The best way to save energy; or, keeping up with your neighbours

I’ve read about this today (Channel 4 News, which is, by the way, my new favourite TV news website) and now I’ve accidentally just watched an 8 minute TED talk on the same thing.

Getting people to save energy is like trying to walk up a perfectly smooth, icy hill, in wellies. (For those who haven’t experienced this, I can recommend it for sheer frustration factor). Most people know me as someone who is a bit more ‘right on’ than is comfortable, but I can hold my hands up and say that I’m just as bad (if not worse, head-in-the-sand-ostrich-girl) with regards to saving energy.

But here, behavioural scientists have figured out that social pressure is a more effective means of getting people to change their behaviour with regards to energy waste (and presumably a lot of other hard-to-change issues) than by telling them they will save money, explaining that they will save the environment, or anything else.

All the scientists did was tell the people that their neighbours were saving energy, and how.

I’ve embedded the TED talk so that you don’t have to go find it. Enjoy it and then go ahead and turn something off.


Autumn days; best or worst?

Autumn days are the best and worst. Winter’s not so bad because you know the weather’s going to be inclement. Certainty helps with your expectations. If you are sure there’s no way you’ll see sunshine that day, even the sharpest sliver of yellow light across the reddening land exceeds your expectations and gives your heart a lift.

A brisk autumn morning in Cumbria

Autumn, on the other hand is full of surprises. A squitchy mud bath, ankle deep next to a frozen puddle. A nice day turns to rain within 30 minutes. Pheasants crash upwards squawking about the dog. Chased by the dog, in fact. She is so puppyish that as soon as she thinks she has the bird almost in her paws, she smells for it, instead of using her eyes. Pheasants 24763 Puppy 0. Too much eye, my mum says. Same for insects.

Jack Frost's web

The dog was the best ever investment in my own quality of life. The walks we take can be greens, or browns and light green and reds. They fill me with a kind of wakeful energy. The blue and mauve hills in the background may be either shrouded in haze or clear as if they are just a few feet away. Rain is a regular contributor to the atmosphere.

The trees have lost most of their leaves by now, so there’s leaf litter underfoot, and when the ground isn’t frost-hard, it’s squitchy. The only sensible things for your feet are Wellington boots and they’re lethal on ice, so it’s still 6 of  one, half dozen of the other.

Dog days

The dog hilariously skidded across ice on the path the other day in a seconds-long stunt. She bounded onto it, her rear end flew out sideways, and she recovered instantaneously by turning the fall into a leap, but she tried to hit the ground at a run and skidded across the ice into a minor heap. Immediately scrabbled off the treacherous area, and hurtled headlong into the thicket. Not noted for thinking, my puppy.

ice in a cut

Still, on the way back, she got across the bridge by walking on the grassy strip right next to the wall. Learns some things quick, my girl.

Midway. A 4-min film that everyone should watch.

Anyone who’s ever read my blog knows that I love birds. The large, white, feathered variety with a bad attitude, normally. But the truth is, I secretly love all birds. From the little birds that have massive arguments in the garden, to the geeses; alarmed blackbirds, to clever, arrogant magpies. Even the rooks and ravens have their place for me. I think of them as Tolkien’s Watchers. First Goslings 2013

So bearing in mind I hatched 19 fluffy goslings and kept them alive with only two terribly sad fatalities (and they are prone to getting into trouble, so this was some feat), I foolishly watched this film (below – 4 mins only).

So now I confer upon you that same honour. Because even if you don’t want to know this, and you’re not interested in this kinda thing, you should know about it.  This should be part of what’s taught in Science at school. You don’t have to care about it. Just like my generation all have at least a vague understanding of climate change; the next should understand the stark realities of human waste and excess and that there might yet be something we can do about it.

Midway film says it all

The wider message of the film (the one that does affect you) shouldn’t escape you.

The more common knowledge it is, the more difference (to policy, laws, lobbying practices, influence) can be made by the people who care enough to shout about it. They don’t require you to care about it; just to know about it.

Please watch.

PS. Right at the end, a title fades in under ‘Midway’. It says ‘Message from the Gyre’. The link between that and my earlier disastrous post ‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre’ was too much to ignore. I like to see signs in my life.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre …

So, watch this video linked above.

I could’ve cried. Bleak and appalling truths, transmitted in black lines. No hope, because this is a depiction of our reality.

It’s okay for people like me, living in the country of a relatively untouched beauty area (and here relatively refers to the fact that I know how much has changed here over the past 25 years, but compared to what other people have experienced, I realise that is nothing) but I can sense the encroaching dark nightmare which permeates my consciousness. I can feel the industrialists and developers approaching.

There’s no point in saying ‘Stop it now!’ because it’s not us doing it. Sure, we’re culpable – we buy the plastic throwaway goods, and the suede boots. We eat over-farmed meat of dubious origin, and think to ourselves that if we read the ingredients then at least we’re ‘informed’. We drive the cars, consume the fuel and the electronic white goods, and complain about how expensive things are getting.

But it isn’t just our faults. We are no more functional than sheep: slaves to a system which keeps us alive, feeds our dreams, and kills us in the end.

Nobody with any power will watch this ‘cartoon’. They won’t have the time. Too busy making money (and time is money) and anyway, the demise of the earth isn’t a worry of theirs because they will surely be dead by the time that happens. Dead, and buried, or cremated. Gold coffins, anyone? Or how about ecologically-sound cardboard/balsa wood boxes?

There is hope, but not as we know it

Something gives me hope, however, although I sure won’t see it in my lifetime (and no, it isn’t aliens, although I appreciate the wishful thinking of the sharp-thinking Steve Cutts). This unprepossessing website, made by Elena Filatova, a motorcycle-riding photographer who was one of thousands of people evacuated from Chernobyl when the disaster took place. Check it out. Trees still growing, animals still living and not in the horrific, disfiguring, radioactive way you might think. Nature has reclaimed the land.

The earth will recover. Even yet. Because when we’re all gone; when we’ve eaten and broken up everything that we can; when we’ve filled the oceans with enough poisons and enough waste (and see this post on on what’s apparently happening around the Fukushima disaster) and when we’ve died out through starvation and a sheer lack of evolutionary capability to survive the hell we’ve created, the earth will still be here.

It may take her thousands of years to recover without us, but she will. The current remaining forests will petrify into coal again; animals will evolve further and multiply; trees and flora will flourish again, in rainforests and jungles and woods, and the universe will be a better place.

Or we could stop it now, and enjoy the future instead. Not that we have a choice, really, but it’s nice to think we do.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

W.B. Yeats ‘The Second Coming’ – first verse only

Think about it.

Internet Advertising Does. Not. Rock.

I just accidentally rolled over a Levi’s Jeans banner ad, which popped up out of nowhere. Cue sudden loud music, and adrenaline-filled horror; mouse flails around the screen, and a box pops up with the magic X in the corner.

I just hate the way the commercial internet is becoming. The experience is like being trapped inside a jack-in-the-box.

Internet ads keep The Dream ticking over

I know it’s a necessary evil (sorta); I know that the internet is the land of opportunity, and without all those intrusive ads, the available levels of opportunity would be lesser. Not as much money, not as many fans; the internet wouldn’t exist if nobody looked at it. Those ads wouldn’t be there if we weren’t clicking on them.

Trust me on this. Internet ad folk are looking for proof that their ads work. They compile huge databases of information to help them find it. If ads don’t work, the companies don’t spend the cash.

But I hate it.

I love the internet. There was a period, say from 2004 to 2011 when I often thought that the internet was everything I’d always hoped it would be. Information on anything, right there. In seconds if you knew where to look. Then the advertising changed.

Venn Diagram

Adverts behave differently now. Those pairs of ’em, the rectangular ones that scroll down with you. Banners* that pop up. Sign-up requests before you’ve got to the second line of an article. Eternally hitting the X.

I’m a savvy user. I’ve loved computers since the BBCs in Year Two, circa 1986, and I’ve spent a lot of time using them in the last fifteen years. There must be more ads than ever – apparently there was an upwards trend in 2012. If ad-jacking is making me uncomfortable, it must be hellish for people who don’t use them as often.

So, much as I love the internet wholeheartedly, I’m torn on the issue. I want there to be a golden egg with  my name on it, waiting on the internet somewhere. I want the chance to shine in public and say something worthwhile. But I don’t want the means by which that happens.

How much of a hyprocrite am I? In my defence, I used to forgive the ads because of the ‘necessary evil’ aspect, but now the levels of intrusive distraction are becoming untenable. Not quite there yet, but close enough. Enough is enough.

Stop already. (Said the hypocrite).

*Understanding Internet Banners useful article.

Image by Philip Wels, Flickr, via Creative Commons