Thursday, July 31, 2008

A must read (if you have time)

Well, it does have the word 'sustainable' in it

(DEFRA) Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2008

A free little book published by Defra provides a statistical overview of the country's progress in tackling key economic, social and environmental issues, by bringing together an extensive range of indicators that can literally fit in your pocket. They cover a wide range of topics of everyday concern such as health, housing, jobs, crime, education, and our environment, all of which may affect whether we can live more sustainably in the future.

The aim of this booklet is to make indicators easily accessible to a wide audience and to enable everyone to judge where change for the better or worse is occurring and where the challenges are. It should be a useful reference to experts but also to others less familiar with the concept of sustainable development or indicators. Around 60,000 copies of the booklet are distributed annually and they are particularly popular with schools and colleges.

This edition includes as new contextual information:

* An update to the life satisfaction wellbeing measure, showing how people rate their lives [page 118 of publication]

* An extension of the wellbeing measures to now include child wellbeing [pages 129 to 135].

* Estimates of carbon dioxide emissions associated with the UK's consumption of goods and services, whether or not the emissions occur within the UK i.e. including through the production of imported goods (often referred to as embedded emissions) [page 24 of publication]

Key results

The 68 indicators comprise 126 measures and using these it is possible to get an overview of change compared with earlier years, based on the number of measures showing improvement, little change or deterioration. However it is essential to look at the individual indicators too as this does not take account of the relative importance of particular indicators.

All indicators1

Compared with the position in 1999, 53 measures show improvement (representing over half of those for which it is possible to make an assessment), and 11 show a deterioration.

A wide range of measures show improvement including:

* renewable electricity
* emissions of air pollutants
* waste recycling
* agricultural emissions and land stewardship
* river water quality
* land recycling for development
* crime and fear of crime
* childhood and pensioner poverty
* death rates from circulatory disease, cancer and suicides
* people killed or seriously injured in road accidents
* housing conditions, fuel poverty and rough sleepers
* local environmental quality.

The eleven measures showing deterioration since 1999 are specifically:

* aviation emissions of greenhouse gases
* fossil fuels used for electricity generation
* nitrogen oxide emissions from electricity generation
* carbon dioxide emissions from the service sector
* energy supply (consumption exceeding UK production)
* household waste arisings
* wintering wetland bird populations
* range of life expectancy between local authorities
* walking and cycling
* ozone pollution in urban areas
* households living in temporary accommodation

UK Framework Indicators

Twenty of the 68 indicators are also 'UK Framework indicators' covering key impacts and outcomes that reflect the priorities shared by the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
[page 16 of publication]

These include:

Greenhouse gas emissions: emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, were about 8 per cent lower than in 1990. Emissions decreased by about 3 per cent between 2006 and 2007 as a result of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.
[page 23 of publication]

River water quality: between 1990 and 2006 the percentage of rivers of good biological quality in England rose from 60 to 71 per cent and in 2006, 54 per cent of rivers in Northern Ireland and 82 per cent of rivers in Wales were of good biological quality. In 2006, 66 per cent of English rivers were of good chemical quality (up from 43 per cent in 1990), this figure was 74 per cent in Northern Ireland (up from 44 per cent in 1991). In all years since 1993 over 90 per cent of rivers in Wales have been of good chemical quality. In Scotland, the percentage of rivers of good quality has remained stable at around 87 per cent between 2000 and 2006, based on a combined chemical, biological and aesthetic assessment.
[page 59 of publication]

Bird populations: Farmland bird populations fell by 42 per cent between 1970 and 1993, but remained fairly stable thereafter. Woodland bird populations in 2006 were about 30 per cent lower than the peak of the early 1970s and about 16 per cent lower than 1990. The UK's breeding seabird populations increased between 1970 and 1987 by 37 per cent but have fallen again since 1999.
[page 46 of publication]

Crime: In England and Wales, from the British Crime Survey (BCS), vehicle thefts fell by 61 per cent and burglary fell by 47 per cent between 1991 and 2007-8. Violent crime has fallen by 30 per cent since 1999.
[page 68 of publication]

Health inequality: In 1991-3 the difference in average life expectancy for men between local authority areas in the UK with the highest and lowest average life expectancy was 9.7 years. This widened to 12.6 years in 2004-6. For women the difference was 7.5 years in 1991-3 and widened to 10.2 years in 2004-6.
[page 82 of publication]

Theme summaries

The 68 indicators can provide an overview of change for four themes as set out in the UK Government's Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future (though there is some overlap in the messages where some indicators support more than one of the themes). The four themes are:

* Sustainable consumption and production
* Climate change and energy
* Natural resource protection and environmental enhancement
* Creating sustainable communities

Sustainable consumption and production

Indicators1 for sustainable consumption and production mainly cover emissions, resource use and waste.

Twenty measures (over half) show improvement compared with 1999. Those showing improvement include emissions of air pollutants, waste recycling, agricultural emissions, and land recycling.

Measures showing deterioration since 1999 are greenhouse gases from aviation, service sector carbon dioxide emissions and household waste arisings.

Climate change and energy

Indicators1 for climate change and energy mainly cover greenhouse gas emissions, electricity generation and energy supply.

Six measures show improvement since 1999 and five show deterioration.

Those showing improvement since 1999 are renewable electricity, greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, sulphur dioxide emissions from electricity generation, carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing and the public sector, and methane emissions associated with agriculture.

Those showing deterioration are aviation emissions of greenhouse gases, energy supply, fossil fuels used in electricity generation, nitrogen oxide emissions from electricity generation and service sector carbon dioxide emissions.

Natural resource protection and enhancing the environment

Indicators1 for natural resource protection mainly cover wildlife and biodiversity, farming, land use, fish stocks, air pollution and rivers.

Sixteen measures show improvement since 1999 and one shows deterioration.

Those showing improvement since 1999 include river water quality, farming management and emissions, land recycling, air pollution, and the impact of acidification from air pollution.

Compared with 1990, wintering wetland birds show a decline. Farmland and woodland bird populations show a decline since 1990.

Creating sustainable communities and a fairer world

Indicators1 for creating sustainable communities mainly cover poverty, health, crime, access, mobility, and local and domestic environments.

Twenty-four measures show improvement since 1999, nineteen show little or no change, and four show deterioration.

Those showing improvement include poverty and housing conditions, local environment quality, crime and fear of crime, mortality rates, and road accidents.

Those showing deterioration are the difference in life expectancy between local authority areas, the number of households in temporary accommodation, walking and cycling, and ozone pollution in urban areas.

International indicators

Some international data have been compiled to enable some comparisons to be made for the UK and other countries. International data are available for 32 of the 68 national indicators, consisting of 45 component measures. The indicators are presented on the UK Government sustainable development website (see notes.)

International data are presented for the UK and twelve other countries: France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Japan, Australia and the United States of America. However owing to data availability not all countries are included in every international measure. The choice of countries was partly driven by data availability but also assumptions about comparative levels of development.

It should be noted that the international data have been used as provided by the originating organisation (for example Eurostat for the European Union, the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), and others) and reliance has been placed upon these organisations' efforts to ensure that the data are as comparable as possible. Defra statisticians are not responsible for reliability or comparability of the international data, and the international indicators are not National Statistics.

International data are in many cases much older than data available nationally. So the position in the UK and other countries may well have changed compared with the situation presented by the international data.

International comparisons should be always treated with extreme caution as definitions and measurement methods differ between countries (despite considerable efforts by Eurostat and OECD in particular, to ensure consistency in coverage between countries).

The measures presented are the nearest available international equivalent measure to that included in the national indicators. However definitions and coverage may different from the national measure.

An attempt has been made to summarise the international data and to do so a number of criteria have been applied:

(i) Data should be available for the UK and all the 12 other selected countries.

(ii) For assessing the position for the latest year, data should be available for 2002 or later.

(iii) For assessing the recent change, data need to be available for the mid to late 1990s and for 2002 or later.

Applying these criteria, for only 20 of 45 measures for which there are international data are there data for 2002 or later for the UK and all 12 other countries.

Similarly for only 15 of the 45 measures are there sufficient data to assess progress from a year in the mid to late 1990s to 2002 or later.

Summaries are presented below based on the measures that meet the criteria. The measures that are included do cover a wide range of issues related to sustainable development, but they are inevitably extremely limited in the extent to which they present a representative summary of the UK or any other country.

UK's levels compared with 12 other countries in latest available year *

* Out of 20 measures for which data were available for all 13 compared countries and for 2002 or later, 4 measures showed the UK positioned as one of the 4 countries with the most favourable conditions. These measures were: energy consumption, water abstractions, carbon monoxide emissions and road fatalities. The UK's highest position was second, for water abstractions.

* For 6 measures the UK was positioned as one of the bottom 4 countries with the least favourable conditions. These were: renewable energy production, infant deaths per 1,000 live births, average life expectancy, deaths from cardio-vascular disease and cancer and incidences of obesity. Of these measures the UK was positioned 13th for renewable energy production and 12th for incidences of obesity.

* For the remaining 10 measures the UK was in the middle range (5th to 9th position) in relative terms. These measures were greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, emissions of air pollutants from nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds, bird species threatened, protected land, Gross Domestic Production per capita, public social expenditure and percentage of adults with tertiary (higher) level educational qualifications.

Change since mid to late 1990s for UK and 12 other countries

* For the 15 measures for which comparisons of progress can be made from the mid to late 1990s with 2003 or later, the UK showed an improvement for 11 measures (73 per cent).

* Both the United States of America and Denmark showed an improvement for 12 measures (80 per cent). Of the compared countries Canada, France, Japan and Australia had the fewest measures showing improvement with 8 (53 per cent). However these assessments of change do not take account of the different baselines for each country, only the extent to which a change has occurred relative to the individual country's status in the mid to late 1990s.

Games... and fun

...and maybe a little education? - 'ElectroCity is a new online computer game that lets players manage their own virtual towns and cities. It’s great fun to play and also teaches players all about energy, sustainability and environmental management in New Zealand.'

I like the bit about popping nuclear in there even though they don't have any.

Pledge, target... what exactly are they for?

Its green medal hopes are lost but Beijing must race on - Failure to meet the Olympic cleanup pledge will embarrass China.

I wish I could run my business as most governments (are alloweed to) run theirs.

"So... what I said wee'd do to get the job hasn't happened. Oh, and it's tripled in price, ta very much'.

Flash mob

I am watching a segment on our passionately eco-aware national broadcaster.

Seems yet another turtle has lobbed up on our shores on account of global warming.

Sadly this wee fellow, Flash, is not feeling too well.

So, to help him, at half-hourly intervals he gets yanked out of his tank and stuck under the lights. Way to go, Aunty.

Oh, and when he gets better, it seems he, plus handler and TV crew will scoot off to Gran Canaria to release him back into the wild.

At least plastic bags may not get him any more, but I do wonder a tad at the consequences of all those folk flying. Must be another department at the BBC who handles rampant irony, if not total hypocrisy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A bit sus...

I recently got hounded off a 'list' (I thought it was a forum, but such words, and distinctions, seemed to matter to them) that had the word 'sustainability'.

It appears my notion of what it meant didn't gel with theirs.

Frankly I am not sure if anyone knows what it means.

But I'd have loved to pop this one over their way as a parting gift:

Sustainable living? It's only a game

I may or may not agree with what many folk write, but if they have lived within a population I tend to give them some credit for knowing a bit more than some armchair luvvies who seem to base their world view on a Guardian slow-travel eco-tour.

Just when I was going to log off and relax...

NESTA shows the ineffectiveness of Britain's quangocracy

I thought I might have entered this one. Can't recall as there are so many they kind of blur into one another. Makes me wonder how many there actually are, all with their own little cabal of administrators, comms budgets, offices, mutual exchange programmes to each other's events (travel, accom, per diems all covered), etc.

Then I see those wonderful words 'not for profit'. Well, I kind of would like to try and make one, so I can create a better, growing business. Now I know one good way to not make a profit is to create all sorts of board members on £200k salaries and many trips overseas to study how others blow funds like water, but I have this old-fashioned notion of DOING something rather than talking about looking like it is being done, and drumming up some awareness targets to meet to score a nifty bonus.

Mind you, the few in the innovation arena I have entered where making a profit is in theory part of the plan seem to have been staffed by career social workers or brain-dead bean-counters who would know a bright spark if it set fire to their EU-funding forms, and often 'judged' by folk whose qualifications seem to be playing golf with the CEO of the quango doling out the money on the taxpayers' behalves, or some Z-list celeb chosen to try and score a column inch in a tabloid.

Yes, it is sad. On so many counts. So... is it going to change (a word used once in a Third Sector puff speech I spluttered over by some chap who saw our country's future was in innovation when on work experience as Minister for that Department, for a few weeks one summer. Now gunning for PM, I believe)?

BOGOF... in a nice way

UK: Sainsburys two-sided paper receipt a success

Can't fault it. Hence it goes up.

Spin cycle

Clothes Washin' Man (a pedal-powered alternative to wringing)

Now, combine this with the local laundry and health club, and you have a business!

Probably the best explantion in the world?

You know those A5 sales flyers for gizmos you can get?

Most headlines propose an absolute claim but sort of get out of a challenge by making it a question: 'Could this be the best electric toenail buffer in the world?'.

I was minded of this when I read an ASA ruling on a topic I am interested in, namely regrading solar and the claims made by manufacturers.

As one still considering solar, though dubious about the efficiency and hence payback period in our climate, I am not sure I am too encouraged by what the consumer is left with here.

FWIW, I have looked at my exploding collection of packaging junkk and have in mind a S/SW wall structure made out of them by way of a solar experiment. Watch this space.

The message, the medium, the media, the mess

I know I usually stay out of the (PMWN) CC 'debate' for various reasons.

But I do want to share this as it relates to a major interest of mine, namely how information is communicated to the public and/or how they then engage with what they are served.

Real Climate - Journalistic whiplash

Now, Real Climate are definitely in the 'climate pessimistic' camp, but they are much more sincere than many, and the rational tone adopted, along with factual references, certainly makes them worth listening to. Plus of course there are often those who post counters (and do get rebutted by the majority quite forcefully, which can often seem like group bullying, but if they are asking for a challenge and it's done well, why not engage in robust debate).

There is certainly still a tone of 'well it's true, so why don't people accept the obvious?', but at least there is also some acceptance that however the issues are being portrayed, the public, via the media, are not quite getting the message, at least in the way this group would like it to be received.

Of course, I could just as easily post links to other sites with the word climate in their titles which pretty much mirror all this from the other side.

Which is kind of the problem. And the default of 'not sure'/'don't understand', as the Irish EU referendum demonstrated, is, quite reasonably, often to err on the current status quo.

Hence I applaud the fact that this group is trying to understand this issue better, hopefully with a view to better communications. Certainly hectoring by most does not seem to have worked to well to date.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pols? Or Engineers?

Decide for yourself.

This interesting article from New Consumer argues that Engineers hold the keys to sustainable transport solutions, not Politicians.

What do I think? Well, our pols don't really have a great track record on sustainable transport, other than one of caning those of us stuck in rural areas without any options, whilst heavily subsidising urban transport systems. And engineering IS what originally made our once proud nation 'Great'.

"if low-carbon technology is to be successful, engineers must continue working towards providing viable solutions that are not only low-emission, but low in price."

Yes, yes and yes again. But what's the chance that our pols will follow through with anything like this when it is far easier to make billions out of schemes such as auctioning off the rights to CO2 emissions options? (see Peter's post below)

A simple answer ....... zilch!

You gotta laugh...

...especially at others' misfortunes.

We all use automated doo-dads on our sites; I just wonder if the 'Most Popular' icon had/has been fully appreciated up to this rather unfortunate manifestation. Especially on an enviro site where, one presumes, this is not quite what they had in mind.

What goes up...

... is different to what comes out, on occasion, apparently.

Bearing in mind the BBC's commitment to the cause of promoting 'environmentally sound behaviours' (and decrying those that are less so in their eyes), I am a tad intrigued at a piece just on the Breakfast News about Space Tourism.

In a gushing commercial, er, report for one Sir. Richard Branson's latest money-making venture, a reporter has flown out to give us such gems as how very rich folk can 'enjoy stunning views'... whilst asking few questions as to the consequences of the column of greenhouse gasses they will be atop when having a gawp at the planet they have just hastened to oblivion. I am pretty sure there will be a correspondent in the first flight to accompany Sir R and get his views on biofuel Jumbos and towing planes to save fuel... eventually.

As the BBC seems fairly adept at ignoring news that does not suit its narrative, surely they could have given this jolly a pass, or at least look at the total picture.

Or is missing out on a fun trip by actually getting objective not part of a funded news organisation?

Guardian - Branson unveils mothership in latest step towards putting tourists into space - 'Among the first to fly will be the physicist Stephen Hawking, the environmentalist James Lovelock and former Dallas actress Victoria Principal.'
I guess the paper will be selling tickets. Business is business. Maybe not on the eco page when they rail against 4x4s or plastic bottles, though.

BBC - Branson unveils space tourism jet - ... to uncritical acclaim:) Ahh... now I get why: '... It has enormous weight capability, so if there were a [humanitarian] crisis in Africa it could carry enormous loads [for aid]'

Treehugger - (beat 'em by a mile!) - Virgin Galactic Unveils the World’s Largest All Carbon Composite Aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo - I am however, obviously missing something here as this effort is getting a heck of a pass compared to some others of 'confused' e-value. I think it's an awesome technological leap, but having it under the green banner seems hard to wash as green.

The Register - NEW - Branson unveils Virgin Galactic mothership


WHEN: 15 & 16 October 2008
WHAT: European Biofuels Expo & Conference
WHERE: NEWARK, Nottingham
WHAT... MORE?: From the PR:

With the cost of fuel rising on an almost daily basis everyone is
looking for alternatives. One of those alternatives is Wood Energy
& the good news is that it is sustainable too.

There are already many success stories in the UK of schools and local
authorities converting to pellet or wood burning boilers to provide
their power requirements.

The experience in Europe is that wood pellets offer a low cost, clean
burning, efficient and sustainable way of providing biomass energy,
mostly utilising waste wood that would have gone to landfill. Millions o
f households, companies and community buildings across Europe have made
wood energy their primary source of heat. The UK is set to adopt more
widespread use of wood pellets and by looking at the European experience
the UK can benefit from years of growth in this market.

Working in conjunction with the National Energy Foundation (NEF) the Wood
Energy Conference, on Thursday 16 October includes speakers sharing their
experiences of this market in Europe, mobile pellet production and the
implementation of biomass heating solutions both large and small scale.

Companies or individuals wishing to start small to medium scale production
facilities are well catered for at the show with many exhibitors showing
the latest production processes.

In addition to Wood Energy, the event will be showcasing biodiesel, biogas
and bio-home heating oil. With over 100 exhibitors and three conference
streams, anyone interested in the bioenergy market, producing, using,
implementing an alternative fuel will be able to access the information,
products and services they need.

As the home heating oil market looks to adopt biofuels, and CO2 target
legislation becomes a reality, they are working with OFTEC to
ensure that the Conference includes coverage of the key issues in the home
heating industry. UK Home Heating Oil consumption is 3 billion litres/year
and represents a biofuel growth market. OFTEC will be discussing the
transition of Home Heating Oil to a bio-based fuel and report on field trials
that are currently in progress.

HOW MUCH: £25 it seems, but they snag your details before you get to that. Not so user-friendly IMHO.
COMMENTS: It's an area worth knowing more about, but bear in mind the costs and the potential objectivity of what you'll find

NEWS/Commercial PR - Good things in little packages

Shameless plug time.

I was recently asked if I would like a free sample of an eco-product to test. Does Al Gore not need frequent flyer miles?

And lo, they have arrived. Even more lo, or actually hi, because someone cares what we think at about their efforts to do better by the future, they do indeed get a mention.

Better yet, they also get to see their pack uploaded to the re:use ideas section, to show that whatever washing might be going on, there's a lot of mitigation possible too.

There may even be a RE:view to follow, as these goodies will not be wasted (Jute bag already put to good use as a fabbo 6 x bottle carrier last night) and will soon be fighting stains in our eco-wash.

Meanwhile, here's the PR, E&OE:

Washday greens

Sainsbury's is launching a new range of Sainsbury's Super Concentrated Liquid Gels, which are kinder to the environment whilst still caring for clothes, and that deliver great results time after time.

· The products are super concentrated so only half the amount of a standard liquid is used

· This lightens the load on the environment using 40% less packaging, 50% fewer lorries on the road and 50% less water

The range comprises:

- Super Concentrated Liquid Non Bio 735ml
- Super Concentrated Liquid Bio 735ml
- Super Concentrated Liquid Colour 735ml
- Concentrated Liquid Lavender and Jasmine 735ml

The products are now available at all stores at £2.48, which at 21 washes per 735 ml bottle works out at just under 12p per wash. Prices have been kept in line with their other liquid detergents and do not carry a price premium.

There's still hope

Lego: a toy of gentle genius

I was once approached by a young designer who loved what stood for. He subsequently emailed me to say he was off to work with LEGO and would try and find ways to promote reuse there.

Here's hoping.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Windows powered by Windows?

Excuse me while I just plug my PC into the window ....... so I can, errrrm ........, charge it up.

Sounds completely crazy? Well it isn't going to be, as this from GizMag reports. Nihon Telecommunications have developed a method of embedding lower efficiency photovoltaic cells into window panes, which on a good sunny day can "generate up to 70 watts of electricity per square meter of glass."

Shame that it will only work via a USB power port.


Comes to something when Treehugger has a go at those having a dabble:

7 Celebrity Environmentalists in Need of Green 101

I must revisit my definition of 'Environmentalist', mind:

Environmentalist (n): Any schmuck who thinks they might have sorted out the planet and/or their part in trashing it by getting their people to call other people's people about something they have been told/advised to do in one aspect of their lives that might, just, mitigate a tad.

Celebrity-environmentalist (n): As above, with the added extra of setting back the cause of actual grass-roots environmentalism in the eyes of the general public by dabbling for a day as an environmentalist (under new definition) and then going back asap to blowing obscene amounts of cash on stuff and going places, as really, what else can they do to pass the time?

See: Helicopter Enviromentalist (n):

Break out the bubb... er.. choc... er... !

Retailers and brands hit target to end packaging growth in the UK

Wonder what all will do with their bonuses if there is precious little they should be buying or travelling with it all on... if they are serious.

Pass the ladle, Al

Here I sit, blogging away with BBC Morning news on (first posted 20/07).

And I have just seen an 'ad' for some new, forthcoming drama called 'Burn Up'.

Now, I am all for art reflecting life, but if the trailer is anything like the show, I really hope this doesn't end up as a massive turn off, other than perhaps making viewers switch off (as over) their TVs in disgust.

I simply could not believe the size of trowel that I was being hit over the head with, and the sheer clunkiness of the message.

There was even a (I presume evil) American businessman (why is it the UK broadcast industry only seems to have about 4 actors on their books?) crying out 'God bless Global Warming' (I presume not in a 'good' way).

On the evidence I have seen so far, this is a gift to any wishing to highlight the level of propaganda being unleashed by those we should be trusting for balance and objectivity on what is a very complex issue.

I fear it may not achieve the aim intended if this is the best that can be done. Guess I will have to watch the silly thing now.

Addendum - Guardian Review

I was moved to comment to another review that cited this:

This is what the writer had to say

Maybe he's not the only one:

And my kids have had this one for ages:

I wonder which will have the greater impact eventually?

I guess I'll have to watch the thing soon (saw the trailer and it look as if the agenda had been written in using a trowel rather than a pen, and couldn't face dealing with all the 'you eco lot...' comments I'd get if I mentioned it), but will be wondering if there might be mention of any shareholder, government and/or media (inc. state) contributions to the dilemmas faced between economy and environment. Or are those to complex for the normal viewer to be exposed to?

Indy - Will BBC2's new thriller charm us into taking notice of climate change? - I must say I found this line... unfortunate, if telling (Ethical man, et al... post 'doing the green thing'): "I've done saving the world – now I'm ready to flirt with girls in mini-skirts!"

Guardian - Back to basics on climate change

Times - The finger-wagging of Burn Up - A mate has it on tape...can't wait. Even so, has the message in the watching been worth all those in the follow-up? Hmn. Again I have cause to be concerned on the qualifications of our current crop of self-appointed, and anointed 'guides to green' if the quality of their messages yet again backfire so badly.

digitalspy - Ratings 'Burn Up' for BBC Two - The people cannot be trusted to understand the issues. First in elections, and then in what they pay to have served them by way of entertainment/shaping views. Ergo... we obviously need new people. That's how it works in gv'mint and media these days, isn't it?

Gaurdian - NEW - Making a climate crisis into a drama

Still have to watch it, mind. Oh, the antcipation.

The bigger picture

Another, new(ish) poster has suggested this link (just email with anything and I'll get it eventually).

Views of Jupiter

Having had a gander such things are most certainly worth sharing, not just for the visual joy they bring, but to also help us position ourselves more humbly in the great scheme of things.

I noticed some bloggers replying that they wished they could live there. Can you imagine? How long before our race had to move on again, having...


As we are of a naturally poetic bent today, and I am feeling naughty but NASA:

Trendwatcher: northern-lights-explained-nasa

Newsnight - worth it for all sorts of related reasons... unanswered questions on helping posters add functions, despite promises, and unanswered questions on pay deals because, well, what goes up stays up. Some live on different planets, I guess.

Well, it does sort of make sense ......

.... doesn't it?

This from Science Daily comments on a report by the British Medical Journal that suggests that population control is one of the better methods of combating climate change.

"The biggest contribution UK couples can make to combating climate change would be to have only two children or at least have one less than they first intended"

"each new UK birth will be responsible for 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions … than a new birth in Ethiopia."

Sooooo, the policy that dare not speak it's name gets substantive support from the medicos. I guess that we are going to see a major furore develop here before long.

Addendum - THE Register - Doctors: Third babies are the same as patio heaters - Oh, this will help. Why do I suspect a canal barge of green nappies is headed for a converted windmill as we gaze on.

Addendum 2: - (14:10) Now the Telegraph has also picked up on the story - and put it in the 'Your View' section. Should be quite an interesting set of comments developing once it gets spotted.

Alas, the middle ground is seldom fertile for ratings

Green is the new black, but fashions change

I see there's a book being promoted at the end.

As I tend to when I read articles by many of those whose thoughts (and, rarely, advice) on the matter can often inspire the mixed emotions described by the author. Which always cranks an eyebrow, I do confess, as to what the actual point of these efforts are. From Monbiot to Clarkson it strikes me that there is an industry at work, and it is based on extremes who need each other to survive... and profit from numpties like me who still click on headlines that mention 'green' in hope of balance and information of value. It is possible that there are some who try and do their best by the environment because there is much that can't hurt, can be fun... and save money. Who could give a (non-offset) flying fig for fashion. And I suspect don't read papers, or columns, like this.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You are here

I like maps

The Pollution Map of Beijing

I think we need one of these for everywhere.

You know where you are... and who has put you in the position you are in... there.

Air cons

When I lived in Singapore I actually found the temperature/humidity bearable enough without aircon, simply by using fans at home.

It was actually then more on the quality of air than environment or economy that drove me.

But I fully accepted that it was a pretty nifty, and necessary thing to have.

But having come from Hong Kong before, looking around even then I joked it might be better all round to simply stick a big bubble over the whole country and just stick one big AC unit on top.

Something I was reminded of looking at this: Photography competition: Summer in Singapore - bear in mind that every day is 'Summer in Singapore' - 25 to 32 degrees, with the possibility of showers in the afternoon (or two months of epic storms which, oddly, the drains seem to handle easily - Enviro Agency please note).

Stress fractures showing...

I'll stick this under Junkk Male RE:view as it does have a bearing on environment.

I am watching a story about the lucky escape with the Qantas long haul flight. Amazing footage, especially the calm demeanour of crew and passengers.

The point has been made that the airline has never lost a passenger. Such stats matter, I know, as I was once the Account Director for Singapore Airlines. There were big fights over 'world's youngest fleet' and other measures. It's all a tricky balance on safety. In fact number of ups and downs are pretty stressful on the airframe too, so shorthaul can work out more of a problem even with 'younger' stock. But corrosion factors through age are significant.

As in this case. I am frankly gobsmacked how mildly so far the news has been noted that this plane had been flagged by engineers as a concern, and some plastic surgery deemed worthy of merely keeping fingers crossed.

If an airline such as Qantas can be so cavalier with such a valuable asset in their brand reputation, is this a worrying indication of the wafer-thin margins the industry is operating under to stay in business?

Are we to see an airborne repeat of Mr. Nader's expose of the car industry beancounters' calculations on the value of inanimate costs vs. lives.


Indy - Qantas chief denies holed jumbo was a 'rust bucket' - Does aluminium rust?

The value of protest

Worth a read for the justification... and the replies (in the Guardian).

The sticky issue of climate change

An interesting insight into the causes, and effects.

Actually, having read his (rather long) manifesto, I have some sympathy.

I am also intrigued that in this day and age that such an assault (actually battery) on a major public figure is possible. I seem to recall in an early '24' the President character was attacked via hand borne nasties.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

NEWS/Commercial PR - Renewable energy from the back end of a pig?

I just had to post this, not because of the porcine (omnivore) twist on a usually bovine (me)theme, but any PR with that as a headline gets my vote.

Plus the promise is nifty, too.

As received, E&OE:

Energy company redefines what waste is [ed - ok, that bit is boring]

green energy uk’s innovative electricity generators are creating renewable energy from a variety of waste materials, including vegetable matter, unwanted wood, landfill gas and even pig waste. These materials traditionally would sit in landfill, or as with pig waste, manure on fields, decomposing and giving off greenhouse gasses, but they are now being given extended life and purpose.

green energy uk’s generators, based from Cornwall up to Caithness in Scotland, treat the waste to remove and use the harmful greenhouse gasses to produce green electricity. At a pig farm in Aberdeenshire, pig waste is treated through an anaerobic digester where microorganisms inside break down the biodegradable material to create a green biogas. The biogas is burnt to power a turbine that makes green electricity.

Since 2003, Hereford-based electricity generator Longma [ed - hey... neighbours!] has provided a free waste vegetable oil collection service to schools, colleges, universities, pubs and restaurants in the region. Longma recycles the oil into environmentally friendly biofuels for generating electricity in Combined Heat and Power units (CHP). The electricity made is consumed locally, and the heat generated by the CHP units is used to heat the Longma factory and neighbouring industrial buildings. For every 100 litres of waste oil Longma collects, 90 less litres of fossil fuels is burnt.

green energy uk’s electricity generators using CHP units are utilising the heat they create by directing it locally to warm buildings and keep greenhouses at temperatures that allow for foods traditionally grown and imported from overseas to be grown in the UK. Old-fashioned power stations that use fossil fuel to make electricity also create heat, but this heat is not harnessed as it is with CHP units and is lost into the atmosphere as steam up cooling towers, making them terribly inefficient.

According to Greenpeace reports, “On average, our large, centralised power stations throw away two thirds of the energy they generate…. CHP is the most efficient way possible to burn both fossil fuels (usually natural gas) and renewable fuels (including biomass and biogas). Pretty much any organic matter can be used to produce biogas; we could be reaping energy from farm waste, and from all of the organic waste - like uneaten food - that makes up about half of our landfill.”

green energy uk does not use fossil fuels to make its electricity. The energy company is instead making the most out of what we throw away. Co-founder and chief executive for green energy uk, Doug Stewart, explains "By recycling organic waste into energy, utilising biomass and clean CHP methods, alongside our solar, hydro and wind power projects, we are trying to establish what we think is a stable, sensible, long-lasting energy solution that will maintain the modern quality of life and benefit future generations... In theory the UK has resources to run itself entirely from renewable energy.”

green energy uk has two tariffs. Dark Green is made from 100% renewable sources and has zero carbon emissions. Pale Green is a mixture of renewable electricity, Biomass from waste and green electricity from Ofgem-accredited clean Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generators whose carbon emissions are 65% less than the national average for producing electricity. green energy uk facilitates investment in a wide range of technologies to produce renewable and green electricity. By the end of 2008, 95% of the electricity green energy uk supplies will come from generators only commissioned since green energy uk began in 2001.

green energy uk is the first and only energy company in the UK to offer customers the choice of 100% renewable or 100% green electricity.

green energy uk does not buy or sell any brown energy or energy created by Biomass from food crops.

green energy uk buys from 30 commercial generation sites, broken down as eight green CHP, nine hydro, four wind and nine biomass from waste.

Fancy being a Knol-all?

Google unveils Wikipedia rival Knol to the public

I am tempted, as a font of useless, re:useful knol-edge:)

Google gets "Knol!"

O, solar mi... o mi

I'll be posting this also under the main Solar category (label link below) as it's an interesting set of insights.

One of the blog/forums I frequent is a very worthwhile source of links, thoughts and, until recently, debate. In a less than thrilling example of how some 'purists' can shape the group think I have found myself much less likely to contribute by off-forum... approaches. Makes me all the more determined to police a fair but firm moderating line here to keep the bullies in check and the debate productive.

Recently there was a posting citing a Guardian piece, which I duly noted. Frankly I didn't do much else as it was about a bit of a punt and I tend to avoid these 'til they get serious.

Guardian - £37bn plan to power EU with the Saharan sun

However, a follow-up posting on this forum did catch my eye, and as it was in the ongoing spirit of challenge and making one think a bit more before leaping headlong into the 'green is good no arguments allowed' mode that I am so critical of (and seems all too practiced by so called 'professional journalists' in certain quarters, at best for a quick story, at worst ratings or some subjective agenda. Plus, if you read on, such as Dear Leader and Cher Napoleon, so it has already got serious), I thought what was written was worth sharing at least, and have been given permission by Frank Holland, the author:

I have been examining DESERTEC for some time. It all sounds
so simple that even politicians can understand it. You build solar
energy generating systems where there is a lot of sun, the Sahara
desert. Then you send the electricity across North Africa, across the
Med, into Europe and split it into a fabulous grid system, see .

Well look at the distribution map at look at
all the places terrorists could cause damage...blow up a few lines and
cripple Europe. There are 8 lines feeding Europe, with long stretches
which could not be secured all the time.

Plus a little problem called desert winds, see

Sand driven by wind will soon take the shine off all those mirrors used
to concentrate the sun light.

As always with these mega projects there are always downsides, but the
enthusiasts down play those.

Local micro generation will be much more stable with millions of
connections to the grid, a few failures will be unimportant to the whole

I cannot speak for his background but these points were well made, and supported by links to more information, as with this one on my agreeing with his point on wind etching/erosion, having not thought of it until he pointed it out:

Not just erosion, but the risk of burial....sand and wind build sands
dunes, see

These are considerations that those standing ready to blow bazillions on projects of still uncertain enviROI will, I hope, at least have answers to. And will be brought to the fore by responsible journalists in major media before charging off on the next set of vast capital projects in the name of green.

There was another poster with some other interesting points on transmission drop outs, etc, based on the proximity principle, but have not his permission yet to quote verbatim and credit.

Addendum -

EU Referendum - Gullible or not?

Sticks and stones

I'm sure I'll stumble across more detailed pieces later today, but the BBC just had a piece on renewables.

Seems an MEP is accusing the government of 'watering down the wording of an EU directive' to move from 'compulsory' to 'optional'.

To which a spokesperson has replied that they are 'committed to meeting targets'.

It just seems so sad to me that in this, or at least the reporting of it, there seems no mention of the actual value, and hence wisdom of such measures, at least on an enviROI basis, as if this no longer matters.

Wording and targets are all that do, apparently.

Addenda (there will be more, I'm sure):

Gaurdian - Britain tries to block green energy laws - The culprit, at least from this piece, looks like a belief in nuclear. Hmn.

On a related issue...

Gaurdian - Don't be fooled by the climate change bill. Carbon trading torpedoes it - the posts are worth it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It occurs to me that as I invent things, so may others who read this blog or visit Here's another evolving list of sites that may help.

American Inventor - US-based, but international is scope. Nice ideas and also ads, too. I have written for them on occasion.

cipa - NEW

Design to Order - It's in Japanese - read more here

Invention Lab - sponsored by Radio Shack
Invention showcase

WRTI - Home of Inventique, a very useful monthly mailing


Idea Buyer - some good info. Caution on the selling!

Intellectual Property Office - very useful!


Again, let me know of others and I'll add them. Reviews to come as and when.


I still have a perfectly good, if dead Golf shell at the bottom of the garden. Could this be another option?

Crowd-sourcing the e-car

EVENT - Innocent Village Fete

WHEN: Saturday 2nd August and Sunday 3rd August 2008
WHAT: Innocent Village Fete
WHERE: Regent's Park, London
WHAT... MORE?: From the PR:

Now in its second year, the fete is a great day out for all the family and the perfect way to while away the hours on a hot summer’s day (fingers crossed for lots of sunshine). It all starts at 11am and runs until 7pm. So, pencil it in your diary, scribble it on your hand and tell all your friends. It’s going to be great - that nice duck herding man is already booked and raring to go.

Over the weekend, you’ll be able to indulge in the following fete pursuits: welly-wanging, duck herding, dog agility (just for dogs), coconut shy, ferret racing, Morris dancing, old fashioned funfair rides, cream teas, home-made cakes, tombola, a band stand and lots more.

There will also be a dedicated kids’ zone with kids’ food stalls, rides, a petting zoo and a special reading area from our favourite children’s book publishers Puffin.

And there'll be lots of life’s necessities too: a huge farmers’ market (with stalls from Borough Market), live music from a host of artists including,The James Taylor Quartet, Imelda May, The Fairey Band, The Ukulele Orchestra, The Boy Least Likely To and many more, an Acoustic Bandstand, our patented al fresco ballroom, a picnic area, a knitting tent, arts and crafts, massages and a feel good area if it all gets a bit much. There’ll also be lots of smoothies to taste.

The fete is a non profit making event that supports Samaritans, Friends of the Earth, Wellchild and the innocent foundation.

HOW MUCH: Tickets are £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for kids (plus £1.50 adult booking fee / £1 kids booking fee) and are available via Ticketmaster.
COMMENTS: Wished we lived in London!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mr Green in the Study with the Patio Heater

Well, I had to get 'green' and 'study' in there to intro this, a call for help with reaserch from BCU who, as you may know have been helpful in our RE:tie efforts:

The research will feed into a Big Debate with leading eco figures.

I was wondering if you would mind taking a few minutes out in order to complete the electronic questionnaire and if you could encourage your team/colleagues to fill in the research as well as we would like to have as many responses as possible. Everyone who completes the questionnaire will receive a complimentary invitation to a highly energetic Debate, to be held on 15th September at the International Convention Centre, in which they will have the opportunity to influence individuals like Peter Ainsworth (Shadow Environmental Secretary), Leonora Oppenheim ( and Richard Bilton (senior correspondent for the BBC on environmental matters) on the sustainable agenda.

The questionnaire only takes about 8 minutes to complete.

Click on and click on the green attitudes button

The dogs of (either) for (or against) are unleashed

Interesting how far and how deep the fallout from the CH4 censure ruling released, as referred to in previous recent posts.

As readers will know, I subscribe to various forums (that, depending on how anal the owners and readers/users are, can be demmed/meant as 'lists').

They can be very valuable, and often inspir spirited debate.

They can also be mean-spirited, as I have again found to my cost (not for the first time... nor will it be the last).

To this:

Re: Ofcom ruling - The Great Global Warming Swindle

Actually both sides claim victory. Channel4 seem to have been let off
on a rather bizarre technicality

"Ofcom's Broadcasting Code requires Channel 4 to show "due
impartiality" on "matters of major political and industrial
controversy and major matters relating to current public policy".
Human hands are driving climate change, Ofcom acknowledges

The last segment of the programme, dealing with the politics of
climate change, broke this obligation, Ofcom judged, and did not
reflect a range of views, as required under the code.

But the main portion of the film, on climate science, did not breach
these rules.

Ofcom's logic is that "the link between human activity and global
warming... became settled before March 2007".

This being so, it says, climate science was not "controversial" at
the time of broadcast, so Channel 4 did not break regulations by
broadcasting something that challenged the link.

"That's a very big inconsistency," said Sir John Houghton. "They said
it's completely settled, so why worry - so they can just broadcast
any old rubbish." "

I replied thus:

' they can just broadcast any old rubbish."

Indeed. But I despair of any rational, objective and especially accurate reporting from just about anyone these days, be it from perverse agenda, a desire for ratings or just plain rubbish standards.

I was watching BBC News this morning about some Green Motor show and although it was fluff as a result of claims made had to write in twice:

H2...oh? - I am a big fan of the potential of hydrogen as an automotive fuel, and fully accept that it is mainly water that comes out the exhaust pipe (which is good at point of release) but is it true to say a car using it is 'zero emission'? I think it may have some consequence as the car and fuel still needs to be made.

Declan: 'Green cars... ...Without the environmental cost' Without... or reduced? They are different.

There are too many people deciding for the public who are, IMHO, not that well placed to lay claim to the role, often with those above them with some very odd notions on what 'is best'. Often with a target of some rather dubious green profit forecast as their guide than what is best for my kids.

It is a sad state affairs when I now take much from the state broadcaster, especially when broadcasting matters of state, with at best a pinch of salt on such critical issues as climate, worthy reductions & mitigations, etc. And across all other major media, especially print, the lines are pretty clearly drawn... with sniping mainly from very extreme corners that serve those in the middle ground poorly served for worthwhile subjective argument let alone objective fact. And the tabloids really only care if they can scream about either a disaster, jobsworth-abuse or score a PR-partnership for a week 'til a minor royal has a blonde moment.

Hence I tend to navigate around many sources to try and get to a middle ground, but boy does it do your head in trying.

To which I had this, shared with all:

Perhaps surprisingly, reporting on technical stuff is not as easy as it looks since it involves maintaining your contact base (ie not completely enraging them so they don’t take your calls) while interpreting complex scientific matters while not attempting to engage a reader who’d prefer to be reading the football while keeping your editor and (sometimes sales people) happy. All this is done to deadline with minimal resources.

Give it a whirl and let me know how you get on.

Fair dos. But I did sense a ceratin critique not such much to my argument as to my abilities, so I replied:

Well if I did at the moment under the guise of being an objective seeker of truth I'd say it might well be a case of two wrongs making an even bigger mess.

Which is why I tend to steer clear of absolutes and stating things as fact when they might not be. These things can come back to pull rugs.

But you know, given sufficient resources, staff, researchers, access to expert input, and holding true to some journalistic and editorial integrity, plus a bit of honesty and humility, I might be tempted to give it a go one day.

And I'd like to think that I'd lay out the facts and issues as I know them, to the best of my ability, and get them proofed and checked at every stage. And invite the reader to join me on a journey of mutual discovery where all opinion, if well thought through and shared in a civilised manner, is welcome. So even hard and fast rules can evolve.

Until then, I guess I'll have to live with what the current, and unlikely to improve circumstances (as they have spiralled downhill) you describe throws up.

Seems hardly satisfactory. Maybe you are right. Best not to express an opinion. Doesn't do much good. I made my suggestions to the BBC at about 7am. They were still running with what I believed to be inaccurate/misguided information by the end of the show.

Was I incorrect?

All seems a bit like brooking no critique of the Captain of the Exxon Valdez by suggesting to a miffed Alaskan that he tries steering a supertanker whilst merry.

And as I had been invited (challenged), I then added this:

Ah, a shared love of writing.

Mine is, perhaps, for now, less professional (I don't get paid - and I was going to be flip about what such as Clarkson or Liddle do find in his wallet, but I don't smoke and like my hair short. And while I often respect their commitments to good journalistic standards in going deep and not being afraid to feast on the odd sacred cow, I despair that writers of such calibre have sold out to ratings (and their rewards) by such shock-jock, rabble-rousing idiocies as running over cyclists being a sensible comment to pass) in my latest chosen area of interest, but it doesn't stop me. So we have that in common as well.
Give it a whirl and let me know how you get on.

Actually, I have... er.. do on occasion, when the mood takes.

Let me see, bearing my soul... and exposed underbelly, how about this...

Didn't claim it was definitive, but gave it my best shot.

How'd I do? My scorecard (heavily biased mind)

reporting on technical stuff is not as easy - agreed
as it looks since it involves maintaining your contact base (ie not completely enraging them so they don’t take your calls) - must have been lucky with mine so far
while interpreting complex scientific matters while not attempting to engage a reader who’d prefer to be reading the football - OK, I'll concede my audience might be more empathetic
while keeping your editor - he's a nice guy, honest:) And for now likes things that way.
and (sometimes sales people) happy - ah, well, a man can dream of a day when the sales director bursts in and says 'So what if we have 2M guys who trust what you write... I've negotiated a spread sponsored by Porsche, so you must say the Cayenne Turbo is the best in its class for emissions!!! And I then say... no (unless it is).'
All this is done to deadline with minimal resources - er...tick... and, tick.

I'm guessing not all are written as the reader might hope or imagine. But I'm sure you know better than I.

OK, I was being... at tad... sarky, and while it's no excuse 'he did start it'.

But now I have this, currently off forum, direct:

Is that post really appropriate on a list of over 700 members?

Does it inform?

Who benefitted from you sending that to us all, rather than off-list to Michael?

Please, have some courtesy.

To which I am sorely tempted to reply with this:

Is that post really appropriate on a list of over 700 members?

I thought so. You think not. If not appropriate to some I guess it is worth asking. I wonder what the other 698 think. Are you an owner... or moderator*?

If it breached any rules I am sorry and would not repeat it, if allowed to stay. If so, what might they be?

Does it inform?

If you refer to my last, it most certainly did, especially anyone interested in plastic bags.

And, perhaps, those keen to see me try and answer the question... challenge posted to me as an individual, admittedly as a result of my being concerned in general terms at the levels of journalism to which the public is exposed. Interestingly I did not disagree with anyone here, but a view, and it has led to this, so quickly.

Who benefitted from you sending that to us all, rather than off-list to Michael?

I trust you demanded the same of him first. But then this did arise as a result of interesting interpretations of two wrongs...

Please, have some courtesy.

I fear I fail to see the lack of courtesy, especially when much more blatant examples of its lack are prevalent on this 'list' that I simply delete if they do not appeal.

But then consistency does not seem to be a strong suit on occasion.

* If not, I suggest you call for me to be censured.

Now, should I?

I do confess, the level of heat directed, personally, at those who do not toe the line, especially party line group thinks on so-called sustainable blogs, is a real worry.

Addendum: I have now had this, off forum, from the initial challenger:

A blog – even a fine, upstanding and popular one such as yours – is a completely different thing from journalism. I’m not saying better or worse, just different and not comparable.

To which I have replied, in the same manner. I hope addressing some possible inherent inconsistencies in tone and fact in a courteous manner:

Thanks for the compliment, if sincere. As to your following statement it is an interesting distinction, and one I'd like to have debated, but no longer in such circumstances.

I have also been written to 'off list' by someone who suggests, amongst some other views I really cannot agree with or subscribe to, that I was discourteous, though whether he meant to the list or just you I am not sure.

If the former I am sure he has written to you too (by virtue of your writing direct now I suspect yes - I am having some trouble assessing what is and is not deemed acceptable for mass broadcast and what is not. It cannot be matters of extensive philosophical musings vs. factual shares if recent post are anything to go by. So I'll for now go with 'inconsistent', erring on don't cross the group ethos... whatever that is. I believe in sustainability but often don't with the way it is advocated, practiced or preached ). However if only the latter it seems I may yet need to respond to those I may have offended.

I did not set out to be and hence do not think I was discourteous, but it is possible by my responding to a challenge in the spirit of healthy debate it may have come across that way, in which case I apologise.

But I also fear that, while this list still has its uses as a source of information and even worthy opinion, if I get targeted off list by those who do not like certain views or my right to express them, then its use is now seriously curtailed.

Addendum - Separate to my little local difficulty, a few other posters have engaged in what can most charitably be called philosophical discussions and/or disagreements. As it was limited to a small group I quickly learned to scan and delete and move on.

Now the group is tearing itself apart. There are the pompous literalists calling for all sorts of 'measures', my nemesis suggesting the chosen ones move to another group he is part of 'where only the right sort of poster and post is allowed', and a few wondering what the heck all the fuss is about. It is these latter I feel the most sorry for, and wonder to what extent they represent a noisy few from a silent majority who will simply give up as a result of the smugs and bullies. Especially those who feel that having an alternative opinion is not to be tolerated.

A sad, small, metaphor for where we are still?