The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for February, 2011

UK Census 2011: Why I Will Be Breaking The Law on March 27, 2011

Posted by keith on 28th February 2011

On Sunday March 27, 2011 I will be breaking the law.

If you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then I would also like you to break the law. We can do it together, and I know for a fact that an awful lot of people will be doing the same.

The UK Census 2011 is being held on that date, and everyone is expected to have their details recorded and sent back to the government for processing. Except it won’t, because it is not the job of the government to do the processing – and that is the key to why I will be breaking the law.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Census data will be recorded and processed by one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. In Scotland the Census data will be recorded and processed by a company wholly owned by a military services contractor. The following extract from the 2011 Census Security Report puts the two contractors in context:

The review team are aware that this has been a matter of public interest and note that the use of UK and EU subcontractors places Lockheed-Martin UK at arm’s length from the data gathered in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. Once the data capture infrastructure has been completed. there will be a ‘scrubbing’ stage in which all routes of access for Lockheed-Martin UK employees will be removed and the Census Ofices will formally assume control, with Steria, an EU company, undertaking the necessary data management and administrative functions. There have been public assurances that the contractual arrangements have been structured to ensure that only sub-contractors registered and based in the UK, and either UK or EU owned, will have access to personal census data. No Lockheed-Martin staff (from either the US parent or UK company) will have access to any personal census data. The approach adopted by GROS [General Register Office for Scotland] has been similar, and GROS will play a major role in controlling access to the infrastructure used for processing data supplied in the 2011 Census. It is a condition of the contract with CACI (UK) that personal census information will not leave the UK. GROS have confirmed that CACI (UK)’s sub-contractors with access to 2011 Census data have no US links and that the Act, therefore, does not apply to them. GROS have also given public assurances on contractor confidentiality in this area.

It is important to note that under Patriot Act rules, any data processed by a US company for any reason can legally (under US law) be utilised for the purposes of National Security. In the case of the UK Census it is of great interest to National Security who has whatever name, living in whatever place, having whatever religious beliefs, holding whatever passport and having whatever country of origin (and maybe staying in whatever country for more than 30 days a year). This information is being collected, and there is nothing any foreign government can do to legally stop the US government and its agencies from using that data if the data gets into the US-based processing facilities of either Lockheed-Martin or CACI International Inc.

This fact has been recognised by the Office of National Statistics, revealed in a startling passage:

Concerns expressed about the possibility of the US Patriot Act being used by US intelligence services have been addressed by a number of additional contractual and operational safeguards. These arrangements have been put in place to ensure to that US authorities are unable to access census data.

The ONS know they have no legal powers to prevent the access to data, so they are merely going to try and do their best to make sure it can’t happen. Yeah, right!

And that isn’t even the major issue. As mentioned above, both of the companies involved in gathering and carrying out the initial data processing are involved in providing arms (in one case) and services (in both cases) to military operations.

The Office of National Statistics has awarded the England, Wales and Northern Ireland contract to Lockheed Martin, one of the largest arms companies in the world. From their own website:

While a pilot engaging an enemy in armed conflict is a defining moment, air power is more than just aircraft. Air power includes actual aircraft, training, focused logistics, munitions, and even targeting and navigation systems – all the interconnected pieces necessary to complete their missions successfully. Lockheed Martin is a global leader in the design, manufacture and support of military aircraft.

Lockheed Martin provides high altitude airborne reconnaissance that includes state of the art imagery sensors that collect intelligence in all weather and light conditions. This enables the warfighter to download and transmit data in real time via satellite to multiple ground stations and other manned and unmanned aircraft around the world.

The General Register Office for Scotland has awarded the Scotland contract to CACI (UK) Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CACI International Inc. From their own website:

In support of DISA CACI also provides global net-centric solutions to our nation’s warfighters under all conditions of peace and war. CACI is the predominant IT services provider supporting a highly sensitive DISA agency that designs, operates and maintains presidential communication systems. CACI integrated computer network security solutions that formed a network which the National Security Agency (NSA) evaluated as one of the most secure government IT networks in the U.S.

Missile Defense Agency (MDA) – As the market leader in contracting and acquisition support, CACI has supported the MDA since 1993 by providing complex contracting and acquisition services. CACI’s expertise has been pivotal in evolving and transforming MDA’s mission over many years. CACI’s services are essential to awarding multiple billion dollar missile defense systems and associated services contracts. This cornerstone program has led CACI to become the premier contracting and acquisition support contractor and for the entire DoD and federal civilian marketplace.

Having companies like this deal with public census data is rather like having Monsanto carry out your gardening. They might be able to do the job, but do you really trust them to do the right thing; and do you really feel comfortable paying them to do the job given what they routinely do to the natural ecosystems of the world?

So that is why I will be breaking the law on Sunday March 27, 2011. And that’s why I will be explaining to the census-taker when they come to my door to collect the form that, for both data security and ethical reasons I wish to have no part in the Census. I will not be filling it in.

I know for a fact that I won’t be going to jail, despite what some media sources have been claiming, and I probably won’t even get a fine*; but if push comes to shove, here are some other things I might be trying to avoid giving any satisfaction to the peddlers of blood gathering the data:

1) Spoiling the Census form by making it illegible;

2) Filling in vague data that provides no useful information, but is not false in any way;

3) Filibusting on the doorstep, so that the census-taker runs out of time;

4) Claiming the rights of a Conscientious Objector given the business of the business of the companies involved (particulaly useful if this ever goes to court, for more information read this article).

I don’t think I will be the only person doing this…

— ————

*From the Census Act 1920

Penalties.

(1)If any person—

(a)refuses or neglects to comply with or acts in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or any Order in Council or regulations made under this Act; or

(b)being a person required under this Act to make a statutory declaration with respect to the performance of his duties, makes a false declaration; or

(c)being a person required by any Order in Council or regulations made under this Act to make, sign, or deliver any document, makes, signs, or delivers, or causes to be made, signed, or delivered a false document; or

(d)being a person required in pursuance of any such Order in Council or regulations to answer any question, refuses to answer or gives a false answer to that question;

he shall for each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

Posted in Advice, Human Rights, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage | 6 Comments »

Interview With Bill McKibben, Winner of Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and Gregory Vickrey, Winner of International Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize

Posted by keith on 24th February 2011

Climate reality writer and activist Gregory Vickrey. (L) ( Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Founder of 350.org, writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben. (R) (Photo: Nancie Battaglia /
350.org)

Bill McKibben, Schumann distinguished scholar at Middlebury College, is the author of a dozen books about the environment, including “The End of Nature” (1989), regarded as the first book for a general audience about global warming. He is also founder of the global grassroots climate movement 350.org, which organized what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Most recently, he was the recipient of the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Of this honor, McKibben said:

“I’m a beginner as an organizer; it’s a great honor to be included on this list of people who have changed America for the better. I am deeply grateful to The Puffin Foundation and The Nation Institute for this recognition of my work. I am even more appreciative that this award is representative of a shared conviction that now is a singular moment in our history for all people of good conscience to come together in defense of the planet. Our work has never been more urgent.”

Gregory Vickrey, Peace of the Action distinguished board member and generally unknown writer and activist, is the author of not a few critiques of environmental organizations, including “Environmentalism is Dead”, likely one of the least read articles on Counterpunch, ever. He has been lucky to work with Cory Morningstar of Canadians for Action on Climate Change; otherwise, he’d be extra-unknown. Most recently, he was the recipient of the $0 Peanut Butter Subsistence Prize. Of this honor, Vickrey said:

“It sucks to be broke and targeted, but what can I do? The entire world is at stake. So few of us stick to our guns and speak the truth about climate change – recognizing it as the greatest crime against humanity in history – I’d hate to cull myself from that group. Even if it meant I could also afford jelly on occasion.”

On that note, I interviewed Bill McKibben and Gregory Vickrey and would like to share our conversation with you.

Mickey Z.: You’ve noted that this award highlights your shift from writer to organizer. Can you tell us more about how and why you made that shift?

Bill McKibben: At some point, it became obvious to me that we were losing badly in the global warming fight, and that one reason was we had no movement. All the scientific studies and policy plans on earth don’t get you very far if there’s no movement to push them. So we’re doing our best to build that – too late and too slowly, but as best we can.

Gregory Vickrey: I think Bill is genuine here. He did realize we are losing badly in the global warming fight – and we still are. It is important to question ourselves when we endeavor to build a movement. In Bill’s case, I think one of the first questions was funding. And that’s can be a dangerous question, especially when one considers the history of the environmental movement, and even recently sees organizations like The Nature Conservancy cutting deals with Dow Chemical. Unfortunately, with the incarnations of what was to become 350.org, we find seed money from the likes of Rockefeller Brothers Fund (think big oil), and we find a pronounced effort to create a brand, rather than a movement – and that strategy was created by Havas, one of the world’s largest marketing firms.

MZ: Of your work, Derrick Jensen has said: “One of the problems that I see with the vast majority of so-called solutions to global warming is that they take industrial capitalism as a given and the planet which must conform to industrial capitalism, as opposed to the other way around.” How do you respond to this critique?

BM: It strikes me that the single biggest variable explaining the structure of the world today is the availability of cheap fossil fuel – that’s what happened two hundred years ago to create the world we know, especially its centralization. I think if we can put a serious price on fossil fuel, one that reflects the damage it does to our earth, then the fuels that we will depend on – principally wind and sun – will push us in the direction of more localized economies. Those kind of changes have been the focus of my work as a writer in recent years.

GV: What strikes me is that Bill did not respond to the question that was asked. What Bill says instead is that we should depend upon the political system that got us into this mess to get us out of it by taxing the crap out of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we could elect Bill (or me!) as president and we still wouldn’t get the policy in place to force corporations to kill the carbon economy. Jensen is on point with the quote you provided, and Bill and corporate brand 350.org ignore that part of reality.

MZ: So many people believe they’re already “doing their part,” e.g. recycling, using CFL bulbs, bringing their own bag to the grocery store etc. How do we help them see ASAP that this isn’t even remotely enough?

BM: Well, I think we keep encouraging them to become politically active too, not instead. It’s good to do what you can around your house; and our job is to help people realize that there are ways they can be effective in a larger sphere too. That’s what movements are. And especially with climate change, the feeling that you’re too small to make a difference can be crippling.

GV: This is another arena where Bill has no forthright response at the ready, because he and 350.org are not in the business of systemic change. They believe in green capitalsm, so changing light bulbs is good, recycling is good, etc. See, the “feel good” in recycling allows us to continue consuming at preposterous rates. Changing light bulbs damns us to suffer Jevons Paradox, and corporations love that. So 350.org loves that. Instead, we should be making people aware of reality: our only chance is effective zero carbon emissions, and we must get there in a matter of years. That means dramatic systemic change. That means drastic lifestyle changes. It’s apolitical, in the end, because Mother Nature doesn’t care about having a seat at the table in DC. She doesn’t need it.

MZ: The US Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter, the planet’s top gas guzzler, and recipient of 53.3 percent of American taxpayer dollars. How does your work address this situation and the concurrent “untouchable” status the US military has among the majority of American citizens?

BM: I’m not sure it really does, directly. Indirectly, I think the biggest reason we have the oversized defense that we do is that we rely on distant and unstable sources of energy as the core of our economy. I remember one sign in particular from the early Anti-Iraq-War rallies I went to: “How did our oil end up under their sand?”

GV: Bill’s work doesn’t address militarism at all. We need to drastically cut military spending in order to subsidize systemic change in the short term, and that mechanism is the fastest way to start cutting carbon. You won’t find that on the 350.org website.

MZ: Since 51 percent of human-created greenhouse gases come from the industrial animal food business, are you encouraging people to adopt a plant-based diet lifestyle?

BM: I’ve written time and again that industrial agriculture, especially factory livestock farming, is a bane – not only for its greenhouse gases, but for myriad other reasons. Interestingly, though, scientific data from the last couple of years is leading to the conclusion that local, grasspastured, often-moved livestock, by the action of their hooves and the constant deposition of manure, improve soils enough to soak up more carbon and methane than they produce. (This would explain why, say, there could have been more ungulates on the continent 300 years ago than now without it being a curse to the atmosphere). So there may be hope for meat-eaters as well – but only if you know and understand where your dinner is coming from.

GV: Again, Bill misses the point. Beyond eliminating militarism, we can cut into our carbon budget most drastically and immediately by scrapping the agro-meat industry. In time, Bill’s scenario providing hope for voracious meat eaters may come into effect, but we do not have the time to gradually shrink agro-meats. If we implement a strategy of incrementalism here, we are doomed to suffer the worst effects of climate change.

MZ: Is there a question you’ve always wished to be asked during an interview? If so, please feel free to ask and answer now.

BM: I’ve … done a lot of interviews.

GV: How do we get to zero? In short, the United States, Canada, and Australia must get to zero emission before 2020, with most of the cuts occurring over the next 5 years. Europe, Japan, China, India, and a few other countries must accomplish the same before 2025. The rest of the developing world must accomplish the same before 2030. Even in the best of circumstances, this scenario does not protect us from the feedback loops that are not included in any of the predictive models. But it gives us our best shot. Assuming policy-makers balk at this, we need an all-out global uprising to overcome, overwhelm, and overtake the system, and to be prepared for massive sacrifice. The system and its masters will not be easily returned to the masses. We must give them no choice.

MZ: What do you like to do when not engaged in writing, organizing and activism? What inspires you outside of those realms?

BM: I like to be outdoors – cross-country skiing most of all, or hiking. That’s why I live in the woods. And that’s why it’s tough to be on the road so much organizing. But I love the people, especially the young people, who are my colleagues.

GV: I chase dogs and kids and soccer balls. I succumb to the “need” of college basketball. I wonder where my next meal is coming from.

MZ: How can readers connect with you and get involved with your work?

BM: By going to 350.org and signing up. We spent what little money we had on a website; it works in about a dozen languages, and we think it’s pretty sharp.

GV: People can learn more about Bill’s work here and here. People can go to my website to get in touch and learn more about climate reality; it works in one language – occasionally two when I can manage to get a translator – and it’s pretty sharp considering I still owe the guy who helped me with it some cash. Maybe I can fix him a peanut butter sandwich instead.

Note: The preceding interview is not real. Mickey Z. and Bill McKibben held an interview that may be found here; their sections remain the same. Gregory Vickrey’s sections are a fictitious addition meant to bring the reality of corporate brand 350.org to the fore, and to urge everyone to get serious about climate change. Wake up. Tear down. Rise up.

Posted in Celebrity Hypocrisy, Funding, NGO Hypocrisy, Spoofs, Symbolic Action | No Comments »

An Open Letter to Journalists From Gasland Director Josh Fox in Response to Attacks by Gas Industry [via Truthout]

Posted by keith on 22nd February 2011

Gasland

With the recent Oscar nomination of my documentary film GASLAND, Big Gas and their PR attack machine hit a new low in its blatant disregard for the truth.

In an unprecedented move, an oil and gas industry front group sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saying that the film should be ineligible for best documentary feature.

We are honored and encouraged by the Academy’s nomination. It is terrific to be acknowledged as filmmakers by the film world’s most prestigious honor. But perhaps more than that, I believe that the nomination has provided hope, inspiration and affirmation for the thousands of families out there who are suffering because of the natural gas drilling. The Oscars are about dreams, and I know that for all of us living with the nightmare of gas drilling the nomination provides further proof that someone out there cares.

Now Big Gas wants to take that away, as they have shattered the American dream for so many. GASLAND exposes the disaster being caused across the U.S. by the largest domestic natural gas drilling campaign history and how the contentious Halliburton-developed drilling technology called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking threatens the water supply of millions.

Fracking is a whole-scale industrialization process that pumps millions of gallons of toxic material directly into the ground. Thousands of documented contamination cases show the harmful chemicals used have been turning up in people’s water supplies in fracking areas all over the map.

We stand behind the testimonials, facts, science and investigative journalism in the film 100 percent. We have issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the group’s claims (“Affirming Gasland”), posted on our website.

It’s not just us they’re after. The gas industry goes after anyone who tries to punch a hole in their lie. Last week the same pro-drilling group, Energy in Depth (EID), attacked an investigative piece on drilling pollution by ProPublica, the highly credible public interest journalism organization.

And just last week, T. Boone Pickens, the most visible promoter of gas fracking, went on The Daily Show claiming that he personally has fracked over 3,000 wells and never witnessed any contamination cases, even when Jon Stewart asked him about GASLAND point blank. He simply stated over and over again the industry lie, that fracking is safe. Not a single word of acknowledgement, or responsibility for the claims of thousands and the threat posed to millions.

The gas industry believes it can create a new reality in which their nationwide onshore drilling campaign isn’t a disaster. But no amount of PR money or slick ads can keep the stories of contamination coming from thousands of Americans from being any less true.

On Monday, Congressional investigators called out frackers for pumping millions of gallons of diesel fuel directly into the ground, exposing drinking water sources to benzene and other carcinogens. This makes EID’s specious and misleading attack on the science and data in GASLAND especially ironic since Halliburton stonewalled Congressman Henry Waxman’s investigation into fracking, refusing to provide data on their use of diesel and other harmful chemicals injected in the fracking process.

There are major watershed areas providing water to millions of Americans that are at risk here, including the watershed areas for New York City and Philadelphia. The catastrophe has been widely covered not only in GASLAND, but also by hundreds of news stories, films and TV segments. This is a moment of crisis that cannot be understated.

Even before its release, the power of the film was not lost on the industry. In the March 24th edition of the Oil and Gas Journal, Skip Horvath, the president of the Natural Gas Supply Association said that GASLAND is “well done. It holds people’s attention. And it could block our industry.” GASLAND was seen by millions and I personally toured with the film to over 100 cities. In affected areas, people came to the screenings with their contaminated water samples in tow. They came to have the truth they know shared and confirmed

As Maurice D. Hinchey, U.S. Representative (NY-22) recently said, “Thanks to GASLAND and the millions of grassroots activists across the country, we finally have a counterweight to the influence of the oil and gas industry in our nation’s capital.”

Big Gas is blocking the truth in their pursuit of hundreds of billions of dollars of profit. Their clear goal is to ensure our nation remains addicted to fossil fuels for the rest of this century. They seek to stifle the development of truly renewable energy.

They’re playing dirty in more ways than one, attacking the film and the testimonials and science in it instead of taking responsibility and addressing the contamination, destruction and harm that they are creating. I now know how the people in my documentary feel, to have the things they know to be true and the questions they are raising so blatantly discounted and smeared. It is truly unfortunate that the gas-drilling industry continues to deny what is so obvious to Americans living in gaslands across the nation.

Josh Fox Director,
GASLAND

www.gaslandthemovie.com

(Original article published at http://www.truth-out.org/an-open-letter-journalists-from-gasland-director-josh-fox-response-attacks-gas-industry67943)

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Cover Ups | No Comments »

350.org say “Hello Business, Goodbye Grassroots”

Posted by keith on 14th February 2011

For a while it wasn’t certain which side would blink first: the grassroots or the corporate loving heirarchy. Turns out that the grassroots blinked before the heirarchy had even been established. When, like 350.org you have a full time staff of just half a dozen people then you have a pretty easy decision where your loyalties lie: they claim to have tens of thousands of grassroots supporters doing hundreds of, albeit, symbolic activities across the world; they crow about this an awful lot:

World’s Biggest Day of Climate Action Unites 7,000 rallies in 188 Countries

Washington, DC – Just weeks before elections in the United States and climate talks at the United Nations, citizens from Afghanistan to West Virginia joined 350.org’s “10/10/10 Global Work Party” to issue a unified demand that politicians stop dragging their feet and get to work on climate solutions.

Leading by example, citizens in 188 countries joined more than 7,000 climate “work parties” over the weekend to get to work installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, planting trees, and then calling politicians to ask a simple question, “We’re getting to work, what about you?”

That should convince 350.org to stay with the grassroots and capitalise on the momentum they are building.

But then, on 28 January 2011, this happened:

A letter to business-people around the world:

Dear friends and colleagues:

We’re writing to invite you to participate in something amazing — and something a bit untraditional: get your company involved with 350.org.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you care about making your business green — maybe you’re taking steps to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, or have been educating your colleagues about the environment.Perhaps you started a recycling program at your office, or are building awareness-raising into your product-line. Worthy initiatives, all — and it strikes us that now is the time to join our individual efforts together, to knit together our isolated work into a bigger picture.

That’s where 350.org comes in — it has potential to engage your staff and customers, to complement what you’re already doing by knitting local projects to a global movement. How you participate is largely up to you: maybe your employees could plant 350 trees, or collect 350 bags of trash. Maybe you can put information about what 350 means for climate change on your next green product (like Camelbak). Perhaps you can sponsor an existing local 350 event, put a “Business For 350″ poster in your store-front or a similar badge on your website, or host a mini-rally (with your logo on the banner) like the staff of Keen footwear. The possibilities are endless — this is marketing, which we’re supposed to be good at.

Blinking doesn’t even approach what this is – it’s something more like foot-licking and forelock-tugging. If 350.org wanted to tear a rift between themselves and the grassroots supporters that sustain their efforts and, more importantly it seems, keep their public image flashing across the globe by virtue of sheer numbers, then they could have done no better than appeal to that ethereal entity called “business”.

This is the view of another commentator and activist, Lorna Salzman:

This appeal by 350.org to the business community defines the words “craven” and “capitulation”.

First, assign your first grade students some simple tasks. Make them feel good about it. Pin a medal on them for good citizenship. Announce to the world that you have formed a partnership with business to clean things up a bit (caution: do not mention the fact that business bears the biggest blame for climate change by promoting economic growth and overconsumption since your pupils will have to clean up the mess all by themselves).

Then after your pupils pin a medal on you for not giving them too much homework or anything that would take too much time or money, touch them all up for contributions to your toothless empty campaign that cares more about protecting its Brand (350: The Fun Way to Save the World) than about protecting humanity and the earth. Invite them to a Power Breakfast to thank them for their support.

Take advantage of the “power” image of your Fearless Leader by insuring that his bland content-less message continues to be heard and absorbed by the public loudly enough that other voices with real solutions are drowned out and characterized as cranky contrarians or seething hypercritical activists who resent your Fearless Leader’s rise to fame.

It’s hard to see the move by 350.org as anything less than a volte-face, at least on the surface; but what is the motivation behind such a bizarre move? Why would 350.org want to alienate their grass-roots membership?

If we look at the history of the organization, then the question of funding comes to the fore. 350.org was started using seed money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Bill McKibben is quite open about this, as he has said in the past; believing them to be sincere and good allies in the fight against global warming. He sees RBF as among the most dedicated funders to action and as such will not have a word said against them.

So Bill sees no conflict between taking money from RBF and trying to hold back the system from which the money originated. And I’m inclined to agree to some extent with his line of reasoning, so long as it stops there. But it doesn’t. 350.org, as I have said elsewhere, is a group that carry out predominantly symbolic, politically-based activities which makes them no more than a bit player in the battle against the forces that are killing the global ecosystem. It seems that if 350.org really wanted to be effective then they would never have followed the likes of WWF, Corporation Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy down the business path.

The logic goes like this:

1) 350.org are set up with the aim of bringing carbon dioxide levels down to 350 parts per million.
2) Climate science dictates that 350 ppm is insufficient to prevent runaway global warming.
3) 350.org refuses to sign the more radical Cochabamba Agreement, calling for a figure of 300 ppm; sticks to its guns.
4) Campaigns focus on working with the system rather than undermining it, further confirming that the 350 ppm figure is influenced by the desire to maintain the status quo.
5) 350.org leadership realise that there is little conflict between calling for 350 ppm figure and working with business, especially as their actions remain symbolic and have no chance of even hitting 350 ppm.

There is also another reason that 350.org feel comfortable working with business, and it’s very much down to the beliefs of the person that 350.org actually is: Bill McKibben. In correspondance, Bill has stated that he is a Christian and takes seriously the idea that people can repent and change – and that people who repent should occupy some of his time.

Quite how a business can “repent” is beyond me and anyone who understands the nature of religious belief. Repent is a completely inappropriate word with reference to a faceless business that exists solely to make money from the exploitation of people and the wider environment. Yet Bill clearly extrapolates the facility to repent to such non-human entities, otherwise 350.org would not countenance working with businesses at all. The fact that Bill McKibben has moved from being a writer and activist, to a writer and high-profile public persona, has distorted his vision for 350.org. The fact that his personal philosophy, as reflected in his book “Eaarth” is one of coping with change instead of undermining the systems that are causing the change (we need to do both) – a philosophy he shares with the increasingly eccentric James Lovelock – has allowed him to embrace the system he should be focussed on taking apart.

The next stage is inevitable: 350.org will become just another mainstream environmental organization, shedding a host of grassroots supporters in favour of a host of PR hungry businesses and sycophantic enviro-celebs.

In my view this is a good thing. Those thousands of people who have been led to believe that forming absurd shapes out of their bodies on beaches and writing fawning letters to politicians have a chance to get out of the symbolic game, and they should do so as fast as possible. Grassroots is not about being told how to make a difference; it is about going out and deciding for yourself how to make a difference.

Posted in Astroturfs, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 10 Comments »

Friends of the Earth, iPods and The Competition That Killed a Charity

Posted by keith on 5th February 2011

It was a windy Thursday evening at the beginning of 2011. An office in north London buzzed with anticipation at the launch of something exciting; something that would appeal to a new breed of eco-conscious consumers who want that extra something to keep them feeling good about their fast-pased, technology filled lives. The team responsible felt confident that this was a good move in raising the profile of an organisation that for a few years had been chugging along the same well-worn path, each move forwards barely perceptible in the bigger scheme of things.

A few clicks later and the new page was live. A little later, to the west and little south of this office another few clicks and a press release was moving like a flock of electric pigeons toward the in boxes of the mainstream press, a perfect digital partner for the web page.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 4, 2011 —
Ethical shopping is easier than ever now that The Ethical Company Organisation’s best selling The Good Shopping Guide is available as a mobile phone app . And in today’s financial tough times, consumers will be pleased to know that switching to a more ethical product choice often comes with no price premium.

Publically launched today (Fri 4th February 2011), the latest ethical shopping advice is just a button push away on your iPhone, iTouch and iPad – and at only £2.99 its kind on your pocket as well as the planet. 10% of net revenue will go to green campaigning charity Friends of the Earth. The app is available to download from iTunes (http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-good-shopping-guide-ethical/id416083134?mt=8).

The Good Shopping Guide Ethical Shopping App is the first ethical shopping app on the UK market to give the user the ability to make clear comparisons with other brands within each product sector. Choosing, for example, the most ethical cup of tea or bottled water has never been easier.

• Over 700 famous brands are ranked in 72 product-specific league tables under the 7 main sections of Food & Drink, Health & Beauty, Travel, Energy, Fashion, Home & Office and Money
• Easy-view summary table shows ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ brands in relation to the environment, human rights and animal welfare within each product category
• Detailed research tables for 72 product-specific categories across 15 different ethical criteria
• Ethical Company Index scores give an overall ‘ethical rating’ to easily identify the best performing brands/companies
• In-depth editorial support, giving information on the ethical issues involved in each product

William Sankey, Director of The Ethical Company Organisation said:
”Ethical shopping has never been so easy, in store or online. Our readers asked us to develop a comprehensive comparison tool they could take into the shops and our mobile app does just that.

”We could only have dreamed of such a neat mobile tool when we printed the first (painfully heavy) 350 page The Good Shopping Guide reference book a decade or so ago. Companies’ ethical records have never been so easy to access for millions of concerned consumers.”

Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director, said:
“Despite the recession more and more people want products and services that don’t trash the planet – but don’t have much time to investigate the best options.

“The new app provides quick and reliable advice when you’re out and about – and helps raise vital funds for Friends of the Earth work to ensure a thriving environment for everyone.”

Life would never be the same again for the people in the north London office. The connection was made between the App, the gadget and the environmental NGO. While The Good Shopping Guide made its usual symbolic stab at breaching the interminable void between consumption and sustainability, Friends of the Earth made an entirely unsymbolic stab at the ground that would contain their own grave.

An “environmental” NGO accepting money off the back of sales driven by the purchase of entirely unsustainable iPods and iPhones – the very same gadgets produced in polluting factories more accurately described as Slave Farms. An “environmental” NGO promoting this commercial partnership by way of a competition offering one of those gadgets; somehow imagining that we would all be ignorant to this abject hypocrisy.

Friends of the Earth, 1970-2011
RIP
Locally grown flowers only.

Posted in NGO Hypocrisy, Promotions, Should Know Better | 10 Comments »

A Story About Banks [Guest Post]

Posted by keith on 1st February 2011

A few weeks back I had a revelation.

Many years ago I opened an account with the Midland Bank in Ipswich. Lots of the people that worked there used to come into the pub that I worked in at lunch-time and they all seemed very nice. Actually there was also a very affable man, a regular customer, who worked in Lloyds, but he told me not to open an account at Lloyds because they were “all a bunch of arseholes”. But that’s another story.

So anyway, for several years I had a great relationship with the Midland, I could wander in, ask to speak to my friend Tracy, and she would see to my banking needs without delay or embarrassment. I liked my bank. When we moved to Bishop’s Stortford I kept my account where it was because I could still ring up the Ipswich branch and speak to Tracy. One day I rang up and asked to speak to Tracy and a rather weary voice explained that I couldn’t do that but could she (let’s call her Diane) help? Oh….why can’t I speak to Tracy? New Policy. As it happened, whatever it was that I wanted was dealt with by Diane (probably an overdraft extension, I expect). Fine, then.

Time wore on and eventually the friendly 01473 (Ipswich STD code) number vanished. 0845 became my new point of contact in……..in……..well I don’t know where they all were, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Ipswich. No Tracy, not even a Diane.

More time passed and the Midland was merged with, partnered by, swallowed up by the HSBC, the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation. No matter, I thought, banking is a global business, it’s just the way it is. We had a row or two when I successfully reclaimed a few hundred quidsworth of bonkers bank charges, back in the day when one could do that sort of thing. You know, I don’t mind banks making some money, but perhaps not that much…out of me, for those reasons.

Then the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation started on their ‘The World’s Local Bank’ campaign, with which they have stuck ever since. “That’s quite clever” I thought, “they’re a global business that maintains local expertise and understands the local market on a global basis.” I don’t mind a snappy marketing phrase, I have to invent them myself sometimes in the course of my work. ‘The World’s Local Bank’ is a great strap-line, beautifully judged.

About a month ago, at work, we were all talking about the banks and trying to balance our thoughts on how we felt about the state of personal and business banking and its rather naughty commercial banking cousin. That’s when it hit me….SHIT! “The World’s Local Bank”….Jeeeesus….have I got ‘TWAT’ written on my forehead? Am I some sort of simpering village idiot being led by the nose into depositing my money into the hands of Lord-Knows-What Investments plc, just because I still lend credence to a phrase as blindingly stupid, hypocritical and self-evidently full of bullshit as THE WORLD’S LOCAL BANK? Yes yes yes, the banks are all the same, blah blah blah, but I was suddenly incredibly pissed off with them, myself and the world in general. THE. WORLD’S. LOCAL. BANK. We’ve heard it so many times that it now makes sense, but it just doesn’t. IT DOESN’T.

So I asked around, had a jolly good Google and opened an account with Smile, the Co-op’s online bank. They don’t offer a face-to-face personal service, they don’t particularly pretend to be your friend and they fit with how the world and I have changed. I’m told that if one misbehaves, Smile’s bank charges are in fact even more penal than those charged on the world’s high street (ha!), but you know what? I don’t bloody care. At least they’re not feeding me quite as much crap. And what is more, they won’t be investing my bank charges and occasional positive balances in murky arms deals or indeed anything else that their customers collectively say “no” to. They’re the best we’ve got at the moment, apart from keeping your money in a tin (which if you’re working and paying a mortgage is now practically impossible to do).

The world’s local bank (“Fragment – Consider revising”, says Microsoft Word’s grammar checker). The dog’s square ball, purple white daisies, the flourishing extinction, a whole partial orange. Piss off.

Written by James

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy | 2 Comments »