Friday, October 23, 2009

Superfreak! Superfreak!

The chapters of new book Superfreakonomics on climate change (saying we should simply blow aerosols in the atmosphere rather than try to cut carbon) has caused a swift backlash from climatologists - check out this and this.

One thing that bugs me about "the climate change debate" is that everyone thinks they know better than the experts - I don't go to the dentist if I need brain surgery...

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Should greens buy eco-homes?

From an ecological point of view my house is rubbish. It was built 110 years ago when the ventilation to prevent rot was seen as more important than energy efficiency, it has solid brick walls, it is the northern one of a pair of semis and it is down in a dip where the sun seldom strikes when we need it in the depth of winter. We have done what we can to improve it from a carbon point of view - blocking holes in the wall, replacing single with triple glazing, doubling the attic insulation and adding some to smaller roof cavities, upgrading the boiler and putting in a solar hot water system, but I doubt the house has a better carbon footprint than a well made modern house. I have a dream of building my own zero carbon home, but the question remains, why don't I move into a well built modern home? My personal carbon footprint would be instantly cut.

The simple answer is location, location, location. I live within walking/cycling distance of the city centre in a wooded river valley where I can hear the owls cry in the night. You can't beat that on many levels.

But, more importantly, would a non-green have lavished the eco-love (and money!) on this house that it needed? Probably not, and while I was tucked up in a modern house feeling smug, someone would be sitting in this one, complaining about the fuel bill, while the inefficient boiler pumped out the carbon.

So, with a huge number of poorly performing houses out there, there is a strong argument that greens should buy houses with a huge carbon footprint and do their best to cut that footprint as much as possible, going above and beyond what a home owner would normally do. Then Joe and/or Jo Public can buy a modern house and have a lower carbon footprint by default. Everyone's a winner!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Bunny boilers...

... the Swedes have come up with a solution to having too many rabbits and not enough renewable energy... those with a delicate disposition may want to skip this one!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Like father, like son...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chop chop!

My arms are aching today from chopping the four large logs I've had in the back yard for about three years - they were 'rescued' from some local tree surgery. Well, I got a neighbour with a chainsaw to cut them, then I split them in four with a large axe, so they're not quite a carbon neutral fuel. If they were recently felled green wood I would leave them for a year to 'season', but these seemed to have dried out well during their wait, so I'll try them out in the new year. I should have enough wood from previous years to last until then - we only use our wood burner on really cold nights.

Also yesterday I did the final hedge trim of the year which filled up much of the compost heap. The problem now will be getting enough high nitrogen material to help the woody stems to rot - not much grass from now on in, so it will mainly be the odd widdle... I made sure that I left some parts of the hedge rough and left some leaves for the micro-fauna.

I also fixed my wormery whose tap I had managed to knock off some time ago - so little or no liquid worm food this year, although we'll still get the lovely wormcast to top dress the flower beds in the winter. Once I've made sure they've got enough food for the winter, I'll bubble wrap the container to keep the frost off.

Just another Sunday in the life of an eco-liver (or lifer!)... by the way, is it just me or are the leaves staying on the trees much longer this year?

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I'm on a train back up to Newcastle after a couple of day's work in London. Hardly slept last night as it was so sticky.

Sticky? In October?

I was sleeping under a single sheet with the window open. And yes, the heating was off.

Funny how a bit of snow back in February brought the denial brigade out to play. What do they say now?

(actually neither event proves anything - could just be freak weather - you have to look at the trends, but still...)

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Blooming obvious

A little obsession of mine this year has been keeping colour in the garden all year round to support a healthy insect population and, in turn, birds too. The easy way to do this is any time the garden is looking a little green, go to the garden centre. They tend to sell whatever's in bloom at the time as it looks nice and you tend to buy it. Obvious, isn't it, but it took me long enough to work out!

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Franny Armstrong on 10:10

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Personal journeys

I was running a sustainability workshop for the executive board of a major client yesterday. Despite there only being 7 (sometimes 8) people in the room, the reactions were honest and varied. Initially one attendee said "this is nothing to do with me" and another "we're all going to hell on a handcart and there's nothing we can do about it" - the two extremes of denial. By the end of the session, both these people (and their colleagues) were fired up to act, but there wasn't a neat progression - the buy-in ebbed and flowed like waves on a rising tide. While one person made a step forward, another would be retracting slightly, but overall the motion was in the right direction.

It struck me on the train on the way home that we're all on a personal journey when it comes to sustainability, climate change and all the rest. There is a tendency for those who 'get it' to berate those who don't. This will achieve nothing, or worse, push people into a more defensive position. We need to help people find the way forward, make them feel comfortable with what they are doing and confident to make the next steps.

So as well as working on our own footprint, it is essential to bring someone with us.

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