When the climate emergency requires our “leaders” to speak loudly, to behave with vigour and clarity, we get… procrastination and muddled-thinking evasiveness. NFM – Normal For Manchester.
Why do I go to events with titles like “The development of thriving and inclusive cities: The Manchester Strategy”?
To hear incisive, insightful and genuinely innovative thinking from our lords and masters? You’re having a giraffe. The simple answer is that I go for some combo of the following
- the canapes (wont pays) and the free booze.
- to catch up with old friends and new ones
- to ask awkward questions, if I can rouse myself from my despair and torpor.
- material for vituperative and career-limiting blog posts like this one
For the lulz, in other words, as the young people never said.
And so it was on Tuesday night when I hauled my masochistic old body along to the Alliance Manchester Business School. I won’t bore you the bromides and the platitudes about skills and creativity, Manchester as industrial powerhouse, opportunity, innovation, DNA of our city. You have heard it all a thousand times before. The usual word salad, the usual bullshit bingo. Participation, engagement, listening. Community. Pride. On and on it goes.
Cometh the Q and A section, cometh the man.
I said something roughly along these lines
“Thanks to the speakers and the organisers. A plea, some background and two questions. I’ll be quick.
“The plea- when you are speaking about the future in future, please mention climate change. (No, none of you did)
“Back in 2009 Manchester City Council created a Climate Change Action Plan – in partnership with the community and participation and other words we’ve heard to night. And one of its goals was to create a “low carbon culture.” And one element of that was a day’s “Carbon Literacy Training.”
“And so my two questions. To you, Dave Moutrey. When I go to Home – and I love Home – before the film there’s an advert that proudly states that all your staff are carbon literate. And then up come adverts for airlines. Now, I think that is a contradiction. I want to know if you think it’s a contradiction, and if it is, what you are going to do about it. [see here for 2018: Home responds to questions (without really answering].
[I skipped over Jessica Bowles, last seen as the Head of City Planning for Manchester City Council in January 2015 when she told a room full of scrutiny committee councillors that achieving only 23 councillors as carbon literate instead of the 60 that had been the target could/should not be seen as a failure. True story, I was there.]
“And to Joanne Roney – putting aside the fact that only 10 percent of the Council staff are carbon literate, and only about half the councillors are, I keep submitting Freedom of Information Act requests about the seven member Strategic Management Team and its carbon literacy status. Yeah, I’m that guy (audience laughter). So, I’m asking if the Strategic Management Team is carbon literate, and if they’re not, when they will be. Thank you.”
And the replies. From Roney-
“Don’t have seven in the team, don’t have a stable strategic management team, but when we do… it’s compulsory…there’s a bespoke training programme….” (I sent off another FOIA, btw – watch this space).
“We sell advertising space, we don’t control it. We assume our audiences have a brain. Our government sells arms all over the place. Organisations take money from the National Lottery, which some people disagree with We let our audience make their own decisions. “I’m not going to get involved in censoring those things.”
So thought experiment time. Imagine, say, an anti-slavery newspaper in pre-Civil War United States that carried adverts for bounty hunters to recapture escaped slaves, and supplements extolling the fine handiwork of manacle-makers in order to meet its running costs. And when attacked for this contradiction, the response was “we let our audience make up its own mind,” I mean, history would judge that newspaper’s editors and owners kindly, wouldn’t it? Oh yes.
And the censorship argument? Really? So, you’d have no problem allowing strip clubs to advertise? Or escort agencies? You have fought against the government’s ban on cigarette advertising on the basis that it is “censorship”? How utterly utterly incoherent and convenient.
As for carbon literacy, well, it is a feeble joke. A toothless make-work scheme that enables people who want to get jobs as consultants in the “green economy” to have something to put on their CVs. Jeff Smith, a local MP, has done his carbon literacy training. And then voted for Heathrow Expansion.
We don’t have leaders willing to break the spiral of silence on climate change, who don’t seem to think that climate change will have any significant impact on Manchester’s future. We don’t have leaders who can walk their talk. Barring a miracle (if our own devising), we are toast.