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:

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!