Saturday, 20 December 2008

People and Planet petition

I heard about this petition at a New Internationalist lecture last week.

It is a letter to Ed Miliband, Alistair Darling and RBS chief executive Stephen Hester calling on them to stop the 'irresponsibile lending by profit-hungry banks'.

Sign up here:

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Nelson Mandela calls for 'Green New Deal Now'.

(Well, I bet he would if he'd been there...)

Saturday saw the 2008 National Climate March, timed to coincide with the international talks taking place in Poznan in Poland.

The march began at Grovesner Square (home to the US Embassy), a familiar landmark for the climate protest movement. In retrospect, the chosen starting point seems less apt than for previous years, done more for the sake of tradition than with any real vitriol. Perhaps I put unrealistic faith in the President elect, but, to me, a more fitting starting point would have been round the corner at the home of surprising villain Canada, who, despite ratifying the Kyoto treaty in 2002, have since declared no intention of adhering to it.

US-regime change aside, the march began like any other, with an excited babble of chatter and drums, the scent of delicious (if a little vegan) Hare Krishna food and a sea of placards filling the square.

Every year you'll see a couple of slogans that dominate the sea. This year's key one (as you can see from Mr Mandela) called for a Green New Deal. The others ranged from the popular 'No Airport Expansion' and 'Cross Party Policies' to the slightly misplaced 'Earthquakes are Inevitable, War is Preventable'.

The procession itself ran its pleasant and uneventful course, walking down streets that you only ever seem to visit when packed in a crowd, occasionally belting out loosely-rhyming chants (journeys surprisingly similar to those taken down the Seven Sisters road...). It was nice to see the full spectrum of support presented by the variety of different participants and their flags, though there were a select few that sparked the tempting desire to brandish a fully roasted free-range chicken at the top of my ChiC flag. I know it'd have made an awful mess of my pride and joy, but it would have also felt good to reassure the road-side spectators that, although I admit I'm already so uncomfortably far down the road to hippydom to have begun cutting back on my meat consumption, not all of us have signed up to the militant calls for immediate and universal veganism.

The march ended at the uncontroversially-relevant Parliament Square and the speeches began. Showing a slight lack of respect, a few of us skipped the speakers we'd heard before and went off in search of tea (me forgetting that we'd now returned to the land of the 'general public', where people are less forgiving when you hit them over the head with a flagpole). We returned to Parliament Square and ended our marching protest with the age-old tradition of tea and cake, whilst chatting to the like-minded folk around us.

All in all, it was an affable, if rather un-revolutionary day. Despite its role as a reassuring symbol to the wider environmental movement, it did leave me wondering what impact it had really had, and whether I wished I'd gone to Stansted instead. Oh well, bring on January's Climate Rush.

‘Green New Deal’ to tackle ‘triple crunch’ of credit, oil price and climate crises

There have been calls for green 'New Deal's from both sides of the Atlantic over the last few months. Over here most references have been made to one in particular, written by a Travelling Wilburys-style grouping of alternative thinkers and presented by the think tank, new economics foundation (nef).

I won't attempt to explain what the Deal is, as, unsurprisingly, they can do a better job of that themselves. What I will do is copy and paste a very short summary and encourage you to read it yourself. (I assure you that this is to ensure clarity and accuracy and certainly not down to laziness.)

Copied summary:
The Green New Deal is a response to the credit crunch and wider energy and food crises, and to the lack of comprehensive, joined-up action from politicians. It calls for:
  • Massive investment in renewable energy and wider environmental transformation in the UK, leading to:
  • The creation of thousands of new green collar jobs
  • Reining in reckless aspects of the finance sector – but making low-cost capital available to fund the UK’s green economic shift
  • Building a new alliance between environmentalists, industry, agriculture, and unions to put the interests of the real economy ahead of those of footloose finance

    Click here for more on nef's Green New Deal

Knowing very little about economics or joined-up thinking in practical terms and relying largely on an idealistic 'this sounds nice' attitude, I'd be keen to hear what you think. So, add comments as you please.


Friday, 12 September 2008

The Carbon Bumprint

It's fair to say we're all involved in the climate change debate nowadays, but I wonder if we're becoming a little lukewarm.

Everywhere you look there's a company boasting their green credentials; we're all trying to recycle more, be more energy efficient, hey, even the green party are taking things seriously and getting a leader.

In fact, every time I mention ChiC to someone, they're always saying "Matt, that's so awesome!!! The environment is so cool/hot right now!!!"

But are we in danger of becoming too comfortable with being environmentally friendly, especially with the current economic belt tightening?

Fear not, my friends, for I have coined a term to get us all fired up again. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The Carbon Bumprint.

See, I've been thinking for some time that it's distant relative - the carbon footprint - is becoming something of a rather British throwaway comment, like, "Ooh dear, better turn that TV off standby, we should be reducing our carbon footprint"

Like Tesco, I think every little helps, but I can't ignore the fact that a footprint sounds, well, a bit nice. And shouldn't it be feetprint anyway? I mean how many people do you see being environmentally unfriendly whilst stood on one foot???

Just think about it, the things we do that produce the most CO2 are usually done while sat on our behinds: flying round the globe, driving our cars and generally leaving everything switched on. In fact, sometimes it's the things we don't do that cause us to produce more carbon dioxide and guess what, we're usually sat on our bums not doing them.

The Carbon Bumprint conveys something of the laziness in our society that has led to a nation contributing dangerously to climate change with an over-reliance on oil and not really thinking about the consequences of our actions.

This autmn/winter, if you're feeling a little cold in your home, try getting off your butt and doing five minutes of star jumps - I guarantee you won't need to turn the heating up.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The hypocrisy of advertising

On the escalators going down into the London Underground, there have always been, as long as I can remember, lots of adverts posted onto the walls. Recently however, these paper ads have been removed and replaced with LCD screens, which now flash logos and corporate images at you, as you descend into the belly of the capital.

The very first thing that stuck me when I saw these new illuminated screens was that it was a complete waste of energy. British Gas, who also supply customers with electricity, advertise through this means. Hypocritically, they inform you that if you switch to their service, you will be the beneficiary of a number of energy saving light bulbs. Every time I see the this advert, I scowl and think how much more power British Gas is using to propagate itself, than will actually be saved by customers switching their bulbs.

This got me thinking. All too often, companies are using the green agenda to promote themselves as clearly some genius guy in marketing as latched on to the fact that environmentalism is growing – that change is indeed coming. We should all be wary of this tactic. Don’t be fooled by it.

The truth of the matter is that environmentalism requires people to be sustainable in their way of life - or at least not to be wasteful. Holding back on buying that nice piece of lamb as its been shipped from New Zealand, or taking the train to Paris, as opposed to the plane, are just a couple of simple examples. Marketing on the other hand is designed for one thing, and one thing only – to make us buy tings we don’t really want. This gizmo will get you there that much quicker, make you that much more sexier…at the end of the day, they just want you to spend. The corporate world has no qualms about using environmentalism as a means to an end. Sustainability and consumerism, are quite honestly essentially mutually exclusive.

A way of keeping ahead of this game is to keep informed and to keep questioning everything. Don’t take corporate messages on face value. Always question a company’s motives for saying what they’re saying. Research them, if you have to. Just don’t be fooled.

In the interest of fairness, here is British Gas' energy efficiency website:

Saturday, 12 July 2008


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