the wrestling one!) as reported on WebWire this afternoon.

Perhaps another piece of the puzzle masterminded by Stuart Rose that is M&S's plan A?

He walks. He talks!

Handsome devil, no?

This is a frame of what will, with luck, soon be greeting first time visitors to the Junkk.com site.

It is planned that it will move, too.

And, even may get bolted onto emails too!

Just a shedload of IT jiggery-pokery to take place first. And If I'm involved with that we're up the creek from the off.

Anyway, thanks to Geof of Clickingo for getting me shot, and Dave of Sound-i for helping get it online.

Meanwhile, back at the 'fine first' end...

'Ignorance is no excuse' they say, but it's hard not to sympathise with those who may well soon cop it from this: Firms ‘unprepared’ for waste regulation

Regs is regs, I know, but why do I get the feeling a lot more effort has gone into the policing of all this, as opposed to easing it in effectively.

I love this quote:

"It feels like over the past 12 months every man and his dog has been making noises about becoming greener, but here we have a major piece of legislation coming into force that supports this, and it is virtually ignored...."

Read one sentence more to get a hint why:

"Crucially, it isn't just manufacturers that will now have to treat their own non-hazardous waste before it is collected; every business in the country, including high street retailers, City offices and country pubs must now produce their own reports on how they have treated their waste, in accordance with the EA's guidelines.”

Or the key bit that tops it all off: 'It is still vague how heavily the rules will be enforced'

I'll be they figure the enforcement bit out pretty quick, but probably a tad before sorting out the vague aspects.

And not a shredded seagull in sight!

I have been keen for some good news on the alternative energy front for a while. Maybe this is it: Dutch build towering wind turbines out at sea

Seems they are learning how to build them, which is a slight worry, but nothing ventured... I just hope at the end we may end up with some definitive data on their enviROIs.

And when I read that 'It is hoped that when they start rotating in early 2008 they will cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 225,000 tonnes, helping the Dutch to meet a target of 20 percent renewable energy use by 2020', that is a real measure of value. Words liked 'hoped' and 'helping' give cause for pause, especially considering the costs and logistics. The sea and salt-air laden coast of Europe is not the easiest of environments on structures, especially those with moving parts.

We'll ask the questions!

I found this - Hour Town - courtesy of the estimable Grist to be on interest on a variety of levels, along with a lot of the feedback.

I still want to see the film as it is billed as having positive solutions, so it's notable that I hook into this aspect, as will others. Green Celeb-fatigue?

Though the problems of messengers vs. message, especially when some (well, I do) wonder if we are not a bit past celeb-inspired 'awareness' by now, are clearly still in evidence.

We'll be at the rear of the field come 2020

One of the oft quoted comments from those less inclined to consider the consequences of climate change/global warming is that nothing we do will make any difference while countries such as China are industrialising as quickly as they are.

Well, it would appear that when it comes to setting and achieving targets for generation of power from renewables, we will not even be competing in the achievement stakes. Despite Tony's much vaunted and publicly lauded target for the UK of 20% by 2020, we now know (see Coming Clean on this very blog) that the UK has absolutely zero realistic chance of hitting this target, and the best assessment is that we might, just, get to a 9% result if we really put some effort into the tasks required. (The actual result will be only 5% if current policies remain unchanged!)

This from China View, suggests that they intend to get to 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. Having spent some time in that part of the world, and knowing the work ethic of the Chinese, when they make a plan, they always have every intention of meeting the target set. And I am pretty certain that they will achieve this, whilst the UK slowly continues to fall behind in the renewables race.

Once again, it would appear that our Western predilection for setting totally unachievable targets is going to push the UK to the rear of the field. When will we ever learn?

Floods and Tears 3 - The wilderness years

Some may recall that the latest water-borne threats inspired me to get active on a bit of personal initiative by way of prevention rather than cure.

To date, I have had no further advice from the Environment Agency or Council, and am rather concerned that as the waters have abated, so has official interest. Until, of course the next 'unprecedented, unexpected' event.

For what it's worth, I have been sent a press release to Junkk.com that may allow for some action, and I will be making my views felt there*... since they have asked.

A website has been set up to allow the public to submit their comments at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/floodingreview

* Beyond professional interest, as my home was under threat I tried on a personal basis to get some information and advice from the Environment Agency and my council with a view to taking proactive steps by way of prevention, being better than cure.

Even with such a direct approach I have still heard nothing.

I think much more is needed to help those prepared not to be victims the next time, which there will be.

I fear as the waters have subsided, so has the interest of those surely tasked to think ahead as much as 'cope and hope'.

Sometimes a fence is the best place to be when surrounded by weeds

I just had through a bit of research entitled: UK consumers sit on the fence while climate change debate rages

From site Combat Climate Change, it goes on more insightfully to ask: Climate change: a real threat or an excuse for state meddling and stealth taxes? Well, as it stands, I am erring on both, and think a few agree. Which may explain the fence straddling bit.

With all due cautions* we always advise on the origins, extent, methodologies and possible agendas behind any and all research, it's worth sharing.

More than 45% of UK consumers confess they find the climate change debate confusing.

Only 45%?!

Of these, 41% of these admit they have delayed taking direct personal action to reduce their carbon footprint while they get to grips with the complex scientific arguments – even though a staggering 93% are well aware they can also save money by saving energy.

The personal action side is explicable. Why act to reduce 'fun' when there is a get out, albeit vague? The lack of desire to save money anyway is simply... inexplicable.

The survey revealed that more women (56%) than men (37%) find the climate change debate confusing – but women aren’t letting this confusion hold them back, and they equal men in their commitment to reduce their carbon footprint.

Nature vs. nurture? And without getting Germaine Greered, despite younger females now doing better at science I reckon the facts and figures being hurled around may be of more interest to the male mind.

Of those who find the climate change debate confusing, young baby boomers aged 55 to 64 are least likely (30%) to let the confusion hold them back from taking direct personal action to save energy and reduce their carbon footprint; those aged 16-24 were most likely to let the confusion hold them back (50%).

I hate to guess, but I doubt it's confusion; just an excuse for not wishing to miss out on the next iPod upgrade or stay in making something rather than hitting Ibiza. This is often the problem with research into social issues. Who and how many are going say ''Yes, I'm a selfish scumbucket and could care less!'. Other than Jeremy Clarkson, natch.

Overall, 79% of UK consumers believe the threat of climate change to be real. Those living in Greater London (87%) are most likely to be concerned about global climate change; those in the North East take a more cynical view, with 27% admitting they are non believers.

I am surprised, pleasantly, to see them so high. If concerned that belief does not seem to translate into much action.

The research also revealed:

· 40% of us leave a washing machine/dishwasher/electronic appliance on standby every day

Designers... manufacturers! Legislators! Kill the standby! In light of the tip below, which I practice, it's worth noting that once the cycle is complete, it stays 'on' 'til morning.

· 47% have yet to replace their light bulbs with low-energy alternatives

Just one word: plonkers. That said, I am testing a few brands as we speak having had a supermarket 'deal' effort blow in about two months. There are low-energy bulbs. There are long life bulbs. There are low energy, long life bulbs. And there are... ways to get us to blow money in the name of green that really has no ROI or enviROI basis at all. So be cautious!

· 19% rarely turn off home computing peripherals when shutting down their PC

Peripherals...no brainer. But on the PC front, well, here the old fence bit comes in. I don't know for sure yet. First up there's the old 'on/off' debate on damage to hard drive from spinning up and down to often being worse than leaving on... even environmentally. Also, the whole nighttime upgrade thing. Mine certainly seems to sort a few things out in the wee smalls. I wish there were a definite, trusted source of what to do on this. The science can't be that hard, surely? Mind you, if we can't get any sense yet on wind farms, what are the odds?

MD Stewart Grew, says: “Where individual consumers stand on climate change is largely irrelevant. That’s a matter of personal conscience, and we could spend years debating the finer points while millions of people sit on the fence.

“The fact is, by saving energy now, every individual can save money – and they just might save the planet at the same time. If all the concerns are real, they will have done their bit for the world. If it all turns out to be so much hot air, then they will have made their own world a better place anyway. Everyone wins.”

And I can't fault that sentiment one jot.

They also have some tips to: Save Energy, Save Money. Again, can't argue... and in fact have been banging on in a similar vein for years. Worth sharing as they are a bit more £-centric than the usual quango/committee efforts that abound:

1. Buy plug-in timers
They save you money by turning on your appliances only when they are needed. And if you are on one of the cheaper, night rates for your electricity, by running your washing machine and dishwasher overnight you could save up to 50% of the cost of running them during the day.

And timer solves the standby issue! I am, by the by, in process of doing a in-home test of several for review on the site soon.

2. Invest in a multi-plug board for your PC
Electrical equipment left on standby in the UK wastes £740 million of energy every year. By switching your computer peripherals off, rather than leaving them on standby, you can save both energy and money.

3. Replace your old GLS light bulbs
Energy saving light bulbs last up to 12 times longer than ordinary light bulbs, and can save you £100 over the bulb’s lifetime – as well as 38kg of CO2 per year!

*The survey was conducted by market research agency TNS. It was conducted over the internet from 14th – 16th August 2007 and involved a sample of 1002 GB adults aged 16-64. The sample was weighted to represent the adult population of Great Britain aged 16-64.

All in the best possible taste

I won't list them, as it's across the board, but pretty much all the media have reported on the consequences of Jamie Oliver's healthy meals campaign.

The results... have not been encouraging. Across several areas.

I have to say the collective feral lips-licking at what I do think was a sincere effort to be a little distasteful, but to sure there are lessons to be learned and also consequences being paid, and still to pay.

Mostly I am selfishly concerned at just how difficult it is to persuade people to do good , even if it is to save their own sorry hides.

If this is the result of a multimillion PRD thrust then what chance for most things 're', which are 'good' but not always fun.

Except most on Junkk.com, of course.

Trouble with targets

As a morning diversion I decided to take this quiz: Highway Code

I failed. And it is an interesting metaphor to the target obsessed culture we live in why.

To pass you are allowed one miss in ten. One I am ashamed to say I did miss was a question on guide dogs. Though I would have to say any dog I treat with caution when driving, no matter what.

The other, and the one which 'failed' me, was on the diatnce you could park from a junction. I put the minimum too far away.

So I was 'wrong' by being over-cautious.

I dread to think what other numpty questions, especially key ones on safety or daft ones on 'procedure' there are in there that won't sift out good drivers and common sense driving from bad, but will tick some boxes.

I sometimes forget Junkk.com is mainly about ideas

I just uploaded the Squidstand to the site.

While the base is a bit of fun, I am very proud of the 'clip' system, which will hold even a floppy piece of A4 tall and proud.

And it came to me simply be staring at a collection of new-fangled tin lids.

Now I'm thinking what else can be made using this system.

Where's an old wife when you need one?

Tomorrow the boys go back to school. And as if to complement the change in domestic regime, as I fussed about the kitchen this morning it seemed a tad parky.

Now what to do? The sun is still shining, and at day's end last night was a vision of topless manhood catching the last rays of the day painting an exterior wall.

But somewhere in my being is an odd notion, I suspect inserted by a young wife whose physiology is more attuned to a daily 32 degrees, that old houses with thick stone walls need to be warmed from within while it's still clement to keep roasty-toasty come winter. Miss the window and you are in a chill zone throughout.

Thing is, that hardly tallies with the eco-cred. Or the drop a degree brigade.

Now I know what our power suppliers think, because already I am seeing banners a) telling me to pop the rads on, but b) do it with their tariff... to save the environment.

I just wondered if there was any actual science on the matter out there?