Rio+20, CIBSE Board Dinner and Justin Bieber...

As I noted in my Presidential Address, the ‘Rio+20’ sustainable development summit would be on my patch. Well it took place, squeezed between the Queen’s Jubilee, a G20 Summit and Euro2012. Not much, of course, happened. Bloomberg tells me ‘clean energy’ stocks dropped by 3% out of sentiment. But having once been involved in all this I should say something in its defence. That nothing happened was the point. ‘Rio+X’ has become an enormous trade show for the Corporate Responsibility Industry. We can hardly complain - we will have our trade show this October. But the original ‘UN Rio’ wrote so many over ambitious agendas because frankly there was not much else going on at the time. International quiescence is hardly how you would describe 2012. That, in the current global chaos, world leaders did reaffirm sets of intentions that they have not all delivered is still a relief. Of course it was a big opportunity missed etc. etc. and it further deflates the currency of ‘sustainable development’ when unsustainable recoveries are the style statement of the G20. But it does not help to scold a system not designed for the task.

That is an old lesson. If there is a new lesson from Rio+20 process it is that the political power of social media seems to have turned out a damp squib. The group organised a storm on Twitter against fossil fuel subsidies. Its one weakness is that it did not actually seem to include many people who were being subsidised, unless Stephen Fry counts his winter fuel allowance. Machiavelli, being dead, is not on Twitter, but The Prince is on Kindle for free. Worth a read, even though it is longer than 140 characters. If you want real change you need to think for five minutes how to do it.

I missed my first Construction Industry Council because of a lunch with Andrew Stunnel. The Minister proved a very urbane guest who knew a lot more about the idiosyncrasies of Scottish building than I did. Needless to say we touched on some of the gripes in my Presidential Address and discussed the political totems that take on more significance than simple engineers appreciate. Not that totem poles did American Indians much good. But that brilliant quip only occurred to me three hours later. I guess that is why some are politicians and others plumbers.

The height of the June Social Calendar was of course not Ascot as widely reported in the Media but the CIBSE Board Dinner. Keith Howells from Motts did a grand job provoking guests on the challenge of global urbanisation but the noisy table discussions inevitably touched on the state of the construction sector in the UK. The new CIC strategic priorities have ‘Encouraging and monitoring economic recovery by supporting and developing appropriate growth strategies for investment in the built environment’. But talking with Paul Morrell, one of the wisest heads in the business, in a follow up, I was beginning to wonder if the industry really had a single vision here. I suspect CIBSE members would give eye teeth to get away from ‘boom and bust’. With no real assets except what is between our ears we may be outlying ‘flatliners’ in our view of what type of market creates a quality construction industry. Some others in construction’s broad church make their living buying at bust and selling at boom. Is not another Boom what they mean by the Recovery? They are powerful voices but we ought to have allies. Wasn’t Boom how we got taxpayers into Northern Rock in the first place?

Finally, now I’m getting the hang of blogging, I am on the lookout for more freelancing. I noticed that in a job advert for a web journalist ‘must have SEO skills’. SEO? Sustainable Energy Optimisation? – I could do that. Well nearly – SEO is ‘search engine optimisation’. It is not that my news webpage would be read because it would be true like an honorary page of the Knowledge Portal. It would be read because the successful candidate had carefully inserted phrases picked up by search engines and their web crawlers and so an attractive punt to advertisers. One step nearer Armageddon or can two play at that game...?

As I said to Kelly Brook while discussing her Smart Near Zero Carbon innovative home adult cinema basement. But, Kelly asked, as we drunk our Starbucks Cappuccino (£2.30, available near you now with Olympic logo chocolate sprinkler 15p extra), was Justin Bieber truly sustainable or just destined for landfill?
If you haven’t managed to read this far, it is because the CIBSE server has crashed. If you have, you are probably amongst the 98.8% who were actually looking for another webpage...


  1. I did manage to read till the end-thanks that the server had not crashed with the heavy load of the intellectual wide spectrum dished out--which I relished; but not too many others as I found no other entry.The Professor-President really makes us think on a wide dimension and canvas--a prerequisite to "Innovative minds".I think innovation is a fallout of poverty,when one is forced to innovate.Some statistician may do a historical check on correlating innovation with affluence on a canvas of all the countries in the world. Will Durant says "But the man who can manage money can manage them all". Did Rio summit heed to this dictum?The world is a single candle--people are burning it as they wish.As the Finance world overrides the Technical world, the Engineers will remain in the Tap and not on the Top.

  2. Enjoying the blog so far.

    Slightly off-topic but in response to seeing your presidential address on the net somewhere, you might like this:


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