Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Turkeys do vote for Christmas

As a mostly vegetarian household, the recent outbreak of bird flu in Suffolk (UK) was seen here as more of a turkey style humanitarian disaster than a threat to the Sunday dinner table. It seems somehow symptomatic of society's cock-eyed view of the world that culling 159,000 turkeys in the interests of protecting human health goes pretty much unquestioned as being a right and proper course of action. Reaction to this bird-flu induced slaughter seems to have been governed here mostly by the inherent self interest of humankind or in some cases a certain sympathy for workers at Bernard Matthews who have been at risk of infection or lost their jobs as a result of the ensuing slump in turkey sales.

Now it's not that I don't appreciate the logic of all this, given the risk of the H5N1 virus mutating into a form capable of wiping millions off the human population, although it might just be one of the less humane but more viable way of reducing carbon emissions. No, my point is who speaks for the turkeys? Especially the one's that weren't infected, that might have been infected or were just at risk of infection. The most I've heard people say is that they were going to be slaughtered anyway, you know it was just like Christmas came a bit early for them. Only the turkeys didn't get a vote. They never do. But if they did, what would they do? Wisdom has it they wouldn’t vote for Christmas and they sure as hell wouldn't vote for it to come early.

Now I may be struggling to make a connection here but the washingqueen made me feel a bit like a turkey voting for Christmas when I signed the online petition on the Number 10 website asking the government to introduce carbon rationing. "Why on earth would you want to do that?" she asked incredulously, "bring all the misery of rationing upon us voluntarily?" "Because if we don't act now…" I began but knew I was wasting my breath. Last time I looked I was one of about two thousand citizens signed up to support this petition. Compare that with close on TWO MILLION people who signed up to protest at the vaguest threat of introducing road pricing in the battle against congestion and transport emissions. Clearly the unimpeded right to use our cars and emit carbon irrespective of greenhouse gases or congestion is far more important. And given all the scientific concensus about the impact of continuing such a business as usual approach, I can only conclude that these two million good citizens really are turkeys voting for Christmas and voting for it to come early. Not only that, but given the irreversible nature of the changes taking place and the fact that the full consequences of our self interested action will be visited upon future generations, we're not just voting for Christmas for ourselves, but casting votes for an early Christmas for our children and grandchildren too. Collectively we seem to have even less sense than the turkeys we slaughter. All the while believing we're acting in our own best interests. What capacity for delusion.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Big feet are getting smaller

Well, the wait is over. After another four years of painstaking research, debate and analysis, the IPCC's Working Group 1 Report has confirmed the climate change threat as real, present, dangerous and almost certainly one of humankind's less clever creations.

Here at the familyecoproject we've undergone similar painstaking research, debate and analysis, drawing on Mayer Hillman's recommendations for calculating your carbon emissions, and concluded (at about the same time as the IPCC) that our carbon footprint is big and shrinking, a bit like the world's glaciers.

Through extensive studies of old utility bills, meter readings and MOT certificates, we have scientifically proven our historical (pre-2006) household carbon shoe size to be 16, the five of us accepting collective responsibility for 16.15 metric tonnes of direct CO2 emissions per year. (although I'm sure most of it is down to the others)

In the last year (to Feb 2007), by freezing to death by day, walking and cycling to keep warm, holidaying more locally, banning incandescent bulbs, draughtproofing doors and windows, and being more careful about leaving appliances on standby, overfilling the kettle and other miserly touches, we've managed to get down to a size 13.

So that's great news isn't it? We've made a 20% reduction in our emissions in a year, way beyond the 3% per year target we set to keep us on course to meet a 60% reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050 as Hillman implored us to do in his book and one of my growing collection of eco-bibles "How to Save the Planet".

The bad news is that with our 2006/7 emissions coming out at 13.01389 tonnes per year, as a household we (well the others mostly) are still emitting some 723kg more than the UK household average which Mayer believes should be working to reduce its emissions to 12.29009 tonnes per year this year, then 3% less than that next year and so on.

In summary we're 20% down but still 6% over average, moving in the right direction but still oversize and need to keep the pressure on. I suppose it's not that surprising given our big (c)old house, rural lifestyle and regular long distance travel for work, but if carbon rationing becomes a reality, and it is a possibility (there's even a petition you can sign to ask the Prime Minister to introduce it), such excuses will count for nothing; we'll need to keep counting the carbon, and address our excess emissions or pay the penalty.

So our first year report says something like well done, some good work but not yet good enough. More effort needed. Keep at it. I don't think the washingqueen will find it too inspirational.