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Tag Archives: Future
Right now our thoughts and prayers are with the brave Japanese people as they struggle to deal with the terrible aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and now the nuclear threat. This is also a time to reflect on the risks posed by nuclear power generation and to ask if we should continue with this massive investment. Might our money be better spent on renewable energy?
This letter featrured in The Guardian, Wednesday 16 March 2011:
The assessment in your editorial (15 March) that “the balance of the rational argument could conceivably be more in favour of nuclear [power] in a month’s time” is not just premature but ignores a number of important factors. Most worryingly, terrorists will have seen the devastation, disruption and fear that can be caused by an attack on a reactor’s cooling system, which presents a much easier target for them than the containment vessel surrounding the core.
Secondly, your claim that the renewable alternatives are “illusions” is at variance with the facts. Germany has installed more wind power capacity than the entire current UK nuclear capacity, and is adding to it at a rate equivalent to more than one new reactor a year. Furthermore, in 2009 alone Germany installed solar photovoltaic systems with capacity equivalent to approximately four nuclear reactors, and it looks like the 2010 figures will be much higher.
The coalition should reverse Labour’s dangerous decision to go for new nuclear build and use the money saved, firstly to strengthen our current nuclear facilities against terrorist attack, secondly to solve the long-term nuclear waste problem and thirdly to support renewables.
Emeritus Professor Keith Barnham
The case against nuclear
Anti-nuclear critics see nuclear power as a dangerous, expensive way to boil water to generate electricity. Opponents of nuclear power have raised a number of related concerns:
- Nuclear accidents: a concern that the core of a nuclear power plant could overheat and melt down, releasing radioactivity.
- Radioactive waste disposal: a concern that nuclear power results in large amounts of radioactive waste, some of which remains dangerous for very long periods.
- Nuclear proliferation: a concern that the facilities and expertise to produce nuclear power can be readily adapted to produce nuclear weapons.
- High cost: a concern that nuclear power plants are very expensive.
- Nuclear terrorism: a concern that nuclear facilities could be targeted by terrorists or criminals.
- Curtailed Civil liberties: a concern that the risk of nuclear accidents, proliferation and terrorism may be used to justify restraints on citizen rights.
A nuclear free world is possible… it is up to us!
EcoHustler is inspired by Adbusters. Not least for their refusal to allow our shared space and reality to be owned and controlled by corporations who exist solely to sell shit and make money. Much is made of the corporate take over of nature, our lives and our economies but what about the corporate take over of our minds!?
Our sensitive brains are bombarded with negative and unsustainable messaging as soon as we walk out the door. People in cities can be hit with up to 2000 messages a day urging them to buy shit they don’t need. No wonder well-being is declining and the natural world is collapsing. Reality is a mass, shared hallucination and with this relentless onslaught of carefully crafted messaging human behaviour is normalized in a pathological state of endless wanting.
It is not just nature we are paving over but our minds. the practical and proactive response is to ‘culture jam’. That is to compete with an alternative narrative that can help people see that another world is not only possible… it is preferable, imminent and will be co-created by us. To spark a wave of epiphanies that shatter the consumerist worldview. We must all fight against pro-consumerist advertising wherever it rears its ugly head.
Responding online is all well and good…. but there is a danger we just preach to the converted. How do we reach the people out on the street, walking between the invasive advertising hoardings? How can we offer an alternative message?
Not: drink cola to be happy or drive a car to have status or spray this chemical to get laid. But: breathe, exist, create, grow, resist, love and be a part of something bigger than ourselves; something with meaning.
To reach people we have to be brave and head out at night with our faces covered. We have to find the shadows and upload our home-grown messaging to the urban fabric. We need to give the human beehive a repaint.
This is your invitation to get involved. Download an eco-propaganda poster and stick it up in your neighbourhood using the wheat pasting instructions below. Even better, design your own poster and send it in. The best posters submitted will be featured on this site available for others to use.
- URBAN RENEWAL KIT
- Wheat pasting: how to
- Tutorial: Water-proof pastecontainer incl. paste brush
- Stencil Revolution: stencils for download: Visual Propaganda
- GRAFFITI / STREET ART – artists
- Moss Graffiti—Next Big Thing & totally eco
- Ron English Interview
You have to go full screen, dim the lights and sit back for this one.
First seen on: http://halfiranian.com.
I haven’t been to Rio, but I have heard great things about it. When a good friend headed over there 18 months ago I expected to learn a lot more. Instead, my buddy disappeared off the radar. Was he lost in the jungle? Madly in love? Trying to stop an enormous damn from being built in the ‘lungs of the world’? No, he has been communicating with alien intelligences.
I met ‘Marky’ while studying Environmental Technology at Imperial College in London. He made his mark as a laid back guy with big ideas. Despite being on the business module he had strong political ideals and a sensitive nose for the bullshit that sometimes wafted through the corridors. He was in the small minority of people on the course who insisted they didn’t want to ‘sell their souls’ and go and work for an ‘environmental’ consultancy so he surprised us all by working diligently for 4 years for a large ethical fund. 18 months ago he had enough and cut loose. He was last seen heading to Mexico riding a sweet Surly Long Haul Trucker.
There has not been much news since although there have been rumours he had reinvented himself as a conceptual artist and had started a chapter of Critical Mass in Rio… until now. It appears that Mark has been working together with his co-conspirator Thais Medeiros and a group of extra-terrestrials. They are excited by the role of alien intervention in our technological evolution. Now the question on everyone’s lips is “what will their next intervention be?!”
Are you tired of the 9-5 grind and stressful commuting? Are you fed up of not having enough time for friends, family and interesting pursuits? How would you like a 3 day weekend? Well the good news is that a less stressful, more pleasurable and more fulfilling lifestyle could be just around the corner. This post outlines a proposal for a new campaign to reduce the working week to 4 days.
The Triple Crunch of an economy in meltdown, declining well being and a collapsing biosphere requires us to work less to slow down and rationalize the economy and to provide space for ourselves and the planet to breathe. As we work less we can make time to nurture our environment, communities and selves back to rude health and orient society away from its current pathological trajectory.
The ‘green movement’ is evolving into a popular mass-movement that is seizing the opportunity presented by the multiple crises of a changing world to co-create the future that we want. This rapidly expanding new agenda presents the opportunity to reinvent how we spend our most precious commodity… our time.
- Work Less; Live More; the case for a shorter working week
- The New Monday
- Environmentalism is dead… long live the environment!
1. Work Less; Live More
I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s
To succeed a campaign must have at its core a sound argument making the case for change. Fortunately, the brains at the New Economics Foundation have done all the hard work and produced a bulletproof case for why people, planet and the economy all benefit when we collectively agree to work less. The vision section of their report ‘21 Hours’ states:
A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.
The report also looks at the necessary conditions for shifting to the 21 hour week and how to overcome transitional problems. In a little more detail here are the 3 main:
Planet: moving towards a much shorter working week would help break the habit of living to work, working to earn, and earning to consume. People may become less attached to carbon-intensive consumption and more attached to relationships, pastimes, and places that absorb less money and more time. It would help society to manage without carbon-intensive growth, release time for people to live more sustainably, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
People: a 21-hour ‘normal’ working week could help distribute paid work more evenly across the population, reducing ill-being associated with unemployment, long working hours and too little control over time. It would make it possible for paid and unpaid work to be distributed more equally between women and men; for parents to spend more time with their children – and to spend that time differently; for people to delay retirement if they wanted to, and to have more time to care for others, to participate in local activities and get their groove on.
Economy: shorter working hours could help to adapt the economy to the needs of society and the environment, rather than subjugating society and environment to the needs of the economy. Business would benefit from more women entering the workforce; from men leading more rounded, balanced lives; and from reductions in work-place stress associated with juggling paid employment and home-based responsibilities. It could also help to end credit-fuelled growth, to develop a more resilient and adaptable economy, and to safeguard public resources for investment in a low-carbon future.
A quick word to the ‘traditionalists’ out there, the ‘tradition’ of working a 5 day week is a product of industrial capitalism which is about 200 years old. For millennia preceding this people would not have worked 9-5 (unless they were slaves). People would have spent the majority of their time living in local communities raising families and together ensuring they have enough to live. Also, it has already has several times already:
- The US state of Utah became the first state in the U.S. to mandate a four-day workweek for most state employees to widespread acclaim as described in Time Magazine and the Independent.
- For the first two months of 1974, the Conservative government under Edward Heath imposed a three-day week to save energy during a time of soaring inflation, high energy prices, and industrial action by the National Union of Mineworkers.
- And of course the French took a big step in the right direction when they legislated for a 35 hour week. Of course Sarkozy with his sad desperation to be just as ‘free’ market as his western allies reversed this. He probably said it would make France more ‘competitive’, which, of course, is exactly the problem. Nations competing to be richer than their neighbours leads to a global Tragedy of the Commons. In the end we all lose out. This illustrates why a successful campaign must be international… which could easily be achieved by an alliance between international green groups and the international labour movement. A directive from the European parliament could bind this influential continent together as a start.
Europe is the natural place for this campaign to start. This is where the industrial revolution began. At the time it was understood that machines doing man’s labour would provide for more leisure time. John Maynard Keynes, called it ‘technological unemployment’ and Nobel Laureate Economist Wassily Leontief wrote:
“The role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was… diminished…by the introduction of tractors.”
Whilst nationalists, racists and other fools blame unemployment on the natural human phenomenon of immigration the real cause is going unaddressed in the public debate: Technological Unemployment.
But wait a second… isn’t Technological Unemployment a good thing? Unless you think you were born to work; machines doing work frees up our time for other important activities. We don’t have to rigidly fill our lives with work and there is no point sweeping the decks of the Titanic as it heads straight for an iceberg. Better to storm the cockpit and head for open water!
Why are we working 5 days a week? To what end? The puritan work ethic is fundamentally inverted when the work you are doing, by driving economic growth, is actually driving environmental meltdown and pushing our species to extinction. Once we accept that endless growth and wealth accumulation are both impossible and undesirable we can shift our work habits to better suit our needs and values.
The material economy must shrink. To think this need be restrictive for the human experience is the essence of the problem of the modern age. There is far more to life than stuff. Limitless growth is achievable in science, ideas, knowledge, art, music and sport. We already control too great a proportion of the material flows of the planet and so all future growth must be dematerialized. One popular and practical step in the right direction is building into the week a day which is not for work-for-money and not just a ‘day off’. In doing so we create space for other activities of critical importance to society such caring for relatives, growing our food, helping in our communities, keeping fit, having hobbies, being creative, playing sport developing skills and shifting to sustainability and all the other things we like to spend our time on.
Anyone who thinks this change is unrealistic needs to broaden their perspective. The 5 day week was totally arbitrary. It could have been 3 days! Furthermore it is a human invention. This is in stark contrast to the planet, biosphere or atmosphere. All of which we depend on, we cannot create and which our human experiment in endless work, economic growth and waste production is currently destroying. Reinventing the work week is far more practical then reinventing a stable biosphere.
There are many things in our lives we cannot change. Things like the laws of physics, the size of earth and the amount of oil underground. Then there are the things we can change. Culture is the sum total of humanity’s attitudes, opinions and knowledge. This is easily changeable. It can be transformed through stories, art, conversations and by forwarding the link to this blog. Start telling your friends, colleagues and neighbours… we don’t need to work 5 days a week. It is stressing us out and it is destroying our world. So let’s stop.
2. The New Monday
Community Monday: people contribute some of their day to local community initiatives. This could include caring for the elderly, running projects for local kids or overcoming a local challenge with neighbours.
Eco Monday: it’s time to get together and give nature a helping hand! Teams of switched-on humans can trek out and get: tree planting, litter picking, ecosystem surveying and building: nature reserves, bug houses, bat boxes or green roofs.
Farming Monday: city folk and others travel to local farms to help with food production. Helps people to understand where the food comes from and has the added benefit of reducing the carbon intensity of agriculture.
Lifelong Learning Monday: adults descend on universities, schools and colleges to further their education. Not for professional development… just for the sake of learning. Courses in cooking, pottery, Tantra and Zen can run alongside astro-physics and ecology.
Loving Mondays: love, nurture, care, heal, get jiggy.
3. Environmentalism is Dead… Long Live the Environment!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As far back as 2004 with the publication of The Death of Environmentalism the traditional approaches of the green movement have been criticized for its failure to create significant widespread change to the way we live. We have known about species extinctions, toxicity, resource depletion and even climate change for over 50 years… so why aren’t we all living locally in human-scale communities enjoying life and living in harmony with the natural world?
Well it seems some historical trends are hard to argue with. There are 6 billion humans sharing this planet; population is totally unregulated and rapidly expanding and the industrial capitalist juggernaut is relentlessly commodifying every aspect of our world (including time) and with ruthless efficiency, systematically training our children to become ‘normal’ i.e. rabid workers / consumers.
Environmentalists are badly outgunned. The ‘conventional economy’ we are seeking to change is the ceaseless competition of 6 billion individuals seeking resources. This competition, driven by self-interest maintains the cut-throat economy. However, the triple crunch turns everything on its head; as explored in Racing the Red Queen to Oblivion, if humans cannot consciously overcome the genetic urge to compete for resources then civilization will collapse. To rapidly get the message out and create the necessary change to move to a scientifically grounded, resource based, sustainable economy we have to get smart, pick our fights carefully… and learn from past mistakes.
The classic mistake, discussed in Death of Environmentalism, is to be too literal and too narrow in focus allowing the agenda to be pigeon holed as special interest; a bitter irony seeing as nothing in the human domain can exist without the ‘environment’. We need to reframe the argument. Or to put it another way, we should stop talking about the environment altogether.
To succeed we must reframe sustainability as a journey to increased freedom, happiness, more and better quality time and stronger communities. We need to build our campaigns upon values that run deeper then the distorted values (use a different word for values?) that have emerged from the temporary aberration of industrial capitalism and its associated distorted culture. For example, rather than being anti-car lets be pro healthy, local communities where people can live and work without the need to regularly commute long distances.
Aside from the overarching problem of talking as though the environment was special interest or peripheral to the ‘serious reality’ of human affairs. 2 (two) critical mistakes that we keep repeating in campaigns are 1) being negative (or unpopular) and 2) not being ambitious enough.
First up, Nic Marks explains clearly in this very important Ted Talk how describing nightmare scenarios does not motivate people to change. It leads to a fight or flight response. Either: fight the environmentalist, run a mile, or ease yourself gently into the cool, slow waters of denial.
Environmentalists have made the mistake of telling people the world is going to end and then telling them to stop doing something they like. A classic case is the sustained, high profile attack on aviation. Campaigning against flying in general (as opposed to new airports or short haul) alienates people in the middle ground who may be sympathetic to environmental issues but not so much that they are not prepared to stop flying altogether. It allows the media to portray the green agenda as detrimental to the happiness of the masses when societies happiness is actually fundamental. The infamous Plane Stupid video of polar bears falling from planes is a case in point. This isn’t going to stop people flying it will just confuse and upset them and possibly make them angry.
Furthermore, aviation clearly serves an important role for humans above and beyond holiday travel. Ask anyone with a lover or family member on another continent how they feel about aviation being banned and you will see why this is always going to be an unpopular ‘victory’ at best.
Technically the argument is weak too. We can make space for well regulated aviation in a future sustainable world. It just requires we take a global perspective on resource use and ensure that the eco footprint of aviation is an agreed proportion of the total human eco footprint that we have scientifically ascertained the atmosphere / biosphere can tolerate.
In contrast, there are many parts of our bloated, inefficient, unscientific economy that do nothing for human well being but have vast ecological footprints. The most obvious waste of resources resulting in declining well being is war as explored in ‘peace… or die’. Much of our infrastructure is inefficient by design as explored in ‘this is not a chimney’. What about the fact that we import and export the same amount of lamb and apples to New Zealand? This vacuous element of globalization is monstrously dim-witted. Even the free market apostles who relentlessly sell us myths standing on a smoking planetary pyre must have trouble explaining how it in any way makes sense to endlessly ship products around the world when local alternatives exist. Or why we should create something called ‘waste’ which we return to nature by the billions of tonnes?
Looking through this lens we see that the environmentalist obsession with attacking aviation is misguided. Our priority should be stopping behaviours with big eco footprints but low utility. Aviation has immense value and attacking it will make the green agenda unpopular at exactly the time that we need to be igniting a poplar mass movement.
Greens are waking up to the fact that Martin Luther King changed history by saying ‘I have a dream’ (not nightmare) and that rather than beating with a stick we should be luring with a carrot. For example: if you live / work locally you will have healthier communities and more time with you family; if you cycle or walk to work you will be slimmer, healthier and save money; if you have interesting hobbies using your creativity you will be saner and happier than if you spend every weekend in the shopping mall.” These are the hallowed sustainability double dividends explored in more detail on the Green and Happy page; ways in which we can boost well being whilst reducing our eco footprint. Collectively these activities make the happier, healthier world we are trying to move to and should be the first behaviour changes to go for. HRH Prince Charles is ahead of the game (again) with the launch of his new Start Initiative which promotes positive activities.
The next campaign issue to address is low ambition. We have been watching with dismay as the UK 10:10 campaign (which started with such a flourish) seems to have shrunk in ambition so low to a point that it has now morphed into a campaign simply to get the UK government to shift the daylight savings times. Even this small, logical change apparently requires a campaign (with requests for donations and fax-your-mp click-throughs!). Couldn’t this kind of small step be achievable through a well presented argument or report put to the right parliamentarian? There are only so many times we can mobilize people to take an action so when we do we should make sure the outcome is worth it.
So let’s dream big; imagine the future we want; be ambitious and go for big popular issues that will make a significant difference to our world. First up… the Work Less; Live More Campaign.
NB: Before launching any campaign it is highly recommended to check the excellent Campaign Strategy website.
All you really wanted
Which is to say
You only wanted more.
Ram Tzu knows this…
What you now have
Is all you’ll ever have.
On the last Friday of every month something strange, spontaneous and spectacular happens on the streets of central London. The roads are congested (as always) however; they are not filled with big, heavy, dangerous machines that spew out poison gas. They are filled with cycle fanatics who insist on propelling themselves around the place under their own steam; powered by whatever they last ate. This is Critical Mass and it’s a wonderful improvement to the city.
For a brief time this enthusiastic, motley assortment of London residents join together to reclaim the streets and celebrate their freedom of movement. The giant mobile herd is diverse composed of people of all shapes, sizes, colours and affluence; bound together by the shared love of self propulsion.
This melange of misfits meets up on the South Bank at 18.30. The air is buzzing with excitement as friends reunite. Beers are cracked open, bikes admired and tales of surviving on the mean streets of London traded.
Soon the crowd swells like water behind a damn and the air is filled with the dinging of bells. Anticipation gives way to urgency and the cracks in the damn start appearing as the first brave riders head up the ramp to the Imax cinema roundabout and off into the heart of the city. The hive-mind has been engaged and without an agreed route or leader the peloton surges forth to find its way to an unknown destination.
Once beyond the safety of the South Bank you find yourself on roads which have had their ownership seized by the sinister Cult of the Car. So powerful is this cult that the membership is utterly convinced, despite all the evidence that it is reasonable to sit in giant polluting snakes of mechanized metal along the arteries that traverse our giant human beehives. They have suspended rational thought to the point that they cannot see the obvious truth that cars and cities don’t go. Like square pegs and round holes, metal and microwaves and turds in swimming pools.
By invidious means the perverse, sociopathic behaviour of these cultists has been normalized so that London is now permanently shrouded in a haze of pollution and death on London’s roads is an accepted part of city life (4000 deaths by air pollution, 184 deaths by traffic collisions in 2009, 3043 serious injuries). This is the price we are all supposed to pay for the mythical individual convenience that leaps out from billboards but never comes close to manifesting in a city where millions of people are compelled to share limited space and move about each other in some kind of harmonious diurnal cycle.
Maybe it’s a power thing, maybe it’s a class thing or maybe it’s the myopic and inapt conflation of technology with progress. Whatever it is, car drivers are convinced the road is theirs as if cars always existed and always will. Car drivers naturally assume that they always have priority over cyclists. So when drivers have to wait as a giant swarm of happy riders surges by in front of their over-engineered wheelchairs they literally start having a nervous breakdown. They froth at the mouth, throw their rattle out of their motorized prams, bang their neo-luddite skulls against the steering wheel and curse the unjust laws that prevent them from teaching us once and for all that cars are mightier by driving through us in a glorious eruption of fossil-power.
They scream out of their windows that they are trying to get somewhere and how dare we be so inconsiderate as to hold them up. They might think we would care but they are speaking to the wrong audience… big time.
There is not a single person on this ride that doesn’t have to daily put up with the gross imposition of the car. Day after day we breathe in their fumes, wait as they block up huge sections of the city and weep as they kill our friends. Day after day we peer into the windows of cars filled with solitary occupants and try to comprehend how the system screwed up their weak little minds so badly that they think this offensive behaviour is okay. They are crapping in the swimming pool daily and like thieving mps they say it is okay because it is not against the law. For once they can wait. The bikes are biting back.
It might not seem like much but actually it is. This is the sharp edge of a wedge of dissatisfaction against the tyranny of the car. A critical mass of dissent is growing on the streets if London. For one evening a month, for a couple of hours, we take control of the streets. For a fleeting moment in time we can cycle in safety surrounded by friends and music. We can see the city as it could be…. as it should be. Open and flowing, alive not dead.
This is what cities in the future will be like. And the happy and healthy residents of these cities will remember these pioneer cyclists who took a stand for something they believed in against seemingly insurmountable odds and raise a glass to them.
More photos from Critical Mass:
All the eyes of the world are turned to the beaches of the most dominant nation of our times. The world is watching closely as this pivotal culture wrestles with this unprecedented environmental catastrophe. Will Obama use this as his movement to make a clean break and fundamentally restructure the energy infrastructure in the same way that 9/11 was used as the catalyst to restructure US foreign policy? Will regulation be changed in such a way that big business can no longer dictate the terms of its own scrutiny? Will BP finally be seen for the serial offender and gross violator of nature that it really is… yada yada.
But wait a second… is this really an unprecedented environmental catastrophe? Or is it really that a far bigger fuss is made when the USA and its sacrosanct way of life is threatened? Just across the Atlantic a far larger spill has been ravaging the coastal ecosystem, poisoning the people and devastating a way of living for over two decades. Nobody is watching and nobody cares. Presumably this is because this is not an aspirational culture. It is not a holiday destination and could it also be because the oil is harder to see on the people’s skin? This is Africa and the people being poisoned are Nigerian.
The companies operating (Shell, Agip, ExxonMobil) may be different but the catastrophe is exactly the same. This is the inanity of Obama rounding on BP and calling it ‘British Petroleum’. It doesn’t matter which company it is or which country it is head office is based in. This is the same dirty shit. This is massive corporations that have grown too big to control doing what they were set up to do. Converting natural capital into cash as fast as humanly possible to satisfy the false god made manifest by the demons at Harvard Business School that have for years spread their sick sermon of shareholder return over people and the planet. These tormented cogs in an ungodly machine have sold their souls along with the planet and now we reap the vengeance as hell is brought down to our earthly paradise.
The Nigerian coastline has had to endure 1.5m tons of oil. More oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, What isn’t spilt is shipped to… you’ve guessed it! Our favourite Empire… the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports. The burden of its role as furnace stokers of the bloated, inefficient and distended US machine is almost too much to bear. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations.
In this unregulated, pioneer land western companies bribe the government and suffocate dissent allowing them to cut endless corners and operate as cheaply as possible. By their sick algebra the most profitable means of extracting the black gold is simply to burn the accompanying gas (a scarce and valuable resource) off in flares (definition below). In Nigeria there are flares that have been burning continuously since 1972. You don’t need a degree in atmospheric or environmental science to know that deep down this is just wrong.
All this goes to show without a shadow of a doubt that we do not face a choice. The questions have already answered and it is a no-brainer. Two roads bifurcate in front of us. One leads to a sustainable future in which we shift rapidly away from fossil fuels; live more locally; work fewer hours; shift our attentions from consumption to creativity; from competition to cooperation and provide space for the natural world to recover and evolve. This way of life is not mysterious. It is not fanciful. It is not utopian. It is practical and people are already doing it. Transition Towns show how to implement an ‘energy decent plan’ and check this new report from the Centre from Alternative Technology and NEF outlines a zero-carbon vision of the UK within 20 years.
The other road leads straight to hell. People of earth… the choice is yours.
Gas flare definition (source: wikipedia)
A gas flare, alternatively known as a flare stack, is an elevated vertical conveyance found accompanying the presence of oil and gas wells, rigs, refineries, chemical plants, natural gas plants, and landfills. They are used to eliminate waste gas which is otherwise not feasible to use or transport. They also act as safety systems for non-waste gas and is released via pressure relief valve when needed to ease the strain on equipment. They protect gas processing equipments from being overpressured. Also in case of an emergency situation, the flare system helps burn out the total reserve gas.
Flaring and venting of natural gas from oil & gas wells is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its contribution to greenhouse gases has declined by three-quarters in absolute terms since a peak in the 1970s of approximately 110 million metric tons/year and now accounts for 0.5% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The World Bank estimates that over 150 billion cubic metres of natural gas are flared or vented annually, an amount worth approximately 30.6 billion dollars, equivalent to 25 percent of the United States’ gas consumption or 30 percent of the European Union’s gas consumption per year. This flaring is highly concentrated: 10 countries account for 75% of emissions, and twenty for 90%. The largest flaring operations occur in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The leading contributors to gas flaring are (in declining order): Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Algeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, and the United States. In spite of a ruling by the Federal High Court of Nigeria (that forbade flaring) in 2005, 43% of the gas retrieval was still being flared in 2006. It will be prohibited by law as of 2008. Russia has announced it will stop the practice of gas flaring as stated by deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday September 19, 2007. This step was, at least in part, a response to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that concluded Russia’s previous numbers may have been underestimated. The report, which used night time light pollution satellite imagery to estimate flaring, put the estimate for Russia at 50 billion cubic meters while the official numbers are 15 or 20 billion cubic meters. The number for Nigeria is 23 billion cubic meters.
By being the only political party that backs a 3rd runway at Heathrow Labour stands out with a special kind of stupid. The rational for inflicting this fresh monstrous wound on our once green and pleasant land is ‘the economy’. Yet again, our politicians, the flabby-faced fluffers of industry, are uttering monotonously, like the grinding of skulls, the vile mantra: ‘must grow the economy, must grow the economy…’
Edward Abbey pointed out many years ago that ‘growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell’. Of course he was right. It is also the ideology of viruses, the morbidly obese and New Labour. All require health warnings.
It is time for the political classes to catch up with the rest of humanity. They should stick on the wall a scribbled note to remind them ‘it’s not just the economy stupid!’ Of course we can grow the economy by strengthening our position as the bus depot of Europe. We could also grow the economy by being the depository for all the worlds’ nuclear waste. However, unless you like your children with 6 eyes and tentacles the nuclear waste option hasn’t got any (workable) legs. The benefits of growing the economy depend on how you are growing the economy.
Smug idiots like Richard Branson say that if we don’t have a 3rd runway we will lose out to another country that will become Europe’s airline hub. But for everyone in the UK who doesn’t own an airline this is a good thing. London already suffers from appalling air quality and mind jangling noise pollution in part as a result of the proximity of the world’s busiest airport. We would have to be collectively madder (or sicker) than whoever appointed Blair as a ‘middle east peace envoy’ to want to increase this traffic.
If you were going to choose a country to be the air hub for Europe you might be inclined to pick a country that has some space left. It may have escaped the attention of the frothy mouthed politicians who feverishly court the business elite that we live on a tiny overcrowded island. Once completely forested we have now removed 90% of the forest cover and have built on 14% of the once wild land. You are hard pressed to get anywhere where you can’t see a road or hear a machine.
We don’t have to sit back and let politicians lead us inexorably towards the industrial dystopias of films like Blade Runner or the Terminator. As 90% of Britains agree this is not the time to be bulldozing villages and laying new runways. If you want to build, do it on brown field sites and build upwards. The appalling sprawl into nature must be stopped, and then reversed.
The quixotic, desperate clammer for never ending economic growth on a small island on a shrinking planet is sad in the same way that anti-aging cosmetic surgery is sad. We have to get old so why not do it with dignity. Instead of running around like a 20 year old trying to get laid all the time why not start a vegetable patch and listen to Terry Wogan? So too our economies must mature. A relentless pioneer economy will scorch the earth and leave us more high and dry then the Easter Islanders were before they finally starved to death. Did the last citizen have a flash of insight into the stupidity of their idol worship as the final tear of drool rolled out of his famished mouth?
What will it take politicians to realize that our future will not resemble our past? Our economies must change and evolve to reflect the fact that population continues to soar and resources are increasingly constrained. The government should support this by diversifying and future-proofing our economies. This can be done by backing efficient green technologies, resilient agriculture, urban (eco) redevelopment, science and education, youth programs and the creative arts. If you want to know how to fund this you can start with taxing aviation fuel and the banks and then scrapping Trident. Unregulated markets, like war, are sooo last century. It’s time for the power hungry brown-nosers in Westminster to get with the program.
It looks like a chimney… but it’s not! At a fossil fuel burning power station the chimney looks like this:
So what are these enormous concrete monstrosities? These belching behemoths are cooling towers. In the UK’s creaking, outdated power stations coal is burnt to heat water to steam. The steam is sent through turbines at high speed generating electricity. Once through the turbine a huge amount of energy remains in the hot water. For some reason the geniuses who designed these power plants decided that instead of using this heat for something useful like… er… heating… they would call it ‘waste heat’ and fart it into the sky. Some power stations also fart the heat into rivers killing fish. Great move guys!
The really stupid thing is that this electricity is then transmitted along wires to houses where, yes, you’re not going to believe this; it is used to generate heat in electrical heating devices. This process is massively inefficient. More than 75% of the carbon in those lumps of coal is released into the atmosphere for no good reason at all.
This insanity goes someway to explain why countries like Denmark and Sweden are so much more efficient then the UK. When I was in Copenhagen for COP 15 it was exciting to see a small power station within the city limits. This power station only had a chimney. It didn’t need cooling towers because all the ‘waste’ heat was being piped into the city to keep the homes snug. There are no boilers in homes over there (so no need for a boiler scrappage scheme); just large tanks storing the plentiful hot water. Using the hot water produced from generating electricity to heat neighbourhoods is known as district heating or combined heat and power (CHP). Most exciting of all was the giant company name emblazoned on the side of the building… DONG energy. This is clearly the way to warm a city!
It is almost certainly not a coincidence that the countries that lead the world in energy efficiency are also the countries with the highest levels of equality. Efficiency and equality are two noble steeds drawing civilization forth to a better future.
The flip side to the gross inefficiency that lies at the heart of our green and pleasant land is that enormous efficiency savings and therefore emission reductions are readily available. All the government has to do is legislate to pass an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) to ensure our electricity supply is subject to similar efficiency rules as everything else in our lives (fridges, cars, homes). Simple, you might think. Well it is, but unfortunately, politicians tend to be the snivelling dishonest type. In their quest to service the needs of big business they fail again to serve their true constituency… the people.
The big 6 energy companies in the UK have a great time enjoying both a deregulated market and historic and ongoing megasubsidies (£1676 million a year since 1990). You would think all this money might be spent on innovation, new technologies or improving service. Unfortunately as with the deregulated rail network we get increasing prices and worse service. Deregulation was supposed to give the consumer more choice but the myth of the free market flounders yet again. The ‘Big Six’ meet regularly behind closed doors racking up profits by keeping domestic bills broadly ‘in line’ with one another, restricting energy supplies to competitors and demanding laborious accreditation and credit requirements for new companies. As MP Alan Simpson points out deregulation has delivered an energy cartel but not energy security.
The Big Six are: Scottish and Southern Energy, Scottish Power, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK and npower. The members of this exclusive club are now fat, powerful and greedy. They resist any regulation to reduce emissions whilst ripping off the consumer during a cold spell. Energy companies’ profit margins have increased for the fifth quarter in a row, while wholesale costs continue to fall. No doubt their CEOs are enjoying winter in the Caribbean on their yachts while your gran shivers at home wearing her entire wardrobe with a tea cosy on her head.
Instead of moving us to a new energy model the government is putting its’ efforts into an approach The Big Six approve of. It’s called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This involves capturing pollution at the chimney and pumping it underground. Despite the fact that this makes power stations 20% less efficient and despite the fact that its effectiveness is yet to be proved the government is throwing a £9.5 billion subsidy at it in the building of four new coal-fired power stations. Describing this as throwing good money after bad is the understatement of the millennium. This ‘solution’ is the same old bullshit with a new hat on. It’s still big, it’s still dirty it’s still inefficient… and guess what?… you’re still paying for it! Families will have to pay a new levy on electricity bills for at least the next 20 years in order to fund this dubious technology that keeps us bound to burning fossil fuels for years to come. The government continues to rein back the noble steeds backing instead the old inefficient knacker ridden by the big fat cats.
Instead of tackling the pollution at its source the government is focusing its energy down stream on the consumer despite the fact that by this point most of the enegy has been wasted already. In this Act on CO2 advert the government skilfully uses fear and the love of our children to try to create behaviour change.
However, there isn’t much point telling people to unplug their mobile phone chargers when the companies doing the charging have a carte blanche to tip us into apocalyptic meltdown and the electricity being delivered to your house is dirtier than an oil spill in the Persian Gulf. Yes, the future is scary, in large part because our leaders are cowardly and are not making the bold joined up move to a low carbon future we so desperately need.
The government should commit to building no more old-school power stations. Instead of enormous power stations in the countryside let’s see smaller power stations around cities burning waste, secondary bio fuels and other fuels and making use of all the heat generated by connecting up to district heating networks. All new homes built should be on brown field sites joined to such a grid.
If the government doesn’t join up it’s messaging to electricity users with that to generators it risks losing any credibility on climate change when we need leadership from government most. Right now this would be a disaster and would undermine a lot of the good work that Act on CO2 has done on the consumer side. We need to prioritize our actions in such a way that those that reap the greatest reductions in emissions are enacted first. Of course, the biggest polluters must be looked at first and hardest. By wimping out of regulating Europe’s biggest polluters what message is the government sending to us?
The repeated failure of our government to take appropriate action and reign in the power companies gives concerned citizens only one course of action. As Al Gore, Sir David King and a UK jury have made clear civil disobedience is now urgently required. Is it is time to break the law for a higher cause?