Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hard to s...ustain

I was at a 'do' at Hereford's Shire Hall.

It's the same place I attended for a previous council sponsored event, for Herefordshire's Hydro power future. And yet again I was truly inspired by the organisation behind it all.

For a start, I only learned of it in a local paper last week, in a section for a market town to the North of the county, labelled "Let's Go Greener". It had an email to sign up, which I did, but I never heard back. So I risked a trip anyway. Fortunately it was still happening. Unfortunately I'd got the impression it was a day-long exhibition I got pop into (who can take all day off???), when in fact it was a bunch of speeches and huddles to try and 'understand' what sustainability and social enterprise meant. Plus the main speakers had apparently come, spoke and scooted off so no one-on-one there. So I am in no real position really to comment too much.

What I do know is that the acoustics pretty much meant no one could hear anyone else. And the A/V was almost impossible to view which, in light of my PowerPoint phobia, may have been a good thing.

For the bit I arrived at it seems the county suffers from a lack of engineers and trained staff. By some coincidence, that very same evening I was at a Ross-based event where a whole load of guys in suits turned up to say how awful things were because of X,Y & Z but they were all here and listening.

One thing that has struck me is that when it comes to the rather popular catch-all of social enterprise, it is simply too broad to make any reasonable comparison between those who fall under it and what they are trying to do. When it comes to delivery and funding and discussion and, can, say, be equated to a guy on a grant helping with housing for drug addicts? Yet at such events we are lumped together and competing to be heard. Daft.

And one thing I would mention to some of those who 'work' for entities that do not operate to generate enough value that they can make a profit: frankly if you don't, or can't, make at least a small profit, it would be hard to call any business sustainable. So why being 'for profit' often precludes entry to/partcipation in mnay evnts in the name of sustainable communities is hard to grasp.

Not very nice work. But very getting very nice pay.

Here's a job title to strike fear into anyone who cares about... well... anything really: management consultant.

If my Mum used to be too ashamed to tell folk I worked in advertising and so claimed I worked as the piano player in a brothel, then these were the guys in the rooms upstairs. And billing it at £300+/hr, no result-all fee, for a further bunch of senior, experienced, 'can't do without the talent pool' numpties to pass on to the hapless bunch they claim to serve.

I was en route to a do just now and caught the Jeremy Vine show on BBC R2. Always good for a popped blood vessel or three.

The topic seems to have been inspired by the news that said hourly rate was going to a merry crew to advise the Royal Mail, and £65M had been set aside to cover per diems.

And in a classic twofer we had the lady boss of the Institute of bloodsucking makeweights and an ex-practioner. Both, amazingly, had written books, which by sheer coincidence were mentioned more than the story.

Now I can only presume the lady was a relative of Mr. Vine's, as he pretty much followed each one of her statements with 'well, that's nailed that one!'.

Her opponent was actually rather good on facts, but very poor on presentation. So you can see how this went down in one of our premier news debate shows.

I kind of gave up hoping for balance when this bloke quoted the lady from her own book as saying 'most management consultancy is a total waste'. And she was then allowed to adjust it to 'well, some might be less than...' and move on.

And then a series of utter disasters, mainly public service, costing us a fortune and doing diddly squat, was raised and then dismissed as exceptions. NHS, Tax Credit, Child Support... you name the triumph of sod all, management consultancy was at its core. And still got paid.

What amazed me was this cocky bird couldn't seem to quote a single case (I presume there must be many) where the consultants had actually made a positive difference. She even tried to claim they'd had the 'idea' of putting MOTs online or something... with the DVLA. That's it???? And as the bod pointed out, even that didn't quite work as well as claimed.

Next she'll be saying the got an award for the crinkly bits around Norway (you'll have to know your Hitch-hikers Guide)

And barely discussed was the role of the even more venal crew who hire these guys. If they can't manage, why are they hiring others in to mis-manage for them? I am being rhetorical. Layers confer prestige and/or offer protection come the 'review'.

Sickening. Enjoy the bubbly-bath, guys. There is a wall ready and wait when the revolution comes.

Indy - Are drug treatment programmes a waste of taxpayers' money? - Speaking of total wastes of money. I can't do the maths, but it seems that it's costing hundreds if not thousands per person, to reach fewer addicts.

Edited to adjust the message?

Here's yet another (alleged) example of the media making selective edits in order to slant a story closer to the line that they want to take.

As reported by Raw Story, this piece tells of the anger of students who appeared on a Fox Channel special which was aired directly in response to CNN's 'Planet in peril' show. Its almost a perfect mirror of the 'An Inconvenient Truth Vs. The Great Global Warming Swindle' debate.

Looks to me like 'adjusting the message' is fast becoming the norm across the mainstream media. Whatever happened to honest reporting?

(Come on Peter, calm down, you can stop rolling around laughing now!)

Credit Crunch

As a smug, self-satisfied eco-warrior, each action I take of course brings its own reward.

Today was more so than many.

I just flushed a loo that only required a lightning strike to create life in its bowl.

I put out bin liner only half full of various nasties from a family of five in a week.

I exchanged cheery badinage with the nice man from the kerbside collection service, who happily took my letter to his boss to save on post cost and energy.

Now I am switching all off in the house that is not required to attend a council event in the big city. OK, I'm driving. You can't win 'em all.

Thing is, I happily do these because I don't see why not and nothing much hurts (though the missus is not big on the mellow loo notion, especially with 3 males in the house).

But I do wonder about others.

Especially as there is no incentive to do any of these things. No penalty to be sure, but no nudge to the cause of eco-righteousness.

My water is unmetered. I can put out as many bags as I like. No one insists I put out the RE:Box. And no one cares much if I drive to the city at the same time as another attendee (I have the solution!!!!!! If anyone would like to help me develop it!!!!!!)

And that seems to me to be barking.

ADDENDUM - I attended a local meeting the same evening. Our Environment Cabinet Member has told us that 'we' will not have bi-weekly rubbish collections imposed. No eco or financial reasons, either. In a refreshing bit of honesty he admitted it was because very councillor had told him it was not going to happen and he wanted to keep his job, along with theirs. Ah... democracy.

Go West!

That was the cry of early US settlers once the passes through the rockies to the green and pleasant California lands were opened. Well, those green and pleasant lands appear to be fast becoming a barren desert.

This, from the Guardian, reports on the Californian wild fires and what is likely to be the main underlying problem, a distinct lack of rainfall (and snowfall) and rapidly falling man-made reservoir and natural aquifer levels. It does not point directly at climate change, but to the fact that this part of the world is arid by nature, and man's continued excessive use of available water supplies is depleting what is already a scarce resource.

"The people who move to the west today need to realise they're moving into a desert. If they want to live in a desert, they have to adapt to a desert lifestyle."

I think I'll stay put in cold and damp Shropshire!

Meanwhile, Australians are also suffering from appalling drought problems. This from NineMSM caught my notice, not least because I have a 'Drizabone' golf waterproof outfit, and brilliant it is too, but it looks like the bottom has rather fallen out of their outback market.

"with farmers telling of toddlers outgrowing their gum boots before needing them and their cattle becoming skittish at the unaccustomed pitter-patter of rain on their backs, Drizabone days are now scarce".

Now this article does point directly at climate change. Interesting to note that the Australian government is now offering large grants to farmers to leave the land as the billabongs slowly disappear!

AFFRONT TO NATURE - The Batter Blaster

I think I already had this notion, but under another name.

Now Blogger has nifty archive stuff I am resurrecting under ATN - Affront to Nature!

It's for those 'innovations' that if you have even a modicum of e-mpathy you just go.... 'why????'

But the Batter Blaster dispenses a mix that is 'organic', so that is Ooooook, then.

Treehugger - I wonder who was 1st?

Making more Friends and influencing people

ITV to drop subscription model for Friends Reunited

OK. Now I will join. 'nuff said about online models?

Did I mention is free? Always has been:)

Brand Republic - Google to fight back in battle of social networks - Meanwhile....

Try googling bandwagon

Google goes green with carbon footprint project

Weeee! The more the merrier. Actually, I'm thinking of launching a web-based project that enables people to calculate which carbon calculator to use.

Hey, any info on sensible reduction is fine. However, one does have to wonder what most will make of it and hence whether the money could have been directed in areas more tangible in reducing emissions to a decent enviROI+ level.

And is this the coolest job title in the world or what: geospatial technologist. Beat my Spellcheck even.

Good luck to 'em. With their resources and pooling the info as indicated I think they may be in with a better chance than most of making a difference. Just... how many people and how much time is overlapping in this sector now?

I have already been through the horror of the ActONCo2 effort and never went back. Now, at first click/glance, I am faced by yet another truly inspirational landing page that really looks an effort.

What's the German for 'Well, D'Uh!"

Limiting growth

The only chance of solving the challenge of global climate change is to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and emissions.

Ignoring population expansion in complement is cute, too, unless this is an attempt "...By mid-century, the lives of seven billion people might be governed by its laws.' People consume.

So...'The only chance of improvement is to decouple economic growth from energy consumption and emissions. This must happen in the emerging countries, and even more urgently in the old industrial economies.' Yup. Got it. But I'm guessing a few billion plus are about to ditch the Raleigh 3-speed and looking at a nice hatchback as we debate.

And if any sentient being on the the planet is labouring under illusion that pollution is cost-free then maybe the question is more on the message and the current crop of messengers... as the consequences ain't getting through in any persuasive way!

Changes are needed. But the powerful do tend to be better placed to avoid being losers. Equally those entrenched and well-placed self-appointed (well, to be fair, I'm presuming Mr. F is voted in to do so by some) saviours of the planet who have done so poorly to make much difference to date. Mainly by cherry-picking what they fancy that's easy to score a lucrative gig.

I need a bit more now from poltical leadership than nice words.

Getting the hacks: no problem. But 3 boffins!!!

Looks like we are in for a feast - Dilbert nails it again.

I write this today as I discover that 'small amounts of red meat can cause cancer'. Apparently.

I guess that's what's doing for the Tigers, then. Coincidence? I think not:)

What are these reports worth? And what do they cost?

Reporting News. Or Making It?

I just have to shake me heads when the bouffant and the blonde stare solemnly at the camera and intone '...and what can be done about it?'.

Nothing, my loves, for now you have jumped on the bandwagon it has gathered so much steam it will never be stopped. One the rabble are roused, you can never put the cork back in.

My two 11 year-olds have pestered 'til we gave in, and are going out with some chums tonight trick or treating. They have made costumes and, as far as I can tell, just hope to score some candy. There are no fireworks or flour bombs in the basement. And they have had dire warnings from us and the school about any bad behaviour. I have also cautioned them that not all whose doors they may knock will be inspired by their cute outfits, so just move on if it seems they are unwelcome.

Which, if anyone watched the TV slot I just saw, they will be. Hooded late teenagers with no hint of Halloween make-up or spirit simply out to make trouble. Police vans and threats of ASBOs. Neighbourhood collapse.

It was there on screen so I guess it must happen. Though from the way the muppet with the mic was prompting one had to wonder just how outraged some were before being pushed to respond ion a useful soundbite manner.But there was also no balance... at all. Nice, young, happy kids engaging in a bit of social activity around the neighbourhood for one evening in the year. I have some candy for any that call here. But I will also be taping up the letterbox now.

How sad is that? And with news reports like this it will never improve.

I just hope my boys have as good a time as they are hoping. Fingers crossed.

Guardian - I'm a Halloweenie - Meanwhile in Planet CiF. Some worthy 'facts', though. As a Scot I now don't feel so suckered.

Might Help

Telegraph - Hallowe'en bashers need to lighten up

In the morning I watched a BBC 'report' on the 'state of the crisis' filmed in a sink estate with late teens whose only costumes seemed to be hoodies. Posters from the local plod were shown making a plea to retailers not to sell eggs or flour to any youths for fear of a nasty outbreak of pancake batter-y.

My dear old Mum therefore locked herself upstairs in fear of this feral assault.

That night my two 11-year-olds went out with their mates dressed in costumes they'd made. For 3 hrs they toured the town, had a ball, got a ton of candy from generous, well-prepared neighbours.

I think I know who really needs to sort themselves out.