Firstly, I have to apologise (as I’ve had to do many times) for the huge gap in blog posts! Finishing my degree at Birmimgham City University left me feeling like I needed a bit of a break from just about everything work. The plan, however is to keep Environmental News Online alive and well and this is where we need your help…

We need writers!

With the previous group of ENO journalists moving on to complete their 3rd year of the Media and Communication degree (although hopefully some with still contribute), Azeem and I are left wondering how we are going to keep ENO up to scratch. So we want to offer you the opportunity to be an ENO writer.

So, are you a blogger, writer, journalism student or do you have something to say about environmental issues? Perfect. We want you to share your passion with us.

Whether you want to contribute text stories, photographs, audio or video content, Environmental News Online is the perfect place on the web to get your work published and have your eco-voices heard.

As a fairly new journalism venture we won’t be able to offer payment unfortunately. But what we can offer is a platform for you to build up your portfolio of published work and have your work seen by people all over the world.

Wherever you are on the Earth, we want you to tell the world about how environmental issues are impacting people where you are, or what you are doing to make changed to your environment.

Interested? Email me for more information.

Environmental activists around the globe were united in action for Fossil Fools Day 2008 yesterday.

The action day on April 1st was coordinated by The Energy Action Coalition, Rainforest Action Network and many other eco-groups to stand in opposition to ‘dirty energy’ and show support for climate justice.

The event, which is in its third year, was supported by environmental campaign groups across the world including Greenpeace, the Student Environmental Action Coalition and the World Development Movement.

Rising Tide, an international network of groups and individuals confronting the root causes of climate change was amongst the organisations helping to organise the event.

Monica Vaughan from Rising Tide North America said, “The world really stepped up to stand against the dirty energy industry.

Yesterday, communities around the world took creative and appropriate action at targeting the fossil fools in their communities; calling out the fossil fuel industry for their socially unjust climate crimes and demanding the immediate halt of the development of any new fossil fuel infrastructure.” 

Image credit: Chad_Norman

 

Why Fossil Fools Day?

The message from Rising Tide on Fossil Fools Day was, “We need to extracting and burning fossil fuels.”

Monica Vaughan explained, “The target on the fossil fuel industry is due to their runaway greenhouse gas emissions in the face of catastrophic climate change.

Our generation, in particular, is faced with the threat of massive species extinction across the planet, as well as detrimental impacts to many communities around the world.

Meanwhile the industries, as well as most governments, promote false solutions such as techno-fixes and market-based solutions that only distract from the truth.”

Fossil Fools in the UK

In the UK, London WDM protested against a new coal power station in Kingsnorth which is being considered by the Government. Dressed as jesters and in Gordon Brown masks, they burnt a mock Climate Change Bill in Parliament Square.

Other action included an open-cast coal mine in Wales being closed down by protestors. Forecourts at petrol stations in Plymouth and Southampton were taken over by activists and banners were erected at traffic islands and on motorways.

Other organisations targeted were Porsche, the Royal Bank of Scotland and E-On.

American protests

In New York, protestors dressed as ‘Billionaires for dirty energy’ blockaded the main entrance to Citibank by chaining themselves to the front doors. They were campaigning against the bank’s finance links with the coal industry.

The Bank of America was also targeted for its funding of coal and energy companies who contribute massively to climate change. Activists blockaded the entrance to a Boston branch of the bank.

Construction of a coal-fired power plant was halted in North Carolina when protesters chained themselves to bulldozers. 

Image Credit: Chad_Norman

Australia’s activists

In Australia, a group of activists protested by attempting to buy from a supermarket with coal to ‘cut out the middle man’.  They held up a banner which read, “How does buying stuff fuel climate change?”

The ‘Foolie’ awards

In addition to the large number of protests around the world for Fossil Fools Day, Energy Action Coalition, Co-op America and Rainforest Action Network organised the ‘Foolies’, the Fossil Fool Awards 2008.

The awards were to recognise and expose the people most responsible for the development of the dirty energy industry.

Voted as Fossil Fool of the year was CEO of the Bank of America, Ken Lewis for his corporation’s ‘massive support for dirty coal’

To see the full list of Foolies, click here.

 

SOURCES: Grist, Fossil Fools Day, Indymedia Climate.

 

Did you do something for Fossil Fools Day? We want to hear about it. Let us know what you did here.

I’ve just come across this fantastic video presented by Penn and Teller. It’s a funny take on the truth about bottled water.

Take a look…

My challenge over the next few weeks is to keep the website updated regularly over the Easter holidays. All the journalists have most likely gone home for the holidays and after their first deadline, probably feel like they need a break!

One thing which may help to keep ENO alive (suggested by Paul Bradshaw) is to publish quality environmental blogs on the site. This would ensure we had new articles regularly and also introduce a UGC element to ENO. So, if you have anything which you think might be suitable for Environmental News Online, let me know!

Personally, I’m hoping to write more often for the website over Easter and keep researching leads for the journalists. Unfortunately though, not all of the ‘work-in-progress’ that I blogged about previously has materialised into stories yet.

I’m still looking into the BTCV eco-dating event and have had a really interesting response from their York branch. I’m hoping to get in touch with a couple who met on the eco speed-date!

Eco-skepticism?

The lead which was sent into us by an ENO reader however, has not worked out. The potential article was about a comment made on a blog claiming that Scripps climate scientists are never invited onto right-wing San Diego radio-talk shows to express thier views.

I tried to find out if this was true.

A reply from the Scripps Communications Office revealed that Scripps scientists had infact been asked to take part in a debate the issue of climate change but had declined. They said,

“Being asked to debate is not effective – it just feeds in to the “uncertainty” framework, which scientists do not support.”

So is this ‘uncertainty framework’ fed by media outlets, the reason that people, as Joanna Geary from the Birmingham Post has pointed out, distrust environmental journalism?

A comment on Joanna’s blog post suggests that eco-reporting is approached with skepticism because it is based on fear. Scripps scientists don’t want to feed into the news media’s ‘uncertainty framework’ and promote fear, so they just don’t enter into the climate change debate.

But then, is a one-sided arguement being presented on these talk-shows? Are people being told that climate change isn’t real? We can’t just ignore the many, many climate scientists telling us we need to change our lifestyles, and now, just because we don’t trust enviro-journalism, surely?

My investigation…

My little investigation fell flat too! I thought I’d try to find out what kind of company cars were being used by Council employees and how much CO2 emmissions were being pumped out by people working for a Government claiming to rate climate change as high on their agenda.

I started small and applied through Freedom of Information for details of the company cars paid for by Birmingham City Council.

They don’t have any!

Oh well, at least I know how easy the process is now! What is interesting though, is that on Wednesday (19th Mar), the Government were asked about their cars’ green credentials.

This article on downingstreetsays.com reveals that the Government claim to have moved to greener cars over the last two years “resulting in a 30% reduction in average emissions from Government cars.” They also claim to be accelerating the pace of transition to low-emissions vehicles, but have to take into account operational and security requirements.

This may still be worth looking into further.

Keep checking back to ENO for exciting new developments, including video and interactive enviro-stories!

Follow me on twitter or email me here.

Leading environmental experts have spoke out against comments made by independent scientist James Lovelock.

In an interview with The Guardian, James Lovelock, a controversial figure within the field of climate theory claimed that global warming was unstoppable.

He criticised eco-initiatives such as carbon offsetting and ethical consumption, saying that the idea these lifestyle changes can save the planet is a ‘deluded fantasy’.

Mike Rigby, Director of co2balance.com branded Lovelock’s statements about carbon offsetting ‘hilarious’ and accused him of contradicting himself.

Hilarious

In the Guardian interview, Lovelock said of carbon offsetting, “It’s just a joke. You’re far better off giving to the charity Cool Earth, which gives money to the native peoples not to take down their forests.”

Mike Rigby, of co2balance.com, an organisation which helps businesses to minimise their Co2 emissions and offset those emissions which are unavoidable, said:

I found James Lovelock’s comments about offsetting hilarious.  He says that carbon offsetting is a joke and then goes on to recommend an avoided deforestation carbon offset project – Cool Earth.  It’s rare for scientists to contradict themselves in the same sentence.”

“Avoided deforestation is one of the most nebulous of carbon offset projects as it is incredibly difficult to demonstrate that the forest would otherwise have been destroyed.  If all you are doing is helping to preserve a status quo that would have ensued in any case, you might as well keep your money in your pocket.”

Out-of-date

Rigby went on to say that Mr. Lovelock is ‘very out-of-date’. He explained, “Most carbon offset projects these days are based on technology solutions like widening access to low energy and solar lighting and renewable energy cooking sources.  

Don’t get me wrong, preservation of rainforest is a worthy goal in itself, it just isn’t in our view, a credible means of carbon offsetting like he and Cool Earth claim.”

Final step

Hugh Jones from The Carbon Trust however said that while carbon offsetting can play an important part in a wider carbon management strategy, it should be seen as a ‘final step’.

“Good quality offsetting should only be explored once all means to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions at source have been exhausted. This approach delivers a double bottom line benefit of reducing energy costs and avoiding the costs incurred through offsetting, not to mention doing the right thing for the environment.”

Renewable energy fights back

Lovelock didn’t stop his criticism of eco-initiatives with carbon offsetting. He also spoke against renewable energy, branding the concept a false promise. In particular, he attacked the use of wind energy.

Lovelock said, “Windmills! Oh no. No way of doing it. You can cover the whole country with the blasted things, millions of them. Waste of time.”

Nick Medic, Communications Manager at the British Wind Energy Association said in response, “We see wind energy as an important contributor to the UK’s energy mix. We also realize there is no one-stop solution in terms of energy generating technology.

However, a very significant proportion of UK’s energy capacity could be developed from wind, wave and tidal in a relatively short space of time.”

Hope for the environment?

In his latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, Lovelock predicts that by the year 2020 global devastation will be caused by extreme weather. He claims that the causes of this global warming are irreversible and that there is nothing we can do now to stop it.

In response to this, Dr Melanie Fitzpatrick, Climate Impacts Scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists said:  It’s true that with the amount of heat-trapping emissions now in our atmosphere, we are already locked in to a certain level of global warming. 

But if action is taken now, we can still avoid some of the worst, irreversible effects of global warming like the collapse of ice shelves and major changes to the world’s ocean currents.”  

Reduce emissions by 80% 

Fitzpatrick warned, “Current science tells us that globally by mid-century we need to reduce our emissions by at least 80 percent below 2000 levels to avoid dangerous climate change.  We can do this by increasing our use of renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiencies” 

Lovelock warns us that there is nothing we can do to help the environment and that changing out lifestyles to be more environmentally positive will not combat climate chaos.  

Dr Melanie Fitzpatrick responds to these views with the message that there is hope, but we need to act now. She said: “The longer we wait the harder and more costly it will be to limit climate change. For instance, if we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we’ll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target.

By changing our emissions today we can influence the kind of world our children and grandchildren inherit in several decades.”

This week I’m working on three new stories for the website. Not much has come of them just yet but once I get a few more replies from contacts, I’m hoping they will work out!

I’m not twittering enough though. By now, I should have twittered the original idea, my research progress, every email that I’ve sent out for quotes etc. The journalists are twittering really well, so why can’t I get my head round it? I guess, I’m not sure about posting info about my work-in-progress just in case it doesn’t get finished? But there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. hmm I’ll work on it.

See my twitter page here

My work-in-progress

Right now then, I’m waiting for a few responses regarding an interview in the Guardian with James Lovelock, a scientist who believes that ‘climate change is unstoppable’ and that most eco-initiatives are ‘deluded fantasies’. I feel like I must have emailed every renewable energy company, carbon offsetting scheme, group of scientists and eco-organisation in the land for a reaction yesterday and have received just one reply. I’m not going to give up however, I’m getting straight on the phone after this!

I’m also working on a lead that was sent in to ENO by a reader. It’s about right-wing talk radio stations in the San Diego area of the US who don’t invite climate scientists for interviews on their shows. If this is true (I am trying to find out) then it would speak volumes about the way that the global warming debate is constructed on these shows. Anna Haynes PhD kindly alerted us to this blog commenter who sparked the concern.

I’m also looking to write an article about BTCV’s eco-dating event. The York branch of BTCV set up a speed dating event for environmentally friendly singles, which was the first of its kind. I want to find out how it went and whether there were any blossoming eco-romances!

Investigation?

But could I do something a bit more special? Paul Bradshaw alerted me to The Center for Campus Investigations, which has got me thinking about investigative journalism for the site. I’ve applied for facts through Freedom of Information but that doesn’t count as investigative, does it?

The Center for Campus Investigations say that you must be ‘systematic’ and ‘establish a step-by-step game plan’ and the phrase ‘investigative journalism’ conjures up thoughts of exposing crime or corruption. Can I really do that? Colin Meek says in a report for journalism.co.uk, that what you need for a successful investigation is commitment. I can do commitment. It’s something I’m going to think about.

ENO Podcasts

In the meantime though, I’m looking forward to hearing the journalists podcasts. I’m hopefully making one myself too. I’ve invited Chris Williams from Birmingham Friends of the Earth to come in for an interview on Monday and that should make it onto ENO before the end of next week.

The journalists have been split into four groups and each group assigned an eco debate:

  • Climate change – is it really happening?
  • Is it the supermarkets responsibility to make fairtrade food cheaper and more readily avaliable?
  • Should Governments be forcing large companies to be eco-friendly
  • Is ‘enviro-aware’ the new way to big sales? Companies jumping on the eco-bandwagon.

Alice, Natalie, Laura and Stephanie took their podcast out of the newsroom and went along to a Fairtrade Fortnight event in Birmingham City Centre (UK). They have got some really good interviews including the Chair of the Fairtrade Association, so keep checking back to ENO for the podcast.

Get involved

We’re always looking for new and original stories for ENO. Got a story idea or lead? Email me here.

It’s been nearly a week since ENO went officially live, and I think it’s going pretty well!

My involvement as Editor so far, has mainly been supporting the 14 journalists as they write their eco articles; many of whom knew very little about environmental issues before this experience. I have to admit, I wasn’t an expert either. The results have been good however. Our top stories this week are:

Yesterday’s task was to assign a specific story to every one of the journalists. So 14 new stories should be on their way very soon! I’m hoping to contribute to the site too.

This week the journalists have been split into groups and have been set the task of getting 4 guests to come and contribute to our environmental debate podcasts. On Monday, the guests will be interviewed about a number of environmental issues. The recordings will then be available to listen to on ENO, bringing a new audio element to the site. Personally, I’m excited, I think it should be a fun way of producing content for the website. I’ve invited a few people myself, so we’ll see who can make it.

Please check out the news site at www.environmentalnewsonline.com, and look out for those podcasts on Monday!

I have been tagged in a game of ‘blog tig’ started by Birmingham blog site, Birmingham: It’s Not Shit.

The idea is that you tag two Birmingham bloggers, who then do the same in their blogs, in a bid to draw attention to the many brummie bloggers out there!

So, here are the rules:

  1. Each player starts with an odd, but fun, fact about Brum and one odd, but fun, fact about their blog.
  2. At the end of your blog, you need to choose two people to get tagged and list their names.
  3. Tag your post “birminghamUK” and “brumblogtig” (the second one is a memetag).
  4. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (with their version of the post) and post these rules (or link to them here). They can tie it in with their particular subject if they so wish.
  5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Birmingham fact: There are suburbs in Birmingham called California, Hollywood and Broadway. Also, there are 30 other Birminghams around the world and one crater on the moon called Birmingham!

Source: Virtual Brum

Blog fact: This blog was seen by a long lost friend and as a result we were reunited after 9 years!

I’m tagging Mitchell Jones and Laura Blood.

The site is now live.

See it here.

At the moment, you can read introductions to each of our correspondents, who are preparing to publish their first news article online. All this week, they have been blogging about their ideas and progress for an original news article about their chosen topic. There are some good ideas so far:

  • Emma is researching freeganism. 
  • Alice is looking at eco-friendly housing and alternatives to plastic bags.
  • Stephanie‘s potential article is ‘Agro products and produce, and what we can do to help.’

Check the website on Monday when all the articles should be finished and published.

Inspired

Did you see the Channel 4 Cutting Edge programme ‘My Street’ last night? It was a simple idea but which was made into a wonderful documentary about hidden lives and the lack of interaction between people who live on the same street. It inspired me to think about ways that we could encourage ‘community action’ as part of ENO. I signed up to be part of ‘Earth Hour’; a WWF event on March 29th when people around the world will turn off their lights at 8pm to raise climate change awareness.

I want to arrange an ‘Earth Hour’ for my little street in the West Midlands, as part of ENO or as a blog experiment. I would ask everyone who is interested to turn off not just their lights, but their TV’s and computers and arrange either a street activity or get them to organise their own activities. Then, I could document what they all chose to do for that one hour.

If it worked, I think it would provide a great opportunity for video, and also highlight the changes we can all make for the environment.

So let me know what you think. Good idea?

I’m currently working on the preparations for the launch of a new global environment news site which is being run by journalism students at BCU.

Second year degree students will be writing the stories for the news site as part of their Online Journalism module and I aim to guide them through the process as Editor along with Azeem Ahmad and lecturer Paul Bradshaw. The website will cover original environmental news from across the globe and will include our journalist blogs about the process of putting together the articles.

Progress?

So far, we’ve been using RSS readers, delicious and environmental blogs to locate potential story ideas and contacts. Some students seem to be utilising this technology more usefully than others and are using Twitter and personal blogs to document their progress.

A few of the students are making the most out of twitter to exchange ideas, leads and communicate their progress in learning about a subject, that before, they knew very little about. Some are not twittering at all. Read Paul Bradshaw’s blog about the twittering activity (or lack of) among the journalists.

Successful bloggers

The students that have been twittering are consequently the ones who have written excellent blog posts. Worth taking a look at, are:

At the next news conference, we’ll be discussing any potential articles that they may have come across and starting to think about ‘going live’. Keep checking back for links to the best student blogs of the week and for updates about Environmental News Online.

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