It was late morning, close to lunchtime. I wasn’t doing anything except flicking through the paper to make the time go faster, because I was hungry, and I could smell the aroma of something delicious floating up and in my window from the laneway below, where there are cafes.
Towards the back of the paper there was a ‘special advertising feature’. I knew straight away it was a ‘special advertising feature’ because it had the words ‘special advertising feature’ on top of both pages. It was the kind of thing in which the paper suckers some sponsors for cash and then writes lame advertorial next to the paid ads and buries the whole thing after Public Notices and before Sport where no-one will read it. It’s how you make money in publishing.
Anyway, the ‘special advertising feature’ was titled Saving our Environment and there was a picture of a mother polar bear and her cub standing around on some ice and directly below the picture was the caption: Bad news: melting ice in the Arctic affects us all. (‘Us’? Polar bears read the Herald Sun? I knew the Herald Sun was getting inflated readership figures from somewhere but I didn't realise it was the Arctic Circle.)
The lame copy accompanying the picture of the bad news-affected bears read, in part:
'In recognition of the devastating effects global warming is having on the Arctic, Melting Ice – a Hot Topic is the slogan for World Environment Day. But how can keeping warm in winter affect the planet?'
Which is about as non as sequitur can get. The lame copy went on to list ways in which people in, I don’t know, North Balwyn, are devastating the Arctic and killing polar bears, including:
'BOILING THE KETTLE: A standard kettle uses 0.11kWh of electricity each time it is used, which will generate 0.11kgCO2e.'
See? That cup of tea you made for Aunt Ethel just killed another bear. But wait a minute. What about that picture? I’ve seen it before.
Click,click, click: a little research. Ah, here we are. Far from being a recent picture of a mother polar bear and cub on receding ice caused by the devastating effects of global warming, it is actually a 2004 photograph for which the original caption read: Mother polar bear and cub on interesting ice sculpture carved by waves.
Tim Blair revealed the full story back in March, but the faux-devastation shot is still being used.
Following its photographic duplicity - if not outright lie – the ‘special advertising feature’ then went on to explain how you can have your cake and eat it too:
‘ ... carbon credits are a way individuals and organisations can decrease or eliminate their impact on the environment. Founded in 2000, Carbon Planet is a global company that conducts carbon emissions audits and sells certified carbon credits to those wishing to eliminate their carbon dioxide emissions.'
For a price. But 'eliminate'? Impossible. You cannot eliminate carbon emissions once they have been emitted. So how do they get away with saying this? This is how:
'Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as carbon. By buying one carbon credit, for about $23, you ensure that one tonne of CO2 you have emitted is removed and stored in trees where it can no longer contribute to global warming.’
This is simplistic twaddle, the snake oil of the age. The concept of burying your energy emissions inside a tree is akin to shutting your eyes, putting your hands over your ears and shouting ‘la-la-la’.
If trees assist, then obviously they should be planted. But paying someone to pretend you have impeccable green credentials is hypocritical, ineffective, costly and stupid.
There’s only one way to cut carbon emissions and that is to cut carbon emissions.
I threw the paper in the bin, caught the elevator down to the street and had lunch in a cafe. Fettucine with vongole in a light, creamy, garlicky sauce. It was steaming hot. Someone out in the kitchen had cooked it. Murderer.