Saturday, November 8, 2008

This blog is made from recycled binaries

I am a person who is interested in all things "green". I think it stems more from my coming from Africa and the wildlife conservation efforts I supported there, than from my time in the UK where I have been turned into a major sceptic.

In Zimbabwe, being Green was simple and it was ingrained. First off, its a poor country and what we throw away in Europe, is not necessarily rubbish there. I have personally seen a rather restrained argument between children out in Zimbabwe's Sticks as to who would get the plastic milk bottle left behind by the bunch of rich white mountain bikers (a long story for another day). You see, when people are properly poor, a plastic bottle is not rubbish. I wish I could say the same about plastic bags - although I have seen garments crocheted from them.

In Zimbabwe we had our Cokes in bottles - and could reclaim about a third of the drink's cost by returning the empty bottle. Each bottle was used on average, five times. The same for wine bottles - queues at the supermarket as empty bottles were converted back into cash. I still believe Zimbabwe led the way on being careful with its resources. Sanctions can be a good thing. We made a plan.

Now let me put the spotlight on the UK (well, the "first world"). Here, anxious people have seen the very real need for proper conservation measures to be put in place. I agree. We need to tidy up our act and stop generating so much pollution in all its guises. And we need to consume less.

Most importantly we need to become even more sensitised to "green" issues. They DO need to dominate our lives. We DO need to make sure our planet survives and we DO, God willing, have the power in our hands to make this happen. But we have to learn to see the sustainable forest for the trees. We must learn to separate real Green policies from the dross that clever money-grubbing people - politicians - try to impose on us.

I have a real suspicion about carbon trading. Now, I will confess I don't understand the whole ins-and-outs of carbon trading/offsetting and I'm not really driven to understand it. Its too complicated and I'm too thick. My suspicion arises from the word, "trading". To me, "trading" is another word for shifting. It isn't, as far as I can tell, reducing carbon output, indeed, I'm sure that a clever Chinese person (for they make the most carbon dioxide/pollution) will figure out a way of generating huge profits from creating even more carbon dioxide and "trading" it.

I think the west could learn an awful lot from good old Zimbabwe. We'd all recycle dilligently if we could get money back on our rubbish. If each can of beans cost 10p more in the supermarket and we could get that 10p back...all cans would be recycled. Ditto for bags. Ditto bottles.

If cars under say, 1600cc were sold fuel at 10% less than other cars, people would buy less polluting cars. (Okay a lot of this is happening, but the reward measures are rather more subtle).

So I have exposed my ignorance about clever green measures, but now I want to have a proper rant. Because what I really hate is the Green Bandwagon and how just about every Tom, Dick and Harry is clambering aboard.

Saying your company is "Green" is not good enough. It does not make you Green. Nor does the "Are you sure you need to print this email". It helps, but come on! The boss still pitches up in his V8 Range Rover. They still book flights to Paris when the Eurostar would do. And they still leave every light in the building blazing all bloody night, every monitor on screensave and the air conditioning plant running.

But what turns me into a rancid, dripping, oozing well of scorn and contempt is my own industry. It will, without a second thought and without even the vaguest connection the the real issues at hand, attempt to inject greeness into just about everything. Advertising has a duty to communicate and support matters green. It does not have a right however, to inject faux green into everything. Especially when it doesn't even work as an ad.

I am talking about an ad that I hear on Heart 106.2 (woo-hoo I live wild! - their 4 song playlist is deserving of its own, special rant) almost every morning. Some earnest person (I cannot even remember the gender, let alone the product or brand they are advertising) rattles on for a bit and then tells us right at the end, "This ad is made from recycled sound clips". DIE!

Tell me how on earth recycled soundclips are going to save even one picojoulle of energy. I have little doubt that several agency bods - lets see, copywriter, radio commercials producer, account director, account executive and client - all scurried across London in taxis, tubes, buses etc to the studio where it was recorded, spent hours of electricity digging up samples, editing and fiddling and yet STILL used a specially recorded voiceover to tell us that the commercial was made from recycled soundclips!

Breathe, Paul, breathe!

I am totally confident that the agency that created that ad will have entered it in just about every awards show. I am almost sure that they probably held a wrap party for the client and a dozen or so hangers-on when the ad was completed, congratulating each other in a circle-jerk of green euphoria. "Aren't we so cutting edge, Tarquin!" Idiots. I am also certain that they charged an enormous amount of money so that the Account Director can afford to put petrol in his Range Rover and pay the agency's leccy bill.

We have made a mess of our planet and yes, its up to us, the individuals that make the mess to clean it up. What we need are real measures, not the flaky, difficult-to-grasp 'scams' err schemes. Lets start by recycling some of the bandwagonning filth that people the advertising industry. Wannna buy some bonemeal?

And now for something nice: Help fund a scholarship

Leading photographer and film maker Vincent Laforet is asking fellow photogs/bloggers to help him fund a photography student scholarship by placing this CLEVER Photoshelter Falsh gallery on your page:

Check here for details.

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