Nudged into not wasting

It can take a serious nudge to get people to do things that modern living has sanctioned as not necessary, such as not wasting anything. Covid-19 and impending climate change have been nudging me. I’ve also been nudged – or prodded – by experiencing a self-inflicted reduced income. Over the years, I’ve been pretty good at not wasting, but a few things have found their way into my bins.

I am a big fan of brocolli. I do not recall it actually existing when I was growing up, but it is ubiquitous now. That stalk has always been a bit of a problem. In to the bin, out of sight, has been its normal fate. In recent weeks, I’ve been eating it. Largely in soups. This one on the left has a couple of stalks in it, plus a load of celery that was beyond crunch, put perfectly nutrious. Also in there is pepper, onion, silken tofu and, of course, water. It looks a bit anaemic, but it does the job. I think a good pot adds to it. This one from a ceramacist working out of Beverley in East Yorkshire. Her name currently escapes me. I’m a bit of a sucker for ceramics.

If you want to know more about not wasting food, this is Alex Andreou talking sense.

My new photographic project

I got out my Minolta X-300 (left) the other day. There was a film in it; about 10 frames left. Having been on strike for part of the previous month, a bit of photography, I thought, would be cathartic. I took a few pictures of fellow strikers, but pictures of marches are not really very interesting. On this blog I have managed to get quite a following around my photographs of cigarette posters over the last 8 years. One aspect of that is how ephemeral they are. A campaign poster can be up for as little as a fortnight, and then it is gone. So I have captured a record of something that is no more; though the original plan was simply to ridicule the concept of cigarette advertising, not to create a repository of advertising posters. But there you go.

It made me think about other ephemeral things in society. I wish, probably like many others, that I had captured more images of normal life throughout my time (I’m now 55) living in the UK; many of the things that we thought were permanent were not. And things are still changing. I gave some thought to the ephemerality around me. What have I taken for granted and may disappear in the not too distant future? The answer, pillar boxes! So, I began photographing pillar boxes. For those of you reading from abroad, a pillar box is a place to post letters – essentially, hand them over to the post office to deliver to whoever. A service very much in decline.

ER Pillar box, Marina, Hastings, 13 March, 2020

I discovered that many of the very solid steel ones are being replaced. There is an old grand post office building here in Hastings, UK (right) where the boxes have been replaced by much smaller versions reflecting less traffic but also the relocation of the main post- office counter. So, I think, perhaps, that it is about time that I captured the variety of pillar boxes with my camera. However, that does not seem enough. Then I came up with the idea that I should try to combine pillar boxes and another passion of mine – and something else that is ephemeral – buses. I’ve started with the shot (left). With a film camera, it is tougher than it looks. The bus passes a pace, the light has to be sufficient and in the right place. But as a first effort, I’m quite pleased with the result.

Climate Watch: the EU’s Climate Law

The new EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyan, and her deputy, Frans Timmermans (left), are championing climate change. There is a Green Deal for Europe which will facilitate the creation of a sustainable new growth model. The Deal’s critics range from activists like Greta Thunberg and climate scientists Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a former vice-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Van Ypersele argues that the deal does not seek to keep temperatures below the 1.5 degrees agreed at Paris in 2015. Indeed, he argued, that the EU should be pushing for carbon neutrality by 2040 rather than 2050.

With that in mind, how do we explain the EU’s lack of ambition, for want of a better term? Could it be the fossil-fuel lobby? Aude Massiot, writing in the Guardian, has identified the lobbyists and their targets, and they are uncomfortably close to one another. Guido Bortoni, Croatia’s environment minister, current holder of the EU presidency, goes to his mailbox and finds a dinner invitation from MEPs part of the European Energy Forum (EEF), headed by Jerzy Buzek (right), a MEP for the European People’s party (EPP). He’s a former prime minister of Poland, a former president of the European parliament and chairs the industry research and energy committee. The forum has associate membership – with a €7,000 a year in membership fee. There are 82 of these all from the oil and gas sector. And dinner is sponsored by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP). No journalists, no NGOs. The IOGP’s access is seamless. On 17 December it met Ditte Juul Jorgensen, the head of DG Energy; though seemingly other EU directorates are equally accessible.

Prior to this dinner IOGP spent €350,160 in 2018 lobbying in Brussels. The real lobby costs are much higher, perhaps as much as €250m. Thinktanks are common vehicles for influencing legislation. In this case the favoured thinktank was the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). Lobby breakfasts have been attended by key policy makers such as Timmermans who is directly responsible for the composition of the law. Moreover, the lobbyists often have accreditation to the European Parliament building. Also watch out for this year’s Eurogas conference on 19 March in Brussels; the keynote speaker will be Kadri Simson (above left), the energy commissioner. It will be interesting to see what she has to say about the industry.

Massiot calls this “revolving doors”. Former officials of the EU becoming lobbyists and vice-versa; for example, Jean-Arnold Vinois (below right) is energy policy adviser at the Jacques Delors Institute. Delors, for course, was a former EC president and so the thinktank that bears his name seems to be respectable enough. However, Vinois is also an honorary director for energy at the commission and a consultant at FleishmanHillard, another Brussels-based lobby organisation. FeeishmanHillard has an interesting customer portfolio; including, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), Gas Naturally and Fuels Europe all rather interested in keeping things just as they are.

For readers looking for indicators of scepticism and keeping things as they are, any firm or lobbyist suggesting the carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a solution, should be a clue. CCS has potential, no doubt. But it is only potential and has insufficient capacity and scalability to make much of an impression in carbon emission totals towards 2030. Eurogas is, notes Massiot, working closely with the Global CCS Institute to promote the technology and conceivably divert resources away from reducing carbon emissions toward an unproven and unrealisable technological fix. The fix is simple: reduce carbon emissions, keep fossil fuels in the ground, consume less and stop deforestation and promote reforestation.

Pictures: Timmermans, European Parliament from EU

Jerzy Buzek, Euku – Own work

Kadri Simson – subject’s own work, Wikipedia –

Jean-Arnold Vinois – screen grab from youtube:





Onshore wind turbines again supported by the British Government

Out of the blue – at least for me – comes the news that the British Government is lifting its opposition to subsidising onshore wind turbines in support of meeting carbon emission targets. In order to meet those targets, it is estimated that onshore wind turbines will need to triple in number in the next 15 years. Wind turbines are unloved by Conservatives but are the cheapest and cleanest source of renewable energy. Whilst projects can now compete for funding against other renewable sources, it is not clear how the planning system will accommodate the change.

Picture: Erik Wilde from Berkeley, CA, USA – harvesting wind

Built-in obsolescence

Here’s my Russel Hobbs iron (left). The cable is wearing and exposing the live wires within. The fix should be to rewire it. But it is well-and-truly sealed. No way in. I know they would say it is a safety feature, but I cannot even take it to an electrician to fix it. It is, essentially, waste.


Darning socks

When I was growing up, my grandmother used to knit my socks. I did think it was very uncool to wear knitted socks. Even worse, when a hole appeared, my mother darned the hole. My feet were always warm. And as a child, sartoriality was not much of a factor.

Today I have darned my own socks. Two motivations; first, the environment. It the past, holes such as those (left) would have warranted disposal. Against the backdrop of climate change, darning them is now just another one of those Sunday tasks. Second, I am on strike. This is knocking quite a hole in my finances. Repairing saves money. And quite a bit. It is not just about buying another pair of socks. I do not think I ever go to the shop and buy only what I intended to buy. The solution is not to go to the shops at all!


Climate Watch – airport expansion

It’s always worth an appeal, or challenge. There we were with the full might of Heathrow Airport’s construction owner, Ferrovial, thrown behind the case for a third runway. It was inevitable, a £2.4bn project to expand a very busy airport and to facilitate the transfer of more people, to more aeroplanes, to more destinations. Such an ingenious project – a civil engineering wonder. It’s all now in tatters. The authors of the business case either forgot – or willfully ignored – the UK’s legally-binding commitment to meeting carbon emissions targets under the Paris Agreement. Someone is out of a job this weekend, for sure. The Airport will appeal, of course, but the owners have fewer friends now. Even Willie Walsh of AIG, one of Heathrow Airport’s biggest customers, declined to support the appeal on the radio this morning (28/2/20). It seems unlikely, too, that the UK Government will support it either.

The ramifications are significant. The same logic is equally applicable to the UK Government’s road-building programme. For years, campaigners have fought against new capacity on the road network and failed, often at the expense of protected habitats and tolerable human habitation. An international treaty with binding targets just means the numbers no longer add up. Or they add up to too much (carbon). It might get the Government off the hook when it comes to investment commitments post-Brexit that it cannot really afford; but at last, there is a check on ever-increasing capacity to accommodate cars and commercial vehicles. This is great news. And I am a driver. And I fly.


Just when I thought there would be no more cigarette advertising

Then Lucky Strike emerges with an old campaign.  The “show the packet and then write something nonsensical” campaign is back. Eine für Länger. Als Eine Nacht seems to defy translation. One for longer. As a night? Even native speakers make no sense of it. This is no fun. Where are the beautiful people with cigarettes? Where are the people in bathtubs? The zest for life and inevitable death? The attitude? Come on, if cigarette advertising is back, make it interesting.

Climate Watch: “EU green washing”

The UK has now left the EU just as a seemingly progressive new president, Ursula von der Leyen, sets out her plan for addressing the climate emergency. According to Yanis Varoufakis (left), Greece’s former Finance Minister, and unwelcome interlocutor during the currency and debt crises that nearly saw Greece default, it all amounts to Green washing.

Varoufakis asks us to compare the intervention by the EU in the banking crisis to that “committed” for climate change. He notes that €1.6tn was channelled to Europe’s bankers, “while imposing stringent austerity upon the European citizens they pledged to serve. When in 2015 they realised that more support was necessary, the European Central Bank printed €2.6tn”. The European green deal is worth €1tn over 10-years “to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared with 1990”. The contrast is not all it seems. The money used to bail out banks was new money, of the Green Deal budget only €7.5bn is new money, the rest comes from existing budgets and is designed to trigger a private-sector investment boom. Moreover, the EU Commission is is providing €29bn for gas projects.

The EU Commission itself estimates that annually it should commit €260bn to meeting its own emission targets. Varoufakis argues that the EU remains committed to its austerity package at a time of need (for drastic emissions cuts) and opportunity (to transform the economies of European member states). There is a thing called the “just transition mechanism” which recognises that some member states’ economies are more locked into fossil fuels than others; for example, Hungary and Poland, both of which have overtly populist governments, themselves not on message when it comes to climate change. For Varoufakis, the “just transition mechanism” is anything but – but it might just go some way to at least prevent these member states from making too much noise.

Picture: Olaf Kosinsky 

Climate Watch: the Johnson record so far

The Guardian newspaper in the UK is doing some pretty good cataloguing of the UK Government’s climate change record in contrast to the declared commitments. The latest – from which I draw prose – further develops the Prime Minister’s record.

First of all, Johnson has an unenviable record when it comes to voting for policies to tackle climate change. He has opposed policies for onshore wind subsidies, emissions-based vehicle taxes and carbon capture and storage. Indeed, he is on record as referring wind turbines as “white satanic mills”. He is reported as being in receipt of donations of £5,000 from Michael Hintze and £25,000 from Terence Mordaunt (via First Corporate Shipping), who fund the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation whose honorary president is Nigel Lawson.

When he was foreign secretary he oversaw a 60% cut in the UK’s team of climate attaches across the world from 165 to 65 charged with furthering the Paris Accord.

We all recall that he said that he would lie down in front of the bulldozers starting on the Heathrow third runway. However, he was absent from the vote in Parliament that sanctioned it and we also recall his own preferred option, a hugely environmentally damaging project to build a new airport on the Thames in East London. He has written in his newspaper columns about his support for shale gas fracking and has argued that warming has more to do with solar activity than carbon dioxide emissions.

Notwithstanding all this, he still seems to be squabbling with the Scottish Executive about the venue for COP26 rather than finding a viable and respected president to get a result come November.

Picture: Ben Shread – User:AlbanGeller received this from the Cabinet Office.