Can The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground Campaign Work?

I really respect The Guardian and Alan Rusbridger for what they’re trying to do with this project and accompanying “The Biggest Story in the World” podcast, but how much difference can they make? And how likely is it that we’ll be able to make the necessary global switch to clean energy before we use up the ‘carbon budget’ of 565 gigatons, which will last about 13-15 years.

Personally I find it hard to believe that we can work together for that type of incredibly fast change. I think if we all did put our own individual interests aside and truly worked together, we could get close. But to do that, we need to act immediately. The Paris summit is absolutely critical. We need to get a fixed amount of the remaining oil, coal and gas reserves that can be dug up in law.

As far as The Guardian’s other tactic of trying to encourage major companies and charitable trusts to divest from fossil fuel companies. I like the idea of a type of quiet boycott. The issue is that not many companies seem to agree so far, and even the ones who do in principle, believe that as soon as they share their stakes in these companies, someone else will immediately come in and buy the shares.

A tactic like this, as with all climate change action, requires collaboration between almost everyone to have any real impact. I don’t think that will happen in the short term. Perhaps if a landmark deal is reached in Paris that causes the world to take notice and generates massive momentum, then we might see this tactic start to work. Until then, I don’t see it.

There are other tactics that the campaign can look at using, including making noise in the run up to the general election and talking to car companies about investing more in electric cars and battery tech among other things. They need to explore every possible avenue.

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I’m half impressed, half disappointed by Yamaha’s new R1

On one hand, the R1, and its fellow 2015 ultra-bikes like the Kawasaki H2 and the new Ducati Panigale are amazing feats of engineering that we should celebrate for pushing the boundarys of what’s possible. They’re exciting, make a lot of noise and go very fast…. So what disappoints me about them?

The first issue I have is that these bikes, particularly the R1 and most likely the H2 as well, are so powerful that they would be essentially uncontrollable without the extensive electronic rider aids. Some aids I think every bike should have. ABS and Traction Control are important. When you go too far beyond those, you wonder why you can’t just make a bike with less power, that you can actually ride without relying on electronics to keep you from crashing. I think you need to find a balance between rider aids and keeping the riding experience as pure as possible.

The second and more important issue I have is that motorcycle manufacturers are overly focused on one-upping each other in speed and performance. Taking their eyes off key matters such as pushing motorcycling as a real alternative to cars as a practical commuting solution for the masses, as well as improving their environmental credentials. The fact that most bikes still put out significantly more harmful gases than cars is unacceptable in my opinion, and something should be done. Electric bikes are on the way, and some of the current ones are already very nice machines. Motorcycle regulators have done a poor job in enforcing Euro regulations which has been much more aggressively done in the car industry. They are starting to catch up now, but it’s been far too long coming.

As far as marketing goes, Yamaha and others make great scooters, but they don’t talk about them enough. The bread and butter of the car industry is in practical hatchbacks, and the sports car market piggybacks off that success. Fiat sell a huge amount more cars than Ferrari do, and the motorcycle industry needs to take note, and fast.

Sports bikes can’t come first forever, or motorcycling will risk becoming irrelevant among the general public. Motorcycles account for around 1% of UK traffic, and that is simply nowhere near enough. As electric bikes and scooters come in and the battery technology improves, a big push should be made to get that percentage up to 5-10% in the medium to long term. It’s about time that motorcycling was marketed as something other than just a leisure pursuit.

Is it better to act as if you don’t care about climate change?

It’s pretty depressing when I talk to people, and every time we get onto the subject of things like driving, people have no interest or just don’t know anything about climate change, or at worst don’t care at all. “It’s someone else’s problem right? It doesn’t effect me.”

I understand that, but I find it hard to not care. Maybe it would be better if I acted like I didn’t, or at least not talk about it as much as I do. Not everyone knows what Tesla is, they aren’t going to buy a Nissan Leaf, even the BMW i8 isn’t going to change their opinion on hybrid cars. Maybe the best way environmentalists like me can hope to make a difference, is just by letting things go bad. If we don’t do anything, and we just leave it to the scientists and car manufacturers to keep working behind the scenes, in the meantime the general public will continue to use up our fuel resources. Before long they’ll have no choice but to make an effort to change their ways.

Will it be too late by that point? Is it already too late to reverse the damage that’s been done to our atmosphere? I don’t know, but what I do know is that every day that we continue as we are, the job is getting progressively more challenging.

Perhaps the recent reduction in oil prices can be a blessing in disguise. Maybe it’ll help to deplete the oil faster and put us on the right track quicker, albeit while doing more damage in the process.

Simply put, we should probably stop ramming the facts down peoples throats and instead just quietly do our bit and hope for the best going forward. It’s like the I’m a Mac, I’m a PC ads. By annoying your potential customers, you’re probably not getting the desired effect from your advertising. You’ve got to allow people to catch up on their own terms, however painfully slow that feels to us as technology fans and environmentalists.