World Oceans Day

This Friday (8th June) is World Oceans Day  which brings people from around the planet together celebrate and honor the sea. I believe the sea is a fascinating place pivotal to maintaining a healthy planet, however sadly governments, individuals and companies around the world are ruthlessly exploiting it. For me the sea played integral part in the birth of my green conscience and me becoming the environmentalist I am today.

The story of birth of my green conscience goes like this. At the start of 2008 like many lucky young people in their early 20’s I left the comfort of my parents home to backpack around Australia and Asia. Having studied at university in London whilst living at home, it would be fair to say my life experience to this point fairly limited.  So off I went with no real plan and like many people I spent my money quickly and perhaps didn’t do as many cultural activities as I initially anticipated doing when I set off. And so it goes.

Something I did discover during my time in Australia and Thailand was scuba diving. From the moment of my first dive on the Whitsundays islands the beauty of the coral reefs and the multicolored fish overwhelmed me. I was also overwhelmed by seasickness and spent much time at the end of the boat with the other ‘sickies’.  When I got to Thailand I ended up doing my PADI diving license at a small diving school on Ko Tao. I was on my own with my instructor and got to really explore lots of amazing caves and corals, I remember being truly blown away by the beauty and bio diversity of the reefs.

A year later I found myself spending 3 weeks travelling Vietnam with friends, at this point I still had a HUGE carbon footprint. Since getting back from travelling a year earlier I had spent lots of time reading and watching countless documentaries about the environment. As part of our trip I planned to go diving and when we got to Nha Trang I did just that. Again I was overwhelmed not by the beautiful fish and wonderful caves but the masses of coral turned white. When the sea gets too warm the intracelluer endosymbionts know as zooxanthellae leave the coral and the alga that live in the coral reefs and give it life, get up and kind of say; “this sucks we are out of here”. The coral then dies and then the fish leave. What once was beautiful is no longer.

After the dive I remember feeling physically sick by what I had seen. And when we got back to the dive school I started quizzing the dive master about what had caused this.  He told me about how due to climate change the sea temperature to rising every year. For me nothing was ever the same from that moment my green conscience was awoken.

Fast forward to 2012 and our oceans are in greater danger than ever before, lack of global action on tackling climate change, overfishing and hunting of apex predators means the future of our oceans are incredibly uncertain. With the Arctic ice melting the governments of Norway, Russia and the US are eyeing up fishing in the newly thawed out water in the Artic (I am not joking).

The organiser’s of World Oceans Day are asking people to make a pledge to help our oceans. So I have decided that after 20 months of not eating meat I am finally going to give up fish and go fully vegetarian. Check out how to make your own pledge by visiting



My little drawing and this article was partly inspired by Canadian environmental artist Franke James and her book Bothered by my green conscience, I really can’t recommend it enough.

Society: Fracking Disaster


Loyal readers of this blog may remember that last July I warned of readers about a dangerous new type of gas extraction called Shale Gas better known as fracking.

For new comers to this subject, last year, Sebastian Doggart summed up Fracking in an article for the Telegraph as, “Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and often toxic chemicals, to break up shale formations thousands of feet under the earth, to release natural gas”.

On Tuesday the 17th April a second report,commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was released into the earthquakes caused by the first attempts at fracking in Blackpool last year.  The report gave no assurances that no further earthquakes will be experienced.

The reports focus on seismic activity, although pretty damming, draws attention away from some of the more dangerous side effects on fracking. These include widespread contamination of drinking water, as has been experienced in the US and increased levels of air pollution, which is something we can ill afford, with air pollution levels in London responsible for 4000 deaths a year. And most crucially fracking is a carbon intensive method of energy creation and will accelerate the pathway towards climate change.

Elsie Walker, a Frack Off activist, today said; “The scale of development proposed is being completely ignored. Cuadrilla want to drill 800 wells in Lancashire alone. They are one company going after one type of gas. There are several companies going after several types of unconventional gas in the UK and all potentially on a similar scale to Cuadrilla. If we allow this to happen, we will witness the total industrialisation of the British countryside and the destruction of the ecosystems we rely on for our survival. We cannot allow this to happen”.

Green groups including Friends of the Earth, WWF and the Green Party have been quick to condem the resumption of fracking activities. And rightly so. In my opinion we are blessed with great natural assets of wind and the sea and we should be investing heavily in hydro and wind power. Not pumping a multitude of chemicals into the ground, deregulating environmental laws and hoping for the best.

In the below extract Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas perfectly summed up the danger posed by fracking; “If carbon capture and storage technology is not in place, burning just 20% of the gas which Cuadrilla claims to have found in its licence area in Lancashire would generate 15% of UK’s total CO2 budget to 2050”.

As I write this we are experiencing the worst drought in the UK since 1976. Climate change is real and is happening in the UK. Energy suppliers and the government need to focus on investment in renewables not hard to reach fossil fuels with a dangerous reputation. It’s late in the day in the battle to tackle climate change and we cannot afford any more mistakes.

For more information read this press release issued by activist group Frack Off.

Society: Waitrose Breaking Green Hearts and Social Media Etiquette this Valentine’s Day


This week Social Media Week is happening across the world, celebrating best practice and great ideas in social media. Sadly for the UK, Waitrose, one of the biggest names on the high street, have performed a series of serious social media errors. You may be wondering what qualifies me to make this statement. Well, until very recently I managed a Facebook page for one of the UK’s largest charities with over 4 times as many ‘likes’ as the Waitrose UK page.

Let me quickly set the scene: for the past week at Climate Rush we have been exposing oil company Shell’s environmental and ethical horror facts tweeting @shell with the hashtag #shellishell. During our research we discovered that last summer Shell announced a partnership with ‘ethical’ food retailer Waitrose who have opened two little Waitrose convenience shops on Shell forecourts. A group of us were a tad upset about this, especially as many of us regularly shop at Waitrose because of their supposed ‘ethical’ values. Quite frankly Waitrose broke our little green hearts.

So this week to mark Valentine’s Day we’ve decided to ask Waitrose to break up with Shell. Activists will be handing out oily biscuits and cakes outside the new Tottenham Court Waitrose reminding customers buying Valentine’s day gifts that nothing says ‘I love you’ less than Shell.

Waitrose haven’t taken kindly to having their ethical values questioned through social media. Let me explain how they showed a blatant lack of social media nous. At Climate Rush we decided to organise a little Facebook event to invite people along to our oily biscuit and cakes handout. We firstly did the pretty standard thing of posting on the Waitrose UK Facebook wall, inviting people along to our event. This post didn’t last long before it was removed with no explanation.

Well we thought this was a little harsh and told our supporters our post had been deleted and asked them to remind Waitrose to break up with Shell.

This led to a couple of people posting various posts on the Waitrose wall questioning the partnership with Shell. My post questioned why they are deleting people’s posts about their partnership with Shell, when they were shouting about it in the media back in September and a link to a news story about the partnership. This post was then deleted and I asked to see the house rules, viewed as the go-to resource of any Community Manager. This led to me being banned, no warnings to obide to the house rules which I hadn’t broken. And of course no explanation. I suppose that was to be expected as I hadn’t done anything wrong. Just straight-out banned for highlighting a partnership they were boasting about back in September.

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one to suffer the same fate yesterday. Below are a series of screenshots of posts which led to the posters being banned, none of these clearly violate the house rules. One poster called Lucy summed up the Waitrose approach to community management perfectly, stating her post had been deleted despite doing nothing but requesting Waitrose not to partner with Shell, she didn’t use any offensive language not even a capitalised word. Lucy has since been banned.

[nggallery id=waitrose]

In my experience, being a community manager requires a tough skin at times and yes, occasionally that does mean banning people as the last resort. Previously I have banned people for making strongly homophobic remarks, being overtly racist and inciting religious hatred. This is the kind of situation where I believe a community manager should be taking banning action. Dealing with disgruntled community members is part of the job description for any community manager. The Waitrose social media team are giving a masterclass in how to lose and alienate customers. They need to go back to basics and listen to community members questions and give clear honest answers. Even if the answers aren’t what the posters want to hear, honesty and transparency are always appreciated.

Owners of Waitrose, the John Lewis Partnership, state on their website that they care about the environment and talk in depth about their commitment to tackling Climate Change. Waitrose’s partnership with Shell undermines their supposed commitment to protecting the environment. Shell are proven to be top of the league in showing a blatant disregard for the environment and in 2009 were found by Friends of the Earth to be the world’s most carbon intensive oil company. (See my article on the Huffington Post last week for further information).

It’s no wonder that ethical shoppers are dismayed by the partnership between Shell and Waitrose. If  Waitrose are confident their partnership with Shell aligns with their organisational ethics they shouldn’t be so aggressive and hostile towards polite posters in search of answers to ethically dodgy partnerships.

Unrelated to the Climate Rush campaign highlighting the Waitrose/Shell partnership, there are a number of other angry customers on the Waitrose Facebook community, criticising Waitrose for misleading policies and heavy handed community management censoring sensible debates.

It was announced in September 2011 that Manning Gottleib OMD will be managing the Waitrose social media presence. If anyone is looking for a anti-social agency then get in touch.



Society: COP17 The US cop out

The International Climate Change Conference in Durban is coming to a close today and as far as coming to an agreement about preventing irreversible global warming, it has been a wash out. Which is exactly what is going to happen if countries like the US don’t stop putting their fingers in their ears about climate change. The United States have proposed a ten year ‘timeout’ on targets to lower emissions, until 2020. This isn’t good enough. This would be a disaster of Michael Bay proportions. Let’s remind ourselves that the US is a country where it has been suggested that 50% of people don’t believe in climate change. Don’t. Believe. In. It.

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, said: “On Saturday, in Durban, the US eviscerated draft language on mitigation that would have offered real protection to those who are being hardest and fastest hit by climate changes that are already happening. The time has come for the US to stand aside. If it is not willing to save lives, save jobs and save whole ecosystems then it should get out of the way and let those who are willing move on. Any failure to move beyond US obstructionism will be measured in lives.”

I can’t stop singing “Move, bitch, get out the way!” My colleagues at Oxfam who are in Durban right now to deliver a fair, ambitious and legally-binding climate treaty are wringing their hands in at the lack of motivation; leaders are sleepwalking into a world of imminent climate doom. No-one wants to be held accountable. Experts have told us what the world will be like 10 years from now if we continue at the rate we are going, but it is falling on deaf ears.

The US, along with the UK, China, India and Brazil, is the main blocker of progress at this crucial time, despite the fact that President Barack Obama originally campaigned on a promise to lead in global climate negotiations three years ago. The US will not listen to the warnings of major environmental groups, preferring to kneel in front of the fossil-fuel industry which exerts majority influence over the nation and spends tens of millions of dollars every year on lobbying and PR campaigns to shape public opinion.

It’s no surprise to say that it’s the rich countries that cause the problems and the poor that suffer. But those nations have a duty and a responsibility to clean up their mess. With blockades like a proposed ‘ten year timeout’ on the agenda, it would appear that the power nations are preparing to enter dark times. Like Waterworld but very fucking worse. By halting any negotiations until 2020, we’re more likely to see a 3 to 4 degree increase in temperature. That might sound small but a 4 degrees increase would see the world change beyond the point of return. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that 4 degrees could be the end of civilization as we know it.

Climate change is a global problem. The US should be the ones setting an example for other countries, for example China but if they aren’t prepared to except it, then they should in the very least not block discussions. With a 9 billion people population estimated for 2050, leaders need to start looking down the generations.

Watch Occupy Cop protestors live on Avaaz