Sending smoke up Michael Gove’s chimney…

SOME days it seems you are doing everything wrong.

Just now there are headlines proclaiming: “Polluting wood stoves banned” and the other day a new report was slamming Airbnb. Two great pieces of news for our Airbnb with a wood-burning stove newly fitted at some expense.

To tackle the stove first, those headlines are misleading in the sense that what is being proposed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove is the banning of wet wood as this gives off dangerous particulates (and if you want to be particular about what a particulate might be, you’ll have to go somewhere more scientifically literate).

We only burn kiln-dried wood, apart from the time when we unsuccessfully attempted to ignite the ‘wet’ stuff by mistake. Kiln-dried wood mostly gives off steam, at least according to the man who sold us the stove – and, yes, he would say that, but there you go up the chimney.

Here are three thoughts to set your fire going.

ONE: The wood-burning stoves angles makes for a good headline, but it’s a distraction in the sense that all the serious pollution comes from vehicles – especially dirty diesel – and the government doesn’t seem to be proposing much, apart from passing the fume-enriched buck to local councils. Pollution from vehicles is much more serious than that from burning logs in a smug, middle-class back to the woods in the suburbs way. And, yes, selfishly perhaps, but I do love that fire.

TWO: People who drive their cars too much are helping to screw up the planet – a thought that often arises when I am stuck in traffic during one of my commutes. I don’t like those stickers activist cyclists have proclaiming: “One less car on the roads” (and that should be fewer, you with the sweaty Lycra shorts on). But I am thinking of having one made for the car that reads: “I’d rather be on my bloody bicycle.” Some people in cars are a rolling contradiction in search of a way out of that queue.

THREE: Michael Gove and health secretary Jeremy Hunt spout off in the Telegraph that Breixit will allow the UK to go “further and faster than the EU in reducing human exposure to damaging pollution” – and they say that while introducing changes being forced on Britain by the EU. Meanwhile, my good old friend The Observer reports that the UN has warned the government that Britain’s reputation is at risk over post-Brexit plans that would weaken protection for the environment. Who you gonna believe? Not Gove and Hunt for a start.

Like many other aspects of modern life, Airbnb is a great idea grown massive. What started out as a way for people to rent out their spare room to temporary guests has become an enormous business.

A report cleverly titled UnfairBnB claims that the short-stay rental service could be shutting locals out of housing across Europe, while also changing neighbourhoods.

The report’s author, Kenneth Haar, suggests that the EU is in awe of Airbnb and is blocking attempts by European cities to block the service.

I don’t have the time to fully unravel that knot, but it is fair to say that our Airbnb is the traditional sort: a spare room turned into a cosy little space for guests, who have been coming here now for nearly three years.

Most people are happy; and we are happy with most people (even the guest who drank two bottles of wine in an evening). Our level of Airbnb seems unlikely to be harming anyone much, although owners of traditional B&Bs may disagree.

The trouble is, once you crack open a good idea, everything can get out of hand, with a single room to let replaced by whole apartment blocks in tourist cities given over toAirbnb and blocking out the locals.

It’s a tricky question, and another example of how the internet constantly disrupts the way life used to be. Like many other familiar development, Airbnb wouldn’t be possible without the internet, so it’s one of those good-bad-good turn of events.

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