Jun 232011
 
Umbrella with raindrops

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Summer in West Cork tends to follow a familiar pattern – occasional brief periods of glorious sunshine when you really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world, but for the most part soggy, wet dull… and bloody cold!

There’s a song that could easily be the West Cork summer anthem. Its pretty much perpetually stuck in my head from the end of May until mid-September. As soon as the familiar scattered showers of spring elongate into the protracted solid periods of unrelenting rain that are the hallmark of a West Cork Summer, it’s there.

I guess I should at least be thankful that the song is bearable.

Here Comes The Rain Again by The Eurythmics–could this be the ideal West Cork summer anthem.

I LOVE living and working in West Cork… and feel very privileged to do so… but please, please, please can we have a little bit of sustained sunshine, and some slightly warmer evenings. Lighting the fire at the end of June because you’ve got frostbite in your extremities is frankly no fun at all!

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Nov 272009
 

Flood waters submerge a West Cork road during November's floods

Best wishes and condolences to everyone in West Cork, Cork City and further afield whose homes and businesses were affected by the recent flooding….

In Ireland we don’t do climatic extremes very well.

Maybe it’s the inevitable consequence of a climate that consistently under delivers. We don’t get long, baking hot droughts, we don’t get bone-chillingly cold winters with lots of snow and ice, we don’t get anything extreme on the weather front, really… just a perpetually dreary middle ground.

As a result we’re rubbish when it comes to dealing with weather-related problems. In the summer we moan about the rain, but on the (very) rare occasions when the sun does shine for more than a few days the council starts running out of water. If it has the temerity to snow the entire country grinds to a shuddering halt until things thaw out again, and anything more than a stiff breeze has us running indoors to take refuge from falling trees.

But if there was one type of weather you’d expect the Irish to cope well with it would be rain. If Ireland had an official national weather, then rain would be it! And yet here, too, we fail miserably at the faintest whiff of extremity.

Last week it rained hard for a few days, and highlighted just how flimsy our drainage systems, flood defences and coping mechanisms really are. Huge swathes of West Cork and a substantial chunk of Cork City sank beneath the rising flood waters, thousands of homes were damaged, hundreds of vehicles stranded and countless commuters failed to make it home to their families.

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Nov 102009
 
Carbon dioxide

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Global warming… or climate change as I prefer to call it (given that there’s been scant evidence of any actual "warming" going on in Ireland over the last few summers), is a serious issue for sure. But am I the only one worried by a recent spate of publicity that’s painting carbon dioxide (CO2) as a noxious chemical we need to eradicate?

One TV ad that targets children and parents is particularly disturbing, not because it deals with the sobering subject of climate change… but because it’s built around misinformation and blatant scaremongering. The ad I’m talking about shows a father reading a bedtime story to a little girl… a dreadful story about how the nasty CO2 monster, growing ever larger, is wreaking havoc with the climate and killing the planet. If you haven’t seen it you’ll find it below.

 

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Apr 162008
 

Published in the Career Moves section of The Evening Echo on Monday 14 April 2008

CSR; when I first heard it I thought it was another one of those far fetched American crime dramas. Then I discovered it was an acronym for Corporate Social Responsibility… and remained none the wiser.

So I Googled it (interesting aside: did you know that the name Google was an accidental misspelling of the word googol – the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes), and was promptly presented with 4,530,000 results on everything anyone could ever want to know about Corporate Social Responsibility.

First stop, Wikipedia, that font of online knowledge, which informed me that CSR: “is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations. This obligation is seen to extend beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation and sees organizations voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large.”

When I got my breath back I read it again.

CSR then is basically a commitment by an organisation to do business in a socially responsible way… to go that extra mile, to be a good corporate citizen and to look after the people and the environment it interacts with. It’s about businesses looking outside the corporate box and acknowledging their broader responsibility to society as a whole.

Which all sounds very laudable. But are businesses really doing it?

Plenty of high profile Irish organisations profess to be. That Google list I mentioned earlier contains links to comprehensive CSR Statements from the ESB, Coillte, Tesco Ireland , KPMG, Repak and others. But are they just words, or is the concept of CSR really resonating with organisations and punching through the profit-skewed view of Irish CEOs?

How many employees, for example, really and truly believe their employers are putting their best interests ahead of the corporate bottom line? Or that management would opt to go with a more costly supplier simply because they could demonstrate better environmental credentials? Would your HiPPO (Highest Paid Person in the Organisation) choose to forsake profit for the greater good? Some might answer yes, but my guess is that the vast majority would have to say no. Or at least not yet.

But that could be changing. The pressure on businesses to become more environmentally and socially responsible is growing all the time, thanks largely to the high profile of environmental issues surrounding climate change. Higher consumer and employee awareness of these issues and of how corporate entities are responding to them means that addressing them is moving out of the realm of positive spin and PR, and is fast becoming an economic imperative.

People are demanding more accountability from the companies they do business with, and the companies they choose to work for. These days if a company can’t demonstrate that its taking its social responsibilities seriously it can potentially impact the calibre of its future workforce and erode its customer base. Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t just about doing the right thing any more… it’s about staying competitive in a rapidly changing world.

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Mar 112008
 

Tom Raferty of “Tom Referty’s Social Media” has just set up a new blog to explore green issues. He ran a competition on his blog to suggest a domain and ended up choosing lowerfootprint.com — which was one of my offerings.

Tom passed on a Fire Eagle invitation (thanks Tom) for the winning suggestion. Fire Eagle is Yahoo’s new geographically aware platform that, in theory, will let other applications “know” where in the world you are at any given time, allowing them to tailor their services accordingly. I’ve signed up, but so far there’s no user-level application for the technology… although I see there are a few things in the pipeline. I’ll write more when there’s something to report.

Meanwhile I’d like to wish Tom all the best with his new venture. The more we can all do to bring the issues surrounding climate change to a mainstream audience, the better. Check it out, subscribe to the RSS feed, comment, encourage debate, spread the word, raise awareness.

Businesses are slowly coming around to the fact that they need to become more ecologically responsible — and the greener application of technology certainly has a big huge role to play in that transition. At present jury’s still out on how many are doing it for ethical/environmental reasons and how many are simply jumping on the eco-PR bandwagon — but the fact that they’re doing it at all is, I suppose, a step in the right direction.

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Mar 102008
 

I was intrigued to read this week that UK scientists are developing a technique to coat the steel sheets used in fabrication of industrial buildings with a solar powered paint which could, theoretically, result in warehouses whose entire surface area could convert solar energy into electricity.

Steel sheets are painted rapidly in steel mills by passing them through rollers. A consortium led by Swansea University, UK, hopes to use that process to cover steel sheets with a photovoltaic paint at up to 40 square metres per minute.

The paint will take advantage of dye-sensitised solar cells. They’re less efficient than conventional silicone based cells, but are also much cheaper, and can be applied to surfaces as a liquid.

“We should see a commercial cell in two-and-a-half years,” Dr David Worsley, leader of the Swansea team, told New Scientist.

There are still plenty of obstacles to overcome — but it’s an intriguing technology with potentially enormous global potential for harnessing the sun’s energy.

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