A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times


I've just read yet another newspaper article about the threat of global warming. And last night on TV. Al Gore was warning that it's probably not worth taking out a pension because we'll all have fried or starved or drowned (or something!) long before our 65th birthday. When I was a boy, we were given the threat of nuclear obliteration to keep us awake at night. Now that threat has all-but passed, I suppose they had to find something else to stop us enjoying ourselves.

We're now expected to pay rapt attention to our carbon foot prints, and encouraged to feel guilty if we book a week in Tenerife or drive something which goes faster than we can run.

To be honest, I haven't paid a great deal of attention to of any of it until now - partly because I'm terminally selfish, partly because the scientists don't seem to agree on anything (more about that later) and partly because history shows that climate change is an endemic feature of the planet. Just a few hundred years ago for instance, they were growing grapes on Hadrian’s Wall, but I don't recall reading about any thrice-daily Easyjet flights to Malaga back then.

Why try to mess with the natural order of things
when you don't REALLY know what you're doing?

Anyway, just recently I had a slight change of heart. I decided it was time I did 'my bit'. The motor car is always put forward as one of the main villains of the piece, and so that's where I figured I could make an impact. Big gas guzzling, Carbon Dioxide spewing cars have always been a bit of a passion of mine, but there are wider issues at stake here. Sacrifices have to be made. And so what I decided to do was...

Buy a small fleet of them!

I know what you're thinking - that wouldn't have been your first thought. But that's conventional-wisdom style thinking. What we need to do here is think laterally, outside of the box, and when we do, we find that the more gas guzzlers I can buy, the better.

Let me explain.

I hardly ever buy new cars - not because I can't afford it, but because I don't like the depreciation. So this fleet of cars I'm going to buy will be second hand; there will be no extra new greenhouse gasses created to manufacture them.

But it gets better.

You see, I can only drive one car at a time. So before my timely intervention, these cars were all in the hands of separate owners, all driving and using them regularly. But now they're all sitting in my garage doing nobody any harm, only ever affecting the environment one at a time.

To take this idea to its ultimate conclusion, if I could buy every high carbon emitting vehicle in the country, the environment would be all the better for it. I know that people who sell these cars almost invariably go on to buy something cheaper, more economical, and cleaner (having had their 'fix') so the net effect would be massively positive.

I should get a knighthood at least, I'm sure you'll agree...

And yet I can bet there will still be some unwashed, 'swampy' type hurling abuse from the bus stop as I glide past in a Bentley or a big V12 Aston...doing my bit for the atmosphere. I'll get no thanks from the masses - I just know it.

I'd just got my plan in place, and started thumbing through my back copies of 'Flash Cars For Rich Selfish Bastids Monthly' when I heard a piece of news which renders my plans redundant...

Because it seems that walking does more
harm to the environment than driving.

No, I didn't believe it either when I first read it. My first thought was that it must be a quote from some crank scientist sponsored by the motor industry or Jeremy Clarkson. But no, it actually comes from a leading environmentalist, Chris Goodall, a campaigning author and Green Party Parliamentary candidate. The logic and numbers make fascinating reading...

Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles adds about 0.9kg of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If you walked instead, you would use about 180 calories, and you'd need to eat about 100g of beef to replace those calories. And producing that Beef will result in 3.6kg of carbon dioxide emissions. That's 4 times as much as driving.

Now I know not everyone will replace those lost calories with beef, but the point is well made. Even if you replaced the calories by drinking milk, the emissions are still significantly higher, and whatever you eat, there will be an environmental cost - often higher than that from the car!

To quote Goodall...

"The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better."

He believes (and remember his agenda is an environmental one, not a business or industry one) that food production is a far more important danger than transport, and yet there is no publicity about it.

So why have big cars and aeroplanes become the pariahs while other sources of environmental damage (if you accept that damage is indeed caused) get away scot free?

Well it won't surprise you to learn that envy, class
and money are where the hidden agenda lies.

I recently heard a 'Swampy-ess' being interviewed on local radio. She was on her way to Heathrow to protest against the opening of the new runway at Heathrow on environmental grounds. It was a Wednesday, so she was probably using up her annual holiday from work. I'm sure that's what it would be.

Anyway, part way through the interview she let the cat out of the bag by saying that the problem was being caused by 'the rich' taking lots of flights. This is total baloney of course. I suppose it depends on your definition of rich (this lady may consider anyone to be rich who actually works for a living rather than collecting a Giro once a fortnight) but the rise in air travel is a result of 'the poor' getting access to cheap fares. The 'rich' are pretty thin on the ground and have always flown a lot. The poor are far more plentiful, and their access to regular air travel they can afford, is a more recent phenomenon. Aside from being nonsense though, it shows where the agenda is rooted...

In a desire to stamp out any perceived privilege.

It's the same thing with high emissions cars. Owners tend to be enthusiasts. They don't use them every day (You can only drive one at a time remember) and have something smaller and economical for day to day use. And in any event, the huge cost ensures that they're few and far between and therefore not much of a threat in the overall scheme of things.

But that doesn't matter. They're a sign of wealth and achievement, and therefore fair game to be beaten severely with the environmental stick.

And so we have a situation where an undoubtedly serious issue is hijacked by those with a dubious agenda for their own ends.

The truth is that nobody really knows for sure whether the rise in global temperatures over the last few years is a 'blip' on a very long statistical curve, a systemic change caused by the sort of natural forces that have caused temperature changes in the past, or something new created by the activity of man. And if it's the latter, there's no real agreement or proven knowledge as to where the blame lies, and what needs to be done.

But the media need heroes and villains, they need drama. They need black and white because the masses have a problem coping with grey. They won't buy grey. And they need poor people to buy their newspapers and watch their TV shows. There simply aren't enough rich people to go around. And so they wheel out a succession of 'experts', each with their own vested interest prepared to give them a version of black and white to suit their own personal agendas...

Meanwhile, you and I are pressurised in to feeling guilty for doing things which in all likelihood, are having no significant effect - and maybe no effect at all.

I'm not suggesting for one second that I know what's going on, but what I am suggesting is that if anyone else does, their voice is being lost in a sea of spin, applied vested interest, half truth and downright lies. What comes out the other end is not a close approximation to the facts, it's a manifestation of the opinions views and agendas of those who can shout the loudest.

And the loudest shouts of all come through the mass media...

The purpose of this rant (yes there is one!) isn't to persuade you in favour of one argument or another with regard to global warming. As I've hopefully made clear, I don't have any knowledge beyond the conflicting views both you and I have been exposed to. No, the purpose is to encourage you to question closely where 'your' opinions are routed on the important issues that affect your life. Are they routed in your own research, study and knowledge - or are they little more than a collection of 'sound bites' cobbled together from what the mass media have tossed in your direction?

And if it's the latter, consider this...

How valid and worthwhile do you think those opinions are...shaped as they are, by people who only deal in black and white? Have you ever met a mass media journalist - the people responsible for shaping the opinions of people too idle or incapable to do it themselves? If you had, I think you'd think very hard before taking anything they write seriously.

Have you ever had first-hand knowledge of any story that's been covered by the mass media? I have, on a number of occasions (the first being at age 14 when a teacher in a Geography class I was in got burned by acid left on her chair - no it wasn't me!) and without exception the story has been incorrect in either thrust or detail - and usually both. No matter how simple the story, or how easy the facts were to check, they got it wrong. Often spectacularly wrong.

So if they can't even manage to get the facts right when they're there for the collection, what chance do you think they have when they're far less clear... when there are complex factors to unravel?

Now overlay that with vested interest, political slant and the undoubted pressure to 'sell' the media - whether that be newspapers, magazines or TV shows - and I think you can see that the end product is likely to bear little relation to reality. And it certainly isn't something we should be using to shape our own views and opinions.

Very few of us are immune to this influence though because it's all-pervading. Most of us don't consciously question where our views and opinions have come from. They're just OUR views. But I hope I've given you at least cause to question exactly why you feel the way you do on particular issues - whether that be environmental, political, social or personal.

When you do, I think you'll find yourself at least putting your views and opinions 'on hold' until you have further information, and maybe rejecting them altogether.

P.S Here are some more views and opinions on environmental change which you won't necessarily see heavily pushed in the mass media, but are worth considering when reaching your own conclusions
*The rail safety and standards board recently admitted that catching a train is now twice as polluting as travelling by car for the average family.
*Paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic because of the extra energy needed to manufacture and transport them.
*Disposable nappies are no more harmful to the environment than traditional nappies according to the environment agency. While disposables constitute 0.1% of landfill waste, the cloth variety are a waste of energy, clean water and detergent.
*Diesel trains in rural Britain are more polluting than 4X4 vehicles according to former Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander.
*Organic dairy cows are worse for the environment than non-organic ones. Their methane emissions per litre of milk are significantly higher.
*German scientists have discovered that trees, regarded as a shield against global warming because they absorb carbon, are major producers of methane, a much more harmful greenhouse gas.
*There is no agreement among scientists on the extent of global warming. Some believe it to be grossly exaggerated because of false readings created by local heat retention caused by urban sprawl.
*The benefits of warming are often ignored. In the UK alone for example, every mild winter saves up to 20,000 cold related deaths.
*Data taken from ice core samples shows that temperatures have risen in the past by many times the current rate, and then fallen back in the space of a human lifetime.
*Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been much higher in the past than they are today – and without the man made interventions which are said to be responsible for the current levels.
*Less than 1% of carbon dioxide emissions on the planet comes from fuel to move vehicles…cars, trains, aeroplanes etc.
*Many scientists believe the generally perceived causal relationship between carbon dioxide levels and rises in global temperatures is wrong. Evidence from ice core samples suggests that rises in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have always followed warming rather than preceded it – meaning that the causal relationship may actually be reversed.

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  1. stephie said...
    well done andy but i hate to learn something so early in the morning ! keep up the good work !
    fat girl gone thin said...
    global warming has been great for the new green industry...
    in all seriousness, do you best to wreck the planet, mother nature will adapt, the only losers will be humans...
    mother nature can survive with less oxygen and less water, she is able to evolve faster than humans...
    life is short, do what you feel your conscience can live with...
    Anonymous said...
    hmm... makes sense!

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