Tag Archives: environment

A paucity of plumbers

Very soon we will experience our first taste of spring. We will flock into London’s parks and gardens to enjoy the first rays of sun and to see the flowers of spring in all their glory. It wasn’t so long ago that we would marvel at nature’s ability to throw off the shackles of winter and look forward to warmer days, indeed early man would celebrate the spring equinox as a magical event and the prelude to summer with all its bounty.

[N]owadays whenever we get a pronounced change in the weather the doomsayers predict that its cause is climate change, and if man doesn’t heed the warning, unpredictable warm spring days will become the norm.

The first scientist to claim he could change the world was Robert Oppenheimer when after inventing the A-bomb he declared, with some justification; Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Now a massive industry has been created around climate change forecasting and the proposition that man is the destroyer of worlds; with each individual within this new industry needing to justify his or her remuneration. The London Mayor’s office is no different; they have created the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy, which slowly has prevented any commercial vehicle operating in London if it is deemed hazardous to the environment.

After buses had been converted the cab trade was next to receive their attention. First all cabs had to comply with Euro 3, entailing for many an expensive conversion. Not content with that the Mayor’s office have deemed that all cabs over 15 years old must be scrapped, with no cabs to drive this will mean that many part-time and older full-time drivers will retire – so much for the Government’s initiative to have us work into our retirement years. The 15 year limit will also remove about a third of the current vehicles currently plying for hire.

Now the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy has gone further. The Low Emission Zone encompassing the City will become tougher. From next January any lorry, tipper-truck or motor home weighing more than 3.5 tonnes has to be less than 6 years old or it will cost the driver £200 per day to enter the City. Larger vehicles face a fine of £100 per day if they are found to be over 10-years old. Refusal to pay the fine will incur additional costs of up to £1,000.

So after all the razzmatazz of the Olympics have died down and you want a self employed, plumber, decorator, bricklayer or taxi and don’t want to employ the services of a large corporate company, just remember why they are in short supply in London, there’ve all moved on to a place in the country. As the American economist J. K. Galbraith said “There are two classes of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know”.

London’s Eco Warriors

According to most politicians if we don’t cycle everywhere (leaving our electric car in the garage), buy our food at ‘the farm gate’ and live like a Hobbit in a woodland setting, heating our homes from what we have gathered you’re not eco friendly.

From this they extrapolate that living in the countryside benefits the environment, while we urban dwellers are virtually killing polar bears with our bare hands.

[T]his perception of Londoners could be set to change as a result of a recent book by David Owen entitled Green Metropolis. The American urbanologist proposes you move to a city, the biggest you can find, if you want to save the planet.

Building of new eco towns with zero VAT and the opportunity to show their green credentials might be an attractive proposition to many builders, but David Owen asserts that building new in the form of energy-guzzling steel and glass boxes, which are usually unadaptable for later re-use, on Green Belt land, has a carbon footprint that’s a disaster.

For we Londoners on the other hand, have a carbon ‘sink’ of buildings, many dating from the Victorian era needing only central heating upgrades or new windows and a lick of paint to transform them into houses, flats, schools, shops or offices that will last for years, and as these long ago constructed buildings share walls, roofs, ceilings and heating systems they are more economical en masse than stand alone structures in the middle of a Norfolk field.

Our politicians with their ‘green’ credentials have all but obliterated public transport from rural areas, forcing the population to use a car for almost every journey, many making two journeys each way to drop children at school or fetch a partner from the station.

Londoners cycle, walk or use public transport to get around the capital; we have more buses in the capital than you can shake a stick at, while after work we crowd into local shops, restaurants, pubs or theatres without having to travel vast distances to enjoy our leisure pursuits, and as I keep telling my customers, Londoners are blessed with the world’s finest taxi service, taking up to six people per vehicle, making it one of the most green public transport vehicles on the road, but then again I would say that.

Green Dustmen

article-1063711-0136221B000004B0-32_233x310 Driving in the West End chances are that you will find yourself stuck behind a dustcart. Sorry, environment improving vehicle. I seem to spend more time stationary behind them each day than an MP spends calculating his expenses.

It was on one of these unscheduled stops that I realised that there is more than one organisation collecting this rubbish, many businesses in London use the services of commercial refuse collectors and do not rely on the local council.

Warming, or was that global warming, to my theme I observed that all these vehicles proclaim their green credentials. So how can it be more “green” to have three vehicles twice a day collecting stuff? All are diesel, not electric; all keep their engines running continuously; and worse the traffic stuck behind them sits stationery belching out fumes.

Is it more financially viable to use different collections, or is it that the council refuses to collect the rubbish from these companies?

Surely one vehicle used during the night around these narrow streets would be more friendly to the environment, but more, much more important than that, they wouldn’t get in my way.

Capt. Jack Sparrow FM

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about this, but I suppose this is something we in London stoically accept, it’s a distraction when driving, illegal and costs industry money.

Travelling through a less than salubrious district of London and listening to LBC James Whale’s radio show recently the signal disintegrated into a jumble of voices and music.

[U]nlike many of my colleagues I don’t listen to the strong signal provided by Capital Gold (how many times can you listen to the same 20 songs?), preferring rather to listen to talk only stations. With the notable exception of Radio 4, the problem is that these commercial radio stations have a weak signal.

The manufacturers of the ‘iconic’ London taxi, when redesigning the latest vehicle decided to keep the nostalgia of the taxi we remember from our childhood. Unfortunately they were over enthusiastic and kept the poor brakes (without ABS), leaking bodywork and yes, a radio straight out of 1950’s. Some days I turn on the radio expecting to hear Worker’s Playtime amongst the static.

So why should I, just because I haven’t got a digital radio, have to listen to Dizzee Rascal or advertisements from a Caribbean greengrocer?

Pirate interference is a serious problem in London. These stations interfere with licensed broadcasters and make listening to the radio in some areas almost intolerable. The law claims to offer harsh sanctions for those convicted of illegal broadcasting. In 2005 Ofcom seized the transmitter of a West London illegal station as it was causing interference. The station manager was later convicted at Acton Magistrates Court of theft of a transmitter, and of rendering a service to an illegal station. He was fined £250 on each count.

The real world of pirate radio stations nowadays is very different from the romantic and nostalgic picture of the 1960s. The reality is that illegal stations do real harm to the communities they purport to serve. They are operated with wanton disregard for the health and safety of others and, in many cases, are highly profitable operations that feed other criminal activities.

They cause significant disruption and damage to legitimate businesses that have paid significant sums to the Government in licence fees for radio frequencies that are in large part unusable. Many illegal stations are tied to the drugs trade and are used to promote events where drugs can be bought or sold.

A report in the The Times last year summarised the position well when it said:

There are more than 150 illegal stations across the country, a third of which are said to be run by criminal gangs who use them as a front to sell drugs. Previous raids have found drugs, guns and ammunition among the piles of CDs. Drug dealers within earshot of some stations keep tuned to wait for a particular song to be played or a phrase to be uttered, knowing that it is the signal that their next shipment is ready for collection.

There you have it from The Thunder no less, and all I want to do is listen to some London news . . . and drive a cab that been designed for the 21st century without listening to Marconi’s original radio.

No Room at the Bin


I don’t know how it happened, but I used only to put out the rubbish once a week, a simple task which took but a few minutes.

Now I have been promoted by Cabbie Wife to Chief Recycler. I spend a lot of time every week recycling rubbish. Newspapers and plastic bottles have to go in one box, but yellow pages for some inexplicable reason are unacceptable, wine bottles to go to the glass bank, not to mention leaves, cut grass and other garden waste collected separately. In the busy life of CabbieBlog it eats up between half an hour and an hour a week spent recycling.

Apparently I’m only member of the household who can perform this important task. If asked to get rid of a carton or bottle, which seldom happens, my family peer at it as though they have never seen such an object before.

[M]illions of us have to recycle and we live in daily fear of being fined by officious council representatives for getting our bins in a muddle, putting out rubbish on the wrong day, or just putting the bins in the wrong place.

I still harbour a distant hope that in doing so I may somehow be helping the planet by ensuring that too many nasty tins and bottles aren’t buried in Britain’s green and pleasant land and thereby stopping polar bears drown in the Arctic.

According to Peter Jones, an expert on waste, who advises the Mayor of London, “the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away”.

So there you have it, fewer greenhouse gases are produced if you burn rubbish locally than if you sort it and send it halfway round the world. Now as a result of the current precarious state of the world’s economy, there is a collapse in the market value of recyclable waste and many waste disposal firms are having to stockpile paper, metals and plastics in vast warehouses because they are unable to sell them on. This means that the rubbish I spend hours struggling to sort out every day may, in fact, never be recycled because it is not economic to do so.

The Government and local councils are fully aware of the shortcomings of recycling, and yet they do not share their reservations with us. They seek to impose ever more draconian penalties. We have to do what we are told, whereas many councils do as they choose by collecting kitchen rubbish once a fortnight, as opposed to once a week, as used to be the rule. So we are bullied and intimidated and threatened by the authorities who, meanwhile, have the nerve to set aside their own traditional obligations. I have recently received a letter with a veiled threat of prosecution under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Yet they know that recycling is a very imperfect process, and use the law to ensure that we carry it out on pain of a fine, one can only conclude that they love ordering our lives to the tiniest degree.

Most of us would cheerfully give up our time to recycle if we thought it was beneficial to the environment. But it is impossible to respect a Government which privately acknowledges the shortcomings of recycling – and whose adviser openly expresses his doubts – while it treats a small infraction in our kitchens as a crime.