Thursday, 10 July 2008

Bristol's most boring blogger?

The casual pursuit of internet links sometimes leads one to serendipitous discoveries. One such is a blog by Professor K Vala Ragnarsdottir of the University of Bristol, the Schumacher Society and the Bristol Sustainability Network, imaginatively entitled "Sustainability". She must be very busy being sustainable because this year she has only found the time for one post on her blog.

But what a post! How succinctly she summarises that auspicious day, the 9th of June 2008, with these words "I visit my friend Sue and her family, husband Andy and daughters Maddy and Lena." That's it! All she has to say to the waiting world about sustainability for this day, and indeed for this whole year, so far.

But a glance at her previous entry, for 22nd November last year, reveals why she has perhaps judged that saying less is best. She says "I land at Newark airport just outside of New York and wait in transit for some time because my internal flight is late. First impression: The airport is full of places to eat." Hmm, how observant.

But hang on a minute, did she say "I land at Newark"? In a blog about Sustainability? So does she perhaps go on to explain why her flight was unavoidable, or how she fretted about the environmental impact? Er no, not a word about it, although she's quick enough to slag off her host nation for being "bimodal" – either grossly obese or normal weight.

She goes on to remark that the newspapers are full of reports about hurricanes and coastal erosion "but still everyone is driving around in SUVs" (but since they're all so obese they'd look damn silly squeezing into Citroen C1s, wouldn't they). What hypocrites these Americans are!

It seems that Professor Ragnarsdottir is herself "bimodal", one minute sneering at the masses for their vulgar, unsustainable habits, the next casually flitting across the Atlantic pumping pollutants into the stratosphere.


Matt Fortnam said...

Dear Chris,

I was upset to read this blog post. I have often enjoyed your postings but I feel this was entirely unnecessary.

Ecojam has only publicly been launched in the last month. The blog postings you refer to were included as test entries and in fact the date June 9th has no relevance to the posting. I accept full responsibility for that.

Ecojam is a new endeavour and as such the blogs are in their early stages of development. I'm not sure if lampooning new, inexperienced bloggers is an appropriate tactic. You will certainly alienate others from getting involved.

To view this, only weeks before Vala leaves for her homeland of Iceland is deplorable. Vala has been a huge inspiration and force behind the sustainability agenda in Bristol, dedicating tireless hours to the city. After years of campaigning she has finally made the University of Bristol stand up to the sustainability challenge. Only on Wednesday, the cross departmental BRITE initiative began; research that could lead to real change in Bristol and beyond. In the city, she established the Bristol Sustainability Cafes which has engaged several hundred citizens, academics, business people and decision makers. This vision has been adopted by the Bristol Partnership's Green Capital initiative. Ecojam owes a huge debt of gratitude to Vala for her continued support, as do countless other initiatives in the city. In the Department of Earth Sciences, through her sustainable futures course, many students have become enthused by environmental issues. Another legacy she is leaving.

I could go on and on.

If anyone is to blame for a boring blog it is me. I have now closed her blog.

Kind regards,


Vala said...

Wow, to be singled out as the most boing blogger in Bristol is in itself an achievement!

I agree that environmentalists are an easy target to attack when it comes to flying. But I assure you that every flight I book is only done I feel that my presence at whatever meeting I´m invited to will make a difference. When traveling in Europe I take the train, even to Venice.

Earlier this year I attempted to turn down an invitation to Sweden on the account that my carbon footprint was too large - to which my colleague responded: Your work on soil sustainability and creating sustainable communities is so important that you should never worry about your carbon footprint...

That comment can of course be debated.

I do not take holidays that need flights.

I´m about to move to Iceland where I will attempt to influence the local community to live more sustainably - based on the success of the Sustainability Cafes that I have organised in Bristol since 2006. See reports from Cafes at

These outcomes have been adopted by the Green Capital Momentum Group (of which I am a member) as the vision for sustainable Bristol.

The Bristol Sustainability Networks was also founded as a result of these cafes and after that was developed by my research assistant Matt Fortnam, linking over a thousand ´green´activists and companies in the city.

Ideas developed in the Sustainability Cafes were also included in the Bristol Green EU Capital bid this September, for which Bristol now has been short-listed along with 7 other European cities.

Bristol has now been deemed to be the most sustainble city in the UK.

I do not claim these successes personally, but I have been involved with a large number of fantastic people in Bristol that have worked hard to green the image of the city and increase the well-being of its citizen.

Lastly, this week a BriTE Futures Institute was launched at the University of Bristol - which will work on finding sustainability solutions for the 21st century.

Good luck Bristol in your green quests in the future!

Chris Hutt said...

Firstly to Matt Fortnam.

Let's get a few facts right. Your site, ecojam, was up and running in June if not earlier, so saying that it's only been launched in the last month is misleading. When I viewed it in July there was no indication that I recall that it was only a 'test', whatever that is supposed to mean. Nor do I recall any indication at the time that Vala was due to return to Iceland.

If you or I post anything on the Internet it is then in the public domain and fair game for anyone to have a pot at. That's the nature of the Internet and, as they say, "if you don't like the heat..."

Whatever Vala's contribution might have been, at least she appears to have been paid well enough for it, enough to pay for a trendy loft apartment and frequent fights abroad anyway, which is more than can be said for many other long standing environmental campaigners in Bristol. So let's not make her out to be some sort of heroine.

If you read this you will have gathered that I don't think much of ecojam. In my view it's part of the problem rather than part of the solution. You buy into a lot of green hype that is promoted simply to obscure the reality of the profoundly ungreen nature of Bristol's economy.

Secondly to Vala.

We can all make excuses for flying. I do myself. But at least I know they are just excuses and I don't expect others to buy the idea that I'm so special that I should be allowed to fly when they shouldn't, which seems to be your line.

It would be interesting to know what you think your carbon footprint is, including all those business trips. Pretty massive I would guess, as is often the case with high-profile 'environmentalists'.

As for your work promoting Bristol as some sort of a Green Capital, you may have noticed that I am not the only one who is quite incredulous of this.

Bristol is far from even qualifying for consideration in such a competition, yet your work deflects public attention away from Bristol's shortcomings and focuses on those few Green scraps with which the city tries to conceal its true nature.

In short your work is counter-productive from a green perspective.

By all means respond to that if you wish. I'm happy to publicise such a vitally important debate.


Anonymous said...

Who needs the radical leftwing when you can rally the greens against each other


PS. Good Luck in Iceland Vala