Invitation to a ‘citizen’s science’ project

In 2020, inspired by my one tonne of carbon per year project, Lloyd Alter and Jean-Christophe Montreux (both living in Canada) began tracking their carbon footprints in an excel spreadsheet.

Many people are living low carbon lifestyles across the world. But tracking it, on a daily basis meant we could start demonstrating and communicating to other global citizens, what the composition of a 1 tonne, 2.5 tonne or 3 tonne lifestyle might look and feel like in different locations. What could we do with our own creative choices and what was really really difficult?

Carbon calculators are good as a first step, but the algorithms are too generalised. Once you get down to the low net carbon zero carbon lifestyle numbers, a far more nuanced and tailored approach is required. Rather than a top down algorithm, you need a bottom up approach. What will you decide to prioritise first? What are the essentials for your good life. And what does the nitty gritty of that look like in different parts of the world, or in different locations and contexts?

In the Summer of 2021, I was invited to an international zoom meeting, to discuss a potential pilot project whereby we would extend this carbon tracking idea by engaging global citizens in different parts of the world in a citizen science project, which would experiment for a month with living the 2030 1.5 degree lifestyle of 2.5 tonnes per year

There were five ‘concerned citizens’ Lloyd Alter (Canada) , Joao Wemans (Portugal) , Kate Power (Germany) , Jean-Christophe Montreux (Canada) and myself (UK) .We quickly agreed on the name 1five.org which was the number of the group and the overriding aim of the project, to keep global warming below 1.5C.

Lloyd Alter publishes his book – Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle

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For some time now, Lloyd Alter and I have been following each other on twitter. He started writing about my one tonne project on treehugger.com right from its early inception; he wrote this article on July 2019 Get Ready for the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle

Rosalind Readhead, whose earlier manifesto for dealing with climate change was impressive, is going to try to live a one tonne lifestyle, where she tries to live a lifestyle that emits less than a tonne per year. The average Brit emits 11.7 tonnes, the average American 21.

Last Summer Lloyd and I discussed the potential for a book on the subject of living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle. Although I had been thinking about writing a book based on my One Tonne of Carbon per year blog , Lloyd was in a far better placed to do this. He had the connections and journalistic skills to get this published quickly. He started living on the 2030 target of 2.5 tonnes in January 2020 and tracking his lifestyle carbon footprint via a spreadsheet. He also included the embodied emissions of his owned durable goods, like his extensive collection of Apple products! Going far beyond the daily journal of carbon consumption I had originally devised.

This is all documented in his new book Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle which was published on 14th September 2021, just before the pilot project begun. His book lays out some of the foundations of the project. Particularly on amortizing embodied durable carbon in our homes, electrical devices, cars and clothing via a spreadsheet. He really digs deep into the supply chains of carbon footprints. I found his research and explanation of the carbon footprint of the cold chain (refrigeration) in transport very illuminating. This has been omitted from many reports on the subject of the carbon footprint of food miles.

He debunks many of the mantras, clichés and myths that have taken hold within the climate debate, and scrutinises them with in depth research and analysis. Drawing on his broader journalistic work at treehugger.com, his experience as an architect and Adjunct Professor teaching sustainable design at Ryerson University School of Interior Design. He puts the idea of sufficiency front and centre of the debate on net carbon zero lifestyles. Highly recommended.

The pilot project

This graphic shows the lifestyle personal targets on which this project is based.
  • A citizen science project led by people passionate about climate mitigation and involving 15 to 30 participants in several countries.
  • Experimenting with the the 2030 target of 2.5 tonnes per year personal lifestyle carbon budget; tracking our daily carbon footprint & sharing the joys and challenges.
  • A 4-week pilot experiment to start on September 20th 2021
  • A project report will is to be released here in November 2021
  • 1five.org is hosted by Hot or Cool Institute and funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Excel spreadsheet

There were three main formats discussed at the beginning of the project. Lloyd, Joao and Jean-Christophe were interested in an excel spreadsheet or an app. I was more interested in gathering information for a ‘handbook’ which would be accessible to everyone. But Kate wanted to gather data for a report to accompany the new 1.5C Lifestyle report, so a spreadsheet seemed the most appropriate tool.

The tool was mainly developed by Joao Wemans , Jean-Christophe Montreux and Lloyd. As the 2.5 tonne spreadsheet slowly evolved, it separated out into three main areas.

  • One time action – a cup of tea, a meal, a train journey, a mile by car
  • Routine action – water usage, electricity, gas, data, roaming data, banking, insurance, mortgage
  • Amortized durable goods – embodied carbon spread across a chosen time period. Including homes, fittings and furnishings, electrical appliances,, computing devices, cars, clothing etc

A large data base of carbon footprints was then gathered from multiple sources (which are fully referenced) and connected to the spreadsheet. The daily carbon allowance for the 2.5 tonne per year lifestyle budget is 6.849 Kg per day. Lloyd’s idea was for it to work like a fitbit. Tracking your daily carbon footprint in real time, as well as accounting for the embodied emissions in your owned goods.

One time actions
Routine action
Amortized durable goods

Inclusivity of the experiment

In the middle of September the invitations went out to people we thought would be interested in participating in a pilot. To global citizens in Portugal, Nigeria, Germany, UK, France, Canada and the US. It was explained that this was very new. Very experimental.

We had plenty of interest in the invite. This indicates IMO an appetite for engagement with personal lifestyle carbon budgets. However there were problems with people’s ability to sign the data privacy agreement digitally. And others didn’t have a printer to sign it manually. This gave us a first insight into some of the potential accessibility issues.

So some dropped out because they couldn’t share data or share stories. Unfortunately for others the intro session was overwhelming, asking too much of some citizens for whom this was extremely new. Many people don’t use excel spreadsheets. And glaze over when they see graphs and grids. I confess I am one of them!

I didn’t participate in tracking my own carbon footprint in the excel spreadsheet, partly because i have a 2nd hand acer 2007, tiny laptop computer and I would need to view the software through a magnifying glass! Even with wearing glasses. Some of you might say I should have gone to specsavers:) But I’d also be forever scrolling back and forward. This does raise the question not just of accessibility but of desirability. Do you actually want to do it? Do you want your life to be fitted into little boxes, segmented and gridded. For someone like me who values fluidity and freedom, it is not an appealing format. But I acknowledge that for others it is.

This tech based solution also requires an internet connection and appropriate devices like a laptop or desktop computer. During covid we became aware, even in the relative wealth of the UK, that many people don’t have access to an internet connection or a suitable device. Some families have nothing. And children were sharing their parent’s smartphone to do online schooling, when the schools were closed.

When we chatted with the participants from Nigeria, it became even clearer that only the top 5% wealthiest in Lagos have access to the internet online, and electricity is also very limited. Only available for 60% of the day. and even then this is not something everyone has access to. I would say that an excel spreadsheet format it is really only inclusive of the top global wealthy 20%. Or maybe even top 10%.

Amortization

Amortization is paying off an amount owed over time by making planned, incremental payments of principal and interest. To amortize a loan means “to kill it off”. In the context of the project it means to pay off an upfront carbon cost by paying small regular amounts across a specified timeframe.

As I have already explained, accounting for the amortized owned durable items was going far beyond what I did in my project. It was certainly an early shock for some of the participants. who had large scale home renovations (some of it to de-carbonise their homes) or new shiny kitchens, bathrooms, owned multiple electronic devices and computer devices, lots of new shoes and clothing, new cars etc After amortizing their owned durable goods they started the pilot project month with a significantly diminished daily carbon budget.

Homes were amortized based on type, year it was built and square footage. So smaller or multi occupancy would score lower on embodied carbon. Is your home well insulated or leaky? Do you have an electrified heat pump, solar? etc

We need to facilitate decarbonisation of homes, so how we separate out unnecessary home improvements from vital decarbonisation,, which is an investment in our national housing infrastructure? And how to we amortize this? Just as a personal example, and to give context, I have invested in secondary glazing in my flat this year. So I am now Energy Performance Level C. How do I amortize this? Meanwhile I have chosen not to update my bathroom so it looks better.

I think amortizing durable goods adds immense value to our understanding and accounting for embodied carbon in personal and household carbon footprints. It starts to mop up those more difficult to spot emissions. To set up a manageable way we can manage to afford essential stuff on a tight net carbon zero lifestyle budget. In my following year I have bought some new trousers, a pair of waterproof shoes, underwear and new trainers. I have stayed in a hotel on holiday, I have bought a new swimsuit. How would I amortize (spread out) these items in a balanced way, to keep within my annual budget?

Developing a carbon instinct

Participants had trouble tracking down their energy, water or insurance bills, required by the routine actions. This was particularly an issue for those in rented accommodation. And I think even when they did track down the bills, it was not necessarily obvious to them why their bills were so high. If you don’t break it down, and gain some insight into what is adding proportionately to your energy bill, it is difficult to take an active role in cutting your energy use.

I approached this very differently in my project, starting from the bottom up, noting the carbon cost of every one off action such as washing up, showering or putting on the gas boiler for heating. In this way I became more and more carbon literate and started to have an instinct of how my energy usage impacted my daily carbon budget. I could also make trade offs between using the washing machine or having two eggs in an omelette! By building a deeper and more extensive knowledge of how my daily carbon actions were impacting on my daily carbon budget, I was becoming an active rather than just a passive participant. We all need to become carbon literate and start building a carbon instinct.

Double counting or even triple counting?

Carbon footprints (like humans) do not fit neatly into little boxes. It is far more complex and nuanced than that. Take a cup of tea. The electric kettle has an embodied durable carbon footprint. Then I will be using the electricity from the grid. And there is also the tea and maybe milk that is added. In this way, Mike Berners-Lee comes up with the carbon footprint CO2e of a cup of

  • Tea with soya milk – 47g
  • Black tea – 22g
  • Tea with cows milk – 71g

These figures for a cup of tea may seem trivial within the 2.5 tonne carbon budget. But the point I am making is not so much about the cup of tea, but about how you combine different databases with the three sections on the spreadsheet. How can you guarantee you are not double or triple accounting?

.Each database might have very different criteria or calculation method. So it would be important to scrutinise each one off action on the databases very carefully to see how this was calculated. Did your cup of tea at home already include embodied carbon or energy use or both? Are you double counting your electricity use? Or is the cup of tea you had in the restaurant inclusive of everything?

Security issues

Quite early on, I had misgivings about tracking in real time. Not only are there data privacy issues, and potential for state or corporate surveillance, but this could be lucrative for corporate data harvesting and criminals. A list of your assets whilst tracking your actions in real time seemed to have some serious ethical issues. Data harvesting is a lucrative revenue stream. The new gold. But combining your amortized assets with tracking in real time has even more serious ethical considerations.

Then something really spooked me. It was briefly mentioned in a zoom meeting that Kate Power (who applied for and negotiated the Gulbenkian funding for the project) was also talking to someone from another funder. I didn’t catch the name of the funder, so at the next available meeting, I asked for more details. It turned out this was the Cisco Foundation. Oh don’t worry says Kate, he looks like a hippy and its completely separate from Cisco.

I didn’t know that much about Cisco then, just that it was a Silicon Valley based company, but even this raised significant concerns. A quick search about the Cisco Foundation showed that they are a legally separate entity to Cisco but all their board of trustees are from Cisco. I wouldn’t call this ‘separate’ from Cisco. It doesn’t look like they could even be bothered to hide the connections:. Even more worrying is that the Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins is on the Board of Directors at Blackrock. Blackrock has major fossil fuel interests. And has been accused of lobbying via think tanks to delay climate action to protect its own interests.

Cisco Foundation board of Trustees

  • Larry Carter, Board Member Emeritus, Cisco Foundation
  • Mary de Wysocki, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs, Cisco
  • Saidah Grayson Dill, Vice President, Legal, and Deputy General Counsel, Cisco
  • Mark Dodds, Senior Vice President, Americas Global Enterprise Segment, Cisco
  • Kristina Johnson, President, The Ohio State University; Board of Directors, Cisco
  • Rob Johnson, Senior Vice President, Global Tax and Customs Administration, Cisco
  • Naveen Menon, President, Cisco Southeast Asia
  • John Morgridge, Board Chair, Cisco Foundation
  • John Rivers, Director, Services Sales, Cisco
  • Alba San Martin, Senior Director, Latin America Partner Organization, Cisco
  • Agostino Santoni, Managing Director, Cisco Italy
  • Tae Yoo, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Cisco

The Cisco Foundation in April 2021 committed $100 million over ten years to fund climate solutions. We are not currently accepting unsolicited requests for funding climate solutions. Applications are on an invitation-only basis as we launch, but will be opened for general applications starting August 2021.

I wonder who are the ‘lucky’ organisations or think tanks who have been targeted with the Cisco Foundation ‘invitations’? And why?

“Global companies are buying up think-tanks left, right and centre. Large cheques come attached to particular policy recommendations and senior corporate types sit on committees ready to ‘candle-snuff’ dangerous ideas.~

The purchase by companies of ‘particular policy recommendations’ from groups pretending to be independent think-tanks is disgraceful”. – John Blundell former Director General of Think Tank Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)

On Cisco’s wikipedia page it says: ‘Cisco has been criticized for its involvement in censorship in the People’s Republic of China. According to author Ethan Gutmann, Cisco and other telecommunications equipment providers supplied the Chinese government with surveillance and Internet infrastructure equipment that is used to block Internet websites and track online activities in China.’ Cisco is also accused of implementing security back doors and trojan horse systems.

I had some serious concerns about the security sensitivity of an excel spreadsheet recording your daily activities in real time, but this amplified it bigtime. Why was Kate talking to the Cisco Foundation about the pilot project? Alarm bells ringing!!

Flying whilst living on 2.5 tonnes per year

I was quite surprised when one of the participants decided to fly ‘due to family reasons’ whilst trying to live on 2.5 tonnes. Actually the main problem was that the return cheap flight from Berlin to Rome was 70 Euros and the train was 260 Euros, the financial cost trumped the carbon cost. So ‘forced to choose flight over train’ she writes that the journey emitted 224kg/CO2e (with the daily target being 6.8kg).

The distance between Berlin and Rome is 941 miles. The distance between London and Glasgow is 556 miles. Mike Berners-Lee has the return flight from London to Glasgow at 368Kg. So a return flight Berlin to Rome is surely at least 368Kg or maybe much more? I wonder if the idea to calculate airplane journeys by the hour (put into the spreadsheet database without consulting me) is not taking in the full carbon footprint of a flight? Personally I trust Mike Berners-Lee expertise over an arbitrary ‘flight by hours’ aviation calculator.

Forced to choose flight over train

Flights which use fossil fuel kerosene are not taxed. And often subsidised by Governments too. So this makes the train look very expensive.

‘Not a single country prices its fuels sufficiently to reflect their full environmental costs. How is low-carbon transport ever going to compete if flights and petrol/diesel cars are always the cheapest choice?’ – Flight Free UK

But there is an alternative appearing…for 3€ per day from November 2021, you will be able to travel anywhere in the Austrian public transport system, for as far as you can, with a state-subsidised KlimaTicket. This kind of rail and bus ticket could potentially be extended right across Europe.

Public transport is one of those grey areas between the Personal, Government and Capital formation carbon budgets. I included public transport in my personal carbon budget whilst living on one tonne of carbon per year. The carbon footprint of UK trains (currently at 80g per mile) did definitely curtail my ability to visit family or friends and go on holiday to Devon. And even impacted on my campaigning. Taking the Austrian model as an example, all state or privately owned public transport could mostly shoulder the carbon emissions within their carbon budget, with a small contribution from the citizen’s individual carbon budget. This seems a good solution to maintain quality of life. And allow visits ‘ for family reasons’ by train.

I also tried out travelling by sail this Summer. This has given me the appetite to visit Europe in the not too distance future by sail. And who knows even across the Atlantic?

Flying is an expression of global privilege

The most common argument for flying in a climate emergency, is because migrants need to visit family. This argument is made frequently by the globally wealthy migrants (top 20% but mostly top 10%) within the climate movement. As was the case in this pilot; Kate Power and Jean-Christophe see themselves as migrants. However we must look at this within this context:

  • 80% of the global population has never flown
  • There are many migrants within this 80%
  • It is migrants within the top 20% global wealthy and mostly in the top 10% global wealthy (earning over £27K per year) who have the option to afford flying to visit family.
  • Some people’s lives have evolved because of accessible cheap flights. This is highly problematic.
  • Flying is an expression of global privilege –
  • There will inevitably be far more climate refugees who have been displaced by climate change. It is not sustainable for increasing amounts of migrants to visit family by air

This is graphically illustrated by this image showing the global North compared to the global South. It shows all the countries taking part in the pilot project; Canada, US, Nigeria, Portugal, UK and Germany.

The argument put forward by many people in wealthy countries to continue flying is because migrants need to visit family. Often this is put forward by those who identify as migrants. However these are globally privileged migrants. Flying is an expression of global privilege.

Many more climate migrants will be arriving in countries which were not their original home because their homeland has become inhabitable. This is inevitable even with todays levels of global warming. But this will become an ever greater number of people who have been displaced. It simply is not and cannot be sustainable or feasible to offer aviation travel to all these migrants / refugees on the 2.5 or 0.7 tonne lifestyle carbon budgets.

If you prioritise living close to the family you love, as has happened with many during the covid pandemic, then now is wise time to do this, as we move ever closer to the net carbon zero target of 2.5 tonnes and eventually 0.7 tonnes per year.

Don’t cheat!

View of one of the huge turbines off the coast of Sussex

Cheating is self-defeating or as Greta Thunberg puts it – ‘Nature doesn’t bargain’

So when it was decided (again without consulting me) that we were going to give those participants who were signed up to a renewable energy company a carbon reduction, I was not happy. So let’s listen to the wise words of Mike Berners-Lee in ‘How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ P. 51-52 on A Unit of Electricity.

‘The extra demand that you place on the grid is met entirely through additional fossil fuels because the renewables in your country will already be running at full capacity….this is true even in the countries where all electricity comes from renewables or nuclear, because adding to demand reduces the amount of electricity that those countries are able to export, thereby increasing the fossil fuel generation in other nations’ – Mike Berners-Lee

Different regions have varying levels of renewable energy potential. It is not a level playing field. We will need to share renewable energy across regions and borders. It is not a belief system. It is a strategic overview.

If you give people who have signed up to a renewable energy company a carbon discount on their electricity use, this is essentially offsetting. If people want to support renewables, this is a good thing. They should do it anyway. But not do it to gain carbon savings. Otherwise it is a cheat.

The main goal is to reduce electric /energy demand to meet renewables. Not give some people carbon exemptions for signing up to an energy provider. It would be like asking someone,  are you giving money to plant trees /rewild?  It is a good thing but we can’t allow it to be offset. We need to do it anyway. We need to rewild and sign up to renewable energy providers without offsetting. We simply can’t guarantee outcomes. That the trees won’t burn down or the demand for energy won’t just increase.

Mike Berners-Lee book There is no planet B is really good at explaining why some countries have much more renewable energy potential than others. Poland for instance has lower potential. Unless other countries share their renewable energy with Poland it will become stuck. So if some people hoard the renewables and don’t share, none of us will make it to net carbon zero. We are incredibly interconnected.

In some areas of Canada, like Montreal, where Jean-Christophe lives, there is a plentiful and constant supply of renewables like hydro. Of course it makes it easier to live a low carbon lifestyle (more viable) when you have a consistent supply of renewable energy for electricity. But this could make it easier to increase demand too. And less incentive to reduce demand. Meanwhile other parts of Canada or nearby East coast of the United states are burning fossil fuels to make electricity. Sharing renewable energy is vital.

And from a climate justice point of view, if you give those who can afford the more expensive renewable company, a carbon discount, you are allowing the wealthy to increase their carbon budget. It is simply not climate justice or equitable.

Non-seasonal vegan

Vegan air freighted Kenyan beans
  • There are lots of nuances within a vegan diet:
  • Local seasonal fruit + veg generally good
  • Hothoused out of season – very bad
  • Pesticides, chemical fertiliser etc – very bad
  • Imported air freighted fruit and veg very very bad.

I wasn’t happy that the non-seasonal vegan option in the spreadsheet one time actions did not account for the vast carbon footprints of things like:

  • Airfreighted grapes from South Africa – 18.5Kg CO2e per kilo (grapes transported by Spain by road 1.1Kg per kilo)
  • Asparagus airfreighted from Peru – 18.5 CO2e per kilo (in season in UK 1.1Kg CO2e per kilo)

Carbon rationing

‘In high-consuming countries such as the UK, the time has passed where we have luxury of choosing between system change or lifestyle change – we now need both.’ – Lewis Akenji lead author of 1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Towards a Fair Consumption Space for All,

Lloyd Alter has written this article on this new Study which Shows Why We Need 1.5 Degree Lifestyles and How to Get There on treehugger.com

cover of 1.5 Degree Study
The new 1.5C report introduces carbon rationing

‘Talking about lifestyle changes is a hot-potato issue to policymakers who are afraid to threaten the lifestyles of voters. This report brings a science based approach + shows that without addressing lifestyles we will not be able to address climate change’

“Unsurprisingly, sufficiency is perceived as controversial by the wealthiest consumers as it challenges their carbon-intensive lifestyles,” if the richest 10% of the population practice a bit of sufficiency, there will be enough for everyone.’

They even consider carbon rationing; everyone gets their fair share and can sell what they don’t use.

 I’d be surprised if you have much carbon to sell on 2.5 tonnes per year or 0.7 tonnes. Sounds like wishful thinking.to me. But I will be covering this more in detail shortly in a blog entitled ‘Carbon rationing – the epic struggle’

Carbon footprint wiktionary / wikipedia / dictionary

I had a dream in which I was showing Mike Berners-Lee how an A-Z carbon footprint dictionary would work along the lines of wikipedia. It was almost like a presentation of the idea in dream form! The idea had been evolving slowly in my mind for some time but the dream crystallized it visually and probably told me to wake up and get on with it!

The reason I think a wiktionary / wikipedia format would work as an accessible educational and informative carbon footprint tool are plentiful.

  • International – each country has its own version (like wikipedia)
  • A carbon footprint wiktionary would be far more nuanced than a calculator or database. Which can be misleading and not referenced in an accessible way. This is why I like about @MikeBernersLee book ‘How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ But I want it A-Z
  • The carbon footprint dictionary could be updated regularly like a Dictionary or the Wikipedia pages, BUT it would be overseen by experts in the field. So vested interests don’t interfere. All changes would be referenced so easy to check the research

On page 145 of Mike Berners-Lee ‘How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything’ A section on the carbon footprint of A New Car has been meddled with. I personally noticed that the figures for embodied carbon of a Range Rover in the headline didn’t gel with what I previously knew. But my friend who is an editor was more perceptive.

In the headline, the Range Rover Sport HSE is given the figure of 25 tonnes CO2e just in manufacture. However the text says ‘A Range Rover or SUV could eat up 10 years of a 5-tonne lifestyle before you even drive it’. 5 x 10 =50 tonnes

Luckily the helpful graph on p.147 confirms the that the embodied emissions of the Range Rover are indeed 49-51 tonnes. Meanwhile the Toyota Prius goes up to 23-25 tonnes in the graph from 12 tonnes, the Ford Focus Titanium goes up to 16-20 tonnes from 8 tonnes. The Citroen C1 is 8-11 tonnes up from 4 tonnes. Someone halved the embodied carbon figures for these new fossil fuel cars.

The only car to escape the ‘tweak’ is the Renault Zoe electric car at 11 tonnes in the headline and the graph.

A book, a carbon calculator, a database can seemingly all be altered. I still think a handbook is very important for all global citizens. But we will need editors who are on the ball! And a recycled paperbook (with every book sold) is only 400g. About the same carbon footprint as one egg.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The Good The Bad The Ugly - PosterSpy

The Good

I think the 1five.org pilot project has some really useful insights. And adds significantly to the debate on carbon rationing and how it might work.

  • It is really good to engage citizens in the lived experiences and challenges of living within the 2.5 tonne personal carbon budget. It is almost like a rite of passage.
  • As a carbon accounting tool, I think the excel spreadsheet has some real potential. And even as a leadership tool. But I would keep it offline. For security reasons.
  • Amortization is a really important and useful addition to accounting for your own personal carbon emissions. And shows us the way forward, accounting for the upfront embodied carbon emissions, in essential products.
  • The excel spreadsheet tool is useful for families or shared households to divide household bills or shared activities.
  • You could do a spreadsheet in a suitable accounting format on recycled paper. Not everything has to be online or done on a computer.

The Bad

  • The database needs to be scrutinized and have integrity. Adding random stuff without due consideration and in depth discussion will devalue the usefulness and validity of the data. Cross reference and ask carbon footprinting experts to confirm. Make sure you are not double or triple accounting. Keep it open to public scrutiny.
  • The Cisco Foundation should not be going anywhere near this. Anyone who is closely connected to Blackrock. This is a complete nono

The Ugly

I will not be the first or the last activist to be co-opted, manipulated and then cut out when your voice becomes an inconvenience. Most activists do what they do as a calling, something in your core, which you can’t ignore. For those who are climbing the greasy pole of status and power, using activists can seem like fair game, as a means to legitimise their project. Whilst I was working on the pilot, I tweeted this to a young activist who had been co-opted and manipulated.

So sorry to hear this. Unfortunately the co-opting of activists is an experience I am also aware of. Watering down or minimising the core integrity of your work for money / political reasons. Misappropriating or undermining your work with a superficial meaningless framing. I hope someone with real integrity and a good heart finds its way to you. I don’t give up on that. We need to make good healthy connections where we can.

It only dawned on me later, that I myself was becoming enmeshed in the murky world of think tanks and their funders. That the ‘citizen’s science’ project which I signed up for with four other global citizens, had by stealth been taken over by a think tank who was in an open conversation with corporate sponsored funders.

Strange decisions were being taken without consulting me. I had no idea where or who was taking these decisions. When I asked to be involved more in the decision making, it was not forthcoming in any meaningful way. I wanted to be actively involved in writing the pilot report. This was being restricted, because the funders wanted ‘the think tank to deliver the project’. My profile at the top of the Team webpage was becoming an exercise in window dressing. I had been disempowered. So I chose to withdraw.

Integrity

When I started my One Tonne of Carbon per Year project, I did it with the intention of sharing. There is no point in me living a net carbon zero lifestyle in a solo bubble. So I welcome wider engagement. But there is also the danger that vested interests, realising the value of what you are saying and doing, then want to water it down. Or even undermine it.

The integrity of any project is important to me. Maintaining standards, ethical and scientific, are important because they underpin the reality of the challenge. Cheating is ultimately self-defeating.

So here is my contribution to the pilot ‘report’ which would most likely have been edited out:)

2 thoughts on “Invitation to a ‘citizen’s science’ project

  1. Thanks. Integrity is important, and in short supply these days.
    Co-opting seems to be the modus operandi.
    PS
    I read Lloyd’s book and like it.
    Please keep doing this careful, important work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. keep on with your work @privatecarfree; seems like you’ve escaped before you got more involved, unknowingly, in a murky world. Shame, if they were true to their beliefs it could have been a useful insightful exercise. Hey ho. Money, politics, corruption ……all linked. Having read your fascinating blog all last year, I often try to make decisions based on my carbon footprint but am far far from perfect. At least I am more aware, thanks to you.

    Like

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