Wednesday 30 July 2008

heal the world....

If IQ is an attempt to produce a standardised measure of intelligence, and EQ is an attempt to produce a standard measure of emotional intelligence, then I would like to introduce to the world the concept of WQ - an attempt to produce a standardised measure of your worthiness.

We live in a post-"Inconvenient Truth" world now, my friends, where even a simple visit to the humblest of tradesmen will test the limits of your worthiness as the shop-keeper accusingly asks you if you will need a bag with that. As you shake your head in shame and guiltily stow your purchase away in a small plastic bag, you will feel the eyes of the world holding you and your immortal soul personally accountable for the death of a small, but no doubt incredibly beautiful and precious, part of the world's delicately balanced eco-system. And all because you failed to produce an organic cotton bag from your jacket pocket.

Your worthiness has been compromised, but fear not! the game isn't over yet, and if you are able to walk out of the shop and hop onto your bicycle for the journey home when the other worthys with their linen bags get into their cars, then your eco-karma has been partially restored and you can go about the rest of your day with renewed vigour and optimism.

Every day of your life is a battleground of good and evil, between light and dark and between locally sourced, hand reared organic produce and Tescos pork pies. Every choice you make has consequences... not least on your ability to walk around metaphorically wearing a white robe and sandals, bathed in a halo of purest light. Saving the world is merely a by-product to that wonderful feeling of superiority over the seething masses of humanity engendered by your selfless worthiness. That delicious, local organic cheese from the posh deli down the road? You ate that to save the world. YOU ARE BRILLIANT. AL GORE AND DAVID ATTENBOROUGH SHOULD THANK YOU PERSONALLY.

But how can we know where we stand in this struggle unless we have some way of keeping score? How can we know how heavily we are imprinting our footprint onto the planet unless we find a way of keeping count. What good is being good without a league table?

Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the Worthiness Quotient (WQ).

It's very much at a conceptual stage at the moment, and I'm going to need some help formulating the points system, but the idea is that we will soon be able to issue a handy, wallet-sized guide to every decision you make so that you can keep a running tally of how you are affecting the future of the world on a day-by-day basis. A bit like counting points for weightwatchers, I suppose, although unlikely to have the same effect on your waistline.

Here's how it works: every time you make a decision, you will be awarded points. If your decision is likely to have a positive impact upon the environment, then that score will be positive. On the flip side, if that your choice is likely to have a detrimental effect, then you get minus points. It's as simple as that.

Every plastic bag you take in a shop: -1 point
Every bag you reuse: +1 point

If you can produce an organic linen bag with a flourish and pointedly use it in front of all the other customers in the shop: +1 bonus worthy point.

Supermarket? -1 point
Farmer's market? +1 point

Drive to work? -2 points each day (depending on the car. If you drive a 4x4, then I reckon you're screwed)

Walk/Cycle/use public transport? +2 points every day

Short haul flight? -50 points
long haul flight? -100 points

If you carbon neutralise some of your airmiles, then I reckon you can claw some points back... but not all of them. Not unless you've been to see the trees you've paid to plant, anyway. With that in mind, you might want to give some thought about the forest you choose. It's a lot easier to cycle to Sherwood Forest to have a look than it is to get to that remote peninsular in Norway....

You get the general idea.

Then perhaps we can all be like latter day Bridget Joneses, totting up our WQ rating for the day:

"Tuesday: +3 points. vg. Drove back from London, but offset that by cycling to the farm shop and buiyng an organic beef steak taken from a cow called Nigel. Served with filtered (not bottled) water. Pissed and alone on a school night, but it was organic wine from Stoke, so that's okay....If only I could find some free range fags"

We should all be aiming for a positive score every single day, and the bigger the score the more you can polish your halo.... but like an alcoholic climbing back onto the wagon, perhaps we should be realistic enough to accept that we're never going to stop taking those cheap flights for that essential city break in Paris, and should simply use the guide as a way of helping us to break even.

Clearly, it's not in the least bit scientific, and to be honest, saving the planet may even be a secondary concern to the whole system. Personally, I plan on using my WQ as a way of ensuring that my worthiness levels are sufficiently high to swan around polishing my metaphorical halo and casting pitying glances at the lesser mortals I encounter along the way.

It's my dream - and perhaps it's a foolish dream - that we might all turn our energies towards out-worthying each other. It's the game of keeping-up-with-the-neighbours that will help save the polar bears!


The scoring system needs some work though.... so let's be hearing your suggestions. How worthy is it to be picking dog shit in a little bag? Probably more if it's not even your dog, I should think. Should we worry that the bags are always made of plastic? Is paper too unreliable? Or is it extra points for trying, especially in the rain?

How worthy is having your own water butt? Or a brick in your toilet cistern? or does that depend on how many flushes it takes to clear and the type of toilet paper you use?

Blimey. With this many permutations, the wallet sized card is already looking a touch ambitious.

Come on then. How worthy are you?


  1. I am v worthy on the cotton shopper carried within my handbag at all times and walk absolutely everywhere, come rain or shine. I also try to avoid food with excess packaging and "food miles" when I can. Yay for me. But, before I sound too smug, I totally fall down miserably on buying disposable fashion, destined to end up as landfill, and no doubt exploiting low-paid workers in third world countries in its making.

    Perhaps there should be a sliding scale for that - -5 points for Topshop, -20 for Primark and so on...

  2. dogshit is biodegradable and 100% organic, I should imagine, so you could argue for points for leaving it where it is.

    What about "jobs"? Surely we'd all lose thousands of points for making money for huge polluting corporations screwing the world's poorest?

    And by the way, your scoring system would make me "worthy neutral" if I took a plastic bag from a shop and then re-used it to suffocate a polar bear.

  3. yeah, but you'd score more points if you'd used the plastic bag a few more times, surely?

    I'd like to see you strangling a polar bear with a linen bag though, if you must. It's just that little bit worthier.

    Like I say, the scoring is a work in progress.

  4. ... and I'm pretty sure you're right about the large company I work for too. Big minus points there. On the plus side, I do bugger all work, so it's like I'm sabotaging them from the inside.

  5. I think I get points daily for being a social worker. Oh, yeah, and I mostly buy my clothes at the thrift shop.

    + 1 for abiding by "if it's yellow, let it mellow. if it's brown flush it down."

    - 1 for flushing every time regardless.

  6. I think the dog shit argument really sums up a lot of the W factor...

    What's worse, leaving the dog shit there, or using a plastic bag to pick it up? It's lose/lose. Paper bag = tree killer. Cotton bag? Washing it uses excessive water, detergents pollute, and is just plain NASTY. Anything you do can have an argument against it.

    Only thing I can say I get points for is getting rid of my monsterous V8 truck for a compact with a 4 cylinder... which is how I view things. It isn't specifically what you do, its what you do with the given situation and the tools at hand.

    So, in the event of dog shit, my vote goes with plastic.

  7. eat meat: -50 point per mouthful.

    so if you're not veggie, you're fucked.

    quite right too.

    Oh, and Swiss, foie gras must be at least -1000.

  8. The dog shit connudrum can be countered with Dog Shit Composters (their officail title). Commercial ones exist, or you can actually make your own.
    So, you pick up your dog shit in a biodregradable bag (counter the icky factor by then putting that into a reusable bag), then drop the dog shit and it's biodegradable bag into your Dog Shit Composter back home.

    WQ +10 (it's a fair bit of individual hassle. Deserves a good quota).

    Grow your own veggies + 1 per square meter.

    Raise your own chickens for eggs +2 per egg?
    Raise them for dinner dinner +4. (Feed them your organic food waste +2. Use their poo for fertiliser +5 per cubic meter. Slaughter them yourself, +10 and a signed photo from Gordan Ramsey).

    Whatch out for a variation on this post popping up on the Guardian web site any time soon...

  9. they wouldn't dare...would they? It's a good idea this, so for the sake of anyone reading this who is about to steal the idea and make their fortune, they should at least have the decency to credit this site and the readers of this site for the idea and its ongoing development.

    WQ? intellectual property rights asserted here. Creative Commons and all that jazz too.

  10. the bogs in my office have both paper towels and a hot air dryer. I always have a dilemma as to which to use - the paper is killing trees but the hot air dryer uses electricity, innit.

    I tend to use four paper towels and then use the dryer to finish them off.