OK, here’s a list of things. Check these out:
It’s pretty easy to find examples of all these things – follow the links if you like.
Now here’s another list of things:
Couldn’t find anything to link to, there. Anyway, you probably get the idea. These are all silly things that The Ranger made up. Nobody would call a field an eco-field, even though it’s patently far more beneficial to biodiversity than, say, a car. This fact highlights an interesting and common bit of double-speak. It’s very often the case that when something is called an eco-thing, what this label paradoxically means is that the thing is actually harmful to the environment. Eco-plane is perhaps the easiest example of this usage to explore. The proposed eco-plane described in this article, to be used by easyJet, will be ‘capable of cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2015’. Now that sounds pretty good. Until you remember how UK air travel is expected to increase between now and 2015. In the last 30 years there has been a fivefold increase in air travel and it is forecast that UK air traffic will increase by 45% by 2015. It’s fair to assume that any benefit from CO2 reduction is going to be more than eaten up by the extra miles flown. So we won’t actually be any better off than we are now, despite the eco-plane. There are many other examples. The Tahoe eco-car – Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show 2008 (see pic above) – is a 4WD that gets 21mpg. It got this award because it has “a fuel efficiency improvement of up to 30 percent compared to similar vehicles equipped with a standard V-8”. Well done, Chevrolet, for that contribution. However perhaps the biggest example of this prefix-abuse is the eco-town. The government is proposing to build ten new eco-towns, largely on greenfield sites throughout England. Sounds great – until you read that sentence without the eco- in it. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says many of the short-listed schemes are former failed development schemes, chosen by developers and running against local development plans. CPRE even says that eco-towns are “the least sustainable way” of developing housing. The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England, is also very unhappy about this proposal, not least because they say it will bypass the existing planning process. This wouldn’t be a surprise. The planning process has already been the target of Gordon Brown’s ire when he was chancellor. He seems happy to argue that the long, tortuous and painful process of getting planning consent is something which should be bypassed for big, shiny projects that, basically, he wants to undertake. This is a mistake. The planning process is long and annoying for a reason: it’s meant to be. Big projects which have a big impact need long, careful and thorough consideration. Everyone needs to have their say. And if lots of people say they don’t want like it, often – although not necessarily always – that might mean that it doesn’t happen. The correct answer to dissent cannot ever be to ask a different question. So to dress up a proposal for a set of new towns by labelling them eco-towns is annoyingly patronising. Eco-towns might well be less environmentally damaging than non-eco-towns. But the eco-label is here in danger of making eco-towns look like the Chevvy Tahoe. In the areas affected, eco-towns are still overall a lot worse for the environment than no eco-towns. The eco-label seems to be a way to bypass the step of asking ‘do we want new towns at all?’, and if anyone is critical of the proposal, they cannot avoid the suspicion that they are perhaps not as ‘eco-‘ as they should be. Better to be frank. All new buildings should be meet high environmental standards, not just special ones in ‘eco-towns’. New towns are new towns: let’s call them that. And then use the well tried and tested planning system to decide honestly and openly whether we really need them or not.