back to article The Guardian's excellent Web 2.0 blog-up

Late last month The Guardian quietly put to sleep its exercise in fighting climate change via the power of blogs, Tread Lightly. Nine months of weekly personal CO2 reduction pledges by Guardian readers had shown, Carolyn Fry wrote bravely, "that even relatively small weekly carbon savings can add up to significant amounts if …


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  1. Mark

    Good article - but . . .

    Good points made about the web 2.0 stuff.

    However as a regular Guardian reader (who didn't sign up to this) the heightended awareness of the issues that the campaign raised has changed some of my behaviours with regard to wasting energy. Presumably the same applies to many other Guardian readers.

    So trying to assess the success of the campaign purely based on the number of people that signed up is more than a little limited.

  2. david


    The point of the excercise was a lot of people doing small things - so that would be a fail then, however you assess it.

  3. Steve K Silver badge

    How about the savings from not buying the Guardian?

    It's a shame that their analysis did not determine whether the pledges from those that signed up would have offset the carbon impact of their Grauniad newspaper purchases over that period.

    I suspect it might show that not reading a dead tree-based newspaper (and especially the Grauniad...) is a worthy pledge to make.

  4. 770193

    Good article

    Obviously a writer who knows the biz. Good piece.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    And I thought

    ... this article was going to be kicking lumps out of the new abysmal "comment is free" changes.

    Web 2.0. Now with added brokenness

  6. breakfast

    I hate Sebastien Coe!

    This really reminds me of Chris Morris interviewing the lady with the jam festival on The Day Today.

  7. Jonathan

    "turning off" power stations

    'if Guardian readers switched to energy efficient light bulbs "this week, we could turn off a coal-fired power station for one day, one hour, 46 minutes and 1 second." '

    i don't get statements like this... its not as if they will turn off the power station, i doubt its even as if they will put a bit less coal in the furnace...

    "oh look... we've got 10,000 energy saving light bulbs plugged in... we had better take a few shovels of coal out of the furnace"

    i'd have thought its more likely to be a case of

    "we've got peak demand of x MegaWatts from <list of assorted major industrial consumers/>, we'll leave the furnace running at the most efficient level to meet that demand and hang the wasted energy when we're below peak"

  8. Nick Kew

    Web 2.0

    So it told me my carbon footprint is 0.0, 100% below the national average.

    Well I know it's low, but that calculation looks like an artifact of "web 2.0". Adds breakage to what we had before the luvvies discovered it.

    Mine's the shabby one that fits a chap with 20 years less paunch.

  9. James Anderson

    Energy savings bulbs.

    Is there someone out there who can actually test the "equivalent to 40 watts" type claims they put on these things.

    The two "40 watt equivalent" bulbs I've got together put out about as much light as you would expect from a tungsten bulb with thier actual 7 watt rating.

    I suppose we are not allowed to raise a standards complaint in case it upsets the religious sensibilities of the Global Warming cultists.

  10. Dan Cooke
    Thumb Down

    'Change Making Machines'

    "Newspapers can be quite useful things, can inflict the occasional dent on deserving targets and can cause some small changes, but they are most certainly not large-scale change-making machines."

    come on, this is complete rubbish. Look at how terrified the public are now after having 'terror' this and 'al-qaeda' that constantly thrown in their face compared with when the IRA was actually bombing and killing us (or the germans for that matter). large scale change-making machines they _exactly_ are. the problem that the guardian is facing is that they are trying to affect people's actions, rather than their opinion. If they just carried on spouting 'omg, we're all gonna die from global warming, possible links to conventional lightbulbs' people would begin to accept this and then act on their own.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    Bored. The Guardian never misspelled it's name. It's a myth.

  12. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    Media make a difference

    Course they do.

    No telly - lots more productive free time or destructive wastage of free time (drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence, straw for thruppence). And lots less free propaganda for viciously reactionary values.

    No gutter press - no freebie propaganda for fascist values, no paedo or "porno" witch-hunting, no universal celebrity cult or idiotic soft porn on page 3.

    No media advertising - no insane branding propaganda or murderous and inhuman "ideal" supermen and women.

    Minds free to think and reflect and create.

    Thing is, people who think about the environment have started changing consumption patterns ages ago. And people who care about poverty in the third world are already involved in one way or another with some project to improve things. The Guardian isn't a political party or a one-issue movement (like say GreenPeace or Amnesty), so it's mobilization clout is limited from the start.

    (Paris cos she has a number of one-issue movements)

  13. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Graun

    It spelled its own name 'Guaridan' on a few weeks back. If only I'd got a screenshot.

    Anyway, it's just become an affectionate nickname, Grauniad, and it's too widespread as a thing for us or anyone else to stop it. And so.

  14. Alan Paul

    @ James Anderson

    Maybe the problem isn't the bulbs, per se, but rather the effect on them of your dull opinions.

    Really, what is the point of articles like this? So the Guardian failed to have the effect they'd hoped for, but as Mark points out in the first comment, they may have been able to raise awareness of the issues and influence the behaviour of those who didn't sign up to their campaign in small ways, which is all to the good.

    Certainly it's better than the tedious, smug, self-satisfied circle jerk of the "environMENTALISTS are teh nazis" crowd. Like, yeah, you don't give a shit. Well done, have a medal.

  15. Francis Irving

    Not wrong to try, they just tried the wrong thing

    Tread Lightly was so dumb, I certainly wouldn't use it to conclude that newspapers can't influence things by campaigning. If they'd done smart things - new promises rather than tired lightbulbs, and smarter political lobbying via their readers, it would have made a difference. But just copying numerous over pointless, feel good campaigns, that doesn't work.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What future for the Grauniad?

    Given its current trajectory, it's interesting to consider if Rusbridger and Hickman could find gainful employment on Bella. The absence of political content could be a problem, but the deal-breaker would have to be the obligation to put plain facts in simple language.

    Example, assignment for journalism students: Mercury lightbulbs - what to do if you break one. Write 250 words pitched for (a) the Graun, (b) Bella.

  17. James Anderson
    Thumb Down

    @Alan Paul

    I think the problem really is the bulbs.

    They are just not as bright as they claim to be, this has been remarked on by no less a personage than Angel Merkal the German chacelorrin.

    I think you amply clarified my point that environmentalism has come to resemble a fundimentalist cult which cannot accept any deviation from thier accepted othodoxy.

    The current holier than thou / green is good / thou shalt suffer for the planet preaching is generating massive support for Jeremy Clarkson refusenik tendency.

    The whole environmental movement seems to be degenerating into a seventies type Trotskyite party where toeing the party line is more important than dealing with reality.

  18. Hugo
    Thumb Up

    Re: Re: Graun

    Quite a few "Guaridan" typos by "Guaridan" journos here. Screenshot away:

    (Oh, and if you mispell the classic mispelling, Google helpfully suggests: "Did you mean: grauniad" :)

  19. Scott

    @Alan Paul

    You dropped your dummy mate, i'm off to burn a few tyres.

  20. Alan Paul

    My sides!

    Ah, Scott, you really are quite the wit.

    James A - "I think you amply clarified my point that environmentalism has come to resemble a fundimentalist cult which cannot accept any deviation from thier accepted othodoxy."

    Um, just how exactly?

    Given that we're currently over-reliant on finite resources for our energy needs, surely cutting back a little - even just by using energy saving bulbs - is a good thing? I think you're confusing 'fundamentalist' with 'thinks that unimaginative, attention seeking little dimwits who'd eat their own shit if a perceived do-gooder told them they shouldn't (see Scott, above) are a bit tedious and really ought to grow up.'

  21. Adam Williamson
    Paris Hilton


    "...people have short attention spans, and they wander off fairly rapidly if you bang away at the same thing ad nauseam."

    Hence the Reg's broadening out from the boring old technology industry into big shiny planes and amateur hour climate change scepticism?

    Suddenly it all makes sense!

    As Francis says, you've got to at least give them points for trying...

    The British newspaper industry (well, local papers are much the same, which is why I don't read those either...) is a bit depressing, really. Living out here in Canada I get the Guardian Weekly, which is a deeply impressive publication; 48 pages or so in tabloid format once a week. No fluff, just several pages of world news, a few pages of U.K. news, a comment section (the best of the comment from the domestic edition, some unique to the Weekly, and Weekly readers' letters), an excellent arts and culture section and a bit of sport. It's covered many important issues long before the rest of the media really picked up on them.

    When I occasionally go back to England I pick up a domestic Guardian and am instantly depressed by how much crap it's padded out with. There was an article on the design trends in cotton shopping bags last time, for Pete's sake. This BS is obviously included because it's necessary to sell papers in the domestic market, because it's the kind of drooling idiocy the best-selling domestic papers (Mail, Express, Times, Telegraph) are stuffed with. But damn, does it make the thing depressing to read (and awkward to carry). There's probably enough useful content in the entire mess that is a modern daily British paper (never mind the wasteland of the Saturday and Sunday papers) to fill a single 24 to 32-page tabloid sheet.

    As Francis says, it's nice that the Graun is trying *something* new, just a pity they're basically doing the wrong thing. They've clearly recognized the traditional newspaper industry is chasing itself rapidly up its own arsehole, but haven't quite put their finger on what to do instead yet. Hopefully they'll succeed eventually. If not I hope they just dump the domestic publication, jack up the price of the international edition to cover costs, and carry on selling that. I'd happily pay a couple of hundred quid for my annual subscription.

    As for the happy-talk about the programs - well, what did you expect? Newspapers employ PR flacks just like everyone else. Do you honestly expect them to say "well, folks, this thing's going down faster than Paris Hilton on a barrel of margaritas and a video camera - we're going to re-shuffle the deckchairs a bit so it looks like we're doing something to make it work better"? Of course they bloody wouldn't.

  22. Ian McNee

    Interblog Two-point-oh Carbon Manolo-Blahnik-Sandalprint Outrage

    And another thing: have any of these eco-Twitterers bothered to calculate the extra carbon generated by all the hits and blog whines and sanctimoniously smug e-mails generated by this pointless little escapade? You can bet your organic carrots they haven't! How many minutes it that power station going to have to be turned back on for? And then there's the bloke who has to keep switching it on and off - how does he get there to do that? On his bike? Don't make me laugh! He goes in his 4x4 I bet! Where's your 53 tons of carbon saved now??

    Oooh...I'm so mad (no, really...) I could write to the Daliy Mail about it or maybe start a website or a blog. We should get a Farcebollox group together to stop this kind of thing! Careful now! That would show them! That would change things...oh...ahh...what? I've contradicted myself there? Right...ttfn :)

  23. Paul M.

    @Alan Paul

    "tedious, smug, self-satisfied circle jerk"

    That's two (or more) Guardian readers in a lift. Or at a dinner party.

    You never been to Hampstead or Islington, then?

  24. Luke McCarthy

    Pointless penny-pinching

    Evidently, people see through this bullshit or just don't give a fuck. So what if there's a bit more CO2, it might be slightly warmer, plants will grow better and the sea level rises a few cm over a few centuries (back to previous historical levels). Whoop-de-do. Worth lowering your quality of life sunstantially for approximately zero effect on the climate? No thanks Grauniad.

  25. Trix
    Dead Vulture

    So what was the point of this article?

    So one of the exercises the Guardian tried in terms of rustling up pledges to a scheme didn't work? While you admit that the Katine Village thing seems to be ok, and we don't see a mention of any of the other zillion or so successful blogs or the Comment Is Free area (while CiF is like a bunch of monkeys flinging poo much of the time, you can't say it's not heavily patronised).

    So, really, one small part of the online content doesn't have many people actively subscribed to it. I had a look, I think, but I didn't see any point in subscribing, although I read the articles occasionally. There's a metric f*ckton of stuff that has plenty of activity and readership.

    Let's be generous, and say that the carbon pledge thing was about 2% of the "interactive" site content - are we going to have reports on any other site who has a less-than-anticipated uptake of something new that makes up some small percentage of the overall content? I'm sure none of us can wait for this exercise in bleeding edge journalism.

    As for those here who said this was a good article, why, exactly?

  26. Martin Usher
    IT Angle

    The real story is the CiF changes

    The Guardian changed their Comment is Free format recently and this is wha should really make news for a technical website. Especially as some threads are still using the old format so you can compare the new to the old. Like a lot of '2,0' web design the new format sucks because its got less information on a page and runs slower. (The new stuff has also got tracking software in it, sort of Phorm-lite but using gobs of Javascript on the pages -- meanwhile, if you've got a long thread open typing in the comment box gets you one character a second).

    They're not the only people screwing up like this. Obviously its some trend to make the Web unusable.

  27. Peter

    The sweet smell of, um, er...

    Actually, I give anyone credit for trying anything positive in this regard, but have to say, as somewhat of a veteran in such areas now, a pledge seems something only a box-ticking, bonus-seeking measurement junkie could love. That, or a good name for some stuff that puts a nice-smelling, shiny gloss on a tired surface.

    Frankly, from the off I thought many were daft and some plain insulting. And by putting my name to it what, exactly, happened, or changed? Especially if I did, but then didn't, if you get my drift.

    I didn't even bother checking it after the first few, much less sign up.

    Just a pity such enthusiasm, time, money and effort might not have been better directed, bearing in mind a willing an energetic target prepared to get on board.

  28. Jon

    Depressing response to environmentalism

    I'm in agreement with Alan Paul here - sure The Reg takes a sideways look at things from time to time, and as we know mixes a laugh in with stories - but the environmentalism-bashing that goes on in the comments - not just on this story - is frustrating. At least environmentalists are trying to make a difference to the world - yet many a time the Jeremy Clarkson brigade are sitting on their behinds doing b*gger-all unless it serves their own selfish selves.

    Perhaps it is a valid criticism that environmentalism is something that is repeated ad nauseum - but this comes about I think because of peoples' fundamental resistance to change (people don't like to think they are causing climate damage, thus leading to "cognitive dissonance" - they reject the argument in spite of the evidence). The science as we know it concludes almost unanimously that increased CO2 levels that have come about from man-made sources are changing the climate. This means increased levels of large-scale weather events such as flooding, drought and typhoons (depending on where in the world you live). What's worse is that people in the Europe and the US will not have to suffer from the initial effects of climate change, and yet they are substantial causes of it.

    The naysayers are welcome to be skeptical - but should read thoroughly on the topic, rather than accepting the messages of the corporate press before rejecting it (we must remember that the corporate press have a bias towards anti-environmentalism - they are relying on the status quo for their income, as I mention later). He's somewhat biased, I admit, but one of the best journos on the topic is George Monbiot, who has an excellent grasp of how to proceed against environmental collapse. I'm not into product endorsement, but his recent book "Heat" is a must-read on both sides of the argument. It really is thorough and collects a large number of disparate facts needed to understand the issues.

    Where we have seen "science" to the contrary - put forward by people wanting a "balanced argument" - it has usually been by front groups such as the (happily now defunkt) Global Climate Coalition, who were funded by (guess who) Chevron, Chrysler, Shell (and many others).

    So, let's not bash the Guardian for a effort that may have failed, or call them "hippies" and "sandal-wearers" as we sneer at them. However, they *do* deserve criticism for the fact that around 75% of their revenue comes from advertising, which is primarily made up of - umm - selling new cars and flights (two major causes of global warming). We shouldn't forget also that they own the Autotrader brand too. With all that in mind, it should be a bit difficult to call them tree-huggers.

    I'm ending here, and selecting the jacket - I'm getting mine if the spitefulness against people wanting to achieve positive change doesn't let up in the comments.

  29. John Morris

    Katine Village

    The Guardian should be commended for its Katine village project, despite the ever-so-slightly-annoying tone of the project's NGO, Amref. It brought an important subject to my attention, at least.

    The latter (Amref) appears to be a tad too similar to a UK county council for my liking, being run by the sort of people who thrive on numerous committee meetings, who "consult" on issues post- rather than pre-decision, who get paid more than we feel fair for jobs that they volunteered for in the first place, and who use an ingenious degree of obfuscation in hiding the cost of those salaries amongst worthy sounding titles and headings such as "Monitoring and evaluation activities" and "Procurement and delivery of actual activities".

    However the best part of the whole Katine series has been the blog contributions from, and links to, an equally worthy target of our generosity,

  30. Dr Stephen Jones
    Thumb Up

    @Jon: "Positive Change"


    "I'm getting mine if the spitefulness against people wanting to achieve positive change doesn't let up in the comments."

    Why is environmentalism "positive" change? Is it positive when the lights go out, because the Greens have stopped us building coal, gas or nuclear power stations?

    Is it positive that we will have to sacrifice so much of our leisure time for pointless gestures if they get their way?

    Is it positive that developing countries are denied economic development, to take their populations out of poverty (and charity), and the high infant mortality rates that go with poverty?

    Funny definition of "positive" you have there.

    Maybe the eco-critics are not being spiteful, but rational - and you've just backed a lousy cause? "Get Poorer For Gaia" is an idea that most people find revolting, and will never be accepted in a democracy.

    In all, it just sounds like you want a free pass from criticism.

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