Editor-At-Large: These shallow 'green' recruits are no friends of the Earth

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The Independent Online

The most over-used words in the English language? Environment, global warming and carbon emissions. For years Friends of the Earth soldiered on, trying to convince us of the damage we were inflicting on the planet with our wasteful use of energy, our wholesale plundering and desecration of the earth's natural resources. They were preaching to the converted, a small band of intelligent, concerned citizens. Few people in power took any notice. I remember attending fringe meetings about the environment at Labour Party conferences 10 years ago and the only MP who ever bothered to turn up was Michael Meacher. Then, belatedly, politicians woke up and realised that the magic word green was (just like that other buzz word, organic) a passport to social acceptance. Now saying that you are committed to reducing carbon emissions is like joining a trendy club. It just stinks. Everyone wants to be environmentally bloody friendly. From Leonardo DiCaprio to Al Gore to Dave Cameron. They wear their green credentials like a badge of honour, the must-have insignia of the 21st century.

In the past week I've become horribly aware of just how threadbare these new converts to the green lobby are. Every business going now tells you it is using recycled paper, planting forests, switching off lights and spurning plastic bags. From Marks & Spencer to Asda, they are all "committed" (that's the key bit of terminology) to saving the planet. But you and I know, dear readers, that they make shallow promises, their idea of commitment is one which only operates if profits continue to rise and shareholders are happy with their returns. The tidal wave of companies rushing to persuade us that we should shop with them because they are greener than the next guys is frankly nauseating. How can I take M&S seriously when it is still flying in miniature veg from all around the world and packaging fruit like rare jewellery rather than a load of out-of-season raspberries?

Al Gore has undergone a total transformation, from rich, overweight presidential failure to Man of the Moment, winning Academy Awards and Emmys for his documentary about global warming. Of course he still lives in a huge mansion large enough to house the population of an African village, but I am sure it is full of low-energy light bulbs and triple insulation, so that's OK.

On his visit to England last month, Mr Gore held a seminar to which key opinion-formers were invited. One of those deemed suitable to spread the global-warming message of doom was none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager and well-known environmentalist.

Shall I run that by you again? The man whose team revel in gas-guzzling top-of-the-range cars; the man who pays his footballers so much that many African nations could install water purification plants for every village with just one player's annual salary; the man whose club charges so much for horrible nylon shirts made in the third world, where labour is so very cheap. Latest recruit to this world of dodgy environmentalists is John Travolta, who arrived at his film premiere in London this week on a Harley-Davidson telling fans that it was important to find other methods of fuel!

This is the man who owns five private jets, telling us he uses them as something called a business tool. John Travolta has only decided to care about the environment because it's the cause of the moment, just as Aids was 15 years ago. He's just spent two months flying around the world and has his own private runway. How confused is that?

David Cameron is another freeloader on the environmental bandwagon, boasting about his eco-friendly house in trendy west London. He proudly sported the first wind turbine in the area - which provides about enough power to blow-dry his new hairstyle. Sadly for Dave, local councillors have pointed out that it's been erected in the wrong place. I am sure that he's ordered an earth toilet, recycled loo paper and as many of those long-life lightbulbs as he can.

Quick to flaunt its eco-concern, the Government announced last week that public buildings, galleries, town halls and museums will have to display a sign announcing their energy rating from April 2008. You can rest assured that these new signs will be as big an eyesore as those horrible yellow ones displayed in every beauty spot in the country telling us to take care of natural hazards. And although it removed stamp duty from homes which emit no carbon, it admits it expects very few, if any, to be built.

Finally, David Miliband, the Secretary of State for the Environment, who wears his green credentials on his sleeve, has admitted that the UK's carbon emissions have reached their highest level since Labour took power in 1997. Need I say more?

Don't drink at our expense, Mr Kiley: grow up

I once had lunch with Bob Kiley, and noticed that he liked a bottle of wine or two. The only other person who did that was Charles Kennedy, who preceded our meal with a large gin and tonic. Both have now admitted they are alcoholics.

Mr Kennedy's admission came after years of speculation. Mr Kiley, pictured right, had been the subject of rumours and, in an interview with the Evening Standard last week, admitted that he spent most afternoons drinking vodka and did very little work for his huge consultancy fees and rent-free Belgravia home. I like both men - they are charming, highly intelligent and good company.

Mr Kiley puts his drinking down to a horrible car crash 30 years ago which killed his first wife and two young sons. That was an unimaginable tragedy, of course, but I bet that is not why he is an alcoholic. Those with a drink dependency look for reasons, when the answer lies within themselves. Citing such a shocking event betrays the self-pity that afflicts all alcoholics, an inability to deal with the present. London's commuters will be sympathetic but will expect a little more maturity.

Tasty show: The time is ripe to be upstaged by a cheese

Last week I started making a television series called 'Deadline', to be shown twice a week on ITV2 from Wednesday. I have to edit a magazine using a bunch of celebrities as journalists and trainee photographers. It's a smart idea, but supposing I get fewer viewers than the cult channel cheddarvision.tv, which shows you a cheese maturing? So far the site has received nearly half a million hits, proving that there's a lot of people out there who just want television that's calm, uneventful and plain boring. Perhaps I should wrap myself in muslin and sit on a shelf...

Love lessons: We must teach our young how to stay together

First the divorce rate soared to an all-time high, then the number of young people getting married slumped to the lowest level recorded. Now the few individuals who actually manage to stay in a relationship say they need quality time apart. A survey of 2,000 adults revealed that half had taken breaks or holidays without their partners or spouses because they desperately needed time alone. Never mind cookery lessons at school, at this rate we shall have to teach teenagers how to behave in a relationship. How to pretend to listen to the other's point of view. How to work round their irritating foibles. Otherwise, we'll end up a nation of singletons.

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