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.