Less work means more

Funny how life works out, isn’t it?  The business is going through a lull, resulting in more time for organising a workshop for Global Power Shift, getting the next steps on the B-Hive sorted, developing an idea for tackling misinformation in the press and moving to a farm…

An email went round in my business circles recently, stating that the Department for Transport had identified a potential problem with the software I have specialised in.  I felt a little down for a few days, as the work dried up, but realised what an opportunity had opened up.  I now have a few weeks of time on my hands to devote to the other aspects of my life.  The opportunities for the climate change work are opening up.  Glad to have more than one iron in the egg basket.

The disparate group of young activists involved in the UK team of the Global Power Shift are starting to get organised, and I’m giving as much support as I can.  Would you believe I am almost the grandad of the group.  I am helping organise a weekend away to allow them to spend a decent amount of time together to develop the general direction of opening up the climate change movement to a more diverse and non-traditional cross-section of people in the UK and to sort out their own governance.

The date for this weekend is 26/27 October, which coincides nicely with a trip to Wales to see my folks.  We’ll be taking the kids to a Halloween party at the Leisure Centre my mother is running in her retirement.

With Transition Town Berkhamsted, we’re starting a series of talks called the Ashlyns Lectures.  They will be one per school term at the local secondary school.  We had comedian Mark Stevenson lined up for 5 Feb, but then had the opportunity for Polly Higgins to come in during late Jan, which seemed a pity as it would be too close to Mark’s talk.  But as luck would have it, Mark had to postpone, which opened up the door for Polly.  The real coincidence was that Mark suggested a revised date for his talk, which happened to be the already-booked provisional date for the third Ashlyns Lecture on 21 May.  Thank you Mr Fate, whoever you are.

You may have noticed that climate change is getting more press recently, in the run up to the release of the 5th IPCC report on 27 Sept.

Don't let them do it to you

Don’t let them do it to you

  This has led to a spate of factually inaccurate, misleading and biased articles appearing in the primarily Murdoch-run papers and news channels.  We shouldn’t allow this propaganda to get out there unchallenged.  While jogging in the woods it came to me that we could set up an easy mechanism for people to make official complaints about these articles, based on the science.  It’s early days, but conversations with John Cook at Skeptical Science, Avaaz, The Tree, Friends of the Earth International and The Climate Reality Project seem to be going somewhere fast.  Watch this space.

The lull has also offered me the chance to organise the next steps on the B-Hive town consultation I have been involved with.  The architects are meeting tonight to pull together the ideas of the townspeople.  I’m also setting up a meeting of all of the Transition Towns in the area to get ourselves organised – that’s 20 Oct.

Then there is the potential community purchased of Ballspool Farm in nearby Kings Langley.  I’ll get involved with that if it looks promising enough, to help lead to my dream of creating a self-contained community of like-minded individuals which treads lightly on the environment but is also capable of living through any kind of breakdown in society.  Yes, that could easily happen.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Have you Been Misled?

What you think you know about climate change could be bollocks.  You might hear the voices of those with a vested interest in the status quo say that climate change is a swindle, a hoax, made up by the political left and scientists looking for grant money and propagated by the gullible environmentalists.  Rubbish, of course.  No, the real misinformation is about how much time we have to get the carbon out of our system.  In reality, you’ve got time to solve the problem, but not to wait for “them” to give you a hand.increase-profit

Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre spelled this out in no uncertain terms in the Cabot Institute Annual Lecture of 2012 “Real Clothes for the Emperor” in Bristol.

The scientists that turn the jargon-ridden scientific papers into something useful for policy makers, business and public alike have been overly optimistic.  They’ve fallen into that all-too-human trap of wanting to please.  It’s not the science that has been misrepresented, but the part of the system most difficult to predict – the reaction of humanity.

I’ve seen the same happen in business profit projections or forecasts of project spending when the proverbial shit is hitting the proverbial fan.  Not wanting to be the unfortunate harbinger of bad news, managers account for all of the myriad of initiatives that have been conjured up to improve the situation and ignore the potential downsides.  They may still end up with a little bad news, but it looks manageable, under control.

That was one of the reasons I wanted to get out of permanent employment as a project manager.  I’d taken a more pragmatic and realistically honest approach, which had then got watered down and politically finessed before reaching the upper management, who were all to ready to subtly point the finger, or allow those below them to do so.

So I can see how it has happened with the projections for climate change.  Kevin Anderson looked at the forecasts in a cross section of scientific summary reports and showed where the heroic assumptions have come in.

Their assumptions about the now are bad enough.  They often start with a level of emissions lower than reality.

Then it gets really silly when you look at the future.  Most reports upon which policy makers rely assume that global emissions will peak in 2014 to 2016, where in reality the rate they’re going up is going up.  Then they assume that emissions will go down at an incredible rate.  So fast in fact that if you make realistic assumptions about the rate of decrease of emissions in the developing world, then the developed world would have to abruptly, suddenly stop all greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.

The lesson?  We cannot rely on “them” to replace our electricity supplies with emission-free alternatives quickly enough – it just isn’t feasible.  We cannot rely on “them” to invent a way of making our cars or planes move without damaging the future.

The only way that we can get out of this mess is if those people who possess the solution prioritise the future for our children above their own luxury.  That’s the 1-5% of the global population responsible for the majority of emissions, the people who earn £30K or more or fly once a year.  That may well mean you.

To enact the solution might look like making sacrifices, like stopping flying or travelling less.  In my experience life is a whole lot better when you make the change.  I’ve got so much more time for my family, Britain is beautiful and the company of friends life-giving.  Let’s enjoy real Life.

The next couple of posts will discuss how that might come about.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke