Thursday, November 08, 2007

Just words

As Dave is allowed a non-enviro post, then so am I. It has been a bad day (got blown out on another chance at some dosh - these things really drain the time and money bank), so I need to lash out.

This is one of those doofus 'polls' that litter our media these days. OK, rarely much harm, expect when the idle clicks of bored surfers get catapulted into a 'survey shows..' headline.

Thing is, I just couldn't get past how everything these days is so darn sloppy, especially when it comes to filling in stuff and at its most hair-rending when it is human-free online and automated.

Artist or vandal? On what basis? If it's on a canvas then it may well be art. If it's on a public surface I'd say the law is clear.

And then, if you want 'the answers to...' No ! These are not answers. These are the collated responses to a question that offered two options. All you are getting is what some people thought of the options offered.

Rant over. Back to work.

Feed me money or I go bang!

Not really enviro in any way, but very amusing for a dank and dismal Thursday afternoon. From Reuters, reporting on a Japanese piggy bank that explodes if you don't top it up regularly!

Well, it tickled my admittedly strange sense of humour!

Doing what it says on the tin

Just got this in: (DEFRA) Offsetting projects to create jobs and cut emissions

Don't know why, but the first thing that popped into my head was an expression from the military: DEFRACon 3.

Because I rather leapt to the notion that whatever else might or might happen, jobs would for sure be created. It's just a matter of where, and doing what, that concerns me, especially when I read on to this:

Government Carbon Offsetting Fund Members

Central Government (including participating agencies)

Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister's Office
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Department for Children, Schools and Families
Department for Local Government and Planning
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)
Department of Health
Department for International Development
Department for Transport
Government Car and Despatch Agency
Department for Work and Pensions
The Rent Service
Export Credits Guarantee Department
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs
Valuation Office Agency
Her Majesty's Treasury
Home Office
Identity and Passport Service
Criminal Records Bureau
Forensic Science Service
Law Officers' Department
Crown Prosecution Service
Serious Fraud Office
Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers
Attorney General's Office
Treasury Solicitors
HM CPS Inspectorate
Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office
Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Justice
Northern Ireland Office
Sustainable Development Commission

Other partners

(including both Houses and the British American Parliamentary Group)
The Greater London Authority
Metropolitan Police Service
Transport for London
London Development Agency
The Royal Household

That seems an awful lot here (I'm guessing there is a, or a department off offset munchkins in each to play with all this) for not so many there.

I also still need to get my head around the whole carbcon deal to appreciate how it truly saves my kids' futures, as paying towards the projects 'would ensure that the carbon footprint of Government air travel was neutralised by ensuring emissions were avoided elsewhere. This will help to cut emissions and ensure developing countries are not impoverished by carbon-cutting measures.'

Maybe it needs to be explained to me in ways I can grasp, but that doesn't seem to me to be, as per the title, cutting emissions, but moving them around a bit, globally, which is not quite the same thing... is it?

At least it's acknowledged in the small print that "Offsetting emissions from transport isn't the answer to climate change ".

Apparently, 'the GCOF is being managed by EEA Fund Management Ltd, who won the contract to source and deliver 255,000 Certified Emission Reduction Credits, with a provision for a further 50,000 credits, over three years from a range of Kyoto-registered projects. Credits will be supplied from the project portfolio of Trading Emissions PLC, to whom EEA is the Investment Advisor.' Whatever that means.

Defra's aim is sustainable development. Nice.

One couldn't also help but wonder if, as it is taxpayers money being used here, the offsets might not be more [insert non-judgemental phase here]-lly targeted first more locally, perhaps on insulation for non-golden pensioners, and other folk who have paid all their lives to fund civil service salaries and pensions.

Just one, wafer-thin fact...

A flight of fancy, or fancy cutting your flights...? : Time to get tough

I saw this as one of those 'Great idea but..' notions along with carbon trading, which all seem to presume an instantaneous, and frankly miraculous level of engagement and cooperation between every competitive country and company on the globe to result in a fair and equitable system to be initiated down through corporate to an individual level.

Then I saw this: '...assessed their figures under internationally-accepted methodology'. Which suggests things are further ahead than I thought. What is this and have you a link to it?

If everyone has already accepted the methodology of assessment, then we are a long way to the rest already. But then some seem not to have embraced it yet. If so, why not?

When the going gets tough, the tough start labelling

Now I know the uneladed pump is green, but now which shade...? Time To Ecolabel Biofuels?

WEEE, I'm doing my bit to help the 3rd world!

Or not. Second hand mobile phones causing waste problems in Kenya

It doesn't matter where it goes or what it does when it gets there, but so long as 'we' recycle and are seen to do it, I am sure spending like there's no tomorrow (don't get me started) on new toys will seem just spiffy.

Fund, fund fund, 'til Daddy took the T-bird away

And if your business is into ELV's, or any other 're-initiative', this may be for you: WRAP launches new funding scheme

I'm betting or RE:tie won't qualify. But I gladly 'share the lurv'.

Here's one I saw earlier that might not make the programme...

... or the front page of the Indy, either: Reducing food packaging will not solve waste problem

A bit of pragmatism at last from our left mouth:right mouth government/quango/media organs? Well, 'an official' at least, though Defra’s 'head of sustainable development' Ms. Bronwen Jones sounds pretty high up the tree to me!

However I must say that, again, the headline is a tad misleading. Of course reducing some food packaging can, will and should reduce unnecessary waste and lead to an even better enviROI+.

A timely reminder in light of the Love Food:Hate Waste initiative now under way?

Now who has being banging on, for how long, in precisely these terms: 'The complexity is on who really has the power here? Retailers are key influencers but they claim that they are just driven by what consumers want. Consumers often claim that their behaviour is unduly influenced by retailers and they are reluctant to act without Government taking the first step and taking the lead. Government wants to be responsive to people but does not want to be accused of being a nanny state. There is a real tension between the three way relationship; the reality is that all these actors have some type of leadership role to play.”?

Guess that's why I get the big bucks... er...

MRW - Food and drink manufacturers pledge to cut packaging and food waste - just hope it's in the right places and for the right reasons

Strawberries, ripe strawberries!

Wow! After the broccoli growing in Greenland story, strawberry plants still producing ripening fruit in the UK during November!

And I've got to somehow find time to cut my lawns again this weekend, they're still going strong! A few years ago the last cut used to be around the first week of October!

Nuff said!

The public may have a right to know...

...but why do TV companies have a right to say one thing whilst doing another? TV matters: Long Way Down

This more about trust in what you see. But I think it is a telling indictment of what you are often told. Just how many folk are there behind the camera to bring us that guy speaking earnestly to mic about the state of our planet... from a rather nice location but a 4X4 trip, 5* overnighter and return flight away?

Wood and trees

This from the Indy Letters page about the role of trees in the carbon cycle bears a thought:

How forests store greenhouse gas

Steve Connor's article "Forests losing the ability to absorb man-made carbon" (1 November) illustrates one of the most common misconceptions surrounding absorption of atmospheric carbon by trees: the misapprehension that forests are net absorbers of CO2.

A mature forest is incredibly useful to us as a store of carbon since any carbon that is fixed within the mass of a living tree is carbon that is not contributing to global warming. However, an existing forest can never help us in our plight unless it is spreading to cover more land. A mature forest (like a mature individual tree) is essentially "carbon neutral": it is absorbing only as much as it is releasing.

Unfortunately, there is not one significant area of mature forest on our planet that is increasing in size. We only get a net benefit when we plant new trees and thereby create new forest. We are in desperate need of more trees and the really sad thing is that this article will lead to fewer new trees being planted.

So... my banging on about not knocking down forests is valid, but not enough. Equally, I retain some significant doubts on many (not all) 'offset schemes' which, as I glibly put it, 'whack a fir in t' firmament - hey, an missed acronym: 'WAFIF'.

In fact, this kind of connects to my notion that using FSC-certified products might actually help over recycling by encouraging replanting. Or does it, as the net area does not expand... oh, my spinning head!

Indy - How timber can store carbon

Fundamentals? Or financial flows?

As oil approaches the $100 per barrel marker, decide for yourself. As reported in the FT.

Not that long ago $80 a barrel was considered damaging for the world economy, yet here we are seeing the $100 barrel around the corner.

And yet some of the big boys are already profiteering. On my journey across the south coast last Sunday I spotted diesel offered at a lowest price of 98.9p/litre, more commonly something like 101.9 to 102.9p/litre, but some Texaco garages had it priced at a staggering 108.9p/litre. I hope the greedy bastards go bust! (Fat chance!)

The sad thing is that it will ALL be at that level before long. And guess who benefits the most? All that extra tax goes straight into the government's coffers. More cash for additional quangos, targets and surveys then?

Palm oil hits troubled waters?

Now we have all read about how palm oil production is increasing rapidly across suitable areas of the planet, especially now that it can also be utilised as a source of bio-diesel.

This from Greenpeace, names some leading British brands which appear to be highly complicit in the destruction of Indonesia's peat swamp forests which are being replaced with palm oil plantations.

The report explains "how peatlands in the Indonesian province of Riau (an area the size of Switzerland) store a massive 14.6 billion tons of carbon (2) - equivalent to one year's global greenhouse gas emissions. Further expansion for the production of palm oil for food and biofuels threatens to release this enormous store of carbon into the atmosphere."

If it is true that "palm oil from companies engaged in forest and peatland destruction is then ‘laundered' through the entire supply chain, ending up with well known" British brands, then I suspect there are going to be some very red faces in forthcoming board meetings.

ADDENDUM (Junkk Male) - Guardian - Big food companies accused of risking climate catastrophe - 'Risking'...bless. Funny, I was just reading about P&G's eco-efforts, along with Shell's green ad being pulled by the ASA, and...

Bad news may actually be good news!

Sounds rather daft doesn't it, but this from The Business reports on a survey (yes, yet another one!) of British companies that looked at how many businesses, across various sectors, were actually measuring their carbon footprint, may just actually be good news from what are apparently bad results.

"The education, hospitality and manufacturing sectors were among the worst offenders, with just 10%-15% saying they measured their carbon footprints, compared with 78% in the leading sector, aerospace. About 40% of companies cited the cost and limited range of environmentally-friendly equipment as the most significant obstacles to going green, while around a third said there was no competitive advantage."

Yet, as commented by the UK Social Investment Forum, "A few years ago, the percentage would have been vanishingly small. To me, this report contains much good news.”

So there you have it, bad news can actually be good news.

Hmmmmm, "The research follows a report in September by UHY Hacker Young, the accountants, that indicated green taxes were reaping the government 50 times what it handed back in tax breaks for environmental initiatives." I'll have to see if I can find any references to that particular report! But I have to admit that it doesn't surprise me.

Important Addendum:
Just checked back and Peter did actually post a piece about a concurrent report back in September - see "it must be true; its on the BBC".

The strange thing is that the report the Beeb referred to was by the Taxpayers Alliance, which seems, at least to me, to seriously underestimate the scale of the problem. Take a look at this from Scary stuff!!

"The UHY research claims official Treasury figures reveal the government accumulates £29.3 billion in green levies, of which only £549 million – or 2 per cent – is handed back to the taxpayer to encourage environmentally conscious activity."

Now if that's accurate, it is not just unethical, it is downright heinous, almost bordering on the bloody fraudulent!

“The concern is that revenue raised from green taxes is being used to fund other government pet projects such as the Olympics.”

Now given the absolute shambles that the grants systems for renewables and insulation etc. are in, then who's conning who?

Trivial TV

I think I can see a reason (though, sadly, no solution) to why the message of MWGW is washing over the majority of the population.

In just a one hour period on our national broadcaster's breakfast slot I was cheerfully informed that it's now OK to be fat, fasting is good for you, vitamin D from sunlight helps prevent ageing but you can get cancer sunbathing. Oh, and if you blow $25k on a dessert you get in the news. And tomorrow it will probably be the exact reverse.

Too many people with too much airspace to fill... and not enough to fill it with.

Trivial TV (from news down), conveying the half-thought, half-a*sed and half-cocked, is killing any chance of anything being taken seriously any more.

So we don't.

Indy - Now doctors say it's good to be fat - Make that print, too. At least they seem equally incredulous. One slightly off-topic, but related point of consideration, especially in an era when overpopulation is looking to be an issue, is the implication of simply 'living longer'. It is surely as vital how one lives that life that is the key.

Indy - This research may bring sanity to the weight debate - what I actually found/find interesting, is the presumption of a 'correct' level. Who set/s that? It seems more designed to suit prevailing dogma, and all this counter-evidence just further erodes faith in the systems that create these notions 'for our own good'.

Gaurdian - Ageing process may be slowed by vitamin D, say scientists - Ah, the nuts of 'may'