Archive for category CO2 and the media

Today is World Environment Day, but don’t expect the Media to tell us about it

One of my favourite and most despairing rants over the last couple of years has been about how little attention we pay in the UK to the official days set up to raise awareness about environmental issues. Maybe it’s a reaction to the fact that many such past ‘events’ have just gone ‘phutttt’ and not had the desired or expected effect (in this country at any rate), but whatever the reason, the media pretty much never seems to support these events, which in itself means that they never have the effect they could have.

Today is World Environment day. I put this in my diary a year ago so that I wouldn’t forget to see if anything had changed over the last 12 months. Last year I commented that in the UK little or no noise had been made or was being made on the day - in fact it was hardly possible to find a mention in the newspapers. I even contacted the guys at UNEP to ask them whether they felt there was a good reaction to it here in the UK. They replied that there had been unprecedented interest at a ground roots level, but I was still surprised by the lack of mention in the media.

This morning, every hopeful, I therefore did a tour of the websites of our beloved newspapers. This is what I found:

  • The Times: no mention on the home page, no mention on the Environment home page
  • The Guardian: ditto
  • The Telegraph: Nothing that I could find
  • The Independent: same again
  • The Daily Mail: ha ha….
  • The Sun: wait a minute, I’ve found something! Of all the papers to actually take notice, the good old ‘currant bun’ has picked up on it with a link from the home page, and even an image, leading to this article. Ok, so it’s typically tongue in cheek, but at least they’ve atually sat up and taken notice!

But that’s it… A sorry state of affairs as far as I’m concerned, because I truly believe that we need to shout about the environment whenever possible, and that every time we do shout, we pick up a few more people willing to do their bit and work on reducing our CO2 emissions. Without the support of the media, the task of shouting becomes that much more difficult.

So I will once more put World Environment Day in my diary for next year, but this time I’m going to put in a warning one week before, and I’m going to shout about it. In fact I’m going to shout about it to all of the newspapers, and maybe, just maybe, even my little voice will have an effect. Here’s hoping.

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MP suggests cars carry ‘climate health warnings’ - maybe someone’s listening

It’s very rare that I am impressed by a UK MP’s ideas or statements on Climate Change, but for once, someone has raised their voice and come up with something sensible. MP Colin Challen, chair of the all-party climate change group has come up with the idea of government health warnings on all car adverts, pointing out that they are damaging to our health and to our climate, and that consumers are being misled by the ‘green’ message now being given out in many ads, suggesting to some extent that they are now good for the environment.

Ok, maybe this is a bit far, but I’m still happy to see someone pointing out - if in a bit more extreme manner - that car manufacturers are getting away with selling cars without highlighting the negative effect they do have on the environment. I’m especially happy as it’s a subject I have brought up before, although my suggestion is slightly less extreme - that all car ads in all formats should display as clearly as possible the CO2 emissions generated by the car in question.

It has got better - most posters and magazine ads do now include CO2 emissions figures (in very small print), but TV ads still blatantly avoid the subject. In fact, I’d love to do a test with a panel of consumers to get them to estimate the actual CO2 emissions of a series of cars based on the message from their ads.

And that’s the point. It’s not clear, and something needs to be done to ensure that we make educated decisions. I don’t think we need great big ‘CARS CAN KILL THE PLANET’ health warnings - this is the ‘THE END IS NIGH’ approach to getting people to reduce CO2 emissions, and it puts out more backs than it encourages people. However, the fact that someone influential is pointing out the absence of any clear message on CO2 emissions in many car ads is a step in the right direction.

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If there’s one thing you do in March, go see The Age of Stupid

I first read about it a while ago, but now it’s really here, and time to create a buzz. The Age of Stupid, a full-length docu-drama about climate change, has its ‘people’s premiere’, showing simultaneously in cinemas across the country on the 15th of March.

The film, brainchild of Franny Armstrong, and Executive Produced by the energetic, Oscar-winning John Battsek, stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in a climate change wracked 2055, looking back at ‘archive’ footage of 2007 and asking the obvious question: why didn’t we do something when we had the chance?

I haven’t seen the film yet, but will absolutely go - and pay to do so as its highly original business model needs all the support we can give it. I have no doubt, however, that the reviews from a huge range of people speak the truth when they say it is a movie that has to be seen.

There are those who complain about the ’scare-tactics’ of climate campaigners, saying that this approach is more likely to get us turned-off than inspired. From the various clips I have seen of The Age of Stupid, I think that this film is more cerebral than that. It’s not just pointing out that the way we live today could bring about major climate change. It’s also pointing out quite how unnecessary, inefficient and abusive to our planet our way of life is.

Anyway, here’s the trailer as a taster. From May the 1st onwards, you can organise your own screening to raise money for your own green causes, and I for one will be encouraging every one I know to watch.


The Age of Stupid: final trailer, Feb 2009 HD from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

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World Environment Day - a reply

As I mentioned in my last article on World Environment Day, I posted a question on the United Nations Environment Programme web site voicing my disappointment on the media coverage for WED in the UK, and asking about media support for such events.

Here is my question, and also the reply I received from Naomi Poulton, who was actively involved in the organisation of WED:

Hi Naomi

I only learned about WED today, and find that the coverage of such an important day has still been ‘underwhelming’ - at least in the UK Media. I’m disappointed I didn’t know sooner as I would have found an active way to take part.

Do you find that you get the support you need from the media in communicating about this event, or is it still a battle to get the coverage you deserve?

 Here’s Naomi’s answer:
 
I am sorry you have found the coverage of World Environment Day ‘underwhelming’ in the UK. We have actually found that this year there has been unprecedented interest in the theme, ‘Kick the Habit. Towards a Low Carbon Economy’ and that the interest has been global. Long before the actual day, we have had individuals, companies and communities anxious to use our WED logo and promotional material and to support our activities in many ways. If you look at the WED site under activities around the world you will see some of the interest. The UK, for example, has about 40 entries nationwide. Indeed, although the main event was held in Wellington, New Zealand this year, we have had coverage by most of the major wires such as Reuters, AFP, Bloomberg and AP and in relation to the UK, there has been pick-up by the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent, and we hope many others.
I think that we will see more coverage once the ‘magazine’ and radio media undertake feature articles on some of the European WED events that have taken place in Paris, Vienna, Bonn and Geneva to supplement the Wellington event. I do believe we may lose some coverage in that the media pick up on the theme of WED and don’t necessarily refer to UNEP at the same time. The connection to UNEP or the UN is occasionally not made but we are pleased if the ‘message’ gets out.Finally, although you may have missed out on activities on the DAY, you have the rest of your life to work towards reducing your own carbon footprint and to encouraging others to work towards a low carbon lifestyle. Thank you.

A reasonable reply, and I’m happy to see that Naomi backs up the title of my last article: Every Day is World Environment Day. Still, I’m not sure if she fully picked up on the key point I was making, which was that there is not enough ‘teasing’ of these events. There was good coverage on the day, and I have even seen some since, but what you really need to see is what you get when a new film comes out or a new music cd - articles all about the ‘event’ as much as a month before, building up awareness, getting more people involved, etc. I read at least 3 different newspapers on a daily basis as well as regularly browsing the BBC, and I saw nothing about WED until the day.

Anyway as I said, it’s in the diary now for next year, with a week’s warning too, so I at any rate will start teasing it in. In fact, I think I’m going to build up a diary of all ‘Environment’ events and set up a free teaser service. If I can get word out there, it might start to make a difference, so do let me know about any events I should note down.

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Today is World Environment Day… but so is every day

Today is World Environment Day, another day, another attempt to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and to get people and governments to take action. Awareness? Once more I didn’t know a thing about it until….. today!

I learnt about the event at around 9.15 am this morning when reading one of the free papers on the tube on the way into work. Just a small article, and nothing telling me how I could get involved, or if I could get involved. On looking it up on the web from work this lunchtime I discovered that the day is being hosted by New Zealand. Or should I say was, because of course in New Zealand, the day is already over!

I also learnt that WED has been going for a long time - since 1972 in fact, and that there are events taking place all over the world, and quite a few in the UK, to mark it. What surprises me, however, is that I knew absolutely nothing about it, and I am an avid consumer of all things media, especially if it’s about the environment. There has been no lead up to the day, no-one has contacted me, my friends and family, or my company about doing something, and now it’s too late.

I have two thoughts arising from this:

  1. The environment has become an almost daily topic of discussion for almost everyone. We are all beginning to understand that it is important that we all do our bit, whether we believe that the world is in trouble or not. It’s just common sense. Days like World Environment Day are an opportunity to raise awareness even further, but they are just not getting the publicity they need, even when organised by powerful global organisations such as the United Nations. This needs to change, and the people responsible for communications within these organisations need to look at the reasons why the message is not yet getting out there as it should. Maybe they should worry less about the ‘official’ media channels, and make use of other powerful communications such as the blogosphere?
  2. On the other hand, shouldn’t every day be World Environment Day? I am of course a fan of any event that gets the CO2 reduction message out to as many people as possible, but to me this message, and the simple things we can do to reduce emissions, should become a part of our everyday lives. If we keep a few basic actions in mind at all times, it becomes so easy to make a difference - and to save money too, and then these ‘event’ days become about something else: a chance for all the people who understand the issue to place more pressure on their governments who still seem reluctant to take the necessary action.

Anyway, now I know about it, I’ll put it in the diary for next year (done - that’s the wonder of digital diaries). In the meantime, if you want to know more, why not visit the official World Environment Day site. I’ve also posted a question for Naomi Poulton, a member of UNEP who is answering questions about the day. I’ve asked her whether she feels they get the media support they need to publicise WED and other events. I will update this article with her reply as and when I get it.

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Tomorrow is Earth day…. did you know?

Coming in on to work on the train this morning, I read in my free morning paper - you know, the one that ends up clogging up the bottom of escalators - that tomorrow is Earth Day. Oooh goodie, I thought to myself, some action is going to be taken, some messages are going to be communicated, maybe some good will come of this.

So I went onto the web to find out more….and found, well not much at all. From what I can see, Earth Day is big in a few countries - America above all - but not very many at all. Once again, an event that, by name at least, could have global consequences, is going to pass of unnoticed by most people in most countries.

This doesn’t mean there’s no point to what’s happening. Every action by an individual, a town, a city, or a country, is a step forward. I just find it frustrating that, as we are all concerned by the problem, we seem unable to ALL get together to address it.

So how can we organise one, global event, however simple? Answers on a stamped addressed envelope please. Or on this blog, of course!

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Energy Saving Day - E-Day: what a waste of a good opportunity

I don’t know how many of you know, but today is E-day. Well actually, E-day runs from 6pm yesterday till 6pm today.

It was the brainchild of scientist Matt Prescott, who wanted to launch a day of action against climate change to replace the BBC’s Planet Relief day, which was cancelled as it was considered too political. Sponsored by the energy companies, who are providing a live power consumption feed, and launched yesterday evening with a speech by the Bishop of London in St Paul’s Cathedral, and the screening of short movies in a bicycle powered cinema, the goal of E-day is for individuals and businesses to turn off everything run by electricity that they don’t need in order to show how easy it is to reduce our power consumption and thus reduce CO2 emissions.

First point: until I saw the piece on bbc.co.uk today there has been absolutely no marketing that I have seen anywhere to tell people that this day was happening. How do they think an event like this is ever going to work if it has no media support? It makes me think of Wayne’s World 2 – ‘Build it, and they will come’. Clearly they have not turned up in this case, as no one has been talking about this event.

Second point: they have put a special live feed on their web site - http://www.e-day.org.uk/index.thtml, which is also on the BBC web site, though thankfully hidden away, that shows a typical day’s consumption compared with today’s consumption, in order to illustrate how much power we are saving. Guess what? Pretty much all of today, power consumption has been HIGHER than on a typical day!

In their blurb on the site, the guys from E-day say ‘E-Day will finish at 6pm on Thurs 28 Feb. The total savings of money, energy and carbon associated with E-Day will then be calculated and made available in time of the evening news bulletins.’ Right now, the evening bulletins will either be saying nothing at all, or they will be pointing out how this is a complete and utter failure.

This is the perfect illustration of why tracking can be dangerous. It’s great to sell in an idea to a client with the added message of ‘we will measure everything to show you how much money we’ve made you.’, but it can come back to bite you if the project fails, with the client saying ‘well basically your tracking tells me that you owe me £x!!’. Basically the whole project will have proved…. nothing.

If I’d known about this a while ago – ie if it had been well covered in the press and other media – I might have suggested we try to do something at the company I work for. As it is, I find myself reacting like too many other people who still regard this as ‘somebody else’s problem’, thinking ‘what effect am I going to have, when obviously no one else is doing anything about the problem’.

 

There are now 15 minutes until the end of E-day, and after a brief dip into the ‘green’, we are again using more electricity than on a typical day as estimated by the power companies. OK, their estimates are just estimates, but its amazing how the curve of real consumption has mirrored that of estimated consumption throughout these 24 hours - all the while sticking just above. I’ve had a look on the Facebook page set up for the event, and the comments are the same there - ‘What a pity I only heard about this today!’.

 

Events like this can have a good effect, and can prove something. However they need to be organised properly and communicated properly. I don’t know how much money was invested in E-day, but I can guarantee that the CO2 emmissions generated by organising it have unfortunately exceeded those saved. What a waste.

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Is The Sun now lighting your house, or did you rely on B&Q?

Last Saturday, The Sun newspaper ran an ambitious promotion in conjunction with Southern Electricity. The deal was that for every copy of the paper purchased on that day in certain stores, you were given 2 free low energy light bulbs. The goal, according to the paper, was to give away a total of 4.5 million lightbulbs, thus encouraging many more people to switch at least some of their bulbs and so save electricity and reduce CO2 emissions.

I thought this was a great idea, and so did the public apparently. At any rate, when I managed to get to Sainsburys at around midday on Saturday, there were no bulbs left, and the story was the same across the street at Woolworths, where there was a big sign saying ‘No more Sun lightbulbs’. I am yet to see any details on the success of the operation - nothing in the paper today, but I hope they did hit their target. If not, then they owe me 2 lightbulbs!

I didn’t encounter the same problem the week before, when Londoners were able to take one conventional lightbulb to any London B&Q and exchange it for two energy-saving lightbulbs. This time there were still enough when I turned up, but then the promotion lasted for 3 days and was sponsored by Ken Livingstone, so I suppose it couldn’t be allowed to fail.

Anyway, just in case this becomes a regular occurrence, I have decided to set up ‘bulbwatch’. Basically I will keep my eyes open for any opportunities to get free bulbs, and will publish them on this site. If we’re lucky, maybe we won’t have to buy any more bulbs at all!

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The Sun is greener than we thought…

No, not the great big yellow thing in the sky, but the newspaper. Following my piece in september on UK Newspapers’ coverage of climate change issues, I am pleased to add The Sun to the list of those newspapers that DO have a ‘green’ section.

Called ‘Go Green’, this section brings together all the articles that appear or have appeared recently in The Sun on climate change, starting with their build up to Live Earth. And, I’m pleased to say, it seems that they must be reading Reduce Your CO2 as they have put together a series of tips to help Sun readers reduce their emissions. Ok, so it’s done in typical Sun fashion - ‘Keeley Hazell’s 10 green tips’ are presented by a topless Sun model, and with the message focusing on keeping emissions down whilst improving - what else - your sex life - but it’s a start.

It’s easy to criticise the tabloids and their approach to communication, but the fact is that millions of people read them, and, when they have an important message to get over, they get it over loud and clear, and people listen. As far as I’m concerned, The Sun can start off with a tongue in cheek approach, but at least they have started to communicate, and you can guarantee that when they decide to get people to take serious action, they have the potential to be a serious force in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions. There - I’ve stuck my neck out. Let’s see if they deliver over the next few years!

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Congratulations Al Gore, the recognition is well deserved

Al Gore has been in the news even more than usual of late.

A UK school governor (and, incidentally, a member of a political group) went to court to try to stop copies of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ being used in schools throughout the UK as a teaching aid, as he considered it inaccurate and politically biased. At the second time of asking, a judge ruled that the film could still be distributed, as long as the accompanying notes are modified to take into account “nine significant errors” in the film.

And then today, more significantly, Mr Gore was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with the UN Climate change panel, in recognition of his work to raise awareness on climate change.

For many, the jury has always been out on Gore. There have been lots of comments of him using climate change to make money, to further his political career, etc. Many have accused him of scaremongering and using incorrect facts based on inaccurate research. In short, he is not universally acclaimed for his work, and some actively disagree with what he has done and is doing, and complain about the co2 emissions he generates, jetting around the world to give speeches for which he is allegedly paid huge amounts of money.

I for one am more than happy to put my full support behind him and to say that I totally agree with the Nobel Prize committee. The biggest battle that we have today in the battle to reduce CO2 emissions is communication. As I have mentioned previously, human beings are naturally fickle, and need a real slap in the face before they understand that there actually is a problem. Since many of us remain immune to the effects of climate change (if a little bit warmer than we should be for the 12th october), it is more difficult for us to comprehend exactly what is waiting for us if we don’t take action and right now.

Al Gore has used his contacts and his powerful position to communicate on a level that very few people can. Globally, via an oscar-winning film, and in presentations given all over the world. I reckon that there are many people today who know about Al Gore and his mission to fight global warming, but that don’t even know that he was once the next president of the  USA!

Ok, so his facts aren’t perfect, although some of the 9 points highlighted by the judge are themselves pretty nit-picky in my opinion. But at least he’s trying, he’s out there, and he has undoubtedly had a dramatic effect on global awareness. Yes, it is possible that he will turn round any day now and say ‘actually, I think I will run for President’, and he will probably get in too, Nobel Prize and all, and many people will attack him saying that he just used ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ to make money and win the Presidency.  But he will still have made sure that millions more people now know about the importance of taking action to reduce CO2 emissions, and he will undoubtedly continue the fight.

So many congratulations Mr Gore, and long may you continue the good work. If, one day, this little site could be visited by 1/10th of the people who have watched your film or seen you speak, I would be a very happy person, and would think that maybe Reduce Your CO2 is also fulfilling the invaluable role of telling the world to take action now and not tomorrow.

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