One Rant at a Time

Whatever heaves into view........better keep its head down.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Would Jesus drive a Chelsea Tractor?

This article amused me. It seems the Church of England has decided that it needs to set up a new category of sin - sins against the climate. According to the article, "flying abroad for a holiday is a sin against the planet."

That's a bit strong, surely?

Now it must be quite clear by now that I'm strongly in favour of us making more of an effort to rein in our relentless generation of greenhouse gases and to try to prevent catastrophic climate change, but the idea that organized religion feels it should try to exert some influence over our attitudes to climate change made me chuckle.

For a start, a lot of religious folks don't believe climate change is a problem. Take that man Bush and his ilk, for example. Whether it's his religion or the fat paycheck from Exxon that tells him this, is another question; but he's an avowedly religious man, and he doesn't believe in climate change.

Secondly, there are a bunch of total nutters out there who believe that it's a fine idea to actually hasten the end of the world, so they can lay out their beach towels on the beaches of Heaven before the rest of us get there. So for them, climate change is just fine, thank you very much.

So you'll forgive me if I say that organized religion's track record on global warming isn't all that.

To their credit though, there is a growing body of opinion among the various faiths that we should try and get a grip on the climate and reduce the impact of our actions. In the US, the National Association of Evangelicals got pretty close to taking a positive stand on the issue, while younger Christians are getting restless about their elders' inaction.

Nonetheless, this new line from the Church of England sounds depressingly like the sort of policy U-turn for which Tony Blair has become so derided. It's almost as if the Church (wherever it may be established) has decided that the environment is a vote-winner. But is it a bums-on-seats, pounds-in-collection-plates issue, which is probably what the Church is really hoping?

Maybe we should just be grateful that the Church of England has come out in favour of firmer action on the climate, rather than examine its motives. That'll be the cynic in me.

But if we go back to the quotation from the article at the very top of this entry, note that the bish says "flying abroad for a holiday is a sin against the planet." What about business travel? Do we get a special dispensation for that? Maybe it's OK for me to fly to visit my ailing grandmother, but NOT to relax while I'm there.

The problem with this attitude, if we are to believe the article, is that the Church is looking for an easy target. So many of us fly, especially on holiday, that's it's too easy and too lazy of them to target just recreational flights.

It's OK to fly. If we do so responsibly. For example, there are plenty of programmes out there that allow us to offset the impact of our flights by buying carbon credits that will go towards investing in clean energy projects around the world. So while our flight generates some carbon, our credits will go towards generating carbon-free electricity. Net result - a carbon-neutral flight.

What the Church of England has conspicuously failed to do is to point out that driving honking great Chelsea Tractors is a sin against the planet.

Now, I ask you: if you want to take a stand on the environment, are you going to rail against cheap flights to holiday destinations, which have come within the reach of the vast majority of the country, most of whom don't attend church anyway?

Or are you going to rail against the owners of Range Rovers or Porsche Cayennes who, face it, are your preferred kind of parishioner, who leave large lumps of cash in your collection plate each Sunday and who can be relied on to staff your jumble sales or fund-raising drives?

No-brainer, right?

The problem is that the Church hasn't weighed up the amount of global warming caused by those cheap holiday flights. They're usually packed to the rafters and therefore as carbon-efficient as they can be, while each driver in this country probably generates more carbon dioxide from one car than a plane does on return flight to Malaga. And most of those cars are driven with just one passenger in them.

What's even more depressing is that the Church of England doesn't seem to have educated itself on the issue, to have understood that there are ways and means for us to offset the impact of those flights we take, whereas there isn't as much opportunity for the average driver to really do anything to offset the impacts of their school run.

So until the Church can build itself a consistent, morally-defensible point of view on the issue of the environment, it's just cashing in on the latest hot topic, and what's worse, in fact what's reprehensible and plain downright cowardly of them, is that they're targeting the softest target of all. Back to the drawing board, Vicar.

With thanks to Donel McClellan for the title, and a great sermon. With jokes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eat the Rich? No, just tax their cars...

Ken Livingstone has decided to treble the congestion charge for large cars entering Central London.

Hallelujah. Call it the opening salvo in the long war against pointless pollution.

Immediately, the Evening Standard has leapt to the defence of the middle classes and suggested that this charge is basically a class tax.

No it isn't, you numbwits. It's a tax on large, polluting, unnecessary vehicles pumping tonne after tonne of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other noxious chemicals into the atmosphere. The fact that thse cars are expensive and can therefore only be afforded by wealthy people is immaterial.

The Standard ventured out into the street to get the reaction of "average" Londoners to the proposed charge.

Vox-Pop 1, a lady property developer who drives a Jeep, calls the charge "preposterous" and "mean-minded." She whines that she needs to lug materials around in her Jeep. So a nice small van wouldn't do the job?

Vox-Pop 2, an 18 year-old student who (and I *love* this) drives a Range Rover, claims Ken Livingstone isn't interested in being fair. When's the last time you saw a student driving a top-end 4x4? Of course, at the age of 18, you're not thinking with your brain, but rather an organ about three feet south of your head, and so this kid clearly thinks Ken is trying to mess with his underendowment issues.

Vox-Pop 3, a yummy mummy of 3, says she needs her Volvo Tractor to transport her three kids around. Oh? And something a little less ostentatious or carbon-intensive wouldn't manage? A Saab, perhaps?

Finally, Vox-Pop 4, a lawyer, says it's his God-given right to drive around in whatever he chooses to.

Absolutely right, Mr Lawyer. It is your right. And it's the right of the authorities to tax the living shit out of you for choosing to drive around in a completely unnecessary piece of steel that serves no other use than to compensate for your lack of self-confidence.

Hell, if I were lucky enough to own a Ferrari, I'd expect to pay through the nose for the pleasure.

All four of these specimens clearly have more money than sense and zero awareness of or interest in what's going on around them. As far as they're concerned, it's just another example of them being hassled by The Man. I bet they have issues with paying tax, too.

Elsewhere, a columnist accuses Ken Livingstone of targeting those people who are wealthier.

Which is precisely the point. These wealthy gourmands are the ones who need to pay for their indulgences. I don't think there's anyone who, if pressed, would argue that the more you impact the world around you, the more you should have to pay.

In fact, it's not just the wealthy gourmands - it's anyone with too much money and not enough brains to see the bigger picture.

Large cars like 4x4s and SUVs are nothing more than an expensive indulgence. I don't think that more than a miniscule proportion of 4x4 owners have ever driven off-road. The Chelsea housewife driving her kids to the local school in a Range Rover could make the school run just as well in a Peugeot, or a Ford. The arrogant student above is clearly a spoiled twit who should be driving a clapped out Mini anyway. Students in Range Rovers - don't make me laugh.

What Ken's done is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. Within a few years, we're going to be paying a lot more. Not just for our fripperies and our status symbols, but for what we charmingly like to think of as our "basic essentials."

When you fill up your car's tank in 2020, you'll be buying carbon credits to cover the emissions from your car. When you get your heating bill, you'll get a carbon dioxide statement as well. And when you fly abroad on holiday, you'd better believe that, in addition to the airport tax, the fuel surcharge and the landing fees, you'll be paying for the 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide that your ass is generating by being on that plane.

It's a new kind of tax - earth tax. And we'd better get used to paying it.