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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ethics and carbon

The latest thing in ethical consumerism in the UK seems to be the concept of "food miles", how far your meat and veg etc has to travel to get to the supermarket shelves. A couple of articles have made me stop and think about this a bit more than just superficially and I have come up against what is surely going to be one of many dilemmas in the effort to live a "greener" life.

The first one took me a bit by surprise - the idea that flowers grown in Africa and then flown to the UK actually produce fewer carbon emissions than those grown in say the Netherlands (BBC article). The reason behind this being that you have to heat greenhouses in Holland but not in Africa and that takes a lot of energy to do to produce flowers for Valentine's Day.

Having read that article, the following BBC news story didn't surprise me all that much; farmers in Kenya are worried about the reaction of supermarkets in the UK to consumers who want to reduce food miles. Their livelihoods are at whim of a fickle public it would seem.

So the dilemma is "do I buy local food or not care how far it's flown?". Assume for the moment that I want to reduce my carbon footprint, then there's no point simply putting the number of miles on the packet of beans. That could in fact give you the wrong idea entirely and increase your carbon output! If it's going to be labelled it will have to be the entire amount of carbon produced in growing and transporting the beans (and making the packaging).

Then assume that I am also a person who is concerned for the well-being of the farmers growing the food. Should I be more concerned about the farmers in one country at the expense of those in another? Farming is not an easy business wherever you are, I suppose the argument is that farmers in the UK (for example) have alternative job opportunities whereas farmers in Africa might not be so fortunate (but then if there were no farmers at all in the UK that probably wouldn't be good either - makes me think of the Golgafrinchams in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who shipped out all the middlemen in their society, including the telephone sanitisers, only to be wiped out by a virulent disease spread on unsanitised telephones. Admittedly the farmers would probably have been deemed of true value and got to stay on Golgafrincham, but I can't help thinking a country which doesn't produce any of its own food is asking for trouble).

So I have come to the conclusion that I will not worry so much about whether the food I buy comes from far-flung locations nor will I worry that I am taking someone's livelihood away if the vegetables I'll be planting in the garden this year actually grow big enough for me and Kav to eat. Hopefully that should keep everybody happy!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I confess....

Yes, this is me.....A BBC article on how germ ridden your keyboard can get.....

"Lead researcher Professor Charles Gerba found that 75% of female employees kept food in their work area. He said: "I thought for sure men would be 'germier'. I was really surprised how much food there was in a woman's desk.
If there's ever a famine, that's the first place I'll look for food.""

The last bit has to be the quote of the day!! :-)

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Via China and back?

So I was doing my usual daily flick through my blogroll to see what was new and once again I clicked on Fuddland to check out how David is doing in China. Today I waited 45 seconds for the page to appear - it is usually closer to 30 seconds. It is quite incredible that of all the blogs on my blogroll, two are ostensibly UK based and one of those takes from 30-45 seconds longer to appear than any of the US blogs I read. Why is that?

Hey David, are you hosting your blog in China as well as living there?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dragged in again

More like diving in.

I have got to stop reading political blogs. Especially those that touch upon climate change. My problem is that I get easily irritated when I see that someone is either misrepresenting something or has misunderstood something and i want to correct it. This invariably leads to further discussion on the topic with different opinions offered and alternative views of the facts.

This is no bad thing, but one thing I have learned from debating climate change online is that if you are talking to a doubter (for want of a better word) it is impossible to persuade them otherwise. For many it is a political issue, right versus left, and it is impossible to see outside of the dogmatic and partisan field of view. For others it is the conspiracy theory angle (see Michael Crichton) where those who believe that man is at least partly responsible for the changes in climate we witness today are part of a giant hoax.

I have yet to be let in on what the aim of the conspiracy/hoax is all about. I am not sure what power the climate scientists intend to pull to themselves. is it more funding? Surely if they are all systematically fabricating research in order to generate funding it would have been blown wide open by now. Also if the 'world' decides that there really is a consensus on the science surely that is reason to cut funding - most of the work has been done and 'proved'. Perhaps they are all being played by someone else, politicians who want to grab power for themselves or environmentalists who desperately want us all to live in mud huts again.

I just don't know. I'm obviously not on the mailing list.

Either way online debate is pretty much pointless, especially when the media and politicians undermine the science by reducing important findings to soundbites that overstress and overreach the originating science. A simple example is Global Warming - this phrase has been beaten to death because people have simplistic expectations: if the planet gets warmer on average then it must get hotter here in my home town! Now if someone like me tries to use the less loaded phrase 'climate change' it gets mocked for trying to have it both ways.

It is a dead end.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sugar overload!

In a desperate quest for chocolate at the weekend I dug into one of my Christmas presents for something good to make. I went to the fantastic looking quadruple chocolate cake in Nigella Lawson's "Feast" book. The recipe went fine and then we tasted it. OH MY GOD!!!! I could barely take more than a bite because it's so intensely sweet (and that was before I put the required chocolate syrup on top)!!! To be fair I can't handle very sweet things, my body's got the hang of saying "wait a minute that's no good for you" before I get too far these days, but even Kav agreed. So if you love sweet things this is the one for you!! It's back to my grandma's recipe for chocolate cake next time for me!

Friday, February 02, 2007

As I predicted...

Well okay, I did not predict it here on this blog but if you ask people in 'real life' who know me then they will tell you that I predicted this. Okay if you ask my wife and some of my colleagues, okay?

I am talking about complaints about last Sunday's edition of TopGear. They showed Richard Hammond's crash and I said that I bet some people will complain even though he survived and was sitting there commentating on it. That has now turned out to be the case:

The handling of Richard Hammond's return to Top Gear
has been branded "insensitive" and "insulting" by a charity for people
with brain injury.

Headway said it had been inundated with complaints particularly over comments made by presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

At the start of Sunday's show, Mr Clarkson asked Mr Hammond if he was mental, while James May offered him a tissue in case he started dribbling.

The BBC said the show was not intended to cause any offence.

Now I actually do have some sympathy here; I can understand how the comments made by May and Clarkson could easily be construed as insulting to those living with the effects of serious head injuries, though it was clearly humerous banter.

However, my sympathies began to severly wane when I saw this from headway chief executive Peter McCabe:

"I think the whole way the show handled the issue was wrong. They should not have shown the crash.

"It just glamorised fast driving and gives the impression people can make a fully(sic) recovery from head injuries.

"That is not always the case."

"It gives the impression people can make a fully (sic) recovery fromhead injuries". Hmmm. Sorry to burst your bubble Mr McCabe but people can and do make a full recovery. Mr Hammond was living and commentating proof of that as the crash was shown.

Now to be fair you probably meant to say that it gave the impression that people always make a full recovery (as suggested by your next sentence) which is clearly not the case. If that is so then I have to say that I have grave misgivings over whether you watched the show at all, because to my mind it did not give that impression and nor did it glamorise driving fast. It simply was. What is more comments made throughout indicated how lucky Hammond was. My wife and I watched not with glee and excitement but with something approaching shock that Hammond actually survived the incident. Mr McCabe must have been unaware of how much publicity surrounded the incident and Hammond's subsequent recovery since he thinks that viewers will not realise how close to death and serious brain damage Richard Hammond was.

Perhaps if you are worried about glamorising fast driving you would support a ban on all land-speed attempts in purpose built vehicles? how about a ban on all motor-sport which depends upon driving fast and in the case of Formula 1 is pushed as glamourous? perhaps that is too draconian, maybe you would just prefer that they were never shown on TV?

Top Gear is an easy target and has become the bete noir of certain folk who are far too interested in what you and I watch since we are incapable of understanding the context of what we are shown. In this case, we are clearly incapable of understanding the words that were uttered by the people involved.

As I said, I can sympathise with those offended at the humour used by the presenters and can fully understand why some would take offence but the posturing over the actual showing of the crash is quite frankly pathetic. If you did not want to watch it, there was an off-switch on
your TV. Try using it.