Political Compass (2011 edition)

In November 2003 I posted about a little online test I did called the Political Compass, which I thought was interesting. Last night in conversation with a friend the topic came up again, and I thought it might be interesting to have another crack at the test, to see how my views had shifted (or not) in the 7+ years since I last did it. Seems I’m growing in my lefty tendencies — in 2003 my figures were:
Economic Left/Right: -5.50
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

Today, I sit in roughly the same position in terms of economic views, but I’ve shifted significantly closer to the libertarian end of the spectrum:
Economic Left/Right: -5.90
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.38

My political compass values as at 20 Mar 2011

I have to admit, I was surprised to see such a significant shift, even if only in one dimension. Will be interesting to try again in a few years time…

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day and this year’s theme is “climate change”. This post is my contribution, professional cross-posted on my blog.

For those that don’t know, world leaders are meeting in Copenhagen December this year to discuss climate change and their responses to it.

So far we have seen very little from world leaders in terms of real, concrete targets and changes. There is a lot of hope (though dare I say not a lot of expectation) that the Copenhagen talks will result in an updated global agreement that reflects the severity of the situation as outlined by the scientific and economic communities (although Obama’s recent executive order is a positive sign).

It seems that governments the world over are having a deal of trouble committing to targets that are decades away. But I suspect this is part of the problem – the focus on decade long cycles (e.g. “25% by 2020”) needs to shift binding 1 and 5 year targets and plans as well. Whilever plans focus on 10 or 20 years away, action will not be swift. Let’s reduce by 1% this year, an addition 2% next year and soon the totals will add up to the 25%+ that we need to achieve.

To most people it is clear that societally we need to rapidly (i.e. over the next 10 years) reduce carbon emissions across the globe. It is also clear that the costs of acting now will be much lower than later.

To put this into perspective, WWF-Australia recently teamed up with Climate Risk to produce an estimate that places the cost of transforming to a low-carbon economy in Australia at half the cost of the recent economic stimulus package – if we act now. If we allow the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to reach potentially catastrophic levels, the cost will be far, far greater.

Our government and business leaders know this. There is popular support for action. And yet things are still stalled…

What we do know

While there are a lot of unknowns, and acknowledging there is no “silver bullet” solution to reducing carbon emissions, there are a few things that are already underway and with further support will make a significant impact on our emissions.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy systems need to be developed and rapidly deployed to offset coal-based generation. So-called “clean coal” is not a long-term solution, yet it has a medium-term development cycle – the case just doesn’t stack up (you might consider joining GetUp’s “iCoal 2.0” campaign to let our politicians know we know).

Investment needs to be channelled to existing and emerging technologies such as wind, solar, and wave energy. Report after report shows how these, existing, technologies can service our needs. Google has stated that more early stage funding is required. But of course there are myriad ways the government could be supporting the industry – a “real” emissions trading scheme (one that doesn’t let big polluters off the hook) or feed in tariffs are a good start. But even better support for R&D in the area would be welcome.

Alternative fuel vehicles

Alternative fuel vehicles – especially electric vehicles powered by renewable energy – will play a significant role in the short-term transformation of mobility towards low-carbon goals.

It seems that the market has landed on electric vehicles – with the Tesla roadster launched and the Model S on the way in 2011, GM launching the Volt in 2010, followed hotly by the Nissan LEAF late 2012. Nissan’s concept is interesting as they plan to lease the battery – the most expensive component in electric vehicles – to reduce the up-front cost of the technology for buyers.

And of course A Better Place has a novel concept that they hope to launch in Australia, among other countries, soon.

There are longer-term solutions, including re-thinking our cities, something that City of Sydney council seems to be making a lot of noise about with their 2030 Sustainable Sydney plan. But in the short-term cars will be the transport option of choice for many people as our existing infrastructure is geared to best support this mode of mobility.

Energy efficiency

Energy prices will inevitibly increase over time – if not through government levies through geo-political and other factors. In addition, a shift to renewable energy will to an extent require us to be more efficient with our use of energy.

But being more efficient now can also have a significant positive impact by reducing consumption, or maintaining current levels of consumption as population grows, reducing the need for new capacity while new renewable energy capacity enters the mix and some emerging technologies gain a footing.

This is where individual action can make a big difference – if we all choose more efficient appliances, upgrade to more efficient lighting technology, and the like can reduce the need for new capacity, as well as reducing our bills.

Collective action

Over the past few years there’s been a lot of emphasis on individual action – in us as “consumers” playing our part in creating demand and making lifestyle changes. While individual action is important, this will only get us so far.

We need our leaders in government and industry to truly step up to the mark. This is why the Copenhagen agreement is so critical. There will be many, many actions that can be taken in the lead up to the Copenhagen talks – but on this Blog Action Day can I suggest writing or speaking to your federal government representative (you can user OpenAustralia to find out who your rep is) and telling them how important this issue is. Outline the ways that you’re doing your bit, and put forward your ideas about how you want the government to do theirs.

If that’s too much, consider casting your vote with EarthHour, or support an environmentally-focused non-profit who is doing good work in the area.

In either case, let’s give our political leaders the support they need to ensure that we get the right result at Copenhagen.

Ban the bombs

GetUp’s latest campaign action: Ban the bombs:

As the international community is meeting in Dublin to ban cluster bombs – that saturate the ground with mini-bombs awaiting innocent civilians – our government is going out of its way to frustrate the process.

They’re calling for their own stockpile to be excluded – and for the treaty to be watered down. We’ve got just a few scarce days left before the fragile international agreement is drafted.

The petition calls on Kevin Rudd to support the ban without loopholes or exceptions…

Expression = prison

Amnesty International: Expression = prison: Hu Jia.

Tibet has (rightly) been in the spotlight of late, but this is a timeline reminder that these human rights abuses continue to occur throughout the country. I dearly hope that the spotlight remains firmly on these abuses in the leadup to the Olympics.

It is these kind of sentences that create the culture of self-censorship within the Chinese community.

Rebecca McKinnon suggests that we can’t expect too much to change – I hope that at least the embarrassments and increased pressure do at least help move things for the better, at least in some way.

Uncensor China

This is a cross-post from the Zumio blog.

Just a quick note to mention that yesterday, Amnesty International Australia’s Uncensor site was launched. This is the project I’ve been involved in, though the work I’m doing isn’t on the site yet.

The site is part of Amnesty’s campaign in the lead up to the Olympics being held in August in China, focusing on internet censorship and repression. I’ve been following the blog for a couple of days now and the writing there is excellent – really informative.

The “Search for Freedom” function (in the right sidebar) shows first hand China’s censorship regime at work, and clearly highlights how Google is participating in the “Golden Shield” system.

You may have heard about the Fuwa, the Chinese Olympics mascot. Well it seems that they left someone out – meet Nu Wa the Uncensor mascot. Nu Wa (who’s name means “outraged, angry young boy”, wants to set the record straight by speaking about the human rights abuses suffered by people in China.

I really dig the site, as does Priscilla. Well worth checking out…

Another action for Tibet

Again, fromAshley:

Another urgent online action for Tibet – this one is to ask the IOC to intervene and ensure that the olympic torch doesn’t go through Tibet (including Lhasa and Mt Everest). The Chinese government are planning these stops on the torch relay to try and legitimise their occupation of Tibet. At this point in time, we have grave concerns that if the torch were to go through parts of Tibet it would only inflame the already tense situation, leading to further protests and likely violent reprisals from the large Chinese military presence now assembled in Tibet.

(More from Ashley, who is an active member of the Australia Tibet Council, on the situation here.)

The email action is here.

And GetUp now have an action targeting our PM:

As Australians, we are in a unique position right now to help stop the cultural genocide taking place in Tibet. That’s because Kevin Rudd is visiting Beijing to meet the Chinese President and Premier – the two men who are able to put an end to this crisis. With the impending Beijing Olympics, where the world’s eyes will focus on China, we have a once in a decade chance to make a real difference.

The GetUp action is here.

Tibet petition

I got this from my friend Ashley (who rarely sends this kind of thing I might add) via email and I think it’s worth supporting/promoting:

I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This is really important, and I thought you might want to take action.

After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. But violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now considering a choice between increasing brutality or dialogue, that could determine the future of Tibet and China.

We can affect this historic choice. China does care about its international reputation. Its economy is totally dependent on “Made in China” exports that we all buy, and it is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power.

President Hu needs to hear that ‘Brand China’ and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to join me and sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama — and tell absolutely everyone you can right away. The petition is organized by Avaaz, and they are urgently aiming to reach 1 million signatures to deliver directly to Chinese officials.

Thank you so much for your help!

Email Standards Project

I originally posted this on the d.eskimo blog, but a glitch has meant the post isn’t currently up, so I’m reposting here in the interim… Update: it’s back live again

It’s been shown in a number of studies that HTML emails perform better than equivalent plain-text emails, so as a design agency we are often called upon by our clients to create HTML templates to support their online communications activities.

It seems like a simple task – create a newsletter design based on the website – a couple of hours work, maybe? Unfortunately, the task is deceptively difficult…

Owing in large part to the state of HTML support, and standards/CSS support, in the various popular email clients (software) that we typically need to support. Such clients include Hotmail, Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook 2003 (and Express), Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and more. And many of those are browser-based, meaning even further quirks on the basis of which browser the client is used in.

For those of us that have been working on the web for some time, the different compatibility issues that exist between clients is reminiscent of the dark days before web standards support improved dramatically (even with Internet Explorer’s issues). So far designers have been limited to clunky table-based layouts, deprecated font tags, and other “hacks” which result in very difficult to maintain HTML code. And they’re forced to do an enormous amount of testing to check under a myriad of circumstances.

All in all, this adds many $$ for our clients. And in our business, where we’re supporting a number of non-profit clients, this can be really frustrating – for us and, we suspect, our clients.

Our friends at Freshview, who have created two excellent web-based email list management tools in Campaign Monitor and MailBuild, have done the design community a valuable service by documenting support for standards in a variety of email clients. Things were looking better, until…

David at Freshview noted recently on the Campaign Monitor blog that the launch of Outlook 2007, far from improving matters, significantly degraded support for HTML in what is one of the most popular email clients, especially in the corporate world.

So, they decided, it was time for action. And thus began the Email Standards Project (which also has a Facebook group, of course). Similarly to the push for better browser support for web standards that kicked off during the dark ages of the browser wars (gee – sounds like something out of Star Wars!?), the Email Standards Project aims to establish a core set of standards that the design community wants supported, and then will encourage email client vendors to support these standards.

And of course, once those core set of requirements are supported, then we’ll move on to secondary requirements etc. 😉

The Project’s website is launching today – so keep an eye on it to see how the campaign develops, and how you can help…