Friday, October 27, 2006

A return to the simple

Being the only person in my office who cycles to work, and the only person who bothers to collect all the tins and bottles for recycling (even though I don’t buy tins and bottles myself). I sometimes wonder does anyone else in this place give a shit. But having read an e-mail from a colleague who is leaving his job today made me think that maybe there are more people disillusioned with modern living than you think.
I didn’t really know the bloke – he worked in I.T. but he included this poem in his farewell e-mail, which went out to several thousand people across Northern Ireland.
Now I’m intrigued to find out what he has left to do – I’ll let you know if I find out.

“Thank you for all the fond memories that I take with me and I wish you all the best wherever your lives take you. I can't think of any intelligent words of wisdom of my own to leave on, so here are someone else's...

A return to the Simple

Press the pause button.
It's time to feel the rain, the wind, the cold mountain air.
Turn the mobile phone off. It does have an off button.
Let the laptop power down.
Leave the e-mails go un-read.
Shred the to do list.
Unplug the television.
Ebay the playstation.
Don't eat anything you haven't made yourself.
Shop local.
Spend only what you can afford.
Leave the city.
Head to the hills.
Hear the quiet.
Look up at the sky.
Hear the noises of the wood.
Make a campfire.
Watch the fire flicker and the beans bubble.
Time to recharge those batteries.
Things got too complicated back there.

Gary Mitchell “

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oliver Postgate

For those of you not from the UK, I’d better explain who Oliver Postgate is. Oliver Postgate is best known in the UK as the maker of some classic kids TV programmes from the 60’s and 70’s including Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, and The Clangers.
But more recently he has come to public attention through a couple of large advertisements he has placed in the Guardian newspaper. His first advertisement attracted a lot of comment – people asked “what right have you, an ignorant old person in a basement, to tell the government that it must do what you tell it to do, or everybody may die?”

Here is his reply :

I do apologise most sincerely for that. I have no such right. What I have is a duty. Let me tell you a story about it:

“I am walking along the path behind the cliff and I see, over the fence, that a small child, not more than two years old, is blithely toddling straight towards the brink of the cliff. Now the ground inside the fence is private property, with stern notices, so I have no right to enter on to it. But all the same, I have a duty to jump over the fence, run across, pick her up and carry her, bawling blue murder, to safety.”

Human society is that child, that happy, greedy, outraged moppet, totally self-centred and lovable, but it too has no grasp of its situation and now it is also toddling towards the brink.

Is this our fault?

Not particularly. In our civilisation, in which a nation’s economic success is measured by its “growth”, consumer-spending is a vital component. It is a competitive commercial world in which, for the economic health of our nation, we are honour-bound to over-eat, over-spend and over-waste. As units of consumption that is our function.
The side-effect of this function – global warming, was recognised long ago, and successive governments have worked hard to avoid coming to terms with the inconvenient fact that our “conspicuous consumption” has been slowly poisoning the whole climate of the world.
Now we have run out of time. Global warming is on the brink of becoming irreversible!
If the human race is to avoid having to face slow, irreversible extinction in a disaster torn world, it must, as a race, take immediate draconian action to reduce carbon emissions to a level which will not only eliminate the green house effect but also cause the planet to cool away the vast heat charge it has already received during the years of neglect.
Personal economy is necessary and can help, but the bulk of carbon emissions come from larger sources which only government legislation can deal with.
The present government has been making a show of tackling this, but the task it has given to its scientists is not simply to find a way to end global warming – they could do that at once – but to do so “without cutting either our economic growth or our living standards”.
As these are the two main causes of global warming, this task does, as they say: “present some difficulties” in that, from among the many different speculative predictions on offer, the scientists are being expected to seek and select, as definitive, the most “politically practical”.
To do that is potentially suicidal. As nobody can pretend to know for certain what is going to happen to the climate, the only safe and sensible thing to do is to deal with it now. So GLOBAL WARMING IS A GLOBAL EMERGENCY – Our duty is to see that it is fully dealt with, now.
Oliver Postgate
October 2006.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Green Consumers

I often cringe at the term “green consumer”. A lot of people love to shop, and I think that many of them see “green shopping” as “doing their bit” – whilst still being able to shop shop shop. Aren’t I good buying this hemp cd holder made by Guatamalan peasants!

At the end of the day it comes down to the simple fact that modern society has been built on this desire to consume, and it is a pattern of behaviour that has quickly become part of our psyche.

I certainly don’t think it helps to identify ourselves as consumers – green or any other type.

Ethical consumerism is a bit of a paradox – I don’t see how you can identify yourself as a consumer and consider yourself ethical.

The truth is we need to work less, spend less and do less.

This is a point of view that has been expressed much more clearly than I can by a comment that I have noticed posted on a few different blogs recently, and I think it is well worth repeating here as well. The piece is written by someone called sushil yadav and you can see the full piece here.
You may not agree with everything in the article but it will certainly make you think.

Here are some of the best quotes:

The Environment can be saved only if we stop production of most [more than 99% ] of the consumer goods we are making today. The Environment cannot be saved by recycling. The attempt of an industrial society to save the environment by recycling is like shooting someone 10,000 times and then trying to save him by taking out one bullet.

We can never save the environment by doing something. We can only save it by doing less of what we have been doing - much less of what we have been doing. If we want to save environment we will have to reduce human activity [overactivity] by 99%.
We can have Sustainable Lifestyle.
We cannot have Sustainable Development.
Development can never be sustainable.
Sustainability and Development cannot exist together.
Development and Sustainability are opposites.
Development and Sustainability are contradictory.
Sustainable Living is associated with consuming less – being satisfied with a simple and frugal life.
Development is associated with never ending desires – always wanting more.
Industrial Societies can never be sustainable – When you make thousands of consumer goods you kill Nature - you kill Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land.
A Society that does mental work [city based] can never be sustainable - it will keep on making consumer goods - destroying the environment moment by moment.
Only agriculture-based societies that do physical work can be sustainable.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

War on Terror

After years of frustration at watching people queue up in the bike / bus lanes on my way to work, I finally saw 2 cops standing on the pavement this morning making sure that drivers stuck to their lane. Maybe seeing the cops enforcing the law might make some people think twice about using the bike lane in the future – who am I kidding? It’ll be back to normal tomorrow.
Traffic law just isn’t enforced strongly enough in my opinion, I include some fellow cyclists in this as well. I see more cyclists on the pavement than I do on the road – I even saw one cyclist tutting and shaking his head because 2 pedestrians had held him up – you shouldn’t even be on the pavement you knob!
More people died on British roads last year than were killed in the twin towers – so how about a real war on terror – war on the car!
The car kills more of our civilians than terrorism ever will; yet governments are reluctant to bring in tougher sentences for people who kill by dangerous driving.
I suppose at the end of the day the people in the twin towers died for the same reason as the people on the road – OIL!