Do you have dirty windows and clean bodywork?

I have a public transport journey to report on. Yippee! After I published my blog post last Sunday, I went on a trip to Falmouth taking the mainline train to Truro then switching to the delightful branch line to Falmouth. The stations on the mainline to London tend to be open and impersonal, with open fronted, metal and glass shelters, which always seem to face the prevailing wind, so you get wet when it rains, which is often in a Cornish winter. Whereas the branch line has colourfully painted wooden shelters with seats and protection from the wind. There are also cheerful well-tended planters to provide more colour. We have four branch lines in Cornwall (five if you count the one that starts in Devon and comes into the county to visit Calstock & Gunnislake) which allow some people access to some places, but it is not enough for effective travel around the county; north east Cornwall is totally inaccessible. Some of the trips are tortuous; Liskeard to Gunnislake, which is a short hop in the car is a roundabout trip which gets exponentially worse if you start from nearby Looe. I can understand why delegates for the G7 conference in St Ives, where Climate Change is on the agenda, are arriving by helicopter; getting from Newquay Airport to St Ives is a nightmare despite there being train stations in Newquay (nowhere near the airport) and St Ives.

I spent the rest of the week in front of my PC, including doing my Spanish lessons on Duolingo. I noticed an ad asking me if I wanted to make a claim against Vauxhall. Intrigued I clicked the linked and discovered a very murky world and ‘thermal windows’. The link took me to a website set up by the law firm Harcus Parker which encourages people who have owned or leased diesel Vauxhall cars to claim against the German manufacturer Opel, which produces all Vauxhalls sold in the UK, for misrepresenting the cars’ compliance with emissions regulations. You may remember that Volkswagen were found to have used defeat devices to fool emissions tests well it appears that ‘thermal windows’ have the same effect. Thermal windows work by switching off emissions control systems when the ambient air temperature is above or below a narrow thermal window. They are designed to protect the engine from damage. The accusation is that these thermal windows were set at a level, which meant the car passed the emissions test, but in real life conditions exceeded the limits. A recent (17th December 2020) Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) found that thermal windows only allowed exemption from emissions regulations in extremely limited circumstances. It looks like Harcus Parker are going to have fun; their action extends to all diesel cars according to Fleet News. Interestingly when potential claimants signing up to the case each sign what is in effect a pledge, that they will take into account – when deciding whether or not to settle their claims – any remedial action or other environmental measures taken by a particular car manufacturer.

I wasn’t feeling well disposed to motor manufactures after reading about thermal windows and defeat devices, I felt even less well disposed when I read this article City drivers ‘should think twice’ before buying SUVs and then the report it is was based on, Mindgames on Wheels. In short we have been conned into buying unnecessary gas guzzlers by smart marketing tactics. The vast majority of SUVs never see a muddy field, only London streets. Why are they so aggressively marketed? Simple – greed, they are enormously profitable – the early SUVs provided a 25% profit, compared to just 5% on ordinary cars. Some more interesting stats:

  • For every one fully electric vehicle sold in the UK in the last four years, 37 SUVs were sold.
  • Globally, rising sales of SUVs are the second biggest cause of increasing carbon emissions (after power generation, but ahead of aviation and heavy industry)
  • Air pollution, largely from motor traffic, kills between 28,000 and 36,000 people a year in the UK.

If you want to see an amusing piece of aggressive marketing produced by Saatchi & Saatchi for Toyota (it won an advertising prize) checkout Country Australia Border Security: Nothing Soft Gets In. If you watch the video, and I recommend you do, be warned it will curdle your skinny latte and vegans will need a lie down afterwards. Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi are definitely off my Christmas Card list.

Dodge have also been deleted from the list for this ad. I’m a tree hugging tofu munching vegan.

Dodge durango

On a more serious note, this part of the report I found very depressing.

“European regulations say that 95 percent of a manufacturer’s fleet must meet emission standards. But crucially, for the time being, they can buy credits from rival manufacturers. And so it is that the electric car manufacturer Tesla has been selling credits to SUV manufacturer Fiat Chrysler, which has to spend up to £500m a year just to buy so-called ‘supercredits’. They are doing so because the SUV market remains highly profitable. It means that buyers of Tesla cars are inadvertently giving license to the sale of gas-guzzling monsters.”

Nice one Tesla – profit before planet, you are off the Christmas Card list.

The report has three clear recommendations:

  1. An end to SUV advertising
  2. A renewed commitment to tackling climate change from the Advertising Standards Authority implemented with new codes of practice.
  3. Reject the brief: advertising agencies must stop selling pollution

I will be campaigning to get those recommendations implemented. Hopefully with the G7 and COP 26 being in the UK this year my MP, and others, will be more inclined to listen. The advertising industry have the #ChangeTheBrief and #AdNetZero campaigns, I doubt we will see Saatchi & Saatchi using those hashtags anytime soon.

A little ask

Writing and report reading is thirsty work and using public transport expensive. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee you can via this link – buy me a coffee

=====================

Hiding in plain sight

The UN Secretary General, Boris Johnson and a lot of others have said “The Coronavirus pandemic crisis is the most challenging since the Second World War”. I disagree, Climate Change, biodiversity loss and air pollution are all bigger and more challenging. The are not hidden away, it’s just that chronic problems have a history of being overlooked. The deaths from Coronavirus have been tragic, and for some people very personal. Nothing can take away the horror of those deaths; however, in the same period three times as many people are likely to have died from the effects of air pollution.

A recent study put the number of annual deaths at 8.7 million worldwide, with just under two thirds of those being in China and India. The UK government recognises that air pollution causes early death and estimates the figure to be 30,000 a year in the UK, others suggest that the figure is closer to 50,000.  Despite this it has repeatedly failed to meet its legal requirements to comply with clean air standards, missing targets by significant amounts. So much so that it has been taken to court by the EU for not meeting EU standards

What is the government going to do about it? Simple it is going to set new standards via the Environment Bill now that we are no longer in the EU. Will they meet them? No, they won’t.

What can you do? You could do nothing. Not making a choice, is a choice; it’s choosing to be complicit in the government’s failure to prevent the appalling number of early deaths. Or you could tell your MP you want action (it is easy to email via the government website). You could sign up to a green energy electricity tariff, drive your car less, and when you do drive do so as environmentally as possible.

Don’t drive with excess weight in the car, clear the junk out. Keep the tyres at the correct pressure and ensure your car is regularly serviced. When driving, accelerate gently and when you are going to be stationary for a while switch the engine off. One thing that really winds me up is people who have parked up to make a mobile phone call and sit there with the engine running. Great that they are not going to kill people in a car accident, but very frustrating that they are going to contribute to killing people by needlessly adding to air pollution.

I’m taking a short train journey this afternoon, the first for many, many months. I’ll write about it next week.

A little ask

Writing and report reading is thirsty work and using public transport expensive. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee you can via this link – buy me a coffee

==================

Rock the boat

The clocks changing reminded me of another benefit of not owning a car; not having to change the clock in the car, it was always a fiddly job. I imagine that modern cars have clocks that automatically change like the ones on mobile phones. My car was seventeen years old when I stopped using it.

Talking of reminders, Facebook popped up with a memory today that reminded me why I care about environmental issues – my children.

“I was having a go at my daughter about the state of her bedroom when I suddenly thought “When I am old, how am I going to explain to her children why I left them the world in such a mess?”

A comment on the post from a friend made me think.

I’m not sure you should allow yourself to be manipulated into feeling that responsibility for one room translates into personal guilt for the entire planet, persuasive though Charlotte may be 🙂. Try “Remove first the socks, dust-bunnies and coffee-mugs from under thine own bed afore ye blame me for global warming and the economic recession…” etc.

All jokes aside, that is however a sobering thought. Probably if more children had internalised the need for a tidier living space, the world would indeed be in less of a state. I’d hold out for that sorted bedroom.

It made me realise that we are being manipulated to feel guilty about what we do when the major culprits plough on regardless. When my local council declared a Climate Emergency, they produced a help sheet with things you could do to reduce your impact on the environment. One was taking fewer holiday flights. There was nothing in all the information and reports produced suggesting changes in the fishing industry, even though bottom trawling releases as much carbon as air travel. And the UK is in the list of the top ten offenders. Holiday flights for two weeks in the sun are only responsible for a small part of the air travel carbon footprint.  

The guilt trippers will suggest that bottom trawling is a result of consumers wanting cheaper food. The consumer did not drive the cheap food phenomenon, it was supermarkets and others fighting for market share and dominance, putting profit before planet.

An investigation by Greenpeace found that many trawlers fishing in the Dogger Bank area were doing so illegally. Greenpeace took direct action and dropped big boulders into the sea to stop bottom trawlers operating there. They later dropped boulders in the Offshore Brighton marine protected area in the English Channel. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched an investigation into the campaign group’s actions. It’s a pity they don’t take action against the illegal fishing.

I’m not suggesting that individuals are blameless, we all have collective responsibility and there are things that we can do, although it looks like effective protest will not be one of them.  Please sign the petition to reform the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The Eden Project has some great eco driving tips to help reduce the impact of car journeys.

A little ask

Writing and report reading is thirsty work and using public transport expensive. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee you can via this link – buy me a coffee

=====================

Bus Back Better

Bus station

When I saw the recently published National Bus Strategy for England was called Bus Back Better, I thought it would have been better described as Buffoon Boris Bluster.

In the introduction Boris says “I love buses … They drive pensioners to see their friends. They connect people to jobs they couldn’t otherwise take. They sustain town centres; they strengthen communities and they protect the environment. They are lifelines and they are liberators.” He has obviously never used the bus network (or lack of it) in a rural area like Cornwall. If you are lucky enough to find a bus that will get you to work on time you are very unlikely to find one that will get you home at the end of the day unless you live and work on one of the few major bus routes in the county.

And that is the problem with public transport strategies, they are dreamt up by people that don’t rely on them and if they did, they were in a city. Hardly surprising as they would have gone to university in a city, there is no University of the Middle of Nowhere, then after graduating they would have taken a job in a city and if they do migrate to the country it is only after they are a committed car driver. Since going car free at the start of 2019 I have involved myself in consultations and committees looking at environmental issues and transport. Recently I joined a ‘task & finish’ group involved with local transport; I was the only one on the group that used the bus service. That is not an uncommon experience.

Having read the National Bus Strategy for England I am not full of hope. In the section, The challenge: a cycle of decline. The report notes that “Our system isn’t working… bus services have been in decline for a long time, as we have become an increasingly car-focused society. In many areas, we are stuck in a vicious cycle, where ever-increasing congestion slows down buses and makes them less attractive, pushing people further towards the car and compounding the problem.” It provides some examples of barriers to delivering better bus services then fails to address them. One of the barriers is high bus ticket costs – the solution is to cap the amount you will pay in a day so you can make many journeys in a day without paying through the nose. Most people don’t make lots of journeys, they go to and from work, pop into town or visit a friend (see Boris’s comments above). Pensioners don’t arrive at a friend’s house gulp down a cup of tea then rush off to another friend’s house for more tea and then repeat the process until they have achieved an impressive quota of bus trips and cups of tea. They just haven’t got the stamina or bladder capacity. The report also blames complexity then adds to it with the proposals.

There is one area where I can praise the report; its use of acronyms and initialisations is impressive. These are listed below. You have to wait until page 73 of the 83-page report for the pièce de resistance; ZEBRA – Zero Emission Bus Regional Area. Just imaging the hi-fiving and back slapping that went on with the team of consultants that thought up that. I’m sure several expensive city wine bars ran out of champagne that night.

I think those champagne addled brains missed some of the inconsistencies in the report. Page 48 “Almost £260 million per year is paid in BSOG to operators of eligible bus services and community transport organisations. It benefits passengers by helping operators keep fares down. It is cost effective, delivering high value for money.” Page 59 “Average bus fares have risen by 403% since 1987, compared to 325% for rail fares and 163% for motoring costs”.

Interestingly Bus Service Improvement Plans escape the initialisation treatment and is used in full throughout the document. Is that because the authors want to avoid confusion with the British Solomon Islands Protectorate or because they know it will not stand the test of time (about two weeks in politics) so there is no point.

MCAs – Mayoral Combined Authorities

LTAs – Local Transport Authorities

DfT – Department for Transport

LTPs – Local Transport Plans

AVs – Automatic Vehicles

RPI – Retail Prices Index

BPC – Bus Passenger Charter

BRT – Bus Rapid Transit

BSOG – Bus Service Operators Grant

CBSSG – COVID-19 Bus Service Support Grant

BCoE – Bus Centre of Excellence

KRN – Key Route Network

TfWM – Transport for West Midlands

DVSA – Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency

PSVAR – Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations

LCWIPs – Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans

Writing and report reading is thirsty work and using public transport expensive. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee you can via this link – buy me a coffee

==========

Ubiquitous Roads

Distances to the nearest road from the centre of each 1 ha (0.01 km2) area across Great Britain for all roads, and associated frequency histogram (on two different scales for clarity of presentation)

Environmental activism is a diverse world, some chain themselves together, to bridges and tube trains (Extinction Rebellion), others combine direct action with lobbying (Greenpeace & Sea Shepherd) or work with brands to get their message across (WWF) and some take the legal route (ClientEarth). I prefer to use words and example, hence the Car Free Experience blog.

Rather than chaining myself to railings I’m glued to my PC (when I’m not out enjoying being in nature) keeping up to date with what is going on and seeking out interesting research to comment on. Having read the House of Commons, Public Accounts Committee report Achieving Net Zero I may have to change my approach and chain myself to Boris Johnson until he stops emitting hot air and produces some solid actionable plans to tackle climate change.

The report summary starts with, “Government lacks a plan for how it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 despite setting the target almost two years ago. At present, there is no coordinated plan with clear milestones towards achieving the target, making it difficult for Parliament and the general public to understand or scrutinise how the country is doing in its efforts to achieve net zero emissions.”

Later is says, “As much as 62% of the future reduction in emissions will rely on individual choices and behaviours, from day to day lifestyle choices to one off purchases such as replacing boilers that use fossil fuels or buying an electric vehicle. Government has not yet properly engaged with the public on the substantial behaviour changes that achieving net zero will require.” So perhaps my approach of using words to hopefully foster behavioural change is the right one for me to pursue.

It can be quite fun sometimes reading Public Accounts Committee stuff, especially oral evidence transcripts. The committee asks some very blunt questions and those being questioned often skilfully avoid answering, much to the annoyance of the chair and other committee members.

The Public Accountants Committee was a diversion from some rather heavy-going scrutiny of the journal Science of the Total Environment. In amongst some mind-boggling articles such as:

Enhanced reactivity of zero-valent aluminum/O2 by using Fe-bearing clays in 4-chlorophenol oxidation.

and

Degradation of diclofenac sodium using Fenton-like technology based on nano-calcium peroxide.

I found this little gem:

Spatial extent of road pollution: A national analysis

It’s more interesting than it sounds, although you have to sift through a lot of sludge to find the nuggets. The Guardian had a better headline “Road pollution affects 94% of Britain, study finds”. But before I comment on the research, I’d just like to say I did do some research on the other two articles but retreated to my comfort zone when I found this on the internet and my brain started hurting.

Fenton-like degradation can be described by a pseudo-first-order kinetic equation, which is represented in linearized form in eq. 1, where C t is the concentration of MB at time t, C 0 is the initial concentration (100 mg L −1), and t and k’ are the time and the apparent rate constant, respectively.

The national analysis of road pollution found that “25% of land was less than 79 metres from a road, 50% of land was less than 216 metres away and 75% of land was less than 527 metres from a road.” The 527-metre figure is significant because previous studies of human health indicate that impacts from air pollution occur up to 500 metres from roads. Add on to those grim statistics the number of vehicle miles driven in a year; 356 billion in 2019, yes that is billion not million and it’s been getting more each year, there might be a slight dip due to COVID-19, however it will continue its steady rise. The UK government is planning a £27bn expansion of England’s road network, although this is subject to a legal challenge. It is being challenged because it has not been reviewed in light of the Government’s Climate Change commitment . No plan and not very bright.

The modelled spatial distributions of air pollutants arising from roads across Great Britain – nitrogen dioxide and small particulate matter.

Nature is affected by more than air pollution; water running off from roads contains a cocktail of fuel, oil, screen-wash, de-icing liquids, etc. Then add to that noise pollution, light pollution, verge clearance, sometimes with chemical sprays, and habitats being cut off by roads and you can see why nature is struggling. Vehicles direct impact on nature, dead bugs on the windscreen and bodywork and squashed hedgehogs, for example, are getting less because their populations have collapsed.

If you are a data nerd you can get lots of traffic statistics from the Government website. They can be downloaded in a spreadsheet so you can have loads of fun. 😊

========================

Can you be happy without a car?

Yet again this week I did not have a valid reason under the coronavirus regulations to travel, so no public transport adventures to report. I did Zoom all over the place and had two car conversations which set off a train of thought. The first was while I was in Bristol, the person hosting the meeting said, “Hang on a minute I just need to pay the guy who has changed my car tyres.” I thought, I bet that cost a lot, glad I no longer have that expense.  The other one was when I was in Sheffield for a networking event, someone on the call explained that she had missed the previous one because she had to take her car for its MOT. She then had a rant about the cost of insuring her car just to leave it in front of the house because she was working from home and the children were being home-schooled.

The train of thought it set off was that the reason we use our cars is because we are not happy. The answer to reducing the environmental impact of motor cars is not tinkering with the technology, but addressing our issues. That may need some explanation.

If you are not happy with your job you look for another one, often taking one far away meaning a long commute. People with a good job are often not happy with where they live and move out of the city, for example, and move out to the country meaning a long commute. Not happy with the local shops, hop in the car and drive to the next town or an out-of-town shopping centre. Not happy with the avocados in Tesco, drive to Waitrose. You get the picture; the car has made it so easy to get about we use the car without even thinking, and we have a strange relationship with it. When a train is late or a bus doesn’t arrive and we have to wait for the next one public transport is deemed to be a hassle and something to be avoided, we eschew public transport in favour of the car. If we are late for a meeting due to a traffic jam somehow that is not as bad, we might moan but we don’t eschew the car for public transport.

I can get into Truro during the rush hour by bus faster than I can in a car, it is even faster by train if you live and work near the stations, yet every weekday the bus wizzes along the bus lane passed a lot of static cars with unhappy motorists in them. A new job, a new house, a new blouse will not make you happy, nor will avocado on toast even if it is described on the menu as ‘smashed’. Happiness comes from within, stop driving about trying to find it.

I know people who drive considerable distances to different places to walk their dogs because they get bored with the same old routes. Sometimes the answer is not different routes, but not getting bored with the usual routes. There are lots of things that can bring variety; going with different people, going at different times of the day, walking the loop in different directions, noticing what is going on with nature. I run the same routes very often and do not get bored because I run mindfully, noticing my environment, how it changes and how my reaction s and feelings change. Variety is a state of mind.

If we think about what is important in life, and it’s not finding a better avocado, then perhaps we will spend less time rushing around in our cars or crawling along in jams. Good for us, good for the environment.

====================

It’s Not What You Got (It’s How You Use It).

This week I did not have a valid reason under the coronavirus regulations to travel, so no public transport adventures to report. I did reflect on my relationship with the car and how, when trying to solve problems, we tend to focus on technical rather than behavioural solutions. These thoughts were started by seeing a car with a frosted windscreen. I don’t miss scraping the ice off my car. Later I came across an empty car with the engine running. Obviously not a ‘scraper’ but a ‘let the engine do the work’ type. They had probably got distracted doing something inside the house because the windscreen was as clear as a bell, or maybe they were waiting for the inside of the car to be toasty warm. I did think about opening the car door and turning the engine off, then thought better of it. I was on a farm, if the owner thought I was trying to steal his pride and joy there was a good chance my backside would be peppered with shotgun pellets.

Think about it, two car owners with two different impacts on the environment when they deal with ice on the windscreen. What happens in other situations, is the ‘scraper’ an ‘accelerator and brake’ fiend and the ‘engine runner’ the ‘smoothly through the gears’ type, thereby equalling up the scores in the environmental damage stakes? That led to a nice interlude thinking about the music of Carrie Lucas; most of her songs were released while I was in my twenties and one of her hits was It’s Not What You Got (It’s How You Use It). And that I think is a big part of the solution to tackling climate change. No not chilling listening to Carrie sing love songs but thinking how we use things and the effect on the environment. It’s not only about changing how cars work but more about changing how we use them.

Most of my neighbours own cars and their neighbours and their neighbours’ neighbours. Once a week everyone gets in their car and drives to the supermarket to do grocery shopping, except for a few of us who walk, take the bus or get a taxi. That changed for me during the pandemic; I now get my groceries delivered. Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one vehicle delivering groceries to me and my immediate neighbours and their cars stayed at home? If that was repeated all over the country think how many car journeys would be saved and how big the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be.

There is one big problem with the scenario above, choice! Or rather the illusion of choice, does it really matter if you get your blueberries in a plastic container flown in from ‘who knows where’ from supermarket B rather than supermarket A. Admittedly there is loose fresh veg in the aisles, my local supermarket has Cornwall cauliflowers, all very much the same size, grown a few miles from me that have been driven to a distribution centre 140 miles away before being driven back to my local store. I get my cauliflowers in a veg box from a local farmer. They differ in size each time, but the quality is good, and they are fresh and tasty. If you want to be able to pick your own fruit and veg, don’t drive to a supermarket wait until it is in season and pop into your garden and harvest it, or find a local PYO grower.

Free stock image – not Arthur

Writing about food has reminded me that I had breakfast with 2-year-old Arthur on Friday thanks to Zoom, Arthur was in Newquay and I was in Camborne. I had forgotten how intently children focus on what they are doing and how much pleasure they get from eating, something many adults have lost. And how once the activity is over, they are off to find something else to do. The Friday networking is a very relaxed affair, Arthur’s mum is with us because she is working from home, we are going to miss Arthur if she goes back to working in an office. Many companies are keen to get their workers back into the office because they believe that it will help with the culture and productivity. Personally, I think it is a euphemism for control, even if it is not, are companies prioritising their interests far above those of their employees, the wider community and the environment? Working from home has presented challenges; however, many people have enjoyed the cost and time saving of not travelling and the extra interaction with their children and other family members. The natural environment has certainly benefitted from the reduction in commuting. Somehow the world feels a better place now that work and home life are more integrated. Now that sales managers, marketers, accountants etc are seen as parents, dog owners, cat lovers, surfers, art lovers, book fanatics etc. Zoom and other virtual meeting software has given us a window into our colleagues’ and other people’s lives that we would have never seen in the boardroom, in the office, on the commuter train, or any other work environment.

Please make build back better and the new normal be a good normal. Good for people and good for the planet.

===========================

SPAM AND MAYONNAISE

This week I did not have a valid reason under the coronavirus regulations to travel, so no public transport adventures to report. I did travel virtually to Singapore, South Africa, all over Cornwall, across the border into Devon and beyond, reaching as far as Blackpool in England and Glasgow in Scotland. There were some adventures, on one meeting the chair had to leave, just as she was opening the meeting, to answer the door to a delivery driver who was asking for directions. A little later, when someone was explaining her slides, she was drowned out by the sound of her dogs frantically barking. After a short hiatus she continued with the sound of muffled barking coming, I assume, from the garden. After the presentation, when someone was asking a question, we were treated to a loud “Hi Mum I’m home” followed by a muffled “Shush I’m on a Zoom call.” And I’m pleased to say that we had the obligatory cat walking in front of someone’s camera. Face-to-face meetings, when we can have them, will seem boring in comparison.

While I wasn’t Zooming (other applications are available but Teamsing of BlueJeansing doesn’t sound as good) I was following the news and thinking about things environmental, as well as vegan pizza and beer (BrewDog because it is carbon negative). One story that caught my eye was UK to launch high risk science agency. The Advanced Research & Invention Agency (Aria), with £800m funding from the government over four years, will support “high-risk, high-reward” scientific research. The more left-wing media think that research will be about defence; Aria will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The official government line is that Aria will “help to cement the UK’s position as a global science superpower”. Thus helping the “UK solve today’s set of challenges – whether disease outbreaks or climate change – with bold, ambitious and innovative solutions”. Rather than relying on Bond-like gadgets the government would get more bang for their buck (or rather £800 million) if they concentrated on spam and mayonnaise. That might need some explaining.

On a Zoom call I was discussing clutter with a business group in South Africa when one of the attendees mentioned that she had 6,000 unopened emails. She knew that they were spam but could not bring herself to delete them in case one was important, even though she was very unlikely to read them. Another member of the group admitted to being the same. I was apoplectic; those emails are sitting on a server in a data centre somewhere. Data centres account for more greenhouse gas emissions than flying. In my small sample of 8 people 2 admitted to lots of pointless data storage – 25%. Times that by the number of email accounts in the world and that is a staggering amount of data to store. I politely, but firmly, explained good environmental email etiquette; delete unwanted emails, only ‘reply to all’ when absolutely necessary, don’t copy people in unless essential and only sending high res photos and big files when that is what is required. A low res photo of your cat will look good on a computer screen.  

That evening I had a One Planet Pizza (vegan and 20% smaller carbon footprint compared to traditional pizzas) and that is where the mayonnaise comes in. Mayonnaise and pizza were made for each other and when Hellmann’s started producing vegan mayonnaise my life became so much simpler; no more messing around mixing up aquafaba (chickpea water), olive oil and mustard to make my own. I was shaking the plastic bottle and banging it on the counter to get the last of the mayonnaise out and when I squeezed it only got the sort of sounds that make children, and some adults, laugh. From the weight it was obvious there was a lot still in there, but it was not coming out. I grabbed a serrated knife and sawed the bottle in half, then used a spoon to scrape all the mayonnaise from the sides of the bottle onto a small dish – there was at least two pizzas worth. I’m sure in most households that would have been washed down the sink as the bottle was washed out for recycling or, even worse, thrown away if the bottle were put in the trash.

We don’t need high tech, top secret, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act research to tackle climate change; we need to be aware of the impact of our actions and not create waste, either by storing unwanted items, poor packaging design or any other reasons.

If you are going to drink to that please make sure it comes from a carbon negative brewery.

===============

Yippee

I have a public transport journey to write about, hurrah. On Thursday morning I received a text from my GP surgery saying there were COVID-19 vaccination appointments available at the Redruth Health Clinic. That is about 4 miles away so walkable; however, the weather forecast was dire, so I checked the bus times via the First Bus app. No service on Sunday, every half an hour on Saturday. I immediately logged on to the NHS website hoping I could get a Saturday slot; joy of joys there were some to choose from so I booked 13.40.

It was strange walking along the mostly deserted main shopping street in Camborne to get to the bus station, with only a few people using the Post Office and a convenience store. Normally it would be bustling on a Saturday afternoon. The bus station was also quiet, one other person, normally there would be about twenty. I shared the deserted top deck of the bus with that other person, vastly different from a pre-lockdown Saturday. There is something very comforting about being at the front on the top deck of a bus looking out when the weather is bad. I was amazed at the queue of cars at the McDonald’s Drive Thru; about twenty-five.

I arrived in Redruth early and had a walk around, Redruth is not the most uplifting place at the best of times, in the rain it is extremely drear. It’s saving grace are the statues. The most famous is the Tin Miner, reflecting the town’s heritage, in the same street are some welly good ones. My perambulations took me to Kresen Kernow, Cornwall’s archive centre, which has 14 miles of shelving in two secure strongrooms housing 1.5 million items (documents, photographs, maps, letters, postcards etc.) covering 850 years of Cornish history. Outside are some statue figures, possibly the first incidence of socially distanced statues in the UK.

The vaccination process was very slick; organised by friendly NHS staff and volunteers. From joining the socially distance queue in the gazebo covering the front entrance to leaving by the back door fully informed, processed and vaccinated took fifteen minutes. Thank you NHS, you are brilliant.

Earlier in the week I had been talking about cars during a virtual business meeting to illustrate a point. In the early nineties I lusted after a Honda Legend coupe with a 2.7 litre V6 engine, then a few years later my affections switched to the Nissan Skyline GTR with a 2.7 litre flat six engine. Then, very shortly after that, it was back to Honda and the NSX with a 3.2 litre V6. I never did own any of those cars but was eventually the proud owner of a Corrado VR6 with a 2.9 litre engine until the need to transport two children and dogs about meant I traded it in for a Volvo estate. The point I was making was about building on success, there were 5 generations of the Legend and 13 generations of the Skyline, the NSX did not do well.

As the meeting was drawing to a close one of the participants said, “I can see that you love cars Edward, I’m even more impressed now that you have chosen to go car free.” She is right I do love cars; however, I love nature more and want to do all I can to help it and repair the damage I did previously. I hope my example results in people driving less.

Now I lust after an electric Renault Zoe.

=================

Food for thought

I went car free at the beginning of 2019 as an experiment in behavioural change and because I am concerned about the environment and global warming. Travel and particularly car journeys are a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions which are driving climate change (pun fully intended).

Transport is not the major worldwide source of greenhouse gases.  In 2019 transport was the major source in the UK, according to Government statistics (transport 27% agriculture 10%); however, that is because much of what we consume is produced outside the UK and the emissions produced elsewhere are not included in domestic statistics even though we cause them. If you look at global figures transport accounts for 16% of emissions (road 12%) while agriculture accounts for 18% without considering processing and transporting food. A great deal of focus is on electric cars while one of the bigger baddies, food, is virtually ignored. Of course, we have to eat but what we eat and how it is produced can have different effects on the planet.

First my public transport experiences which are remarkably similar to last week’s; none, due to coronavirus restrictions so back to food.

The first food story to catch my attention was “Scientists taught spinach how to send emails”. The reality is not as dramatic as the headline, spinach is not typing away, instead infrared sensors are used to detect changes in the spinach and that triggers an alert email to be sent. This was heralded as a major breakthrough that could help warn us of problems caused by climate change. The comedy programme The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 picked this up and one of the guests commented ‘Why on earth would anyone think we would pay attention to a warning in email from a vegetable when we have ignored thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies.?

The second was ‘Plant-based diets crucial to saving global wildlife, says report. Again, the headline did not match the reality. The report was from the much-respected think tank Chatham House and was not trying to turn us all into vegans but was highlighting the damage done to the environment by the constant drive for cheaper food. The solution suggested had several layers, one of which was ‘global dietary patterns need to converge around diets based more on plants, owing to the disproportionate impact of animal farming on biodiversity, land use and the environment’. It also said if you want to help poorer people cheap food isn’t the answer, lifting them out of poverty is.

It is obviously easier to write ‘plant-based diets crucial’ than to unpick “The ‘cheaper food’ paradigm drives a set of overlapping and often self-reinforcing mechanisms, in which the ratcheting up of production and liberalization of global markets incentivize economic behaviour that creates negative outcomes for society and the environment.” It’s probably naïve of me to expect the media to inform rather than mislead, but I do.

In the interests of transparency I will disclose that I am a vegan.

==================