Category Archives: Business

Got Pus?

Mmmhhh tasty pus on my lip!

The dairy industry spends a lot of money to persuade you, me, and everyone, to drink cow’s milk. ‘Be like a celeb and get the healthy goodness!’ Unfortunately, if you are buying milk from an industrially farmed, dairy herd then you are drinking up to 10% pus in every serving… Yum!

Cow’s udders produce lots of pus when their teets are infected (mastitis). This painful condition results from the unnatural stresses inflicted as part of the industrial system established to get everyone cheap milk. The EU has passed legislation to restrict the somatic cell count to 400,000 cells/Ml (i.e. roughly 10% pus). Milk in the USA is allowed to contain considerably more.

Aside from the fact that industrially rearing cattle is cruel and unnatural, the milk it produces is less healthy. The total protein content is decreased, the amounts of calcium, phosphorus and potassium content are decreased, the taste deteriorates (becomes bitter), and the levels of undesirable components rise. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics delivered directly into the udder. These drugs can also end up in the milk with negative health implications for humans. Mastitis occurs in around 50 % of cows in the UK.

Alternatives:

Happy, healthy cows play in a field

Industrially reared cattle on a ranch in California (up to 100,000 head)

The Amazon Rainforest is being cleared for soya beans to feed cattle

Hayden Panettiere; likes dolphins... not cows...

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Scary Sea Creature

 

 

Cameron’s Mission of Hope to the Middle East

Source: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/

How Deep is your Love (part 2) update from Kenya

I Don't Love You Credit: Jhows' photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jhows/with/3619406017/

Many thanks to Francesca and her team at The Green Belt Movement for sending in this update from Kenya in time for Valentine’s Day. Original article here. Please remember whatever you buy for V day has an impact on our world. If love is your main gift check yourself before you buy.

Red roses have become the quintessential symbol of love. This Valentine’s Day, boyfriends, husbands and lovers alike will flock to their local flower store to buy a dozen red roses – supposedly an embodiment of their love, passion and commitment.

Thousands of miles away, people in Kenya face a different reality on the 14th of February. It’s not one of e-cards and chocolates but an effect of globalization – a side effect of so called ‘free-market’ capitalism that many are not aware of.

One in three roses sold this Valentine’s Day in the UK will be from Kenya. Despite the 4,600 miles travel, Kenyan flowers are often the cheapest; a dozen Kenyan red roses are as little as £2.99 or £4.99. Yet these prices do not reflect the social and environmental costs.

Nearly 75% of Kenya’s horticultural exports are a product of the cut flower industry around Lake Naivasha.  It is economically important for Kenya being the second largest export after tourism. Lake Navaisha was once a quiet community best known in the UK for being the home of naturalist and wildlife preservationist Joy Adamson who wrote Born Free about Elsa the lioness; for being one of the 10 best sites for bird watching in the world; and for its abundant plant and animal life – hippos, giraffes and zebras to name a few.

Today giant green houses occupy the banks of the lake, which has wrecked its aesthetic value as well as changed the local culture. While Maasai cattle may still be found roaming the area, private property rights and division of their traditional range lands have dramatically decreased the spaces that they can graze and access to the lake for water has become a source of conflict.

Western style consumerism arrives in Kenya

A new culture has been brought to the region that revolves around global capitalism and international trade. Lake Navaisha’s flower industry began in the 1980s and grew rapidly in the 1990s as European companies flew in to exploit the desirable growing conditions and year round temperate temperatures and seemingly abundant water supplies. The hundreds of thousands of pounds of flowers grown annually are picked in the morning and arrive in British shops by the evening.

The economic boom of the horticultural market has led to a dramatic increase in the local population. In 1969, 27,000 people lived in the surrounding areas and today that number has jumped to nearly 300,000. A direct result of Lake Naivasha’s industry is overcrowding of both people and businesses creating social and environmental instability.

Water levels in Lake Naivasha have fallen as a result of the flower industries that directly pump water from the lake to the green houses. The lake is currently being drained faster than it can be replenished. Erastus Mureithi, the chairman of the Kenya Flowers Council, says that small-scale flower farmers are likely to be banned from withdrawing water from the lake. Without the involvement of the major (non kenyan) flower companies, this move appears to be more of a public relations stunt than a solution to the environmental problems of Lake Navaisha.

What future for the children of Kenya?

Furthermore, the once clear waters of Lake Navaisha are now mucky and brown as a result of the rapid clearing of trees for agricultural production. This problem is not unique to Naivasha. Rapid removal of indigenous tree species around the country and particularly in water catchment areas has led to major siltation problems and has dried up rivers and threatened lakes.

Operating with these unsustainable methods will certainly result in the disappearance of Lake Naivasha and the further decline in the traditional livelihoods of the surrounding communities – a travesty that can be stopped.

In order to curb environmental degradation, organizations, such as the Green Belt Movement, are working at local, national and international levels. The Green Belt Movement has planted over 40 million trees in Kenya and works with communities who live in the uplands above Lake Naivasha to protect the watershed to empowers communities with the skills to think and act sustainably. However the issues surrounding the lake its self and access remain complex and sensitive.

Its founder, Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, said in her keynote speech at the launch of the United Nations’ International Year of Forest on February 2nd that “It is not that we do not know. None of us can claim ignorance. We know what to do. Much information is out there.”

 

Wangari Maathai

Let’s not claim ignorance this Valentine’s Day. Instead of playing a part in promoting the side effects of capitalism, think sustainably. Lets do as Wangari would do and plant a tree–a symbol of your love that will last for a very long time. As Wangari always likes to say:

“I cannot live without the green trees and nor can you”

A Green Belt Movement Nursery in Nairobi

Baby Trees in the GBM Nursery

 

We joined the Shark Side!

Team Shark 3/2/2011 China Town

When the photographer Alex Hofford first contacted EcoHustler and asked if we would write about shark finning drawing on the images and video from his Man and Shark project we had no idea where it would all lead. I certainly didn’t think we would end up organizing an event in China Town on Chinese New Year! I am not sure how it happened but after a great day raising awareness about sharks I am very glad Alex got in touch and that we all decided to go a step further and take action! Massive thanks to everyone who came down and joined the Shark Side and big props to Global Ocean who are collecting signatures for their important petition.

Shark Ambassadors out on the streets

Initially the idea of making a stand in China Town went down like a proposal for a pay toilet in a diarrhoea ward. Several UK shark organizations we contacted actually told us not to do it. Apparently we were being politically incorrect and culturally insensitive. The trouble is, eating shark fin is a cultural phenomenon so you have two choices: be politically correct and look the other way or strap a pair on and have a conversation with the people who like to eat it. 90% of all the sharks that were in the oceans have been removed… so we decided it was a conversation worth having.

We advertised the direct action publicly on this site. After the Mark Kennedy scandal I joked with friends that the first few emails I received from people wanting to join in would be policemen. It wasn’t a massive surprise therefore when I got to the allocated meeting place to be immediately jumped upon by two undercover police officers. Initially they were confrontational and almost threatening. Pretty soon they seemed to realize that we didn’t want to cause trouble and they became polite and asked us to move up the road which we did. Unfortunately it wasn’t until a bit later that I realized the police offers were skillfully keeping us away from the Chinese Ambassador and all the press. When we walked back up to the throng I was grabbed and actually read my rights. I am fairly sure that I wasn’t breaking any laws but apparently you need a permit to speak your mind in public… or something.

Once the ambassador had gone we fanned out and handed out hundreds of flyers. These are available for download here: 110201_GO_Leaflet_A5_02. We also have hard copies available. If you would like to use some drop us an email and we can post you a good stash.

Definitely the hottest shark in China Town!

Although we missed the photographers we did interviews with LBC radio and BBC London. We had a great reception in China Town. People were not offended or angry that we were there, they seemed genuinely concerned about the plight of sharks and keen to find out more. Generally, most people have no idea how endangered sharks are and how serious this is for marine ecology. We had an interesting conversation with a restauranteur who was clearly concerned about the bad PR his place might get still serving sharks fin.

In the pub afterwards we were all very happy to have made the effort and to have taken a stand for sharks. The main thing we learnt is how easy it was for a relatively small number of us to have a big impact. We will certainly be taking further action possibly against specific restaurants. For example, the Royal China chain probably sells the most endangered shark parts in London and their restaurants are not in China Town. (On their website they say they don’t sell shark fin but I have checked in the restaurants and they definitely still do).

Although it is important to rally around iconic species that are in danger such as sharks, rhinos, tigers, whales etc it is clearly also very important to respond to the socio-economic forces driving their demise. Most large, marine animals killed by humans will be caught by large-scale, corporate fishing operations which are currently totally unsustainable. We have to keep the pressure on governments to regulate this industry effectively to allow marine ecosystems to recover. This is especially important now with the up and coming review of the Common Fisheries Policy. Our work is just beginning!

The Shark Side on other sites:
http://unemployedmarinebiologist.blogspot.com/
http://www.demotix.com/news/579154/ecohustler-shark-fin-demonstration-chinatown

More photos

Discussing the issues

Chinese Radio keeps track of events as they unfold

Signing for the Sharkies

Shark

Relaxing afterwards with a well earned drink

Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk

Merry Apocalypse

Termipeitto: The End is Nigh

Christmas is a time for family, tradition, good food and coming together to remember what is important in life. Right? Wrong! Christmas has been hijacked by the Dark Side and now is ‘the retail event of the year’ or, put another way, the peak of the annual consumption calendar, or, put another way, exactly what is killing the biosphere.

We used to bring plants and greenery into the house as part of a pagan nature worship ceremony. Now we chop the tree down, stack imported plastic tat under it and when we are done throw the lot into the bin. Well it seems sometimes you get what you pay for because our perversion of christmas, like our perversion of life in general is a one way ticket to oblivion. We are hungry ghosts and our desperate attempts to be fulfilled by consumption is a drawn out mass suicide.

kaboom1976: Crashmas

“Gather round children, Daddy has re-morgaged the house and bought a bundle of goodies…  stuff your ears with tissues so you don’t hear the wails as we gouge out nature’s eyes. Watch these cartoons so you don’t see us dig up nature’s sacred heart and impale it on the shopping mall’s spire. Stop crying children! This is what we wanted! Wasn’t it!?”

This festive season the suicide economy works like this: disposable products are manufactured in the East; shipped to the West, sold, and then disposed of. Then the vast ships return empty to do it all again, all the while burning millions of tonnes of precious oil .

The relationship between China and the United States says it all. Last year the USA spent $455 billion over christmas. The biggest retailer in the USA is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart buys 91% of their consumer goods in China (no surprise the US trade deficit is currently $440 trillion). In order to get these across the Pacific Wal-Mart have had built some of the largest vessels this planet has ever seen.

Emma-Maersk: the world's biggest container vessel

These vast, incredibly fast ships (31 knots ) were commissioned by Wal-Mart for the sole purpose of getting all their goods from China . They hold 15,000 containers.  Longer than a US Aircraft Carrier (which has a crew of 5,000) the full crew of these emblems of our era is just 13 people on a ship. These behemoths are emblematic of the consumer culture we have created which is feeding off the living fabric of our planet. They are totally juxtaposed to a sustainable economy.

Christmas presents on route

Globalization has shrunk the mighty Pacific down to an earthly river Styx. Charon, the ferryman of Hades, now uses Maersk to transport death and the money isn’t a coin in the eye but digital transactions wired at the speed of light between banks that would collapse were it not for the billions we pay in tax; handed them by governments because they are ‘too big to fail’ (Check the video below: Taming the Vampire Squid). The whole system is a self-perpetuating rip-off and it is all driven by good-old, trustworthy, consumer demand… so keep watching those adverts… and buy, BUY, BUY!!

This is one of three ships  presently in service, with another two ships commissioned to be completed in 2012. Aside from destroying local, sustainable economies the major catch here is that the annual carbon emissions of Maersk is 40-50 million tonnes of CO2,  which, by coincidence, is the same as its country of origin, Denmark!

Greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping currently account for around 3% of total global emissions and are predicted to grow fast in the future. Indeed, all the world’s governments are working hard to boost this trade because this is how they measure their success… economic growth. You have to feel sorry for the hapless ‘negotiators’ trying to square that circle in Cancun… or perhaps they know the whole thing is a joke. Governments have just found another arena in which to compete for resources.

So, this christmas, think of Jesus and keep shopping like crazed little robots and when the Apocalypse comes early don’t be surprised… we sponsored it.

GO ECO… work less!

Are you tired of the 9-5 grind and stressful commuting? Are you fed up of not having enough time for friends, family and interesting pursuits? How would you like a 3 day weekend? Well the good news is that a less stressful, more pleasurable and more fulfilling lifestyle could be just around the corner. This post outlines a proposal for a new campaign to reduce the working week to 4 days.

Crisis in Chinese is danger and opportunity

The Triple Crunch of an economy in meltdown, declining well being and a collapsing biosphere requires us to work less to slow down and rationalize the economy and to provide space for ourselves and the planet to breathe. As we work less we can make time to nurture our environment, communities and selves back to rude health and orient society away from its current pathological trajectory.

The ‘green movement’ is evolving into a popular mass-movement that is seizing the opportunity presented by the multiple crises of a changing world to co-create the future that we want. This rapidly expanding new agenda presents the opportunity to reinvent how we spend our most precious commodity… our time.

Sections:

  1. Work Less; Live More; the case for a shorter working week
  2. The New Monday
  3. Environmentalism is dead… long live the environment!

1.      Work Less; Live More

I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s

William Blake

Wlliam Blake's Angel of Revelation

To succeed a campaign must have at its core a sound argument making the case for change. Fortunately, the brains at the New Economics Foundation have done all the hard work and produced a bulletproof case for why people, planet and the economy all benefit when we collectively agree to work less. The vision section of their report ‘21 Hours’ states:

A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.

The report also looks at the necessary conditions for shifting to the 21 hour week and how to overcome transitional problems. In a little more detail here are the 3 main:

Planet: moving towards a much shorter working week would help break the habit of living to work, working to earn, and earning to consume. People may become less attached to carbon-intensive consumption and more attached to relationships, pastimes, and places that absorb less money and more time. It would help society to manage without carbon-intensive growth, release time for people to live more sustainably, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

People: a 21-hour ‘normal’ working week could help distribute paid work more evenly across the population, reducing ill-being associated with unemployment, long working hours and too little control over time. It would make it possible for paid and unpaid work to be distributed more equally between women and men; for parents to spend more time with their children – and to spend that time differently; for people to delay retirement if they wanted to, and to have more time to care for others, to participate in local activities and get their groove on.

Economy: shorter working hours could help to adapt the economy to the needs of society and the environment, rather than subjugating society and environment to the needs of the economy. Business would benefit from more women entering the workforce; from men leading more rounded, balanced lives; and from reductions in work-place stress associated with juggling paid employment and home-based responsibilities. It could also help to end credit-fuelled growth, to develop a more resilient and adaptable economy, and to safeguard public resources for investment in a low-carbon future.

Time to get out of the Rat Race?

A quick word to the ‘traditionalists’ out there, the ‘tradition’ of working a 5 day week is a product of industrial capitalism which is about 200 years old. For millennia preceding this people would not have worked 9-5 (unless they were slaves). People would have spent the majority of their time living in local communities raising families and together ensuring they have enough to live. Also, it has already has several times already:

  • The US state of Utah became the first state in the U.S. to mandate a four-day workweek for most state employees to widespread acclaim as described in Time Magazine and the Independent.
  • For the first two months of 1974, the Conservative government under Edward Heath imposed a three-day week to save energy during a time of soaring inflation, high energy prices, and industrial action by the National Union of Mineworkers.
  • And of course the French took a big step in the right direction when they legislated for a 35 hour week. Of course Sarkozy with his sad desperation to be just as ‘free’ market as his western allies reversed this. He probably said it would make France more ‘competitive’, which, of course, is exactly the problem. Nations competing to be richer than their neighbours leads to a global Tragedy of the Commons. In the end we all lose out. This illustrates why a successful campaign must be international… which could easily be achieved by an alliance between international green groups and the international labour movement. A directive from the European parliament could bind this influential continent together as a start.

Machines do the work so we don't have to

Europe is the natural place for this campaign to start. This is where the industrial revolution began. At the time it was understood that machines doing man’s labour would provide for more leisure time. John Maynard Keynes, called it ‘technological unemployment’ and Nobel Laureate Economist Wassily Leontief wrote:

“The role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was… diminished…by the introduction of tractors.”

Whilst nationalists, racists and other fools blame unemployment on the natural human phenomenon of immigration the real cause is going unaddressed in the public debate: Technological Unemployment.

But wait a second… isn’t Technological Unemployment a good thing? Unless you think you were born to work; machines doing work frees up our time for other important activities. We don’t have to rigidly fill our lives with work and there is no point sweeping the decks of the Titanic as it heads straight for an iceberg. Better to storm the cockpit and head for open water!

Apocalyptic urge? image credit azrainman

Why are we working 5 days a week? To what end? The puritan work ethic is fundamentally inverted when the work you are doing, by driving economic growth, is actually driving environmental meltdown and pushing our species to extinction. Once we accept that endless growth and wealth accumulation are both impossible and undesirable we can shift our work habits to better suit our needs and values.

The material economy must shrink. To think this need be restrictive for the human experience is the essence of the problem of the modern age. There is far more to life than stuff. Limitless growth is achievable in science, ideas, knowledge, art, music and sport. We already control too great a proportion of the material flows of the planet and so all future growth must be dematerialized. One popular and practical step in the right direction is building into the week a day which is not for work-for-money and not just a ‘day off’. In doing so we create space for other activities of critical importance to society such caring for relatives, growing our food, helping in our communities, keeping fit, having hobbies, being creative, playing sport developing skills and shifting to sustainability and all the other things we like to spend our time on.

Reach for the stars

Anyone who thinks this change is unrealistic needs to broaden their perspective. The 5 day week was totally arbitrary. It could have been 3 days! Furthermore it is a human invention. This is in stark contrast to the planet, biosphere or atmosphere. All of which we depend on, we cannot create and which our human experiment in endless work, economic growth and waste production is currently destroying. Reinventing the work week is far more practical then reinventing a stable biosphere.

There are many things in our lives we cannot change. Things like the laws of physics, the size of earth and the amount of oil underground. Then there are the things we can change. Culture is the sum total of humanity’s attitudes, opinions and knowledge. This is easily changeable. It can be transformed through stories, art, conversations and by forwarding the link to this blog. Start telling your friends, colleagues and neighbours… we don’t need to work 5 days a week. It is stressing us out and it is destroying our world. So let’s stop.

2. The New Monday

The beauty of creating a new Monday is the opportunity this gives us as individuals and a society. This should not be another day of burden but can we invent a Monday that draws out the best in us? How this day works should clearly be a national debate which could be a core part of the campaign. However, to get the juices flowing here are some options for Mondays, perhaps they could be on rotation? Some ideas:

Community Monday: people contribute some of their day to local community initiatives. This could include caring for the elderly, running projects for local kids or overcoming a local challenge with neighbours.

Eco Monday: it’s time to get together and give nature a helping hand! Teams of switched-on humans can trek out and get: tree planting, litter picking, ecosystem surveying and building: nature reserves, bug houses, bat boxes or green roofs.

Farming Monday: city folk and others travel to local farms to help with food production. Helps people to understand where the food comes from and has the added benefit of reducing the carbon intensity of agriculture.

Lifelong Learning Monday: adults descend on universities, schools and colleges to further their education. Not for professional development… just for the sake of learning. Courses in cooking, pottery, Tantra and Zen can run alongside astro-physics and ecology.

Loving Mondays: love, nurture, care, heal, get jiggy.

Need more? Check out http://idler.co.uk/
Still
not convinced? Here are: 16 reasons for a 4 day work week.

3. Environmentalism is Dead… Long Live the Environment!

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

As far back as 2004 with the publication of The Death of Environmentalism the traditional approaches of the green movement have been criticized for its failure to create significant widespread change to the way we live. We have known about species extinctions, toxicity, resource depletion and even climate change for over 50 years… so why aren’t we all living locally in human-scale communities enjoying life and living in harmony with the natural world?

Well it seems some historical trends are hard to argue with. There are 6 billion humans sharing this planet; population is totally unregulated and rapidly expanding and the industrial capitalist juggernaut is relentlessly commodifying every aspect of our world (including time) and with ruthless efficiency, systematically training our children to become ‘normal’ i.e. rabid workers / consumers.

The Red Queen

Environmentalists are badly outgunned. The ‘conventional economy’ we are seeking to change is the ceaseless competition of 6 billion individuals seeking resources. This competition, driven by self-interest maintains the cut-throat economy. However, the triple crunch turns everything on its head; as explored in Racing the Red Queen to Oblivion, if humans cannot consciously overcome the genetic urge to compete for resources then civilization will collapse. To rapidly get the message out and create the necessary change to move to a scientifically grounded, resource based, sustainable economy we have to get smart, pick our fights carefully… and learn from past mistakes.

The classic mistake, discussed in Death of Environmentalism, is to be too literal and too narrow in focus allowing the agenda to be pigeon holed as special interest; a bitter irony seeing as nothing in the human domain can exist without the ‘environment’. We need to reframe the argument. Or to put it another way, we should stop talking about the environment altogether.

To succeed we must reframe sustainability as a journey to increased freedom, happiness, more and better quality time and stronger communities. We need to build our campaigns upon values that run deeper then the distorted values (use a different word for values?)  that have emerged from the temporary aberration of industrial capitalism and its associated distorted culture. For example, rather than being anti-car lets be pro healthy, local communities where people can live and work without the need to regularly commute long distances.

Aside from the overarching problem of talking as though the environment was special interest or peripheral to the ‘serious reality’ of human affairs. 2 (two) critical mistakes that we keep repeating in campaigns are 1) being negative (or unpopular) and 2) not being ambitious enough.

First up, Nic Marks explains clearly in this very important Ted Talk how describing nightmare scenarios does not motivate people to change. It leads to a fight or flight response. Either: fight the environmentalist, run a mile, or ease yourself gently into the cool, slow waters of denial.

Falling polar bear

Environmentalists have made the mistake of telling people the world is going to end and then telling them to stop doing something they like. A classic case is the sustained, high profile attack on aviation. Campaigning against flying in general (as opposed to new airports or short haul) alienates people in the middle ground who may be sympathetic to environmental issues but not so much that they are not prepared to stop flying altogether. It allows the media to portray the green agenda as detrimental to the happiness of the masses when societies happiness is actually fundamental. The infamous Plane Stupid video of polar bears falling from planes is a case in point. This isn’t going to stop people flying it will just confuse and upset them and possibly make them angry.

Furthermore, aviation clearly serves an important role for humans above and beyond holiday travel. Ask anyone with a lover or family member on another continent how they feel about aviation being banned and you will see why this is always going to be an unpopular ‘victory’ at best.

Technically the argument is weak too. We can make space for well regulated aviation in a future sustainable world. It just requires we take a global perspective on resource use and ensure that the eco footprint of aviation is an agreed proportion of the total human eco footprint that we have scientifically ascertained the atmosphere / biosphere can tolerate.

Not a chimney

In contrast, there are many parts of our bloated, inefficient, unscientific economy that do nothing for human well being but have vast ecological footprints. The most obvious waste of resources resulting in declining well being is war as explored in ‘peace… or die’. Much of our infrastructure is inefficient by design as explored in ‘this is not a chimney’. What about the fact that we import and export the same amount of lamb and apples to New Zealand? This vacuous element of globalization is monstrously dim-witted. Even the free market apostles who relentlessly sell us myths standing on a smoking planetary pyre must have trouble explaining how it in any way makes sense to endlessly ship products around the world when local alternatives exist. Or why we should create something called ‘waste’ which we return to nature by the billions of tonnes?

Looking through this lens we see that the environmentalist obsession with attacking aviation is misguided. Our priority should be stopping behaviours with big eco footprints but low utility. Aviation has immense value and attacking it will make the green agenda unpopular at exactly the time that we need to be igniting a poplar mass movement.

'I have a dream'

Greens are waking up to the fact that Martin Luther King changed history by saying ‘I have a dream’ (not nightmare) and that rather than beating with a stick we should be luring with a carrot. For example: if you live / work locally you will have healthier communities and more time with you family; if you cycle or walk to work you will be slimmer, healthier and save money; if you have interesting hobbies using your creativity you will be saner and happier than if you spend every weekend in the shopping mall.”  These are the hallowed sustainability double dividends explored in more detail on the Green and Happy page; ways in which we can boost well being whilst reducing our eco footprint. Collectively these activities make the happier, healthier world we are trying to move to and should be the first behaviour changes to go for. HRH Prince Charles is ahead of the game (again) with the launch of his new Start Initiative which promotes positive activities.

The next campaign issue to address is low ambition. We have been watching with dismay as the UK 10:10 campaign (which started with such a flourish) seems to have shrunk in ambition so low to a point that it has now morphed into a campaign simply to get the UK government to shift the daylight savings times. Even this small, logical change apparently requires a campaign (with requests for donations and fax-your-mp click-throughs!). Couldn’t this kind of small step be achievable through a well presented argument or report put to the right parliamentarian? There are only so many times we can mobilize people to take an action so when we do we should make sure the outcome is worth it.

So let’s dream big; imagine the future we want; be ambitious and go for big popular issues that will make a significant difference to our world. First up… the Work Less; Live More Campaign.

NB: Before launching any campaign it is highly recommended to check the excellent Campaign Strategy website.

All you really wanted
Was enough.

Which is to say
You only wanted more.

Ram Tzu knows this…

What you now have
Is all you’ll ever have.

Ram Tzu

Big Oil is the dirty boot of an out of control sociopath committing ecocide

Oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, May 6, 2010 (REUTERS)

It is time to wake up and freak the fuck out. BP and the American government want you to sit tight and imagine that this environmental catastrophe is being fixed by responsible people. Don’t worry. Keep calm and carry on. Do not adjust your television. Go back to sleep.

The truth is that we are being lied to on many levels and responsibility was flushed out to sea a long time ago along with our grandchildren’s destiny.  The reality is that this is an unprecedented rupture of one of the planets most pressurized wells.  An engineer with 25 years of experience writes

Aerial view of the oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, May 6, 2010. (REUTERS/Daniel Beltra)

They go out where the ocean is 5,000 feet deep and drill another 30,000 feet into the crust of the earth. This it right on the edge of what human technology can do. Well, this time they hit a pocket of oil at such high pressure that it burst all of their safety valves all the way up to the drilling rig and then caused the rig to explode and sink. Take a moment to grasp the import of that. The pressure behind this oil is so high that it destroyed the maximum effort of human science to contain it. Now they’ve got a hole in the ocean floor, 5,000 feet down with a wrecked oil drilling rig spewing 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the ocean. The only piece of human technology that might address this is a nuclear bomb.

A pod of Bottlenose dolphins swim under the oily water, Louisiana, May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Obama says he is going to aggressively pursue the costs of the oil leak; as if any amount of money can compensate for dolphins dieing slowly in our toxic shit, dugongs drowning in sludge or whole coral reef systems being eradicated. However, the horrendous truth that we ignore at our peril is that this vast aberration is just the dirty boot of an out of control sociopathic giant that is stomping across our planet leaving nothing but death and devastation in its wake.

Humanity's dark side is out of control

The psychotic beast that terrorizes nature and endangers our grandchildren’s existence is growing more powerful every day. He assaults every known ecosystem on the planet. He knows no mercy. He thrives on young plump flesh and howls with glee as he snuffs out of existence the billions of humans that may now never live.  Look in the mirror, nice and close and you might glimpse him staring back at you out of the dark heart of your beady little eye.

Corporate Baby

We might wish this evil behemoth was extraterrestrial. This would be an easier foe to confront. Indeed it might even lead to the long awaited unification of the human species. The truth is far harder to accept. We have created this monster. Indeed it is a manifestation of our ugliest characteristics; our greed and vanity.

Of the world’s largest 150 economic entities, 95 are corporations. Wal-Mart, BP, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch/Shell Group all rank in the 25 largest entities in the world, above countries that include Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Norway.

'Honest Logo-bp' from http://www.b3ta.com

The corporate giants we have created, as well as being bigger then nations, are far more focused and efficient in their endeavours. Whereas nations are composed of millions of people who are all doing different things a corporation is structured entirely around its modus operandi. Most corporations have linear business models. They extract natural resources, convert them into products and sell them to consumers who eventually discard the product as harmful waste back into nature. A Corporation’s profits (and power) increase with the increasing efficiency and scale with which they convert natural capital (forests, mountains, fisheries) into human capital (cars, cities, cloths).

Amazonian Deforestation: resource extraction for products

So what actually are these enormous entities that are altering the composition of the oceans, the atmosphere and even the building blocks of life itself? The Corporation is a bizarre, ancient construct. In medieval times entities like churches and local governments were ‘incorporated’ so that they could survive longer than any particular members allowing them to exist in perpetuity. Despite not being natural persons, corporations are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like actual people. A key feature of a corporation is limited liability which enables corporations to socialize their costs (e.g. pollution) whilst privatizing their profits for the benefit of shareholders.

Altered BP Ad

Early companies used rivers to remove waste from factories. In developed countries this came under control when people downstream were harmed by the pollution and brought a case to court. However, to this day, no organism, ecosystem or indeed, nature as a whole, has ever been afforded a legal right, despite their role in sustaining civilization. This is a new and important front for environmentalists (for example: Wild Law, The Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights & Earth Jurisprudence).

A Typical Business Leader

Critiques of the modern corporation highlight its pathological self-interest, amorality, and voracious appetite for more. Historically corporations have cut deals with any style of government – from Nazi Germany to despotic states today. They influence policy for their own interest despite the social cost for example by consistently lobbying for weak environmental policy. They also concentrate unprecedented wealth in the hands of men who are, by and large, greedy, immoral and myopic.

Great Film: The Corporation

The exceptional film The Corporation evaluates the contemporary corporation’s behaviour towards society and the world at large as a psychiatrist might evaluate an ordinary person. The film’s assessment is effected via Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia psychology professor and a consultant to the FBI who compares the profile of the contemporary profitable business to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath.

The psychopaths may have run amok unchecked were it not for a new crime of a scale never before seen. The crime, like the corporations committing it, is bigger than anything ever achieved before by man, thus requiring a new word; Ecocide: the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished. A campaign for the United Nations to accept “ecocide” as a fifth “crime against peace”, which could be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), alongside genocide and crimes against humanity – was being launched in the UK this year by environmental barrister Polly Higgins.

Ecocide in the Niger Delta; guess who's behind it...

Ecocide is now happening all around the world. 10 ecocide hotspots include: Texaco Chevron dumping roughly 18.5 billion gallons gallons of crude oil and toxic waste waters into the Amazonian jungle over two decades; Vedanta Resources , a British company, planning to dig an open-pit bauxite mine in the forest’s of the ’sacred’ Niyamgiri mountains in India; Royal Dutch Shell in the Alberta Tar Sands referred to as the most damaging project on the planet which of course will now be overtaken by BP’s holocaust in the gulf of Mexico.

It is time for the green movement, civil society and any independent minded beings out there to wake up see what’s happening and take the fight to the source. Humanity’s survival depends on reining in the out of control behemoth that is disemboweling Mother Nature right in front of our unseeing eyes. The psychotic corporate machine is literally moving mountains, poisoning the sea, changing the atmosphere and making the planet in inhospitable. It must be stopped.

Photos from the gulf: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/05/disaster_unfolds_slowly_in_the.html

Ten worst ‘ecocides’ in pictures: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2010/may/04/top-10-ecocides

Protest in Washington, 11th May 2010 (photo: Chris Eichler)

How Deep Is Your Love?


What we buy and what we give has far more of an effect then we might think. Whilst all products have an ecological footprint impacting some part of the planet; some have dire, specific consequences for both ecological systems and people. Beef from the Amazon, palm oil products from South East Asia and farmed tropical prawns are well known examples. Less well known is that a massive surge in sales of cheap roses imported from Lake Naivasha in Kenya is ‘bleeding that country dry’ and drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the dusty edge of a rapidly retreating, once beautiful lake of regional ecological significance.

A Happy Hippo

An African Eagle

85% of all roses sold in the UK come from Kenya. Lake Naivasha’s cut flower industry amounts to nearly 75% of the countries horticultural exports. In 2008, 93,000 tonnes of flowers were exported. About 97% of exports are to the EU.  The following year President Mwai Kibaki’s government warned that nearly 10 million people – more than a quarter of the population – were at risk from food shortages.

The rapid growth of this industry in a unique and biodiverse ecosystem has had disastrous consequences. The lake’s water level has dropped by three metres from its maximum and its surface area has shrunk to half its size. Precious wetlands have been degraded and wildlife no longer comes to drink at the crowded and polluted shores.

The cost for the people is terrible too. The international companies that extract the water (and money) and grow the roses have been repeatedly slammed for failing to protect workers. Hundreds at a time are sacked for trying to protect their rights. Workers are exposed to extremely harsh conditions but so many job seekers come in from the surrounding parched landscape that workers who complain are simply sacked and replaced. Finally the evil was exposed for what it was with the murder of a celebrated (68 year old, female) environmentalist, Joan Root, who tried to make a stand.

A receding and polluted shore of Lake Naivasha

In the mean time, the international companies operating there extract ever more water, diverting it from agricultural production and its ecological purpose of sustaining the land. University of Leicester biologist and Earthwatch scientist Dr David Harper who has conducted research for over 25 years at Lake Naivasha: “Roses that come cheap are grown by companies that have no concern for the environment, who cut corners and avoid legislation, who sell their flowers into the auction in Amsterdam so that all the buyer knows is the flowers ‘come from Holland’.  In reality, they have come from Kenya where the industry is – literally – draining that country dry.”

Food & Water Watch, in their report, Lake Naivasha: Withering under the Assault of International Flower Vendors, write: “I witnessed chemical spraying while people working nearby wore no protective gear…The pesticides applied on the farms and in the greenhouses eventually end up in Lake Naivasha and in the groundwater, threatening people and wildlife.”

Lake Naivasha Today

This is scorched earth capitalism of the worst kind. These flower companies are making vast amounts of money, the majority of which will not return to Kenya, whist degrading the land. Once the lake is gone they will simply move to similar ecosystems in Ethiopia or elsewhere. They will leave a parched dust bowel reminiscent of the Aral Sea catastrophe, surrounded by dead animals and starving people staggering over the dying land.

The people who defend the import of roses from Kenya do so because they say it provides money and jobs to the local people. Floriculture is estimated to employ over 50,000 directly. However, the benefits are transient and superficial. The flower industry lobbyists are using a timescale so short as to be historically insignificant. At current rates of extraction the lake will be gone in 10 years. What will happen then to the 300,000 people who have been drawn to the shores? When the natural systems that support us goes, everything goes; including the economy. People will die. The economy that should be built around Lake Naivasha is a sustainable local one. By focusing on growing indigenous crops which require low levels of water people can be fed for generations and the lake can remain intact.

The evolution of capitalism has transformed us from beings to consumers. Working for money, and then spending it, is now central to our lives. Our transformation from life form to hungry ghost, mechanized consumers is writ large in the modern manifestation of our festivals. Pre- Christian Christmas celebrated nature by bringing a tree into the home. Then it was a celebration of the birth of Christ. Now it is the biggest consumer event of the year.

Bloody roses

Many corporations now depend on the spending patterns of these festivals to exist. As such, much effort is exerted to compel consumers to conform to the requisite behaviours and spending patterns. This Valentine’s Day, as last, millions of brainwashed, randy young (mostly) men will obediently trot to their local supermarket and hand over hard earned cash to get the requisite 12 cheap, imported roses to prove their love to their target mate. Harmless fun you might think. Unfortunately not, as with all mindless consumption there is a cost born by the biosphere and externalized to another part of the world.

“This Valentine’s Day, it’s important that we finally stop these international operations from depleting the lake’s waters, poisoning the surrounding environment with pesticides, and exploiting workers. Unless we end this, these industrial floriculture factories will continue sowing the seeds of poverty, water deprivation, and environmental carnage.”
Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians

Inhabiting our vast megacities nature is far removed. Yet its resources are needed to supply our voracious, over-stimulated appetites. Our excessive consumption requires that in distant parts of the world forests are felled, lakes are drained and mountaintops removed. We can stroll in comfort on mahogany decking while the mighty forests of the world burn. As mass consumption becomes the norm around the world companies reach further and dig deeper to transform nature into products. The result is that natural systems everywhere are collapsing. Our eyes are blind to the fact that it is our pounds spent, our vote from the wallet that is destroying the natural world.

Skull & Roses

Ten thousand tons of roses bought in Britain for Valentine’s Day are imported from Lake Naivasha in Kenya.  If your lover gives you roses you have to wonder whether the gift comes bundled with the blood of Africans and the death of an ecosystem.

It is no longer possible for educated people to claim ignorance; despite the media’s vested interest in helping to maintain the normal man and woman as obedient consumers. Stories constantly come through to us of extinctions, habitat loss and a dying biosphere. The penny must drop. The lines must connect. The neurones must grow between the synapses. It is us. We are doing this. We are harming the biosphere every time we buy something that is forced from nature. There is only one solution and that is to stop buying unessential consumer products. First stop; do not buy cheap imported roses on Valentine’s Day.

Notes

Valentine’s Day does not have to be a consumerist nightmare with grave ecological and humanitarian consequences. Here are some sustainable gift alternatives for your lover:

  • A delicious seasonal and local meal cooked or bought in your favourite restaurant
  • A prolonged erotic massage accompanied by Prince on the stereo
  • A poem, song, love letter, painting, photo, mix tape drawn from your creative juices
  • A weekend (not too far) away
  • Flowers grown sustainably in the UK. Check out Wiggly Wigglers
  • Fair trade flowers

Remember, we grow magnificent roses in this country. You just have to wait for the right season. So give your lover some other gift now and this summer you can stick a bunch of roses in her face, fill the bath with petals and generally live the rose scented dream. Just not in February and not with roses flown in from Kenya.

Useful articles:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/where-have-all-the-flowers-gone-thorns-among-the-roses-418489.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/feb/14/kenya.conservation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/feb/13/gifts.kenya

http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=14204

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/world/publications/reports/lake-naivasha-international-flower-vendors