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English School Embraces iPads, Apple and Techno Brainwashing

Posted by keith on 30th August 2011

There is a rule in civilized society that goes something like this: Whenever something is compulsory then it must have something wrong with it. We see it all the time, in the school system and it’s one-size-fits-all approach to child indoctrination; in the application of statutory rules that are essentially corporate policies; in the forced registration and noting of people and everything associated with them – compulsion is rampant within civilization because if it weren’t then people might do whatever they liked, and that would be a terrible blow to the economy and the power of the ruling minority.

Such is the micro-management taking place in every aspect of our lives, that it comes as little surprise when a new compulsion is introduced, and a great surprise when any genuine freedom is granted. One such new compulsion, or so it seems, that only briefly caused a ripple – and then possibly only because of a fear of increased access to pornography – was a new scheme introduced by Longfield Academy in Dartford, Kent. Essentially, every student (of state-sponsored indoctrination) will be given an iPad, which would be used to, in the school’s own words: “revolutionise learning in the new Academy and at home”. There is little about this idea that doesn’t make my skin creep, and the creeping becomes more intense as you delve deeper into the details.

The otherwise abhorrant Daily Mail was refreshingly candid in the headline to the story that broke in July, 2011: “School orders parents to buy their children a £600 iPad2″. It went on:

A school came under fire yesterday for forcing its parents to buy a £600 iPad2 for their children. Teachers at Longfield Academy, in Dartford, Kent, have succumbed to the current technology trend and are bulk-buying 1,400 of the touchscreen computer tablets made by Apple. From September the school will require all pupils to have one and are installing interactive whiteboards that link to the iPads.

Parents will have to splash out £16 a month, for three years, for the iPads – equivalent to £576. The total cost to parents at the school will be a staggering £806,400. The move by Longfield, a school for pupils aged 11 to 18, is the first of its kind in England, but hundreds of schools could follow suit as it has been revealed that some 500 are poised to adopt a similar scheme with digital education charity, e-learning Foundation.

Experts yesterday criticised Longfield for piling pressure on cash-strapped parents to pay for the ‘toy’. They questioned the school’s desire to use iPads as an educational tool – saying they were more suited to watching movies, surfing the internet and playing music.

And they warned that it will lead to an increase in the number of pupils viewing porn.

Education expert Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, said: ‘This school is jumping on the “cool” bandwagon. It’s after cheap headlines. It should instead be focusing on the quality of education it provides. The school is shamefully giving parents the impression that buying an expensive iPad is in their child’s long term interest. In reality parents are being asked to invest a small fortune in something that is little more than a toy and hugely associated with the viewing of porn.

Longfield’s decision to teach all pupils with an iPad is the first of its kind in the England.

To be honest the “porn” issue is a moot point – people will view porn whenever and however it is available, so long as it remains available, so the iPad is no worse than any other technology on this point. On every other point, though, it is clear that the scheme does nothing but feed the technological obsession of the school system while lining the pockets of Apple Computer. This latter point is made clear via the school’s own newsletter, all about the scheme, which explained:

On the 30th March two parents events were carried out where the vision for the scheme was outlined and the iPad project
manager from Apple demonstrated the educational applications of the device.

Going on to answer the revealing question, “Why are we going to use Apple only?” with a trite explanation pointing to “life expectancy” and “creative and collaborative work”, conveniently skipping over the idea that Open Source or even other commercial offerings have much the same capabilities. But that’s not the point. Apple appears to have benefitted perhaps accidentally from this decision but then been called in to ensure the technology becomes binding. Brand loyalty is what all corporations love best, and what better way to seal brand loyalty than to make your brand ubiquitous in a (to all intents and purposes) compulsory “learning” environment?

Apple love this lots, as you can see from their Youth Programs, offering among other things:

Youth Workshops
From composing a song in GarageBand to building a photo album to creating a compelling Keynote presentation, our Youth Workshops offer families with kids (ages 6 to 13) a chance to work together to hone their Mac skills and use iLife and iWork applications to complete exciting projects. We offer the free workshops at Apple Retail Stores worldwide.

Field Trip to the Apple Store
Take your students on a Field Trip to an Apple Retail Store for an unforgettable learning experience. On their Field Trip, students can create something amazing right on the spot. Or they can bring in a project they’ve already created and turn our store into a theater, sharing their achievements with parents, teachers, and friends. No matter which option you choose, everyone will have a great time.

and the exceptionally immersive:

Apple Camp
Lights. Camera. Camp. Nothing beats Apple Camp for a fun summer activity for your kids. This summer, kids ages 8-12 will learn the ins and outs of iMovie and how to make a film in about the time it takes to watch one. The free workshop, held at the Apple Retail Store, spans three days and leads up to an Apple Camp Film Festival where campers debut their masterpieces.

So by falling for the latest retail obsession, no doubt helped by the fact that it is run by the Leigh Academies Trust (motto “Act Enterprisingly. Work in Partnership. Achieve Excellence.”), Longfield Academy has allowed Apple to influence a significant part of the lives of the young people whose care it has been entrusted with. By further making the iPad a home/school deal then Apple gets to eke its way into the private lives of these same young people who without the iPads may have (horror of horrors!) decided to spend some time away from technology when they get home rather than being gripped with the ubiquity of computerisation.

I can’t finish off this noxious tale without linking to a video produced by (some of) the students of Longfield. What is really frightening is that they really think this is a good thing…


UNDERMINING OPPORTUNITY

Are you a student at Longfield Academy? Do you like being brainwashed by the technocracy and the so-called “education” system? Well, first I think it would be fair to refuse the iPad – just take it back, if you have it, or if you are today’s new intake (yes, term starts today, at the time of writing) then refuse it in the first place. Legally, no school can force you to accept the iPad; less still can they make you pay for it – they would be in breach of tax rules and subject to ferocious fines from HMRC if you were forced to pay.

And how about a nice bit of subvertising? Maybe you have an art project coming up, or perhaps something in media studies. How about taking the beloved Apple logo and turning into something a lot more truthful – perhaps a worm coming out of its rotten core, or some slave labour overseen by a grinning Apple?

Some good examples of subvertising here: http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/subvertising-gallery/, to adorn the toilet walls, or even the art room :-)

Posted in Advice, Human Rights, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Sponsorship, Subvertising | No Comments »

BT Adastral Plan Wipes Out “Green” Promises At A Stroke

Posted by keith on 12th November 2010

Adastral Park is part of BT’s (formerly British Telecom) Martlesham Heath technology complex, a combination of defence research laboratory and industrial park, situated close to the busy Suffolk town of Ipswich, and adjacent to a large area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can find Adastral Park by going to their website, which isn’t very well designed, but is replete with stories about how the staff of Adastral are playing such a big part in keeping the Suffolk coast clean and tidy. This is no coincidence, because when you have so many technology companies on site, dependent on your ignorance of global environmental and human rights issues for their success, then it’s always good to keep casual viewers thinking about nice things.

BT, who own the site, make a huge deal about their environmental credentials, with “Sustainable Business” (there’s an anachronism) right on the front page of their corporate web site, and the following headline statement:

As a company, we are always looking for ways to minimise our impact on the environment.

Indeed, we are very proud of our environmental management track record having set our first carbon reduction target back in 1992.

Now we’re committed to reducing the carbon intensity of our global business by 80 per cent by 2020 – so far we have achieved a 54 per cent reduction by becoming more energy efficient and by increasing our use of renewable energy.

Ah, that phrase “carbon intensity” – used worldwide by expanding economies and companies to pretend they are reducing their net emissions – but let’s ignore that one, because among their many other commitments are included all sorts of schemes for reducing carbon emissions within the business and their products, as well as their data centres. One thing missing, though, seems to be impact on habitat: I wonder why that can be:

A bit of history.

The GPO moved its research centre from Dollis Hill to what is now Adastral Park in the late sixties. One of the main attractions of the site was the amount of flat open land in the area which was essential for radio testing.

Over many years BT have put forward various proposals and plans to expand the business park activities. Nine years ago the first amendment to the Local Plan (dated June 2001) created a framework for expanding the business park but they did not link it to building any residential housing on the site. At the time BT forecast 3000-3500 additional jobs by about 2010 – but in reality we believe there are probably fewer people employed on the site now than in 2001.

As recently as 2007 BT said that they could develop the business park without the need for the income from selling land for housing.

The BT land

Despite what is said in the LDF and various BT documents the open land outside the BT fence IS greenfield. Farming is still carried out on some of it, and a license has been granted for mineral extraction on part. However that license requires that the land be returned to farming at the end of the extraction – the existence of extraction does not mean that it is no longer technically greenfield land.

At its closest the site comes within 88 metres of an AONB, and there are several sites of special status close by, which are home to protected species – eg Newbourne Springs. The new development will increase the local population by about 4,800 people, placing an unnecessary burden on these valuable protected wildlife sites. Proposals to employ a warden will not stop people visiting.

As recently as 2006, SCDC rejected a planning application for 120 log cabins on a site next to Waldringfield Road. The rejection was on the grounds that it was too near the AONB etc, and would result in an unacceptable increase in visitor numbers to those sensitive areas. BT objected to this application

In October 2008 BT wrote to the East of England Regional Assembly in response to a request for landowners to put forward further land for housing up to 2031. BT responded to this request by saying that their site could potentially accommodate up to 3000 – 3500 houses in total – ie around 8500 people – it is inconceivable that this many people would not a have major impact on the nearby natural areas.

That slice of information is from the No Adastral New Town campaign group, who seem to be a bit of a lone voice in protesting against the “development” (i.e. killing off) of a major slice of Suffolk countryside in order to satisfy the perceived need for new housing. Yet, according to Empty Homes, there were about 1,500 empty homes in Ipswich in 2008, along with nearly 1,700 more empty homes in the adjacent Suffolk Coastal district. Bear in mind also, that the projections for new homes are heavily influenced by the lobbying of housing developers, and also the organisations upon whose land the houses could be built upon, and you get a situation which is completely absurd: no new houses needed whatsoever, in reality.

But BT can make a heck of a lot of money out of this, so they are only too willing to toss aside any weasel words (apologies to weasels) they say about their “green” business commitments if it means a hefty amount of money in the company coffers.

If you live anywhere near this area, then please get in touch with the campaign group (more details here) or just go it alone and let everyone know what hypocrites BT and Suffolk Coastal District Council really are.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Government Policies, Public Sector Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

NAU Receives $1 Million to Teach Native Kids How Great Industrial Civilization Is

Posted by keith on 19th October 2010

Northern Arizona University have been given $1 million by the National Science Foundation to create a program to teach rural and indigenous people (you know, those people whose land was stolen from them in order to extract minerals and oil, and grow industrial scale crops) science and technology.

The National Science Foundation is a US government institution that exists to promote industrial science for the benefit of the industrial system. It was founded in 1950 with the following Mission:

“To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense….”

(The full text of the National Science Foundation act of 1950 can be found here)

Dig deeper and apart from the sinister undertones of “secure the national defense…” we find the following statement which sums up very well what the true rational of NSF is:

The National Science Board (Board) firmly believes that to ensure the long-term prosperity of our Nation, we must renew our collective commitment to excellence in education and the development
of scientific talent.

A key component of innovation is the development of new products, services, and processes essential
to the Nation’s international leadership. Just as in generations past, there are talented students from every demographic and from every part of our Country who with hard work and with the proper opportunities will form the next generation of STEM innovators. The vital importance of innovation to the U.S. economy led the Board to embark on a 2-year exploration of this issue.

In the NAU statement (reproduced below in full) the authors not only reflect the desire to encourage economic growth through science but, and even more abhorrently, are determined to exploit the generosity of indigenous teachers in order to feed back into native cultures a new desire for industrial scientific principles. In short, because indigenous cultures value sustainability above all other aspects of life, then they are clearly in conflict with the desires of a rapacious industrial nation, and therefore must be taught that industrial civilization is the only way of living.

A $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation is putting Northern Arizona University in a leading role to increase public understanding of global climate change and help prepare the next generation of scientists and educators.

As one of 15 institutions nationwide that was awarded NSF funding as part of the foundation’s Climate Change Education Partnership program, NAU will focus its outreach effort on Native American and rural communities on the Colorado Plateau, targeting students who are historically underrepresented in science and math education.

“One of the things this grant allows us to do is go into these rural communities and meet with teachers and leaders to teach about climate change science and solutions in culturally and regionally relevant ways,” said Jane Marks, NAU biology professor and principal investigator for the project.

Marks said the constantly evolving nature of scientific research makes it a challenge to introduce school-age children to cutting-edge science—a matter complicated by the interdisciplinary nature of climate science, which does not fit neatly into any given science class.
“The topic of climate change has become so politically charged,” she added. “Misinformation and biases often lead to the perception that climate change either is not a real problem or that it is a problem too large to solve.”

In an effort to tackle these challenges, Marks and a team of NAU researchers from the Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research, the Program in Community Culture and Environment, the Center for Science Teaching and Learning, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies and the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability will use the new funding over the next two years to design a middle- through high-school climate change curriculum for the region.

If successful, the team will be eligible for long-term funding from the NSF to implement the program across the Colorado Plateau.

Drawing on the traditional knowledge and relationships that members of Native communities have with the land and its resources, the researchers will incorporate these ideologies into the curriculum.

“We will call on local people, including Native artists, musicians and community leaders, to generate an excitement and interest among the region’s young people about alternative energies, conservation and land use,” Marks said.

Rom Coles, director of the Program in Community Culture and the Environment, said one of the most innovative pieces of the program is that it will “connect the teaching of climate to many of the bold initiatives being advanced by people in the non-profit, private and public sectors to generate a green economy based on energy alternatives that are not carbon-intensive, such as solar and wind power.”

An added goal is to spark an interest among Native and rural students in science, technology, engineering and math—also called STEM disciplines—which Marks said will connect these underserved populations to vital economic and career opportunities.

Words fail me in expressing how deep my loathing is for this brainwashing program. All I really need to do is quote again from the article: “An added goal is to spark an interest among Native and rural students in science, technology, engineering and math—also called STEM disciplines—which Marks said will connect these underserved populations to vital economic and career opportunities.

For thousands of years indigenous people have known how to live without screwing up their land, so it’s about time NAU taught them how to screw it up good and proper.

Posted in Funding, Government Policies, Public Sector Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Brilliant Rant About Symbolic Action and 10:10

Posted by keith on 8th October 2010

I have been sent a link to this wonderful “rant” – no, it’s not a rant, it’s telling it like it is – on the Powershift forum.

Here’s the Richard Curtis video he refers to, and if Mr Curtis would like my opinions on 10:10 then I would love him to bring his little red button to my house so we can discuss it…

Yeah, but what about the climate impact of the detergents and water to clean up afterwards? ;-)

This is just sick; not the fake blood (cinematic suicide bomber chic?), but the whole belief in piffling measures like low energy lights and the like as being the way we can cut emissions. We have to offer a vision outside of the present consumer paradigm that encourages a shift in lifestyle rather than the substitution of existing consumption trends. Actions like this are a simplistic exhortation to change brand or product, not to change the nature of the human system and its impacts on the biosphere. And if, in the rhetoric of “10:10″, this is just something easy to get people interested, that’s absurd too — a lot of recent work on issues around behavioural economics demonstrate that such incantations to change only work where the change is insignificant or equivalent, but fail when it requires a real and difficult realignment of lifestyle patterns.

I’ve just been sent the blurb — AGAIN — on the Crude Awakening demo in London — http://www.crudeawakening.org.uk/

Yet another example of people who want to “save the planet” and keep their iPods (OK, I’m generalising on that point!), when in fact it’s their atrophied, consumer-oriented outlook on the potential of their lives that’s the problem. Their perception of the drivers for the “problems” they seek solutions to are wholly divorced from reality, and rely on the simplistic media-spun agenda that is shaped by the very same forces that they state their opposition to. E.g., there’s no discussion of the resource supply issues related to oil (and other) as a source of energy — why do you think the industry is drilling in deep water/the Arctic in the first place?

There is no climate solution within the paradigm of consumption; that’s a demonstrable fact. We have to shift our lifestyles to a new economic and organisational structure that restricts demand, but unfortunately none of the self-proclaimed leaders of the eco-establishment appear to have the guts to promote such a concept at the leading edge of their agenda (of course, you might find such exhortations in the small print, but they won’t lead their sound-bites on this approach).

It doesn’t matter if, at present, most people “won’t like it”; it’s the only option that is able to address the drivers of the human suicide cult called “growth economics” — physical reality doesn’t negotiate, doesn’t compromise with ‘political reality’, and for that reason the eco-establishment as much as the political and economic establishment are going to be thrown into crisis by these trends as they arrive over the next two or three decades. Personally I think I’d rather be disliked for making a case based on evidence rather than promoting an eco-delusion assimilated by market forces. More importantly, people might not “like it” today, but if that argument is not put because of the movement’s adherence to the shibboleth of growth then the public will never have the choice of considering any option other than the market-centric solutions offered by all mainstream parties/groups.

As far as I can see, initiatives like this are just spinning a delusional rope that will in the near future hang them! Clearly, in the reversal of McLuhan’s observation, “the message has become the media”; and in the process the actions that they promote are conceptual extrapolations of reality (aka. ‘hyperreality’), not a realistic commentary on our situation that the public are able to assimilate and act upon. These “environmentalists” should stop using the Web 2.0/digital media that are driving IT emissions up and resource availability down, ditch their mobile phones and other lifestyle gadgets, and start living a more simpler way of life where we reduce consumption not for the motivation of “reducing emissions” (which, by many measures, does not have this effect on the economy as a whole) but rather to avoid the need to earn income and therefore the need to work long hours — in the process creating the spare time to engage in more activities that create a less consumptive and more local/resilient system, thus creating a feedback loop that reduces their lifestyle impacts further.

Simplicity is the future, not the illusion of some carbon-friendly ecotopia.

Another 10% next year? I don’t think so.

Posted in Adverts, Celebrity Hypocrisy, Corporate Hypocrisy, Media Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 1 Comment »

Cairn Energy Buries Truth in Business Speak

Posted by keith on 24th August 2010

Below is a verbatim lift from the Corporate Responsibility page on the website of Cairn Energy. I have just highlighted the one key point that you must bear in mind when reading:

Cairn’s strategy is to deliver shareholder value through establishing commercial reserves in high potential exploration plays in various parts of the world. In implementing this strategy, the Group focuses on conducting all of its activities in a responsible manner.

Our approach to CR is based on continuous improvement and responsible behaviour across four main platforms:

* Business relationships
* Commitment to our people
* Commitment to society and communities
* Commitment to the environment

During the course of 2008, we concentrated our Corporate Responsibility activities on eight key areas of business practice identified as having high significance through our business risk management and stakeholder engagement processes. The following paragraphs summarise these areas and the remainder of the report documents Cairn’s activities in each area.

Stakeholder Engagement
At Cairn we believe that building strong, open and lasting relationships with our stakeholders is not merely a social responsibility, it is also vital to achieving our business goals. Our activities are influenced by – and may potentially impact – a range of different stakeholders at local, national and international levels. In particular, governments and local communities can significantly affect our capacity to carryout our activities and achieve our aims.

Business Ethics
Corruption when it occurs is recognised as a major hindrance to sustainable development with an often disproportionate impact on poor communities. At its worst the impact on businesses can be considerable, impeding economic growth, distorting competition and representing serious legal and reputational risks.

Revenues paid to government and the value of contracts awarded in carrying out our activities can be significant in the countries in which we operate and in the local communities in which we work.

It is important that we operate at all times with integrity, honesty and transparency.

Employee Development
Cairn’s success is driven by its people. Consequently, employee engagement and personal and organisational development have been key focus areas for the Company and will continue to be so.

Our employee development programme is designed to ensure that the organisation delivers its objectives in support of the company’s strategy as well as providing our staff with the opportunity to grow as individuals.

Health, Safety and Security
Cairn recognises that exploring for and producing hydrocarbons carries inherent potential risks. In some areas of Bangladesh, India and Nepal in particular, the security environment may be challenging. We must, therefore, ensure and protect the health, safety and security of our employees and contractors working on our sites and the people who come into contact with our operations. We also recognise the importance of promoting and providing a healthy, positive work environment for staff to reduce absenteeism and promote morale.

Community Development
Cairn recognises that its activities can affect the social and economic environment of the communities in which we operate. This is particularly true where Cairn’s presence dominates local industrial or commercial activity as is the case in a remote and arid part of Rajasthan, India where Cairn are developing major oil and gas fields. We recognise that being sensitive to the impact we have is important if we are to sustain our activities and operate effectively. Our goal is to make a positive social impact in every area in which we are active.

Human Rights
Cairn recognises the importance of human rights. In Rajasthan, for example, we apply a ‘Rights Aware’ approach to safeguard the local community’s right to water in an area with limited water resources while accessing the water required to support our operations.

Environmental Impact
Cairn recognises that its exploration, development and production activities can have an impact on the environment. Some of Cairn’s exploration and production acreage lies in areas of environmental significance. Cairn recognises its responsibilities and focuses on the avoidance of negative impacts on the environment during its operations.

Climate Change
Activities involved in our operations, such as power generation, flaring, venting and transportation, produce emissions to air, including methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), two gases recognised as greenhouse gases (GHG). The burning of oil and gas, our primary products, also produces GHG emissions. Climate change is a complex issue with many causes both natural and due to human activity. We acknowledge that there is a growing consensus about the extent and effect of global warming. Energy is essential to social and economic progress but we recognise that we have a responsibility to take a precautionary approach to climate change. At all times, we seek to minimise GHG emissions from our operations.

Now here is a verbatim lift from the website of People and Planet:

RBS arranged the finance allowing the Scottish oil company Cairn Energy to forge ahead with oil exploration in pristine parts of Greenland’s Arctic. In March 2009, following the Treasury’s bail out of the bank with public money, RBS acted as joint arranger with Merrill Lynch, placing shares worth £116 million for “accelerated drilling” in Greenland by Cairn Energy.

Determined to tap into potential oil reserves within this untouched region, Cairn Energy are keen to lead the rush into Arctic drilling, describing Greenland as ‘a true frontier country’. It has already gained licences covering 72,000 square kilometres off Greenland’s west coast, an area half the size of England. Cairn Energy have suggested that these are just the beginning and that it hopes to expand further. The US Geological Survey has estimated that over 16 billion barrels of oil and gas could lie off Greenland’s coast. Taking this out of the ground would be an absolute disaster for global efforts to tackle climate change.

A slide within Cairn’s presentations on Arctic oil exploration shows the melting Arctic ice. Reduced heavy sea ice makes exploration work easier around Cairn’s two most “promising” licences, off Disko Island – an area frequently visited by those inspecting the impacts of climate change first hand. What Cairn Energy views as an opportunity, Greenland’s Inuit population experience as a threat to their very survival and are increasingly vocal about the impacts which climate change is already having on them.

I don’t need to say much more, although you can be sure that more will happen soon…

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Can a Shopping Voucher Skew Survey Results?

Posted by keith on 3rd August 2010

A couple of weeks ago I – or rather our house – received a letter from an organisation called the National Centre for Social Research, inviting us to take part in an annual survey called British Social Attitudes. I like filling in surveys when I have time because it lets me think more about what I believe, and also provides a nice opportunity to screw up systems of categorisation, having found out some time ago that I neatly fitted into not a single one of the geodemographic categories that corporations and governments like to believe we should all be defined by.

This letter contained a little surprise, though; and not a very pleasant one. From the envelope fell a voucher for £5, going by the name of “Love2shop“. This voucher, like all gift vouchers, specifies precisely where the face value can be redeemed, and the range of outlets is ok…if you can see past the gruesome “Love2shop” monicker.

I hate shopping.

But personal opinions aside, what is far more worrying is that the British Social Attitudes survey is meant to be an objective and robust record of British attitudes (at least of those people who have mailing addresses). The letter states:

British Social Attitudes is the most respected and accurate guide to what people in Britain think about a range of issues, so you may have come across facts from our reports in the newspapers or on television. For 27 years our findings have been used by government, top universities, charities and the media to inform policy and insight.

By my reckoning, if such a survey is to fulfil all that then nothing can be allowed to skew the randomisation of the subjects, nor their mindset when answering the questions. The problem is that even though the addresses selected for survey, and the person selected for interview in that address, is statistically random, no one is obliged to take the survey. The questionee has to accept the invitation, so there is a significant element of self selection involved in the survey. Now, who do you think is more likely to be persuaded to take part in a survey upon receipt of a Love2shop voucher: someone who considers themselves to be a “Consumer” or someone who does not?

If this outcome was intentional then I would say that someone was trying to doctor the survey in favour of a consumer society.

I contacted NatCen to find out why, given the apparent objectivity of the survey, someone had thought it would be a good idea to include a shopping voucher as an incentive. The nice researcher I eventually spoke to seemed keen to listen, and indeed took what I said quite seriously; but also said categorically – as far as she knew – that there were no extenuating circumstances: the voucher just seemed like a nice idea at the time and, as far as she was concerned wouldn’t affect the outcomes of the survey. I begged to differ, pointing out that the methodology was already bound to account for the likelihood of different types of people to take surveys, and therefore if the effect of the shopping voucher had also not been accounted for then the survey would be void.

She promised to let someone know.

As an aside, I was also very keen to know the contents of the survey itself, ostensibly to find out whether the questions and the way in which they are asked skewed the outcome towards any particular outcome – one, for instance, that may be desired by a society obsessed with industrial and economic growth. Surprisingly, she not only sent me a link to the survey (you can download the PDF here) but, on first glance, it seemed to be a fairly well conducted survey – albeit something that might have been commissioned by the Daily Mail.

So what of the voucher? Well, sadly it seems to reflect the blanket attitude that everyone in public life seems to have smothered humanity with: we all want to shop.

Posted in Promotions, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Should Know Better | No Comments »

It’s Always Bloody Ozone

Posted by keith on 22nd February 2010

I don’t watch a lot of television – well, that’s probably no surprise – but if I am free on Sunday lunchtimes I do like to watch Countryfile on BBC One. There are all sorts of interesting items about all sorts of different things, and this week was no exception: focusing on Somerset, there were items about the use of willow, tree identification in Cheddar Gorge, and prehistoric tracks in peatlands. There was also a good, balanced item in the “John Craven Investigates” strand about generating your own energy – I particularly liked the woman with the ceramic stove who was just the right side of smug, knowing that at any time the power supply could give out!

This item starts at about 10′ 30″ on BBC iPlayer, by following the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00r3rzv/Countryfile_21_02_2010/ (Note: This will expire on February 27, 2010)

Early on, and you can see this at 11′ 30″, something I hear time and time again from both children and adults is said by a young girl in response to a question about why we should generate our own electricity:

“Because our ozone layer is slowly going, and we will be polluting it more if we don’t start thinking about it a bit more now.”

In all fairness she sounds pretty bright, so the only explanation for this gobbledigook is that she has been given this information by an ill-informed teacher who hasn’t learnt the subject properly. The school in question seems to have shoehorned the wind turbine into everything (“Today, children, we will be learning about ants by watching them climb up the pole of our lovely new wind turbine”), and it’s likely that every teacher, knowledgeable or not, has been told to talk about a number of environmental issues; in the process completely getting it wrong.

Do I have to say this? The ozone layer has nothing, in any meaningful sense, to do with climate change. Damage to the ozone layer is a related, but physically discrete topic from the effects of greenhouse gases on global temperatures. There are some chemicals that feature in both topics (CFCs and some of their global heating replacements), but I very much doubt the person teaching the poor girl – and thousands of teachers like him or her – is aware of this. They simply don’t know enough about the subject to teach it, so should not be doing so!

We will be moving to Scotland shortly, and one thing going for the school system is that you are not allowed to teach a subject in secondary school if you do not have a related degree-level qualification. This will not help primary children, but just a little knowledge in this case would go a long way. Next time, if you hear anyone talk about the ozone layer in relation to climate change or greenhouse gases, please put them right; then perhaps they will pass the information on themselves, and kill off once and for all that really annoying piece of misinformation.

Posted in Advice, Public Sector Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Can’t Reduce Emissions? Find Some Other Way To Screw It Up.

Posted by keith on 4th September 2009

sulphur-cloud.jpg

Civilization has singularly failed to reduce its emissions, and so the planetary climatic, oceanic and biological systems are running into repeated and major tipping points, plunging us into increasingly dire trouble. No, this is not the future, this is now – there is nothing we can do about the greenhouse gases that Industrial Civilization has so far poured into the atmosphere, and there is very little indeed we can do to reverse the widespread effects of deforestation, marine ecosystem plundering and the multitude of different persistent chemicals currently polluting the food chain.

But we can stop things getting worse than they might. According to the Royal Society, what we need to do is to geoengineer the climate. The following story from The Independent outlines the “Plan B” project that is being drawn up by the Royal Society; see what you think:

Some of Britain’s most distinguished scientists have put their names behind controversial proposals to engineer the global climate with highly ambitious technology projects if international attempts to control man-made emissions of greenhouse gases show serious signs of failing.

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences, has warned that if political leaders fail to reach agreement and enforce a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions following the climate conference in Copenhagen this December there may be no other option left than to introduce drastic measures involving the “geo-engineering” of the global climate.

A group of eminent scientists appointed by the Royal Society said in a report published yesterday that future efforts to reduce greenhouse gases needed to be much more successful than they had been so far if geo-engineering was to be avoided as a way of cooling a dangerously overheated planet.

“Geo-engineering the Earth’s climate is very likely to be technically possible. However, the technology to do so is barely formed, and there are major uncertainties regarding its effectiveness and environmental impacts,” the report says.

Geo-engineering projects range from schemes to fertilise marine plankton with iron powder to injecting sulphate particles into the atmosphere in order to simulate the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions. All are controversial and none are without some risk but they should nevertheless be taken seriously if conventional measures to limit carbon dioxide emissions fail to stop potentially dangerous climate change, the Royal Society said.

Professor John Shepherd, an earth scientist at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, who chaired the Royal Society’s working group, said that geo-engineering had to be prepared as a backup in case the “plan A” discussed in Copenhagen fails. “[Geo-engineering] is a plan B, but a very real plan B that has to be taken seriously,” Professor Shepherd said.

“It is an unpalatable truth that unless we can succeed in greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions we are headed for a very uncomfortable and challenging climate future, and geo-engineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases,” Professor Shepherd said.

“Our research found that some geo-engineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them,” he said. “Geo-engineering and is consequences are the price we may have to pay for failing to act on climate change.”

The report recommended that Britain should spend £10m a year on research into geo-engineering schemes, which is about a tenth of the Government research budget on climate change.

The Royal Society’s report, which took 18 months to prepare, was welcomed by Professor John Beddington, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, who said that it was time to treat geo-engineering seriously. “Some kind of modest investment in geo-engineering is what we should be thinking about now,” Professor Beddington said.

“There are going to be emergencies that we did not expect and we need to think about how to deal with them. Geo-engineering techniques are not the solution but they are part of the solution.”

In the past decades, geo-engineering has gone from almost pariah status to a subject that scientists can talk about in public without fear of ridicule. However, many climate scientists are worried that political leaders will use the debate to suggest that there is a workable alternative to deep and painful cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.

“Geo-engineering is creeping on to the agenda because governments seem incapable of standing up to the vested interests of the fossil fuel lobby who will use it to undermine the emissions reduction we can do safely,” said Doug Parr, from Greenpeace. “Intervening in our planet’s systems carries huge risks.”

‘Plan B': The weapons in science’s armoury

Spraying seawater into the air to generate clouds and injecting sulphate into the atmosphere to simulate the cooling effects of volcanic explosions are two geo-engineering ideas considered by Britain’s leading scientific body. A Royal Society report defines geo-engineering as the deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The report divides geo-engineering schemes into two categories: techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the air to counterbalance emissions directly, and projects to offset the warming effects of increased greenhouses gases by reflecting sunlight into space. In terms of solar radiation, the report reviews ideas ranging from painting roofs white to space-based mirrors. It says these technologies are cheaper and faster-acting than carbon dioxide removal but have several drawbacks: they don’t address the root cause of global warming or ocean acidification.

It says methods to remove carbon dioxide would be preferable to solar radiation management methods, because “they effectively returned the climate system to closer to its natural state” and involved fewer uncertainties and risks. The problem with many carbon-reduction schemes that do not involve reforestation is that they are largely unproven and expensive. One idea is the enhanced weathering of silicate rocks, a natural process where carbon dioxide in the air reacts with silicate minerals to form carbonate rocks which effectively trap the gaseous carbon dioxide. Another is the capture of carbon dioxide by devices that can filter the air, perhaps using solar energy to power the process.

A variation on this theme is the proposal to fertilise the oceans with iron to stimulate algal blooms that could in theory capture carbon dioxide and convert it to solid material which would fall to the seabed. But the Royal Society warned of that project’s possible unintended consequences for the marine environment.

Let’s get this straight, as Doug Parr said, geoengineering is an excuse for corporations and governments to do nothing. Worse than that, by producing this report the Royal Society have, in effect, announced that “even” if business and governments don’t manage to reduce emissions sufficiently (which they obviously have no intention of doing), there is something waiting to take up the slack at the end of the rainbow. Cue even more reasons for everyone to do absolutely nothing – hooray, technology will save the day!

It is important to stress the comments in this article, by Royal Society members, about the inherent dangers of geoengineering — they cannot be stated strongly enough:

“Geo-engineering the Earth’s climate is very likely to be technically possible. However, the technology to do so is barely formed, and there are major uncertainties regarding its effectiveness and environmental impacts”

“Our research found that some geo-engineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them”

But those, deeply important statements will be conveniently swept under the carpet when the shit hits the fan, as suggested by John Beddington, Chief Scientist for UK Government Incorporated. And the Royal Society themselves are so obviously in thrall to the lie that there is only one way to live, as evidenced by the statement: “geo-engineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases”.

So, when I said at the beginning of this piece that we could stop things getting worse than they might, what was I thinking about? Certainly not geoengineering, which is the last catastrophic hoorah! in the civilized world’s great toxic party. Something far more radical in civilised terms, yet completely logical:

Getting rid of Industrial Civilization.

If you consider the alternative, then that doesn’t sound too bad at all, does it?

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

Npower Climate Cops: Filthy Energy Merchants Invade UK Schools

Posted by keith on 17th July 2009

npower.jpg

It’s the concept that gets me: “Climate Cops”, as though it’s necessary to have some kind of enforcement regime taking down anyone who causes climate change; so long as that regime is the existing system — “Cops”, enforcing law and order in the battle against climate change.

Am I being too cynical?

Let’s go back to 2005, when RWE npower decided that it needed a place to dump thousands of tonnes of toxic spoil ash from its Didcot power station in the south of England. Not surprisingly, some of the locals weren’t too pleased at the thought of a local beauty spot and nature reserve being filled in by the remnants of the burning of coal to make electricity. Thus started the Radley Lakes campaign, and a chain of events that was to lead to a blanket ban on all media coverage in the area; brutal enforcement of anti-trespass measures by private security guards (climate cops?); the near-death of a protester being held in custody, but who simply wanted to protect the trees; and the final decision by RWE to instead sell the spoil to resurface roads.

That company, RWE npower, own the energy retailer npower, which thought up the idea of the “Climate Cops”. Here’s the boring administrative version of their website, which just happens to mention that those well-known environmental stalwarts Piers Morgan and Fearne Cotton (jet-setting celebrity arse-lickers, actually) are on the team; hmm, I can’t imagine what use those two people would be in encouraging teenagers to take part in the programme…

Anyhow, what happens is that schools sign up to the Climate Cops programme, and are sent all sorts of lovely “educational” materials to do with reducing energy use. This is already starting to sound like the sinister supermarket schemes I documented in so much detail last year.

The companies operating the schemes provide large amounts of promotional materials for the schools that have registered with them: these include headed paper which which to write introductory letters to parents; branded collection boxes for classrooms and common areas; posters and large banners to attach to internal and external walls, school boundary fences and other visible areas; curriculum resources including resource packs, information sheets and other information related to the scheme. Not forgetting the branding of the vouchers themselves, which always contain a supermarket logo.

Teachers and students alike can download packs, quiz cards and worksheets from the Climate Cops website, and you might like to as well:

Fun Pack: http://www.climatecops.com/downloads/funpack.pdf

Poster: http://www.climatecops.com/downloads/climate_cops_poster_earth.pdf

Door Hanger, for your child’s bedroom: http://www.climatecops.com/downloads/climate_cops_door_hanger.pdf

The more observant of you will have noticed three key things:

1) The happy characters adorning all the materials, armed with toolbelts and grins; as well as — bizarrely — a polar bear doing a “thumbs up” sign, because we all know the good stuff npower’s Climate Cops are doing for the planet.

2) The incessant branding of all the materials with the “npower” logo, just in case you ever forgot what fine company was responsible for all this great climate fighting gear. If you use the door hanger, then your child’s bedroom door can also be sponsored by npower.

3) The complete absence of any mention of RWE npower’s main business…

…which just happens to be the generation of electricity through the burning of coal, gas and oil.

Gas-fired power stations

Didcot B, Great Yarmouth, Little Barford, Cowes
total output: 1,900 MW

Coal-fired power stations

Aberthaw, Didcot A, Tilbury
total output: 4,900 MW

Fuel Oil-fired power stations*

Littlebrook, Fawley
total output: 2,500 MW

Combined Heat and Power

13 sites in UK
total output: 2,000 MW

RWE npower are also proposing to build 2 new gas-fired power stations and one new coal-fired power station in the UK.

Now, if you clicked on the “Fun Pack” link above, you will notice also lots of mentions of wind energy, so you would think that npower were really big generators of wind power and other renewable sources. After searching around their electricity generation web site, I had started giving up hope that I would ever find details of their renewables business. I eventually found their renewable power arm, RWE Innogy (presumably a play on the words “Innovation” and “energy”) which revealed that RWE’s total UK installation of wind power is around 420 MW.

This means that the total electricity generation portfolio, for a company that is proudly trying to produce a force of Climate Cops, consists of:

3.5% low carbon (renewables)
33.3% medium carbon (gas and CHP**)
63.2% high carbon (coal and fuel oil)

Would you trust this company with your children’s environmental education?



*fuel oil is the same oil that is used to power ships; when used to produce electricity it is even dirtier than coal, which is one reason it is so rarely used
**CHP depends on low-density heat, so is not terribly efficient.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | 2 Comments »

Arriva Bus Uses Bizarre Techno-Techno-Fix

Posted by keith on 10th June 2009

Leicester Bus

Hot off the presses from the English Midlands (Leicestershire, to be precise) comes the source of an awful pun that I couldn’t even leave until later in the article. Sorry.

As a regular bus user, I do wonder why my legs always seem to be melting next to the heaters, even though the weather outside may be perfectly clement. It seems as though the denizens of Arriva Bus in Leicestershire, and probably everywhere else, haven’t thought that a thermostat might come in handy.

Here’s the article from the Leicester Mercury:

Passengers are being driven to despair by buses leaving the heating on in hot weather – often because drivers’ cabs are not equipped with on-off switches.

Regular public transport users say that on sunny days it has felt like they are being driven around in mobile cookers.

When route 58 regular Bill Barson, of Netherhall, Leicester, wrote to Arriva to ask why his supermarket shopping was being cooked before he had chance to get it home, he was taken aback by their response.

The heating can only be turned off via a tap under the engine, according to a letter from the firm’s customer service department, which added that: “This is not usually done until the warm weather is more settled.”

The Mercury experienced the heating still on on a 51A Arriva bus into the city last Thursday.

Three years ago Arriva spent £9.5 million on a new fleet of buses for Leicestershire.

Disgruntled passenger Mr Barson said: “Why buy buses with such a stupid set-up?

“They are trying to get more people to leave their cars at home and use buses, but who wants to go on the bus when they are throwing out heat like a mobile Tandoori oven?

“It’s got to the point now where I do not go into town as much because I would rather not be hot and bothered.”

When contacted by the Mercury, an Arriva spokesman gave a slightly different story to the customer service department.

Spokesman Keith Myatt said: “Having spoken to engineers at Thurmaston, the buses used on the 58 service have a mechanism in the cab whereby the driver can adjust the heating.

“He would not have to wait for an engineer to make an adjustment.

“There are some older vehicles in the fleet where an engineer is needed to make the adjustment but these are generally not allocated.”

However, passengers at St Margaret’s Bus Station said that Mr Barson was not the only one feeling hot under the collar.

Pensioner Albert Hargrave uses the Arriva 27 bus to get into Leicester from his home in Ratby.

The 88-year-old said: “You can definitely feel the heating on your legs even when it is a sunny day – it does seem that they are not able to turn it off.”

Melanie Ward, 23, of Kibworth regularly uses Arriva’s X3 service to travel to work in the city. She said the problem was worse on single-decker buses.

She said: “When they send the coach instead of the bus, it’s always baking hot on that.” Bus group First admitted that its vehicles had a similar problem. Its double-decker buses are kept warm by a radiator system that sees hot water from the engine pumped through 150ft of copper piping. It can only be turned off by engineers.

Spokesman Leon Daniels said an instruction had now been sent out to switch off the heating on all of its vehicles for summer.

He said: “Unfortunately it is one of those nuisances of technology, which we look forward to technology one day being able to solve.

Now, I’m not a genius, but I suspect I solved the problem in my introduction (Hint: Thermostat). But more bizarre is the last quote from the Arriva man: “which we look forward to technology one day being able to solve.”

This is actually a pretty serious mental condition; when you think that the only way of solving a problem is the further application of technology. Greenwashing is full of techno-fixes — so much so that there is an entire category dedicated to it on this blog — and it is not surprising, considering that the industrial system will never accept that nature has most, if not all of the answers, and our obsession with “progress” will ultimately lead to our demise.

If you can convince people that climate change, ecological devastation, food shortages, peak oil, social inequality, disease and dispair can all be solved with a quick application of technology, then you (as a corporation, usually) can keep on selling utopia to the world’s population in the form of the “miracle of technology”. Are we so dumb and brainwashed that we can’t see the lie?

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | No Comments »