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Guardian launches website to help readers to reduce carbon footprint

Leo Hickman, The Guardian
Who first comes up with a sporting chant, and how do they get the whole crowd to sing along? Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is considered to be England’s unofficial rugby union anthem and was sung by thousands during the World Cup final. But it was a group of schoolchildren who apparently first started singing it during an England v Ireland Five Nations game in 1988. The chant inspired other supporters nearby. When they joined in, the chant quickly rippled across Twickenham. It has been sung at almost every England game ever since.

It’s a simple example of how one motivated person can trigger a much wider reaction through such a small action. But many people still have doubts about whether they can achieve much of an impact, and nowhere are these doubts aired so loudly as when it comes to lowering our carbon footprints. Like a dieter justifying one more chocolate biscuit, the excuses flow all too easily – why should I bother when China and India’s emissions will engulf our own efforts? Why should I bother when the US refuses to sign up to Kyoto?

Today, the Guardian launches its Tread lightly online project. It is an attempt to counter the defeatist attitude about tackling rising carbon emissions, by establishing an online meeting place for the community of people who are keen to be part of the solution, but who still seek motivation. By bringing readers together and encouraging them to make lifestyle changes, the hope is to show that individuals acting collectively can achieve impressive results. These changes range from the simple – washing clothes at 30C (86F), taking the bus instead of driving, – to the more imaginative, such as coordinating a “walking crocodile” for the trip to school.

Nurturing a sense of community through the project is key. No one likes to feel they are acting alone, swimming forlornly against the tide. Running a marathon is much easier when you know there are hundreds of others around with the same target. Achievable, verifiable goals are important. Tread lightly will allow you to monitor your carbon savings and set this against the reductions made by the community as a whole, which show that together we can save as much CO2 as is produced by a coal-fired power station.

But isn’t this really something for politicians to sort out? If you believe climate change is happening and reducing carbon emissions is a necessary step in tackling it, then surely we have a duty to do what we can.

As most Guardian readers are citizens of a highly industrialised society, we have an obligation to begin reducing, because we emit far more carbon dioxide per capita than other nations, even India and China. According to WWF, the UK produces 9.1 tonnes of CO2 per person, while China produces 3.2 tonnes and India only one tonne.

Nearly two-thirds of the CO2 in the atmosphere has been emitted by the G8 countries, so there is a strong argument that the countries who got us into this mess should be the first to act. As a report last week by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research highlighted, a quarter of greenhouse gases emitted in China are a result of making goods to be exported to the west. There is a compelling argument that we should stop saying “I won’t if they won’t” and make the first bold step ourselves.

One of the goals of Tread lightly is to encourage change in our lives in an engaging way, so pledged actions become second nature. While we wait for politicians to see profligate use of fossil fuels as unacceptable, then much of the change must come from our own actions. In the words of that other great stadium chant: you’ll never walk alone.
(27 October 2007)
The website is Tread Lightly.

Bill Joy: Better to be in green tech than Internet

Martin LaMonica, CNET News
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–The legendary Internet technologist Bill Joy has found a better place than the Internet to put his venture capital dollars: green technology.

On Monday Joy gave a talk on why he is exploring a wide range of green technologies as a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. He spoke at the Lux Research conference on nanotechnology where he also predicted major changes in transportation industry and solar energy.

Joy, credited with inventing several Internet technologies as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, joined the high-profile Silicon Valley venture capital firm in 2005.

Bill Joy, partner at venture firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.
(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks)
Apart from some semiconductor companies, he is staying away from Internet investments which he said are “wacky right now.”

By contrast, the urgent problem of global warming means that energy and green tech investments represent a great opportunity for innovation, he said.

“Eugene Kleiner, the co-founder of Kleiner Perkins, said there is a time when panic is the appropriate response. And I think we should go into a panic–not only (because) the scale of the problem but also the economic opportunity that becoming more efficient in our use of energy gives to us,” Joy said during his talk.
(16 October 2007)

City Repair – Permaculture for Urban Spaces
(video, audio)
Peak Moment, Global Public Media
What happens when citizens apply permaculture principles to a city grid? They create friendly places within the grid that invite people to come together. Mark Lakeman, co-founder of Portland, Oregon’s City Repair Project describes these “creative intervention” projects as placemaking at its best. People learn to work together, build trust and have fun. The results, from painted intersections to cob benches and other organic structures, invite people “to inhabit the planet on our own terms” rather than the grid-locked culture imposed by the city. Episode 76.

Janaia Donaldson hosts Peak Moment, a television series emphasizing positive responses to energy decline and climate change through local community action. How can we thrive, build stronger communities, and help one another in the transition from a fossil fuel-based lifestyle?
(26 October 2007)

Israeli cities find bright way to cut energy use

Fadi Eyadat, Haaretz
The Israel Electric Corporation burns 13 million tons of coal and fuel every year to supply Israel’s citizens with the tens of thousands of megawatts demanded. Campaigns to reduce energy use and proposals to build additional polluting plants have been raised as possible solutions. But there is another option with proven success.

“The cheapest source of power today is saving energy,” says Eran Tagor, CEO and founding partner of Power Electronics. “We have to optimize energy use and take better advantage of energy output, which is partially wasted, thus not creating more pollution by burning fuel, while not compromising the electricity supply.”

In that spirit, Power Electronics, of Or Yehuda, has developed lighting control devices, which are installed on electric boards to reduce energy consumption from lightbulbs by 20-30 percent.
(25 October 2007)