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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 »

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 »

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 »

350.org 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 350.org. 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 350.org.

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 350.org 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 350.org 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 350.org FB admin — and didn’t delete any comments, except the sudden notes you left accusing 350.org 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 350.org 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 350.org. 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vb9JdH6sU1Y – the industrial system must be really crapping itself with this kind of hardline stuff.

Cheers

Keith Farnish
www.unsuitablog.org
www.timesupbook.com

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

Switch Your Lights ON for Earth Hour!

Posted by keith on 24th March 2011

Earth Hour Sucks tower block

Once upon a time there was just greenwash: corporations and governments went to great lengths to convince a concerned public that they were doing everything they could to help the natural environment return to its former glory. All the time they were filling their bank accounts and pumping up their career prospects. You could be green and profitable and no one would suspect the former was nothing but a lie.

Then the non-profits got involved and things started to become complicated. Partnerships were drawn up between the biggest “environmental” NGOs and the most destructive corporations on Earth, all for a tiny sliver of the corporate pie, and a large wad of environmental fuzziness. The corporations looked good; the NGOs got their funding; the planet continued to fry and die.

And then it went even further. Greenwash became partnership became parody as the NGOs fully embraced both the corporate world and the trivial activities they put forward as symbols of their committment to a better world. And a better world it would be: if all you cared about was making money, that is.

Earth Hour 2011 is nearly upon us, and it stands as the ultimate parody of this great coming together of all that is evil in the world of greenwashing. I don’t use the term “evil” lightly. A person cannot be evil; an action can. Earth Hour is evil because it not only allows corporations, politicians, urban sprawls and industrial monoliths to look good in the eyes of a naive public, it actively attacks genuine attempts to try and undermine the very things that feed off Earth Day. An ordinary person in the thrall of industrial civilization cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of a thousand buildings simultaneously switching off their lights in the name of planet Earth; how can something as mundane as building non-dependent communities compete with such glamour.

How can supergluing the valves on the Las Vegas fountains compete with the casinos on the strip switching off their lights for an hour?

How can setting up a community barter scheme compete with Canary Wharf in London switching off its lights for an hour?

How can creating food self-sufficiency compete with Sears in Canada switching off or dimming its lights for an hour?

How can groups of people finding that time spent embracing their local environment rather than jetting across the world compete with Skycity in New Zealand switching off its lights for an hour?

Well, exactly. It’s bullshit, all of it!

And that is why, for Earth Hour 2011, at 8.30pm on Saturday 26th March, if you are doing nothing more important then switch all your lights on. Every single one.

You might have to fight with that part of you that says, “This is wasteful!” but you need to fight it. That one hour spent consciously doing the exact opposite of what the industrial system would like you to think is the right thing to do is what will help cut that link between the machine and your own individual humanity.

Earth Hour is Evil.

SWITCH ON YOUR LIGHTS ON MARCH 26TH.

Posted in Campaigns, Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Sabotage, Symbolic Action | 22 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 »

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 »

The Unsuitablog’s Worst of 2010

Posted by keith on 4th January 2011

Taking a cue from all the awards and “looking back on”s going on at the moment, it seems like just the right time to pick the very worst ethical hypocrites of 2010. Taking the year as a whole, there is a huge selection to choose from even when just looking at the pages of The Unsuitablog; and that’s going to be the focus – I could reach out to other places but I think that just throwing a few darts at a board of corporate logos is far less instructive than looking into the dark recesses of near history and seeing what can be pulled out of the grime for a further airing.

Best of all, it gives me the chance to have one more pop at those offenders who really deserve a second go at.

Worst Large Company

Lockheed Martin would deserve this award for merely having the word “responsible” anywhere on their website, but as we found out in June, it seemed that one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world had undergone a complete logic transplant.

LOCKHEED MARTIN ANNOUNCES NEW GREEN INITIATIVES FOR 140,000 EMPLOYEES, THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

BETHESDA, Md. – Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) today announced new green initiatives to reach its 140,000 employees, their families and communities. The orchestrated effort is rolling out in conjunction with National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), the largest organized environmental education event in the United States.

Held each year during the week before Earth Day, EE Week coordinates environmental education outreach nationwide to increase Earth Day’s impact. Lockheed Martin will celebrate EE Week and Earth Day by introducing several new company-wide employee initiatives to encourage environmentally-friendly behavior at work, at home and in local communities.

“At Lockheed Martin, it is our goal to raise awareness of natural resource conservation and to help our employees take an active role in their communities,” said Dr. David J.C. Constable, vice president, Lockheed Martin Energy, Environment, Safety & Health. “With the reach of our organization’s network, we have the opportunity to inspire hundreds of thousands of individuals – starting with our employees, their families and communities – so that as a corporation, we can make a big impact one small action at a time.”

The only response I could make was a video spoof, which still hasn’t been seen enough. It seems like a suitable enough prize for this video to be posted as far and wide as possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRfGzFMypIk

Worst Small Company

Cairn Energy is not a very small company, but compared to the other players in their sector (oil and gas) they are just a baby. Yet, for all their size, they seem to have become experts at pissing off communities and exploiting pristine environments that put even the oil giants to shame. Their efforts in greenwashing are similarly spectacular:

Below is a verbatim lift from the Corporate Responsibility page on the website of Cairn Energy. I have just highlighted the one key point that you must bear in mind when reading:

Cairn’s strategy is to deliver shareholder value through establishing commercial reserves in high potential exploration plays in various parts of the world. In implementing this strategy, the Group focuses on conducting all of its activities in a responsible manner.

Human Rights
Cairn recognises the importance of human rights. In Rajasthan, for example, we apply a ‘Rights Aware’ approach to safeguard the local community’s right to water in an area with limited water resources while accessing the water required to support our operations.

Environmental Impact
Cairn recognises that its exploration, development and production activities can have an impact on the environment. Some of Cairn’s exploration and production acreage lies in areas of environmental significance. Cairn recognises its responsibilities and focuses on the avoidance of negative impacts on the environment during its operations.

Climate Change
Activities involved in our operations, such as power generation, flaring, venting and transportation, produce emissions to air, including methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), two gases recognised as greenhouse gases (GHG). The burning of oil and gas, our primary products, also produces GHG emissions. Climate change is a complex issue with many causes both natural and due to human activity. We acknowledge that there is a growing consensus about the extent and effect of global warming. Energy is essential to social and economic progress but we recognise that we have a responsibility to take a precautionary approach to climate change. At all times, we seek to minimise GHG emissions from our operations.

People and Planet have a slightly different viewpoint:

A slide within Cairn’s presentations on Arctic oil exploration shows the melting Arctic ice. Reduced heavy sea ice makes exploration work easier around Cairn’s two most “promising” licences, off Disko Island – an area frequently visited by those inspecting the impacts of climate change first hand. What Cairn Energy views as an opportunity, Greenland’s Inuit population experience as a threat to their very survival and are increasingly vocal about the impacts which climate change is already having on them.

The prize is a free-of-charge rebranding.

Worst Industry Front

The American Petroleum Institute is a long established front for, well, the American petroleum industry, and have a strong pedigree in producing all sorts of highly damaging misinformation for the benefit of the American public. In September, the API went all Tea Party – a prime audience for their rhetoric – in organising a series of rallies against oil industry regulation, apparently to benefit the general public.

Just in from Public Citizen is a report on a series of rallies around the USA which are being organised by the American Petroleum Institute (API) on behalf of the oil industry. Here is the report:

Today marks the start of rallies across the country organized by the oil and gas industry to block Congress from passing much-needed measures to address problems that came to light during the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which is organizing the events in Texas, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado, claims to speak not only for industry workers but for “countless consumers” who are concerned about the proposals.

By staging these rallies, API is trying to distort public perception. In fact, people want the government to ensure that another BP oil disaster never happens again. Lawmakers would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t respond to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Last summer, API President Jack Gerard sent a memo to API member groups that laid out a plan to create astroturf rallies as a tactic to oppose climate change legislation. The memo asked recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.” And it warned: “Please treat this information as sensitive … we don’t want critics to know our game plan.”

The astroturfing is pretty blatant, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see API banners at the rallies; but just in case the links aren’t clear, the rallies are being organised under the banner “Rally For Jobs”, which is coincidentally the current headline graphic on the API web site. If you go to the “partners” page on the Rally For Jobs website then the American Petroleum Institute are there, standing in pride of place.

Their prize, in recognition of their phony “people power” is for all of you to go and buy yourselves a decent pair of shoes, and start walking instead of driving. Who knows, you might even meet some real people.

Worst Charity or NGO

Conservation International easily take the prize for being both the largest and the most corporate-friendly “environmental” organisation around. In 2010 they continued their romp with business by launching Team Earth; an astroturf with a twist, for it pretends that corporations can play nicely with the public.

One is tempted to abandon the idea that NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) have any part to play in the removal of destructive actions upon the natural world. I think that’s a fair assumption. None of the NGOs come out of this well, not even the apparently “radical” ones like Greenpeace and RAN who are still batting on the side of industrial civilization; but if you had to choose which ones to really steer clear of, and relentlessly attack and expose, a surefire way of choosing is to look for the names of “Corporate Partners”.

If an NGO partners, or receives money from a corporation, then thay are not to be trusted.

Here is one excellent example, that I found while trawling the web:

Team Earth is all of us, working together to make our world a place of clean air, fresh water, plentiful resources and a stable climate, today and far into the future. Team Earth is companies, schools, non-profits, you, your family and friends – everyone who wants to help make sure the Earth is healthy enough to support us all.

This is straight out of the corporate style book; almost excruciating in its “Hey guys, let’s put on a show, right here!” mentality. Alarm bells! Scroll down a few lines and the rationale becomes clear:

Who’s on the Team?

You. Me. The neighbors down the block. Your boss. Parents and kids across the country. People in big cities and small towns.

We are companies like Starbucks and Wrigley. Students and teachers in thousands of classrooms and schools.

Nice bit of community togetherness, and then “WE are companies” – you might be “on the team” but “Team Earth” is a group of companies who are greenwashing as though their survival depends upon it.

Another prize of a free corporate rebranding for Conservation International, or rather Corporation International.

Worst “Environmental” Campaign

So many to choose from with so many awful disasters and civilization-made catastrophes happening in 2010, but my personal choice was the unspeakably crass video produced by the 10:10 team in the UK. Now I’m all for tough messages, but the idea of blowing people to smithereens because they didn’t agree with the specific message espouced by the 10:10 Organisation (yes, the organisation that uses military style dog-tags as a branding opportunity) really pissed me off.

It also pissed off mobbsey on the Powershift forum, who stated beautifully:

This is just sick; not the fake blood (cinematic suicide bomber chic?), but the whole belief in piffling measures like low energy lights and the like as being the way we can cut emissions. We have to offer a vision outside of the present consumer paradigm that encourages a shift in lifestyle rather than the substitution of existing consumption trends. Actions like this are a simplistic exhortation to change brand or product, not to change the nature of the human system and its impacts on the biosphere. And if, in the rhetoric of “10:10″, this is just something easy to get people interested, that’s absurd too — a lot of recent work on issues around behavioural economics demonstrate that such incantations to change only work where the change is insignificant or equivalent, but fail when it requires a real and difficult realignment of lifestyle patterns.

A prize of some blood-soaked 10:10 tags is very, very appropriate.

Worst Politician / Government

Up to the end of 2010 there were so many dodgy politicians to choose from that I would probably have had to call stalemate on this award. Then WikiLeaks released Cablegate, and the military-industrial politicians spoke as one in their condemnation of…not the crap and hypocrisy revealed in the cables, but the fact that the cables were released at all. In a scramble to be the most shrill commentator of all, few topped Sarah Palin’s claim than Julian Assange was “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands”, although various US and Canadian politicians did manage to suggest that a mass cull of everyone involved in WikiLeaks would be of benefit to humankind.

So, in tribute to the efforts of this august institution (WikiLeaks, not world government) the award goes to every politician who suggested violence in the face of freedom of speech in 2010.

The prize is a few more people mirroring the WikiLeaks website, copying the Insurance file for safekeeping, and sending on a few choice leaks to a site of your choice (EnviroLeaks is your friend).

Worst Religious Hypocrisy

It was going quite well in the religious world until Christmas, with even the Pope railing against environmental damage, and all sorts of religious institutions helping in community efforts. And then that hardy annual Operation Christmas Child came along to spoil the party of every poor child who doesn’t want Christian Evangelism shoved in their faces. Where help is concerned, missionaries have never exactly been on the side of the unconverted, but OCC are taking it to a level not seen since the Crusades:

I’d like to share with you just one story about what God did in a little village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mimbulu is a collection of mud-brick houses and thatched huts with no electricity or running water. Most of the villagers are subsistence farmers living on far less than $1 a day. You can imagine how happy and excited the children were when our team handed out shoe box gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Later, hundreds of girls and boys signed up for our Discipleship Program, and most of them made commitments to Jesus Christ through the Bible study course.

Traditional religions and occult practices are common in this part of Africa, but many people in Mimbulu have been delivered from spiritual darkness as a result of this evangelistic outreach. Three girls, all under the age of 10, confessed to being involved in witchcraft, repented of their sins, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. One cult leader, after reading his son’s Bible lessons, renounced his false religion and surrendered his life to the Lord. Other adults turned to Christ at the graduation ceremony where they heard their children recite Scripture and listened to a pastor preach the Gospel.

The Lord is doing great things in Mimbulu, and we give Him all the glory!

We treat every single gift box as a Gospel opportunity. That’s why prayer is the most important thing we ask people to do when they pack their shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We want each person to pray for the child who receives the box and ask God to touch that child’s heart. That’s where the real power of Operation Christmas Child lies—in God’s answers to those millions of heartfelt prayers.

Another appropriate rebranding for Operation Christmas Child, along with a bonus prize of hundreds of parents raising serious complaints with their children’s schools in 2011 should the brainwashing boxes be suggested.

Operation Christmas Child convert christian samaritan's purse

The “Too Naive To Understand” Award for Accidental Hypocrisy

Sometimes The Unsuitablog is a bit too successful, but rarely do I ever feel sorry for one of the targets. In May the Green Youth Movement was soundly berated for its sloppy attitude to environmentalism; being dressed up as the kind of thing you can “do” as part of your hectic Beverley Hills lifestyle.

I have met some incredible young people with vision, passion and the willingness to stick two fingers up at the system in order to create some kind of change. I have learnt from some young people what it feels like to be a concerned person in a society that values shopping, celebrity and vacations above the fundamental need to have a functioning ecosystem. I have seen young people cry – including my own children – at the thought that certain types of humans are capable of such horrific acts in the pursuit of wealth and status. Oh, that I had such knowledge at such an early age – what could I have done by now?

Well, if I had been Ally Maize, I could have got to meet Miley Cyrus, Renee Zellweger and that prime example of eco-conscious thinking, Paris Hilton. I could also, as per the above introduction to GYM, have become utterly deluded that small, superficial actions create big change; adopted the lie that politicians have any part to play in a sustainable future; in order to alienate part of my audience entirely, I would have referred to “teens” as “young children”; and finally, I would have got my parents to by me an electric car for when I passed my driving test – well, she does live in Beverley Hills…

The attack was justified on the basis that GYM hired a PR company to pump up its image – then I found out that the parents of Ally Maize were far worse than Ally herself (see the comments below the article). Too late: GYM was dead in the water, or as near as dammit. A good thing too, because if we are to bring the next generations along in the fight for environmental justice, the last thing we should be telling them is that it’s ok to just do little things.

I can’t present Ally Maize with a sense of modesty, but I think perhaps the magic curtain has been lifted a little for one deluded person. That’s reward in itself.

The “Cannibalism” Award for Self-Destruction of the Environmental Movement

Anyone who says the Environmental Movement is growing is a fool. There is no one “movement”, and even if there is something resembling a movement then it’s so diluted as to be completely ineffective. When an organisation comes along and brands itself in such a way as to imply it has all the answers, then you should expect it to be pretty damn good.

350.org are pretty damn something, but it’s not good:

Not a week goes by without some campaign or other being launched to prevent environmental destruction, or make efforts to put right that destruction. The vast, vast majority of these campaigns are based upon the same “logic” as the vast, vast majority of people who make comments to newspapers or television stations: this is the system we have, so we have no choice but to make it behave itself as best it can. That, of course, is bullshit.

As I have written time and time again, it is an utterly pointless task trying to make Industrial Civilization sustainable or “environmentally friendly”, because the nature of civilization is to destroy, to take what it wants to achieve its aims and only stop when it runs out of energy, people or space. It only stops when it collapses – it never stops of its own accord.

The mainstream environmental movement has never got this, and never will, because its very existence depends on the support of a large number of people both for income and staffing. It also depends on the good will of the system itself, that permits it to protest peacefully, speak freely and generally operate within the Law of the Land. There is an invisible line that separates the words and deeds of the mainstream from the words and deeds of the “extremist”; that same line separates that which is pointless, ineffective action from that which will actually achieve the kind of change humanity requires in order to survive.

This line is never crossed.

If you want to see this entire movement in microcosm, look no further than 350.org and the work they do which has come, in recent months, to define environmental symbolism.

350 parts per million – their lodestone number – is too high to prevent the Earth continuing to warm. The symbolic action, particularly the appeals to politicians, is not just pointless – it is extremely divisive. Symbolic action in defence of a dying planet is like a Band Aid on an amputation. 350.org should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating such a dangerous idea.

But they aren’t, because they think they are right – they have become too big.

The best prize for them is a real movement of people who get things done, and don’t accept compromise. We will see this in 2011; mark my words.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Cover Ups, Government Policies, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Religious Hypocrisy, Should Know Better, Sponsorship, Symbolic Action | No Comments »

Million Letter March: Just Say No!

Posted by keith on 15th October 2010

If anyone sends anything to you asking to join the Million Letter March, treat it like spam.

Look, I’m being serious: it’s the idea of Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute, who’s primary driver doesn’t appear to be saving the global ecology or humanity in general, but saving civilization. Yep, that’s right: civilization – that thing which is utterly incompatible with saving humanity or the global ecology.

He has teamed up with our friend Bill McKibben and Jim Hansen (or perhaps press-ganged the latter) to start a campaign to raise some kind of fee or other to put into renewable energy and stop cap and trade. In a world where climate science permitted the current levels of greenhouse gases without causing the atmospheric-climate system to produce a global mass extinction echoeing the end of the Permian Era (90% of all life on Earth gone) then that would be fine: just go for it Lester, Bill and Jim; keep us writing those letters to “our” Senators (as opposed to the Senators who have always worked for corporations?) and pretend political changes will have any effect on our future at all.

But this is not a world like that, it is reality: a reality where we have to finally realise that NOTHING WITHIN THE EXISTING INDUSTRIAL-POLITICAL SYSTEM OFFERS US A SURVIVABLE FUTURE!

Still want to be all symbolic and lovely? Watch the excruciating video the Million Letter March has produced, and see if you can see anything at all which would make a blind bit of difference to greenhouse gas levels:

And is it just me or are there just a few too many creepy moments there?

Posted in Campaigns, NGO Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action, Techno Fixes | 5 Comments »

Brilliant Rant About Symbolic Action and 10:10

Posted by keith on 8th October 2010

I have been sent a link to this wonderful “rant” – no, it’s not a rant, it’s telling it like it is – on the Powershift forum.

Here’s the Richard Curtis video he refers to, and if Mr Curtis would like my opinions on 10:10 then I would love him to bring his little red button to my house so we can discuss it…

Yeah, but what about the climate impact of the detergents and water to clean up afterwards? ;-)

This is just sick; not the fake blood (cinematic suicide bomber chic?), but the whole belief in piffling measures like low energy lights and the like as being the way we can cut emissions. We have to offer a vision outside of the present consumer paradigm that encourages a shift in lifestyle rather than the substitution of existing consumption trends. Actions like this are a simplistic exhortation to change brand or product, not to change the nature of the human system and its impacts on the biosphere. And if, in the rhetoric of “10:10″, this is just something easy to get people interested, that’s absurd too — a lot of recent work on issues around behavioural economics demonstrate that such incantations to change only work where the change is insignificant or equivalent, but fail when it requires a real and difficult realignment of lifestyle patterns.

I’ve just been sent the blurb — AGAIN — on the Crude Awakening demo in London — http://www.crudeawakening.org.uk/

Yet another example of people who want to “save the planet” and keep their iPods (OK, I’m generalising on that point!), when in fact it’s their atrophied, consumer-oriented outlook on the potential of their lives that’s the problem. Their perception of the drivers for the “problems” they seek solutions to are wholly divorced from reality, and rely on the simplistic media-spun agenda that is shaped by the very same forces that they state their opposition to. E.g., there’s no discussion of the resource supply issues related to oil (and other) as a source of energy — why do you think the industry is drilling in deep water/the Arctic in the first place?

There is no climate solution within the paradigm of consumption; that’s a demonstrable fact. We have to shift our lifestyles to a new economic and organisational structure that restricts demand, but unfortunately none of the self-proclaimed leaders of the eco-establishment appear to have the guts to promote such a concept at the leading edge of their agenda (of course, you might find such exhortations in the small print, but they won’t lead their sound-bites on this approach).

It doesn’t matter if, at present, most people “won’t like it”; it’s the only option that is able to address the drivers of the human suicide cult called “growth economics” — physical reality doesn’t negotiate, doesn’t compromise with ‘political reality’, and for that reason the eco-establishment as much as the political and economic establishment are going to be thrown into crisis by these trends as they arrive over the next two or three decades. Personally I think I’d rather be disliked for making a case based on evidence rather than promoting an eco-delusion assimilated by market forces. More importantly, people might not “like it” today, but if that argument is not put because of the movement’s adherence to the shibboleth of growth then the public will never have the choice of considering any option other than the market-centric solutions offered by all mainstream parties/groups.

As far as I can see, initiatives like this are just spinning a delusional rope that will in the near future hang them! Clearly, in the reversal of McLuhan’s observation, “the message has become the media”; and in the process the actions that they promote are conceptual extrapolations of reality (aka. ‘hyperreality’), not a realistic commentary on our situation that the public are able to assimilate and act upon. These “environmentalists” should stop using the Web 2.0/digital media that are driving IT emissions up and resource availability down, ditch their mobile phones and other lifestyle gadgets, and start living a more simpler way of life where we reduce consumption not for the motivation of “reducing emissions” (which, by many measures, does not have this effect on the economy as a whole) but rather to avoid the need to earn income and therefore the need to work long hours — in the process creating the spare time to engage in more activities that create a less consumptive and more local/resilient system, thus creating a feedback loop that reduces their lifestyle impacts further.

Simplicity is the future, not the illusion of some carbon-friendly ecotopia.

Another 10% next year? I don’t think so.

Posted in Adverts, Celebrity Hypocrisy, Corporate Hypocrisy, Media Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Political Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Symbolic Action | 1 Comment »