Monday, 28 November 2011

COP-out (Attempt Number 17)

Sshhhhhh.... Can you hear that? Listen. Very Carefully.

That's the sound of politicians and delegates from over 200 countries failing. Failing to communicate. Failing to listen. Failing to see anything beyond their repertoire of 'sustainability is inherently bad for the economy'. Yep. That's right. It's COP-17!

I remember 2 years ago, when the Climate Change Conference was happening in Copenhagen. The news was just littered with stories about it. I had never really heard about these conferences before. My interest in the environment was only just budding and suddenly the media was chock-a-block full of (mostly) positive stories! What action plans will these countries come up with? Will China act? What will become of the Kyoto Protocol?? And then I quickly learnt that, despite the media buzz, none of these politicians were going to come to a decision.

One year later, and COP-16 in Cancun is spectacularly exemplified in this picture:

(Picture taken from BBC Online article)

So it's now it's Durban's turn to host this years conference. And to be truthfully honest, I reckon heads will stay in the sand. Oh such cynicism, I know! Don't get me wrong, my faith in the potential of sustainability remains unharmed, I just don't think politicians are going to be the ones to the lead the revolution. Whether it's environmental experts, businesses or consumers taking the lead, I'm not sure. But I can see politicians only having a follow-up role, after a lot of prodding and poking. I have this picture in my head... you know those movie sequences with old-school battles where rugged men just start charging, screaming and wielding heavy instruments? Yeah, I sort of picture that, except replace the heavy instruments with mini-windmills and home-grown cabbages. And the men are not really rugged, they're just angry every-day people, and battle strategies are drawn up by environmental experts. But it's not really a battle as such, more just a huge mass of people chasing after oblivious politicians in 4x4s.

My name is Maximum Sustimus Greenius, commander of the Armies of the Renewable, General of the IEMA Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, *enter name of your sustainable idol here*. And I will have my local and organic soup, in this life or the next.

Urrrrr... yes well anyway you get the picture. Back to COP-17!

It's only Day 1 so there is still hope of some decisions being made. The biggest issue to deal with is the future of the Kyoto Protocol. I've never been a big fan of the Kyoto Protocol, because I've always had the sense that it just isn't working! The emission-reduction targets are barely satisfactory, and the most polluting countries haven't even ratified the Protocol (either out of choice *cough*US*cough*, or out of exemption *cough*CHINA*cough*). Having said that, I still think it is important to have a binding treaty for countries to keep to. Without the Kyoto Protocol, or perhaps a new treaty altogether, there just wouldn't be any political motivation whatsoever.

Kelly Rigg, in one of today's Guardian articles on the subject, sums it up pretty well:

"At the root of this failure is the perception that solving climate change is solely about sacrifice, about limiting rights to development."

And that's just it. A lot of people just picture sustainability as a cost, as a fashion, as a bourgeois fad, or as a hippy's religion. When really, sustainable development is an opportunity! I'm not saying it's free. Obviously, there are some initial investments - like companies who improve their heating systems, there are high upfront costs, but the rewards are quickly felt! Savings. Jobs. Markets. There is so much potential within sustainability, in so many different aspects; energy, food, housing, transport, business. Hell, even international cohesion would be a benefit... if these countries could only decide to make a decision.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

CO2 is Totally (Recally) Green!

I just wanted to share this video. I love this. So much.

Firstly, there is something brilliantly clever about this. Portraying an extreme climate sceptic as a Sasha Baron Cohen character - that's mocking at its best! How the hell they managed to get an interview in the first place, let alone keep it going, is just beyond me. In a Guardian article, Craig Reucassel (the interview) explains:

"The interview was going for quite a while but when I hinted that he might be a comedian, he ignored it. as the interview went on I tried to make it more and more about that - but he just wasn't twigging."

Secondly, those eyes! Those horribly googly eyes! It took me a while to figure out what they reminded me of, but then it clicked... Total Recall! I was going to stick a picture here but a Google image search reminded of how disgusting that film is. In a very 90s special effects kind of way.

Thirdly, it ain't a YouTube video without the hundreds of comical, irritating and completely out-of-place comments. I've trawled through the despair to pick out my favourite:

"Stop listening to Al Gore, CO2 is Green. More CO2 in the air means more plant growth."

I mean, if you think about it... it makes sense! My gosh we've been looking at this climate malarkey in completely the wrong way! I was going to leave it at that. But then I found this little gem... a good way to end this post I feel. As Ali G used to say... Respect!

"Shut the *bleep* up with your pseudo intellectual *bleep* comments, this is YouTube, take that *bleep* elsewhere."

P.S. Apologies. This is arguably the worst post title I have ever come up with. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Green... the Christian Dior of the supermarket.

So I'm not a big fan of Asda. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's because I associate it with my cheapest student days... and therefore that horrific Asda Smartprice Vodka (every student or past student who knows what I am talking about is now going 'Eeeeurgh'). Maybe it's because I don't like their shop layout; it just made my shopping experience that tiny bit more depressing. Or maybe, it's because of that ridiculously annoying advertising campaign... what the hell does slapping your ass have anything to do with 'saving you money every day'?! And don't tell me it's because you have change in your pocket because a) nobody keeps money in their back pocket and b) if they did, they wouldn't slap their butts to confirm it! But I digress...

Despite annoying adverts, it cannot be denied that Asda/Walmart is a hugely successful company, and it sure does some things right! Cheap prices for one. I mean, you can buy a bottle of Smartprice Vodka for only £3.50 - although you pay for it later as your esophagus is burnt by what is effectively paint stripper. But interestingly, Asda have recently put out a study entitled 'Green Is Normal'. And I have to say it is very interesting indeed!

They questioned over 3000 customers each month between January and August of 2011 about their values and attitudes towards sustainability and 'green consumption'. I'm not going to lie, I love me some value/behaviour studies - it was at the centre of my dissertation after all. Even better, I love value/behavioural studies with a happy conclusion. I won't outline the entire report, but five "new facts" came out of the study, all demonstrating that buying green is no longer considered strange or 'out there'. It is now the norm to consider where products come from, how they were produced, and what their impacts are. "The new weird is to do nothing".

Briefly, respondents stated that:

  • Green is normal; considering sustainable issues is 'intelligent' in terms of savings and energy efficiency
  • Consumers should play a more important role in discussing environmental issues
  • Green products should be easier to find; there needs to be clearer signposting to guide customers
  • Respondents claimed they planned/wanted to increase the amount of green products they purchase
  • Buying green shouldn't be more expensive; it isn't a 'fashion' which you should pay more for. 

Some very positive points here! ... But I wouldn't be a post-grad if I didn't look at it critically now would I?

It is honestly great to see that sustainability is penetrating the minds of the public in such a way. I would love to live in a world where environmentalism isn't only associated with Greenpeace members, but with the Average Joe who tries to make his office that tiny bit greener. However, if there is one thing I know about values and behaviour (and I know a fair bit), it's that values don't necessarily mean behaviour change. So Asda's study shows that people want to buy more 'green' - but that doesn't mean they will! And at the end of the day, it's action that counts.

Values are extremely important - they place the individual in the right state of mind to act in a specific way; but there are a huge number of barriers which could easily stop them. And this study has already highlighted two of them (albeit in a very positive way): clearer demonstration of green products, and - of course - price. It seems to be like this in every green-behaviour situation; I found exactly the same in my dissertation research for example... if people want to be green, they do as much as they can, but their full potential is hindered by organisational barriers. In the case of my research, it wasn't so much about price but about people with conflicting values and opinions.

So who's job is it to ensure that people can be greener if they so wish? Is it the consumers who have to push harder? Is it the supermarkets (or whatever organisation that may apply in this situation) who have to restructure their operations? Is it the environmental experts who have to come in and sort everything out (while also annoying all those who feel it is a waste of time)? Or maybe we just need to make sure that absolutely everyone feels that 'green is normal'... that would sort things out, it's unlikely to ever happen, but it would sure sort things out!

In my unimportant opinion, it's about getting all of the above to work together. And I reckon Asda have stumbled onto something good by doing this study and by asking the opinions of their customers. Communication is key after all.

It's a good report, and it's not too dense. If you're interested in reading it for yourself, click here.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Keeping Up Appearances.

Well I have now been on the job hunt for nearly a couple months and … *drum roll* … I still don’t have a job!! Wooohooo. But that’s fine I’ve gotten so good at this whole application business that it’s actually become like a little job in itself. And when I say a ‘little job’, I really mean a ridiculously labour-intensive task with little positive return and definitely no financial return. On the plus side though, I reckon I’ve got more of a routine than I ever did at University.

Get up. Drink tea. Get a few applications out. Lunch. More tea. Research more people/companies to contact. Even more tea. If I’m feeling particularly keen, get some more applications out.

Today, I feel like writing though. Haven’t blogged in a while so it seems appropriate. I miss writing about environmental issues (and this post is sadly not environmentally related). I just seem to have no time to do anything other than job applications. So I’m not really being inspired much at the moment. I’ll make an effort for my next post. Writing about rejection is only interesting if a lesson is learnt from it… or if it’s funny. I’ve yet to receive a funny rejection, I quite like the idea though! Stick a little joke in there. Or maybe just a link to this picture…

Hahaha yeah that would put a smile on my face. If a little tactless.

So anyway, for those who do find rejection funny, here’s my job application tally so far:

Sent out approx. 100 speculative e-mails out.
Sent out approx. 20 advertised job applications.
Received two invitations to next step in process.
Received approx. 25 rejections.
And the rest is just silence on the airwaves.

Not good odds really are they?!

So what can we learn from this? Well there’s a few things I reckon are important:
  • Keep positive, but realistic. A delicate balance. But you can’t go around being miserable stating the depressing graduate facts of unemployment. And I don’t think it’s healthy either to go around thinking that you’re going to apply to this one amazing job and that they’re going to see how amazing you are. That’s just a set up for disappointment.

  • Don’t take the rejections to heart. That’s what people tell me anyway. I haven’t got this one down yet. How can you not take a rejection to heart?? It’s a lost opportunity! But, I have developed a neat little coping mechanism… and it is so… shrug shoulders (as only a French person can) and exclaim: “Well it’s their bloomin’ loss!” 

  • Apply to jobs while listening to an empowering soundtrack… makes the whole process seem a lot more significant. My choices so far have included: the Tron:Legacy soundtrack, a bit of the Offspring , any of the Black Key’s albums. Actually I’m also going through a 90s music revival at the moment! Just me? Oh… Awkward.

But anyhoo, to finish off, here’s my best and worst moments of applying for jobs. Next post will be green, I swear!

Bad Moments: When people ask you how the job hunt is going with a mixed air of pity and hope; and you answer with a very positive ‘oh well it’s just a case of perseverance isn’t it!’ when really inside you are screaming WHY WILL NO ONE GIVE ME A JOB????

Good Moments: Finding a job or company you absolutely love, and briefly imagining yourself having an awesome job with them.