Friday, October 12, 2007

Ay Trace, wot's 'n eng'nier do?

Dunno Shaz, summat to do wiv drivin' trains?

This from EnvironmentTimes highlights the lack of awareness amongst teenagers of Engineering as a career.

"Ninety per cent of 14 and 15 year olds know little or nothing about careers in engineering and technology, a study by Europe's largest professional society for engineers, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has revealed."

At a time when it looks as if some fairly hefty engineering projects are going to happen along (Severn barrage, expanding the Thames tidal barrier etc.) I find that really disheartening: And its probably a sad reflection of the state of our current education system too.

Conserving Biodiversity

Our government has today published a new approach to conserving the UK's wildlife and habitats. As reported by Government News Network, 'Conserving Biodiversity - the UK approach' sets out a new vision.

"this vision will require a more holistic or ecosystems approach, where we recognise the interconnections between living things, their environment, and the services they provide. Our climate is changing, and it is more vital than ever before that our conservation efforts help our most important wildlife habitats to adapt and increase their chances of survival."

Sounds a little bit vague and woolly on plans and targets. Oh well, let's hope its a little more successful than the Assets Recovery Agency!

Nobel Cause

Gore unlikely peace hero

'...the motivation behind the committee handing the award to Gore and the IPCC, is less about future gazing and more about wanting to make a clear and unequivocal statement ahead of the UN climate change conference in Bali this December'

Studiously trying to avoid any actual comment in any way (the MMGW optimist/pessimist keyboards are being sharpened as a write, I'm sure), I get a bit concerned reading such analysis of such 'awards' if/when it may be seen that they are being used more to send messages and/or plug future events.

That can result in consequences that often cause more problems down the line than they solve.

Guardian - Gore and peace - Unless the the BOFDis are better organised than I give them credit for, bearing in mind this is The Guardian the blog posts tell a tale

Guardian - The truth will out - Trouble with a headline like that is when what comes out isn't true. And while a person's background does not always have any bearing on what they have to say or how they say it, I seem to recall this chap calling the cancellation on Planet Relief 'a right-wing conspiracy when the truth was the BBC sensed no one fancied another Live Earth.

'That's not a game I want to play with my kids. Do you?'


But then again, I'd prefer messengers whose message doesn't immediately leave itself open to the absolutist 'tis/tisn't, all-or-nothing MMCC exchanges that inevitably ensue. See above.

There are a lot of folk DOING a lot more that may not be as sexy as celeb-fuelled 'awareness' talkfests, but might achieve more. And with luck are not over-egging the case to the point a lot of good gets compromised by trivia or, worse, inaccuracies. Or sulking and making wild accusations when the majority of the public show resistance to fondly cherished notions, such as Planet Relief.

And messengers are as important, if not more so, as message these days. Choose them with care.

The headlines reporting this are really as polarised as any discussing the causes of climate change. There's also the small matter of how thew facts of the award get reported. As with teh Oscar, it often seems Mr. Gore alone won it. This from Science Daily is perhaps a more appropriate summary:

Climate Change Research Recognized - In 2007 Nobel Peace Prize - The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

As to whether using Mr. Gore's efforts... and views... were the best way to 'send a message', especially via a Peace prize, and it seems targeted rather unsubtly at the US, remains to be seen.

LA Times - Gore's Nobel win stirs hope — and speculation - It seems odd to see this being projected to a potential presidential effort. Especially like this.

BBC - Indian's surprise at Nobel award - Interesting back story

BBC - Gore says prize must spur action

The lost questions?

I post this for one reason only. We have all struggled to put into terms something to express the maelstrom of argument, debate and counter-debate that ensues whenever climate change / global warming is discussed. The sub-head and first line from this article by Philip Mote on just about sums it up perfectly.

"Public discussion over global warming is often caught in a vortex of misinformation perpetuated by extreme forces who say it’s all just a big hoax. This often causes the most relevant scientific questions to get lost."

There's also an interesting little snippet on Kilimanjaro's receding snowline - definitely not global warming - according to Mote.

COMPETITION - Ideas for awareness campaign

WHAT: FaceBook Group 'Somewhat strident who cares'
WHAT... MORE?: "I have to ask you all a favour. Recently I’ve been feeling increasingly oppressed by the media in general. I am highly aware of these things immediately making me feel shit about myself, to the point where I am spitting with rage. Up to now I’ve not done anything about this for fear of falling into some kinds of ‘always strident, never funny’ category, but I don’t care anymore.

I’m bothered by magazines and adverts in particular, like those cosmetic surgery ads on the tube, or ads for Heat, Grazia, Nuts, Zoo and so on. So basically I’m starting small. If I print up stickers that say things like:

‘By women who hate women. For women who hate themselves’
‘Reading will cause self-hatred’
‘Fake boobs are vile’
‘You are normal. This is not.’

Would you be willing just to carry a few around in your bag and put them on things that you find especially offensive? I’m open to suggestions about what’s on them. I’m also looking into a greener option than stickers, or recycled stickers."
HOW MUCH: Free! But there is actually no prize either, save for having a nifty idea in a good cause... and promoting the cause of reuse in the promoting of causes.
URL: Where I found it. There is a link to a FaceBook thingie, but you have to be a member (which I/ am/is already):

COMMENTS: There is actually no prize either, save for having a nifty idea in a good cause... and promoting the cause of reuse in the promoting of causes.

CSI Brussels

No, not another of those crime scene investigation programs from the USA, but the Cement Sustainability Initiative.

Now I knew that cement production generated CO2, what I didn't realise was quite how much. This from The Guardian provides some very interesting data.

"The summit was not called by the aviation industry - that is comparatively clean in comparison. Nor was it made up of car makers, oil companies, shipping firms or any other business that has traditionally drawn the fire of green campaigners."

It turns out that worldwide, the cement industry accounts for more than 5% of all CO2 emissions! And there is no obvious way of cleaning up the process. This is going to cause much heated debate down the line; as cement has become mankind's basic building material.

"There were no climate change protesters waiting to jeer as the chief executives and other senior figures of one of the world's biggest industries gathered on Wednesday."

Now this is out, how long before FoE and its ilk are picketing the cement works and limestone quarries that are dotted all over the UK?

Criminal Waste

As we're on a roll today as regards public money being p*ssed away when it could help save the planet, here's what I wrote to Newsnight first thing this morning.

Clostridium difficile

The funding of and hence governing of any public service is fast acquiring the levels of farce.

As it stands I remain unclear whether this lady resigned or was dismissed, and hence in either case (though accepting there are differences under the current 'interesting' employment laws) why she would be getting any payment at all escapes me.

That only a case so grotesque as this highlights the protagonists, their actions and the sums from the public purse involved can only lead one to wonder just what else, if marginally less awful, results in any from the public sector - who range from the simply inefficient to the venal - getting swathes of cash for no good reason I can see. Well, other than allowing the clowns who oversee it all to dig their sorry careers out of another hole with other people’s money. Meanwhile a solider mutilated in battle gets grudgingly upgraded to a similar amount to live on for the rest of his life.

And now, today, I turn on the TV to find out that yet another highly trumpeted body (the Crim Combo Crowd) takes 3 times more money to administer than it doles out to those who need it, and not a civil servant's salary and gold-plated pension.

A classic, if sorry metaphor for Blair/Brown's Britain now, whilst the previous 'case' shows just what the effect of 10 years of pouring money without any concept of control can(not) achieve.

This is criminal!

The Assets Recovery Agency was set up in 2003 with a remit to seize the assets of convicted criminals. As reported by The Times today, it has not exactly produced particularly good results.

Having spent over £65 Million in four years, it had recovered, by December last year, some £23 Million in illegally obtained assets.

A return on investment of -£40 Million; now that sounds like it was really well thought out and considered!

Just think about this; at an average cost of £400 per household that's some 100,000 UK houses that could have been fully insulated; substantially saving both energy and CO2 emissions.

What's the betting that no heads will roll, no gold-plated pensions will be put at risk, and that all those in senior positions involved will end up in some alternative cushy number to continue practicing their incompetence? They ought to be put on trial themselves for misappropriation of taxpayers money!