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“It’s the ecology, stupid”: a response to the Queen’s speech

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Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential campaign against George Bush senior by addressing one area where the incumbent President was weak. Simon Leadbetter looks at what was missing from Her Majesty’s Government’s legislative programme and Her Loyal Opposition’s response.

Compared to the blockbusting 2010 Queen’s speech, which was as polarising and radical as it was far-reaching, 2012’s speech was an altogether lower key affair. While the Coalition was right to focus their spin on our faltering economy, the list of legislative bills did little to stimulate a sustainable economy or preserve our ecology.

The Government has been highly ambitious with the speed of its budget cuts, significant reforms of education, health and welfare, but it has been insufficiently ambitious or reforming in addressing our country’s long-term economic and environmental needs. The Government needs to be more radical in two areas.

The first is in supporting fast-growth, innovative sustainable businesses. Start-ups are the engines of growth in the economy, disrupting complacent and inefficient existing businesses and introducing new technologies, products and services that are invaluable in terms of the nation’s intellectual property and our export strength.

As one of the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial nations, we should unleash that potential in the fastest growing sector: clean energy and energy efficiency.

It is well-known that high net worth investors, venture capitalists and business angels back teams not businesses. The United Kingdom is one of the most brilliant nations; our universities and colleges produce some of the highest quality, brightest and talented teams of innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs. Our inability to commercialise and scale those innovations lies with the Government’s failure to understand innovation and its unhealthily close relationship with big business.

The impulsive abolition of Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) was huge strategic mistake; a Government so passionate about reform could have resolved the manifold issues of RDAs through judicious pruning and by refocusing efforts on the enterprise our nation needs. Cutting university funding and the tripling of tuition fees was another major error, given that the UK is increasingly moving towards a knowledge-based economy. A government that is comfortable with policy reversals and focused on economic growth would have addressed these two problems.

All of which segues nicely into the second area where a more radical approach is required. Our economy is hopelessly unbalanced by geography and sector.

Power hungry

The United Kingdom is currently locked into a provincial death spiral where London is the sole focus of the economy and all other regions can go to hell. This is not anti-London. London is certainly by far the biggest contributor to GDP; however, its current scale is the outcome of a spectacularly incompetent financial services sector and massively inflated property market. London’s position in the economy has become a virtuous cycle for the City and a vicious circle elsewhere. And because London is the largest generator of GDP, it must be supported at all cost, even as the provinces and regional cities go into decline, furthering the GDP gap.

Control hungry

The Government needs to be more radical in two areas. The first is in supporting fast-growth, innovative sustainable businesses. Our economy is hopelessly unbalanced by geography and sector.

A geographical concentration was convenient in the age of slow communications and at a time when monarchs needed to keep their allies close and their enemies closer. In the era of distributed production, virtual workforces and instantaneous, low cost communication, such a London-centric system seems very 19th century.

Though it is depressing that the Government has tied the hands of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) behind its back by disallowing it to borrow its own money, more depressing still is that the location of the GIB will be in London and Edinburgh—the epicentres of the biggest banking failures in living memory. Surely, we do not want the same group of people, with the same views and lack of talent, running the show when their great achievement is captaining the global economy into the ground.

Most of Europe and the United States have distributed economies with many centres of activity. It is only in the UK, with its capital-focused media and journalists who cannot heave their privileged carcasses outside the M25, where we are so obsessed with a single city.

Turning attention to our sector bias: financial services are too large a part of our economy— representing some 35% of corporate profits. The sector’s leaders have unashamedly shown that they are unfit to play a leading role in guiding the shape of our economy. They have allowed high executive pay for failure in corporations, exported jobs and capital, and twisted our economy around short-term profit at all costs. Greed, for want of a better word, really does seem good in the City.

The Government could and should have accelerated banking reform, separating investment banks from retail banks before 2019. It could and should have broken up the big four banks, and certainly the two it owned stakes in (Lloyds Banking Group and RBS), to encourage greater competition. Free and transparent competition is the best guarantor of innovation, consumer rights and excellence of service. If banks are too big to fail or wish to privatise profits and nationalise losses, as they have done over the last five years, then they should be taken out of private hands. The ideal solution would have been to stimulate a renaissance of smaller banks, building societies and those with a regional focus. We have a thriving sustainable investment sector and this could have been encouraged if the dominant banks were cut down to size. The British taxpayer should not be required to underwrite private sector risk-taking and failure.

Energy hungry

As one of the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial nations, we should unleash that potential in the fastest growing sector: clean energy and energy efficiency.

Clean energy needs investment to really take off; just as the nuclear, oil and gas industry have all enjoyed incredible state support throughout the last century, so clean energy requires that same commitment in the twenty-first. This is not some romantic or environmentalist attachment to wind, wave and tidal. It is the first responsibility of any Government to protect its citizens—delivering energy security is foremost amongst those responsibilities at a time when the threat of invasion is non-existent. By tapping into the plentiful wind, wave and tidal resources that batter our windy, wavy and tidal island, we could achieve such energy security and self-sufficiency. And because our clean energy resources are distributed across our nation, a rebalancing shift of geographic concentration would bring much needed income and jobs to economically weaker rural areas.

Fossil fuels and nuclear energy have long needed subsidies to be viable. Fossil fuels, in particular, externalise the vast majority of their real cost—the air pollution and related health problems they generate; the regular wars and dependency on less savoury regimes that they require to maintain supplies. Nuclear energy may well be a necessary evil, but then we have to face the prospects of nuclear proliferation (if we can have it, why can’t Iran?) and the long-term issues of radioactive waste storage.

In terms of energy efficiency, there are 25 million homes in the UK and over half a million commercial properties. Insulating them all properly would significantly reduce our energy consumption while providing much needed work for thousands of unemployed manual labourers.

Rather than throwing billions in quantitative easing at banks who then use it to simply recapitalise, pay bonuses for continuing failure and then lend the money back to the Government at a profit, we should instead invest in creating an emerging, pollution-free, world-beating clean energy–energy efficiency sector.

If quantitative easing of £325 billion was distributed in a more sensible way, it would equate to:

Universities & HE Colleges

Of which there are 280 (Universities UK)

£1,200,000,000 (£1.2bn) each or would fund a University sector 23 times the size it is today

Employers

Of which there are 1,178,745 (BIS Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions)

 

£275,000 each

Full time average salary jobs

Average salary is £26,200 (ONS, 2011)

 

12,400,000 full time average salary jobs

 

On the facing benches of the House, the Opposition’s proposal is just as unconvincing. Cutting the deficit a little slower appears to be their sole argument. This is not a sufficiently compelling narrative to inspire a nation or win a General Election. The Conservatives, Lib Dem and Labour must each develop a more radical and strategic vision for the United Kingdom, which remains the sixth largest economy in the world.

An idealist’s pipe dream?

Most of Europe and the United States have distributed economies with many centres of activity.

Overconfidence and a privateer mentality took England & Wales from being the weaker players in Europe in the 16th Century, threatened with extinction by continental powers, to being a global British Empire that ruled one-fifth of the world’s population at its height, sparked the industrial revolution with the injection of Scottish genius, and led the information revolution. We could and should be a leader in the clean energy and efficiency revolution.

Powerful interests in incumbent businesses, energy intensive, fossil-fuelled industries, their heavily lobbied friends in politics, the media and financial services will all seek to distort the debate and mislead the public.

A more compelling vision for the United Kingdom would be one where we are leaders in the fastest growing global sector; where we exploit abundant and clean natural resources that are distributed across the nation; where we make all of our homes and businesses more energy efficient; and where we train and deploy our talent and youth to achieve this enterprise.

It is a vision to inspire us to be a great and united nation once again.

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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Features

How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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