Bringing you up to date

In my last post, I gave a hint as to the direction I am starting out on in my pursuit of helping our society adjust to the realities of a changing climate. I mentioned that my first steps will be towards creating a credible, reliable, up-to-date, well known, trusted source of information for the layman on the realities of climate change, relating that back to day-to-day life and the effects of the decisions we all make. It would be presented in cogent laymen’s terms, so you don’t need a scientific background to be able to understand. It would need to link through to the scientific research demonstrably, so as to have that credibility and allow an interested reader to check the facts for themselves, and to read further.

That feels like a good direction in which to start.

But … I do feel like a toddler, learning their first steps in what is, let’s face it, a very complicated area. No one wants climate change to be real, whatever they believe about the science.

So I’m starting out on my journey, fully aware that the route will be difficult, and with my eyes wide open to the possibility of changing course or even the destination. It is for me a true adventure.

To that end, I have discussed my idea with a number of people, to get their reaction and see where that takes me.

The first person I talked to (other than family) was Prof Chris Rapley MBE, former director of the Science Museum, former head of the Antarctic Survey and current professor of earth sciences at UCL. I’d read his article in the FT as a call to action for the science community to step up a gear and actively promote the science on climate change, and then his letter in Nature magazine along similar lines. We’d met previously at an event at St-Martin-In-The-Fields with the Environment Audit Committee. His feedback was simple – the website I was describing could be part of the jigsaw, but the idea needs tightening up. He suggested I talk to those that currently provide similar sorts of information and see what they think is missing.

So that was my plan; is still my plan.

Next person I spoke to was Matt Gitsham, who is Director of the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability at Ashridge Business School. He’s a friend, someone I’ve met via Transition Town Berkhamsted. His feedback was that when selling the idea of doing something about climate change, the tack has changed in general to describing how money can be made from a more sustainable approach. He also described the similarities between kicking our addiction to fossil fuels, and kicking an addiction to any drug – but that is a subject of another post.

Then I spoke to Patrick Hort, Director of Savoy Systems (providing ticketing software to cinemas and theatres). He’d been thinking about this area a lot, and his feeling was that a positive message as to the fantastic quality of life we could have if we moved to a more sustainable future would be the way to go, i.e. to try to make sustainability sexy.  Wise words; and quite different to my ideas of spelling out the seriousness of not doing so. Is there room for both?

Most recently, I spoke with Mark Stevenson, comedian, public speaker, author and entrepreneur. He has a grand vision of the future, and suggested that maybe the right way forward would be to concentrate on transitioning Berkhamsted to the emerging future, in a way that it could be held up as a beacon of what can be achieved. He may be right.

So – what shall I do? Answers on a postcard, or better still comment on this post. I’m going to carry on walking this road and talking to people, and I’m sure the way forward will crystalize along the way. As I said, a real adventure!

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke


5 thoughts on “Bringing you up to date

  1. Hi John, I was having a think about how you could make an impact. Then I read this follow up post. My thoughts were heading in the same way as Matt Gisham. People want to know how to be green and save money at the same time.

    You could perhaps design a website like with a focus on green economics split into different categories. Your unique selling point would be your own time and input. You could do some case studies looking at the impact of individual families putting up solar panels (post government subsidy), using one car, installing a log burner. Then work out how their investment/change does over time either potentially or in reality. This would be a great way to use your statistic skills, and an opportunity to use youtube if you created a mini-documentary from your case studies.

    The website might pay for itself if you’re encouraging people to invest in green products that companies want to sell, but they’d expect to see some evidence of popularity or marketing. I haven’t checked to see whether one exists already.

    John, are you on Linkedin? Its a great way to make contacts with people in your field. I could share one or two who might be of interest to you. If you wanted to meet to brainstorm I have Mondays off.

  2. Here’s another thought John.

    My father-in-law, Rob has solar panels. He used to work for BT sorting out problems with IT and keeping it all going so he knows his way around computers. He’s got a machine which tells him how much electricity his panels are generating and how much electricity he’s using. In addition he’s got an app which shows him the temperature in his house and how how his thermostat is set. The software gives him a graph of electricity use over time. This has prompted him to turn off appliances and given him greater awareness of energy use.

    The set up involved some technical know how, but once set up it’s simple to use. Could your project involve helping people to install this sort of monitoring set up so they are better able to reduce their energy usage and bills?

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