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You’re Not Taking “Radical” Away From Us, Bill!

Posted by keith on 6th December 2011

On Monday 5th December, 2011, Bill McKibben, author and figurehead-leader of 350.org wrote the following in the Daily Kos:

You think OWS is radical? You think 350.org was radical for helping organize mass civil disobedience in DC in August against the Keystone Pipeline? We’re not radical. Radicals work for oil companies. The CEO of Exxon gets up every morning and goes to work changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. No one has ever done anything as radical as that, not in all of human history.

Bill McKibben is wrong, in almost every way possible…almost. The following phrase is entirely correct:

We’re [350.org] not radical.

Correct, 350.org are a mainstream, symbolic protest group. Some of the supporters may be radical, but not the organisation.

The following phrase is correct, but not exclusively, and not at all in the way Bill claims:

Radicals work for oil companies.

The reason this phrase is correct is because genuine radicals exist in every walk of life, whether in oil companies, government, retail, social care, community work…anywhere there are people then there are potential radicals. Bill McKibben would like this not to be true, because Bill McKibben until very recently thought that he was a radical. In an interview with The Ecologist in July 2009, he said the following:

Do I think that Copenhagen will produce an agreement that gets us back to 350 anytime soon? No. It’s too radical a target for the political world at the moment. But getting it out there will move that process further in the direction of science. We are well behind the curve now and catching up is going to be extremely difficult. With 350 at least we know where the curve is. It’s arguably the most important number in the world. It sets a boundary condition for our civilisation to work.

Over the last 2 or 3 years, Bill McKibben has defined his work around the number 350, a number he considers to be too radical for the “political world” (whatever that is) and presumably for the oil companies that he has now accused of being radical. This is cock-eyed to say the least, but more than this it is deeply offensive to the people who consider themselves to be genuine radicals for two reasons. First, to compare the oil industry in semantic terms to the people who work on the very edges of society, taking huge risks and carrying out things in the name of a living planet that few (civilized) people would even dream of doing, is abhorrant. Organisations such as WWF, Live Earth and CAN International, which are counted among 350.org’s partners, are far closer to the corporate-industrial mindset, then they are to the genuine radical activists who are trying to undermine the industrial system that is killing the planet.

Second, Bill is attempting to redefine what the word “radical” means in the context of environmental action and consciousness. You cannot distance a word from its context: if I take a shit then that’s simply what I am doing; if I accuse someone of being a total shit then it’s another word entirely. The context in which Bill McKibben is speaking is that of combating civilized (“anthropogenic” is incorrect) climate change, and the word “radical” has close connotations – positive and negative, depending on your viewpoint – with the people who are taking a stand way beyond that of the mainstream paradigm that 350.org and their ilk occupy. Like the corporate hijacking of the word “green”, any attempt to hijack the word “radical” from those that pride themselves in its meaning is unacceptable and counterproductive.

Or maybe it’s not counterproductive, as far as Bill McKibben is concerned. Maybe he has started to realise that 350 is the wrong number, and that no amount of symbolic, pandering to politics “action” will make the blindest bit of difference to the state of the global ecology except perhaps make things a lot worse because we are so busy signing petitions and sitting on government building steps we have forgotten to think differently. Maybe he understands that the real radicals are right, and he is afraid to admit he is wrong.

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

Strikes vs Royal Weddings

Posted by keith on 26th November 2011

There is going to be a strike in Britain on Wednesday. The UK Government are condemning it. This is starting to appear all over Facebook:

When the government decide we can have a day off for the royal wedding it doesn’t damage the economy, but when the workers decide to strike for a day it costs the UK economy half a billion….

Is there something funny going on?

Quite.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | No Comments »

WWF Denies Palm Oil is the Problem, then Counts the Cash

Posted by keith on 23rd November 2011

It seems there is no depth to which the corporate world’s own favourite NGO, WWF, will not sink. An article in this week’s Guardian was happy to give WWF some free publicity, implying that the group actually give a stuff about the wildlife they were apparently set up to protect (or simply to ensure there is enough to shoot, as some sources suggest). The Palm Oil industry is growing month on month as new swathes of rainforest and other critical habitat are razed to the ground. According to Rainforest Action Network:

Approximately 85 percent of palm oil is grown in the tropical countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) on industrial plantations[3] that have severe impacts on the environment, forest peoples and the climate.

The Indonesian government has announced plans to convert approximately 18 million more hectares of rainforests, an area the size of Missouri, into palm oil plantations by 2020

This is just on current growth in demand, but just you wait what happens when conventional oil supplies start drying up and biofuel demand starts shooting through the roof. No more rainforests.

So, what do WWF think of the palm oil situation?

Palm oil itself is not the issue,” [Adam] Harrison [of WWF] noted. “The problem is how and where palm oil is produced.

Oh, I see. What he is saying is that we can have as much palm oil as we like so long as it’s produced in the right way. Let’s put that into context by quoting from the article some more:

The WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard, published on Tuesday, rates 132 mainly European companies, 29 of which received full marks, including 15 from UK such as Cadbury, Boots and Waitrose. No company achieved that level in the last scorecard report in 2009. At the bottom of the 2011 list are big retailers like Aldi, Lidl and Edeka from Germany, who refused to answer any questions about their palm oil policies.

“In the UK in particular we see progress,” said Adam Harrison, palm oil expert at WWF UK. “Due to several campaigns highlighting the damage caused by the rapid spread of palm plantations, companies see they are under pressure and respond.”

But he added: “Although there has been some progress on sustainable palm oil, new commitments are simply not translating fast enough into increased use of certified sustainable palm oil.” The report gives Unilever, the world’s biggest buyer of palm oil, 8 out of a possible 9.

Some companies bad, some companies good, apparently. Unilever are are the world’s largest processors of palm oil, so that should instantly put them near the front of the queue for criticism, after all if the companies didn’t put palm oil into their products then it wouldn’t be used, as was the case as little as 10 years ago when “vegetable oil” meant all sorts of different oils that invariably didn’t contribute to the removal of vast areas of rainforest. So how do WWF justify giving a company like Unilever such a brilliant score?

The Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011 measures the performance of more than 130
major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers against four areas which WWF
believes show whether or not these companies are acting responsibly in terms of palm
oil use and sourcing:

• Being an active member of the RSPO;
• Making a public commitment to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil;
• Disclosing how much palm oil they use;
• Showing how much of the palm oil they use is CSPO or is supporting sustainable production.

Let’s break that down a bit:

Being an active member of the RSPO;

The RSPO were founded by a band of palm oil growers, processing giants and WWF. According to WWF’s definition of “sustainable palm oil” the RSPO is the only organisation that has any credence; just like with “sustainable” timber WWF ignores, and positively campaigns against, any certifier other than FSC. WWF’s investment arm is raking in billions of dollars (I have been told this could be in the range of $60 billion for just one standards-based scheme in the Amazon) from the various schemes it oversees and then takes a cut from. The RSPO is just another such scheme: if WWF can convince everyone that this burgeoning market can be made “sustainable” then the potential from their founder member status for making money is enormous.

Making a public commitment to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil;

The public commitment, along with the branding on products as strongly suggested by WWF, provides further credibility for this pork barrel scheme. No other certification counts, even if the palm oil was produced in an area that always contained oil palm.

Disclosing how much palm oil they use;

This serves to show the extent to which RSPO is cornering the palm oil market. Not just that, the relationship between RSPO members and WWF is a circular one; according to RSPO:

By joining the RSPO, organizations publicly communicate their commitment to sustainable palm oil production and use as well as to raise their reputation as a pro-active, solution-oriented and socially responsible organization. Ordinary Members have the right to vote at the General Assembly and can be elected to represent the relevant sector in the Executive Board by the category in question. They can have access to all materials produced by RSPO for its members, through the RSPO website and newsletter. Ordinary Members have a say in the development of criteria for sustainable palm oil production. They also have the opportunity to network with other companies in the palm oil value chain that share their values. By demonstrating their efforts towards sustainable palm oil, they can thereby improve their access to markets and investment sources.

Become a member, especially a large-scale member, and you can even change the meaning of the word “sustainable”. More importantly, you have access to all that filthy lucre. WWF, of course, get a cut of that filthy lucre.

Showing how much of the palm oil they use is CSPO or is supporting sustainable production.

CSPO means Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (a.k.a. RSPO Certified Palm Oil). Simply put, the more RSPO palm oil you use, the better your score. No matter that the members of the RSPO can manipulate the certification to suit the industry and it is in WWF’s interest to keep the biggest members on the table to ensure the RSPO monopoly is retained. As reported by Rebecca Zhou:

WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Manager Lydia Gaskell says that companies wanting to be certified are given action plans and targets according to ‘the size of the company and how sustainable they are.’

“To take a company off certification for failing to meet standards and criteria is at the very least, impractical,” said Gaskell. “There would be no need for the RSPO if everyone was meeting those principles and standards from day one.”

What really shouts out, though, is the text from WWF’s own report, which demonstrates in black and white how much value they really give to a sustainable future as compared to one in which industry holds sway over everything. They do not not recommend stopping the industrial use of palm oil; instead they look forward to a thriving palm oil future. I recommend a strong stomach if you are to read the following slice of corporate-friendly PR (the emphasis of doublespeak and greenwash is mine) – after which I feel only 5 more words are necessary:

Oil palm yields more oil per hectare of land than any other crop in the world. That is one of the reasons why palm oil makes up more or less a third of the 151 million tonnes of vegetable oil produced worldwide. Its wide availability and low price combined with certain unique characteristics means that it is used in many packaged food and personal care products that line supermarket shelves. Ice cream, margarine, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals, soup stock cubes, snacks, ready meals, instant noodles, shampoos, soaps, lipsticks, candles and washing-up liquids—all of these items often contain palm oil that was produced in tropical countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

And palm oil is here to stay. Demand is expected to reach 77 million tonnes in 2050 to help feed the world’s growing population and the increased affluence of emerging economies like China and India. And its use may possibly grow even more if demand increases for palm oil as a biofuel.

The thriving palm oil industry also contributes significantly to the well-being of producer countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, and increasingly in the palm oil frontiers of Africa and Latin America. In these countries and regions, the palm oil sector can create employment that helps to lift rural people out of poverty.

Established brands such as ASDA , Carrefour, IKEA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, that are relatively large users of palm oil (using tens of thousands of tonnes each year) have progressed very well. Medium-sized users such as Co-op Switzerland, Co-operative Group UK, ICA, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Royal Ahold and Waitrose, have also performed well in their size class. Among the small palm oil volume retailers, Axfood, The Body Shop and the Boots Group are ahead of the curve.

There is a second group of retailers that are at the start of their journey and that WWF expects to do better in future Scorecards. These include Casino, Coles Supermarkets, Delhaize Group, E.Leclerc, Kesko Food, Metcash Trading, REWE
Group, the SOK Group and Woolworths.

Unfortunately there is still a large number of companies that are not yet performing as well as they should, and certainly not as well as the Scorecard’s leading companies show is possible.

Disappointingly, 12 out of the 44 retailers scored have still not joined the RSPO, a very basic first step in taking responsibility for the palm oil they use.

…and benefiting WWF’s financial performance.

Posted in Astroturfs, Funding, NGO Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

Ready the Fire Extinguishers: The Coca-Cola Olympic Torch is Coming!

Posted by keith on 10th November 2011

The Olympic torch relay does not have an auspicious history. The modern torch relay, as a symbol of local pride enmeshed in the Olympic ideal, was introduced in 1936 to herald the opening of the Berlin Olympics. It was nothing less than a propaganda exercise to show the world the superiority of Aryan athletes over the rest of the world:

It was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence.

The organiser of the 1936 Olympics, Carl Diem, wanted an event linking the modern Olympics to the ancient. The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich, and the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.

The first torch was lit in Greece with the help of mirrors made by the German company Zeiss. Steel-clad magnesium torches to carry the flame were specially produced by the Ruhr-based industrial giant Krupp.

Media coverage was masterminded by Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels, using the latest techniques and technology. Dramatic regular radio coverage of the torch’s progress kept up the excitement, and Leni Riefenstahl filmed it to create powerful images.

Coca-Cola were there, a friend of Nazi Germany, as a major sponsor proud of its associations with the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and seemingly proud of it’s links with National Socialism and the Third Reich (Coca-Cola Gmbh remained producing throughout World War Two, and even invented a new drink – Fanta – when Coke syrup became unavailable). In 1925 the Coca-Cola Corporation, perhaps naively, produced a watch fob in the shape of a Swastika to represent “good luck”. It has since come to represent something far more sinister; as has the name of Coca-Cola.

The website “Killer Coke” has highlighted some of the abuses carried out by, or in the name of, Coca-Cola over the last few years. The 1936 shame of Coca-Cola’s association with the Nazi regime is no distant, shameful memory; it is kept alive and kicking by the corporation’s continued activities:

Colombia and Guatemala

According to “The Coke Machine,” by Michael Blanding, published in September 2010, “…the union members do look to the lawsuit and the Killer Coke Campaign as the reason they are still alive.”

Some find it unbelievable that human rights abuses — systematic intimidation, kidnapping, torture and murder — are occurring at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. But it’s not the first time Coke has committed such atrocities.

In a 1987 booklet, “Soft Drink, Hard Labour,” the Latin America Bureau in London said:

“For nine years the 450 workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City fought a battle for their jobs, their trade union and their lives. Three times they occupied the plant — on the last occasion for 13 months. Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared. Against all the odds they survived, thanks to their own extraordinary courage and help from fellow trade unionists in Guatemala and around the world.

“A huge international campaign of protests and boycotts was central to their struggle. As a result, the Coca-Cola workers forced concessions from one of the world’s largest multinational food giants and kept the Guatemalan trade union movement alive through a dark age of government repression.”

The kind of violence directed against labor leaders at Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City in the ’70s and ’80s has been happening at Coke bottling plants in Colombia over the past couple of decades and unfortunately is being repeated again in Guatemala.

Turkey

In Turkey, in 2005, 105 workers at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Istanbul joined a union and were terminated. They organized a lengthy sit-down strike in front of the main offices of Coca-Cola in Turkey. After several weeks of protesting, Coca-Cola workers entered the building to demand their reinstatement. While leaders of the workers were meeting with senior management for the company, the company ordered Turkish riot police to attack the workers who were by all accounts peacefully assembled, many with their spouses and children. Nearly two hundred of them were beaten badly and many required hospitalization. Lawsuits are pending.

El Salvador

In addition to abuse of workers, Coke has been involved in the exploitation of children by benefiting from hazardous child labor in sugar cane fields in El Salvador. This was first documented by Human Rights Watch in 2004 and in footage taken in 2007 for a nationally-televised British documentary and highlighted in Mark Thomas’s book “Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola,” published in 2009 in the U.S.

Representatives of the International Labor Organization interviewed company representatives at Colombian Coca-Cola bottling plants in 2008 to ascertain whether they exercised any control of suppliers of raw materials (such as sugar) to ensure that they did not use child labor. The manager at the Coke plant in Cali said that their suppliers should not use child labor, but added “that the enterprise [Coca-Cola] did not yet exercise oversight over this issue.”

India

Of the 200 countries where Coca-Cola is sold, India reportedly has the fastest-growing market, but the adverse environmental impacts of its operations there have subjected The Coca-Cola Co. and its local bottlers to a firestorm of criticism and protest. There has been a growing outcry against Coca-Cola’s production practices throughout India, which are draining out vast amounts of public groundwater and turning farming communities into virtual deserts. Suicide rates among Indian farmers whose livelihoods are being destroyed are growing at an alarming rate. Every day for years there has been some form of protest, from large demonstrations to small vigils, against Coca-Cola’s abuses in India.

One target of protest has been the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala, which has remained shut down since March 2004 as a result of the community-led campaign in Plachimada challenging Coca-Cola’s abuse of water resources.

The International Environmental Law Research Centre issued a report in 2007 that stated, in part, “The deterioration of groundwater in quality and quantity and the consequential public health problems and the destruction of the agricultural economy are the main problems identified in Plachimada. The activity of The Coca Cola Company has caused or contributed a great deal to these problems…The availability of good quality water for drinking purposes and agriculture has been affected dangerously due to the activity of the Company. Apart from that, the Company had also polluted the agricultural lands by depositing the hazardous wastes. All these points to the gross violation of the basic human rights, that is, the right to life, right to livelihood and the violation of the pollution control laws.”

It is not so much a case of Coca-Cola having hard questions to answer as people realising that this company stand in the unenviable position of being one of the most unethical corporations in history. In May 2012 the London Olympic Torch will begin its long route through the United Kingdom, raising publicity for the Olympics and giving an opportunity for thousands of people to share in the Olympic ideal. The London 2012 website states:

The Olympic Flame will come within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. It will enable local communities to shine a light on the best their area has to offer – including celebrations of local culture, breathtaking landscapes and dynamic urban areas.

The main sponsor of the Olympic torch is Coca-Cola. In 2011 the corporation ran a competition to select the young people who would bear the torch on its way around the country; in essence, if you wanted to bear the torch then you had to bare your soul to the Coca-Cola Corporation. The competition contained the following, stomach-churning propaganda, not a million miles away from the same propaganda that Joseph Goebells utilised so effectively in 1936:

The Olympic Flame is coming to the UK in 2012, and for the eighth time, Coca‑Cola will be a Presenting Partner of the Olympic Torch Relay. The route will stretch the entire length of the country, starting at Land’s End on May 19th 2012, and finishing in the Olympic Stadium in London on July 27th 2012. We’re using our involvement to shine a light on young people across the UK, and celebrate the great things they get up to every day.

Through our Future Flames campaign, we’ll be giving young people who are using their passions to inspire others the once-in-a-lifetime chance to carry the Olympic Torch next year.

Enough! It’s time we had another way of looking at the Olympics and opposing the way it and the torch relay has become a corporate party; a way that reflects the Olympic ideal, “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”.

So how about being a Future Rebel? Young people who agree with the Olympic ideal, but disagree vehemently with the corporate ties that the modern Olympics are so ravenously embracing. These corporate ties are so embedded that if you so much as bring a soft drink into an Olympic stadium that isn’t made by the Coca-Cola Corporation you will, at best, have it confiscated, and at worst be refused entry. Now I don’t really care whether I can take my choice of soft drink to an Olympic venue – I won’t be attending because of the sheer scale of commercialism. But I do care about the drowning of the ideas of friendship, solidarity and fair play in the tide of commerce. If you are in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, then as the Olympic torch passes through your neighbourhood I would love a band of people to be there, at every corner, on every street, subvertising the sponsors with alternative images; telling the press, radio and television reporters how commercialism is destroying childhood, sport and life in general; and generally pouring water on the brands that have come to dominate every aspect of our lives.

Or, for that especially ironic touch, you could use something other than water.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Exposure, General Hypocrisy, Human Rights, Sabotage, Subvertising | 1 Comment »

Jordanian Cultural Heritage Enriched by Sustainable Star Trek Resort

Posted by keith on 25th October 2011

There is part of me wanting this to be a spoof, but most of me knows it’s real. I’m talking about the latest hair-brained scheme to tempt the mindless tourist into spending cash, in this case in the state of Jordan.

Hi Keith,

Building a sustainable, energy efficient luxury resort and theme park is an engineering challenge in and of itself: both are traditionally water- and energy-intensive. But in Jordan, where only 10 inches of rain fall per year and energy and water security is always tenuous, achieving as much self-sufficiency as possible is a necessity.

That’s why -as you may have heard-the $1.5 billion dollar Star Trek-themed Red Sea Astrarium in Jordan is being built with on-site renewable energy production facilities, integrated grey water and solid waste management systems, and numerous other cutting edge efficiency measures.

The reduction of the potable water use of the resort buildings alone will save 57.6 million gallons per year (as compared to business as usual). That’s enough water to serve the annual drinking needs of 303,000 people.

If you’re interested, I’d like to connect you with the engineers from Arup that developed the design, for a peek behind the curtain and a frank discussion about the nuts and bolts of the project.

Arup’s plans will:
- reduce water and energy usage by up to 20%,
- reduce resort cooling demand by up to 19%, and
- allow the Astrarium to produce 15 to 20% of its energy from on-site using renewables.

Any interest?

Best,
Courtney
chamilton@groupsjr.com

You can learn more about the Red Sea Astrarium here: http://www.arup.com/Projects/Red_Sea_Astrarium.aspx

Clearly Courtney is just a hired drone who takes no interest in her copy otherwise, in the name of all that is holy, she would have realised what an unwittingly hilarious piece of greenwashing PR bilge this is. You only need to try and digest the phrase “Building a sustainable, energy efficient luxury resort and theme park” to realise that. The obvious response is: “So why build the fucking thing in the first place?!”

But I am more polite than that:

This is a joke, yes? A “sustainable” luxury report and theme park that is completely superfluous and about as relevant to the Jordanian culture as building a copy of the Great Wall of China in New York – that’s hilarious. Well done.

Keith

No response, and how rude is that? There are three forces at work here – not in preventing a response, you understand, I’m not paranoid – in making such a concept possible in the first place:

1) A nation or corporation that promises to pay a nation, so desperate for money that they will stoop to such incredible depths to make a project like this happen. According to the Business Anti-Corruption Portal:

“Despite the absence of any significant natural resources, Jordan has succeeded in attracting foreign investments through economic reforms and has demonstrated solid economic growth rates, while the government has gradually been implementing policies to improve competition and to foster transparency. The need for such policies have gained strength under the circumstances that Jordan has witnessed and which are strongly related to the public uprisings that have swept the Arabic region since early 2011. Public dissatisfaction with government policies and the rule of law has mobilised the King and the government to initiate reforms to improve the political, economic and social climate of the country.”

Which obviously includes attracting as many tourists as possible regardless of the cultural, social and environmental implications of implementing a straight-down-the-middle capitalist attitude. The announcement of the project was made in May 2011:

Rubicon Group Holding (RGH), a diversified global entertainment organization producing innovative digital animated content and location-based attractions, will design and produce The Red Sea Astrarium (TRSA), a 184-acre themed entertainment resort located in Aqaba, Jordan, which, through a license from CBS Consumer Products, will prominently feature an amazing attraction inspired by the 2009 international hit motion picture, Star Trek. The “Star Trek” attraction is being creatively developed by Paramount Recreation.

That announcement was made today by Randa S. Ayoubi, CEO of Rubicon Group Holding, at the Jordanian-American Business Forum, under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in a special signing ceremony attended by business leaders from Jordan and the United States.

2) An engineering company determined to prove its “green” credentials, despite being a major provider of oil and gas infrastructure, aviation services, mining infrastructure and massive commercial developments. Arup are all this and far more; and as such gloss over their activities with a thick layer of greenwash, everywhere you look. The Astrarium is no exception:

The Red Sea Astrarium (Astrarium) represents an opportunity to demonstrate Jordan’s commitment to innovation and sustainable development. Resort developments, particularly those that target a global audience, increasingly reflect the global interest in sustainable development. The Astrarium will be at the forefront of sustainable resort development by implementing Arup’s infrastructure recommendations.

The Astrarium is a planned 184 acre entertainment resort and virtual reality theme park showcasing the rich cultural history and future of Jordan and the Middle East. Situated on a soaring plateau close to the Port City of Aqaba, the park includes four hotels, an entertainment district, a man-made saltwater lagoon, and two waterfront areas, one anchored by a ‘Star Trek’ themed attraction.

Brought in to provide infrastructure planning and design of the development’s energy, water, wastewater, solid waste, mobility and logistical management systems, the Astrarium presented a number of challenges to the Arup team. Located 200 metres above sea level in the mountains bordering the Red Sea, the site has no natural source of potable water thanks to the region’s arid climate while the development itself will have a substantial energy demand due to the array of attractions and amenities.

Words and thoughts consistently fail me with every sentence of this remarkable piece of rhetorical bullshit. One thing it does wrap up nicely is that there is NO SUCH THING AS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.

3) A PR company so willing to bend over and take whatever any corporation cares to shove in their direction that they will deliver, en masse, complete lies in order to make a fast buck.

Anyone wishing to undermine any of these three forces has my complete blessing; if you have any success let me know, I would love to see this all come toppling down.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy, Promotions, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

Occupy Wall Street: The Futility and the Opportunity

Posted by keith on 18th October 2011

Occupy Wall Street Placard - The Guardian

There are a couple of quotations which I would like to share with you. Read them carefully; they will possibly make you angry, or perhaps you will be nodding furiously in agreement with one if not both of them. They are important quotations. This is the first:

One will find hundreds, sometimes thousands, assembled in an orderly fashion, listening to selected speakers calling for an end to this or that aspect of lethal state activity, carrying signs “demanding” the same thing…and – typically – the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations to the assembled to “keep working” on the matter and to please sign a petition.

Throughout the whole charade it will be noticed that the state is represented by a uniformed police presence keeping a discreet distance and not interfering with the activities. And why should they? The organizers will have gone through “proper channels” to obtain permits. Surrounding the larger mass of demonstrators can be seen others…their function is to ensure the demonstrators remain “responsible,” not deviating from the state-sanctioned plan of protest.

(Ward Churchill, “Pacifism as Pathology”)

This quotation is important because it reflects very strongly on how the Occupy (Wall Street) Movement is functioning. It clearly expresses the nature of non-violent protest and occupation, which in the Westernised, symbolic mindset has been reduced to the smoking ruin of “doing what the authorities permit”. Only in Italy has the Occupy protest become significantly more than a symbolic talking shop and, of course, any semblance of violence, whether that “violence” is aimed at a shop window or an armed police guard, is absolutely, unequivocally condemned by the true representatives of the Occupy Movement.

While the vast majority of those who turned up that day remained peaceful — indeed, hostile to those battling the police — only the most violent reached the march’s planned destination. They seem to have dashed there to pre-empt the rest of the march, engaging the police in about two hours of fighting in front of the basilica. The rest, blocked by the fighting, quickly dissipated, their banners crestfallen; many detoured to the enormous field that marks the remains of the ancient Circus Maximus.

The idea that a “protester” against the capitalist system of financial elitist might could be actively hostile to someone who is battling the very forces who represent the system they are apparently protesting against is mind-boggling, not to mention illogical. But it perfectly bears out Ward Churchill’s observations of the nature of organised protest in the industrial West. Looking at the Occupy Wall Street web site reveals an article entitled “From Tahrir Square to Times Square: Protests Erupt in Over 1,500 Cities Worldwide” which focuses almost entirely on New York and conveniently skips any mention of Rome – yet the headline used the word “erupt”. Clearly any eruption has to be properly sanctioned by those calling the shots. The comments below the article are replete with complaints about the media coverage of the protests, as if coverage is what matters rather than actually achieving anything concrete (“Hey guys, we got in The Times. High fives!”). One comment is particularly revealing:

We’re pulling together world-wide. 40,000 people on the street in Germany this weekend – not enough, but a first step in the right direction. Don’t believe the news coverage about Rome (Italy): there were just under 100 troublemakers, but 200,000 peaceful protesters!!!

This speaks the language of symbolic environmental “leaders” like Bill McKibben, who count success in terms of numbers rather than results. According to the logic of the mainstream activist groups what matters is not that one person managed to disrupt a corrupt system, but that thousands of people marched in support of that one person.

I suspect that the same groups and “leaders” would be horrified if someone were to slice through the primary fibre optic cables connecting CNN or Fox News to the outside world if it interrupted coverage of the same protest; even if it meant the cessation of a constant barrage of state and corporate controlled news into the homes of the civilized millions.

That the Occupy protests provide a potential useful crucible for real action that may help remove the very systems the movement rails against (though not too much of it, please, because how would those “jobs” we all desire (are made to desire) be created?) is not in dispute; though from my experience, such gatherings are no more crucibles of real change than any other gathering of people who have an opportunity to talk. In fact, the very act of occupying without disrupting is likely to plant the idea into the heads of very many people that occupation without disruption is sufficient.

It is not. Here is the second quotation:

Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. Something that is constituted here resonates with the shock wave emitted by something constituted over there. A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. An insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire – a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always taking on more density. To the point that any return to normal is no longer desirable or even imaginable.

When we speak of Empire we name the mechanisms of power that preventively and surgically stifle any revolutionary becoming in a situation. In this sense, Empire is not an enemy that confronts us head-on. It is a rhythm that imposes itself, a way of dispensing and dispersing reality. Less an order of the world than its sad, heavy and militaristic liquidation.

The goal of any insurrection is to become irreversible. It becomes irreversible when you’ve defeated both authority and the need for authority, property and the taste for appropriation, hegemony and the desire for hegemony. That is why the insurrectionary process carries within itself the form of its victory, or that of its defeat. Destruction has never been enough to make things irreversible. What matters is how it’s done.

(The Invisible Committee, “The Coming Insurrection”)

This quotation is important because it is. Read it again, then go and make your own occupation – in whatever form it may take – count.

Posted in Advice, Campaigns, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 3 Comments »

An Open Letter to Mike Gonzalez, and Everyone Else Writing About Evo Morales

Posted by keith on 4th October 2011

To: Professor Mike Gonzalez, Glasgow University

Hi Mike

I’ve just read your article “Eva Morales Defence of Mother Earth Rings Hollow in Bolivia” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/oct/03/evo-morales-indigenous-people-protest) and am a little concerned. I assume (hope) you weren’t responsible for the headline as that only reflects a personal opinion, even though the headline implies this as fact. You are no doubt more qualified than me to comment on the political situation in Bolivia, but to suggest that the actions of an over-zealous police force reflects on Morales’ worldview when earlier in the article you show it was subordinates of Morales who ordered and defended the actions of the police is confused, if not dangerous.

There is a huge amount of economic interest in Bolivia, as you correctly state, and to ignore the enormously powerful forces of corporatism and state-sponsored agitation (as has been rife in South America over the past 45 years) in favour of an attack on Morales principles is disingenuous to say the least. A common tactic in past regime changes has been to undermine the head of state through the buying out of lesser politicians, and creating a feeling of unrest on the street by the spreading of rumours, the control of the military and subsequent violence to suppress dissent, and other tactics more subtle yet just as effective. I, and others like me, suspect this is happening at this very moment.

Mainstream NGOs are, of course, blind to such activities as they will always pursue the populist agenda, i.e. that which supports the viewpoints expounded by the bulk of their supporters – after all, where would they get funding from if they were campaigning counter to the viewpoints of their funders? Of course the frontline prevention of unethical activities has to take place, but to report on this and ignore the background of supremely powerful influences bent on regime change (and how better to make it happen than to tar the regime with the brush of “inhumanity” – how ironic given the previous paragraph) is not acceptable. The real kicker here is that none of the mainstream NGOs have signed up to the ground breaking People’s Agreement of Cochabamba, or the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which Morales himself has pushed for since 2009. This is a telling sign, if not absolute evidence, of the mainstream bias of the media bodies and NGOs reporting on the current situation in Bolivia.

I would urge you to read the article at http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/09/30/who-really-leads-on-the-environment-bolivia-verses-the-movement-the-facts-speak-for-themselves/, and perhaps ask that your article be amended to reflect the wider background of corporate and state influence in South America.

Kind regards

Keith Farnish

(More information at http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2011/09/30/peak-hypocrisy-u-s-organizations-exploit-bolivia-crisis/)

Posted in Government Policies, Human Rights, Media Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy | No Comments »

Moving Planet Just Moved!

Posted by keith on 23rd September 2011

Symbolic action sucks!

Have a look at the other side of Moving Planet and the environmental mainstream at www.moving-planet.com

Posted in Exposure, NGO Hypocrisy, Subvertising | No Comments »

Greenloons: Ecotourism is the New Blindfold

Posted by keith on 13th September 2011

Now that the Unsuitablog is taking a more occasional view of ethical hypocrisy (short for, “I really don’t have the time for all this!”) it takes a very special email or advert to make it to the blog. Most of them end up in my junk folder, but some of them sneak into my inbox, which usually means I haven’t heard from the agency or company in question before. So imagine my delight when something from Greenloons popped up the other day, and made me angry all over, just like the early days when I wasn’t so innured from hypocrisy. It deserves to be published in its entirety:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Eco Trailblazer Greenloons Guides Families to International Rainforests with Emphasis on Educational / Sustainable Vacations

Top Five Recommendations Span Globe for Certified Green Eco Adventures

Vienna, VA, Sept. 7 – Eco trailblazer Greenloons http://www.greenloons.com/ guides families to international rainforests that are inclusive of sustainable vacation opportunities. Its top five recommendations spanning the globe offer green eco adventures that are certified by leading third party sources.

Irene Lane, Greenloons founder, believes it’s never to early to introduce children to the “lungs of the planet”, the world’s rainforests covering less than two percent of the earth’s total surface area but are home to 50 percent of its plants and animals.

“Because rainforests are disappearing at a rate of more than 56,000 square miles each year, it’s crucial for kids to learn about how important these environments are to their everyday lives,” Lane said. “Through extensive research, we are able to offer unique family travel experiences where young and old can connect at a deeper level in a sustainable manner with the places they are visiting.”

Greenloons top rainforest destinations for families include Costa Rica, Peru, Madagascar, Borneo and Australia.

Costa Rica – Rainforest Adventure focuses on Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula that protects such endangered species (showcased by a local guide) as jaguar, puma, crocodile, tapir, poison dart frog, scarlet macaw and harpy eagle. Local beaches are major nesting sites for several varieties of sea turtles. Roundtrip ground transfers are by private taxi from Puerto Jimenez served by daily flights from Costa Rica’s Tobias Bolaños International airport in San Jose. Packages are 5 days/4 nights starting at $690 per person with year-round open scheduling.

Peru – Exploring the Amazon Rainforest showcases the world’s largest tropical rainforest with the world’s second longest river, the Amazon. A motorized canoe down the Peruvian Amazon in the Tambopata National Reserve can reveal, among other wildlife, giant otters. The Tambopata Research Center has exclusive access to untouched Amazonian forests; a local naturalist introduces ongoing projects that include visiting the world’s largest macaw clay lick. Five day/4 night trips for $999 per person depart year-round with flexible, open scheduling.

Madagascar
– Madagascar Experience encompasses an eco-system so isolated and unusual that scientists call it “the eighth continent.” The rainforests of the Atsinanana encompass six national parks that protect the large Indri lemur, tenrec, fanaloka and aye-aye. The ancient town of Antsirable transitions guests around volcanic lakes from upland rainforests to the semi-arid landscape of Isalo. The 10 day/9 night packages start at $1599 with monthly scheduled departures year-round.

Borneo – Borneo Family Adventure includes village home stays at Kinabatangan Jungle Camp and rainforest camping in tropical Sabah, part of the rainforests of Asia stretching from India and Burma in the west to Malaysia and the islands of Java and Borneo in the east. In addition to spotting macaques, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and perhaps wild orangutans, guests visit Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary and meet orphaned orangutans. Elevenday/10 night trips start at $1375 for adults with departures in January, April, July, August, October and December.

Australia – Fraser Island & Reef Experience opens up the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island World Heritage Site, the only place in the world where along Yidney Rainforest trails and growing on sand dunes at high elevations are towering pines, rainforest trees with giant girths, rare and ancient giant ferns, eucalypt forests, lemon-scented swamp vegetation and dwarfed heathland shrubs covered in a profusion of flowers. On the water side in addition to snorkeling guests may see shipwrecks, sharks, dolphins and manta rays at Indian Head. Six day/5 night trips are offered year-round. Call Greenloons for pricing (703.752.6270).

About Greenloons:

Greenloons (http://www.greenloons.com/) guides families to travel experiences managed by certified third-party suppliers engaged in eco- and sustainable tourism. Lane founded Greenloons in 2010 for the global community of nature enthusiasts and wildlife conservationists interested in accessing detailed and reliable information about responsible, sustainable and certified ecotourism travel vacations both in the US and abroad.

Greenloons is a first-of-its-kind online resource aimed at answering the growing need for accredited eco-tours and sustainable holiday travel in the tourism industry. Greenloons.com provides ecotourism education, news, comparable certified ecotour and volunteer conservation program listings, tour reviews and booking services, plus a forum for the community to share its personal vacation stories and tips for establishing ecotourism in any corner of the world.

# # #

For photos and/or more information on how Greenloons is making a difference please contact:

Sara Widness / 802-234-6704 / sara@widnesspr.com
Dave Wiggins / 303-554-8821 / dave@travelnewssource.com
Website and Portfolio of Past Releases: http://www.travelnewssource.com/
Follow Widness & Wiggins PR on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/BoulderDave

Greenloons Company Contact:
Irene Lane / 703.752.6270 / irene@greenloons.com / http://www.greenloons.com/

Now, forgive me if I’m being stupid, but I had a lovely trip to the isle of Skye recently, which consisted of a 1 hour bus journey followed by about 7 hours on a couple of trains and a 30 minute ferry. I walked to the camp site. The environment in which I was camping, with a few others, and learning some useful bushcraft skills to boot, was beautiful. The journey was equally stunning. The total distance travelled: about 250 miles, which I thought was about far enough. Recently I wrote an article on The Earth Blog called, “Finding My Limit” which emphasised the importance of searching out and making the most of that which is close to you.

Such inconsequential places, and such seemingly trivial reasons to go there. Just a few words, a bite to eat, a passing smile, a friendship reignited, a love on fire. We ignore these local places because the civilized world insists that our boundaries are distant, we can achieve anything, we have no limits. The Diaspora of our mechanised, electrical, money-soaked commercial excesses has, indeed, reached round so far it hits itself on the back, and screeches past to take another lap of the little blue-green dot we live on. In universal terms Earth is a dot. In human terms it is all we can ever intimately know as a species, and as I look out of my window I can see – what? – a few hundred metres; a couple of miles if I get up high.

Why go further when what really make our days go round are those apparently inconsequential dealings with the things that are so close to us? Yet we choose to ignore them because there is a bigger world out there. I refuse to accept that and choose the places I can walk to, run through and, if I really want to open my mind up, cycle there and back. That is my limit; all I can really know, and love, and nurture.

Ecotourism is a contradiction. “Tourism” is about travel for travel’s sake – the culturally imposed “need” to explore at leisure simply because something is there. “Eco” implies ecology and the tight network within which all life is entwined. The two simply cannot go together, except in the minds of a capitalist, bent on making us believe you can have it all.

Let’s look at the quotation from Irene Lane again:

“Because rainforests are disappearing at a rate of more than 56,000 square miles each year, it’s crucial for kids to learn about how important these environments are to their everyday lives,” Lane said. “Through extensive research, we are able to offer unique family travel experiences where young and old can connect at a deeper level in a sustainable manner with the places they are visiting.”

The mass of contradictions in this statement is mind-boggling. Irene is talking about places thousands of miles away, yet she talks about the need to “connect…in a sustainable manner”. Is she implying that we can only make deep connections with places that are in exotic locations – for that is what the sales pitch seems to be implying? And does she really expect us to believe that a composting toilet and a faux-native tour justify the burning of hundreds of gallons of aviation fuel and diesel. And what about the “Because rainforests are disappearing at a rate of more than 56,000 square miles each year”? This sounds like a “see it before it’s gone” appeal.

Am I being too cynical?

Well, let’s look at a quotation from their website to check my cynicism out:

“We know that it is impossible to have a 100% carbon-offset vacation – we are humans after all!”

This is in the context of explaining how carbon offsets are used to make the travel distances no problem at all, apart from the few percent left over because “we are humans after all!” Sorry? No one forced you to travel those thousands of miles across oceans and continents. No one but civilized humans would do that. And that’s the real kicker: Irene Lane is conflating the destructive habits of civilized humanity to the whole of the human race. We do not push crap into the atmosphere because we are human; we push crap into the atmosphere because we are civilized humans, brainwashed by people like Irene Lane into thinking that it’s ok to go to Borneo, Madagascar, Australia and even Antarctica for our “eco” vacations.

The saddest irony of all is loons, an order of birds chosen to represent a migratory person that lives lightly on the land, require a pristine, food-rich marine environment to survive. The same environments that the Deepwater Horizon oil leak devastated in July 2011, and the Exxon Valdez crash coated in a thick blanket of oil in March 1989. Now what was that oil being drilled for and transported I wonder?

Posted in Adverts, Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Offsetting | 3 Comments »

English School Embraces iPads, Apple and Techno Brainwashing

Posted by keith on 30th August 2011

There is a rule in civilized society that goes something like this: Whenever something is compulsory then it must have something wrong with it. We see it all the time, in the school system and it’s one-size-fits-all approach to child indoctrination; in the application of statutory rules that are essentially corporate policies; in the forced registration and noting of people and everything associated with them – compulsion is rampant within civilization because if it weren’t then people might do whatever they liked, and that would be a terrible blow to the economy and the power of the ruling minority.

Such is the micro-management taking place in every aspect of our lives, that it comes as little surprise when a new compulsion is introduced, and a great surprise when any genuine freedom is granted. One such new compulsion, or so it seems, that only briefly caused a ripple – and then possibly only because of a fear of increased access to pornography – was a new scheme introduced by Longfield Academy in Dartford, Kent. Essentially, every student (of state-sponsored indoctrination) will be given an iPad, which would be used to, in the school’s own words: “revolutionise learning in the new Academy and at home”. There is little about this idea that doesn’t make my skin creep, and the creeping becomes more intense as you delve deeper into the details.

The otherwise abhorrant Daily Mail was refreshingly candid in the headline to the story that broke in July, 2011: “School orders parents to buy their children a £600 iPad2″. It went on:

A school came under fire yesterday for forcing its parents to buy a £600 iPad2 for their children. Teachers at Longfield Academy, in Dartford, Kent, have succumbed to the current technology trend and are bulk-buying 1,400 of the touchscreen computer tablets made by Apple. From September the school will require all pupils to have one and are installing interactive whiteboards that link to the iPads.

Parents will have to splash out £16 a month, for three years, for the iPads – equivalent to £576. The total cost to parents at the school will be a staggering £806,400. The move by Longfield, a school for pupils aged 11 to 18, is the first of its kind in England, but hundreds of schools could follow suit as it has been revealed that some 500 are poised to adopt a similar scheme with digital education charity, e-learning Foundation.

Experts yesterday criticised Longfield for piling pressure on cash-strapped parents to pay for the ‘toy’. They questioned the school’s desire to use iPads as an educational tool – saying they were more suited to watching movies, surfing the internet and playing music.

And they warned that it will lead to an increase in the number of pupils viewing porn.

Education expert Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, said: ‘This school is jumping on the “cool” bandwagon. It’s after cheap headlines. It should instead be focusing on the quality of education it provides. The school is shamefully giving parents the impression that buying an expensive iPad is in their child’s long term interest. In reality parents are being asked to invest a small fortune in something that is little more than a toy and hugely associated with the viewing of porn.

Longfield’s decision to teach all pupils with an iPad is the first of its kind in the England.

To be honest the “porn” issue is a moot point – people will view porn whenever and however it is available, so long as it remains available, so the iPad is no worse than any other technology on this point. On every other point, though, it is clear that the scheme does nothing but feed the technological obsession of the school system while lining the pockets of Apple Computer. This latter point is made clear via the school’s own newsletter, all about the scheme, which explained:

On the 30th March two parents events were carried out where the vision for the scheme was outlined and the iPad project
manager from Apple demonstrated the educational applications of the device.

Going on to answer the revealing question, “Why are we going to use Apple only?” with a trite explanation pointing to “life expectancy” and “creative and collaborative work”, conveniently skipping over the idea that Open Source or even other commercial offerings have much the same capabilities. But that’s not the point. Apple appears to have benefitted perhaps accidentally from this decision but then been called in to ensure the technology becomes binding. Brand loyalty is what all corporations love best, and what better way to seal brand loyalty than to make your brand ubiquitous in a (to all intents and purposes) compulsory “learning” environment?

Apple love this lots, as you can see from their Youth Programs, offering among other things:

Youth Workshops
From composing a song in GarageBand to building a photo album to creating a compelling Keynote presentation, our Youth Workshops offer families with kids (ages 6 to 13) a chance to work together to hone their Mac skills and use iLife and iWork applications to complete exciting projects. We offer the free workshops at Apple Retail Stores worldwide.

Field Trip to the Apple Store
Take your students on a Field Trip to an Apple Retail Store for an unforgettable learning experience. On their Field Trip, students can create something amazing right on the spot. Or they can bring in a project they’ve already created and turn our store into a theater, sharing their achievements with parents, teachers, and friends. No matter which option you choose, everyone will have a great time.

and the exceptionally immersive:

Apple Camp
Lights. Camera. Camp. Nothing beats Apple Camp for a fun summer activity for your kids. This summer, kids ages 8-12 will learn the ins and outs of iMovie and how to make a film in about the time it takes to watch one. The free workshop, held at the Apple Retail Store, spans three days and leads up to an Apple Camp Film Festival where campers debut their masterpieces.

So by falling for the latest retail obsession, no doubt helped by the fact that it is run by the Leigh Academies Trust (motto “Act Enterprisingly. Work in Partnership. Achieve Excellence.”), Longfield Academy has allowed Apple to influence a significant part of the lives of the young people whose care it has been entrusted with. By further making the iPad a home/school deal then Apple gets to eke its way into the private lives of these same young people who without the iPads may have (horror of horrors!) decided to spend some time away from technology when they get home rather than being gripped with the ubiquity of computerisation.

I can’t finish off this noxious tale without linking to a video produced by (some of) the students of Longfield. What is really frightening is that they really think this is a good thing…


UNDERMINING OPPORTUNITY

Are you a student at Longfield Academy? Do you like being brainwashed by the technocracy and the so-called “education” system? Well, first I think it would be fair to refuse the iPad – just take it back, if you have it, or if you are today’s new intake (yes, term starts today, at the time of writing) then refuse it in the first place. Legally, no school can force you to accept the iPad; less still can they make you pay for it – they would be in breach of tax rules and subject to ferocious fines from HMRC if you were forced to pay.

And how about a nice bit of subvertising? Maybe you have an art project coming up, or perhaps something in media studies. How about taking the beloved Apple logo and turning into something a lot more truthful – perhaps a worm coming out of its rotten core, or some slave labour overseen by a grinning Apple?

Some good examples of subvertising here: http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith/subvertising-gallery/, to adorn the toilet walls, or even the art room :-)

Posted in Advice, Human Rights, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Sponsorship, Subvertising | No Comments »