The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for April, 2011

A Billion Acts of Greenwash

Posted by keith on 21st April 2011

Tomorrow is Earth Day – whoopee doo! It’s that time of year that all the environmental NGOs and countless businesses work towards in order to bring about a sudden upsurge in pointless symbolic actions and purchases of “green” things like (I’ll just have a look in my Deleted Items folder) LED candles, Napa Valley wine (with free trees), halogen light-bulbs, Target ecoboutique products, USB rechargable batteries, wine from Chile, lots of iPhone apps, quick dry towels, foldable speakers, a 100% recycleble shoe and even more wine.

The Earth Day Network have fully embraced this festival of tat and symbolism by introducing a Facebook application called – and this is the very epitomy of hope – A Billion Acts of Green. Basically what you do is type in what you are planning to do for Earth Day.

That’s it.

It’s meant to be inspiring, and has clearly been a runaway success with 100,502,680 “Acts of Green” showing on the counter at the time of writing. But it’s a bit odd because there’s another figure: 385 “Acts of Green on Facebook”. I’m still trying to work out where the hundred million-odd figure comes from, but the hype seems to be exceeding the reality, which is really comforting, sort of.

In 2008 I wrote about the nature of Facebook “actions” that end up sublimating any desire people may have had to do anything of any substance. That is not the biggest problem with the Earth Day Network campaign, though – it is the trivial nature of the pledges that are so galling. Our normal contact with the idea of “green” in industrial civilization is with regards to symbolic or superficial activities: typical examples being to sign petitions, change lightbulbs, recycle, wave banners, pray, use canvas shopping bags and so on. These “actions” play into the teeth of the machine for they simply allow the machine to continue its dominance over our entire way of life without threatening it in any way.

The Facebook app allows one line for your pledge. How much real change can be encapsulated into a single line? Moreover, if you are expressing your desire for change in the form of a Facebook application pledge then it suggests you have fully embraced the myth of “green technology”. Yes, there are situations where technology can be used as a starting point for change – such as with the efforts of Anonymous, Wikileaks and various underground activities that utilise electronic communications for speed – but to imagine that a Facebook application can be a catalyst for change is to succumb to the lies of the industrial system.

If you feel like subverting the app, then go ahead; but make sure you do something else as well. Something real.

Posted in NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 3 Comments »

Irony Alert! Red Tape Challenge a Breach of National Security

Posted by keith on 18th April 2011

I’ve just come off the phone after speaking to a nice person at the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. She sounded a little concerned, or maybe that was just bemusement, after I pointed out that the UK Government’s latest brain-busting measure – known, all chummily, as the Red Tape Challenge – is actually in breach of national security. Why does this matter? Well, it’s taken a little bit of research, but essentially the government appears to have been so hasty to roll out yet another pro-business, pro Daily Mail / Sun Reader, pro corporate industrial lobby idea, that they haven’t bothered to check their own legislation, nor considered what Cutting Red Tape would actually mean.

According to the RTC web site, the aim of the project is:

about harnessing the experience and ideas of those who deal with regulation day-in, day-out to help us cut red tape. Through this site we’re gathering your thoughts on which regulations should stay, which can be merged, which can be scrapped and so on. Ministers and government officials will then use this information to help them cut the right regulations in the right way.

There are, apparently, 21,000 pieces of legislation that are up for review and the real focus comes clear not much further down the page:

The challenge aims to look at the stock of over 21,000 statutory rules and regulations that are active in the UK today. The priority will be to focus on regulations that we know place the biggest burdens on businesses and society.

The Red Tape Challenge starts to look like a nasty piece of work already, as it’s clearly about making it easier for businesses to do what they want more easily, which is essentially to make money. The fillip of “society” at the end is revealed to be code for “more business” as the RTC is actually being run by a team at the Department for Innovation, Business and Skills (the old Department for Trade and Industry).

You can call them if you like to check: it’s 020 7215 5720 and I know it’s that department because it’s in the number range for the old DTI. I also know this because on the BIS website is a big banner promoting the project.

The BIS’s watchword is “growth“; in fact the entire UK government’s watchword is “growth”:

Growth is the Government’s top priority and every part of Government is focused on it. But we need to grow differently.

Growth must be sustainable, shared and balanced – across the country and between sectors of the economy.

There is a clear and active role for Government to create the conditions for the private sector to grow and remove unnecessary barriers that can stifle growth.

And there is a strong role for BIS, as the Department for Growth, in enabling this.

Almost everything that BIS does – from investing in skills to making markets more dynamic and reducing regulation, and from promoting trade to boosting innovation and helping people start and grow a business – helps drive growth.

Growth, especially private sector growth, is a guarantee of environmental harm. It is economic growth that leads to greenhouse gas emissions. Here’s a graph I produced for another article:

So, we have an obvious desire – unless, somehow they have overlooked this massively obvious correlation – by the UK government to cause environmental damage. Bear in mind that it would be childs play to construct similar graphs comparing trade to global deforestation, species extinction, water toxification, oceanic fish depletion and so on. Economic growth= environmental damage, end of story.

Then we have this interesting statement on the RTC page:

Are any regulations excluded?

The exercise will not examine regulations in relation to tax or national security.

Ok, so what is National Security. It’s not so hard to find that out because I used to work in something called Business Continuity Management which meant regular contact with the various rules that governed contingency planning at all scales. National Security actually means the protection of anything that is covered by National Emergency legislation; in the UK this falls under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. Obviously this is not going to be repealed by the Red Tape Challenge (actually I don’t think anything is, but that’s another matter entirely) as it is at the core of national security legislation. What is particularly interesting are the definitions listed in the Act itself:

19 Meaning of “emergency”

(1)In this Part “emergency” means—

(a)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in the United Kingdom or in a Part or region,

(b)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of the United Kingdom or of a Part or region, or

(c)war, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom.

(2)For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) an event or situation threatens damage to human welfare only if it involves, causes or may cause—

(a)loss of human life,
(b)human illness or injury,
(d)damage to property,
(e)disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel,
(f)disruption of a system of communication,
(g)disruption of facilities for transport, or
(h)disruption of services relating to health.

(3)For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) an event or situation threatens damage to the environment only if it involves, causes or may cause—

(a)contamination of land, water or air with biological, chemical or radio-active matter, or
(b)disruption or destruction of plant life or animal life.

Ring any bells? Yep, the things related to environmental damage are precisely those that are caused by economic growth, including radioactive matter (hint: Fukushima). Strange also then that is a whole section on the Red Tape Challenge related to the 278 regulations that currently provide at least a bit of protection to the very environment that, were it threatened – say, by a lack of regulation – would be a breach of national security!

Care to take another look at this Mr Cameron, or are you too busy thinking up another business-loving scheme to care?

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | 2 Comments » on Facebook: Now You See It…Now You Don’t

Posted by keith on 8th April 2011

Naomi Klein decided to join the board of They are delighted, as you would be if one of the world’s most influential anti-capitalism writers joined your campaign.

Obviously this puts Naomi Klein’s writings in a whole new focus – she’s happy to be part of an organisation that received its seed money from a foundation that bears the name of the kinds of business empires she railed against in the Shock Doctrine. She’s happy to be part of an organisation that has recently forsaken its grass-roots members in favour of business partners in order to add a bit of money to its empty coffers.

They are happy, so they put something on their Facebook Page to say so. Not surprisingly the fans were also delighted and started posting gleefully, as they do on everything to do with

Then someone posted a link to my previously mentioned article – it didn’t quite gel with the self-congratulatory sense of the rest of the comments, but criticism is criticism and are surely big enough to cope with a bit of that:

Apparently not. Within a few minutes the link was removed. Someone alerted me to this and I posted a comment asking why the link had been removed, and whether their recent merger with 1Sky was not just a way of saving money.

That post disappeared as well, as did the post of the person who originally alerted me to the link.

Then commented back, which you can see in the image below, along with the absence of the two posts being referred to:

That response in full:

“Hey Rachael and Keith. I’m a FB admin — and didn’t delete any comments, except the sudden notes you left accusing of deleting comments (could you have re-posted your criticism?) We do moderate comments, and will un-publish ones that are divisive, or seek to draw people into movement in-fighting. We don’t have time for that anymore. Critical discussion is a whole other ball-game — we welcome that, of course, and need it to keep evolving. Thanks.”

I highlighted a key phrase here – “Critical discussion is a whole other ball-game — we welcome that, of course” – in view of the next move by the administrators. They blocked both me and my contact from commenting further on the Facebook page. Not content with censoring anything that looked like dissent they decided to lock out any dissenters entirely, in case their rose-tinted views might be damaged in any way.

The following email has been sent to I await their response:

Hi Guys

Well done for the brave move in banning people from your Facebook group. Glad to see that the merger with 1Sky is making you even more keen to avoid any kind of criticism rather than engage with the criticisms of symbolic action and working too closely to businesses.

Don’t worry, though, because the original screen captures of posts you deleted and people you banned are still available and will be appearing on a few websites soon.

I think it’s safe to say you ran out of money even with your appeals to business, which is why you have been forced to recombine with 1Sky. Call it a tactical retreat if you will, but I think there are a growing number of people who recognise that writing letters to senators and forming pretty pictures out of tee-lights isn’t really the way to undermine the planet killing system that’s loving every “action” that leaves them unscathed. – the industrial system must be really crapping itself with this kind of hardline stuff.


Keith Farnish

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