Archive for April, 2010

Oxford East Ask The Climate Question

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

On Wednesday April 21, I went to the Oxford East Ask The Climate Question. Ask The Climate question is a series of political hustings specifically about climate change. The candidates for Oxford East fielded questions from the public in attendance about what their views on certain things related to the environment. It was meant to be the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates, but it ended up including the Socialist Equality Party and UKIP candidates.

There were questions about tar sands, cycling… and some other things that I can’t remember. I had my notebook with me, but chose not to make notes.

It was an event that both highlighted some things for me, and made my decision on who to vote for harder. I thought I was clearly going to vote for Green Party, but each of the candidates (except the UKIP candidate, unfortunately) said things that made a lot of sense. I suppose nobody in that position would say they love flying, haven’t heard of climate change, and would like to see all oil reserves expolited. Still, Andrew Smith (of Labour)  in particular sounded to me like he truly believes in doing as much as possible. He spoke of his history of voting against his party (in a good way) on certain matters and, though he obviously isn’t the most knowledgeable person on so-called green issues, he certainly seemed genuine, and I started to wonder if I should vote for him.

There was something about Edward Argar, the Conservative candidate, that I didn’t like. He didn’t seem very passionate about what he was saying, unlike everybody else. Steve Goddard, the Liberal Democrat, had no effect on me, either.

I thought that Julia Gasper, the UKIP candidate, was treated unfairly. She did say some things that didn’t allow me to take her seriously, regardless of the point being valid or not. For instance, she said that sooner or later somebody would break an energy saving lightbulb and “suck it and die” because of the mercury. Her point alludes to the fact that these lightbulbs are better than the incandescent lamps, but ultimately the materials used in them are questionable. What she said made her look even more like somebody who can’t be taken seriously (even though it was funny).

Yelling things out at her, however, I thought was unpleasant. There seemed to be a concensus amongst a lot of people there that evening that she is not somebody worth listening to. Like the Labour candidate, she made me doubt what I thought I knew. She made me very briefly doubt if climate change is happening. It doesn’t really matter to me, though, if it is or not. I simply think that this is an excellent opportunity to completely change the way we live our lives. Admittedly, though, a couple of times people called out that she didn’t answer the question; it seemed that in every answer she gave she managed to get in something about the EU, going off on an EU-hating tangent and forgetting that she had to answer a specific question.

The hecklers also made me realise something new—it seemed like there is a “you and us” feeling amongst socially responsible people, and I wonder if doing something for the environment is no longer just about doing something positive for the environment. It is as though some people have completely forgotten about the reasons for what we do, as though the doing is enough. It feels like it is a game of who is the most hardcore in their “responsible” actions, when it should be about tackling causes of issues. I understand that this is not explained very well. Put very, very simply, it is like the person who shops in Planet Organic, recycles and receives a weekly fruit and vegetable box not because these things matter to them, but because what matters to them is what other people see them doing, and these things afford them a good image and allow them to feel better than people who don’t do as much as they do.

The Socialist Equality Party candidate, David O’Sullivan, said some things I agree with. He spoke of the combustion engine, that the technology is the problem because it is outdated. If a clean alternative is invented, then, that means we can continue to fly and drive, and relieve oil dependency. A lot of his answers to questions mentioned that the root of many of our problems is capitalism, that there are some things that cannot work as well as they could whilst we still have such a culture, where people are motivated by money.

I don’t know who I am going to vote for, but I wonder if it might be Labour. I plan to look at the manifestos of the four main parties, if only really quickly, to try to understand more about what each is saying.

One final thought to come from the hustings is this: why do we have to have one party in power? Why can’t the best bits be taken from each party and used to govern? Why doesn’t somebody who doesn’t care for the history of politics form a new party that takes the best ideas from all of the political parties?

Roundup #2 – essays and newspapers

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

After I did the last roundup, I wondered what the point of it is. I thought there is the opportunity for me to become slightly more knowledgeable as well as the opportunity for me to write a bit more if I offer more opinion instead of merely pointing to information with a brief description (as in #1); I will have to actually properly read and consider what I have read.

But, in the case of this week’s, that will not happen. Maybe it will never happen. Maybe I will work out what to do with these posts as I go along. Here are some ideas, anyway.

Motorway Man.

Should we allow drugs in sport? This is interesting.

The Election Project.

• Short essays from the The School of Life weblog.

• Sometimes an idea, like Newspaper Club, creates loads of excitement when one first hears about it. It made me think about what I would do with a newspaper. I have thought about producing a magazine, but never a newspaper; this is something new to me, and it is an idea that will stay in my head, somewhere in there, for ages until it is the right time for it to be used.

Waste water recycling

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Perhaps 3 weeks ago, I ran a bath. It was far too much, and it always feels uneasy draining litres of clean water away like that. So I got the bucket that we keep in the kitchen for our recycling and filled it up with the unwanted bath water. I took the bucket outside, but didn’t know what to do with the water, with my growing season not yet started. I poured it into the only watering can we have, and it filled right up to the top because it wasn’t empty to start with. I got another bucket of water from the bath and just left it outside. I can’t even remember what I did with it in the end, but I expect I poured it onto the grass.

That made me seriously think about grey water recycling. I was already aware of the practice of reusing water, but this is the first time I have seriously considered implementing it in my life, despite frequent fantasies of living in a self-reliant house of my own, complete with a composting toilet and efficient water recycling.

We have a washing machine, and we have a bowl in the kitchen sink; we have a shower, but I really only have baths; and we have a conventional toilet, with no modifications to reduce the amount of water that is used to flush it (I don’t know how many litres of water it uses). Finally, we have a garden that has been kind of neglected over winter (since around August/September, actually), but I will definitely be doing something with it this spring/summer, so will have a need for water/a place to recycle water.

So, I am thinking that I will use gravity to transfer my bath water through a length of hosepipe into buckets outside. I am interested in setting up a basic filtering system for this used water so that it will have less debris in it before going onto the plants. I am thinking this: a bucket with a tap filled with a relatively small layer of gravel with a much bigger layer of fine sand on top. The bucket will have a coarse mesh screen through which the water will go first, and the tap will have a filter to filter anything that managed to get through the sand.

Once my bath water is drained into the buckets, I will tip it into the bucket of sand and gravel, which should be set up in such a way that the water can drain into another bucket. I think I will enjoy this setting up this small greywater recycling project. I am going to do a trial before investing in a dustbin and a dustbin amount of sand to see how it works. I was passing an Oxfam shop a few days ago and noticed that they now sell the buckets that one can buy as an Oxfam Unwrapped gift. They cost £6.99, I believe, and they have a tap, so one of those will be ideal.

If it is successful, I will definitely filter all of my bath water during the growing season when I know that I will be watering the plants later in the day; I am aware that greywater should not be stored. I am going to try to be more aware of the water I am wasting, in addition to reusing the water that I do need to use, too, because it is too easy to measure how much we are recycling and completely forget that it might be better to not use the resource in the first place.

I know that any used water that can’t be reused in the garden could be used to flush the toilet, but I don’t think this is going to be the easiest thing to implement. Less easy than working out a setup for the filtering, yes, because not everybody who uses the toilet will be bothered with using a bucket to flush the toilet, and visitors might think we are strange. Also, using a bucket to flush the toilet isn’t going to be anywhere near as fun as watching the once grey water filter through the sand.

If the water I use to have a bath is used twice, that has got to be a less bad thing than being used only only once. I invite comments.

Roundup #1 – urinals and films

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I started receiving The Guardian‘s “Green Light” emails last year, in October. It is just a weekly roundup of environmental news. I wasn’t really that interested at first; my first impression of it was that it seemed to be mostly about pictures of vaguely environmental things. Now, though, I do like receiving it, and seeing what The Guardian is talking about at the moment.

I thought maybe it’d be a good idea to do some sort of roundup of my own. It is largely inspired by the hundreds of shortcuts that I have saved to my desktop in the last couple of years, which I am currently trying to deal with. I don’t doubt that I will write more than one of these, but I do doubt that it will be once a week, every week, delivered on the same day. I will try, anyway.

Also, I am a fan of ideas in general, so perhaps not everything will be related to environmentalism. Finally, I do read more material than what is featured in “Green Light”, even if many links point to The Guardian.

• 10:10 has started a campaign to have Britain’s time changed from GMT in winter to GMT+1, and instead of GMT+1 in summer we would be on GMT+2. The idea is that it would be “lighter later” (as the campaign is called), and if it stays light for most of the evening (in the summer), until people are starting to go to bed, say, the need to use artificial lighting is reduced, and there will be carbon emissions saved in this. I wonder if there could be too much focus on the positive effects of extra daylight in the evenings, with not so much being mentioned about the extra darkness in the mornings. Lighter Later. One of the Guardian articles in favour of this change.

• I keep getting emails from Britdoc, and every time I get one I remember that I am no longer really interested in receiving their emails anymore. The last one I received, however, spoke of “the future of film distribution”, and I was glad I didn’t unsubscribe myself before finding out about this. Good Screenings allows anybody to show some social change films, the cost for which is decided on a sliding scale depending on who you are (multinational, charity), where you are, how many people you will show it to, and some other things. Erasing David, McLibel, and The Age of Stupid are some of the current films available to screen. Good Screenings.

• I read a review of the Magdalen Arms pub in Oxford, and the person said that the pub has PlantLocks outside. These are basically planters to which bikes can be locked. It’s good design, I think, to combine gardening and making a place uplifting with a “ride your bike in a practical way (rather than fantasising about how good bicicles are for transport and the environment) yet not get it stolen because there’s nothing immovable to lock it to” function. PlantLock.

• Why don’t we use urinals in the home? I don’t know, but if we consider using urinals at home, we might as well consider using a bucket and using it in the garden. Probably a lot of people live near to somebody who would utilise urine on their compost heap. The Guardian “Ask Leo” article.

• National Geographic teams up with Ambi Pur to produce those annoying air fresheners that plug into the socket and make my eyes sting and my nose run. Why? Another Guardian “Ask Leo” article.