Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Environmentalists or Luddites?

Lately, environmentalists have become obsessed with air travel as the great evil of our time. Never mind that it brings families closer, or that it makes travel affordable for those who wouldn't have dreamt of travelling abroad 40 years ago. According to the Stern report, aircraft account for just 1.6% of emissions, so why all the fuss?

I often wonder whether environmentalists are more against technology than against the pollution it causes? Instead of demonising motorists, why not promote environmentally friendly cars such as hyprids and other cars that use alternative fuels? Instead of being anti-plane, why not promote incentives for airlines to reduce carbon emissions?

Environmentalists need to start being realistic, people are only going to give up their cars and their flights if there is a viable alternative. The other week, I had to travel from Hendon to Watford by public transport as I didn't have a car. I had to walk ten minutes, catch a bus, and then catch a train. The public transport was fast reliable and clean, but it still took three times as long to get there as it would have taken by car. Next time I'll be driving.

I walk wherever possible, I recycle my rubbish, I drive a fuel efficient car, and I like to travel by public transport wherever possible, but giving up flying is a different matter. My relatives live in Israel and Canada, so there isn't much of an alternative to flying. I already have to pay £130 in travel tax, and in February the taxes get even higher, but I have news for you Gordon Brown, I don't plan to give up flying.

Environmentalism isn't a black and white issue, it's in all of our interests to care about the environment, but when there's no alternative to flying or driving, we shouldn't feel guilty about it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

How to confront militant Islam

There is a good article in the Times describing how the Australians have tackled Muslim extremism. So far, Australia has not suffered a terrorist attack, despite its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, you don't have to be allied with America to be targeted by extremists. Ireland is a country which has kept a pretty low profile in international affairs, and has a tiny Muslim population, but despite all this has its own fair share of extremists.

High Tech Israel

I've just got back from a 10 day trip to Israel, hence the lack of blogging. Working as I do on the internet, I have to say that I'm pretty impressed by how wired up (or wire-less) Israel has become.

The first thing you notice (if you carry your laptop around with you) is the fact that just about everywhere you go has internet access. Whether you're at the airport, the shopping mall or sitting in the high street, you can pick up a wireless connection. It's fast, it's reliable and it's free, YES IT'S FREE! Israel has long had a reputation for being technologically savvy, but coming from 'Rip-Off' Britain where wireless access is charged for, it's refreshing to visit a country where both the private and public sector can see the benefits of free and open internet access.

One area where Israel used to lag far behind was in customer services, but even that has improved. During my trip, I had trouble connecting to the internet where I was staying. The internet service provider sent out an engineer to me within two hours. On another occasion, I was at a shopping mall where the wireless connection was unreliable. I complained at the coffee shop where I was working. Within 10 minutes, they sent an engineer from the shopping mall to help me.

Apart from the high tech advances, there is a general air of confidence. The shops are busy and the restaurants are full. Israelis are worried about the future, but they're upbeat, and they're getting on with their lives.

After that positive experience, it's hard to return to Britain, which feels increasingly like it's falling apart. No one sums up the misery of returning from abroad better than Libby Purves:
Perhaps no British person should ever go abroad at new year. The homecoming is just too humiliatingly painful, not only because of Tupperware-grey skies but because of the all-pervading sense of reduced citizenship and snarling neglect that assaults the returning traveller. In summer it is bearable; in winter it casts you down....As a fellow passenger glumly observed at the weekend, you can’t even say it is like arriving in a Third World country. In a Third World country you get sunshine.
They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but sometimes it really is. Why else do 5.5 million Britons choose to live abroad?