108. Environment

Fullard is his name eh? Eliminate him. But be sure to dispose of the body in an environmentally friendly fashion…

The planet is a moody thing.  No matter what we seem to do we are always being accused of polluting lakes, killing Arctic wildlife and leaving massive carbon footprints behind once we die.  Really, the planet is pathetically weak and if it can’t deal with a teeny tiny amount of carbon dioxide then we may as well move to a planet that can, like Mars.

Seriously, Earth is so temperamental.  I am getting increasingly cross with being made to feel like the bad guy every time I turn on a light or put an empty yoghurt pot in the bin.  Who do you think I am, Ming the Merciless?  Those of a left-wing persuasion love nothing more than a good moan about the environment, none more so than the prominent and highly regarded George Monbiot.  But every time I read his column I can’t help but feel like I’m being bullied or spat on, its mean, and in essence, hypocritical too.

I hate being told that just because I like cars I am the spawn of Satan and that because I also enjoy having lights on at night-time I should be hung, drawn and quartered without trial.  In the 1990’s the term “Global warming” was retracted and replaced with the term “Climate change” instead.  This was in response to the light-of-day fact that the planet wasn’t getting any hotter at all, it was simply fluctuating.  The science that alleges that mankind is to blame is highly flawed in my opinion, for one simple fact:  the planet is billions of years old and records only began in 1850.

Over the course of time the planet has undergone massive changes, it is only inevitable then that there will be cold years and hot years.  In fact, it is believed (not proved of course, because it can’t be) that the planet has enjoyed the most stable climate it has ever known over the last 14,000 years or so.  This in turn has made it far easier for the human race to develop into the supreme super-species that it is today.  I’m sure that over those 14,000 years there were 100 year long spells where it was a bit damp and other long periods where it was t-shirt weather for Johnny Caveman.

Since 1850 the technology for monitoring the weather and climate has improved drastically.  In those days a man would simply stand outside and look up, these days there are 1000’s of satellites orbiting the Earth letting us all know what’s going on not just at home, but in North Korea too.

Anyway, the Western powers have been barking on about this for some time, thanks Al, and as a result everyone in Europe has 5 different bins in their kitchens: one for food scraps, one for paper, one for glass, one for baby mess and one for goldfish.  What a disaster and perish the thought of accidentally dropping a tea bag in the goldfish bin by mistake.  And what do you do with half eaten food in plastic packages?  Scrape it all out and then realise you can’t throw the plastic tub away because you can’t remember which bin to use?  It’s a veritable nightmare.

The crusade of extremist environmentalism has finally hit the Middle East, with the UAE being noted as the big pushers.  I don’t mind recycling, in fact I feel quite smug when I use the paper bin, but I don’t like to brag about it, I just get on with it quietly without causing a fuss.  But the whole recycling issue in the UAE is biblically flawed, chiefly because it is as convenient as not having a head.

The way to get people recycling is to make it as easy and as convenient as possible.  I promise that only a tiny minority of people will make the effort to drive out to the outskirts of town to visit the massive recycling centre, and then only those that have cars will do so.  80% of the UAE population don’t or can’t drive so what do you think they are going to do with all the aluminium cans and stool ridden nappies?

No, this won’t do at all.  You can’t have a big place in the middle of nowhere and expect people to make the effort to take their bin fodder there in person.  There are two options as far as I can see to really get people recycling here and to do our bit to make Al Gore and George Monbiot wealthy and smug: either people are employed to go picking through the waste sifting all the recyclables or we just give up and hope for the best.

I know that sounds dreadfully crass but a plan aimed to achieve recycling has to be realistic and enforceable.  How in gods name can an offender who put a nappy in the paper bin be traced from the dump site?  We all live in blocks over here so how can the rubbish men determine who threw out what?  And would they even care?  It can’t be done.

But that’s recycling, what about energy conservation?  Air conditioning units are alleged to be “exceptionally harmful to the environment” and as such have been put in the same category as the atom bomb.  Ok, I’m sure we can save a little bit of localised air pollution by turning the air conditioner off, but then we would all be too hot and thirsty, so we would need to buy more water and then we’d be stuck with the plastic bottles and no way of getting rid of them.  Yes we could turn the lights off but then we would stub our toes on the table in the dark and require the use of plasters and that won’t help because there isn’t a bin dedicated to medical waste.

I yearn for simpler times I really do.  But the whole environmentalism issue needs urgent review and reform.  The mad West has already gone too far down an insane path with its EU legislation and taxation, but the UAE has an opportunity to do it right.  What that is I don’t know, but it must be convenient, free and enforceable.  I have no interest in spending my own money on it, nor do I want to make any effort.  It should be as simple as throwing something in the bin.

Now, I have 63 empty wine bottles on the living room floor, does anyone know what I can do with them?

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6 thoughts on “108. Environment

  1. Andrea says:

    You can’t do anything with those bottles since the “compost plant” doesn’t process glass. They make good vases though…

  2. What’s very interesting is the way the Japanese have approached recycling: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/japan-recycling-waste-recovery
    which is a much more effective way of doing it than the UK government giving everyone extra bins and telling them they’re the worst sort of b**tard if they don’t put the right thing in the right bin. I’m just not sure how you change the public attitude so it’s more like an accepted responsibility instead of “something that Guardian readers do,” but it would certainly help if the government could agree on a nationwide system and give clearer instructions. (As opposed to now, when I can move from one side of town to another to be confronted with a different set of bins and a different list of what they will and won’t take)

    As for the smug people…unfortunately they’re hard to escape. Look up the South Park episode “Smug Alert” for the important message that it’s possible to recycle, drive a fuel-efficient car, etc, etc, without being so insufferably parochial about the fact that you do…a message that some people sorely need.

  3. Now…I do enjoy this blog but I feel the need to pull you up on just a couple of points:

    The change from “global warming” to “climate change” wasn’t actually “in response to the light-of-day fact that the planet wasn’t getting any hotter at all” – it’s actually because the media misinterpreted the term and so the public had a completely misinformed idea of what it meant. What the scientists meant – and what the media failed to point out – was that the *average temperature* of the planet was increasing. What they did not mean was “warmer weather.”

    There’s a huge difference between “weather” and “climate.” If you like, think of it as the difference between your “mood” and your “personality.” I can be “quite cheerful” this morning, but might be “more prone to a grumpy disposition” in the long term. Similarly, it was cold but clear and sunny over London yesterday, but in the long-term London has a temperate and slightly rainy climate.

    The thing is, raising the average temperature of the planet doesn’t just make everything warmer, increase sunshine or reduce rainfall. Because of the oddball way in which land is dotted throughout the oceans, and because of the myriad massive, swirly processes going on in our atmosphere, it’s very hard to predict the exact effect of putting more energy into the system. But to continue the analogy with someone’s mood and personality, let’s feed the same person far too much coffee. They’re going to start swinging wildly between being incredibly alert (hot) and incredibly tired (cold), and their mood will become much more erratic and harder to predict. And a different person (region/country/continent) will respond differently to the excess caffeine depending on other factors.

    As for “the planet is billions of years old and records only began in 1850” – well, the first point is true. I’m not sure about the second. Even the records taken in 1850 would have been scarce and of limited use. But this is limiting it to the records kept by humans; we’re quite lucky in that the natural world has left various indicators throughout the ages that allow us to fill in the gaps. Ice cores taken from the Antarctic ice sheet are just one example – some of that ice has been in place for thousands of years. By knowing various things about the way ice forms, and what can get trapped in it, we can estimate average temperatures, CO2 concentrations, oxygen concentrations and more from the ice that was frozen into place all those centuries ago.

    As for human involvement, I’m afraid the only real source of dispute is how much of the effect is down to us. There is very little research which provides compelling evidence that we are blameless, but for some reason the BBC insist on giving this little research as much airtime as the research which finds us culpable. Fortunately somebody else has taken the time to look at the stats on this one:

    Of course, this is no reason for anybody to look down on you for driving a car and not recycling every little part of your existence. As I mentioned in my first comment, most governments have a very half-arsed approach to recycling and “green targets,” and your car is a necessary evil until the technology catches up to provide a clean and financially viable replacement. Sorry to ramble on about the climate science but I needed to get that one off my chest!

    • Christ! That was longer than the blog! All true and fair points, but my short passing sentences were funnier 🙂 That’s all I cared about! I think you’re right, I just feel the need to get under the skin of the Climate Nazi’s that have too much political power for my liking…

      • Oops…sorry, yes, I’ve just seen how long it is in that format! And yes, granted, it’s hard to be funny with climate science. (Hard to be funny with science generally, to be honest.) Still, you managed to touch a nerve with me so I can barely imagine the reaction you’d get if Mr Monbiot were to stumble across this one – though I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall at the Guardian offices if he ever does…

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