Thursday, September 13, 2007

First it was cars, then planes, now shipping.

There has been one major form of transportation which seems, at least until now, to have largely escaped any media attention; I suspect they have simply kept quiet themselves whilst watching the flak aimed at others. But no secret remains so forever, and finally, a mainstream media source, Reuters, has pointed the finger at shipping, which some analysts claim emits almost as much CO2 as the airline industry.

"In Los Angeles alone, the ships in port spew more pollution than the metro area's six million cars combined"

"the trillion-dollar industry, which carries around 90 percent of world trade by volume on about 50,000 merchant ships, also accounts for about 10 percent of global sulphur dioxide emissions, a cause of acid rain, as well as large amounts of toxic nitrous oxide and particulate emissions."

I wonder how long it will be before the tabloids and the ragtops pick this one up and start advising their readers to take the chunnel, rather than the ferry, to France? Or perhaps the embattled aviation industry will use this as a stick with which to point blame at others?

Made me smile. Then frown.

This from the ever-useful MRW: Councils' decisions questioned by Repic letter

At first blush it looks like little in our consumer sphere to get involved with, but then I decided to have a nosey.

Considering the amounts involved, how such decisions are arrived at should be of massive public interest, and especially when they affect how we set up the planet of the future. For our kids? Or targets and/or bonuses?

Councils may 'have expressed concern about this letter'. I'd like to know why. And what the answers are.

This - “Local authorities may deem the information requested as commercially sensitive and decide not to give it out.” is one hell of a get out (of jail free?)!

Just add 'green' and it would be perfect

It has been too long. The ongoing genius of Dilbert.

Slate, thatch, or crossply?

This is the kind of thing I think WRAP (or, more accurately, its support systems) does well: Recycling Tyres Into Roof Tiles

So long as the numbers add up (inc. enviROI), this looks a winner.

I wish all involved well.


Google Founders' Ultimate Perk: A NASA Runway

I think I'm boring most when I point out that it's hard to have a ton of cash and not spend it on stuff like toys and going places (or how all media, no matter how eco-sensitive, can resist reporting such excess in the awed terms accorded celeb lifestyles). I guess they just managed a neat combo.

Here's hoping we don't end up being lectured on going green from this quarter too overtly.

But I'm sure they offset like billy-o.

Guardian - Is black the new green? - Gotta love 'em though. Nice reply. IT feedback also noted.

Big Mac

I referred to it before but, as is the way, almost forgot due to events, dear boys and guys... events. The Conservative report is now out, and warrants another outing, starting here: Tory report backs increased taxes on flights and cars

Interestingly, listening to the Jeremy Vine show 'tother day, I would say the BBC is seemingly in pendulum mode balance wise, because this didn't half cop it!

I'm sure there'll be more. And I just hope I can find the time to read it all (but at 549 pages that may not happen - which may be a metaphor for the disconnect between those telling us stuff and us listening/doing) and add my t'pennyworth without relying on others, and their biases, to creep in first.

To kick off: A quality report

I'd love to read it (ta, Guardian) to form my own view, but at 549 pages that may not happen.

Which, in a climate where there is a seeming disconnect between those who are telling us what to do, and what 'we' actually pay attention to and act upon, may explain some things.

I guess I'll do what I always do and just let the various 'wings' slug it out and bumble along in my own sweet way if it makes sense, seems fair and has a decent enviROI.

Guardian - MPs: government should help citizens 'do their bit' on climate change - Well, D'uh. As opposed to what?

Now That's Radical !!

But by my reckoning, has about as much chance as the the proverbial snowball's in hell.

This little snippet from NewCarNet suggests that the only way that the Greater London Authority could achieve its intended aim of a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025, is to ban all private cars from the city!

When, well, IF in London

It's how I like my conferences. So long as they end up as billed, that is: Relevant, topical, hopefully balanced (you have to look at provenance - COMPASS has a 'leaning') informative... and free.

The title looks fair. Wish I could go. Hope it moves things on.

Can a consumer society stop climate change?

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge we face, however can it be stopped in an increasingly consumer society? Some have suggested if we continue to consume at the present rate we'd need 4 planets to sustain our current consumption levels.

With the main parties facing growing pressure to live up to their rhetoric on climate change and in the run-up to the climate change bill, Compass has convened a special debate to discuss these issues at: 6pm on Thursday 4 October in Central London (exact venue tbc).

Our high-profile international speaker Clive Hamilton is the executive director of The Australia Institute, Australia’s leading progressive think tank. He's best known for his work on climate change policy, consumerism and the problems of economic growth. In 2004 the Australia Institute teamed up with the IPPR in London and the Center for American Progress in Washington to form the International Climate Change Taskforce. Clive has published extensively, including the best-selling books Growth Fetish and Affluenza (co-authored with Richard Denniss) and What's Left: The death of social democracy. His most recent book is Scorcher: The dirty politics of climate change.

At the debate he'll be joined by Compass chair Neal Lawson who's currently writing a book called All Consuming ( for publication in Spring 2008. More speakers are to be announced and the event will be chaired by Green Alliance Director Stephen Hale.

The event is free to attend, but early registration is essential to guarantee your place. Please email to register.

The mouth says no. The dress says yes.

I'd hate to be on any jury. But especially a rape one. Despite too many CSI episodes it would be impossible to convict, especially when it's down to the word of the two sole witnesses.

This, is just slightly to do with that. It's about the dilemma one faces as a medium with a model based on ad revenue, and allied influences, as discussed in other blogs today (sponsorship, funding, etc). You have to be careful that what you say is not countered too much (if at all), but what's happening around you, and hence associated with you.

On I fully intend (and need) to have ads to help me pay my way. And logic dictates the ads on certain sections are relevant to them.

I'd like to think that I can mange to make sure that they are just ads, that they conform to all necessary ethical and ASA-required standards (if you look at their weekly hit-list, that's a big 'if'), and the reader treats them and the messages as such.

I was pondering this as I was reading a green-related piece in the Guardian today.

I was alse attracted to the button (above right), which got me to the page (above left), which in turn led me further down a pretty exclusive trail on the green and wonderful world of British Gas.

Now I don't know, but I am unsure as to their relative merits in the great green firmament, especially of energy production/supply (our biggest national CO2 emitter, no?), but I just felt the way all this was set up gave rather to much credence to what is in fact a naked corporate pitch.

I have no problem with sponsorship, but I do think it is incumbent upon the medium to ensure that the advertiser does not end up so dominating the screen that any chance of objectivity in message or editorial is tainted.

Well, he asked... in the Guardian

Can this really save the planet? Is the question posed, surrounding by more ads with the word green than you could shake a self-powered torch at.

And, for fun (if not irony), right next to this: Aston Martin tops cool brands list ( oddly, not yet there).

I have of course been banging on about big vs. small picture for a while. But as he sets them out initially it's in a different area. All the small tips cited are 'why nots?', easy to effect and usually save money. The ones that get me going are diversions, and often divisive ones, such as bottled water witch hunts, which over-shadow campaigns (are they any?) to coordinate 'ground to grounded' life cycle systems that involve all in the waste chain and don't just throw a bunch of targets and jargon at the poor consumer to sort out. Plus insulation (we'll, in all senses of the word, come back to that).

Of course if you 'take these simple steps today... they really do "make a difference". Do 'em!

Only later do we get to easier agreement. With some facts I can only assume are correct. There will be others incoming as I write, I'm sure.

A long time ago in a publication I asked those who know (I think it was either a plastics or recycling trade mag), just how much 'plastic', the 100-300 (estimates vary) carriers 'we' use (and 'I' reuse; a fact often not factored in by those who still purchase bin liners) represents? Sadly, to date, no answer. I just wondered if it would equate to the number of Fairy Liquid bottles not reused at the BBC, insert sleeves/DVDs at the Indy or water fountain bottles at the LibDem HQ... each week.

I have to disagree on the standby thing. While I rail against those who get over eco-puritan about where their definitions of 'what's necessary' stops (usually at what they deem is required for a comfy, green-glow lifestyle), these things simply are not. And the figures I have seen suggest that they gobble a lot that is pure waste. So... bad call.

And these things are cumulative y'know. So I am very happy, both financially and economically, with my Ecokettle.

Which is a pity, because it all set a tone that coloured what I do agree with way down the piece: that there is any equivalence between these lifestyle preferences and the serious decisions that really reduce emissions - stopping flying, living close to work and living in a well-insulated house. (I critique as I read, so OK it's here... at last. No apologies for leaving mine up there.

And I have to agree , a tad, about the wallpaper. The latest blonde celeb to get wheeled out to promote her film/TV/book on the back of some green effort she was the face of, managed recycling, having a shower and... er... that was it. Meanwhile, she was off to Bali for a shoot next week.

Which brings one to the role of media in all this, as discussed on these posts many times before. They really can't have both, and both ways. Either stick with the line on climate or not, but don't try the first whilst promoting celebrity and consumer excess at every turn via editorial and ads. Or getting snitty because some green commentators (if I may make so bold as to include myself) and, more importantly, most public (and, eventually, the BBC), don't see such as Live Earth and/or Planet Relief as the best way forward.

But as one more than critical of blowing money that could be better spent elsewhere than on quango board members' bonus-boosting comms budgets, I am more than interested (assuming it's true - so pending attribution/confirmation) that 'making the solutions easy is no guarantee that anyone will carry them out.' And that, ' The government spent £22m on the Do Your Bit campaign and has subsequently admitted that it produced no measurable change in personal behaviour.' How much so far on telling us to recycle, for instance? And what does ActOnCo2 do exactly for the money? And what was the ROI, much less the enviROI of these efforts?

Especially if, with such as recycling, Mori (assuming... yada.. I need an acronym for these points. Subject To Unequivocal Follow-Up Proof - STUFUP) 'concluded that it was becoming an act of "totem behaviour" and that "individuals use recycling as a means of discharging their responsibility to undertake wider changes in lifestyle".

And I really can't fault this: 'Governments and businesses are, if anything, even more prone to tokenistic behaviour than individuals. Encouraging small voluntary actions by the public, customers or staff looks good and is much safer than passing restrictive legislation or rethinking your entire business model.'

So, in conclusion...

... what we need is a sense of proportion. No question.

We also need to rethink the way we talk about climate change. Ditto. Plus those who have taken it upon themselves to be considered leaders of the charge, whilst often charging (or earning) so lucratively in the process, as I can't say the job most are doing amounts to much that helps my kids' futures.

And let's be clear that voluntary action will never be enough - we will need radical political, economic and social change. I hear you, brother!

So let's start by doing away with that wretched phrase "you can save the planet". Well, it doesn't bother me, but I usually bolt 'and save money, too' on the end, at least with (I popped in a hyperlink and forget that the full point makes a big difference. D'Oh!) . Seems to work.

But I will add one more, teensie bit: 'And your positive suggestions would be...?" They may be around, but here would be a good place to share too.

Read Bibi van der Zee's response to this article: What's wrong with turning lights off?

Again interesting, but again the order of priority had me thrown. At least Fiesta family gets a mention. And again the notion that 'awareness' is worth it if it translates into action, but with little regard that some efforts may actually have a reverse effect. As has, say , the city-centric but nationwide anti 4x4 campaigns out in the country.

Fishing for evidence?

Sometimes you just don't have to - the evidence comes to you!

Every now and again we hear reports of unusual species turning up off the coast of the UK. The Basking Sharks that are now commonly observed off Cornwall on an almost daily basis were very rarely sighted 30 years ago. But it seems that bigger is better as far as reporting is concerned - species such as a Loggerheads Turtle generate a local influx of umpteen television crews turning up to record the event. Scary species are good too - just look at the hours of recent coverage on the TV and in the press about the Great White Shark - which turned out to be, well, not a member of that particular family.

Now many marine species are highly sensitive to even minuscule changes in temperature, salinity and interruptions to the food chain, whether they are large and/or scary (and hence worthy of major news coverage) or small.

But when something that has only been recorded 42 times in the last 150 years starts arriving off our coast in noticeable numbers you would think that it just might get some serious news coverage. The trouble is, this particular chap, a warm, temperate marine species, only grows to a couple of pounds or so, so it just doesn't have the newsworthiness clout that a large turtle or a big shark has.

This from local website thisiscornwall, highlights the arrival of the Amberjack in British coastal waters. Now 42 sightings in 150 years doesn't sound too important, but when you consider that 12 of those sightings have been over the last three months, and 4 of those were over the last weekend alone, then it just has to be significant.

Now the Amberjack isn't exactly a handsome little fish, nor is it big or scary, but what it does present is genuine and almost incontrovertible evidence of just what is happening to the seas off our coast as climate change slowly increases water temperatures.

Little fish may be sweet, but unfortunately they don't increase the media ratings, despite the importance of what they might portend.

n.b.1 I have since found out that there are several species of Amberjack, one of which can grow to a whopping 170 lb in weight. The ones currently appearing are all of the smaller species.

n.b.2 Wasn't the guy in the photo in 'Village People' years ago?

It's not. But if it was. Oh it is. And it's ok. Or...

As a fearless parapet head-sticker-over of a contrary but good nature, I usually have some time for 'sceptical environmentalist' Bjorn Lomborg. So I decided this may be worth a gander: Global Warming, the Great Lifesaver

However, I have a rule of thumb, and that is 'if they're promoting a book to you, careful how you look, too'. Sure enough, there's a new tome in tow (, by the way is available now, price: free).

I stand ready to be corrected, but the main premise seems a stretch, for two reasons alone (what, Peter pithy?):

1 - If it's a trend, I'm guessing we may go through balmy and hit roasty toasty pretty quick. Not all of us can survive by sunbathing for a living. Or under water. Or...

2 - This all seems a bit centric on those parts of the world which do, admittedly, get cold. What about those that are already hot all the time? I know he's blond and blue-eyed and all, but don't they count? Maybe that's covered elsewhere in the book.

But, at least, Bjorn Lomborg, the controversial Danish economist, believes that “global - that's global - warming is real and man-made.”

Indy - Stark warning of extinction list: 'Life on Earth is disappearing' - The thing about ignoring lists is that you might one day find yourself on them. Ask Pastor Neimoller.

Guardian - Heeding the right global warnings - By the man himself. Hard to equate to the other one I read. Ho hum. Selective editing is all. Very good links in the posts.