Monday, March 19, 2007

Our wasteful polluting society

Updated Monday 23:30

Lila Das Gupta has just posted to her Telly blog (it's the one Sarah Hague was somewhat scathing about in a post to her blog recently, entitled Gripe Ho).

Lila's posts all appear under the generic heading : Re-Cycle of Life. Today's covers a number of environment issues, including our society's half-hearted attempts at recycling plastics etc used in supermarket packaging.

Three comments have just gone up. Here's my tuppenceworth, under the title "Profligate, polluting food packaging ":

"Your colourful graphic concentrates the mind wonderfully on how we squander resources and energy on our over-elaborate food packaging. Whether incinerated, or buried in landfill, its carbon obviously ends up finally in the atmosphere as greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane).

Back in the late 1990's, the Sunday Times revealed that Britain was the "rip-off capital" of Europe with its supermarket food prices. It campaigned for a survey to be conducted. Finally ( from memory - search engines have not been terribly helpful) the OFT I think it was announced it was doing a pilot survey on the feasibility of comparing UK supermarket prices with those in Continental Europe. Later, much later, it announced that after paying a six-figure sum of money to consultants, they had decided there were too many complexities to make meaningful comparisons, and so scrapped plans for the survey.

The chief drawback, aka excuse, which they cited still rankles with me to this day. We in Britain, they smugly announced, have a much higher standard of food packaging than our neighbours in Europe !

By this cheap ruse, the supermarkets escaped scrutiny, and were allowed to continue with their wasteful policies.

Oh, and it was also let slip (Hansard report) that UK supermarkets were forcing suppliers to use packaging manufacturers of their choosing, from which the supermarkets earned a kickback. Suppliers protested to no avail that they were forced to use firms whose prices were uncompetitive, and had naturally to pass on the cost.

Personally I'd prefer to see David Cameron concentrate on these nitty gritty issues, than follow the Gordon Brown route of using the environment as a pretext for ever higher taxes."

Reminder: although this blog is no longer accepting comments, thanks to the unwelcome attention of trolls and other internet low-life, emails are welcome.

I'll assume any comments can be published here, unless you say otherwise.

Postcript added Monday 23:30

Shane Richmond posted earlier this evening. He's been doing a bit a navel gazing (to which we are all prone): whither the direction of blogs, more especially the Comments facility. That was my cue to bash off this one, probably written in 5 minutes flat (and showing it):

"There are comments and there are comments. Some are free standing, responding to the blogger's post, some are reactive to an earlier comment, some posts create a one-off storm in a teacup, and some posts provide an arena for Round 2 of fisticuffs, and some like David Rennie's ertswhile blog attracted a dedicated band of aficionados, all highly clued up on the Byzantine workings of the EU. As such, it's hard to generalize about whether comments act as a magnet or not.

But is it a question worth asking ? Suppose it's agreed they do. Can a post be written reliably to attract comments, and would they be quality comments, relevant to the post ?

I recently decided to block the Comments facility on my modest blog, at least for an experimental period, thanks to trolls and other undesirables (as mentioned in comment No.16 in your last post, Shane). I'm inviting emails instead, and will make an effort to integrate them into the body of a running, evolving post. That way I hope to achieve an interaction and focus that can be lacking from the bogstandard blog. Admittedly it's not for everyone, and lacks an immediate friendly face, but I'm hoping that enough folk come to see the pros of the model to generate a critical mass of contributors. That's "critical" meant in the sense of a nuclear chain reaction !This is written in haste (for reasons succinctly expressed by Ped, about which I too have expressed strong views !)"

There was also a new question put in the Telly's "Your View" asking whether we are all explorers now. I felt sorry for it, having attracted only 1 comment, so off went this highly authoritative historical overview:

"In the past, one went down to travel agents in January, and began leafing through brochures, and then paying top price for holidays booked in February and taken in August. This was the business model that the package tour agents wanted to last for ever. But then folk cottoned on to the last minute bargains, advertised in stickers on the agent's windows. And then they learned that if the one you wanted was not there, you could go inside, and get them seaching on their screens for a week on Mykonos for less than the price of one in Newquay.

And that's when the industry decided things had gone too far, and warned that the last minute bargains would be phased out, to get us back to good habits. And the public said "In your dreams", and there was the standoff, and the industry blinked first, and the stickers went back on the windows: two weeks H/B in Malta for £185, if you travel next week. And then first Teletext and then the internet took off, and the cheap airlines made internet booking part of their business model, and we soon learned to navigate the maze of online hotel booking sites.

But as you hint, there are certain creature comforts missing from DIY hols - the coach and courier that meet you at the airport, the safety in numbers that comes from travelling in a package, the tour buses that take you and your luggage from one resort to another, with drivers who can navigate the city centres etc etc.

Package tours still have their place, provided one's not required to book before the clocks have gone forward."

Oops. Almost forgot to mention. this one went up in reply to my friend Walt in the USA (a interesting blend of engineer and philosopher). It was on Lila Das Gupta's post which was where we came in. Don't ask me how we got onto ordure from recycling of packaging. Ask Walt instead. But blogs would be much less interesting without the occasional going off at a tanget, would you not agree ?

Rigging the system

"There's only one kind of engineering that our Blair government is interested in, Walt, and that's social engineering. So if you and your good lady were UK university graduates, then His Toniness wants to make it harder for your children to get into university. Some say it's to teach the middle classes a lesson, for voting the wrong way at General Elections. Others say it's the New Labour elitists, class of 75 or thereabouts (give or take 10 years), most having benefitted from grants to attend university, with ne'er a student loan or top-up fee in sight, pulling the ladder up after them......This kind of "We're all right Jack" attitude at the highest level of our society is for us, Walt, the ordure of the day."
Colin Berry at 19 Mar 2007 16:38