Sunday, April 30, 2006
Saturday, April 29, 2006
I had a call from one of the organisers of the MAD show yesterday. It was rather flattering, and encouraging for Junkk.com, that they sought my advice and a few useful leads on something. Though considering the topic maybe I am not so sure!
Seems that, as part of the show, they are setting up a debate on a theme of something like 'can we spend our way out of the environmental mess we're in?', I believe meaning Fairtrady, Ethical shopping, to which my immediate reply was 'of course not, as just about any consumerist activity we partake in can only add to the environmental consequence if what we are really trying to sort out is global warming as a priority'. Which would have put me on track for what they were looking for, which was someone to argue against the motion... except they needed someone famous.
But we did go on to have a great discussion on who may be suitable, and it proved very tricky, if not impossible, to think of anyone. Because, like me, those up for a bit of 'head above the parapet' debate don't really live lifestyles that would sustain the position, unless it was accepted by fellow debaters it was more from a philosophical standpoint - guys like Bjorn Lomborg and David Bellamy. Best I could come up with is that guy (Ethical Man) from Newsnight's wife , but she turns out to be on a par with our household commitment-wise, or Swampy of road protest fame, though he's probably a local councillor by now, en route to a seminar on global warming in Bali.
What was equally interesting was the number, and composition, of those lining up in support of the motion, to which I had to add myself, selfishly, because Junkk.com is in the business of advocating buying environmentally... if we must trade and buy at all, which in any consumer society on a planet of ever-expanding population we are fated to do.
But there were a few surprises in there, and in discussion with MAD it did strike us how few, even from the more activist end, are seeing merit in being confrontational any more, or at least taking a high contrast stance. In a way it's sad. The fear of being ridiculed or lambasted has already bleached the colour from most debate, but PC-considerations, now backed by draconian powers of legislative muscle in support, have rendered it all pretty much blank.
Maybe that's why we're drowning in so much talk with so little do. Because unless the talk gives clear direction its hard to take action, so everyone just keeps on waffling.
Yesterday I was walking the boys to school (no eco-upmanship meant
here. It was lovely morning, we don't live too far away and I like
the exercise), with part of the trip taking me past the local council
offices. And I noticed one the 'officers' waiting at the bus stop
outside, I presumed to go to 'head office' at Hereford.
How laudable is that? By contrast, the same day my Mum's Health
Visitor dropped by... in her car.
Contradictions abound. On the one hand, are we prepared to accept
someone we pay essentially spending half a day traveling for work on
our behalf by taking public transport, or would we prefer them to
make the most of the day and their services to us by rushing around
in the most efficient (if not eco) mode of transport?
Sadly, the environment is usually something 'we' advocate as far as
we can, but often without wishing the requirements of actually making
a difference to our lifestyles impede the most efficient and/or
effective (will I be taken to task for these words?) ways of working.
In all the critiques of government policy, this is something to bear
The biggest obstacle to making much difference environmentally is the
human condition, dominated by the need to compete. This, combined
with now instantaneous global communication and access, means that
you can't do much in your local sphere that sets you at a
disadvantage for fear of someone else not too far (or very far away)
gaining the upper hand and putting you out of business - be you a one
person band, a multinational or a country.
I could tell every ad client I am hoping to acquire that to meet with
them will take all day (and who pays for my time traveling?), but I
don't think I'll get many, or make much. Equally it is obviously
necessary to do something about air travel. But it can't be
unilateral. And the UK can do all it wants with emissions, but if
I have not set myself up to say how this can be tackled at a macro
level (because I can’t see how other than by advocating some drastic
solutions which would be career suicide even to ponder out loud in
this PC-age), choosing instead to hide behind commentary and, to be
immodest and a tad more noble, a certain amount of small tangible
doing via Junkk.com.
But there are those who do claim to be up to the task, and I don't
envy them. Especially as, so far, they seem to be making a pig’s ear
of it. I can accept the failings if they are honest, but just too
many are down to greed, self-interest, ego, vanity... (and a lot of
other less than complimentary words).
I really live for the big picture, blue sky statesperson who means
what they say, says what they mean, and can actually get the ball
rolling with something tangible.
Having penned my initial feelings about Tesco's announcement of a £100 million fund to cut carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency, it has been interesting to see how it has been received. And on balance, so far it has panned out quite predictably.
The general mood across the 'green lobby' (the composition of which I am a little unsure, but seems, unsurprisingly, to be mainly those activist organisations with well-developed access to the media. It is important, as ‘they’ do seem to be allowed to speak for ‘us’) seems to have been cool, though in many ways not as cool as I'd imagined.
But some pols are happy. With, for instance Liberal Democrat spokesman on the environment, Chris Huhne MP, making a fair point that the amount committed by the supermarket was double the £50 million the Government had allocated to micro generation in its budget.
I am currently ambivalent. For sure, 'every little bit helps', and £100m out of profits of £2billion is not that much when you look at what else gets 'invested’ in.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
It seems the store's suppliers are not too thrilled at being asked to fund its marketing activities. I'm presuming this does not mean co-op ventures involving their products in the store, but a sort of generic tithe just to keep the store competitive overall against its rivals.
I've blogged on this before, and it seems a lot of other retailers are jumping on the bandwagon. But it all does seem rather quaint. But also surprising, as one can only presume the stance being taken implies that the suppliers need the stores rather than vice versa, though one does have to accept who is paying whom. I guess this holds true if all the stores gang up, becuase if you can't see it you can't buy it. Which would be naughty, wouldn't it?
But I have to say that for my favorite brands I do go where they are available, and these days do tend to shop across a spread of big stores, especially as I am trying to 'buy local' and this gets me to a few more locations each week. And if that means I can only get my Ginger Ale at the Spar, so be it.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Two drags Prescot
Vindication! If from a slightly odd quarter.
'Producing a car accounts for more than 10 per cent of its environmental impact, so second-hand is better. By chance, I own the perfect second-hand blue Volvo if they want to buy it, but that wouldn't be as much fun as showing off their new high-tech gadgets.'
Me, I own a perfect-ish R-reg Volvo. What's more, it's as green as grass. I'm thinking of having a sign made up: 'The green, mean Junkk machine', and if anyone asks how its' green simply pint at the colour. The mpg is woeful, but I can't afford to swap.... yet.
It's funny, but most of the useful commentary (not to mention compelling environmentally beneficial information) seems to be from those in the media not directly associated with the environment. Which is, perhaps, why they better reflect what most of us are feeling.
We're getting ready for our next batch of shows, and it's amazing the paperwork one has to wade through.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Nice to share a bit of good news...
I have figured out that it is pretty pointless (other than a bit of venting, which can be therapeutic) writing in to most media forums (though the Telegraph blogs do seem a notable exception), as the anonymity imposed makes the value of such effort altruistic at best. And the sheer volume of these things, and numbers contributing to them, has fast diluted any value I can assess in moving a view or cause forward. It simply serves to add to the media owners archive of nifty facts and quotes.
But I still can't resist writing to someone who at least has the grace to put a contact address on their work (mine is email@example.com), even though there is scant chance of them replying.
At least, thanks to this blog, the words need not be lost, and can be preserved in a relevant environment.
So here's a little something I just sent to Sunday Times Columnist Rod Liddle:
I have not long returned (if not recovered) from a month exhibiting at the Ideal Home Show (supposed theme: Recycling & Sustainable Living. Not.) to catch up on a few back issues of the Sunday Times and, naturally, your columns. It gave me the chance to read two in sequence, and though you may wonder how (or why), link them together.
A real frustration, to this householder/consumer-as-source-of-funds at least, is the sheer amount of money being wasted in the name of cutting back on... er... waste. We are seeing millions of pounds poured into meeting targets at the expense of real environmental benefits, with quangos, and even commercial businesses being funded to duplicate each other and set up massive administrative systems, ad campaigns, etc, before much money actually goes where it could do some good.
I'd prefer investment to be made in making it impossible for people not to be able to behave responsibly, and better yet see the value in doing so. Sadly this seems an less favoured approach, with predictable consequences - News story.
Before we start forcing anything or finding countless ways to fine, we must get the mechanisms, infrastructures and incentives in place first... and efficiently. The trouble is there is little being done to hold anyone accountable, much less take those responsible to task for so woefully failing to do so.
The problem is that we now live in a culture that values being seen to do something more than actually doing anything. And which rewards success but fails to penalise failure. It happens because 'they' know they can get away with it. Just like Mr. Brown.
Sure it makes a lovely photo. And for that, and not following up, relentlessly, is where most of the media must share in some of the blame. And while any copy highlighting an abuse may score a temporary rating point, then letting it pass simply makes one part of the problem.
You say in your piece Mr. Brown flew some hacks for this photo op. You mean the taxpayer paid (on top of the planet, unless they planted over Belgium to compensate carbonally - another story) for this???!
There seems to be an addiction to squandering cash on hype over substance, unsurprisingly with those who do not bear the consequences of the commitments made to boost their status. ROI is often used in business as a fair measure of a project's value. And, simplistically, the checks and balances of someone paying for it and seeking to be paid back are fairly effective. When the return is not viewed as a financial gain against a financial commitment, the waters muddy. And it must be accepted that there is undoubted value in many worthwhile social enterprises. But what we are seeing more and more is the return being much more in favor of the commissioning individuals, or at least their empires (which is pretty much the same thing).
And it doesn't really matter much whether we're talking rich western waste or third world poverty, one thing above all matters most, and that's overpopulation. Stick several thousand more homes on a flood plain in Surrey, and where their extra rubbish ends up (in a hole or up in smoke) is not going to be counterbalanced by savings elsewhere, no matter how many Priuses get made for them to drive. Equally, pumping money at any group that have little else to do other than that which comes naturally is unlikely to reduce their impact on the immediate environment's ability to sustain them.
Like you, I am no mathematician, but it doesn't seem too hard to imagine the closing gap between finite resources and an ever-expanding global consuming society. Especially as we now have a new component to the equation, in the form of the negative impact our consumption is having on the resource-production side, which serves only to speed the process up.
Like most of us, I feel I was made to make things. Some do so more
than most, and more tangibly, and I guess I fall somewhere in the
middle ground of those who 'create' concepts, or words (or websites),
etc, as opposed to actually constructing a 'thing'.
And so it has been since the start of time. But now a rather odd fly
that has always lurked in the ointment has started to really make its
rotting presence felt, and that is the consequence of making
something, and especially in terms of its global impact.
For sure, it was only sensible to be concerned how one's new
invention would perform across all sorts of criteria, from safety to
economics, but there really was no question to the value of trying to
But now I wonder. As populations ever-expand, the potential for
people to dream up and then wish to see through their ideas will
surely keep pace. Which inevitably means the consumption of
additional resources to meet new demand, should it be generated, when
a successful product comes on line. And though I have no clue on
economics, I suspect that it is the only way for things to proceed
without falling into chaos.
I recall the dilemma of my ad agency's success, which I saw as being
like a shark (a fair analogy in other ways, too): to survive we had
to swim, and in swimming we consumed, which in turn made us grow. So
we had to swim and consume a little faster to grow a little bit more,
I know where I am going with this, and I don't think I want to make
the journey. But the sad fact is, thanks to the situation we find
oursleves in, I feel cursed by worrying about the consequences of
creating, which is a heavy burden to bear.
For most, ignorance (or at least blissful unconcern) is profitable
bliss, but I am not sure how long the system can sustain it as an
...further to my last blog: what will happen is that the whole thing
will sort itslef out, and by posting this, the others now appear.
I guess this is the equivalent of either Ctrl+Alt+Delete or, if all
else fails, janking the power out and having a coffee.
Oh (all's well that ends) well. Fingers crossed.
These are testing times. No, really. As many will know, much as I
admire anything that is useful, powerful and above all FREE, it can
be frustrating when it all goes pear-shaped and you have little
control over finding out why, putting it right or getting in touch
with someone who will help.
This latter is important. I am proud that we at Junkk.com are there
to help, and will get back as soon as we can when (not if, as
gremlins are inevitable) a cock-up occurs.
Sadly, this is not so true of Blogger.com, who I use for my Junkk
Male RE:View blog. I've just noticed that while the latest posts are
on the admin section of the site, they are not viewable.
I know from experience that there is no point asking anyone why (it
has to be admitted that they do run a slightly larger operation) or
what to do about it, so I am now working through the bowels of the
FAQs and Forums. Not the best use of my time.
I really wish I could get this under my control, as this is happening
too often. And unlike Junkk.com, if they don't care enough to make it
work or at least help me, then it's not really worth it. Sadly, for
now, money keeps me loyal, if critical.
Anyway, this is a test to see what happens. If this appears then it
will be a glitch and I'll just resend those that didn't make it
before, which will therefore out of sequence or get duplicated. Sorry.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Because I have just read it a few days later and it would slot in a treat here, let me add this not disimilar set of thoughts on the matter from FOE.
And with another day, another viewpoint, this time from the business section of The Independent (answering my first question, and adding weight to my subsequent musings)...
"To counter the negative publicity being drummed up by lobby groups, there is to be £100m for environmental initiatives - everyone is clambering aboard this bandwagon, it seems - and some sort of "multi-pronged" community plan is about to be hatched in an attempt to make Tesco seem even more warm and cuddly than it already likes to think it is. In so doing the company plans to go beyond the rampant consumerism of its message to date of "every little helps"."
...and The Telegraph:
"With yesterday's annual result came details of a £100m investment in wind turbines, solar energy and geothermal power for its new stores. If this were a vacuous political statement to buy off the "green lobby" it would be a very expensive mistake. In fact it is simply the latest investment, and there will be more to come, in what in Terry Tesco's judgment will be the next big thing for supermarkets."
I'm kinda hoping they are on the money, as this means that at last business may be seeing doing the right green thing to be an opportunity. Breath is being held as we speak.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
When I were a lad, your allegiance to a DJ was based on him (or her)
acting as a proxy for your tastes, haunting places you could not get
to and bringing you what was new, fresh and great.
Nowadays, massively overpaid talking celebrities are given a playlist
generated by a committee, the access to whom is limited by a murky
world of gatekeepers and those with the tools to gain access. Hence,
even in the supposedly egalitarian world of the internet, a back-
bedroom overnight sensation more often than not turns out to have a
label, a PR or at worst a brother who works in the BBC.
So I was touched today to get a an email from one of my new-found
Stalag Luft Ideal Home chums, pointing me at the paper-clip story
(which I had coincidentally already picked up on) and suggesting that
we need a similar 'gimmick'.
Sadly, while I can only agree, I had to opine that the problem is not
so much the gimmick, but rather the mechanism to get it circulated
virally in sufficient numbers, and within a short enough time, that
the next level of hired, connected fixer could persuade the media to
Little, if anything these days gets in the major print or broadcast
organs without a shove. And if you have enough money, you can make
even the most despicable of entities look innocent and part of the
'people's voice'. It's why we long ago gave up on music contests.
This was brought to mind by a piece in the Mail on Sunday a few weeks
ago (yes, I'm still catching up on my reading, along with my blog)
about advertisers who pose as young girls on chatrooms. Apparently
agents working for multinationals are using these avenues to pop in a
covert message or two hundred thousand.
So... what's new? It's sad, but inevitable. And the only real scandal
is the way so many play along, with unchecked quotes, gushingly
endorsed awards ceremonies and the like, based on such rigged nonsense.
Which is why we are not above asking a few loyal Junkketeers to
mention our name when they're on their forums.
I need a filing system for my blogs. And a search function. I'm sure
it exists. And equally sure I can't afford one.
So I'll just have to allude vaguely to a blog or two 'a while ago',
inspired by a piece by MRW editor Paul, citing a major national
paper's policy of never admitting they were wrong. I was not in
favour of this approach.
So it was interesting to stumble across a small section in this
Sunday's Times, entitled 'Red Letter Days Limited', when it should
have been 'How we totally cocked up a story big time a hurt a bunch
of innocent folk by being sloppy and now arrogant'.
I couldn't find it on the online section (surprise) to quote, but
basically they have admitted that when they wrote the week previously
that said company's sales 'had collapsed' and it was failing, it is
in fact 'performing well'.
No I remember reading that original piece and thinking 'give that a
miss, then'. I'm not sure the correction I saw comes close to
repairing the damage done.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Today seemed like a bit of an enviro-fest on the BBC brekky news, so
I was disappointed to only catch the tail end of a live interview
with Sir 'Ming' Campbell, leader of the Lib Dems.
But what I caught seemed vintage. Basically, Auntie's morning honey
vanilla of the day and he were trading blows on who did what to save
the planet, mostly revolving around his V8 Jag.
Anyway, it seems that, conveniently, yesterday he stopped using it.
Yesterday. Today he's on the news telling us that we must do
something about climate change.
I guess it is better than nothing, but had he not noticed there was a
small problem before now? And to lump him and Thandie Newton together
(no small feat), I did catch that he was not retiring it, but rather
selling it to the highest bidder. So it looks like he pockets the
cash for a 2nd hand motor, someone else may (or may not) get a bit of
a deal, and a gas guzzler continues its merry way.
I even heard the word 'Prius' being bandied about. I just hope that
it is not dug out only to pop up the motorway to a press call.
Monday, April 17, 2006
I awake to another glorious day (at least in Ross-on-Wye) here at Junkk Towers. That is doubtless bad for the water utility guys, and hence us, down the the pipeline - though I have managed to really stir it up with the council by asking what it would take to reintroduce the water wheel our property used to sport when it was a mill in the 17th century. Only this time the bread being made would be money, in the form of reduced energy, from the brook flowing alongside.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
We subscribe to Materials Recycling Week, and having submitted it as an article, were pleasantly surprised to find my recent blog republished by them just now:
By Peter from Junkk.com
What was not so great was to see a related earlier blog by one of their journalists, dated March 9, where she found herself '... pleasantly surprised by just how much emphasis has been put on recycling and sustainability in the home', in obvious awe of the celebrities she met, and whose stands (which, unlike ours, we rather suspect may not have been charged for, despite being very commercial, and well-promoted, high-end enterprises) she was obviously introduced to (two, ironically, just a corridor away from our own).
Reason being that we are taking the organisers well and truly to task over the avowed theme, and this really is not going to be helpful. But it also highlights the disconnect that can obviously occur between what some organisations say and what they share (in PR, press packs, guided tours, etc) and what gets written, perhaps with the best of intentions, by journalists on tight deadlines.
We know the lady in question, and she is passionate about the environment. Sadly, we do not recognise the show emphasis she described. I know it can be tricky to repay an invitation to a press launch with some constructive criticism (check out my review of the Dead Ringers story to see how I tried to balance my views whilst still saying what I genuinely felt, which was that it was an awful lot of money on something that didn’t really get to grips with all the issues it should have, doubtless making grumpy the show PR and all associated Gov, Local Gov and NGO types who get to play with the huge amounts involved).
There is a heady cocktail at work here, involving a lot of folk, and delicately balanced relationships between those who need, and those they’d like to be needed by. I'd include in this, big time, WRAP (who sponsored the Recycle Now alley, and whose cited participation in the marketing by the show sales guys was highly instrumental in our taking part).
But perhaps most important is what the general public who visited thought of it all.
I was there every day, and from those who came to the show and visited our stand (it is... interesting... that we were not one an environmental journalist was told about, came to (at least announced), or felt worth mentioning, despite being only one of a half-dozen scattered about in several hundred) it split into two distinct groups: those who had no clue the show was anything to do with environmental issues, and those who came because they had heard, found our little oasis, and shared our views that it was nothing like it had been billed, for exhibitor or interested visitor.
As a courtesy to the MRW editor (with whom we truly value our good relationship) I have called to tell him of our views and my intention to write this, and we have in a most civilised fashion agreed that it is all about freedom of speech. So here's hoping I can still articulate my views beyond these pages.As part of our follow-up we will be continue to seek those of others who took part and visited, and it will be interesting to see the picture that emerges.