COP15: the last chance saloon?

I went to an engaging talk by Joe Smith from the Open University last week. He led a discussion on the challenges climate change poses for the relationship between Politicians, the media and the public.

It seems to me that there is a level of consensus between climate activists and the political elite (at least if you listen to the rhetoric) but there is the gulf of the public in between, most of whom don’t believe or are disinterested.

Joe’s most enlightening point (one of many) was that the media had to be careful not to over exaggerate the terminal importance of Copenhagen (COP15). Important as it is, it is part of a process, and succeed or fail there will need to be government and media action long after it. The Media mustn’t cry ‘FIRE’ too loud or the public will switch off to the longer-term process.

We need to be careful not to lull ourselves into believing that if we get a good deal then the world is saved and if we don’t the world will end. It is an ongoing process, and with all of the sensationalism and hyperbole of the moment put aside, we will still be working at this for the next 50+ years.

There is a note of optimism in this. We may be in the last chance saloon, but there are a few more hands to play at the table and they haven’t called last orders yet. After all COP15 means it is the 15th ‘Conference of the Parties’ and there will be many more, whatever the outcome.


Clumbsy Cliches: The clam before the storm

the clam before the storm.egg by mabonsdad on Aviary

Thought I’d try out Aviary online drawing tool – much cooler than my drawing makes it look! Pity I drew an oyster and not a clam.

Daily quotes, sayings and proverbs from twitter

Give yourself a daily shot of someone’s wisdom by following one of these twitter feeds: – Literally a feed of lines from The Book of Proverbs in the old testament. –  wide range of regular quotes and sayings – daily quotes from long running – daily generally philosophical quotations – Motivational and famous quotes – famous quotes from – parental wisdom which is sometimes cruel and often rude

Or for pot-luck just search for the quote hash tag

Clumbsy cliches: Don’t feed the hand that bites

Wrongful Language: may, can, could, should, ought, must

I remember a particularly pedantic Religious Education teacher at school, who if asked, “Can I go to the toilet please” would answer, “I would imagine you are physically able to do that.” Only if you said “May I go?” would he give you premission. Correct a kid in the same way today and I suspect they would look fairly confused.

Similarly, work with a good project manager and you soon learn to be more precise in your use of must, should, could and would (or won’t), particularly if they use the MoSCoW mnemonic as a definition at the beginning of every document they write.

However it is noticable that ought is not included and is slowly leaving the English language. It seems that the duty and obligation implied by ought are no longer relevant. Instead now, you must do it or else, or you should do it to make the most of the opportunity.

The subtle signs of a move away from a polite world of rights and virtues, to one managed by legislation and personal gain.

climate change: cause and effect, and effect

Attended another climate change conference this week (and watched the Age of Stupid). Some excellent presentations on social science approaches to changing individuals’ behaviour in order to minimise their carbon emissions.

However I worry we are missing the point here – trying to change people’s behaviour and not their motivations.

It all comes down to how you analyse cause and effect in climate change. Nearly everyone (who is well read on the subject) believes the effect, climate change, is caused by carbon emissions. We of course try to target the cause and not the effect and get people to reduce their carbon emissions at source.

But I think our behaviour, in wasting so much energy and creating these emissions, is in itself an effect and not the cause we should be tackling. Perhaps obvious, but it is consumerism and the values it promotes which is the cause of our behaviour.

Trying to tackle behaviour without tackling our values, the things which motivate us, may well be futile. If you think your only route to self worth is through conspicuous consumption, you will always revert to type and the behaviours we change will be replaced by other habits to help you fulfil your need to consume.

We need to change our value system as well as our behaviour, but policy makers seem frightened to raise this as it requires them and us to dream up a new value system.

There were glimers of hope.  There was recognition that telling people they can save money on energy bills might feed into their money focus. And the chief policy maker present gave one aim which clearly goes beyond behaviour to values – put simply ‘we need to make being wasteful taboo’.

Wrongful language: tautology

Rather like the opposite of an oxymoron, a tautology is when two words or phrases that mean the same thing ‘combine together ‘ in ‘close proximity’ to create needless repetition at best and total nonsense at worst. The problem is some are so commonly used that to separate them can sound awkward. Here are a few more:

  • free gift
  • serious danger
  • waiting patiently
  • new innovation
  • mutual cooperation
  • original source

Sometimes a writer will claim something, for instance a lying politician or a greedy banker, is a tautology for satirical effect.