— Ecogeographer

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Valentine Gilbert and GeorgePete Postlethwaite is sending an arrow through my heart. Romeo and Juliet, The Age of Stupid and Brassed off, in that order, keep running round my head. Not the New Year I had expected. To me it feels a slow year to get started. It’s been a cold white winter with some snow and an ever present frost that’s been drilling down to my herbs. My New Year plan was to set in some kind of ‘freeze’, my own personal green audit framework. I’ve been languishing instead. Not only because of the loss of Pete Postlethwaite on our theatre and TV platforms, but I’ve also been mourning the loss of our new gander on the garden stage. Only three, he was found dead one morning by my mum. A heart attack, maybe a weak heart because he was a runt. He was our first all white gander and had a high pitch gorgeous chime of a call (he was called Sarah!) I recorded the loss of the grey gander here.

I’ve been observing a white and pink plant this winter. The white of plants is a chalky white says Derek Jarmen*, and chalky white is great as it’s a warm white and so plants even if white, warm you… My granny Whisker (yes, that’s her real name) died of leukaemia, and Colchicum autumnale, Autumn Crocus is linked to some treatment associated with this disease, and so I choose to observe and paint it. It’s dedicated to her; she fired my imagination with poetry, gardens she themed for each one of my family, and unseen fairies that left presents on each of the Irish east coast sea shelled mornings.

On January 18, 2008, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (representing botanic gardens in 120 countries) stated that “400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease”. These included yew trees (the bark is used for cancer drugs, paclitaxel); Hoodia (from Namibia, source of weight loss drugs); half of Magnolia species (used as Chinese medicine for 5,000 years to fight cancer, dementia and heart disease); and Autumn Crocus (for gout).
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, March 2001

Leukaemia has been successfully treated with Autumn Crocus, and the plant has also been used with some success to treat Bechet’s syndrome, a chronic disease marked by recurring ulcers and leukaemia.
From Plants For a Future

Observational work
Colchicum autumnale observational work (and further above, Gilbert & George Gorse Hearts by Dominica Williamson)

As I came into February, I started studying the leaves of this plant. Appropriately, they have a sheen and stand strong. Valentine’s day approached at this time, and so Romeo and Juliet came back, swimming through my head, Baz Luhrmann’s fast flying cuts swirling round, Pete’s wisdom was in front of me again. Arr, the Age of Stupid, yes, he would want me to stop languishing and get an audit framework started and to keep observing more and more. And my boyfriend must have felt that too, cos here’s a washed up badger brush from the tideline, which saved him £40 and answered my prayers about not buying badger but wanting quality and a girl’s version. And so the audit starts with a cold white winter behind me, but a warm white soul and a new green way to shave.

Badger shaving brush
My boyfriend found, painted and photographed the brush

*Nearly all white flowers are yellowish white and the comparatively few that are bluish white such examples as Omphalodes linifolia are of a texture so different from snow that one cannot compare them at all – I should say that most white flowers are near the colour of chalk; for although the words chalky white have been used in a rather contemptuous way, the colour is really a beautiful warm white, but by no means an intense white.

Derek Jarman, Chroma, p16

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Twelve months ago, almost to the day, I had great plans. My New Years resolution was to move house to a green hosting company. I fought hard to make it. Like so many others making resolutions, I fell by the wayside. I gave up by the Spring.

You see I had wanted the real deal. Not, ‘Go on plant a tree for your sins’. Or, ‘Feel better! We have some solar-topped offices and an employee buy-a-bike scheme’. I wanted to see innovation. I wanted energy consumption addressed at all levels. I wanted to see evidence: a real explanation of the insides and workings of the system. I wanted a list of improvements that could be made and an honest rendition of what technical processes were hard to address.

I am re-visiting the resolution. Can I make it this year? Well, the real deal is around the corner, or rather, across the waters – http://www.cix.ie – a great start-up opening in Cork. Admittedly, Emmet and I have been keeping an eye on CIX’s blog, and we wait in expectation for someone like this (who’s really thinking about energy consumption and monetary debt) to offer hosting packages to people like me. Their set-up is for big boys to buy server space. What I like about this project is that its concept is Open Source at all levels – it’s not just addressing Open Source language hosting, like PHP and MySql. (Open Source issues are paramount in decisions of going digitally green. (Here’s a nice old reference to back this up: Open Source and the Obligation to Recycle.) Aside from the CIX project, I do agree with Treehugger, ‘things have got better’. There are now three categories that are moving towards the idea of green hosting.

‘One group buys Renewable Energy Certificates; these insure that the power they use is generated in an ecofriendly manner. This is typically wind or solar, but it could also be biogas or geothermal as well. Dreamhost is in this category. The second group actually generates their own power directly from renewable energy; AISO, for example, is in this category. They are 100 percent powered by solar that they generate themselves’ Treehugger, accessed 2007.

The third category existed last year, token gesture stuff. They have a solar roof, they ride bikes to work and some of them in this category are hinting at the importance of Open Source. This time last year, I had decided, after whittling it down from a list of fifteen potentials to five maybes, to go for one of three.

One of them was in the States, one was in Ireland and one was in England. I thought England seemed the most sensible. I mean we still have to think about virtual miles. Emmet had agreed, ‘going local would probably be the best decision if you’re going to disregard price – a similar decision to buying your organic food from the local greengrocer or Tesco’s maybe?’ However, I couldn’t disregard price. It was going to be like shopping at Marks & Spencer. And who says organic food is greener? Unorganic food could be down the road from me, whilst organic shipped miles. So, I went for the Ireland option. It was looking real good but as I said, I realised CIX was only selling to big clients. So, back to the States I went. Oh dear, it had closed down.

So, I am still here with the three I’ve had for sometime. Pair who I notice are used by Treehugger. They’re cheap. Namehog cos they’re just so damn nice to me and have lots of Cornish clients. They’ll always chat on the phone if I am stuck, which, as a non-programmer is really important to me (and there’s mac knowledge there). theirwork (an open mapping project that Emmet and I have been very slowly developing – it’s not externally launched yet) is on another hoster in Ireland Hosting365 because at the time they offered a good deal and they’re based in Ireland, as is Emmet. I should say, they’re all Linux based and none of them have let the side down.

This new Spring, I am going to start attempting to carry out a methodical comparison of say five hosters. I will address the social, environmental and economic as overarching categories: the triple bottom line. I do agree with Treehugger, you won’t know how good they are until you’ve actually tried them, and it’s best only to move on recommendation. However, I don’t agree with the idea that any of these in the above three categories will do (see Treehugger). It’s time there was some guidance out there and some standards set. Global Action Plan seem to have been slow to call this, though I am pleased they have. Read about this at Digital Lifestyles.

Notice that many organisations in this country that sit green continue to function on networked computers using closed systems software in most aspects of their work. One day I will finish and publish theirwork’s digital environmental audit framework. Not that it’ll be a massive and conclusive audit but it might just show the extent to which you have to think to even get some modicum of decent digitally greenness going. In the meantime, I continue to listen to Emmet’s wise responses to my questions. His last was this, which actually was in response to Simon’s post where my idea about Green Hosting was mentioned.

Interesting that he [Simon] should mention the move of data centers to cold countries, as this seems to be exactly what’s happening: go to Marketwatch.com. Not quite as cold, but I think I’ve heard that Ireland’s low temperatures and high rainfall (water can be used in cooling systems) make it a good stop too. The infrastructure is a lot better too. As far as I know Google, Microsoft, Ebay and Amazon all have their main European data centers here.


MAIN REFERENCES

CIX
Cork Internet Exchange
CIX Video
Reducing Information Technologies Ever-increasing Carbon Footprint

Digital Lifestyles
UK IT Usage Rivals Airlines In Carbon Emissions
How To Select a Broadband Provider

Global Action Plan
http://www.globalactionplan.org.uk

Emmet Connolly
Linutop: less is more
The environmental impact of thin client systems
Green Computing

theirwork
Audit

Treehugger
How to Green Your Work
More Wind and Solar Powered Web Hosting

PS Recent news
O2 (who I belong to) just had a network discussion about this as I was just about to post! Members recommended the following:
Pair
Thinkhost
Deli.cio.us search
German list

(I think some of those come from my Deli.cio.us list, which I’ve left abandoned for so long, I am too ashamed to put it here. I will go to it soon…)

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