Switched.com clued me into the story of Craig Henderson. In 1984, Henderson developed a sporty looking eco-car which required very little power to push it along and some slippery composite body work. Henderson’s car called Avion reaches back into automotive history where sport cars from the likes of Lotus and Abarth paired small engines with slippery body work to come up with decent performance.
Not surprisingly, at the time auto-makers and investors didn’t realise what they had on their hands, it was a decade since the last real oil crisis and whilst Iran and Iraq where knocking seven bells out of each other and taking pot shots at tankers in the Straits of Hormuz now-and-again life was pretty good. Environmental concerns were more about Three Mile Island, nuclear annihilation due the cold war, phosphates in rivers and the hole in the ozone layer.
Over the next quarter of a century further refinement of the car design has created a vehicle that can cruise at high-speed yet yield 80 - 100+MPG and make your average Prius look like a jelly mould. It goes to show you, that there is no such thing as a new idea, although it does remind me of the kind of thing you may have seen in Logans Run.
Since the coalition government’s decision to rule out further expansion at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick, the often controversial subject of aviation seems to have taken a back seat on the political agenda. This is odd as 2010 has been a very difficult year for aviation and it looks set to get even worse.
BAA has had to abandon plans for expansion after spending £220 million on their proposals. The aviation industry argue that Heathrow will now continue to operate at 99% of its capacity and as a result they will face problems including delays, which will encourage passengers to turn to other European hubs, such as Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam who will reap the financial benefits.
There is a public consultation due to take place later this year on a ‘per plane tax’ which aviation insiders are concerned will seriously affect both air freight business in the UK and transfer passengers who will avoid UK hub airports to avoid extra taxation. Add to this the huge disruption and lack of revenue because of adverse weather in the UK at the start of the year, the closure of airspace following the volcanic ash incident, 22 days of strikes by British Airways staff with the threat of more to come, the recent decision by BAA workers to strike, which has the potential to close Heathrow and five other airports and it is clear to see that the aviation industry is having a particularly difficult year which doesn’t look like it is set to improve.
227 new MPs have been elected in 2010, the biggest influx since 1997. Most MPs will admit that they do not possess a complex knowledge of aviation issues - there is no reason why they should!
For the aviation industry, this is a crucial time and a significant opportunity to inform the new intake of the plight of UK aviation and the important role it plays in the UK economy.
In response to the Robin Hood Tax ad, which is one of the best campaigning ads I have seen for a while, I thought I would post some historically very effective political and advocacy ads. I’m also currently reading The Political Brain, by Drew Westen that looks at the role of emotions in political campaigning. It has been an eye-opening read, so this also gave me some inspiration for this post.
This list is by no means definitive and if anyone wants to send links to some campaigning ads, that would be great, I’d love to watch them.
This post will focus on a few advocacy ads, starting with the Robin Hood Tax ad that has been the focus of the media of late. It is a very simple ad, two voices, one face but plenty of emotion. Bill Nighy plays a leading banker who ends up squirming in response to the questioning about why a Tobin Tax shouldn’t be created. Squirming bankers is something that reverberates with a good portion of the public at the moment. This campaign plays to the slightly divergent emotions of good will and revenge brilliantly.
This next ad scares the heck out of me, although I’m not sure how effective it is. Shock ads, as I have written before, have the tendency to decline in effectiveness over time simply because of people being desensitized. I’m not sure anyone would be able to put themselves in this guys shoes, unless they have been in the same situation.
This shock ad from PlaneStupid, the organisation that focuses on climate change issues caused by the global aviation industry, is different from the previous one however. Shocking - yes. Disturbing - definitely. Effective - most certainly. Polar bears dropping from the sky crushing cars and smashing into buildings may seem like an odd choice, but it is actually very clever. The stance is that every person on a trans-Atlantic flight creates 400kg of carbon. Most people can’t conceptualize what that means however. A polar bear, which is also an icon of climate change devastation, is imaginable. Therefore this appeals to our sense of wanting to save these animals, horror at their gruesome deaths but it also puts our carbon footprint into a physical and understandable context. It was filmed in Canada, but it could be any city, again personalising the imagery.
The final ad is one that has screened on UK screens recently and was the subject of a number of complaints, but is far more subtle that the polar bear ad. Act on CO2 is a non-departmental government body that is the public face of the Government’s climate change policy. This ad simply shows a father telling a bed-time story to his child, but it is a story of the effects of climate change and includes drowning pets and other disturbing results of unabated climate change. But this ad is clever in the fact that it appeals on a personal level to adults and children. This ad scares children, hence the complaints, but it also contextualizes climate change for them ensuring they understand the potential of doing nothing. It also will frighten adults on a parental level - how can I let my child live in a world like this, what can I do to prevent it?
As I said, this isn’t a complete list, but it just a tester. I’d love your thoughts and if you want to send me other campaigns, feel free. I’ll post the political ad blog in the next couple of days.
Why is it then that the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference has fallen down this route? It may be that negotiations over what the conference will actually achieve are still ongoing. But even taking this into account there has been a severe lack of strategic organisation around the attendee list. Surely the UN still desperately wants world leaders to meet at Copenhagen, even if proposals are weaker than hoped for.
Secondly, why is it that there has been such a breakdown between Barack Obama and the organisers? There have been rumours swirling for weeks that he may not attend. He has not come out and dispelled this myth and nor have any officials from the conference. Surely both Obama and the conference organisers realise how damaging this has been for the conference. Since September the image of the conference has changed from a landmark event to solve the biggest problem facing the planet to just another global conference, already destined to fail. Why have Obama’s spokespeople and the conference spokespeople not put up a united front in their messaging? Instead there has been division, which has made Obama, who has put tackling climate change at the centre of his promises, seem hypocritical and has made the conference seem impotent.
It is a tragic failure that a fantastic event such as the Copenhagen conference seems to have fallen because of communications failings. Even though there may still be successful resolutions coming out of Copenhagen, I think the negotiations will be all the harder with such an intense media glare waiting for the conference to fail. In fact this negative pre-conference atmosphere might scupper this magnificent opportunity for global dialogue on climate change and cast Copenhagen into the vast pile of what if? moments in history.
Let me know what you think. Should the UN have tried harder to commit world leaders to attend Copenhagen?
I was listening to a mix by Japanese DJ SoccerBoy when I came across this page on his site. It featured a section of the documentary film made about the traditional dolphin cull in a small village in Japan.
The text on the page reads:
“Whites don’t kill dolphins, Yellows do”
HUMANE + ECOLOGY = NEW RACISM
Are the likes of Greenpeace, PeTA and the World Wildlife Fund as guilty of racism as the 19th century missionaries who wanted to civilise the savages by bringing God’s word to them, or the entrepreneurs who sought to open the Chinese market for opium with cannon shot and muskets?
At the very least, it indicates that western pressure group’s confrontational ‘Two Minutes Hate‘ approach needs to be revisited and they need to search deep within their motivations to come up with a more empathetic and effective way of influencing their desired changes in behaviour because its leaving potential allies alienated in non-Western countries.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in man-made climate change and I think governments across the world need to make some hard decisions very, very quickly if we are to stave off a disaster with worldwide implications. And I can understand why some people think Governments are working too slowly to prevent climate change related chaos because, in my opinion, they are.
But the fact is stunts like these are only going to start to really doing some damage to their campaigns. Blocking streets, stopping people from working aren’t going to make people sympathetic for their cause. In fact, it is probably going to start to really piss people off (pardon my French).
And unfortunately, we all remember the scenes of the G20 protests in April that saw police use excessive force, but let’s face it, not all of the protesters were totally innocent.
I also get the impression that even some of the more reasonable protests always seem to deteriorate into a festival atmosphere. That isn’t going to impress average working people who are the ones that need to be convinced increasing their taxes and cost of fuel bills will be worth it in the end.
I’d be really interested in your thoughts as to whether the Climate Camp protesters are helping raise awareness surrounding climate change, or if they are just kids who are doing more damage than good.
Yesterday morning, the Environmental Audit Select Committee published their report Reducing CO2 and other emissions from shipping. While I grant, it hardly sounds like a page-turner, I was discussing it with a friend who works as a journo at Lloyd’s List, one of, if not the, leading maritime publications in the UK.
He said this report was a wake up call for the government and shipping industry, which have employed, until now, a highly successful strategy of hoping nobody would notice the problem of maritime industry emissions and ignoring what is, evidently, a significant environmental problem.
I admit, my knowledge of the shipping industry is burgeoning on the non-existent, but what interested me about this is, the shipping industry is going to face an identical problem other industries have faced in the past and many more will in the future. Clearly, the sticking your head in the sand tactic doesn’t work and more industries will be found out as the public and regulatory agencies become increasingly environmentally aware and active. Everything we consume has a carbon footprint and as a story in last week’s Independent pointed out, TVs and electronics are huge power vampires, but consumer demand is beginning to force the manufacturers to fix this issue. Sony has been one of the first TV makers to answer this call.
When the Phase III of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) begins in 2013, many industries will be in for a bit of a shock if they aren’t properly prepared, in particular the aviation industry, which, for the first time will be included in the EU ETS. Phase III is expected to be far more rigid and will include an annually decreasing carbon cap. More details will undoubtedly follow before the beginning of Phase III in 2013.
It is also desperately necessary for the Government to pull its head out of the sand and start investing more money in green technologies. The last budget was definitely greener than previous ones, but the fact is, much more money needs to be invested in green renewable technologies including wind, tidal, wave, solar as well as increasing the capabilities of the electricity grid. Indeed, the Government is criticised in some quarters for not doing enough.
Hopefully, industry and government will pay attention to what will befall the maritime industry as they are forced to update due to public and consumer demand and everyone will learn the head in the sand theory doesn’t hold up.
Everyone knows that we have to reduce our carbon emissions.You can’t read a newspaper or a blog post without coming across the words ‘climate change’ or ‘carbon emissions’, generally accompanied by a subtext of a flashing yellow warning light and an alarm.The UK’s target is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.Things need to change, and if we are to hit the targets that we’ve been set, they need to change fast.But how is it going to happen?
Last week I attended Hot Property, a seminar on low carbon sustainable building.Organised by the Bath Ventures Innovation Centre’s Low Carbon South West network, Hot Property brought together academics, architects, engineers and businesses to talk about how to address the ambitious property sector target of 0% carbon buildings by 2016 (and 0% new build by 2019).In much the same vein as the recent eWEEK UK launch, there was much talk of the need for a fundamental paradigm shift – and the fact that it has to happen urgently.The country needs to change its attitudes and behaviour towards energy usage.No small feat when you consider exactly how huge a task this is across all sectors of society; individuals, businesses, public and private, and across all industry sectors; energy, manufacturing, property, IT, transport and so on.
A quick word about eWEEK UK.eWEEK UK is debuting at a time when one might question the sanity of launching of a new publication in an economic downturn.But as editor Peter Judge pointed out, there’s never been a better time. Online only, and employing a small team of permanent and freelance journalists, it can get news out as it happens, without worrying about the costs and turnaround time associated with a print publication.And the philosophy underpinning it has never been more timely: sustainable IT.Climate change and the economic downturn means that businesses, as well as individuals, need to embrace sustainability.This isn’t just green IT, but operating at a more sustainable level (both financially and environmentally) on a day-to-day basis.IT contributes towards carbon emissions, and if we are going to stand any chance of reaching the targets, then there has to be a paradigm shift in the way IT works.
Image royalty free courtesy of The Stock Exchange
I wasn’t sure how much relevance low carbon building might have for me, and perhaps that is telling within itself.We all live and work in buildings so it has relevance for everyone.Cities account for 2% of our landmass, but are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gases.New build can improve this, but retrofitting (improving the carbon emissions of existing buildings) is also just as, if not more, important. And that is down to the individual.
Here’s a few facts (if you know your green stuff, you’re probably aware of these):
30% of our topsoil is gone
Acidification of the oceans, if it continues, could mean the bottom of the food chain disappearing – a truly scary thought
If the US carries on consuming at the same levels, it would need 6 planet earths to support it.The UK would need 3 and Somalia one-quarter
The challenge is that lowering carbon emissions is complex, because it needs to be addressed at political, social, cultural, and infrastructure levels.There is a lack of ‘joined up’ thinking – no one is talking to everyone else. Fiscal and infrastructure policies are not connected with food and transport networks, for example, and this causes policy conflicts when it comes to trying to address carbon emissions.And of course everything is interconnected, at both a global and a local level.For example, if we were to use the Thames Barrier to stop rising sea levels flooding London, we risk drowning Holland.Every decision, big or small, affects someone somewhere.
The upshot is that capitalism needs to take responsibility.Whilst it is sometimes hard to talk ‘green’ without sounding evangelical, slightly mental or like a tree-loving hippy, the bald truth is that “the battle against climate change will be won or lost in towns and cities”.Whilst there are businesses, engineers and academics all conducting research into technologies and methods to lower building carbon emissions, the biggest question is how are these developments going to make their way into the market – and into the mainstream?
If people realise that by investing in home renovations to improve their house’s carbon emissions, they can cut their heating bills, would they be more inclined to put money towards this rather than buying a new kitchen?Or a new car?Is it the fact that the benefits are so intangible, that as individuals we will be forced to pay a price (rising energy prices anyone?) in order to rethink our energy use habits?And when is the government going to get involved and provide some kind of cohesive forum in which policy, planning, research and implementation can come together to start making things happen?It was refreshing to hear business people, designers and developers talking about how to save the planet, but when – and how – will they finally be heard?The problem is that no one seems sure how to make this happen on a national scale.Despite the fact that there are pockets of people talking, at the moment they are only talking about it to other people who are interested and who care. There was no representation from the government or local authorities at the Hot Property seminar, which begs the question of how this forward thinking, and the technological developments that accompany it, will make the leap from discussion to implementation.