Category Archives: Green Issues

A goal for 2011.

I’m not a fan of resolutions, they often seem like a reason to just harp on about things you wish you’d do, rather than real goals set with a thought. But it is new year, and this does seem like as good a time as any to do this.

I’m going to live without supermarkets – or at least, I’m going to try. I’m not going to boycott anything, nor am I going to go out of my way to make my life more difficult than it need to be – but i am going to be making an effort to use the shops that are on my doorstep. I’m hoping this will make me think about what I’m eating, cook more often from scratch and to get to know more people in the community I live in rather than the faceless self-check out machines that are increasingly de jour in my local big brand supermarkets.

I do however live in the real world, I’m not expecting this to be a 100% successful experiment initially, but I am going to be making a real effort, and hopefully saving some money along the way to – indeed I hope to save so much money that on the nights when traditionally a splurge of expensive ‘luxury’ ready meals might have been the order of the day that I instead use that money to wander down to a cafe or restaurant instead – once again, doing my bit for the community that I live in.

The big green con?

Tonight Channel 4 are showing a programming and having a studio debate about what the Greens have got wrong – it’ll make uncomfortable viewing for many I’m sure but perhaps not for the reasons that are most immediately obvious to many.

In my view we’ve moved from Global warming to Climate Change as Scientists could no longer account for the some of the most miserable summers and some of the coldest european winters in living memory. We’ve now got theories claiming that heating in some parts will plunge europe into a mini-ice-age, the consequences of which are unthinkable.

Then we have the farce of Nuclear power, proved clean – proved safe – proved as a viable option to fill generating capacity as renewables are developed and come online, yet time and time again Nuclear projects have been delayed and now it’s too late – we’re facing the choice of building more coal units to fill gaps in the renewable net, and all of this because of groups of people that made it political suicide to be pro-nuclear.

We’ve plunged trillions of euros worldwide into climate change research, global warming projects and renewable energy research, some of it very worthwhile – some so scientifically questionable that leading lights in the field like Harold Lewis, the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara slammed the whole climate change community in his utterly damning and very public resignation last month, he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.

I’m not a climate denier, I firmly believe that we should reduce the impact of humanity on the planet, that many things the green lobby have done are very worthwhile in reducing pollutants in our water, food and atmosphere – but we have to admit that if green science is to remain credible, not just scientifically but publicly – then we’re going to have to be honest. We need to accept that we don’t understand the weather or the climate of this planet in as comprehensive a detail, until everyone does that – well, we’re just all screwed: more money will be wasted, more conspiracies will be found and the public, the most important element of winning the scientific debate – will be lost.

The science cannot be driven by grant access, it now needs to be led at a supranational level; taking into account not just the environmental, but the social, economic, realistic, pragmatic issues that need to be faced so that we can all live in a more sustainable world.

Winter is coming

Having just wandered home from Soho I can report that it’s freezing this evening; not just a little chilly, but properly cold – even in the centre of London, this on the weekend when central Germany has early snowfall over the Harz Mountains too, it is looking as if the long term forecast that Winter 2010 would be a bitter one might be true.

The trend of recent European Winters being distinctly colder runs in the face of all the warnings that we’d be getting warmer and wetter winters; we’re instead getting warm wet summers and cold snowy winters. Hopefully people will be a little more prepared this winter – I say hope – as I doubt they will, and once again come the first major snow fall we’ll have wall-to-wall news coverage of cars skidding around in circles and all public transport at a standstill as our cousins from across the channel mock most britons utter ineptitude at even the lightest winter weather.

This time last year I was up in the Alps, where they’d already had an unexpected early snow-fall; which ‘caught them out’ – I say that in bunny rabbit ears as that’s what they said when you asked about the snow; you couldn’t tell exactly where they’d been caught out, as even the highest roads were swept absolutely clear of snow, not a sight of slush anywhere, and certainly no ludicrous patches of black ice that bedevil the UK’s roads.

It’s the final countdown

We’re now in the final few days before what I consider to be the most important election in my lifetime: the choice is clear – more of the same, a slow slide toward authoritarian big state dragging out society toward economic and social failure, or two very different choices that are at the same time almost the same. You see the problem with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is that there’s stuff in both their manifesto’s that I like and dislike in equal measure – It’s going to be a difficult one, but I think the military family history and the entrepreneur in me will keep my vote in the Conservative box: I just hope that Cameron now comes good on his big liberal society promises, and finally answers the parties European issues.

The one thing you can expect, is that this week is going to be dirty – people are going to be spinning and smearing all week: it’s going to be vicious: I think I’ll be down at Haymarket’s Sports Café for live coverage until dawn – either that or stuck in the office with pizza and beer cheering Blinky Balls getting his arse kicked.

Green Energy

A question came up in the Leaders Debate on Sky News (in HD apparently) last night that got me thinking, why are politicians in the UK unable to come to terms with the big green issue: it’s multi-faceted yes, it’s sometimes controversial, absolutely, but at it’s core is a truth that surely all of us can agree on. Living in greener homes and driving greener cars would make us all richer. Green technology is a jobs growth sector, and with dwindling access to carbon fuels we need to do something soon to secure our energy security?

But seemingly not one of them wants to grab the bull by the horns. It’s not about carbon trading or even the choice between wind power or nuclear, let’s get down to basics. Let’s pass laws that houses need to be better: for years the big builders have thrown up unsustainable poor quality housing without enough insulation, without good windows, efficient boilers or access to better recycling services. Let’s change that first.

Second let’s make recycling compulsory, nationwide: no flip flopping between different councils: Germany has the right idea – it’s not a choice, it’s the law, and because it’s the law the german people have found better ways of working their recycling, you don’t find German shops chucking carriers bags at you at a rate of knots (Ocado with 34 plastic bags for a weekly shop for 2 people please take note!), paper bags are used more, buy or bring your own bag schemes are everywhere, and they’re used too – not because it’s fashionable, but because it makes sense to cut down your personal recycling ‘liability’.

Third, we need Micro-generation, you can’t move on the continent for wind turbines and solar panels, in even the most picturesque places you’ll find them on buildings, do they spoil the view? I don’t think so.

Micro and Macro generation

Micro and Macro generation

This is the view from the Mohne Dam, (of Dambusters fame), a hydroelectric power station in Nord-Rhine Westphalia, this is the village of Günne in it’s very pretty shadow. Here we see a huge amount of solar PV, wind turbines and energy efficent homes with strong double and triple glazing as well as night shutters to keep heat in and out depending on the season.

What’s so awful about this view? In my view it’s a good trade off for a healthier, greener planet – and what is so bad about that? We need to make sure that NIMBY’s don’t have a leg to stand on, it’s the one area where devolved localism has destroyed people’s right to make personal choices – this needs strong leadership that definitively shuts the door on parish council’s planning ruling against green improvements to personal property… We’re not talking about legislation that means that cement works can be built in the middle of a grade 1 listed thatched villages, we’re talking about sensible legislation that will allow our buildings to come into the 21st century to meet 21st century environmental demands.

I didn’t hear this simple solution from any of the Leaders, and to me, this is such a simple set of steps that’d move the UK forward in green terms by light years.

Stop Esso

Stop EssoHere’s the proof… are you doing your bit? Even if you don’t have a car, join the ever growing number of people who are taking on Esso directly to prove that multi-national companies can’t just walk all over the feelings of the public and shouldn’t ignore and even worse continue to bend governments to it’s way of thinking

Congestion Charging

So there wasn’t a major system meltdown, there wasn’t gridlock, there wasn’t even congestion and we all sat surprised watching the congestion charge work: even the Mayor didn’t seem to expect the damn thing to work, but contrary to all the doubts it performed rather well, this is twice in one week that I’ve been impressed by something ken Livingston has done. The first was his support for the anti-war march, and the second seems to be (although the jury is still out) his conviction that congestion charging would work.

In many ways I think it’s a good idea, I still have my doubts, and it’s definitely not the way I would have gone about it, but if it works then I suppose you have to give him credit. I don’t own a car, I have no need for one: and I don’t see me getting one any time in the near future on the principle that I simply wouldn’t have any use for it, I get my shopping delivered online, I live seconds away from Notting Hill Gate, I’ve got Kensington High Street within spitting distance, and If I’m really pushed I could walk to Marble Arch in 15 minutes. I’ve got the tube seconds away from the house, and I’ve got 4 major bus routes that pass by the house… So I really don’t need or want a car; there’s a part of me that thinks I should get some tax breaks for not owning a car and doing my bit for the environment, let’s face it: people get tax breaks for less worthy reasons than that don’t they?

The big question will be if it works – if in a years time traffic is back to how it was then we should be questioning whether or not to scrap it and look for better solutions.

Tear

Greenpeace TearI think this should be one of the most powerful images of the year, I think it’s brilliant, especially in our current climate of foreboding war and destruction, the constant threat of terrorism and the continual rape of the planet by individuals and corporations. I found it on here: What do you think?

I lost all faith in our “government” today, as it was announced that the damning dossier on Iraq was in fact nothing more than a plagiarised student thesis with some very questionable “intelligence” facts and figures bolted on. I really have to question whether in the light of this information coming out should the government be allowed to continue this crazy build up to war? Saddam is dangerous, everyone know’s that, but what is our justification for war? We simply don’t have one, the USA might, the Israelis might, but we don’t: and as such we should not even be considering dragging ourselves into a war which we can’t win and more importantly can’t afford. If I were a backbencher, or opposition in the house of commons now I would be jumping up and down shouting for a motion of no-confidence, because that’s exactly what I have in our government right now.

Waste

Waste is a pet hate of mine, I can’t stand people and companies who are unnecessarily wasteful, and I’m afraid to say that Tesco Direct are number one on my list of companies that are taking the piss when it comes to household waste. Today I had my shopping delivered and as usual there were almost as many carrier bags as there were items: 23 items in total, in 17 shopping bags, when a small packet of runner beans has a carrier bag to itself I really do start to believe that someone is being wasteful.

I phoned Tesco to complain and was told I could recycle my carrier bags at the store if I wished, with the nearest store with a recycling facility for plastic bags being in Hammersmith not only is that not even in my tube zone but it would take me about 30 minutes to get there, and the whole point of having your shopping delivered to the house in the first place is to remove the need to haul yourself across London on public transport to get to the supermarket.

It is out of choice that I choose not to have a car, so It really irritates me when people assume that everyone has access to a car, living in central London there is simply no need, I could walk to the west end in under 30 minutes if I wanted to, I’ve got 3 tube lines within 2 minutes walk of the house, 4 major bus routes within 10 minutes of the house and parking in Kensington is non-existent, even with a permit we’d not be able to park anywhere near the house because people just plonk there cars wherever they want.

The irony of all this: to recycle, I’d need to jump in a car and drive to the nearest recycling centre, It’s about time that Britain started to take recycling seriously, start copying the Germans who have separate bins for recyclable waste and regular refuse collection days so you don’t end up with a weeks worth of crap living in bins outside your house.