Wednesday 27 January 2010

Eco Competition!

Which is the most worthy eco project? Six eco charities are locked in battle for a prize of 30,000 Euros! Who will you vote for? I voted for BTCV – you don’t have to register to vote. Just visit this link and click on the project you want to win!

Monday 25 January 2010

5 Eco Money Saving Resolutions!

At the end of January many people start to notice that their New Year resolutions are starting to falter. Psychologists have noticed that New Year resolutions are rarely maintained throughout the year unless they were already deeply embedded in what you want from life, not just made up for New Year. Use the New Year to help reaffirm any money saving or eco resolutions you want to become habit. Here are my top 5 eco money saving resolutions for 2010.


1. If you need to buy a car and can’t use public transport, convert to hybrid in 2010! Many hybrids are now cheaper than their full petrol counterparts by the same company. By definition, hybrid cars have the power there when you need it. Even if you’re not interested in the environment, you’ll pay less for fuel. And hybrids come with financial benefits beyond massive fuel savings. Hybrids often qualify for road tax and congestion charge exemption, car insurance discounts and parking permit discounts. Add it all up and you’re saving hundreds of pounds a year!

2. Walk or cycle in 2010! Jumping in your, hopefully hybrid, car might sound energetic, but it’s consistent walking and cycling throughout the year that will firm up your legs, bums and tums. You’ll look good on the beach, improve your life expectancy, save money on petrol, and save money on wear and tear on your car.

3. Eliminate gym costs in 2010! BTCV run Green Gyms throughout the UK, where you can get fit for free through conservation volunteering. Forget spending about £40 a month on that gym membership that you never make full use of anyway. You’ll burn up to a third more calories in an hour of Green Gym conservation than in a step aerobics class. Sessions are designed to work a variety of muscle groups. If you currently spend £40 a month on gym membership, join a Green Gym instead and save £480 a year!

4. Kill the ‘Phantom Load’ in 2010! The term refers to your mobile phone charger, computer cord and time-telling DVD player that all suck energy even when there isn’t anything attached on the other end, hence the spooky phantomness. Clock in the microwave? £50 a year added to your energy bill!

5. Holiday locally in 2010! Although some air fares are cheap, you will often save money overall if you take into account airport taxes, travel to and from the airport, insurance and other costs associated with foreign travel. You’ll also spend a smaller percentage of your time in transit, allowing you more quality time together.

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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Sunday 17 January 2010

Eco News! Weekly Round Up - 17 January 2010

Volunteer to take part in the UK's biggest ever Swan count!

'Wild Law' Post-Copenhagen Discussion in London, Wednesday 27 January 2010. Further details at:

Watch Ecology TV and listen to Ecology Radio online!

Locavore! Word of the year 2007! Person who eats local food, reducing food miles and climate change!

5 Media Myths of the Copenhage Accord!

Cities to lead renewable energy!

Onion waste used to produce electricity for company in California!

Middle East could solar power World 3 times over!

Set some 'Environmental Intentions'!

Fantastic sea creatures found in Antarctica!

Learn more about hydrogen vehicles!

Bolivian President praises Avatar for call to save nature!

Find out what can be recycled in your area. Enter your post code into

Jeremy Clarkson vs Eco Expert: Battle of the Hybrid Car Reviewers!

Climate effort of world leaders delays Doomsday Clock by 1 minute!

Climate and weather are not the same! The globe is still warming!

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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'Wild Law' Post-Copenhagen Discussion in London: 27 January 2010

Wild Law: post-Copenhagen
Discussion January 27th 2010

The 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) took place in Copenhagen between the 7th and 18th December 2009.

Members of UKELA’s Wild Law Group invite you to discuss the implications of the Copenhagen conference for the Earth Community, and what is next for Wild Law principles in protecting the earth's ecosystems and preventing catastrophic climate change. To find out more about Wild Law go to:

'Wild Law: post–Copenhagen' is an opportunity for lawyers and others interested and involved in environmental protection to meet each other, to discuss the legal ramifications of the Copenhagen talks, and to learn more about wild law and earth jurisprudence.

Fresh from her return from Copenhagen, we are pleased to invite Polly Higgins to share her involvement and observations on the COP negotiations: Barrister, Initiator of the Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights and Rights of All Beings, and Founder of Trees Have Rights Too (

We are also looking forward to welcoming Linda Siegele, staff lawyer at the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) (; hearing her experience of Copenhagen and hopes for the future. Linda has a varied professional background including renewable energy, international environmental law, intellectual property, traditional knowledge and biodiversity issues in East Africa.

Date: Wednesday 27 January 2010
Time: Networking from 6pm, talks at 7pm with time for discussion to follow
Venue: Upstairs at the Sir Richard Steele Pub, 97 Haverstock Hill, London, NW3 4RL (5 mins walk from Chalk Farm tube)
RSVP (places limited: first come first served basis)

UK Environmental Law Association: making the law work for a better environment

Registered charity 299498, company limited by guarantee in England 2133283
Registered office: One Wood Street, London, EC2V 7WS

President: Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Carnwath C.V.O.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Jeremy Clarkson vs Eco Expert: Battle of the Hybrid Car Reviewers!

I would usually advocate that environmentalists take a non-confrontational approach. It’s usually unhelpful to set up an ‘us versus them’ dynamic. Besides, most moderate readers would conclude the truth is about half way in between, or that there’s a ‘third way’. Those people are wise. Nevertheless, I think Jeremy Clarkson needs challenging on his review of the Honda Insight, and I think framing it as an all out battle might help him to take notice!


Clarkson starts his review skipping over the fuel efficiency of the new Honda Insight, the point of the car. He tries to brush off the benefits to the planet: “sure, you could get 60 or more mpg if you were careful. And that’s not bad for a spacious five-door hatchback.” He prefers to base his review on “what it’s like as a car” to drive.

JC says: “It’s terrible. Biblically terrible.”

EE says: “It’s fine. Biblically fine.”

I have to wonder if Clarkson and I actually drove the same car. But we did. We both test drove the new Honda Insight 1.3 Hybrid, around mid 2009.

JC says: “It’s worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.”

EE says: “I couldn’t really hear the engine.”

Now I have to apologise to my readers. My language above was not as amusing as Clarkson’s. Perhaps I should rephrase, you know, just for effect.

EE says: “It sounds better than your parachute opening and drifting serenely to a soft sand beach for a peaceful landing. Really, to get an idea of how peaceful it is, you’d have to inject a dog with a tranquiliser”.

I think I’ve made my point. Clarkson is known for his colourful over emphasis, but in this case, I believe it’s at the expense of accuracy, and the planet. The engine doesn’t make your ears bleed, the seats don’t ruin your skeleton, and the top speed is a lot more than 23mph. Clarkson, you’re exaggerating. And what’s worse, numerically inaccurate. Not that anyone would believe 23mph anyway. Clarkson therefore effectively admits to his own journalistic hyperbole.

The systematically unfounded rantings of a famous petrol head have a dark side when people base their buying decisions on them. That dark side is the 150,000 women, men and children who currently pay for global warming with their lives each year. Tell readers in China and India not to buy the Honda Insight, and you’re adding to climate change. Perhaps I should over emphasise my point here for effect, and depict an image of Clarkson issuing death warrants and licences to drown.

Yes I noticed that the Honda Insight 1.3 has slightly less power than a Ford Mondeo 2.0. But it felt similar to any other 1.3. I pulled away from a roundabout pretty sharpish, getting me out of sticky situation. If you want to tow a caravan, maybe you need a 2.0, but for most people the 1.3 is fine.

We can at least try to say something is fine and be entertaining at the same time. How about we do a joint press release stating:

“If you want a normal family car that is “biblically fine”, buy the Honda Insight. It was built in Honda’s Fine Factory, designed by a team lead by Professor Fine of Fine University, Fineland.”

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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Monday 4 January 2010

5 Eco Films!

I watched Avatar at the cinema recently and there was a clear eco message. Director James Cameron has been confirming this in interviews. It got me thinking, what other eco films are out there, and which are the best ones? Here’s my film review of the Top 5 Eco Films of all time!


1. Avatar! Imaginative, thought provoking and ahead of its time. A standard formulaic rom-com is simply not in the same league. Director James Cameron has been waiting for technology to catch up with him so that he can make this film. Beings on another planet have ‘bio-electrical’ connections to each other and the planet itself. Individuals have connecting ‘cables’ to further the bonds, with Cameron striking a tone that says this is scientifically feasible rather than religious. A reference to paganism reminds us that people on Earth have believed in similar connections for thousands of years. Evil humans come along and threaten these wonderful beings, wanting to tear up their community for a bit of mining. Not exactly pro deforestation. It begs humanity to save ancient forests that may have secrets currently “beyond our imagination”. Avatar also critiques the displacement of indigenous tribes, and takes a jab at the second Iraq war.

2. An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary film earned Al Gore a Nobel Prize. The film has no element of fiction. My favourite moment is when he gets in the crane. Gore has a simple line graph the size of your living room wall showing two lines, demonstrating that temperature has reacted to CO2 levels in the atmosphere for thousands of years. He then reveals how the CO2 line suddenly rockets upwards for the last 100years. Gore climbs into a crane to be elevated to the top of the CO2 line. He then looks down and points out that the temperature line is following him upwards. Brilliant.

3. The Day After Tomorrow. Straight out of a textbook, the science behind this film is absolutely spot on. The sub plot of the father crossing the continental United States to save his son is a bit ridiculous. However, congratulations to the script writers for doing their research. Britain should be as cold as Moscow given its latitude. Only the warm ocean current called the Gulf Stream keeps us warmer. Block it with fresh water from the melted North Pole and we might plunge into a runaway ice age. The film popularised the valid scientific theory that a runaway Greenhouse effect does not necessarily mean the world will stay warmer, but can trigger a positive feedback loop of snow in the northern latitudes, that reflects sunlight and warmth back out into space. Global warming ends with us freezing our pants on. Today, then hot, then cold. Hence the day after tomorrow.

4. Medicine Man. Humanity has discovered only about 1.5million of the expected 100million species on Earth. In 2008 scientists discovered a species of immortal jellyfish, and are desperate to learn how to imitate the process for humans. The 1992 film Medicine Man predicted this kind of thing would happen. Sean Connery discovers a cure for cancer in the Amazon, at first thinking it’s in a rare plant, then realising it’s within a rare ant. He’s in a race against time against the loggers. As we all are.

5. The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear. This 1991 comedy has, perhaps surprisingly, been referred to in serious UK Government discussions on climate change. In the film the American President plans to be advised on the future energy strategy by Dr Meinheimer, who is expected to announce a strategy focussed on renewable energy. Renewable energy technology exists, but the fossil fuel giants don’t want to lose profits, sounds familiar? So they make an evil clone of Dr Meinheimer, who tries to announce the continuation of fossil fuels instead. Frank Drebin intervenes in the film. Maybe we need someone like Frank Drebin in real life.

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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Want to help Albatross in Hawaii? Use Oxo-Degradables or Sign a Petition!

With all the recent talk about the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, we could be forgiven for thinking that climate change is the only environmental issue. Here I take a look at an environmental issue of epic proportions that has been largely ignored by the media. An unmanaged global rubbish dump twice the size of the continental United States.


The Pacific Trash Vortex is an ocean current of marine litter in the North Pacific Ocean, estimated to be up to twice the size of the continental United States. Otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it consists of plastic and other debris trapped by a swirling ocean current known as the North Pacific Gyre. The patch is not visible from satellite photography as it consists mostly of very small pieces floating just beneath the surface. It was discovered after a sailing race in 1997 and began to receive media attention in 2008. Out of sight out of mind? If we could photograph it, maybe it would have been dealt with earlier. As is often the case with environmental problems, they are not obvious but complex, and take time to observe and understand.

Long lasting plastic waste is captured in surface currents that gradually move floating debris toward the centre, trapping it in the region.

Many plastics do not biodegrade but simply break up into ever smaller particles, which are eaten by jellyfish, larger fish and humans. They’re potentially toxic at all levels of the food chain. Larger plastic items such as plastic toy motorbikes and toothbrushes also find their way to the centre of the vortex, often fully intact. They are innocently eaten by wildlife, thinking they’re fish. Albatross fill their stomachs on them, leaving no room for nutritious food and starve to death. Harrowing scenes on Hawaiian beaches show Albatross skeletons with mini plastic toys between their ribs.

Clean up operations began in 2008. We can also play our part by choosing, where possible, to use plastics that degrade more quickly in the environment. Look out for ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic bags that degrade in the presence of oxygen and sunlight. They are given out by the Co-op and Tesco, and degrade in 3 years rather than about 100. Or sign a Greenpeace petition for a network of marine reserves to protect 40% of the world’s oceans:

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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Don’t Bounce The Babies! Global Birth Rate Stabilised!

Environmentalists don’t dispute that many, if not all environmental problems, are either caused or exacerbated by population growth. But is it still the big eco issue that it once was? Here I examine the relative importance of population growth and economic growth.


I attended a pre-Copenhagen Rally hosted by Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in late 2009, and was interested to hear his response to a question from the audience.

Why, asked the passionate inquirer, is there a global political conspiracy of silence around the issue of population growth in relation to climate change? Ed replied that global population is only expected to rise by around 30% by 2050, whereas global economic growth is expected to rise by 300% by 2050. Therefore green economic growth, rather than population growth is, relatively, the bigger issue.

But surely population growth can’t help? Well before you get in your helicopter to shower the Chinese with condoms, there’s a startling new statistic that may drop the jaws of even the most ardent environmentalists.

The global birth rate has now stabilised.

Those of us who did our A-Level Geography in the late 1990s need to update our text books. Global birth rates peaked at 163 million per year while we were revising. Then they dropped and in the 2000s they levelled off at 134 million per year.

What this means is that global birth rates are no longer the reason for global population growth. It’s because medical and health improvements mean the death rate hasn’t caught up yet. And it wouldn’t be very popular, or legal, to suggest we have a higher death rate.

Yes the global population will continue to grow, stabilising at around 9 billion in 2050. The reason is the death rate is still only 57million per year, compared to 134 million births per year. In fact the rate of global population growth rate peaked back in 1963 at 2.2% per year, declining steadily to 0% by 2050.

A more up to date and valid question would be whether the Earth can sustain 9 billion people. Most environmentalists shout no rather loudly, even with drastically more sustainable methods of living. So population remains an issue, but the challenge for the future will be to gradually and humanely reduce population in absolute terms, to claw it back from the 9 billion to something sustainable.

Steps are already being made in this direction. China maintains its one child policy, in place since 1979, and Australia is currently debating a one child policy. While such steps are important, it seems the more pressing eco issue right now is to decouple carbon emissions from the rocketing global economic growth. Letting the economy soar but not taking carbon emissions with it means green jobs and clean energy.

Still, better to keep the birth control methods handy.

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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Copenhagen Round Up!

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ended on 18 December 2009. What on Earth happened? Ask 10 different people and you’ll get 10 different answers! Here’s my round up with some key observations.


I watched the final hours of the conference live on TV through various news channels, and was fascinated by the wildly different reactions shown by people being interviewed. Some were furious, others were positive.

I honestly believe no single person on the planet can give a comprehensive and entirely unbiased summary, especially in a short article. With 193 countries attending, one can only give political platitudes such as “lots done, lots to do”. In effect I believe that’s as fair a summary as we can get. But that would make a very neutral article, so I’ll pick out a few more juicy observations!

Apparently Gordon Brown “tweeted” from the negotiating table very late on the last night of the Conference, saying he was exhausted but they were finally making progress. Interesting. I didn’t hear of Obama tweeting. Does that make Brown cooler than Obama, or just lacking concentration?

I was also fascinated by some of the language that an emotionally exhausted looking Obama was using. He used wording such as “I only wanted to come here with pledges I knew I could keep”. I agree with the news journalists on the BBC and Sky that this was a reference to Obama being held back internally within the US by the Senate. Combine this with Obama saying “we don’t have international Government” and my interpretation was that Obama was indirectly acknowledging the need for international Government. If the US is still negotiating internally, how can it effectively negotiate with 192 other countries? Obama and the US looked crippled, while China took its first step as the new global superpower, asserting itself in a negotiation with the US regarding emissions monitoring and reporting. I think Obama knows the American political system must change long term. But I also think he knows we need international Government long term. Even if it’s 500 years away, it seems inevitable eventually. That’s a lot of work ahead of him, and possibly why he seemed exhausted.

Interviewed by the BBC, Oxfam reminded us that climate change kills 150,000 a year. Sudan said the Copenhagen Accord spells "incineration" for Africa, and likened it to the holocaust of 6 million people to the furnaces. Meanwhile Greenpeace UK painted another vivid mental image: "Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport."

Amidst all the negative quotes there were a few smug comments from China that everyone should be happy with the Copenhagen Accord. The other lone looking entity sounding positive was John Prescott. He negotiated for the UK at the UN Climate Change Conferences in Kyoto back in the 1990s, and urged journalists to stop the negative hype. Legally binding targets are, apparently, never set in stone during the conferences, always after the conference itself. In this case the deadline is the end of January 2010 for each country to submit emissions targets. There are meetings in Bonn and Mexico City in 2010 to facilitate. So journalists and charities lamenting the lack of a legally binding treaty do not necessarily understand the process.

I won’t go into all the ins and outs of that here. What strikes me, however, is that even if the Heads of State do nothing, we as other groups, charities, businesses and individuals can. Boris Johnson called for people to stop “overdosing on gloom” and announced that London will lead the world by ensuring no Londoner is more than a mile from a charging point for an electric car by 2015. And all the combined power of 193 world leaders still can’t stop you volunteering for a conservation charity, or sponsoring someone to run 10km to raise money for tree planting.

Atul Srivastava
Eco Expert
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