Digital Curtain

The internet was a bit dingy yesterday as part of a worldwide protest against some proposed US legislation. There is already plenty of information and commentary about the latest attempts to tackle issues of ‘piracy’ at the expense of a free and open internet so I won’t try and repeat it all here. I did want to say something though since, basically, I don’t actually get a say. While the Digital Economy Act here in the UK was hardly a shinning example of democracy in action, its impact was at least limited to people within the UK who could in theory influence the final outcome at an election.

The thing that seriously concerns me about the US proposals are the extraterritorial implications. Perhaps I’ll be getting a postal vote in the next US elections, along with everyone else using the internet. I hope they send it to my new address.

Every cloud has a silver lining though, and I hope attempts to tamper with the workings of the internet only make it better. I’ve long thought that DNS is basically flawed, so perhaps this is an ideal opportunity to work on improvements like IDONS (Internet Distributed Open Name System). And the sooner the internet routes around the UK and US, the better!

Photo © Federico Negro (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Blustering Politicians

Earlier this week I spotted an article about a very entertaining protest against the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The basic idea is to bring a little of the world cup atmosphere to BP to remind them about what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico. Or to put it another way, use the formidable power of the Vuvuzela to annoy BP into submission. I think it’s a brilliant idea, but I do wonder what it’s intended to achieve.

I agree with Nigel – there’s a lot of less than constructive criticism. It’s hard to be sure given the amount of political and media spin, but it does seem that BP are well aware of the pain they are causing, and they do seem to be taking reasonable steps to do something about it. How can you complain about BP spending money to put it’s side of the story forward when it’s facing an onslaught of negative publicity? One thing that appears to have been somewhat overlooked in the clamour of blame-storming is that people have tragically died as a result of this accident. They barely seem to get a mention.

As for the environmental impact of the accident, I would be interested to find out how it compares to the damage done across America, and around the world, every single day. Of course, it is hard to ignore something so large and unpleasant right on your doorstep. No wonder Barack is so upset, except that it’s a little late now. I have no idea how strict the regulation and monitoring of the oil industry is in the US, but I have to admit I’ve been speculating about how it compares to the building control inspection process in the UK. A friend of mine is building a small extension on his house, and it seems like the inspector is there more often than the builders! Surely it would make sense for inspectors to have the power to stop drilling when issues are found, before they turn into problems, rather than drag someone in for a telling off when it’s too late. (The clips of Tony Hayward’s questioning I saw just annoyed me as well. What exactly did it achieve? I’m also not surprised by the accusations of double standards.)

Essentially it seems to me that it’s very easy to blame BP for something which we should all be taking responsibility for. There will always be accidents, but the likelihood and impact of those accidents must surely increase when our demand for oil means it’s even viable to extract it from oil sands. Carbon footprints might be all the rage, but what about our oily hands? Just think about how much oil we all use in our daily lives. How big will the oil handprint be for the Vuvuzela protest? Aren’t Vuvuzelas made from oil in the first place?!

Yes, it’s a terrible accident. Yes, BP should do everything they can to put it right. And yes, the Vuvuzela protest is pure genius, but they should be blowing those Vuvuzelas at all of us.

(Thanks to Marie M for making the handprints available under a creative commons license.)

Updated: added link to BP oil spill disaster: Clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico IET article. (5 July 2010)

Updated: added link to The 10 worst forms of pollution. (8 July 2010)