Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cycling & HGVs

This morning I held the hand of a lady that was run over by a HGV. She was cycling on the inside of the vehicle that turned left. I very much doubt she survived.

I don't want to scaremonger and still always encourage people to get on their bikes but PLEASE watch this video to understand how to avoid being the next victim. No matter how much experience you have it's always worth reminding yourself about this problem.

You have just as much right to be on the road as any other vehicle- never be afraid to dominate your lane and make motorists follow behind you.

Cycle safe,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do the Green Thing

The Green Thing

I attended a very interesting lecture at the Royal Geographical Society last night. Accompanied by Nikki Linsell of Reset Development. It was part of the RGS' '21st Century Challenges' series and this one was titled: Can the UK ever be Sustainable? Chaired by Jo Confino (executive editor of The Guardian) with three speakers: Sir Stuart Rose (CEO of Marks & Spencer), RT Hon Hillary Benn MP (Spineless politician... more on that later) and Andy Hobsbawm (founder of Do The Green Thing).

Stuart Rose spoke first, he discussed how M&S have managed to change their business model to 'Plan A'. Making matters of sustainable development (Economic, Environmental and Social issues) a priority. He has shown that large corporations can achieve significant triple bottom lines and have a responsibility to play a part in the 'paradigm shift' (his words not mine) that is necessary to achieve a sustainable future.

Next up was Hillary Benn, whose opening line revolved around (and this is somewhat paraphrased) how "humans had achieved wonderful things in the last 4 million years since the world was a burning ball of gas". This left the majority of the audience squirming in their seats, who were quite aware that humans (homo-sapiens) have only been around for between 55,000-200,000 years (depending on your definition) and that our earth, not being a star, did not originate as a burning ball of gas but as molten rock.

After this, he strayed into what I imagine is far more familiar territory, somewhat animated self-congratulatory prose about the few political achievements the UK can be proud of (Climate Change Bill, Feed-in-Tariffs etc.). He was of the opinion that the responsibility to act on Climate Change lay both with the populations and the governments- it was shared. On the surface, this sounds very nice and democratic but it is increasingly apparent that very little is being achieved with this set-up... more on this matter below.

His speech was presented in a manner that reminded me of a preparatory school headmaster whose only remaining pleasure in life is to bask in the attention of his 10 year old pupils because anyone old enough to think for themselves has realised he is full of shit. My prevailing thought for the latter half of his speech was how ironic it was that the two most inappropriate words I would use to describe him was Right and Honourable.

Fortunately, he was followed by Andy Hobsbawm, whose presentation was both relevant, interesting and remarkably inspiring. The audience was captivated. I urge you with whatever limited persuasive power I have to check out the website of the non-for-profit he co-founded: Do The Green Thing. At a very minimum you should meet The Green Thing.

His philosophy is based around the idea that if we are to change people's behaviour to lead a greener lifestyle, we must make them want to change. That the best ideas to address climate change should be actions that people would like to do, rather than ought to do. I completely agree with him.

The Green Thing seems to operate on the principle that the individual have the ability to act on climate change and make a significant difference. That it should be a grass-roots movement that forces politicians to take notice and listen. I would love to believe this and still, albeit rather optimistically, hope we live in a world where one's individual actions can inspire a generation.

So, just a quick round-up: there were three speakers loosely representing business, government and people and three ideas of whose responsibility it was to lead us on a path to sustainability. Who is right? Personally, I believe that at both a national and international level there exists a 'tragedy of the commons', that while looking out for our personal interests (holidays abroad, meat intensive diet, consumerist urges etc) we have failed to address our common interests- the natural environment on which we all depend and on which our individual interests ultimately rely.

This has led to a stalemate, where we all shift blame and responsibility to other parties and nothing is achieved. This is particularly relevant considering the (rather unproductive) Cancun Climate Change Conference is in progress as I type. What we really need (at least on a national level) is for cross-party agreement that Climate Change is an issue of such international significance, with such diabolic consequences, that it warrants the decision to be taken out of the hands of the public and strive for cross-party government consensus that outlines that path the UK will take to a sustainable future. In short, they must lead us.

After all, we as a nation, never had a referendum on capital punishment. The public was never asked of their opinion- instead our politicians, of all parties, showed leadership and agreed that it was in the national interest to abolish it. I can not think of a more suitable issue than climate change that calls for government to act in a similar manner.

It should also be noted that Jo Confino chaired the panel excellently, encouraging interesting debate and not taking any prisoners.

Without wanting to distract from my main point of this post, I always like to finish on a positive note, so check out these wonderful blog posts from Do The Green Thing's blog (there are so many but here's three that caught my eye this morning):

Be inspired folks.