To protect and serve who again?

British riot police confront 'dangerous' protestor

I don’t get it. Really, I don’t.

Climate change is destroying the planet. Oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic, the glaciers and polar ice caps are shrinking faster then even the most pessimistic projections, South Sea islands like the Maldives are becoming inundated by sea level rise and we are in the middle of a man-made mass extinction event where scientists predict that one-half of all species of life will be extinct by 2100.

This is all pretty horrific to contemplate, right?

And yet, when people try to protest peacefully against the polluters who are damaging the planet beyond all recognition, when people try to highlight and bring a halt to this madness so we can save some shred of our decency, as well as some of the lifeforms on the planet, what happens? They are confronted by lines of police in riot gear, at best, or battered and thrown in jail on trumped up charges, or worse.

Look up civil disobedience in Wikipedia and you see a photo of Gandhi! Other famous proponents of civil disobedience are Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Henry David Thoreau.

Why then, when people are looking to better our planet and by extension our lives, are they attacked and frequently imprisoned by the police, the very force who are supposed to protect and serve us? Obviously it is not us whom the police are protecting and serving. Shame on them.

Then today, I see a report that the provincial government in Alberta, Canada is threatening to unleash its counterterrorism plan if activists continue using civil disobedience to protest the tar sands. No really.

From the report:

Canada’s tar sands will singlehandedly produce more greenhouse gas emissions than Denmark, Ireland, Austria or Portugal by 2020 if the development continues expanding at its current rate, according to a recent report written by award-winning business reporter Andrew Nikiforuk


“We’re going to be working very closely with industry and our solicitor general will be reviewing all of the guidelines we have in place,” said a visibly irritated Premier Stelmach in early October.

Fred Lindsay, the solicitor general, went a step further, suggesting the province might use its counterterrorism plan against future protests.

Now people trying to protect life on this Earth are terrorists? Seriously, it should be the people extracting oil from the tar sands who are subject to counterterrorism plans, if anyone.

When will we see the forces of law and order arresting executives of mining companies for their lack of concern for human rights, or lack of concern for the planet?

Photo credit clearbrian


Living In De-material World: On Microsoft and Bit Miles

I have written a fair bit here about Bit Miles (the moral imperative to digitise) and business process dematerialisation, so I was particularly interested in a recent trip to Microsoft’s gaming and world simulation division.

What was so relevant?

One area that I believe holds out great promise for this kind of simulation technology is in sustainable and sustainability modeling. Take the pilot training example above; while the highest cost may be for maintenance engineers, but how much fuel is being needlessly burned? Training in the real world is expensive. Moving Atoms has a cost. I have recently started talking about Bit Miles as a Greenmonk narrative, defined as is the carbon cost associated with moving a good or creating a service that could instead have been delivered digitally. Bit Miles offer us a moral imperative to digitize: a simulation of the world is a beautiful opportunity to rethink and potentially dematerialize business processes.

Why not Supply Chain Simulator ™, which would pull together all of your plant information (pulled in from OSI, say), where your people are located (Peoplesoft), and how you move goods and services (SAP) around the world? An organisation could begin to run really deep “What If” scenarios about the energy costs of their businesses with simulations like these. But what would really make these models sing is the fact they’d be visual and immersive. Telling is rarely as effective as Showing. What would a low energy manufacturing business look like? With virtual technology we could maybe work it out. At this point it might seem that I have gone off the deep end, but the ESP team inspires that in you. I didn’t see a single Powerpoint slide during my visit. Rather Shawn likes to open up people’s imaginations.

I would love to know your thoughts- there is a good discussion going on over at my monkchips blog.


Microsoft and EEA deal starting to pay off


James has written previously about how Microsoft and the European Environmental Agency (EEA) signed a non-exclusive five year deal with a goal to “make environmental information more accessible to citizens in Europe”.

As James said at the time:

Likesay, this is pretty much a canonical Greenmonk story. We are all watchdogs, we are all observers. Science progresses most effectively when research and data are widely distributed. Over 500 million people-that’s a lot of eyeballs. Interestingly enough the EAA is including Turkey in the scheme – so its taking the long, wide view. The EAA has a 13 year history of Open Data, such as making greenhouse gas information available to all, but normally focuses on EU policymakers, rather than citizens. Its great to see them turning the funnel the other way…

This morning EyeOnEarth, the first product of that agreement was launched. EyeOnEarth is a site listing water bathing quality for beaches and waterways throughout Europe.

It contains historical data going back as far as 1991 as well as the ability to give feedback on any beaches/waterways you have visited or are familiar with. This community-based approach makes it an exceedingly powerful tool and this has to be the first time we have seen grassroots activism, supported by central transparency, powered by Microsoft!

This water quality site is the first in a series of such sites which will be rolled out by Microsoft and the EEA. Others in the works are an air quality site and a site about nature and biodiversity parks you can visit.

The opening up of public data for public consumption, somewhat in the manner of Prof. Hans Rosling’s fabulous Gapminder site, but going well beyond that with the ability to give feedback into the system is hugely laudable.

One further necessary addition to the site is access for mobile browsers. I will want to add info about beaches/waterways when I am at the beach from my iPhone or N95. This is not yet possible but when I asked Microsoft’s Director EU & NATO, Ludo De Bock about this his reassured me that:

We haven’t tested or adapted the site for mobile access now due to time constraints but mobile access is a core component of our vision for the Observatory portal as we like to offer an alerting/subscription service

Oh, and the screenshot above was taken viewing the site in Safari on my Mac. I also tested it in Firefox and it works perfectly there too.

Well done guys.