Thursday, 23 December 2010

Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and Changing the World

I watched Julian Assange's interview with John Humphrey's last night and it prompted me to write.

The part of his interview that I really like is about 20 minutes in when Assange was questioned by Humphrey's regarding his relationship with the world, his response as to the suggestion of him as some sort of a messianic figure (like it was some sort of a crime - which I find ironic since the members of Christian church are forever trying to become more Christlike and even part of the body of Christ). When asked somewhat accusingly 'So you want to change the world?', Assange replied, without any hesitation, 'Absolutely, the world has a lot of problems, the need to be reformed. We only live once and every person who has the ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they are in.'

Julian, you are so right, and I couldn't agree with you more. And why should such a belief be ridiculed or looked upon with suspicion?

Some time back in history, I believe maybe in America, economists worked out that in order for everyone to get wealthier, they need to become motivated to own more. And this motivation I believe was instilled into people and grown through use of the media as time went on. The only motivation that people therefore now seem to trust is the motivation to get rich(er). And yet any wise man will tell you that getting rich does not make you happy.

So what does make you happy? It's dead simple - doing good - helping others - fighting for what is right. Honest you don't have to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to work that one out. It may not be easy, and you may get persecuted for it, and you may get little thanks - but deep down when you go to sleep at night you'll have peace, and it is that peace that will give you that deep rooted happiness that we would all like to feel on our death bed. In this interview Julian Assange spoke of that peace which he felt when he was in solitary confinement.

I'm not saying that Assange is perfect - none of us are - but to ultimately act on your conviction to do good, and to do what you are able to right the wrongs in this world, should ultimately be what we are all about. And if we all did keep this motivation clear in our minds, this true purpose of life - wow wouldn't the world would change overnight?

I spent years trying to realise this. I finally worked it out after a mid life crisis just over a year ago - and since then my life changed literally overnight.

Now it is something I try and teach my children. When my daughter asks what career she should be heading towards, I tell her it really doesn't matter, so long as you find a way of using your skills to do the most good you are able in this life - hopefully teaching her this important lesson now whilst she is young will save her a whole lot of mistakes and soul searching in her life and allow her to move on to a fruitful adulthood from the outset.

I recently had a debate with a business man regarding my motivation in life. The question was whether I was motivated by money. I have always been very ambitious - for one reason or another, maybe instilled in me from my father's teaching or maybe something I was born with, who knows? - and with ambition comes the desire to get rich as it is proof of one's ability in your career - yet I found that there was a conflict between materialism and altruism which stopped me moving forward with any conviction. Now I am sure of my motivation and priorities this is no longer an issue - getting rich gives one more power and therefore the ability to do greater good - so I can fit in the business motivation quite comfortably in align (yet always behind) the motivation to do good and move forward in business with the peace and conviction I was always looking for.

I figure the ultimate motivation to do good, to right the wrongs in this world, is one that we should all be recognising, living, and teaching our children. We should stop looking at those who already have realised this value with suspicion. The motivation to do good I believe would move money around in a new direction, and ensure a new vibrant economy, and a secure future for our children - a new world order to replace the materialistic world in which we currently live. Not only that, but having the ultimate motivation to change the world and do good is so much more exciting than trying to get rich - honest, it works for me, you should try it!

I believe people around the world are starting to realise this - largely in part to the new lines of communications we have via the Internet - as truth gets out, as the Bible states, it is that truth that sets us free. An exciting time in which I am glad to be living.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

What's Been Happening?

I've been going through a transitionary period just recently, adding another dot to my life that I am sure is a new connection in the bigger picture - although some may see it as a diversion. Sometimes in life opportunities come up that may not appear to be directly in line with where you want to go, but I am convinced that making the most of these occasions are often crucial to the fulfilment of what a person can ultimately achieve in life.

At such times I remind myself of Steve Job's lecture to Stanford regarding 'joining the dots' in life. As you start off in life these dots seems so random that you can make no sense of them at all, but as you move on in life they do start to make sense, and even though it may not be clear to everyone else watching, you feel inside yourself that they are all pulling you in the right direction.

So the latest dot in my life has been to take on a role in a new sustainable energy company, SUST-N, of which I am now Head of Communications.

So what about MedWorm? Well, believe it or not, that vision remains my number one priority, my ultimate passion, which I will see through to its fulfilment if it kills me. It must be near to 5 years that I have working on it now - nothing will stop me moving it forward.

So what of this new dot? How did it come about? What will I be doing? How do I propose to keep MedWorm running and moving forward?

Over the past 12 months I have been working (voluntarily) on a campaign to stop the building of a large scale incinerator to burn the municipal waste in South Devon. You can read more about the proposal and see me at action in the campaign on some of the videos on the EcoIvy.org site which I built. The campaign escalated over that time until it was becoming pretty much a full time job. Campaigning for something you really believe in is all encompassing and really doesn't stop, and of course it is all unpaid, which puts a big strain on family and work as everything competes for your limited time. It does however have its benefits too, and apart from the wonderful feeling of self-satisfaction that you are doing something for the benefit of society for truly altruistic reasons, I also gained many new wonderful friends with similar outlooks in life and a real concern for the sustainability of this planet and I learned what a wonderful neighbourhood I am privileged to live in. In addition, I was given the fantastic opportunity to develop my presentation and speaking skills, and build up my confidence, through public speaking, work on my strategic thinking, and put into practice effective communication plans through full use of the Internet - all essential elements of not only a successful campaign but also in business too.

Part of our campaign against the incinerator was the developing of an alternative plan that does not involve mass burn incineration. A group of engineers from the locality got together, tasked with finding an alternative. A concept was developed and contact made with a company whose plan matched our theory, and from that a business proposal was formed. We presented the concept to the public and our local councillors in December, and from there managed to secure funding to get the plan off the ground and formed a new commercial enterprise, of which I have taken on the position as Head of Communications. I have therefore now resigned from the incinerator campaign, and have passed the EcoIvy site over to the local community to run, since I cannot afford to put the new company in any compromising commercial position as a result of my own personal campaigning elsewhere in the industry. For me this now this is about moving from campaigning against a flawed plan to instead promoting what I believe is the ultimate solution.

My new position allows me to work flexibly, so I can still keep MedWorm running at the same time, and of course it gives me an income, which actually allows me to continue to run MedWorm without the concern that I could run out of funds any day. It also forces me to think strategically about the business side of MedWorm and how I am going to get it to profit, without doing every single job on it myself. Another great advantage is I now have the opportunity to work for and learn from Terry Hewitt, my new boss, SUST-N's managing director - who I liken to the South West's version of Lord Alan Sugar. Already I am learning the mindset of someone successful at big business, which is going to be invaluable for me with future affairs in growing my own business.

I've also registered a new domain name, EngWorm.com (for an engineering flavour of MedWorm) to add to the many others I have on standby too (including EnviroWorm.com) so I know when I am ready to launch the other industry worms I'm going to have plenty of knowledge and contacts in those industries.

So what may appear at a first glance as a diversion, I hope you will understand is all just part of the journey.

I AM still very much working on MedWorm. My work at SUST-N involves a flexible working arrangement to enable me to do this. You can still contact me at anytime, as I can fit in my business calls whenever whenever I need to. This does mean that I am again working a few nights alongside my work in the day, but that's nothing new.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Vitamin D and Skin Cancer Through Windows

Ooops, over a month has passed since I posted to my blog. Figured I best write something. Been so busy with all kinds of things that I haven't known what to write.

Well here's a simple thing I learnt just this morning when tweaking a bit of MedWorm code to get rid of duplicates that were still creeping in. I ran a query on 'vitamin d levels', with the 'Exact phrase' and 'Blogs' options selected.
http://www.medworm.com/rss/search.php?qu=vitamin+D+levels&r=Exact&blogs=on

Made for interesting reading. In particular, I learnt something that I didn't know before - sounds so elementary that you probably already know this, but just in case you didn't I thought to share it.

I learnt that UVA light, which causes skin cancer, does actually get through normal glass, whereas UVB light, the one that generates the Vitamin B and apparently helps protect against skin cancer (plus a whole lot of other stuff) does not - and office workers are therefore apparently at increasingly higher risk of skin cancer than those people that work outdoors.

This is important news for me since skin cancer seems to run in my family. I have recently started wearing a moisturiser with sun screen, but not always if I I think I am not really going outside much. But my new office has a fabulous large window that I sit right next too, that lets in loads of sunshine.

So now I'll make sure to wear the sunscreen every day, as well as making sure to get outside when I can for the natural light, plus up my intake of oily fish.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Radio Interview

I was invited into the local BBC Radio station yesterday, for a half hour interview on what motivated me to get involved with campaigning. Apparently they were looking for 'inspirational' people and I ticked all the right boxes! That's got to be one of the best compliments I have had in my life :)

Of course if meant taking half a day off work, and all the nerves that go with it, but I figured it would be a good experience that would help build my confidence, plus I really did think I had a story that should be told.

I actually really enjoyed it. Justin Leigh did the interview (stepping in for the usual presenter - Justin is the one you usually see on Spotlight tv). He was incredibly nice, and made me feel at ease straight away - obviously a very skilled presenter.

If you ever get the chance to go into a radio station for an interview, I recommend you jump at it!

Here's my interview, starts just after 53 minutes, lasts for about 25 minutes. I talk about a life changing moment following a stint with the swine flu and a major anxiety attack, which forced me to change the way I look at life and get involved more with society.

(Sorry the link has been taken offline now by the BBC - but if you want to listen let me know and I'll email you a personal recording of the interview).

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

MedWorm Business Model - Tough Descisions

Prompted by @markhawker via Twitter I had another look at the MedWorm 'enterprise design pattern'. Clearly it is essential that I find a way of ensuring that MedWorm's processing capability is used to maximum efficiency, to ensure that MedWorm can pay for itself as it grows. So I had another think about where most of the processing power is getting used up on MedWorm, and came to the tough conclusion that I will have to bring in a subscription model.

MedWorm will remain completely free to use, except for one bit of functionality, that of customized RSS feeds. At the moment there are (many) hundreds of RSS feeds for you to pull out of MedWorm that are precompiled every day, based on optimised queries for individual topics and data types. You can find them simply by browsing MedWorm - every page you go to has its own RSS feed - and these will remain free.

However it is also possible to create RSS feeds 'on the fly' from any query that you run on MedWorm. The problem is that the majority of queries that people run do not make good RSS feeds. For example, a search on the term 'breast cancer', without using the quotes, and without selecting the Exact Phrase search option on MedWorm, will return all records where either the word 'breast' or the word 'cancer' exist. When viewed by order of relevance when running the query this does not matter, but pulling out an RSS feed for that query is pointless, since not every record that you will see in your feed will be relevant to breast cancer.

This may seem obvious, but the fact is, no matter how many times I tell people, most will still continue to pull out useless RSS feeds. Following which will likely put those feeds into a feed aggregator, or worse still automatically generate webpages from those feeds, which will mean they re-run those useless queries on MedWorm every day (or if they don't cache their data at worse every few minutes), and probably pay no attention to the feeds, and fill up the Net with more useless junk - at the same time eating up MedWorm's valuable processing power.

Worse still, there are a lot of sites looking to create the maximum amount of meaningless junk that they can in order to run GoogleAds alongside, which at times pull out hundreds of these useless feeds from MedWorm, of which some of them at times use very 'unsavoury' search terms to create their feeds. I block these servers whenever I notice them, but it is a waste of my time to try to keep on top of these.

So in about one month's time I have decided to limit this 'RSS on the fly' functionality to premium members only, who will have to pay a monthly subscription. Not sure how much yet - suggestions welcome - I'm thinking about $5 a month - after which I will monitor to see which users are really hammering the server and possibly bring in a higher subscription level for unlimited use for those developers that are pulling out hundreds of feeds each day.

In doing so I'll be able to give you all a better service, faster, with more frequently updating data. I'll also hopefully avoid MedWorm going bust, so that we can all continue to enjoy the service for years to come.

If anyone is hard up, or from a developing country, and can't afford to pay, but has a real need for the customized feeds, they will just need to drop me an email and I'll give them free access anyway if their needs are justified.

Bringing in the subscription model will also encourage people to browse for feeds instead, which will likely be of much better quality for you to use anyway.

I hope you all find this acceptable. Feedback welcome! It is important that I get this right as I am primarily building a service that will be beneficial to all of society, and fair, not trying to get rich (although if I do one day get rich in the process that would be nice!).

Friday, 8 October 2010

MedWorm GoogleReader Video Demo




This is the first video demo I have made of MedWorm. It shows you how to export a bunch of feeds from MedWorm into GoogleReader, grouped by medical specialty, or by topic such as a medical condition (in this case diabetes).

I should probably start with a 'What is MedWorm' video, but I was too excited to show you the OPML export which I have been working on recently, so the introductory MedWorm video will just have to come later, or you can just watch my demo at the Health 2.0 conference in Paris here.

I produced it using Camtasia Studio. Let me know what you think.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Vaccine Zombie

This text will be replaced by the player



This video is just brilliant! Whether you agree with the lyrics or not, you surely have to admit this is a great production. I came across it via MedWorm, as its release is currently the second most read item via MedWorm this week, although I am sure by the end of the week it will be the first. (You can view the most read items on MedWorm here). In fact, the NaturalNews source is one of the most popular sources on MedWorm also, always getting a lot of hits. It is always outspoken, often controversial, and I am pleased it to have it indexed by MedWorm since I think it adds an alternative viewpoint and some much needed balance, amidst the many news releases, often by big pharma, that all send out the same messages.

Recommending this video will surely fuel speculation that I am 'anti-vaccination', which I have previously been accused of, following my comments on the cervical cancer vaccine, which I made when researching the vaccine as I investigated the topic to help me decide whether or not to authorise the vaccine for my teenager daughter (which I subsequently did not). But I really am not anti-vaccine - I believe that each individual should look at the available evidence and evaluate the risks of taking or not taking vaccines that are offered in view of their own personal circumstances - one size can never fit all, and I believe that there are pros and cons to just about every medication that need to be evaluated in the light of your own personal make-up, and that the decision whether to take something or not should be down to the (fully informed) individual, who will then also carry the responsibility of the side effects should they happen.

In fact, regarding the swine flu jab, having had my own (terrible) experience with the swine flu, I actually recommended my pregnant sister to 'consider' having the vaccine (after also reading an article about benefits of the flu jab to babies whose mothers receive the vaccine whilst they are pregnant). Notice I say 'consider', because at the end of the day I knew it had its risks, which only she could evaluate, and the decision at the end of the day had to be her own - no way I was going to carry the guilt if it went wrong. I sent her a search on everything that MedWorm could come up with in relation to the swine flu, pregnancy, and reported side effects, to help her form her own decision. (By the way she did decide to have the jab and mother and baby are just fine). Not sure I would still suggest the same, since the risk of catching the swine flu (at least in the really nasty form that I think I suffered) now appears to have significantly decreased (and I'd for sure want to first hear the results of the current investigation between a possible link between the swine flu jab and narcolepsy).

Anyway, watch the video, it's very entertaining. My kids loved it too (although I was a little concerned the youngest might start singing some of the lyrics, one line of which just wouldn't be good - I'll let you work out which one!).

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Me (Frankie Dolan) at Health 2.0 Paris



You can see the rest of the conference here:
http://www.health2con.com/category/h20tv/europe-2010/

For further info on MedWorm watch the new demo on MedWorm integration with Google Reader here.

To find out about how much Frankie needs your help and wants you to get involved with this project have a read of this.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Trees for Health

I've been trying out the new Blogger template designer and chosen a woodland background. I figured it was representative of my life at the moment. I'm fortunate to live in an area where there is a beautiful woodland walk alongside a river that is a refuge of calm and tranquility.

A few days before travelling to the Health 2.0 conference in Paris to present in April this year I was feeling very tense. I hadn't been away from my 5 year old son in, well, 5 years, and presenting in front of an audience of over 500, after working mostly on my own for several years, was a bit of a challenge. I had booked myself onto a short workshop that was taking place in my local woods called 'Trees for Health' a few days before I was due to leave. I didn't feel like I had time for such an event, but wanted to support a friend who had organised the day and figured it would be good for my work life balance.

We spent a few hours learning about the health benefits of trees, foraging for things that we could eat, and then lit a fire to make nettle soup and wild garlic salad. It felt like stepping through the door into another world for a short while, but the benefits really were worth it. The night before my trip to Paris I couldn't sleep, so lay down and imagined I was in a forest, looking up at green leaves - it was incredibly relaxing and in the morning I felt refreshed and calm. Now whenever I need a bit of thinking space I take a short walk through the woods, breathe deeply, watch the river, feel alive, re-energized and creative. Whenever feeling a little 'down' I look up to the tops of the trees - impossible not to feel your spirits lifting when you do.

So I thought to share the benefits of trees with you. If you are feeling tense at work, find a wood and try a little tree therapy. Here's a little more about the benefits of trees on your health.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

MedMatcha, the medical advertising network, coming soon.

This week I launched the registration page for MedMatcha, MedWorm's medical ad matching network that will be launching soon.

After 4 years experience with MedWorm, looking for a suitable advertising solution that might at least generate enough income to cover the server running costs, I hadn't found anything or anyone that I considered to be offering anything suitable.

Here's what I wanted:
  • Something simple to use.
  • No spam or junk ads.
  • Relevant ads that are of interest to specific topics in the medical sector.
  • Geographical targeting.
  • No exclusive contract to sign.
  • A solution that caters for more than just the US market.
  • The final say on what exactly appears on my site (ie. if I don't like a particular ad the ability to easily block it).
  • Some control over pricing - for example, being able to run adverts per view instead of per click, and to set my own permissible CPM limits suitable for my site.
  • The ability to sell my advertising space directly to my site visitors.
  • Transparent and fair commissions.
I looked at various options, starting with Google Ads, trying out several Google Ads alternatives, investigating medical ad agencies, and trying out my own installed ad serving software. All options had their problems.

At the same time, I started to contact companies directly to see whether they would be interested in advertising on MedWorm, and to see what kind of an ad solution they would require. I started to realise that a lot of medical companies with worthwhile products that the industry would benefit from knowing more about, do not even bother with online advertising, since there simply isn't an easy, reliable, trustworthy, cost effective way to go about advertising online. Advertisers need to be able to have control over where their ads are placed, to protect their product's reputations, and of course they also want their ads going only to highly relevant audiences, which are often hard to identify on the net. They too want a simple solution, without any big financial commitment, so that they can 'test the waters' easily, and then further invest in only those campaigns that are proven to be effective.

Having reached the conclusion that there must be a better way, I designed one myself. It is being developed by a collaboration of companies, taking the best of an existing sollution and adding to it to make it better.

MedMatcha can be thought of as the dating agency for medical advertising. You fill in a detailed profile of your product/service/website, and it finds you the most closely matched advertising partners. Both advertisers and publishers have to be in agreement about a match before the ads roll.

It will be launched when there have been one thousand quality profiles registered - there's no point in launching before, since the value of the service will come from the ability to find highly matched ad partners. You can help bring the launch date forward by registering your own medical or health site, blog, product or service now, and if you are in the first one thousand to be accepted into the network, you'll get $5 free advertising to get you started. Find out more here.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Oil Spill RSS

It is terrible news about the oil spill heading towards the cost of America.
I searched the topic of oil spills on MedWorm and found it to contain some useful information.
Here's a MedWorm RSS oil spill feed for those that want to keep up date with what is happening.
The search is quite wide, so there's a number of articles that come through that are not relevant, but most of them are, and it should pick up everything going into MedWorm that is relevant.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Health 2.0 Paris - My Conclusions

It's been a long time since I posted to my blog, and I realise there are some people checking me out now that the Health 2.0 conference in Paris is over, so I thought I better post some relevant content.

I have to admit I missed many of the presentations at the conference, since I spent most of the whole time discussing possibilities with some very interesting people outside the main hall. However, I caught the tail ends of many of the sessions and had checked out most of the sites beforehand so I did have a grip on what was being discussed and I think the topics and many of the presentations came up in discussion with the people I met.

So here's a few of my observations from the scene, from a European perspective:
  • Companies in Europe will have to be (and are being) much more creative in developing business models than in the US, due to the segmented market: language barriers, different sales territories, tighter government restrictions regarding pharma advertising to the public, greater dependence on the government sector....
  • Lack of big pharma sponsorship deals to be had in Europe, due to the segmented market, will force more companies to start small, develop a sustainable business model, and then grow from within, rather than get a great idea, huge investment at the start, and not worry too much about business model in the knowledge that there are big pharma dollars to be milked.
  • Europeans have a lot more in common than may first be apparent, and a shared identity is starting to emerge, based on good ethics and a willingness to work towards solutions that are truly beneficial towards society that will likely see the development of interesting collaborations across different cultures.
  • The patient has been 'dumbed down' for far too long. Time to recognise that patient power is an untapped resource that can make a real contribution towards progress in health care, medicine, and even science.
I feel my Health 3.0 post coming on soon. I considered the concept a few years back but it seemed premature to blog about before now.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Does Global Warming Really Exist? My Green Awakening.

My local MP (member of parliament, for those of you reading not in the UK), Gary Streeter, recently confessed in our local newspaper (‘Plymptom, Plymstock and Ivybridge News’, Friday 18th December) and on his blog that he his sceptical of global warming. He agrees that the climate is changing, but questions whether it is us that are causing it or whether it is happening naturally.

He says ‘I have a confession, which will disappoint some. I have tried really heard to buy into the hard-core green agenda over the past few years but something inside prevents me from going the whole way. I realise that pumping carbon into our atmosphere can hardly be a good thing, but is it really causing a change in weather patterns of this awesome globe on which we live? I want to believe and yet…’

Gary then goes on to suggest that the scientists could be wrong because the people that built the Titanic said that it could never be sunk and that economists have been saying for the last 15 years that there will never be another recession. He suggests that experts can be wrong or can have their own agenda and that the nation is divided on the issue of global warming , the evidence being streets still full of Christmas lights. He also says that the issue of CO2 does not really matter anyway because gas and oil is running out and energy conservation is going to be driven by this driving economic fact.

He believes that reducing carbon footprint should generally be encouraged and carbon production gradually disincentivised, and that we should take care of the planet, but at a pace that we can afford.

I welcome Gary’s honesty and think he sums up what ‘many’ politicians and indeed ordinary folk truly believe on this matter. And herein lies the problem.

Gary says that he has ‘tried really hard’ to believe, but that something inside him stops him. Gary tried really hard to believe, but his heart did not want to believe. And who can blame it? People throughout the ages, in all different situations, nearly always chose to believe in what they want to believe - what sits nicely, what makes them feel comfortable. Questioning any core values or assumptions and accepting something as not true that one previously believed was true, at inconvenience to oneself, is always a very difficult thing to do. What bigger a challenge can there be to one’s assumptions than that which questions the very existence of man, or at least mankind as we currently know it, and if not in this generation very possibly in just the next?

Canadian research in 2007 reported that talking about the crisis of global warming actually stops people getting motivated to take action on climate change - much better to talk about economics and advances in technology if you want people to act - and for this reason I believe many leading green organisations are actually hold back from laying down the hard cold facts. Contrary to public belief that scientists are scaremongering, I believe they may actually be trying to explain the situation as gently as they can, for fear of turning people off the issue altogether.

But if people really believed that we were jeopardising all of our children’s futures by the way we were living today, would everyone then be prepared to change the way that they live? It is easy to risk our own futures - people do it every day, by smoking for example - but to jeopardise our children’s futures - that adds a new dimension of responsibility. Women are happy to continue smoking and drinking at risk to their own future, but much less are they likely to do so when carrying their unborn child in their womb. Of course some mothers-to-be still continue to live in denial of the damage they are doing, but only a minority. So if everyone were to believe that our continued consumption without concern for the future is likely to cause environmental instability for their children that will see many low lands washed away, warm countries in severe drought, increased hurricanes and extreme weather in places not previously seen, increased flooding on a massive scale, scarcity of food due to failure of crops, increased migration, an increase in wars over dwindling resources, people dying of thirst (not just starvation)…..I could go on, but then I would likely turn you off since this probably sounds like science fiction and too hard for your mind to comprehend. But this fact remains, that there is a very real risk that without us all making real changes now through almost every choice that we make, whilst our children if they are lucky might just get a job and a house on a hill and food on their table, many millions of people in the world likely won’t, and will that be a happy secure place in which they may grow their own families?

Climate change is happening. CO2 in the environment contributes to increased temperatures. These facts are not disputed. The only real debate to be had is whether this phenomenon is man made or a natural cycle and whether anything we can do (or stop doing) is likely to change the process.

The dinosaurs could do nothing to prevent their demise; they just continued to act as nature had intended, and one day nature destroyed them. Mankind however is unlike any other creature to exist or to have existed. We do not act purely on natural instincts; we choose how to act. It is our choice and our intelligence combined that gives us the power to protect or destroy ourselves, and it is the choices that we choose to make each and every day that alter the future for our children, whether we like it or not.

At school we all studied the ecosystem, how everything depends on each other, and how little changes can have big effects. Remove some little creature from the food chain, for example, and much bigger creatures in the rest of the chain are effected. One could argue that it is irrelevant whether global warming is man made or a natural occurrence, but for sure everything we do has an effect on our ecosystem. The choices we make now will effect what we do in the future. Can we reverse deforestation, cut down on pollution and reduce our CO2 emissions enough to stop global warming in time to avoid real hardship? We may be able to, if we all pull together in the right direction. Isn’t it worth a try? Is it worth the risk to do otherwise?

Gary Streeter argues that energy will be conserved anyway in the coming years due to the dwindling resources of oil and gas. The fact that fossil fuel resources are diminishing gives me hope for the future of our climate, but we need to slow down the consumption of fossil fuels quickly, and stop cutting down the rain forest, and get the growing population under control, etc, then our planet may cope with the amount of CO2 that is released over time from the remaining fossil fuels - but continued consumption fuelling economic growth at the current rate (never mind the explosion of development predicted for the emerging markets) will likely see irreversible, and quite possibly catastrophic, damage before we ever reach the end of our oil supplies. Political moves to alternative forms of energy other than that of oil and gas without an acceptance of the problem of CO2 emissions will result in continued emissions through the burning of waste, for example, instead of fossil fuels in their original form.

I am always reluctant to believe politicians for the simple reason that they need to keep in power to keep their positions in their job and in society. For this reason I believe many politicians are influenced primarily by economics and popularity. The current wave of green interest amongst politicians is I believe driven by the looming crisis of dwindling oil supplies, plus popularity (jumping on the bandwagon). The green banner is waved around to get consumers to adapt to a less oil dependant way of life to the benefit of their local economies - but how many politicians really believe that cutting down CO2 emissions is the most important thing, really? Like did we go to war with Iraq because of Saddam Hussein and to free the Iraqi people? No, we went to get control of their oil. And did we really go to war with Afghanistan because of Bin Laden or to liberate Afghan women or to stop the Taliban invading western countries? No, we went to ‘stabilise’ a country so that we could build a crucial new gas pipeline through the country. And do politicians really want to reduce CO2 to prevent millions of people starving and getting washed away? I don‘t thinks so; politicians mostly want to stop people consuming energy because the word is running out of oil. Politicians were never really that bothered before about people starving or getting washed away, so why now? That doesn’t however mean that global warming doesn’t exist. Many politicians know that global warming exists, I think they just aren’t that motivated by it enough to act on it, and like Gary, have something inside of them that just won’t allow them to really accept it is happening.

So the main motivation behind the current political action is likely based on oil dependence, not global warming. And because of this, if politicians can find a way of decreasing oil dependence, whilst keeping the public happy enough to keep them in power, they will do so, whatever the costs to the environment. This is why we start to see the emergence of new technologies and solutions often posing as green, yet frequently doing just as much (if not more) environmental damage than before (just with less dependence on fossil fuels). These schemes will get government backing so long as the economics look right and the public are in favour of them in the run up to an election - but if public opinion moves against such schemes, the politicians will likely carry on regardless, influenced by powerful corporations, unless they are at high risk of losing their seats.

Here just are a few examples that I know about which are encouraged by governments, under the banner ‘green’, which are actually very damaging to the environment :

  • Farming for Biofuels - rain forests are being gut down to provide land to produce crops for biofuels, resulting in a far greater CO2 hit than the CO2 emissions prevented from the fuel produced, and resulting in food shortages for local populations. http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/
  • Mining of Rare Earth Metals - crucial for the fabrication of wind turbines, energy saving cars and low energy light bulbs - the majority of which are currently mined in China using environmentally very polluting and dangerous methods with little protection for workers and disastrous consequences for inhabitants of the surrounding lands. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgAZOffMj5Y
  • Energy from Waste (incineration) - burning of municipal waste in large scale incinerators which generate electricity. Energy from waste facilities have been painted green by large money making corporations with the argument that the energy they produce results in a reduced carbon footprint, based on the alternative of leaving rubbish to rot in landfill, thereby producing methane gasses. But the alternatives to in incineration are not untreated landfill, massive amounts of CO2 are produced, and the energy benefits are soon lost should the percentage of paper and plastics being burnt decrease (since temperatures fall, which result in the furnaces requiring the import of gas to keep the fires hot enough to avoid the release of dioxins). Incineration leaves the growing problem of ash disposal (26% of the original waste volume), risk of emissions (especially when plants are not working at their optimum) and the undermining of increasingly valuable recycling activities. http://www.no-burn.org/

As the issue of oil dependence becomes an ever growing problem, watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. New technologies and incentives all need careful scrutinising for the knock on effects on our ecosystem, and in particular their real cost of CO2 , before they should be classed as green.

Now back to the topic of Gary Streeter and his beliefs:

Gary likens the green movement to that of another religion: ‘This new-found focus on climate change must not become another religion’. I understand the comparison. To believe that your very existence is under threat leads one to start to live in a different way and can effect every choice that you make, should you also believe that the little choices that one makes many times every day could influence the ultimate outcome of existence. However, unlike religions that are concerned with the preservation of the soul for the afterlife, the green movement is very much concerned with the preservation of mankind in this life, not in the one after.

The green movement could be considered by some as a threat to religion itself, especially since green activists are often portrayed as ‘humanists’ and sometimes sun worshipping eco warriors, but in my mind it is totally in harmony with the fundamental beliefs of all religions - putting other people’s interests, especially the weak and powerless, above one’s own, and certainly above selfish economical motivations. The green movement actually provides a uniting motivation, to preserve life, that unites people from all religions and all walks of life. Is the world in need of another religion? I don’t think so. Is the world in need of unity? I’ll let you answer that one.

I’m not mocking Gary, not in the slightest. I appreciate his honesty - that has to be the basis of all progress and I think it would help if more politicians were open enough to say what they really felt on this matter. And until recently, I have to admit I actually felt something similar. There was something inside of me that was really reluctant to embrace the whole green way of living - something there that is always reluctant to believe the hype - which is usually misguided. Plus I am a people person - my interest was more to do with human rights and health care - I left the environment to other people to worry about and sort out.

But then a few things happened to me that made the change. These things I guess were spiritual, which maybe confirms Gary’s religious suspicions. The first was something that clicked inside of me that jolted my out of a defeatist apathetic attitude to many aspects of my daily life, after a nasty brush with the swine flu (previously blogged about). At this point I was given an understanding that bad things happen in this world because good guys let them (all those nice people keeping themselves to themselves). This changed the way I looked at life and made choices, since I found in myself the new belief that everything I did, or did not do, could actually mean I was in some way culpable of some of the many atrocities that happen in this world. This is what led me to taking a greater interest in the local world around me and soon led to me getting involved in our campaign against the plan to build an incinerator in our neighbourhood.

But I still hadn’t had that all important environmental awakening. That happened to me early in the morning of Friday 20th November (the day before our public meeting was to take place about the proposed incinerator). What happened was a dream, or vision if you like. Telling you this will likely get me burnt at the stake, but I’ll tell you anyway, and you can make of it what you will.

I’ve always been a bit if a dreamer. At key times in my life I have had significant dreams that come to me very clearly, different from my other dreams, usually set against a black background, often with an almost audible voice or message on top that stays with me when I wake up. Sometimes these dreams are about relative strangers and situations of which I know nothing. I have always made an effort to tell the people that are in my dreams what I saw for them to make of them what they will - and until now they have always been of remarkable significance. So now when I have one of these dreams (which recently I hadn’t had I think for the previous 4 years) I know straight away to sit up and take note. Of course I don’t expect you to believe me, I would be very sceptical myself if someone told me a similar thing about themselves, or you may believe me but think me loopy - but I’m not too concerned about that either since a friend recently told me that it is when people start to think I am bonkers that I will know I am having a real impact.

I’m afraid that there is no way of explaining my green conversion without this dream, so I figure the best way is to just tell it as I saw it.

I was stood in water in something like the shallow waters of a sea. It was also at the bottom of a valley, and there was a single path up out of the valley, with some kind of animal gate, like a turnstile, half way up the hill, through which people had to pass to get down to the water or up the hill. There were lots of people in the water, children playing, women washing clothes, men bathing. People were from all different nationalities, wearing all different clothes, but in particular I remember seeing a lot or people in traditional Indian dress. Everyone was doing different things, moving in different directions, going about their business. Some people were swimming out too far and then older ladies started wading out after them to call them back, telling the people that they were going too far. Then the waters started to rise, and rise very quickly. People started to panic. Some people tried to go out to sea to save those further out, others started to try and push their way up the hill, but there was a bottleneck and not many could get up. Many people started to get washed away. Then I was transported to a sea barrier, that I imagine was like the Thames barrier, and from there I stood and watched whilst people got washed out to sea. I felt great fear, and then sadness, and began to wake.

I opened my eyes for a brief moment. I was aware of being awake and being fully aware of what I was seeing. I lay down again with some peace and started the dream again.

Exactly the same start. I was in the water in exactly the same place, with all the same people doing the same things. I saw the people swimming out too far and felt that that waters were soon to start rising and anticipated the panic. Then I heard a voice telling me to tell everyone to join hands, which I did. And then the voice said to tell everyone to pull in the same direction, moving slowly up the hill, which we did. Then the sea started to rise, as before, but we were strong and could pull back the people who had gone deep into the sea, and we all slowly moved up the hill together. I started to wake up. I was not completely certain that we had started pulling in time, but I had the feeling that we may have been just in time. There was no panic. No one person had to pull more than the others. We all pulled together.

As I started to wake up I asked what was meant by the holding of hands, and the voice said to me that it was communication. People had to start communicating. Society is broken, it needs rebuilding. It is together when we communicate and pull together in the same direction that we are strong.

I woke up and knew that this dream was a warning about global warming. I swear until that day I hadn’t really given it much thought, and would have been much happier to believe the articles that were soon to appear in the newspapers saying that it was all just a big lie to get us to pay more taxes. I went downstairs and turned on the TV. Cumbria had been flooded in the night (no it wasn’t on the news the night before). A close relative of mine works with the environment in the Lake District so was able to give me a first hand account, which had an even greater impact.

So this was my green awakening, but I don’t expect it to come like that to everyone. The worst case scenario of global warming is a truly terrifying prospect that I know we would all sooner deny. Much easier to surround ourselves with material possessions and drink ourselves stupid to forget the cares in this world. I hope we may all find courage to face up to the facts of global warming and urge everyone to err on the side of caution and to make the changes we can to do our best to provide a stable future for our children, before it is too late.

I am a people person, but now I realise that if we don't start respecting the laws of nature and putting our environment first, there may be little point in worrying about healthcare and human rights.