Saturday, 13 October 2007

My other car is my feet: The joys of walking

At the beginning of this year I did an approximation of my carbon footprint and found that my car use was probably the most significant part of it. The fact that I was in a job which required a lot of travelling did not help. With a change of job, I took the opportunity to ditch the car, enthusiastically snapped up by my sister, and get the train instead.

It's worked out really well so far. I've significantly cut my car use, and discovered two wonderful things.

1. If you get the train, you miss all the stress of driving and suddenly find that you have time to read all those books you never had time for before.

2. If you walk a lot (even just to the station) you notice a hell of a lot of stuff which you're missing as you float around in your isolated personal pollution bubble. You can hear birds sing (when such a vehicle isn't roaring past), see the seasons change, watch wildlife on the way to work and pick up on details of places you've always taken for granted as they zoom by in a blur. Not only that, but it keeps you uber fit as well!

You also start to detest cars. They're noisy, smelly and go far too fast. If it wasn't for all the idiots in cars on the roads, it might actually be safe to cycle on them.

My view on the way to work:

Saturday, 15 September 2007


Just to show how much of a hypocrite I am, and highlight the confusion I face over this whole PR career idea, I've gone and pulled off a PR "stunt"myself, similar to that I bemoaned in my last post. As what I was advertisng was a non-corporate charity project which I actually beleive in, and the props were positioned on non-descript roundabouts surrounded by ugly cars, I had no problem doing it. Not everybody was happy though.

Mr Smith was critical of the box, he said: “Placing this advertising contraption on the roundabout is like waving a red rag to a bull.

“Motorists regularly mount the roundabout, destroying the road signs and even disappearing deep into the foliage.

The advertising was also criticised for bad taste by one woman who spotted it while on her way to a funeral.

The woman, who did not want to be identified, noticed a coffin-shaped box on the Six Crossroads roundabout while travelling with family members. She was shocked it had been placed on one of the busiest routes to Woking Crematorium.

From the News & Mail ---> Gallery promo Causes a Stir

Monday, 16 July 2007

Why I orda....

Much as I like the Simpsons, I find this kind of publicity disgusting. It's almost as bad as the Playstation 2 graffitti stencils. Not to be a snob, but I really do hate the way these stunts parasitically feed off genuine culture while defacing it in the process. Is nowhere safe from advertising!?

You know what makes it worse as well? I've gone and written about it and spread the filth further. Or at least i would have done if anyone read this blog. i hope someone finds this while doing post-mortem on their market strategy. Should give them a giggle.

Iconoclasm (the destruction of an image) is one thing in the name of art, politics or even just genuinely having a laugh, but as pre-determined strategically targeted publicity, it makes me sick. (Someone's getting paid a lot of money for the kind of idea that any 12 year old boy could have here) Andy Warhol has a lot to answer for, and yet, while he sold a lot of paintings, I love the way he did it. It's a fine line, and interesting one to look at.

If only I was still studying visual culture, I feel an essay coming on....

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Brown not looking too Green

The Marine Bill, which we saw a draft version of this year, is intended to set up wildlife reserves in the seas around Britain. This would give a space to recover for the many species with falling populations in our seas, including the harbour porpoise, common skate, long snouted seahorse, and basking shark. The bill would also help planning for offshore windfarms and tidal energy.

Unfortunately, Mr Brown has decided to leave this Bill off of his list of legilation for next year. This does not bode well for the other big piece of environmental legislation which has been included, the Climate Change Bill. So much for the Red/Green adgenda.

More from WWF on this issue.
Earlier worring evidence that Brown is not Green.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Its just hot air

At last, an 'official' study which completely debunks Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen's 1991 theory that 'cosmic rays' from the sun are to blame for climate change, not man. Although their evidence has been proved to be flawed many times before, at least this should shut my mates up who continue to defend this idea....

Although it's still shocking how many people in the UK are still confused by the issue.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The Dark Arts

One thing I've kept quiet about lately is that I'm currently trying to get a job in Political Communications, Public Affairs (i.e. lobbying), campaigns or Public Relations.

Since studying Art History - i.e the realtionship between cultural propaganda and power - I've spent a long time detesting PR and advertising, which I see as essentially interest led corporate/political propaganda that shapes the way people think, or at least interpret the world around them.

Now, the first thing that people usually say when I say this is that "people are not that stupid, you know." Quite right, but this article from De-Smog Blog has a great explanation of how this works.

So why would I want to go into this shady world?

A few reasons:
1. Know your enemy - I want to understand how this works and the best way to do that is from exprience.
2. Fight fire with fire - There are different kinds of public relations, and not all of them are bad. Every organisation needs communicators, including the ethical ones. I want to represent those causes/companies/organisations which benefit people and planet.
3. Be the change you want to see - I want to get involved with conscious communication (i.e. education) to counter act the un-conscious - not leading people by the nose but helping them think for themelves.
4. Nothing is black and white - There's people with good intentions in (almost) every company or organisation. It's important to work together to improve things rather than just complain about what other people do.
5. I wish to learn how to communicate rather than rant. It's much harder. ;)

So there you go.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Dear Mr Brown...

Well with Tony gone, everyone suddenly wants Gordon Brown to do them a favour. The papers and magazines last week were full of full page adverts from pressure groups asking him to fulfil promises or make a bold policy break in a different direction.

It seems at first as if they were placed too. Gordon is keen to put as much ground between himself and Tony as possible, so is open to policies through which he might do so. That means he's listening to public opinion and may quite likely be swayed into things while he's still fresh in the job.

He's made some encouraging noises already. Keen to exit the shadow of Iraq, there has been talk of withdrawl soon. Keen to appear less authoritarian, the language has changed with regards to the 'law on terror' and Islam following the recent bungled attacks. Keen to appear less controlling and make a clean break from 'sofa politics', on Tuesday Brown announced greater powers for Parliament, relinquishing the 'Royal perogative' of the government to go to war without a vote, sign foreign treaties, recall or summon parliament. He also called for a public debate on the case for a British Bill of Rights or a written constitution.

So far so good. However, many of these changes, while welcome, are not particularly revolutionary and will see little complaint from opposition parties. More to the point is when he will address the looming issue of Lords Reform (not very popular with Cameron's lot), whether he will really involve people more in policy via a Citizen's convention (thus really relinquishing control), do something to limit airport expansion, do something about buy to let properties (not popular with lots of people who got rich in under Labour), tax private equity (not popular with Brown's mates in the city) or scrap the expensive and inefficient ID cards. The last one is especially unlikely to be as it would see Labour lose face to the Tories who have already made their U-turn.

With the Conservatives about to launch a major policy offensive following their extensive review though, it will be interesting to see what Mr Brown is holding back for later.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

i po(n)d(er)

Just come across this interesting article from Schnews about sweatshops for the electronics industry. Although fair trade is getting some recognition in the realms of food and coffee, we often don't consider the workforce that's powering the information/communications revolution. (I say this as I write on my girlfriend's Dad's new apple mac)

I appreciate that relinquishing all IT would be quite a silly move, but if you do want to get ethical Schnews has some good advice...

Direct Inaction. Do nothing. Don’t upgrade, if it ‘aint broke don’t fix it and if it is - get it repaired. Windows XP will be updated for several years, and as we said in SchNEWS 560, free ‘Open Source’ software - headed by the operating system of Linux, Open Office, Firefox and others - offers free, direct equivalents for the software Microsoft’s monopoly rides on.

For myself, I'm using my girlfriends old ipod instead of buying myself one (this comes after years of cassette players and one old mini disc) and I've only ever bought one PC 4 years ago. I run Firefox, although have yet to wean myself off Windows and MS office.

I wonder how long it will be before/if we ever we see fairtrade labels on all products?

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Climate change kills

A UN report released this week suggests that the war in the Sudan/Darfur is a direct result of global warming. Considering that we've still got the last 40 years of pollution to catch up with us, it's probably just the first of many. The developed world's shameful lack of response to the greatest genocide since Rwanda does not bode well for how we intend to deal with these situations in the future. I shall never let it happen again, said B-liar of Rwanda - before promptly wading knee deep into Iraq while the crisis in Darfur unfolded before the averted eyes of the world community.

We must do better than this. As a planet need to start thinking about the future impact of climate change and coming up with some coherent strategies to deal with it.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Away from you tube

Isn't it a pain that the big adverts on the tube are completely inaccessible so you can't defile them even if you find them completely offensive? They probably pay much more to have them there, because not only are the spaces huge but you get a captive audience with no other option but to look. Why can't we have some other form of art up there which actually enriches the lives of Londoners?

I've started to appreciate the kooky tiling now instead...

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Enough! - the (broken) promised land

Last weekend I attended the Enough! - End the Occupation of Palestine rally in Trafalgar Square . Palestinians, Israleis, British and people from all over the world marked 40 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza with a protest against it. For a country which was complict in the problem, and directly affected by its consequences, from bus bombs to an illegal war, turnout was disapointingly low. I'm sure there are many more people who feel strongly about the issue that did not attend - standing around in Trafalgar Square is not my first choice of activity on a Sturday afternoon either - but I also wonder how many understand the significance of the issue in so much of Middle Eastern politics, British foreign policy and the so called 'war on terror'.

On the day, a Dutch woman stopped to ask me what the fuss was about. I told her what we were doing. She thought it commendable, but was unsure if peace in Palestine was ever likely to happen. In light of recent events in Northern Ireland, I replied that many in this country held a fresh optimism for resolution in the Middle East.

With the recent split between Fatah and Hamas, that wind has left our sails and a peaceful resolution has not seemed further away for some time. Israel, the US and the EU are all seeking to capitalise on developments through co-operting with the new Fatah government. This will only serve to isolate those in Gaza further and cause division and distrust among the Palestinian people. This suits Israel's divide and rule policy of occupation just fine, as they lean on the West to broker a quick deal in their interest. However, they also run the risk of undermining the moderate Fatah itself, uniting the whole of the Palestinian nation in extremism and violence. That this may happen has been proved by Isaeli policy again and again, first spawning the PLO and then Hamas itself.

The international community should not have diplomatically isolated the democratically elected Hamas government in the way that they did. The US and EU should stop pandering to the Israeli "we will not negotiate with terrorists" line, and begin considering the plight of the people of Palestine not blowing themselves up. Poor, battered and despirited, they are the long suffering victims of this mess.

Further reading:,,2107029,00.html

Bad egg

According to the BBC this morning, the Egg Information Service has been banned from showing a re-run of a 1950's advert featuring the slogan 'Go to work on an egg", on the basis that it "does not promote a balanced diet."

This recent regulation of food advertising has been brought about by fears of rising obesity levels and the subsequent strain on the healths service. The watershed of the campaign came last year, when stricter measures were introduced to control TV advertising for junk food targeting children - a very commendable move.

While it is important that we promote healthier diets, this latest decision seems to be taking things a little too far - especially since eggs are healthy, natural products which are not branded by one or two companies.

In this light, it is worth considering a comment made by the author Fay Weldon, who was involved in the project:

"When you think of what can be run and what is being run, like low-cost airlines and cars - cars kill, eggs aren't actually likely to do so"

She's got a point hasn't she? If you can't have an advert for eggs on health grounds, why shouldn't car adverts carry a health warning and include the CO2 emmission levels? It's certainly not the first time this idea has been put foward.

Now we've broken some taboos on advertising regulation, perhaps it is time to consider the negative health, social or environmental effects of some of the other un-contested propoganda which is pumped into our daily lives....

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Food for thought

As China announces a moratorium on bio fuel production due to the rising price of food ( Times ), the BBC has been investigating the rising cost of food in the UK ( Today programme ).

We take cheap food from the supermarket for granted in this country. On the Radio this morning I heard a statistic that whereas in 1980 something we used to somthing like 16-26% of our income on food, we now spend only 8%. With poorer crop yields worldwide due to extreme weather (droughts & floods), farmers in many countries switching to bio fuels (e.g. Brazil & US), an increase in demand from emergent economies such as China, and the continued growth of the world population, however, this situation may be about to change.

Commentators say that fluctuations in the food market historically quite common, with sudden peaks settling down as production rises to match demand. It was predicted as far back as the 18th Century that we would soon run out of food. This was abetted by the development of intensive agriculture and nitrogen fertilisers, without which we could only sustain about a third of the current world population. Now though, we are running out of land.

The problem is further compounded by climate change, already thought to be responsible for the weather damaging current production and set to get have a far greater impact as the carbon emissions of the last 40 years catch up with us. In a vicious cycle, lack of land could lead to further deforestation of the last remaining great forests in develop ping countries for food and fuel, causes even more climate chaos.

As with the looming energy/ peak oil crisis, some believe there is a magic solution in GM crops, the edible equivalent of nuclear power stations. Like nuclear power though, I believe that this 'comforting' thought is delusional. Even if we engineer plants which produce greater yields and are more disease resistant, we would need more resources grow them and new diseases would develop. Furthermore, the practice of mono cropping is an extremely destructive of delicate soil systems which are intricately linked into other ecosystems, essential to the sustenance of life on this planet. This leads to desertification.

So how about some pragmatic answers?

One thing which is imperative is that we need to avoid Climate Chaos at all costs.

Then, we may also need to accept that some of our disposable income may need to be redirected back to feeding ourselves.

Or better still...
Start growing your own food. What use is an ornamental garden? There's even a book you can buy call Food not Lawns. You can encourage bio-diversity through inter-cropping and more small scale localised food production. Permaculture is a good place to look for practical advice on how to become self sustainable while working in harmony with natural systems.

We could also try eating less meat. Not only is meat more expensive than vegetables, it takes up more resources and produces more carbon. According to The Vegan Society , 1/3 of the grain we grow is fed to farm animals. 25% of the world's surface is given over to grazing cattle. The fossil energy input needed to produce a day's food for a meat eater is about 34,000 calories. For a vegetarian it is only about 20,000 and for a Vegan only 10,000. In terms of water, the figures stand at 15,000, 5,000 and 1,500 respectively. Farm animals also produce large amounts of waste which pollute rivers and streams.

Now I'm not even a vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I have been cutting down on my meat consumption considerably in the last few years. I don't buy meat very often, hardly at all anymore. Speaking to a vegan at the weekend though, he pointed out that even allowing other people to feed you it encourages higher consumption. As for the vegetables, I started with a patch at the begging of this year and am considering an allotment next year if I'm still living here. I intend to design future projects with permaculture in mind. I could probably eat a bit less mind you, I am a bit of an eating machine...

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Lunchtime lobbying

Just got back from the Sunrise Celebration in Somerset where I got involved with workshops on climate change (with Kate Evans), sub-vertising and permaculture. Lots of inspiring stuff which I'll try and write up on in the future.

In the meantime though, here's an idea for you. Rather than spending those idle hours of work surfing blogs, reading celebrity gossip, checking out your mates on facebook and browsing on e-bay, why not use your time effictively and start filling out e-campaigns letters or petitions on charity websites for things you really care about?

If it didn't work, they wouldn't do it. Letters e-mailed or sent directly to politicians, companies or organisations often are the most effective way of making them take note of something. You can change the world from the comfort of your own office, either in your own breaks or on comapany time - I'll leave that to your discretion.

It only takes a minute and you can either use the form letter as given, edit it for your own particular message or write your own. You can usually find stuff to do under the "What you can do" section of a charity's website. You can search for charities if you don't know their website.

Recently I've been to:
Enough! - End 40 years of occupation in Palestine
Don't carve up the congo - Greenpeace
Tell the government to ban Illegal Timber
I'm in/ G8 - Oxfam
Make Trade Fair - Oxfam

By the way, if you're in London this weekend with time on your hands, you might want to consider:
FRI: Rising Tide G8 action
SAT: Enough! rally - End 40 years of occupation in Palestine
World Naked Bike Ride
The Compass Annual Conference

Now I'd best get back to work!

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Welcome to Airstrip One

I was horrified to open the Guardian last week (I bet that sentence has some people falling of their chairs in laughter already) to discover yet another Ryanair advert... this time offering 1 million free flights. Is there nothing this company will stop at to fly in the face of accepted climate change consensus? Are they in denial? Do they just not care?

What is the point of such a cocky, swaggering publicity stunt, I find myself asking? Winning people over to the cause of poor bullied little Ryanair? Spiting those lefty greens? Hoping to convey the message that they're so successful that they can afford to do this? Convincing people that more flights are needed by giving them a taste of what they could be missing?

The answer it appears is twofold. Firstly, with all the hidden charges, free flights is a bit of a misnomer. For a company which portrays Gordon Brown as a money grabbing stealth green taxer in half its adverts, this is a little bit rich.

Secondly, they were worried that as a result of a faltering in consumer demand, they were not going to fill up enough seats in the period on offer. "We wouldn't want to see empty seat wasted" they said, or words to that effect. (They're not the first)

Now, as Wednesday marks the start of a public review into the expansion of Stanstead Airport, this begs the question - why on earth are we expanding all our airports when we can't even fill all the seats on the flights we are running without giving them away?

As the Guardian points out today
- air passenger numbers are predicted to more than double in the next 20 years to 465 million if current blueprints for airport expansion are to continue as planned. This is not compatible with the cuts which need to be made in emissions if we wish to avoid climate chaos. It is also incompatible with the government's own professed red/green agenda of reducing carbon emissions by 20%. You have to wonder really what kind of green they're really supporting.

Before I go any further though, I have to admit my own guilt. While I have been making an effort to cut down my own flight times in recent years (not once between 2002 and 2006), last year I flew 3 times in Europe. One business, two leisure. The trips were great, but I still feel bad about flying. Like everyone else my reasons for going by plane were limitations of money and time. It was a case of wanting to visit places and culture beyond the reach of a 16 hour coach journey. I had some money, but little time for longer journeys. You can't have your cake and eat it.

I have no plans to fly in the future, although I do not think that people need to stop flying altogether either. Travel is good and does not have to be for selfish reasons.

At the end of the day though, I think it comes down to this. Like so many other things we take for granted in the UK, air travel is a luxury. While it is one that more and more of us can afford in this country, the majority of the world cannot, either economically or environmentaly. And it is those people who cannot afford it least who will pay for it first.

Its something to think about before you decide to top up that tan in the sun, make that next cultural trip of personal enlightenment, or go searching for the perfect beach/wave/party - who's going to benefit and who's going to pick up the bill? Is it really nessecary? Is it really worth it? And who for?

If you don't want to see Britain become Airstrip One, click on the link below and lend your support. More info can be found at airportwatch. If you want to take matters into your own hands, the Camp for Climate Action takes places at Heathrow this year.

If you want to read the other side coin, try this. Personally, while I agree air travel needs to be more sustainable, I think it smacks of too much cake munching, and not enough thought for the consequences.

Guardian - Hope dries up for Nicaragua's Miskito
Guardian - Trees vs. Travel
Guardian - Greens angered by £1m flight giveaway
Guradian - Paridise Lost
Georges Monbiot - We are all killers

Conscious comment

'True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. ' - Socrates

Like most people who start a blog, for some time now I've been meaning to write something down in order to organise and channel my thoughts on the world as I perceive it and the things I reflect on from day to day. This could be it.

Whether I have anything to add to the multitude of voices that already colonise the world wide web is extremeley doubtful (the first 10-15 ideas I had for a blog name were already taken). Whether I post regularily will probably be down to how much time I have to put aside for such things. Considering how long it's taken me to even get started, it will probably be an uphill struggle. Whether anyone else ever reads this remains to be seen.

Whatever form this takes though, I hope that I will be able to provide something readable and thought provoking. If you wish to comment yourself on any of the posts I make please do. The only comment I will moderate will be that which is abusive or unpleasant. I wish to encourage those with views other than or contradictory to my own to challenge or enlighten me as they see fit. The most important part of learning about life is being able not only to see something through anothers eyes but to be able to accept that you may be wrong and they may be right.