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30 September 2016

How to get the most from a Sustainability Expert

YodaWe had another great Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group meeting yesterday, focussing on the supply chain (full summary next week). Almost every meeting ends up discussing the supply chain to some degree, and in turn the supply chain meeting was dominated by the need for engagement of procurement staff and suppliers. There's something of a hierarchy of subjects developing of which engagement is always at the base.

One engagement theme that emerged yesterday was how external experts and speakers can influence people in a way an internal change agent can't. This is kind of the opposite of 'not invented here', but it is certainly true that people often give more credence to an outsider with suitable status telling them about change than someone they know. We demonstrated this last Tuesday by getting Colin Thirlaway of Stanley Black & Decker to open proceedings to demonstrate that Sustainability was a real world business issue, not just a theoretical one.

I spend a lot of time facilitating workshop sessions for my clients. In this role my outsider status works really well, and I have one golden rule to maintain that independence:

I will never, ever become a proponent of 'the party line'.

Doing so would not only instantly destroy my position as the honest broker, but on a practical level, I will never understand the context or sensitivities sufficiently well to win an argument. If there's a message to be communicated, then I insist that a staff member take that role.

In fact, I've turned down the chance of a lucrative training contract with one of the world's largest brands because they insisted that a dubious health claim be included in the content. I couldn't defend that to anyone who challenged it, so I said no.

In other words, use an outsider to help with your engagement, but don't expect them to become an insider.

 

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28 September 2016

Sustainability: Engineering in the Real World

designing

Yesterday I was facilitating a workshop for the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Durham University. The purpose was to find ways to further embed Sustainability issues (social, environmental and economic) into the syllabus. I entered the room with a touch of manflu and no little trepidation - academics can be a tough audience as they, rightly, have a culture of questioning everything.

Here's how I approached it to make sure I didn't lose the room:

  • I went straight into the first session without more than a 2 minute pre-amble. No pointless round of introductions to put everyone to sleep.
  • We started with a presentation by a client, Colin Thirlaway, global compliance manager for Stanley Black & Decker. Colin made a powerfully persuasive case that, as SBD's 20,000 product lines had to be designed for a sustainable economy, the engineers of the future will need plenty of appropriate skills and knowledge. In doing so, he killed off any doubt that this was an important subject. This made the rest of the workshop really easy.
  • Next we split into groups and asked why Sustainability should be in the syllabus. This doubled down on the message that it was a critical subject – and the classic Green Jujitsu technique of getting delegates to sell sustainability to themselves.
  • The following segments followed up the "Why?" with "What topics are required?", "Where in the syllabus?" and "How should Sustainability be presented?". For each question, delegates had to write their own ideas on Post-Its before they came together. This stops any individual dominating any group and captures the full gamut of thoughts.

As usual, it went swimmingly, although my brain got a little fugged as the Lemsip wore off towards the end. Now I've just got to write it all up...

 

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26 September 2016

Bradley Wiggins and the Spirit of the Law

braddley_wiggins_2011_criterium_du_dauphine_stage_7There can't have been a more disconsolate figure than that of Bradley Wiggins, almost certainly the greatest cyclist of our generation, on the BBC yesterday explaining the conditions under which he (legally) took a steroid injection before his 2012 Tour de France win.

You are probably aware of the backstory – a group of Russian hackers have taken revenge on the sporting world for the banning of many of its athletes for illegal doping by releasing the medical records of others, in particular the therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) which allow athletes to get treated with banned substances for particular medical conditions. And Wiggins' name popped up with a TUE for a steroid which has long been linked with cheating in the sport, taken at a particularly convenient time.

The hackers have certainly won this one as Wiggins and his former Team Sky have long made a virtue of a zero tolerance to doping. In his 2012 ghost-written memoir Wiggins claimed to have a no-injection policy, but now claims he was referring to intravenous injections, not intramuscular ones (a bizarre distinction as illegal doping can involve either or both). And only a few weeks ago, Wiggins lambasted women's world champion Lizzie Armitstead (now Deignan) for missing doping tests.

On the other hand, the TUE system approved the dose and the 40mg dose he took is the standard medical injection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I can't find precise details of how much the dopers took, except that it can be 10-100 times as high (I don't know how much you have to take to make a difference to performance). If the system is wrong then change the system.

Well, at the end of the day, Wiggins is not being judged in a doping investigation (because he didn't dope), but in the court of public opinion with the mainstream media as prosecutor in chief. And, as many disgraced politicians will tell you, that court looks to the spirit of the law, rather than the letter, and it looks as if Wiggins and Team Sky fell short of the expectations they created for themselves.

There are obvious parallels here between sporting ethics and business ethics. In both, the media will be sniffing out any perceived hypocrisy and the public will not give the subject the benefit of the doubt. Transparency can go a long way, particularly by qualifying any broad statement of principle. And, it goes without saying, being seen to walk the walk as well as talk the talk is all important.

By all means set yourself a high ethical bar, but you better clear it by a wide margin of error.

 

Photo © Petit Brun, used under a creative commons license.

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21 September 2016

Getting the sustainability message through

Frame

What makes you stop in the street and stare?

Regular readers will know I'm (more than) a bit obsessive about road cycling. I will walk past the shiniest, most expensive motorbike without a glance, but if there's a carbon fibre road bike locked to a railing beside it, I will stop. Doesn't matter if I'm running late for something, I will pause and admire.

A motorbike fanatic would think I'm mad. They'd stop at the motorbike and admire the power, the transmission or the chrome before striding past the carbon fibre object of my desire without noticing it. An aero seat post or a Di2 derailleur would mean nothing to them, just as much as the latest supercharger (or whatever) would mean nothing to me.

This shows how the filters in our brain act so we ignore the vast majority of the world around us. The filters only draw our attention to what is important to each of us. This has critical implications for engaging people in Sustainability: if someone is already ambivalent to sustainability, then their mental filters will block out (almost) every sustainability message you throw at them.

Green Jujitsu is the art of finding the overlap between what turns your audience on and the Sustainability agenda – and starting engagement there. Because you are packaging Sustainability with their interests, the message will get past their filters – and you get engagement. So, if you want to engage an engineer in Sustainability, then challenge them to solve Sustainability problems. Engineers love solving problems, so the message gets through their filters. And, if you're really good at this, you'll find their filters start to open and let more and more sustainability stuff through.

 

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19 September 2016

Blinkered views block the road to Sustainability

blinkers

George Osborne may have been unceremoniously booted out of the UK Treasury by incoming PM Theresa May, but one of his legacies will live with us for decades as May rubber-stamped his deal with the Chinese Government to finance new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point. For a man who denigrated renewables on value for money grounds, Osborne's parsimony deserted him on Hinkley, with even nuclear's biggest proponents wincing at the cost of the new facility.

Unrelated, but related, The Independent's Sean O'Grady launched an anti-cyclist tirade at the news that West Midlands Police are fining drivers who skim rider's elbows. He completely omits to mention that the crackdown was in response to the Police's own evidence that only 2% of serious collisions involving cyclists were the cyclist's fault.

Both can only be explained by ingrained mindsets. Osborne clearly buys the old "renewables too expensive, nuclear too cheap to meter" myth and O'Grady plays the old "cyclists aren't real road users, so should simply keep out of the way" saw. Neither men are stupid, but they manage to argue stupid things because humans tend to see the world through a rather fixed worldview.

I cleave to the belief that the biggest barrier to sustainability is just six inches wide, the space between our ears. For sustainability to become the norm, we've got to change these, and many other, worldviews. Rants, like mine above, won't work to change those minds – we've got to find ways of finding the common ground and moving on from there. What I call Green Jujitsu.

 

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16 September 2016

Do you have a Sustainability Strategy? Really?

pencil figure checklistWhat is a Sustainability Strategy? Is it just a document containing all your targets? Is it something to show your stakeholders? Is it a baseline against which you can measure progress? Or is it something more than that?

I saw this quote from Stuart Cross on general business strategy this morning which applies equally to the subject of sustainability:

A strategy doesn't just impact the 'big' investment choices; it drives a myriad of decisions of actions taken by colleagues and managers from across your organisation on a daily basis. Like a magnet being waved over iron filings, a strategy creates alignment and ensures that everyone is pointing in the same direction.

I really like that magnet analogy and it applies to all the truly great sustainability strategies: M&S's Plan A, Interface's Mission Zero or Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan. These transcend mere documents or targets, they become more like a Roman legion's standard for the troops to follow into battle - and rally around when things go wrong.

Does your sustainability strategy do this? Or does it just tick the boxes?

 

 

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14 September 2016

Embedding Sustainability is a Banker

Tax calculator and penFascinating article in this week's Economist, traditionally no friend of sustainability, about investing in low carbon firms. They quote research by BlackRock who found that companies in the top quintile for cutting their carbon intensity outperformed the MSCI World Index by 4% since 2012, while those in the bottom quintile trailed the Index by 5%.

On the downside, the author quotes other research which shows 'green mutual funds' trailed others  between 1991 and 2014. The blame for this is put on volatile fossil fuel markets and Government policies. My own (rather modest) green investments seem to have flat-lined over the last couple of years, deflating my enthusiasm slightly.

The article also mentions that the cost of LEDs has plummeted by 90% since 2010, showing how quickly green technologies are still maturing. It will be very interesting to see how this and similar price drops through economies of scale and innovation across the green tech sector will impact in the medium term.

The conclusion from all this is that while the green sector itself is still immature and thus risky, embedding sustainability into a conventional company will almost certainly reap dividends.

 

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12 September 2016

Pick your climate gurus with care

epicfailMy regular paper is The Guardian, somewhat under sufferance ever since my previous favourite The Independent started to shrink in size and quality about a decade ago. One of the things that bugs me about The Grauniad is its insistence on turning to novelists for wisdom on the big issues of the day whether terrorism, migration or climate change. Why listen to experienced diplomats, politicians, soldiers, scientists or engineers when you can ask Hilary Mantel what she thinks?

And lo, we get an article about Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh complaining that the arts, along with everybody else, haven't addressed climate change enough. The article concludes:

Worryingly, Ghosh has few solutions to offer. “I am not sure there are solutions. The problem is of such a scale that we are dwarfed by it,” he said.

Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't worry me much at all that a novelist doesn't know how to solve climate change. We have plenty of people who know how to do that. They're beavering away at making it happen quickly enough while Mr Ghosh tours India in a self-appointed role as a prophet of doom.

As the second most populated country in the world, and developing fast, India is currently pivotal to the whole battle for climate change. The recent G20 communiqué on the Paris Agreement was diluted by the Indian Government worried about economic impacts. If the arts really can deliver change, it will have persuade the country's leadership that tackling climate change will also deliver economic and social benefits, if they do it right. That's going to take a positive vision from Ghosh and his colleagues.

 

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9 September 2016

Greenwash of the Week

sonos

You would have to have a very strange existence if your whole footprint was "greatly reduced" and all your waste was eradicated simply by changing from disposable earplugs to reusable ones. Of course they mean that reusables are better than disposables, but they should say that.

Sloppy, but all too common.

 

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7 September 2016

Can Big Data & AI deliver Sustainability?


The latest edition of Ask Gareth considers how the hot topics of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence can interact with the Sustainability Agenda. Is the hype justified? Watch and see!

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions here.

 

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5 September 2016

Interaction - the spice of Sustainability

wallington sandpit

Yesterday the family headed up to the National Trust property of Wallington Hall in Northumberland – me on my bike, the rest by car. We've been there many times, but there was a new exhibit, tucked away behind the greenhouses, which blew us away.

It was a simple sand pit with some buildings and bridges, but it had a wonderful twist. It had a Kinect hung above it which measured the 'altitude' of the sand at any point, then used a projector to overlay a relief map in real time, with contours, colours and 'water'. So if you dug a pit, it would 'fill' with blue water. If you held something over the top, it acted as a cloud and 'rained' on the area below and the water would drain downhill.

Just sand, light and a bit of clever technology - the kids (including those 40+) loved it. Utterly enchanting and engaging.

When I posted the above pic on social media last night, we found out via a couple of interactions that the system was developed at Newcastle University. They're going to use it to communicate potential impacts of climate change. Another of our friends who works for a conservation charity wants to get hold of one as well for their outreach work.

It was a wonderful reminder to me of how people like to learn through experience, not just being told something. Immersing people in a system, whether real or virtual will give a much more lasting impact than telling them some facts.

The best engagement for sustainability includes as much experience and interactivity as possible. Whether it's seeing (a tiny fraction of) the mountain of waste society produces with your own eyes or getting a test drive in an electric vehicle, it is a very powerful engagement tool.

 

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2 September 2016

Why I'm an Eco-optimist

grass feet small

There's an old joke:

An optimist says the glass is half full,

A pessimist says the glass if half empty,

An engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

I'm an engineer so, naturally, I'm an entirely rational person who acts purely on objective evidence. Except of course I'm not, I just like to think I am. Like everybody else us engineers are irrational, fearful, illogical and we distort our perception of the world to match our inner feelings. But I do  make a real effort to read both sides of an argument, if only to understand which side I am rejecting – the most depressing thing in the world is people who are so (un)sure of their worldview that they boycott newspapers who write something that challenges it.

Speaking of the press, I heard a quote attributed to Nassim Taleb yesterday along the lines of "Judging the world from newspapers is like judging a city by spending a night in its hospital emergency room" (I'm taking that on trust, Google wouldn't cough up the original words). This reflects the fundamental rule that good news rarely if ever dominates the flow of negativity from the media. So we get the tales of gloom and doom from both sides of the green debate – the "we're all doomed!" brigade and the "eco-loons want to impoverish us" squad. Any good news, like the fact that 25% of the UK's electricity is now from renewables without any adverse effect on our lifestyle, passes by both groups without notice.

But it's more than who's right and who's wrong – both negative points of view switch people off. Only hope can galvanise us. Martin Luther said "I have a dream" not "I have a nightmare" (as pointed out by Shellenberger and Nordhaus more than a decade ago). The people who will deliver Sustainability are not the doomsters, but those who grasp the opportunity to change, like the late Ray Anderson of Interface, Tesla's Elon Musk or Unilever's Paul Polman.

My influence is less than these guys, but I do my best to counterbalance the doom. As well as orienting my consultancy, training and coaching towards pragmatic solutions, I have developed the habit of seeking out and sharing good news, ideally on a daily basis. This is not because I think the sustainability challenge is trivial, but because, without hope, the challenge is impossible.

 

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30 August 2016

Clean power: past and future

tall ships blyth

We've just had a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend chez Kane - taking in art, cyclocross, but most impressively, the Tall Ships Regatta at Blyth Northumberland. The enormous, beautiful ships were arrayed against the backdrop of Blyth's coastal wind farm and various huge sheds containing various parts of the renewable energy supply chain.

piratesMrs K grew up in Blyth and we squatted in her mother's house in the town for three years at the end of the 1990s when we first moved to the North East of England, so it was a bit of a nostalgia trip. It's had a tough time; a post-industrial town hit by poverty and and drugs – legend has it that its own inhabitants once voted it the worst town in England. It still has problems, but the establishment of the New and Renewable Energy Centre (in the building in the left of the pic), combined with the regeneration of the Quayside, has given it an air of hope. I don't have many positive things to say about our now defunct Regional Development Agency, One NorthEast, but this is one of them.

Newcastle University, where I took my first professional steps in Sustainability and got an MPhil in Life Cycle Engineering, had a great display showing their work on everything from designing new floating wind turbine concepts, through efficient propellor design, to the next generation of non-toxic ship anti-fouling systems. The building holding this exhibition has just been constructed to rehouse a 'Emerson Cavitation Tunnel' later this year – it will be used to test prototype propeller and tidal turbine designs.

The juxtaposition of this hi-tech, next generation clean technology work with the historical renewable energy systems of the tall ships  was just lovely. The ships will live on in the memory of the people of Blyth, but the low carbon economy looks like the future for this ex-coal mining town.

 

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25 August 2016

Virtue Signalling: an insidious form of greenwash

I've always hated those pious "Save the planet: don't print this e-mail" statements in people's e-mail signature blocks. Why? Because it is blatant 'virtue signalling' – making the author sound virtuous without the inconvenience of actually doing anything virtuous themselves, in this case admonishing others for something they would probably never do.

Fortunately those e-mail mini-sermons are less common these days, unfortunately they seem to be being replaced by equally vacuous tweets instead. This one caught my eye last week:

Note that the instruction is aimed at the reader, not the author. How many people do you think will see this flicker past on their twitter stream and sit up and say "Oh, I'd never thought of that!"? The "saving a shoe is saving the earth" hashtag is particularly amusing in its vapidity.

Now, if they had linked to a document explaining what elements of a shoe can be repaired and how, that would be useful to the reader and would be making a minor contribution to sustainability. But as it is, this is a particularly irritating form of greenwash.

 

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22 August 2016

Do you want Sustainability or not? Lessons from the Olympics

Jess Ennis

The story has been told many times, but it's a good one if you're a Brit. Thoroughly embarrassed by GB's pathetic single-gold-medal showing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1994, Prime Minister John Major diverted National Lottery funding into British Sport. As the curtain drops on the (main) Rio Olympics 20 years later, we've just pushed China into third place on the medal table for the first time since the latter started competing.

Elements of the press are starting to react uncomfortably to this success, even likening it to the chest-thumpingly patriotic Eastern Bloc displays of the Cold War era. They fret particularly about GB's decidedly Darwinian funding formula – win medals and you get a shedload more dosh to win more (which buys the best facilities, coaches and kit), lose out and you get nada. Sorry, basketball, but we spent your cash on new cycling skin suits.

My immediate reaction to this soul searching is: do you want to win or not?

If not, that's OK, taking part is fine. But don't complain if we can't deliver top level sporting results with non-competitive thinking, because it's one or the other. Personally, I'm quite enjoying the winning.

I see a strong parallel with Corporate Sustainability. All too often people who claim their organisation takes Sustainability seriously tell me that they would never ditch a supplier on Sustainability grounds, never consider axing an unsustainable product, never invest in developing new sustainable technologies. They are uncomfortable at targeting key decision makers for engagement ("we believe it's everybody's responsibility"), putting sustainability targets into those individual's personal objectives (ditto) or moving them along if they're incompatible with the strategy (ditto).

In the wider environmental movement, we often see green activists campaigning against green solutions - witness George Monbiot's writings against the very solar feed in tariffs which are delivering a renewables revolution. I agree with Monbiot that FiTs aren't perfectly fair (they divert cash from all bill payers into the pockets of those who can afford to invest in solar), but doing nothing is much, much worse. Anti-capitalists such as Naomi Klein claim, conveniently, that we will only tackle climate change by replacing capitalism with an vague and untried alternative which may not actually exist.

So, we can get our hands dirty delivering on Sustainability now, messy compromises and all, or we can wait indefinitely for a perfect solution, because it's one or the other. I know which one I'm doing.

 

Photo: © 2012, David Jones, Creative Commons License

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18 August 2016

There's no talking to some people (about the environment)

Crazy WomanTwo things made me smile this week.

First, Prof Brian Cox's face as he realised what level of idiocy he was up against when debating with an Australian climate sceptic. The debate can be summarised as:

ACS: There is no proof.

PBC: Here's the evidence (holds up graph demolishing ACS's arguments).

ACS: That data's been manipulated.

PBC: By who?

ACS: Nasa.

[Audience bursts out laughing, PBC doesn't know where to look]

Secondly, I've seen a number of letters in newspapers and comments on blogs where the author clearly believes the UK is lagging the world, if not moving backwards, on renewable energy. The reality is, as the FT points out, the UK is ranked No 2 for renewable energy amongst G20 nations having gone from 6% of electrical power from renewables to 24% in the last five years.

It is simply impossible to argue that this surge is not impressive without contorting reality beyond breaking point. But these guys manage it with remarkable ease.

Both ACS and the green doomsters are suffering from extreme cases of confirmation bias – our tendency to grasp any tiny sliver of evidence to back up our gut instincts, while ignoring everything which contradicts that feeling, no matter how strong that counter-argument is. We all do it, shouty people just do it much more than the rest of us.

The moral of the story? Evidence is not enough. We need to engage with people's gut instinct as that's where change happens or doesn't.

 

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15 August 2016

Stealth Sustainability?

"A

As a British cycling fan, I've been throughly enjoying the team's continuing success in the Olympic velodrome. One of the remarkable characters is sprinter Jason Kenny, who has just picked up his 5th gold and is likely to get a 6th tomorrow, yet he could knock on my door the day after and I'd assume he was delivering a parcel. Kenny deliberately keeps a low profile, winning little between Olympics, before turning up every four years and destroying the field. Fellow 5-gold legend Sir Steve Redgrave is currently using his haul of medals to flog breakfast cereal – not sure I'll see Kenny plastered across the aisles anytime soon.

It got me thinking about those companies who lead on Sustainability and make a big fuss about it and those who prefer to operate under the radar. Which is best?

Going public raises the stakes. Like a sports celebrity your every move will be scrutinised and assessed, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. This can be a powerful driver for continued change, and an inspiration to others, but it can lead to a focus on superficial, media friendly actions which are easily digested by the public. Body Shop is one company which bragged of its environmental principles and spent many years fighting off allegations of greenwash by investigative journalists.

For the last year I've been working with carpet tile giant Interface. The company has long been my choice for most sustainable large business in the world, yet they rarely trouble green business league tables compiled in the media (which may reflect the arbitrariness of the latter more than anything else). But it surprises me how many sustainability practitioners I meet who are only vaguely aware of Interface and its quite incredible Mission Zero programme. In many ways they are the Jason Kenny of Sustainability – delivering world class results while flying under the radar.

Which is best? Consumer-facing and/or high profile companies should probably lean towards the razzmatazz not least because many of their competitors will be doing so. But they will have to appreciate 'tall poppy syndrome' – the media will be watching them like hawks.

For lower profile or more specialist businesses, they are unlikely to get much high profile coverage simply because of the way the media works, and should focus on telling their story directly to the stakeholders who matter such as customers, potential employees and regulators.

I was going to say 'horses for courses', but, given my opening metaphor, 'bikes for parcours' may be more appropriate!

 

Photo © U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

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12 August 2016

Should you abolish your Sustainability Department?


The latest edition of Ask Gareth considers a rather existential question for sustainability practitioners – should corporations get rid of their Sustainability Department? My answer is "yes, but not yet." Why? Hit play and find out.

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions here.

 

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9 August 2016

A day at the Zoo

stick insects

To break up the monotony (as if) of rock pooling for the kids in our lovely coastal holiday location, we took them to Edinburgh Zoo yesterday. Like many, it always takes me a while to get over the confinement of the animals, until it is driven home to me what an essential job they do in terms of conservation, awareness and education.

It is indeed sad to see two bored Sumatran tigers pacing along in synchronicity where their cages meet, but as soon as you find out about that there are only 500 left in the world, it puts their individual situation into a wider perspective. I know there are some purists who would rather see the species go extinct than be in zoos, but I think they're idiots.

Mid-afternoon, we went to the 'meet the insects' session which went down great with the kids and adults alike (see pic) and which gives people that deeper connection with the animals. The keeper, Barry, who led this session then went on a whirlwind tour of other exhibits - some scheduled, some just 'cos he felt like it. His commentary was brilliant, mixing animal physiology, conservation and fascinating factoids (like the sun bear being the main source of Chewbacca's voice).

Barry's emerging theme was that the biggest threat to many of the endangered animals is palm oil production in SE Asia leading to loss of habitat. My homework is to investigate further as, due to the nature of my clients, this is a bit of a blindspot in my Sustainability knowledge.

Every day is school day!

 

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4 August 2016

Greetings from Sunny Scotland

cove

We're holidaying just north of the border from where I live in North East England – in a very secluded location. To get here from the main road, after a short wiggle through some minor roads, we had to unlock a gate, drive down a rough track with a precipitous fall to some jagged rocks and the sea one side, and stop outside a tunnel in the hillside. Just inside the tunnel is a wheelbarrow which we had to unlock, load up with some luggage and walk 50 metres in the dark towards the light, then out and 200m across a beach path and up some steps to our cabin.

The tunnel bit was enlivened by bigger children telling the youngest it was full of zombies who would "suck out his brains." It took about 3 shuttles with the barrow, and lots of reassurance to small child about the undead (or lack thereof), to get all our stuff in (and about 10 minutes to log onto the wifi.)

It's a glorious location, watching the tide roll in and out of the harbour, leaving rock pools full of fish, prawns and hermit crabs for the children to harass. House martins are nesting in the cliffs above us, swooping around feeding on the midges and trying not to feed the sparrowhawks in turn. The midges seem to be taking it out on me, and me alone, putting me in a special place in the food chain.

When we climb back out of the cove, we're surrounded by low carbon energy – Torness nuclear power station dominates the skyline to the west and we have major wind farms to the south and east. The latter two form an impressive backdrop to my cycles/hunts for a decent coffee stop.

We've been here for five days and have hardly 'done anything' – just being here is enough!

 

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