Time for another update! It’s been a hectic few months and I’ve got my hands full but here is a short summary.
I’ve been doing plenty of reading, including the following relevant tomes.
I mentioned Unbowed by Wangari Maathai in my previous post and have now finished it. It’s an inspiring read and shows what sort of environmental change is possible given persistence and courage.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is a fascinating book full of insights. It covers a lot of environmental issues and I learned a lot about the causes of many of our problems.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by the late Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund is an interesting and uplifting book. It shows how little we instinctively know and how things can be simultaneously bad and also getting better.
It emphasises that not all poverty is equal and clearly explains the need to eradicate extreme poverty for the good of everyone. Unfortunately, “Global extreme poverty is expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the forces of conflict and climate change”.
This 2018 book was quite prescient, as along with all the good news there is a section near the end on the five (known) global risks we should worry about, which includes extreme poverty. First and foremost in the list is global pandemic, and it also prominently features climate change along with world war and financial collapse.
Clearing the Air
I’m currently reading Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution by Tim Smedley. I thought I was fairly well informed on the topic but I have learned a huge amount and I’m only halfway through.
I’ll write a fuller review later but the upshot is that although the air may look clearer than it used to, it is actually still very bad for health and in some ways getting worse, mainly due to nanometre scale particulates. The biggest culprits being the diesel engines in road vehicles, trains and static generators. If you can’t wait then this review sums it up nicely:
…a detailed blueprint for saving our cities. Suggested measures include a ban on all petrol and diesel cars in city centres; the replacement of diesel buses and trains with electric vehicles; and an end to the use of wood-burning stoves and coal fires. It’s an achievable vision, he insists. “However, whether it happens in 10 or 100 years is down to public pressure and political will.”
In summary we’ve nailed it. We will meet all six commitments if we keep them up until the end of the year.
I resolved that our next vehicle would be fully electric (not just a hybrid, even if plug-in) and a few months ago I bought a second hand Nissan Leaf EV. Achievement unlocked!
This also helps with the no ICE driving in our local town commitment. We had already met that but this makes it easier to stick to even when various circumstances change.
Air pollution is a local problem so we directly feel the benefits and it also helps with the global problem of climate breakdown. It’s far cheaper than taking the train or bus, which is good considering the current incentives to avoid public transport. Even normally, railways are dirtier and worse for your health than
Notwork Network Rail and others would like you to believe1.
I seriously considered Octopus’ new Vehicle-to-Grid Powerloop Project Leasing Bundle but I don’t like buying (or in this case renting) new stuff and prefer to buy used if possible. Reuse is better than recycling! It is also not (yet) available with their agile tariff, which I like a lot.
We have a smart meter and are on the agile tariff, which means the price of electricity changes every half-hour and is often very cheap at off-peak times, and sometimes it even goes negative. For example, on Sunday I was paid to charge the car! We earned over 9p for every kWh consumed at 1AM (the first 1AM, not the second 1AM). Here is the terminal visualisation from my open source plotting tool:
Getting pricing data... Pricing data from Sat 24 Oct 19:00 to Sun 25 Oct 23:00 for region J 31p £ 30p £ 29p ££ 28p £££ 27p £££££ 26p £££££ 25p £££££ 24p £££££ 23p ££££££ 22p ££££££ 21p ££££££ 20p ££££££ 19p ££££££ 18p ££££££ 17p ££££££ 16p ££££££ 15p £ ££££££ 14p £ £££££££ 13p £ ££££££££ 12p £££ £ £££££££££ 11p £££ £ £ ££ £££££££££ £ 10p £££ £ £££££ £££££££££ ££ 09p ££££££ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 08p ££££££ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 07p ££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 06p ££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 05p £££££££ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 04p £££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 03p £££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 02p ££££££££ £ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 01p £££££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 00p ££££££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ --------------------------------------------------------------- -01p £££££££££££ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -02p £££££££££££ £ £ £ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -03p ££££££££££££ £ £ £ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -04p ££££££££££££ £ £ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -05p ££££££££££££ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -06p ££££££££££££ ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -07p ££££££££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ -08p ££££££££££££ £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 1 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 9 0 1 2 3 0 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Paid most for electricity between Sun 25 Oct 01:00 and Sun 25 Oct 01:30 (-9.051p/kWh inc. VAT)
Before switching, I used an open source tool I built to work out the potential savings of the agile tariff compared to a standard fixed rate tariff. My tool works with the geo energy monitors export format but it has been forked to support the Owl Intuition format.
Wondering what you can do and looking for some actions to take?
My tools are treeware, so use them for free to save on your energy and if you find them useful then you can add extra trees to my offset forest via Ecologi (who are also hosting It’s Time - A (Virtual) Festival of Climate Action on 17-18th Nov 2020). I’ve also signed up for a TreeCard™ (“the free top-up debit card that reforests the planet with your everyday payments”) and you could do the same.
If you would like to switch to green Octopus Energy and share £100 then you are welcome to use this referral link. Go Ultra Low with an EV as your next car and you can even be paid to run it. You should also scrap your wood-burning (or coal) stove and go electric.
Finally, support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill through the UK parliament. For example, by signing up to join the campaign or by making a donation.
- Clearing the Air covers the Network Rail and Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) whitewashing in more detail. This appears to be improving as their positions becomes less tenable due to public scrutiny but the problem is still significant. The 2020 Air Quality Strategic Framework states “28% of rolling stock is diesel powered” (this figure covers passenger trains only), “In the rail freight sector, about 90% of traction is diesel powered”, “approximately 40% of all diesel engines used for traction on the GB railway are not certified to any emissions standard” and “Other than trains, there are various other sources of diesel exhaust emissions on the GB rail network. For example, emergency generators are used to provide backup power for signalling and other equipment.”. Generators are also used as permanent power for Network Rail sites close to the public and could be “the next ‘Dieselgate’ for the UK”. The framework cites studies at Edinburgh Waverley, London King’s Cross and Birmingham New Street stations showing diesel pollution is significantly higher inside than outside. ↩