Gareth's Blog

Recent Posts

Archives

Archives

August 2017 - Terra Infirma


Browse All

16 August 2017

Food for thought or gut instinct?

burger

I really enjoyed the piece in last week's Guardian pricking the balloon of the 'clean eating' movement whose proponents claim that modern life is killing us. I can get quite grumpy about happy-clappy pseudoscience and how it inveigles its way into everyday life. My local coffee shop proudly presents its 'gluten-free' brownies, even though the vast majority of people who think they are gluten intolerant simply aren't. I asked for one with gluten recently and the poor guy behind the counter looked utterly confused.

But the really disturbing part of the article is the author's anecdote of sharing a stage alongside a qualified dietician and one of the beautiful young champions of the clean eating movement. Whenever either of the first two questioned some of the claims made in the best-selling books of the latter, the audience got aggressive, and they were mocked later on social media. How dare these two criticise something we've invested emotional capital in using mere facts? Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

14 August 2017

Ignore Lawson et al, get on with the job in hand

Opening eyes

You can't have missed the furore. Al Gore was touring the British media last week promoting his new climate change movie, An Inconvenient Sequel. After his interview on Radio 4's Today programme, the BBC (disclosure, a Terra Infirma client) let climate sceptic Lord Lawson spout a few climate/clean energy zombie myths by way of 'balance'.

Twitter went into meltdown. Scientists, environmentalists and environmental scientists tore into the BBC for 'false balance' (presenting a minority view with equal weight to the consensus). Carbon Brief did their usual methodical debunking of Lawson's claims which forced Lawson's Global Warming Policy Forum to withdraw his erroneous claim that global temperatures were flatlining. Everybody else, huffed and puffed as if it was the end of the world.

Now I agree with the frustration, but I think the sound and fury is misplaced. Why?

  1. You ain't gonna stop Lawson. He's invested too much personally in this bunkum to back down, he is/was a significant political figure, and we have free speech in this country, which means hearing what you don't like as well as what you do. He will get on the media whether we like it or not.
  2. When was the last time you changed your mind on a subject because you heard a politician say something? The listeners probably came away with the view that Lawson didn't agree with Gore rather than believing Gore was wrong. I would be very surprised if anyone changed their minds.
  3. If people are susceptible to Lawson's message, then we're not going to bring them back on board by screaming at either Lawson or the BBC. It just creates more noise and plays into the sceptics' claims that environmentalism is a religion rather than based on sound scientific evidence. We need cleverer ways to sell sustainability to those people (I would of course recommend Green Jujitsu).
  4. Lawson, along with Monckton, Ridley, Lomborg et al, have been spectacularly unsuccessful at slowing the shift to a low carbon economy (see graph of the UK's renewables growth as an example). Yes, it could always go faster, but I would suspect that institutional inertia, the planning system, the immaturity of supply chains, and short termism are all more potent brakes than a few smart arses writing newspaper columns, tweeting or getting a few seconds on the wireless. UK_renewables_generated
  5. We each have limited time, energy and cash. We can choose to spend those resources moving our society to a more sustainable footing, or we can jump up and down in rage. I responded to Donald Trump's election by making a modest investment in renewable energy as it was the only thing I could think of which would make me feel better at that moment. It did, and it will have a much more positive effect on the planet, and my sanity, than spending the same time raging ineffectually on social media.

When I made this point on social media, a colleague responded that we had to "remove ALL barriers to climate action". This is not the case: perfectionism is the enemy of success. Some barriers are insignificant and should be ignored as they are a waste of energy. We need to focus on the significant barriers, remove those that can be removed, and work around those that can't.

Let's do it!

 

Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

9 August 2017

A Cycle-logical Summer

35466289613_1a5f8a3363_z

Just back from my second camping trip of the school holidays and the third this year – we're getting close to packing everything we need first time, now. But my personal highlights of the summer have all been on two wheels. My main target was my first century ride on the Cyclone sportive – 106 miles and the equivalent climbing of riding over Mt Snowdon and Ben Nevis (give or take 50m). Then, on a whim, I entered the Great Dun Fell sportive which finished at the radar station on top of the titular mountain via the UK's highest tarmac road. The 25-30% ramps and howling gale on this climb had me almost at a standstill at several points.

After those two brutal challenges, a ride with an old pal taking us from SW London out into Surrey on Sunday was a pleasant day out, but it was also a real eye-opener. I'm used to the almost empty roads of the North Pennines and Northumberland, so the traffic levels (powered and unpowered) were a real shock – more like a sportive than a coffee ride. Our route took in some of the most popular cycling stretches in the country (Richmond Park and Box Hill according to the the training app Strava) and the friction between the two-wheels and four was noticeable – "get a car!" was one bizarre piece of heckling, and my yell of remonstration against a Bentley driver who almost grazed my elbow was countered with an object hurled from the passenger window. Classy.

As we returned into Kingston, however, we were able to take a lovely long and interrupted car-free path along the river. Unsurprisingly, this is where we saw most families out riding. The centre of the town itself was undergoing a cycling/walking renewal with the previous slatherings of coloured road paint being upgraded with proper cycle paths, signals and signage.

I'm convinced the UK is undergoing a real transformation of attitudes to cycling, although the aggression we encountered shows there is a way to go. Here are some conclusions relevant to wider change for Sustainability:

  • You can't expect more sustainable behaviour in a system designed for business as usual;
  • Use demand to indicate where you should focus your effort as the 'bang for your buck' is highest;
  • Don't abandon people halfway – one nightmare of cycling (or any transport) is when cycle paths/direction signs evaporate just when you need them most;
  • Expect resistance, some understandable, much entirely irrational. Use the former as feedback, ignore the latter.

And lastly, get out and ride!

 

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

3 August 2017

This makes me wanna scream...

screamEven as a committed carnivore, I found this article in the Observer on the increasing number of elite athletes turning to veganism really interesting at first. Then came the backlash in the second half – the sanctimonious hardcore vegans saying things like:

"However, there are many high-profile vegan athletes who never mention anything but their personal, selfish benefits from avoiding animal products and eating more plants."

Or

"I’m always sceptical when I hear that a sportsperson or celebrity has become ‘plant-based’ for health reasons. It dilutes veganism into being just a diet when in fact veganism is an ethos, a lifestyle of non-violence and compassion towards all living creatures."

[My emphases]

This really makes me mad... do they want people to give up animal products or not? The message is "never mind what you do, unless you believe everything I believe then you are morally inferior" – how arrogant is that? It is the epitome of the self-appointed moral priesthood which crosses from veganism into the deep-green end of the environmental movement – raising the bar to entry rather than lowering it.

That lowering of the bar to Sustainability is my life's ambition – getting more and more people on board, enjoying a more sustainable lifestyle, imperfections and all. That is why I formulated the idea of Green Jujitsu – to reach out, rather than push away. Because that is the only way we will do what we need to do. And you'd better believe it!

 

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

1 August 2017

Happy 11th Birthday Terra Infirma!

Terra Infirma is 4 years old!So, it is 11 years to the day that I jumped off the cruise ship of salaried employment and onto the windsurfing board of solo consultancy – just before the tsunami of the 2007/08 financial crisis gave me a rather brutal lesson in business survival. Looking back over the last year, as I always do on this date, the uncertainty created by Brexit has certainly caused similar choppy waters as many people who would like our help are either unable to invest, or afraid to.

This has led to a year of ups and downs. A good illustration is that, while our North of England-based Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group is going from strength to strength, hitting the maximum membership limit this year for the very first time, I was unable to get a critical mass together to launch a Southern chapter. Brexit was quoted by several otherwise very interested contacts as a reason they couldn't commit. The great irony of course is that during the financial crisis companies with a strong commitment to Sustainability weathered the storm better than those who didn't.

But that grumble aside, here are some more highlights of the last 12 months:

  • Continuing to work with our wonderful roster of existing clients including the BBC, NHS Blood & Transplant, Johnson Matthey, Newcastle NHS Hospitals Trust and Stanley Black & Decker;
  • Some great new clients including Durham University, Esh Construction, the Thirteen Group and Elopak;
  • The publication of our latest white paper Seven Steps to a Successful Sustainability Strategy;
  • Some fantastic questions for my regular Ask Gareth YouTube series (If you haven't subscribed to our YouTube channel, get over there straight away and do so);
  • Continuing success of our regular Green Academy training programme;
  • And, more recently, the launch of our new online training course: Green Jujitsu: Smart Employee Engagement for Sustainability.

And things are looking pretty good for the six months ahead with an strong focus on helping clients to implement their Sustainability Strategy. The good ship Terra Infirma sails on!

 

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

Free monthly bulletin:

Learn how to help your business go green from the comfort of your desk..

View events

By Gareth Kane

Everything you need to know to integrate sustainability into the DNA of your business.

Submit button

By Gareth Kane

A highly accessible, practical guide to those who want to introduce sustainability into their business or organization quickly and effectively.

Submit button

By Gareth Kane

The smart way to engage effectively with employees

View events