Monday, September 17, 2007

In defence of opinion

An odd little effort almost passed me by thanks to changing the spelling of the word 'truth': The troof is out there

There seems to be a notion, and to me a worrying one, amongst those who seem to believe they know better (mostly by being employed by an organisation whose brand name might yet still carry some weight) that the facts as they seem them should not be subject to too much challenge by those they consider beneath them. And, looking at the blog roll already, there are quite a few. But not all are necessarily 'fiskers', which is a pejorative that seems to be favoured by those who are over-bothered by counter-arguments in the form of facts. A concern to the duration of the day job, perhaps, but an odd one to use to dismiss stuff that should not be.

So I am afraid I can't agree.

While the net, and what ever is on it, can be manipulated, at the end of the day that headline still holds true.

Indy - It is the death of history

Stop, you're killing me... us

No sooner do I crawl back to my desk after Dave's gorgeous bit of optimism as to our 'leadership's' intentions and/or competence rendered me incapable, I now read this: Can shopping save the planet?

Er, no, Mark, and I know you're just asking a rhetorical question. It's reduce, reuse/repair... recycle. Not consume, waste and consume something new - (I wrote that first off, and then weighed into the meat of his piece to critique it indetail. So apologies, it is there... at the end. I just think it needs to be up front).

But the rest of the piece is fair enough. Shame most media are trying to promote two mutually exclusive sets of practice. And that they have a vested interest in one... now... a lot more than the other. Let me sample a lot of good stuff from a long piece:

However, you don't have to dig very deeply to start coming across some glaring contradictions in this new corporate crusade to save the world. If News Corporation really wants to inspire low-carbon behaviour among its audience, will it stop running car adverts and other enticements to carbon profligacy? The Sky Travel section of the company's website is stuffed with low-cost holiday and city-break offers, featuring destinations as far afield as the Dominican Republic and Egypt, with nary a mention of global warming.

Indeed, the deeper you look, the more absurd this all gets. If O2 wants us to keep the same mobile phone handset for longer, why do they sell phones that have such an incredibly short lifetime? With new designs and handset functionality appearing all the time - and being heavily marketed by companies such as Nokia and Motorola - ask any kid in the playground how they feel about having an out-of-date phone, even to help the environment. Or take DIY energy-efficiency superstore B&Q. Is B&Q really helping us all to save carbon when the company still sells patio heaters in virtually all of its stores? On the high street, Marks & Sparks may be leading the pack in flogging T-shirts made from organic, fairtrade cotton, but isn't the whole idea of fashion the antithesis of a sustainable approach?

Perhaps the best example of the knots that companies are tying themselves into on climate comes from the supermarket sector. Here Tesco has been a pioneer to develop a system for putting carbon labels on all its products. But the move has been complicated, to say the least.

Moreover, some purportedly "green" products may be even worse than those they are intended to replace. Tesco is positioning itself as the UK market leader in selling biofuels. However, evidence suggests that biodiesel made from palm oil feedstock may be many times more carbon intensive than even fossil fuels.

Another controversial attempt to try to resolve the contradiction between consumption and sustainability is carbon offsetting. Most of the big firms that trumpet their green credentials use offsetting to some extent. But offsetting has come under fire as being little more than a conscience-salve, somewhat akin to the purchasing of papal indulgences in the middle ages.

At least we each got a blog out of it.

Needs must?

UK 'needs carbon neutral target' Yup. Like we haven't had one of them before.

Guardian - Who deserves your vote? - So long as he's just asking:)

When Johan Eliasch 'defected' from the Tory to Labour camp, in sifting through the usual Westminster Village gossip and bluster I did note an interesting comment, to the effect that if you want to do something NOW it's better to be in government than outside talking about stuff all the time. And a lot easier to be out just talking than in doing.

Hence one wonders whether Labour's less than green deeds vs. words might not illustrate rather clearly the dilemma of political pragmatism. I just hope that in staying in power so resolutely on the back of, yet also despite the climatic evidence they purport to endorse, they simply enjoy a moment in time but leave a poor legacy.

And with the level of trust in almost any institution, government business or indeed media to do any more then serve selfish, short-term interests so low, I don't think any of the current talkers would be any different even if their words did somehow get them in instead.

Meanwhile, from the Green corner (emailed, so no link - thus cut 'n pasted):


The second day of the Green Party's Conference in Liverpool sees Principal
Speaker Sian Berry give her keynote speech, followed by the launch of
"Climate Change - the next generation of policy", a report challenging the
other parties to adopt the Greens’ 10-point policy strategy on climate


Sian Berry, who is also the Green’s London Mayoral Candidate, will discuss
the need for action, not hot air, on climate change, and introduce the
Green's target candidates for the next general election.

Sian will say: "You can depend on the other parties to back up their warm
words on climate change with a total lack of delivery.

"Gordon Brown thinks you should solve climate change by changing your
lightbulbs. We think you should solve climate change by changing your

Greens' conference Climate Challenge 10 point policy plan

Caroline Lucas MEP and Sian Berry challenge the other parties to show
they’re serious about climate change by adopting the Greens’ 10-point policy
strategy, which calls for an end to all road and runway building, scrapping
bio-fuel production targets, ruling out new nuclear power stations – and
renationalising the railways, as the basis for their own positions.

Motions include proposals to:

* Adopt an annual emissions reduction target of 9 per cent.
* Condemn ‘adaptation’ as a primary response to climate change
* Urgently replace the Kyoto protocol with a framework that includes
measures to protect carbon sinks
* initiate an immediate moratorium on agrofuels from large scale

Indy - Liberal Democrats to outlaw petrol-driven cars by 2040 -- How old will Jeremy Clarkson be by then?

I do note: '...should state clearly that no car can be sold in the EU if it still belches carbon by 2040," he added. "It can be electric. It can be fuelled by a hydrogen cell..' and trust that making these means of getting energy to wheels will need to be non-carbon-belching too.

Which brings me to, and without making any comment on the wisdom of the point that '... the party should drop its opposition to building nuclear power plants.'

I'm not sure I see the timeline working on this basis.

Indy - Still leaders in the quest for green solutions - Questing is, of course, good. And setting targets is also fun. I'm not sure that setting ever higher targets is going to get us very far, though. I vote 110%! Do I win?

It's one thing to say stuff. But you have to do it to be credible. And, perhaps, stay credible to do it.

Amongst other things, there is the simple question of leaderships we face. Not just across the board, but especially green. Mr. Brown says either nothing or lets others speak and take the fall. Mr. Cameron says too much and has to change too often. Mr. Campbell is having to say too much on himself. And the Greens, who can say quite a lot you can believe they might stick to, don't say enough on other issues that make them overly credible as even a balanced opposition force... yet. Plus they still seem to be sitting on the whole leader fence which, while noble, makes it hard to know who is saying what and 'speaks' for the party.

GUG - Friends of the Earth: First Reaction to Conservatives 'Green' Policy Report. Two thoughts for the price of one.

GUG - Lib Dem Conference: The Environment - Or three

GUG - Labour Party Conference: Climate Change - Or what the guys in charge are doing.

Well, there's a surprise!

"HIPs show shortcomings in home energy efficiency" from EDIE.

The average energy rating for properties assessed under HIPS ranks an 'E' on a scale from 'A' to 'G'. Now why would anybody expect any different?

Despite all of the various 'grants' and supposed funding available (Have you ever tried to obtain an insulation grant? It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack! 'Sorry sir, you are outside our designated area'; 'Sorry you don't qualify as you earn over £22K'; 'we only provide grants for the over 65's'; oh, sorry, you're an NPower customer, you might have qualified for a grant if you were with Scottish Power'), the majority of homeowners simply do not have the wherewithal, financially, to invest in cavity wall insulation and the like.

It's all well and good banging on about it ('insulation, insulation, insulation!') but when it means that the man in the street has to cough up from his own pocket, yes, even when it will save him money long term, if he doesn't have the readies then it simply won't get done.

It surely must be time for a simple, sensible scheme to be put in place to ensure that any and every property qualifies for insulation grants or at least a low cost loan scheme. It's not too much to ask, is it?

Rock and woe

It's hard to justify the last few days' excitements in the world of finance with an enviro blog, but why let that stop me?

Because I see a lot of aspects that just as easily could extend to the stewardship of our eco-futures as how those who would claim (and are paid massively) to manage our finances.

First up, I heard that the boss of Northern Rock 'blaming' the unexpected run in the US financial markets. That's a bit like the recent floods being blamed on worse weather. It's why you plan, mitigate and put in place contingencies. The simply fact is, it seems, that he oversaw - for quick profit no doubt - a system that was taking big risks, writing cheques that could not be easily covered... and got caught out.

Then there are the politicians. I actually heard one try and invoke Mrs Thatcher! If they need to reach back that far for a diversion then they really are a lot sorrier than I thought. Especially the one (not the same one who said it) who was Chancellor for most of this last decade.

It is all short term gain, mainly for personal advancement (in terms of money or power) and keep fingers crossed nothing happens on your watch at the top. If it does, bluster and distract. Or once you've moved on pass the buck, and who cares anyway because your wedge is golden (unlike those you have been tasked to look after).

And the media serves no other purpose to get excited about whatever will make a rating or a headline today... now! And will move on to the next issue in ten minutes if it suits.

No wonder people totally ignored the exhortations of every senior or 'expert' member of our financial institutions, our government and even national media. They are no longer trusted to tell us what is going on without spin, hype or cover-up at the core.

So how anyone is expected to engage with what any of them might come out with on the future of the planet, which is a lot more complex (and prone to even greater levels of manipulation by the unscrupulous), lord alone knows.

What a way to run a country.

There's no real problem with getting rewarded for taking big risks. Trouble is, these days those who do are too isolated from the consequences of taking them for the wrong reasons, or simply being bad at it.

Indy - Run on bank was 'Brown's fault' - then I read on. Odd paper to carry it like that, though.

Indy - Darling sets terrible bail-out precedent - I must say I also wondered about previous, not too dissimilar situations where the people left in the lurch were not so well protected by government.