World Environment Day 2008

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Today is World Environment Day 2008 – a day for promoting environmental awareness with the aim of moving towards a low carbon economy.

Generally, I’m in favour of reducing carbon emissions. Regardless of whether you believe that global warming is a man-made phonomenon (not everyone does) the idea of pumping out fewer harmful gasses just seems to be the right thing to do – why would you do anything else?

Unfortunately, governments and businesses can harness people’s good intentions and use it to further their own causes. It seems that the UK Government, for example, is hoping that rising fuel prices and increased pressure to adapt green travel initiatives will avoid the need to invest in the nation’s infrastructure – meanwhile our roads are falling apart, trains are full (and the service is variable) and if you live outside a city then public transport is not generally practical. Then there’s the whole “green” energy issue. The windfarm that is being forced upon local people where I live sounds great. At least it does until you realise that it wouldn’t be viable without massive subsidy (because north-east Buckinghamshire is not a very windy place – even if the UK is as a whole) and that those subsidies (paid for by consumers who are already struggling with rising energy prices) are being pushed through a complicated chain of investments back to companies based in the Bahamas and the Marshall islands (both considered to be tax havens). How cynical is that?

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t all do our bit. Hopefully I’ll write a bit soon about my investigation into energy usage for some of my IT – looking at the items that consume the most power and how best to reduce the carbon footprint. I do find it a little odd though that so many companies are adopting the “Please consider the environment – do you really need to print this email?” message and including it in their e-mail signatures (including where I work – where, paradoxically, many of our printers are old and inefficient and very few them support double-sided printing…). Think Before You Print But do people really print their e-mail? (I admit that I do sometimes print documents that I’m reviewing because it’s easier to read in print than on the screen). Regardless, I preferred to use the slightly punchier “Be green: keep it on the screen” line until I saw one of my colleagues from down under using a “Think before you print” logo which I’ve since adopted – much broader in scope than just not printing e-mail.

One thing’s for sure – there are very few “right” decisions on green issues. Not so much black and white but with many grey shades in between (perhaps that should be not so much forest green or spring green but emerald, jade and lime). Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what the right choice is… for instance, should I buy fair trade produce and help out poor farmers in developing nations – or should I stick to local produce, and reduce my food mileage? I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Leon Hickman: A Good Life - the Guide to Ethical LivingIn the meantime, a good read if you are interested in the whole idea of sustainable living (I even started to grow my own vegetables this year!) is A Good Life – the guide to ethical living, by Leo Hickman.

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