Friday, September 21, 2007

Debate in this country sucks. No it doesn't.. yes it...

Readers will have no doubt gathered by now I'm a gobby sod. Not just here, but elsewhere (usually cc'd here too in case I get 'moderated').

By virtue of birth, parenting, education, travel, nature and nurture, I have ended up with views. And I often like to share them.

I'd like to think the way I do it is as inclusive as possible, and do try to think of myself as relatively 'centric' in most things, though I do stray in various directions (or back the other way if I change my mind... it is allowed). And as these can vary an awful lot between various topics/issues, I really... REALLY get irritated when some clown tries to find a neat pigeonhole that somehow manages in their minds to encompass all that they think I feel about health, defence, religion, climate change, etc.

And that seems to be happening a lot in the blogosphere, with a worrying trend to even more tackle the player than address the ball. Not that this is a new phenomenon, as our able pols are showing at the moment. More Chis Moyles than Winston Churchill in the Westminster Village and studios that they dash to.

The Internet has indeed revolutionised the exchange and discussion of information. No more are we served up what we are thought to want, or need, by a select group who were no more put in charge of such things than we ourselves have been. They just ended up in a relatively better position to broadcast their thoughts to us all. Many, sadly, mistook the position they were in and the entity that made them known as being less important than they were/are themselves. I know of few who would get where they are without '...from the xx' in the intro.

So we come to matters of trust. And an awful lot of the more traditional organs of education and information have been found wanting in this regard. Call it bias, lack of balance or whatever, the fact is that by selective editing even accurate facts can be presented in the best way to support whatever the creator wishes. For instance, I just watched an edition of the BBC's navel gazing dawn slot Newswatch and was surprised to see the Planet Relief issue dredged up again. Just two viewers, selected lord alone how, and the thing was debated in terms of whether or not climate change is happening or not. To the best of my knowledge that was never the issue (certainly not for me); as it was certainly initially 'sold' as another celeb-style hooly in the vein of Live Earth. The way this came across was the muzzling of an educational documentary. What was all that about?

This is where the Internet is great. Because pretty quick you can get access to some stuff that shows that there is a whole other story out there. And, in some cases, makes a story of why the first story ended up the way it did. It's a fact of modern life. I don't like that it is happening, but I know it is and so I adapt and move on.

My mistake has been to engage too closely on occasion. There really is no point (save for some places where risking a contact URL can be worth it to gain converts to the cause visiting and signing up if they like what one has to say) pitching in.

The views are too entrenched and the people espousing them too self-absorbed to even contemplate allowing another point in. I have mentioned this need for tribal belonging before. Hence you get those on, say, BBC is Biased who think all who doubt them are left-wingers, and those on say, Guardian CiF who think those who would disagree with them are right wingers. And usually there is a hefty dollop of pejorative speculation without any hint of substantiation thrown in to muddy the soup some more. I have actually seen on one such the words 'we have spoken', when referring to a collection of less than two hundred (and ignoring the fact that not all of them did actually agree), when calling for the censure of a publication's columnist. The logic seemed to be that he had drifted from the club line, and hence needed to be ejected.

This is why I fear slightly for debate. Because not only do all these factions believe they are 'the ones', there are those (who should know better but with little time to delve more as they should) who are letting this minute little bunch hold even the modicum of sway that they don't deserve. This is no electorate. These are all, by definition, groups of people, admittedly passionate and often clever, who can and will do all they can to see their views prevail.

So even if I see 99 out of a 100 say black to another's white, I will first try and see how they come to this view, and support it objectively, before according it any value. And, in any case, from this very room I can crank up at least a dozen variations of 'me' to say what I think, disagree with it, support it and back again, all with different IP addresses if I wish. So numbers mean nothing. Which is why internet petitions are plain daft.

Take this as a typical comment: 'You types do not get it. The British public regard you ...' on Newsnight, which gets more posts on the naming of a pet than climate change, and can when passions stir manage all of 200 tops (for a national broadcaster), usually from the same suspects (inc. yours truly). Hardly the 'British public', eh?

I will be cutting right back on the pitching in to these troll fests from now on, but will still maintain a watching brief as they can throw up useful leads.

But... accord any of them, even those moderated by major media, more than passing respect as reliable sources of subjective information or reasonably objective opinion...? Or even as anything like a reasonable barometer of how folk really think...?

You are 'aving a larf.

Arctic Ice Watch - Update

Following on from our last report, the rapid disappearance of the Arctic's ice cover finally seems to have ceased. The NSIDC reports that, based on the 5 day moving average that they use, the minimum ice coverage occured about the 16th September. (Note that they do point out that at this time of year it is still possible for some additional ice loss to occur.)

On this date the ice extent coverage was 4.13 million square kilometers (1.59 million square miles) which appears to be the 2007 minimum. The five-day 2005 minimum (the previous record low) was 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles) in 2005, which has been shattered by 1.19 million square kilometers (460,000 square miles). That's an area of ice less than before that is roughly the size of Texas and California combined, or nearly five United Kingdoms.

On top of that, the fabled North West passage has been largely navigable for just over 5 weeks, something that has not occurred in recorded human history. Even the North-East passage has only been blocked by a few kilometres of ice this year.

Whichever side of the climate change debate you fall on (man-made, natural or man enhanced natural), the evidence that the planet is warming significantly and rapidly is now almost unarguable.

What on earth will the next few decades bring about for the Arctic? The Costa Del Greenland perhaps?

'Talking, talking, talking, happy talk...'

' about things we'd like to do!' Green language Alison Benjamin on how green issues are changing our language

What green terms do you think should be added to the dictionary?

I was going to say I don't really care so long as they get beyond terms pretty quick smart, and translate into action.

But as you've asked, I give you: enviROI.

It's the Return on Investment of any initiative or action to the planet's well-being. If CO2 (and a few other greenhouses gasses) is the accepted measure of what's doing us in, then all I ask for the sake of my kids' futures is that whatever it takes to get something out there it is mitigated and then exceeded by the net benefits of existing vs. getting made, operating and disposed of at the end.

It need not have a great financial ROI, though this must be viewed in comparison to other initiatives which could be funded that have better enviROIs.

Now, would any politician, activist, quango board member, head of industry, media commentator or other talking head with a career to forge, cause to promote, target to meet, subsidy to exploit or rating to drive up please explain to me in ways I can understand and act upon, which of what's on offer will deliver such a thing in a timeframe that won't talk us past the tipping point I hear so much about?

I'm gunning first simply for respites such as preventing deforestation internationally (rather than paying a bunch of sharp suits to plant lots more new ones as a salve, which means, as you infer, that SOD is OFF) and supporting any waste reduction systems such as insulation programmes nationally. Plus a few more I can think of that are here, now and do stuff that works with clear benefit to person and planet in the form of viable reduction and reuse. With little by way of hangers-on that add nothing to the positive, proactive process of just getting doing their jobs.

Feeling in safe hands?

In light of my previous post, to Newsnight, following their insights into the state of political response to climate change and the reaction of the electorate to it.

This has just popped in from the Green Party (well, a spokesperson, I guess): GREEN TORIES? NOT LIKELY!

Siân Berry takes on Zac Goldsmith:

To see Zac Goldsmith's reply please go to:

To see Siân's orginal post please go to:

Q... blooming E... flipping D