These days I cannot cycle across London without giant advertizing boards getting up in my grill, hawking Lurpak butter. The posters shamelessly try to link a mass butter product with the complex and rich well-being benefits of cooking. Be happy, buy Lurpak and cook.
The one problem with this cheery narrative is that Lurpak butter is shipped across a sea to get here releasing unnecessary and dangerous green house gasses into our unbalanced atmosphere. Why are we creating this risk when we have great local butter, produced skillfully within these lands? The only butter I will buy is local butter. So Lurpak get your big, dangerous, stupid adverts out of my face and stick to selling your Danish butter to the Danes.
EcoHustler is inspired by Adbusters. Not least for their refusal to allow our shared space and reality to be owned and controlled by corporations who exist solely to sell shit and make money. Much is made of the corporate take over of nature, our lives and our economies but what about the corporate take over of our minds!?
Our sensitive brains are bombarded with negative and unsustainable messaging as soon as we walk out the door. People in cities can be hit with up to 2000 messages a day urging them to buy shit they don’t need. No wonder well-being is declining and the natural world is collapsing. Reality is a mass, shared hallucination and with this relentless onslaught of carefully crafted messaging human behaviour is normalized in a pathological state of endless wanting.
It is not just nature we are paving over but our minds. the practical and proactive response is to ‘culture jam’. That is to compete with an alternative narrative that can help people see that another world is not only possible… it is preferable, imminent and will be co-created by us. To spark a wave of epiphanies that shatter the consumerist worldview. We must all fight against pro-consumerist advertising wherever it rears its ugly head.
Responding online is all well and good…. but there is a danger we just preach to the converted. How do we reach the people out on the street, walking between the invasive advertising hoardings? How can we offer an alternative message?
Not: drink cola to be happy or drive a car to have status or spray this chemical to get laid. But: breathe, exist, create, grow, resist, love and be a part of something bigger than ourselves; something with meaning.
To reach people we have to be brave and head out at night with our faces covered. We have to find the shadows and upload our home-grown messaging to the urban fabric. We need to give the human beehive a repaint.
This is your invitation to get involved. Download an eco-propaganda poster and stick it up in your neighbourhood using the wheat pasting instructions below. Even better, design your own poster and send it in. The best posters submitted will be featured on this site available for others to use.
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.
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.
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.”
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”
Valentine’s Day is the culturally appointed moment when we affirm our love and appreciation for our partner. En mass we get amorous and consummate our passion. Naturally capitalism feasts on this kind of mass behaviour. In today’s world Valentine’s Day comes with a price tag and the costs are not just financial.
Many of the things marketed to us come with unpleasant impacts that we may not be aware of. By causing harm elsewhere these gifts dent our karma and unbeknownst to us muffle our mojo. Buying imported Kenyan roses, any kind of disposable tat or, god help us all, a diamond, actually reduces the total amount of love in the world. Is this what you want!? If it isn’t… avoid the dodge and go with the natural, free and sexy alternatives listed below.
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.
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.
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:
Hi Shark Lovers,
Many people have been in touch saying that they would love to join us on the 3rd but can’t and want to know if there is anything else they can do. Well there is!
Costa Rica is a major centres for the shark finning trade and a major tourist destination. Copy and send the text below to their Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mrs Pilar Saborio at firstname.lastname@example.org
This approach may work for other shark finning nations. In order, the top 10 Shark fining nations are: Indonesia, India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, United States, Japan, and Malaysia.
Dear Pilar Saborio,
I am writing to express my concern at the practice of shark-finning in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has an enviable record of conservation, and has a deserved reputation for leadership shown in areas such as action on climate change and the protection of biodiversity. It is therefore a huge surprise that your nation allows itself to be a world centre of an industry which is decimating shark populations worldwide; causing intolerable cruelty to one of the planet’s most ancient and beautiful species and threatening the ecosystems of the oceans on which so many people depend
Every year, over 70 million of sharks are killed for their fins, often thrown back into the sea alive, yet bleeding to death. This unsustainable assault on our oceans and must be stopped. I am aware that Costa Rica has taken legal steps to try and tackle this problem, but there is evidence that laws are not being enforced and that the industry continues unabated.
I therefore ask you and your Government to take urgent and meaningful action to put an end to shark-finning, including the proper enforcement of your laws and the prosecution of those that flaunt them. Until such action is taken, I will not consider travelling to Costa Rica as a tourist, and will do all I can to encourage others to do the same.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Shocking news just in: nations of the world are sending their wankiest people to Cancun after word got out that it is just going to be a giant international circle-jerk. Last year leaders of the free world gathered in Copenhagen for COP 15 but decided, at the last-minute, not to bother with a global treaty to protect: the natural world we depend on, our children or their future descendents. So this year… the gloves are off!
In a desperate last-minute bid for alien intervention to save us from the evil alliance of perverted-banker-greed and slimey-politician-scum good citizens of the world (http://earth.350.org/) are coming together to create giant symbols to grab the attention of passing alien vessels. Maybe a more advanced civilization can point out that nature needs the bailout out not a pathological economy founded on consuming our planet.