|Issue 18 : 18 June 2007|
Our first sense: smell... the coffee... the roses... and a heavenly carbon de-scent plan. This issue is dedicated to the finest whiff in the world – fresh air and common scents.
In this issue:
At 9pm on the longest day, Thursday 21 June, Lights out London aims to show thousands of Londoners how one small switch can make a vital difference.
“One small switch for you, one huge message to the world,” say backers, Capital Radio. The campaign is supported by Rihanna, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Kim Wilde. Didn’t I say low carbon was gonna be sexy? Oh, and Ken Livingstone too. (Sorry Ken! Love you!)
Millions of leaders in Britain’s capital city will turn the lights out for an hour or more, welcoming us all in to the low carbon economy. And you don’t have to live in the city to make a difference: the UK’s going “lights out local” too. Will my home town and Mar-Low Carbon Community be bright green leaders that day?
This is right-on, and up your street! Don’t be
the one person in your road to spoil it.
Sincerity is contagious.
There’s something in the air
And I don’t just mean carbon. Listen out for me on the Capital 95.8FM breakfast show. In my interview I spun the old, “If CO2 were visible we’d have done something about it a long while ago,” into “If CO2 were pungent and we could smell it, etc”. It seemed more appropriate for radio – and more visceral – as the heat in London rises.
Co2ugh Co2ugh! Sniffer dogs to the rescue
Here’s a fun competition for you: if CO2 had a smell, what would it be? Rotten eggs? Post party bad breath? Stale tobacco? Or something nice like wood smoke or fresh cut grass? I’ll publish the best ideas in the next issue – there might even be a reward!
Imagine millions of Londoners deciding enough’s enough, cutting the carbon stink, speaking by their actions: “We will even if you won’t” and best of all, enjoying some peace together, an energy truce. “Better to light a candle and curse the brightness!”
It’ll be like the whole of London relaxes a bit – one huge conscious deep breath. Ah, bliss. The start of a carbon de-scent plan.
One of the great things about switching stuff off is that you get the chance to rethink whether it ever needed to be on in the first place. For some ‘prestige’ office buildings it may be the first time the occupants have ever discovered the off switch. And this time the mark of true prestige will be how many lights are left... off!
The chillers join in: two for one bonus
In air conditioned offices around the city, every kilowatt of lighting turned off will be accompanied by at least a further kilowatt from the chillers that don’t have to work so hard to extract the waste heat from the lighting. And so it goes on. The less energy we waste, the less energy we need.
Now about that so called ‘energy gap’. Come off it. Pull the other one. Once we’ve eliminated all the silly waste we tolerate everywhere the energy gap will be reversed. There will be an excess glut of Kwh and central supply capacity! No one will be buying it any more as we all say no to carbon and to central dirty power. Green is clean.
The great ‘air CON’ scandal
What a great name we chose for air con: how do we manage to go on kidding ourselves that we can burn fossil fuel to keep my little space cool, while heating up the rest of the world outside. Crisis? What crisis? I’m alright Jack – my patio heater will see me through an ice age.
Just one day
Another campaign taking place on the same day is Just1Day. This is one for all Communiqué readers: see if you can get through 24 hours entirely off the black stuff. Prove that we can be happy and fulfilled off fossil!
As well as the kids loving the beauty, symbolism (Earth) and pure slow motion grace of the huge 1 metre purple balloon floating and bouncing around their school hall, I also gave them a quick visual demo of C&C – C&C for six year olds!
We got four volunteers up front, and asked them to represent someone from UK, China, India, and Africa. Then I gave them 11, 4, 1 and 0 small purple CO2 balloons respectively. (16 balloons in total). They understood that the balloon represented the persons share - of BOTH pollution and fossil fuel.
I asked them if they thought that looked like a good idea. They said NO. I asked what they would do. SHARE them out! They said, unprompted.
So we redistributed the balloons until UK, China, India and Africa people had 4 balloons each, but I explained that this was still about 4 times more than Nature could deal with, and that we only had one planet not 4 so we had to cut back quite a lot of CO2.
So we popped three of the four balloons for each person - 12 loud bangs later – we were left with one person one balloon and a round of applause – we’d fixed the planet.
They got it - even if parents and politicans can’t or won’t!!
My family’s total nine tonne annual primary CO2 footprint has taken a little knock thanks to two short child air flights this year.
For Martha (11) it was a short flight to a lovely villa in Portugal with a best friend. She loved it. I triple offset* her and her friend’s CO2 through Climate Care. She is one of the only children in Marlow for whom the experience of flying was a first!
*Triple offset simply means paying for three times more
CO2 offset than reckoned. Factor 10 offset is catching on too. For example,
buying 10 tonnes worth of offset (approximately £100) for every
needless tonne emitted! Why not? That way we can buy some time. Now is
the time to invest in a retirement home, or a home for the children –
in other words, spaceship Earth!
Carbon charidee – give generously
Yes I know I’ve been rude about carbon offseting in the past (carbon offputting I call it!) but I’ve also maintained that many offset companies do great work. I believe it’s worth helping them to support other people in their carbon avoidance effort, and investing where a small amount of cash can make a big difference.
For me it’s simple: on the one hand there’s pollution, counting it and avoiding it, and on the other there’s carbon charity work. Both exist: one’s bad, the other’s good. Crucially they don’t cancel each other out. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing to donate £100 a year – or £1,000, or £10,000 – to some great CO2 reduction projects. The sky’s the limit!
The great carbon detox
My wife Jan and I try to take a relaxed stance on alcohol and all those ‘kid in a sweet shop’ things that Madness used to sing about in House of Fun. Time will tell what our children decide to be. Travel agent? Climate sceptic? The next Jeremy Clarkson? Or perhaps the new Jonathon Porritt, who, I’m pleased to report, I’m now coaching!
I recently attended a deeply disturbing update on climate system positive feedbacks – a two-hour session in the House of Commons organised by Colin Challen MP who chairs the APPCCG. Colin had asked David Wasdell of Meridian to lead a session on this scary topic. David chose three other leading lights in the world of climate science to help him. To cut a long story short, each speaker in turn confided that the situation is much worse than our worst fears, because the interconnected chain reactions are starting to compound. Deeply disturbing territory.
Whether it’s the collapse of Amazonia (planetary lung function), accelerated ice shelf collapse and gulf stream failure (heart failure) or ocean systems and plankton (metabolism failure), the big picture is clear. Mother Earth is badly ill. And with all of these seemingly separate breakdowns, there’s one clear pattern that David helped us to confront. The hotter it gets, tiddly pom, the hotter it gets. Thermal runaway has started. Despair, denial, delusion and depression are some of the demons we must face. Grief terror and rage too! But we CAN work this through though. I’m not giving up on my kids.
I try to keep my newsletter positive. By a twist of fate the feedback loops that we don’t want are called ‘positive’ – in that small changes ‘add’ up. The feedback loops we do want (the ones that might kick in to cool the planet down) are called ‘negative’ feedback. So in order to be positive, I have to talk negative!
We won’t heal Mother Earth by looking away and continuing to administer daily toxin. CO2 is the biggest ‘lever’ we each have to pull on the system, and – here’s the amazing bit – we are part of the negative feedback loop that will save us. If millions of us start to really ‘get it’, to cut our own carbon and demand others do the same, then we become a part of Earth’s central nervous system and build immunity. We multiply contagiously and our antibodies deliver a miraculous recovery from the carbon brink. We have to be quick though. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.
Change the world, one mouse click at a time
My friends at Anti-Apathy have launched a cool, fun, simple yet effective site called The Nag. Sign up, and spread the word. The Nag is entirely action oriented. It’s part of that virtuous loop. It’s part of mission possible. It’s how we become part of the pollution solution. They call it changing the world, one lazy ass mouse click at a time.
The voice of the people
I believe actions speak louder than words but that doesn’t mean we stop speaking out. Many of you were among the unprecedented number of people (over 375,000) who signed the AVAAZ climate petition, delivered to G8 leaders in Germany. Time will tell how much difference it made but I think it was massive.
World leaders currently seem somewhat frozen in the headlights – who wouldn’t be! But there is a dawning, a shift, occurring. Imagine you are in charge. How lovely it would be to have voices whispering in your ear, “It’s okay. We’re ready now. We can do this.”
Something else that’s transformed overnight: leaders who dither and delay will no longer get sympathetic press from Rupert Murdoch’s News International group. Those who choose to lead us may find the press fully on side for once. Functionality! We could yet crack this and end up with a world that works. Read Rupert Murdoch’s amazing speech:
“I don’t think we’re going to make it…”
Isn’t John Doerr’s emotional shock response exactly what we need right now?
Check out this amazing video clip. I might not agree with everything he says but it’s a lucid account of where we all find ourselves in 2007. I love the quote, “There is a time when panic is the appropriate response!”
We must love one another other or die (W H Auden)
This is the opportunity of a lifetime. We can work together, share our air supply, ration our fossil use, and figure out a smarter path for our species. Or we can die. Even if we find we left it too late, I’d far rather die trying.
The heavenly carbon de-scent plan exists. The future is C&C. Contraction and convergence is gaining massive popular support across the world. It’s the rock that governments need to build on.
Tim Yeo backs C&C
“Remember Neville Chamberlain. And don't forget Kyoto. The G8 summit's inability to agree targets to cut emissions represents a failure of leadership,” so said Tim’s piece in The Independent.
“The best way to do this would have been for the G8 to have accepted that contraction and convergence, the process through which per capita emissions in all countries around the world converge on a level consistent with climate stability, is the right long-term goal. It should have mandated the negotiators of the replacement for the Kyoto Treaty to keep this in mind.”
My C&C campaign on Facebook is gaining support – have you signed up yet?
I’ve been having a busy old time lately, often as a guest speaker: I’ve even done my first after-dinner climate comedy gig, for the British Association of Removers! Not an easy one, but me and my balloon survived, if a little deflated!
Recent talks include Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall, RIBA, CABE, Islington Earth Summit for 80 or so lively 11–14 year olds, the International Climate Change Conference at the LSE and a whole host of events in West Suffolk – schools, colleges, women’s groups, Friday clubs and parish halls. And last but not least I gave a School Assembly for my daughter Grace’s primary school of almost 500 tiny children (see the 'C&C is childs play' story).
They got it – even if parents and politicans can’t or won’t!
One final item on my beloved water theme. On Live Earth day, Saturday 7 July, I’ll be enjoying the sunshine at Henley Regatta, showing solidarity with the Al Gore event by handing out purple balloons with a small band of Rowers Onto Climate Change (ROCC the Boat).
Until next time, paddle on friends.
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