A Confession

This is a very personal post.  I am bearing my soul to you: letting you in on a secret.  I have an addiction.  I’ve been in denial and am now in a place that I can write about it.  I still don’t really believe it.
Tongue in Cheek
The good news is that my addiction is manageable, and nowhere near as bad as it can get.  The bad news is that it is potentially terminal, and particularly harmful to those closest to me.

The acronym I have found and used that helps me realise that I have a problem is CAGE.  It stands for Cut Angry Guilty Eye-opener.  It is a reminder of four questions – if you answer Yes to two of the four, then there is a chance you are addicted.

Yes – I do feel as though I need to Cut down.  Thankfully, no – I don’t get Angry if someone points out the problem.  Yes – I do sometimes feel Guilty.  No – I don’t show symptoms of an Eye-opening addiction behaviour, such as driving round the corner when a walk would be only slightly longer.

What?  Driving round the corner?  What’s he on about?

The addiction I have is to carbon use.  I’m almost certain that you have the addiction too, even though we both know that our mental and physical health is suffering and the long term damage is unspeakable.  If you don’t accept this, there is a strong possibility that you are in denial.  If you get angry at the accusation (or for example if someone tells you not to fly abroad for a holiday or to switch off your lights or car) then see the “A” in CAGE.

I can’t seem to kick the habit.  I still get on the computer or phone regularly – I can’t seem to stop myself.  There is no way I seem to be able to make a meal or sandwich without including meat or cheese if there is some available.  It’s an awful temptation to get in the car  to take the kids swimming rather than learn how to ride a bike properly.

I’ve found a very useful website that can help, to diagnose, help with understanding and provide tips on how to break the habit.

Sorry to have to break it to you like this.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke


12 thoughts on “A Confession

  1. Hey John, and to some degree I agree with you however I think that if we adopt that approach then we have no chance as its simply 1. not achievable or viable in the modern age and 2. plays into the hands of people who say that people like you and me just want everyone to return to the living in caves.

    Electronics and computers are both my hobby and employment and use them regularly, there are also very large laws being enforced each year to drive down the usage of these things and computers and lcd screens are far less power hungry than one might imagine. They are also incredibly important in achieving the goals that we need to.

    I think what needs to be done is to ensure that the things which really do have a large carbon footprint are brought into line with the laws enforced on these electronics (at least in Europe)

    1. generation of electricity should be following the Germans (they generated more solar than the whole of the US last year)
    2. Laws should be brought in to reverse the current trend of idiots buying 4×4’s with huge engines (you should require a proof of use before being allowed these monstrosities)
    3. Food should be locally sourced and supermarkets enforced to supply these.

    There are many more items I could add to the list, but I feel these are achievable goals which would not impact people lives. Unfortunatley there are some very powerful organisations in the world who will stop at nothing for power and money and that is what worries me the most regarding these required measures.

  2. I don’t agree entirely with point 2 Sam made. I read in the Telegraph a few years back that it takes more carbon in the R&D, production and shipment of a Toyota Pruis Hybrid than it does to manufacture and run 10 Jeep Grand Cherokee V8’s due to their ‘older’ use of technology. You need to consider the whole life cycle of an item before classifying it as bad/evil. They showed, lamely, on Top Gear a few years ago that a BMW M3 is more economical than a Toyota Pruis on their track as the M3 needed tess power to achieve the same performance due to its stronger/larger/more powerful engine. Over taxed little engine or unstressed large block.

    There are already laws about maximum pollution levels in the EU along with a greater emphasis on small high power engines. The new Volvo XC90 for example, you would consider a big 4×4, that will come with a 2.0litre 4 cylinder engine producing up to 400bhp depending in the variant. I bet you though that there would be less carbon churned out in total by keeping an older XC90 V8 running for another 10 years than manufacturing, shipping and running a newer model.

    So, my point being, rather than trying to move to an ever more seemingly economical vehicles or apliances, maybe it would be more environmentally friendly to stick with things for longer. It’s maybe the throwaway culture and desire for the newest, sleekist and most environmentally freindly item that is one cause of the multi faceted problem.

    I’ve said it before, that human kind have had a brief existence iin the history of the earth and whenever we do will will appear inconsequential in another 4 billion years time. I realised this when I was on Anglesea last weekend, I was at Porth Nobla and walking over some rockes and glanced at the wear on it, 3 billion years old and only light scratches! Mother natures is resilient and all we are is just dust in the wind.

    • Very poetic. Getting on to philosophical pseudo-religious territory.

      As it happens I have just been looking into replacing my 10 year old Focus, and have concluded after a little research that running it until it becomes unreliable is the best option. I recommend “How bad are bananas?” by Mike Berners-Lee for an understanding of the carbon footprint of everything from bananas (of course), through running a car vs buying a new one, to the carbon footprint of a war or a birth.

      • Not really, just trying to put the whole debate into perspective. As I said once before, I care about the future for our children and grand children just as much but sometimes it pays to play devils advocate to appreciative both sides of the debate.

        Sam was right to say the prioritisation is needed to start with the major polluting factors first and them work down the list in order.

      • I agree definitely that individually we should be looking at getting the most out of vehicles that are already here (we try and buy the most efficient 10 year old cars we can when we have to replace the car) but companies should just not be allowed to keep building these highly polluting cars in this day and age

    • Ok, I do get where you are coming from Ed, and yes there may be more carbon used in the current process in terms of production cycle of these new vehicles, however overall once these (if they) became mainstream these would reduce significantly. We need to invest in future sustainability even if it costs us now or nothing will ever change. Look at energy saving and LED light bulbs which were very carbon expensive to make originally.

      Under powered engines may struggle on top gears track, but that doesn’t really reflect real world driving condition. Basically a polo blue motion will average 100 mpg combined in the real world and a BMW M3 will struggle to give you 25 mpg and the road tax band tells you all you need to know about the emissions.

      There is simply no need for a large amount of road users to be driving around in sports cars or 4×4 monsters its simply not needed. take a good 2 litre diesel and put it in a decent sized vehicle and carbon use will drop, less weight, smaller tyres, 2 wheel drive etc. There seems to be an arms race with regards to the size of these vehicles like audi Q7s and even porsche getting in on the act making their cars bigger and bigger just to take the kids to school.

      I have been there, building all types of ridiculous powered cars, which consumed vast amounts of fuel (try 15mpg + methonal injection) and again this is just something which people can go an do without any real control.

      The fact is there is a large amount of lobbying from the big oil companies and a general lack of interest to move away from existing tech, bolstered by top gear and their like, pedalling a very obvious agenda. Even though hybrid engines combined with solar film on cars, better batteries etc are a genuine possibility, would save vast amounts of carbon not to mention quite a lot of money for us as consumers.

      • I told you the top gear test was lame…
        I like the idea of solar film on cars. My though though, and I’ve said this before also.
        When building new houses, why not make it a legal requirement to have a certain amount of the roof covered in solar panels and a system to feed into the national grid?

        That way there is a straightforward plan to grow solar power and subsides the national grid requirements on an ongoing basis? The more houses built the more power fed in. Just make it another tax o house building. The downside is that solar panes look ugly. I would be interesting to see who wins that debate, the need for power or the pro-aesthetic group? If the aesthetic group won then there really would be no hope.

      • I think you are all right. Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre argues that people buy new cars anyway, in fact the entire car fleet replaces itself roughly every 8 years – so we should strengthen regulation to reduce the maximum emissions per KM for new cars. At the same time, it would be better still if people didn’t buy new cars until their old cars need replacing.

        Or better still not drive as much or at all. Using a bike might seem like it takes longer, which is not true for short journeys, and not true at all if you include the additional healthy years of life you get from the exercise.

        Not that I ride a bike much and I do have a car – I’m addicted to carbon, you see.

      • It has to be accepted though that if people are to move away from cars there needs to be a suitable alternative at a reasonable cost. For example, I need a car to commute to work as I live 30 miles from the nearest train station and there are not any busses. Also it costs me half as much to drive each day then it does to pay just the train fair. Unless public transport gets cheaper than driving and more convenient there is little hope to move people away from cars for commuting. People are actually being pushed toward scars more which isn’t good news.

  3. Yes Ed I totally agree, and as usual California is already making it a legal requirement, I think the uglyness of these panels is just something that people will have to get used too and with the solar films becoming more effective it may be in a few years that they can just be part of the windows, especially in cities where high rise blocks etc could generate a vast amount of power.

    With regard to uglyness as well, I find the whole thing is relative and things like solar, wind etc can be removed within a few weeks/ months later down the line when better tech emerges. Something that cant be said for the devastating effect of burning fossil fuels or radioactive leaks.

    I remember being a kid and seeing watercolour paintings of windfarms and solar fields giving us an insight into what a sustainable future might look like, and thinking how good they actually looked. I have a new build plan in the next year and am looking forward very much to having solar PV on my roof, not for the cash benefit but the feeling I am actually doing some good generating electric from essentially nothing.

    Anyhow, lets just hope as you say that the non asthetic group gain a bit more momentum.

  4. Pingback: Are you a muppet? | John Bell vs Climate Change (currently 143-1 to Climate Change)

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