Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Putting Faster Garbage into the Westminster Box

We all live in mental, physical and social boxes – and while we may sometimes between boxes there is one box which we share and which we cannot escape – The Earth. And this box is getting very crowded and the society in which we live is looking more like a House of Cards every day – with financial crises shaking the structure and climate change weakening the foundations.

So what are our politicians doing about it.
They call for a return to growth – as if they thought that the House of Cards in which we live is not high enough. When they reduce funds to the pillars that support the structure, such as the National Health Service and the Police they claim that there will be no reduction in the capacity so no-one needs to worry. No competent manager would be so short-sighted – but few senior politicians appear to have any serious hands-on experience of running a major company or public service – so it is expecting too much that they have the faintest idea of how to run the country.

Two recent proposals suggest that the current government is behaving like an ostrich – burying its two heads in unimportant boxes to try and persuade the populace that they are doing a good job. In effect they are wasting time and effort at a time of crisis on the equivalent of re-painting the bicycle shed – in the hope that they will be re-elected – so they can continue to wear blinkers in the Westminster box.

Their first silly proposal is that the mobile boxes called cars are allowed to move 10 miles per hour faster on motorways. Faster cars will consume more petrol (= more tax income for the government), and wear out more rapidly, increasing the need for more car maintenance, and the more frequent replacement of old cars by more powerful successors. There will be increased activity in hospital accident departments, the funeral industry, road repairs and possibly road upgrading to accommodate the extra speed. Such changes will help the unemployment figures and mean more tax income. Perhaps the politicians think believe that such climate change increasing activities will make up for what they clearly see as the tragedy of those financial growth spoilsports who drive slower, and less often, and keep cars longer before replacement, in order to save money or reduce their carbon footprints.

They boldly suggest that faster cars will allow the people who travel in them to make more money to the benefit of the shaky financial system.. But how far is this significant? The vast majority of journeys do not involve motorways, and most motorway journeys involve congested roads where speed is limited by traffic loads. Most motorway journeys involve travel on non-motorway roads. Most journeys would not make anyone any extra money if is was fractionally quicker. It will be interesting to see if the so-called consultation document actually include the fraction of one percent saving when all journeys are considered, including those when drivers are not hell bent on imitating Jeremy Clarkson. I suspect that there will be very selective figures used to illustrate the consultation in the consultation as politicians are skilled in knowing how to lie with statistics.

But let us assume that there really is a small percentage of people who are so important that the saving of one or two minutes driving time a day will make a significant difference. One should then ask why such valuable individuals are driving in the first place. Surely they could do their business more economically electronically from the office? Alternatively travelling by train or chauffeur driven car would allow them to make even more money by working while travelling? Driving even faster along the motorway, weaving round slower vehicles, is likely to get their adrenaline levels up – and is this really going to increase their productivity? In any case the death rate is higher depending on speed at the time of an accident and does the Government really want to put our top brains at greater risk? Clearly our senior politicians do not believe their own time is so valuable. They seem happy to abandon the real problems facing society by travelling round the country making ambiguous sound bites while, for example, unveiling plaques at this new hospital or that new school.

Our Government also wants to make changes to our garbage boxes. Many councils now work on the basis that the most efficient way to encourage recycling and save money is to stagger collections with general non-Because it behaves as if selfish pressure groups are always right the Government is planning to divert funds from more urgent needs in order to encourage councils to deliberately return to a less efficient system. And why do people complain? Well most waste does not smell if collected fortnightly – but there can be a problem with cooked food waste in hot weather. OK there can be a smell but it is nothing compared the stench of millionaire financiers who raked off huge bonuses for making demonstrably unthinking investments which ended up leaving vast numbers of people much worse off, or the pong of rotting politician brains which idiotically failed to stop PFI deals with companies based in tax havens on the unquestioned assumption that the deal would be profitable because of the eventual tax returns to the United Kingdom.

But what should be done about the smell of rotting food waste? In a world where millions are starving the logical answer is to encourage people not to waste food. The Government plan is sending out the message that those who are wasting food should be encouraged in their wastefulness and subsidised by the majority who value the environment and are concerned about the future. But people who have pots of money, including the odoriferous financiers mentioned above, can afford to waste food, and such people need to be cultivated by those politicians who think that “fair words” are more important than competent management of the country when there are very serious threats on the horizon.

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