Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Egg box on wheels

Robert Llewellyn used my post title to describe the Renault Twizy in which he drove to Cheltenham today, to speak at our Science Festival. His was one of the three "environment" events I sat through, my enjoyment decreasing as the day wore on.

Taking wind power as a subject for debate, the day began really well. The "motion", that this house believes that Britain should be a fan of wind energy, was proposed by Andrew Garrad, supported by Jonathon Porritt: it was opposed by blogger Ben Pile, aided capably by John Constable. The audience's view (two-thirds in favour) was monitored both at the outset and at the conclusion: only a couple of minds were changed, but the debate's chair, science journalist Vivienne Parry, conducted proceedings very fairly and with some degree of flair - going amongst the audience, for instance, to elicit questions created a much more level playing field between us and them on stage.

The dialogue was typified by Ben Pile's "complaint", that policy makers seem to think it's their responsibility to get us to change our behaviour. To which all we (in the majority) would reply, "I wish!"

Compared to that for the debate, the audience for Roger Kemp and Robert Llewellyn's talk, "Can we keep warm and still save the world?" was made up of the converted. No tricky questions there. But two amiable speakers, with good wit (Robert) and slides (Roger). Their joint conclusion, that a socialist-type solution is needed (e.g. to convert us to using combined heat and power) felt surprisingly acceptable in Cheltenham.

This evening, we turned out to sit for a further hour in one of the many excruciatingly uncomfortable tents that have taken over Imperial Gardens. (Not only are the rows of seating far too close together, but the temperature control leaves much to be desired - and why turn the lights down so low that it's impossible to take notes?) This final event of the day was possibly the most bizarre ever to have taken place in this Festival. (Interviewer Jonathon Porritt confirmed as much to us over a much-needed whisky afterwards.) The meat of it? Well, several hundreds of us sat there while "charismatic fashion designer and businesswoman" Vivienne Westwood demonstrated, by what she did NOT say, how vital it is to walk the talk. She praised Jonathon for his credibility: there was alas no way he could return the compliment.

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