07 Sep 2012
What do exercise, religion, and laundry have in common? That's right - they're all things the Sceptic Tank just doesn't "do". The clue's in the name really.
There's a lot of unanswered questions, you see. Such as, why would a just and loving God inflict James Delingpole's prose on the world, much less the electorate? And where did our favourite penguin socks go?
But recent developments seem to suggest that if there is a God, he or she may well be an environmentalist - just look at Pope Benedict XVI, the man considered God's representative on Earth by almost a fifth of the world.
The Pope has written of the need to protect God's creation in his encyclicals, as well as raising the issue on his foreign trips and in annual peace messages, while on his watch the Vatican has installed solar photovoltaic cells and offset its carbon dioxide emissions through a reforestation scheme.
And now the good people at Renault have clearly bagged themselves a prime parking spot in heaven by giving His Holiness an electric car.
The white, modified Kangoo Maxi Z.E. van boasts not only the Pope's official livery, but also an impressive range of 170km (106 miles) on a single charge. And Renault hasn't forgotten the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City, otherwise known as La Fuzz, who can follow the Pope around in their very own blue version with snazzy white and yellow stripes.
Sadly, the new car is not an official Pope-mobile and will only be used for pootling around Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.
But still, this is the third electric addition to the Vatican fleet after Italian automaker NWG donated an electric car to the press office earlier this year, a move that allows the church to set a fine example to the millions who look to the Pope for direction. And if the last two years as a green guru have taught the Tank anything, it's that environmental progress is nothing if not a numbers game.
29 Aug 2012
Ah the seventies. Sure, we only had electricity three days a week, two channels on TV and a record of hooliganism that would embarrass Genghis Khan, but still – it was a simpler time.
Men were men, women were women, and anyone in door-to-door sales was a randy old goat. Yes, popular fiction would have us believe window washers, driving instructors and gas-fitters were all delivering bored housewives considerably more than an extended warrantee – just ask Robin Askwith.
Of course, since those heady days, the face of the British economy has undergone a Jocelyn Wildenstein-esque transformation, which should (pay attention at the back there, George) soon establish the UK as a low-carbon hub.
But how to convince those Tory grandees who fear a solar farm might ruin that half of Oxfordshire they inherited from Great Uncle Tarquin? Well, the Tank might just have found the most convincing argument for the green economy yet, and all thanks to Rupert Murdoch's ever-charming Sun.
The Sun's hard-hitting problem page, Dear Deirdre, reported this weekend that a 19-year-old solar panel fitter is effortlessly rising to the challenge of entertaining ladies of a certain age.
"He was with his boss and was really sweet. They took a few days on the job and I really got to know him chatting over cups of tea and so on," wahey-ed a 38-year-old in the Bun's august pages this Sunday.
And as is the way of these affaires de coeur, "things then went to the next level and ended up in my bed".
Great stuff, another beautiful tale of requited love with sexy results, thought the Tank, flicking towards the front of the paper – but wait! "He's called me tonight," complained our not-in-any-way-made-up correspondent, "and says our relationship must end as his mum would go mad if she found out about us!" Bom, bom booooooooom
Fortunately, Deirdre is quick to put a metaphorical arm round the broken-hearted lady's shoulder. "There was never much chance this relationship would last," she sympathises, before parroting her unique brand of agony aunt platitudes.
Of course the important thing here is: who is this man? Do YOU know him? Write to [get back to the point – Ed]
Ahem. Of course, the most important thing here is: the benefits of green jobs are clear – not only economic growth and energy independence, but also a sure-fire way to win over that tricky Shades of Grey-reading demographic and a return to good-old seventies values. What more could all those Tory strategists worried about their party's appeal to women voters want?
21 Aug 2012
Now, you and I know there's been a lot of handwringing over how to get people enthused about waste. The country's losing billions by failing to recycle materials and yet somehow businesses have not fully cottoned on.
You can imagine the consternation in Defra, where no doubt top mandarins are even now wandering through panelled rooms thick with cigar smoke beating their breasts and wondering aloud "just what will get John Bull playing ball?"
Well, worry not, as the Germans may just have cracked it. Yes, we give you... the Garbage Can World Cup!
Firmly under the "so bonkers it just might be brilliant" banner – think chocolate covered pretzels or Boris Johnson's political career to date – the world cup saw more than 60 drivers from across Europe race through the streets of Hermeskeil, western Germany, atop specially modified wheelie bins while mystifyingly dressed as rabbits, devils, and plain-old bin men.
Organiser Christoph Koenig said he came up with the idea at the Rock at the Ring music festival, held at the world famous Nuremburg Ring race track, when a no-doubt well refreshed – wasted, if you will – reveller lay down on a garbage can.
Norman Schaefer, a student from Nonnweiler, retained the title he won at 2009's inaugural event by shooting round the course in 21.1 seconds at speeds reminiscent of Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west.
"It is all about technique," the modest champion insisted. "Little contact of the feet to the asphalt and little contact between the garbage can and the ground – so that only those two wheels are rolling."
If all this sounds a bit, well, "Monkey tennis", Defra suits should note more than 6,000 spectators turned out to watch. All that's needed now is a whizzy marketing campaign, perhaps some controversial corporate sponsorship, and we're away. The ball's in your court, chaps.
You've got to love will.i.am. We mean you've actually got to, it's like the law or something.
Talented, charming, and so well connected it wouldn't surprise us if he could lay his hands on even more Olympic tickets than Princes William and Harry if he wanted to, the Black Eyed Peas front man is your go-to guy for sonically innovative modern pop, futuristic fashion choices, and talent show histrionics.
But now it turns out there is yet another reason to love the immaculately coiffed pop cultural Renaissance Man: he's a recycler. Or, to deploy the term dreamed up by the marketing mafiosi at Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters, he's an EKOCYCLER – and yes, you do need the capitals, the trade mark demands it.
That's right folks, his infamous decision to attend a climate change summit via helicopter (the day satire not so much died, as curled up in a ball in the corner softly weeping to itself) means he is unlikely to ever earn the soubriquet "environmentalist". But it turns out that will.i.am is almost as fond of recycling as he is of unnecessary punctuation.
And in order to express this love, he has teamed up with Coca-Cola to promote its new EKOCYCLE project, an initiative to produce "on-trend" products that are partially made from recycled materials, such as Coca-Cola's ubiquitous cans and bottles.
Beats by Dr Dre (the company of choice for those who regard headphones as a lifestyle choice) and New Era (the firm famed for working out the magic formula required to sell baseball caps for £30 a pop), have pledged to deliver the first EKOCYCLE products with further partners set to be announced in the coming months.
In the meantime, it is up to will.i.am to deliver the necessary buzz and as always he is not about to disappoint.
"With the EKOCYCLE brand, I'm on a mission to educate and inspire consumers around the globe to seek out more sustainable lifestyle choices that will ultimately play a part in the movement toward a world with zero waste," said the multiple Grammy winner, deploying the kind of rhetorical skills that have made him one of the world's most famous rappers, and in no way sounding as if his mouth has been taken hostage by a corporate marketing department.
"By making products that contain recycled materials more attractive to both businesses and consumers, everyone can do their part to keep the cycle going to turn discarded waste into cool, new items. The Coca-Cola Company shares this vision and together working with local communities worldwide we will showcase the greater value of recycling, as well as selecting products that feature recycled materials."
Thanks will.i.am, and thanks Coca-Cola – feel free to chalk up the Sceptic Tank as suitably "educated and inspired", and if you wouldn't mind popping round in your helicopter on Tuesday evening to help us put the recycling out that would be great.
27 Jul 2012
So, it's come to this. The trees have risen up, thrown off the shackles of their park ranger oppressors and are taking on the world in an echo of that most prophetic of films, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Oh Camden council – humanity will forever curse your name for bringing these creatures to life! Ok, also for that 'cash cow' speed camera near Gospel Oak, but mainly for those murderous trees, which will no doubt start careening through London throwing puppies for their small twigs to chase.
Who thought transforming Russell Square into "a living, breathing organism" by way of "a synchronised display of light and sound [to] echo the rhythmical qualities of the body" could be anything but a harbinger of apocalypse? Ye Gods – haven't you read Mary Shelley?
Now, every evening between 10pm and midnight residents must barricade themselves inside, away from the Godless spectacle of a leafy canopy transforming into "the anthropomorphic lungs of the city, rising and falling to the sounds of breathing and a beating heart". All it takes is a fiendish, yet outwardly innocent, device – a series of multi-coloured LED lights.
Resign yourselves, good denizens of London, for it is clear there can be no escape from the arboreal onslaught...
Except, what's that you say? The horror ends on Friday night? These malevolent spirits were really a council-backed art installation to celebrate its drive to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality? The title 'Breathing Trees' isn't a nod to late-90s rockers Screaming Trees?
We couldn't believe it either, until the council's cabinet member for culture, the appropriately-named Councillor Tulip Siddiq, confirmed everything.
"I'm delighted that we have been able to welcome this amazing piece of public art to Camden as part of our exciting cultural programme. The piece combines art with an underlying message about the importance of trees within our great city," she said, before seemingly muttering something indistinguishable about "getting away with it" and "pesky kids".
And if that wasn't enough to detonate the Tank's attempts to use the old 'it's the end of the world' line to pick up women, in weighed Councillor Phil Jones, cabinet member for sustainability.
"Breathing trees is not just a visual and audio spectacular, to me and the hundreds of people who came on the first night to witness the canopies come to life it will reinforce our message that our natural environment must be protected," he cheered. "Without protecting our wonderful natural resources we will be unable to tackle the many environmental issues in the years to come."
So Londoners can breathe easy again – well, as much as anyone can in a city boasting some of the worst air quality in Western Europe. The horror! The horror!
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