Archive for the ‘there are no rockets in this post’ Category

I have some problems with “10:10”, the latest timebound big media campaign. The first one is symbols and aesthetics. They are handing out tags made of aluminium alloy cut out of a retired B737 down at Hurn. This is meant to be recycling, and wonderfully symbolic.

No. A superbly engineered artefact has been reduced to trinkets that will very likely go into landfill. Couldn’t they have made the bits into wind turbine blades, or solar stoves, or bicycle frames if you must, or even just wiggly tin roofing? Or something, at least? Instead, it’s a poster example of what Bill McKibben calls “downcycling”. And, of course, it’s the wrong bloody problem anyway; we could shut down aviation tomorrow and not meet the 10:10 goal, but lose fast international travel anywhere but a smallish chunk of Western Europe.

Another example; the climate campers apparently held a course on running a 12v power supply for a sound system, driven by someone pedalling. Well…engineering FAIL. If the only possible source of power is pedalling a bloody bike, wouldn’t it be better to keep the bike and the calories for transport? Would a stereo be a high priority then? Wouldn’t it be better to use the wind, the water, or the fire with a Sterling engine? In context, solar PV would be way out of the question. (I was pretty impressed by the edit your own sousveillance vids one, though.)

Not so sure about content, either. The Guardian is of course a biased source here; but they only found one person who wanted to build anything. An architect, of course. The front page coverage made me want to give up and buy a huge car; here’s blonde Daisy, 16 and mugging for 14, suggesting we “grow veg on the balcony”. Darling. Couldn’t they have found Keisha-Tigrette from Tottenham who wants to KILL OIL IN THE EAR? I think they probably couldn’t, and we’ll get to that later.

As with most British media green pushes, there’s little sign of any interest in anything physical or lasting. Not an inch of rockwool. Everything is about changing your behaviour, and specifically micro-behaviour – what you buy, or turning off lights, not how you work or where you live or how society works. Worse, it’s a demand for entirely free-floating behavioural change – nobody seems to be suggesting any way of monitoring or measuring the change, or any incentives. This isn’t going to work. And, again, it’s all consumer guff.

The problem with consumer guff is that it’s a limited way of approaching the problem. It’s arguable whether or not investment is the defining value in the macro-economy – it’s pretty clear that it’s crucial to the climate/energy position. It is defined by the stuff we build. And further, without any mechanism to keep up to it, nothing is more evanescent than promises to do better. It doesn’t even take backsliding to break them; what if you lose your job, and have to move somewhere where you need to commute 40 miles to work? Alas poor 10% saved by being nicer.

It’s tough, however, to suck insulation out of the walls; this is one of the reasons I’m keen on retrofits as an alternative to winter fuel payments. The Tories can’t take them away once they’re done.

My third problem is this: where is the optimism? Everyone’s talking about demog-friendly nostalgia for rationing that the demographic in question doesn’t remember. That’s not a sacrifice; woodbines, box at the Empire, sixpence, yadda yadda. Nobody is saying: Let’s do BETTER this time. Let’s build something BIGGER and SHINY and DRAMATIC and FANTASTIC and OUTRAGEOUS that doesn’t just meet a 10% target but SMASHES it.

Where is the future in all this? What kind of a future is it? How are we meant to be full of confidence and aggression without it?

Actually there are some other options, chiefly RAGE and HATRED. No sign of them, either; but identifying an enemy is the oldest motivator in the book. There’s no sign of a stinking mob hunting British Gas fatcats or an army of Rosie the Riveters basting Vladimir Putin like a turkey with their sealant guns. Why the hell not? We have enemies – why not make the most of them. I bet Keisha would be delighted to have King Abdullah and the CEO of Exxon burned in effigy, or perhaps just burned…after the block gets superinsulated.

Unfortunately, we’re relying on self-righteousness as the driving emotion; not optimism (shorthand: lust), not greed, not rage, not hatred. Mind you, it is clearly an infinitely renewable resource, just like stupidity.

And while I’m on the point, where are the workers in this? Who’s monitoring what exactly the council, or the diddly-dee semi-privatised thingy organisation, does when they refurbish the estate? Does anyone care about the “fuel poor” if they can’t offer them a cash handout just before the elections?

There is, actually, a powerful response to some of this. That is: 10:10 looks a bit like a vacuous PR stunt because it’s a PR stunt. The aim is to influence the deliberatiwoos in Copenhagen. Superistical. Das ist gut so. But this done, treaty signed, etc, we’ve got to go implement. With the North Sea gas running down, we’ve got to do that quicksmart anyway.

So, you ask, where are my positive proposals? The D-word? Well, I’m interested to hear what anyone else thinks about a campaign for an answer to climate and energy issues that points forward, that leans left, and that isn’t based on whose-kid-are-you media bullshit. I’m planning to squirt sealant into every corner of my own place before this winter, too.

Reduced blog; I’ve been working on a version of FixMyStreet for Symbian S60 devices.

If you want snark, how about this? I always thought that the BMW not-minis were telling in themselves. Objects are an ideology made manifest.

The original Mini was a minimal car, one designed to be even cheaper than the ones sold to the workers in the factories that made them. Beyond Ford. As a side effect, it was also light, beautiful, and efficient in space and energy.

The “New Mini” is absurdly large, by comparison – it’s not that much smaller than a 3-door Land Rover Freelander, which is reasonably sensible despite being aesthetically an SUV. The Freelander was, after all, reasonably sized, space planned to carry a load, engineered to work off-road, and driven by a highly efficient turbo-diesel engine. Perhaps not coincidentally, it wasn’t pretty. The BMW Mini, however, is a mass of gratuitous placky bits. Over the last ten years, we have lived in the era of gratuitous auto design; I grew up with cars that were advertised on their drag coefficient and their fuel consumption, but not long after I was legally allowed to drive, there was this weird rococo decadence of trucks without ground clearance.

At the same time there was a binge on property, which swelled outwards where there was land enough, and inwards in crappy construction and natural gas-guzzling, and which swelled even more in price where the land wasn’t available. Foxtons’ fake-neat cars were part of the performance of the property binge; speculating in property was meant to feel subversive and young. You doubt? Look at the arse-awful fake graffiti sprayed on them. Fake art on fake coachwork on a fake economy for fake people.

What would fit? Perhaps, if they go down, there may be a supply of “New Minis” going cheap. Maybe I should apply for an Arts Council grant to stack up 20 or so of them in Trafalgar Square and topple them, using a Chinese-made bulldozer. We could beat them with our shoes and torch them with gallons of bioethanol, or maybe homebrew high-test peroxide.

Yes, I miss Melody Maker too, for most of the same reasons. And The Face.

Look, at least there are no rockets in this post. So you get a gratuitious Justin Robertson track.