Thursday, November 30, 2006

wine miles

Oooh, there are so many yummy cuddly ways to ethically consume.

In the dentist's waiting room there was one of those monthly glossy thick You're Ugly magazines like Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan which had 20 top tips on how to buy green. The bit about buying ethical diamonds was the camel spine snapper.

But running it a close second comes this ad in the Oberver for Australian wine Banrock Station.

Banrock Station's Eden Project advert

They coo about how they sponsor stuff at the Eden Project, who develop ideas 'to help protect and sustain the environment'.

I've got one such idea. How about not exacerbating climate change by shipping wine from about as far away as it's possible to get?

In last month's Howard Memorial Lecture, Green MEP Caroline Lucas said

Between 1968 and 1998 world food production increased by 84 per cent, yet over the same period international trade in food products almost trebled, with trade flows doubling for almost every food category.

Moreover, closer inspection of the figures reveals that a large part of this growth in international trade in food is accounted for by simultaneous imports and exports of the same products between exactly the same countries!

I wrote a report a few years back, called "The Great Food Swap", which documented the absurdity of this phenomenon. The UK and EU provide telling case studies. In one year, Britain imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands and in precisely the same year, it exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands.

In the same year it imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb, while it exported 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes of lamb.

The UK imported 126 million litres of milk and exported 270 million litres of milk.

Ah, but whilst it's mad to ship a foodstuff like milk that is utterly generic, wines of the world have different character. Sure, it's a heavy container containing around 85% water, but all the difference is in that last 15%. Right?

First off, let's just be clear that wine is not a necessary foodstuff, it is only ever consumed as a luxury. So when our transport use has to be curtailed then mass consumption of imported luxuries should be jostling with the swapping of generic products at the top of the list.

But even on its own terms, the argument of different countries making different wines doesn't have even the dimmest persuasive power. Even if you don't want to go for excellent British wines but prefer classic flavours, we are adjacent to France, the country that produces not only a massive variety of wines but among them the finest on earth. Even if you want dirt cheap rough stuff, that means central or eastern European.

So there is simply no excuse - be it on grounds of conscience, value or quality - for Europeans buying non-European wine.

Banrock Station's using eco-PR to sell maximum wine miles is as cynical as (I've linked to them to prove that they really exist) the Reebok Human Rights Awards, the Alcan Prize for Sustainability or Nestlé Award for Social Commitment.

Monday, November 27, 2006

stop asking so nicely

There really is something afoot. The sense of groundswell on climate change is unlike anything I've ever known.

With other issues there's always a lot of explaining to do; what the issue is, what the problem is, how to fix it, why anyone should be bothered. Climate change is just not like that. Everyone knows already, and the pace of change in perception - in the UK deniers only exist on message boards and in the Daily Mail's columnists - is tremendously encouraging.

The scale of change required is titanic, and the timeframe is so short that it necessarily means working alongside allies and systems that aren't entirely comfortable. One of these is government.

But please, can we drop the approach that implies 'oh, if only we explained it to them then their common humanity would make them do the right thing'?

These people do fucking know. They've had the best and most expensive research that exists. They've known longer than us, they know more than us how fucked it all is. It's just that they prefer short term profit.

The advert on excellent anti-aviation spoof site Spurt ends with an exhortation to take action; 'Be heard - email the Department of Transport'.

What, cos they don't know already? Cos they'll even open your fucking email, let alone act on it?

Polite petitioning is a safety valve. It makes concerned people shut up because they're satisfied they've 'been heard' if they do something ineffective like - as in this case - put their name and email address on a website.

It's going to take more than that to qualify as being heard. It's going to take more drastic action, stuff to slam home the urgency of what's being addressed, like Plane Stupid's recent blocade of the runway at East Midlands airport.

Part of the reason why the Camp for Climate Action got such huge and positive press and response was because it wasn't polite or timid but bold, brazen and armed with solutions that actually squared up to the problem.

Even when direct action gets a bad press, it succeeds in shifting the grounds for debate. If there's only Greenpeace and Friends of The Earth talking about climate change then they're the extreme. But along come some direct activists with more radical demands and suddenly the NGOs are cuddly moderates.

More, when the actions get positive response, they give the NGOs license to be more radical too. A few weeks after the Camp for Climate Action tried to occupy and shut down the UK's biggest CO2 emitter, Drax power station, Greenpeace did an action on Didcot, the second biggest.

And being a hierarchical organisation with large wads of cash, they pulled it off properly too.

The more they do of that sort of thing - and the less of their part in Spurt's 'email the government' stuff - the more chance we have of success.

And so hearty hurrah for the subversion of petitioning. The Prime Minister's website now has an e-petition facility. You can add anything that starts with 'We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to...'.

The present front runner is the repeal of the Hunting Act. But coming up close behind - 13th out of 683 - is 'we the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to stand on his head and juggle ice-cream'.

Please, go to the page and sign it.

Derrick Jensen is a provocative ecological thinker. Wearing my U-Know hat, I recently put his Beyond Hope as the monthly Feature article.

(Incidentally, I don't have an actual U-Know hat. Given Cope's present penchant for quasi Nazi officer hats it's perhaps just as well. I think they could come up with something good though, something purple and cyber. Maybe we should start a petition to get me one).

Jensen's discovery of the original Star Wars script, like much of his other stuff, is a bit of a heavy bludgeon but it does contain the essentials of how I feel on the petitioning approach.


I went to see Star Wars when I was in high school, which seems about the right time to see it. I liked it a lot. I wasn’t one of those people who saw it a hundred times or anything. I wasn’t that much of a nerd. Besides, I was too busy playing Dungeons and Dragons.

I saw it again recently. It’s not so good as I remember. In fact it’s pretty bad. The characters are flat, the dialog hokey, the acting nondescript. But I still loved the ending, where Luke remembers to “use the force” to blow up the Death Star.

For those of you who may have forgotten, the Death Star (according to the official Star Wars website) “was the code name of an unspeakably powerful and horrific weapon developed by the Empire. The immense space station carried a weapon capable of destroying entire planets. The Death Star was to be an instrument of terror, meant to cow treasonous worlds with the threat of annihilation. While the massive station is evidence of the evil that was the Galactic Empire, it was also proof of the New Order’s greatest weakness—the belief that technology and terror were superior to the will of oppressed beings fighting for freedom.”

That’s all pretty interesting stuff, and of course applicable to the discussion at hand: civilization as Death Star.

The website also says, “The Death Star was a battle station the size of a small moon. It had a formidable array of turbolasers and tractor beam projectors, giving it the firepower of greater than half the Imperial Starfleet. Within its cavernous interior were legions of Imperial troops and fightercraft, as well as all manner of detention blocks and interrogation cells. The Death Star was spherical, and dark gray in color. Located on the Death Star’s northern hemisphere was a concave disk housing the station’s main laser weapon....In a brutal display of the Death Star’s power, Grand Moff Tarkin targeted its prime weapon at the peaceful world of Alderaan. [Rebel princess] Leia Organa, an Imperial captive at the time, was forced to watch as the searing laser blast split apart her beloved world, turning the planet and its populace into orbital ash and debris.”

I’m not sure if you feel a stab of recognition at being a captive of the empire, forced to watch your beloved world and its (human and nonhuman) populace turned into orbital ash and debris. I do.

The website continues, “Using ...stolen technical data, [rebel] Alliance tacticians were able to pinpoint a crucial flaw in the Death Star’s design. A small ray-shielded thermal exhaust port led directly from the surface of the station into the heart of its colossal reactor. If the port could be breached by proton torpedoes, then the resulting chain reaction would destroy the station.”

We all know what happened next: By using the force, and with the help of Han Solo and Chewbacca, as well as the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker was able to drop a proton torpedo right down the tiny port, and blow up the Death Star.

One small proton torpedo destroyed the Death Star. This would be a prime example of leveraging your power by using a properly placed fulcrum. In our case, to switch metaphors, where do we place the charges? Where is the correct thermal exhaust port? How do we start a chain reaction that will cause the “Death Star” before us to self-destruct?

You know, don’t you, that this wasn’t the movie’s original ending. I have in my hands an extremely rare early draft of the Star Wars film script, never before published. It may surprise you to learn that the early drafts were written by environmentalists. In this version, the rebels do not of course blow up the Death Star, but instead prefer to use other tactics to slow the intergalactic march of Empire.

For example, they set up programs for people on planets about to be destroyed to produce luxury items like hemp hacky sacks and gourmet coffee for sale to inhabitants of the Death Star. Audience members will also discover that there are plans afoot to encourage loads of troopers and other citizens of the Empire to take ecotours of doomed planets. The purpose will be to show to one and all that these planets are economically important to the Empire and so should not be destroyed.

In a surprise move that will rivet viewers to the edges of their seats, other groups of rebels file lawsuits against the Empire, attempting to show that the Environmental Impact Statement Darth Vader was required to file failed to adequately support its decision that blowing up this planet would cause “no significant impact.”

Viewers will thrill to learn of plans to boycott items produced by corporations that have Darth Vader on the board of directors, and will leap to their feet in theaters worldwide when they see bags full of letters written directly to Mr. Vader himself asking that he please not blow up anymore planets.

(Scribbled in the margin is a note from one of the screenwriters: “For accuracy’s sake, when we show examples of these letters, it is imperative that all letters to Mr. Vader be respectful and courteous, and that they stress the need to find cooperative solutions to the differences between the rebels and the Empire. Under no circumstances should the letters be such that they would alienate or anger Mr. Vader. If the letters upset Mr. Vader, the rebels’ letter campaign to the Grand Moff Tarkin would certainly fail as well.”)

Other plans include sending petitions and filing lawsuits.

Now, you and I both know that all of this should be sufficient not only to bring the Empire to its knees but to make a damn fine and exciting movie. The thing is: there’s more. Thousands of renegade rebels, unhappy with what they perceive as toadying on the part of the mainstream rebels, decide, in a scene guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of even the most cold-hearted theatergoers, to stand on the planets to be destroyed, link arms (or, in some cases, tentacles), and sing “Give Peace a Chance.” They send DVDs of this to both Darth Vader and his boss the Grand Moff Tarkin, to whom they also send wave after wave of lovingkindness™.

Some few rebels sneak aboard the Death Star and lock themselves down to various pieces of equipment. (Early in this draft of the film, the screenwriters included a long scene showing the extensive training in nonviolent communication that is a prerequisite to joining the rebels.

Most writers had originally, by the way, called it a rebel army, but several objected to the violence inherent in that word. Next came “rebel force,” but nearly as many objected to that word as well. In any case, the nuanced scene of nonviolence training was dropped in later drafts and the infamous [and horribly violent] Cantina scene was, incomprehensibly to some, put in its place.) Stirring debates are held onscreen among these rebels as to whether they should voluntarily surrender on approach of the troopers, or whether they should remain locked down to the end. In a brilliant and brave touch of authenticity, the rebels are never able to come to consensus.

The writers themselves entered into a debate as to whether the troopers should decapitate the locked-down rebels on or off screen, with one writer pleading that instead rebels must be explicitly shown being taken alive to interrogation cells: “Showing,” he wrote in the margin, “or even implying that the troopers would ever commit these acts of violence, even in response to such obvious challenges to their authority as rebels invading their space and doing violence to their machinery by interfering with that machinery’s lawful use would send absolutely the wrong message to theatergoers, and would give the wrong impression of Mr. Vader’s ultimately peaceful intentions.”

Once inside the Death Star, a splinter group breaks off from those about to lock themselves down. They rush down long hallways, somehow avoiding the myriad troopers. They burn a couple of transport ships, and use chemicals to etch “Galaxy Liberation Front” on the walls of the Death Star. This group miraculously escapes back to the planet about to be destroyed, where they’re held by the peaceful protesters so they can be immediately and rightly turned over to troopers.

That same writer comments in the margin, “Not only is it vital, once again, that the right message be sent to audience members by showing these rebels being put in a position to take responsibility for their actions, but it would also be terribly unrealistic to expect these peaceful rebels to put up with these actions that would simply give Darth Vader the excuse he needs to blow up the planet. The disrespectful hooligans must be turned over to the Empire promptly and without question.”

Near the end of the movie another debate is held among the rebels. (One problem I had with this environmentalist screenplay was that there was a bit too much debate and not quite enough action.) As the Death Star looms directly overhead, a few of the rebels advocate picking up weapons to fight back. These rebels are generally shouted down by pacifist rebels, who argue that attacking those who run the Death Star is “just another example of the Empire’s harmful philosophy coming in by the back door.” They state that the rebels who want to fight back are simply being co-opted by the need to control things. If we want to change Darth Vader, they say, we must all first become the change. To change Darth Vader’s heart, we must first change our own. We must above all else have compassion for Darth Vader, and remember that he, too, was once a child.

One writer put in the margins: “Excellent! This will be sure to moisten the cheeks of sensitive people everywhere!” He did not mention whether or not these tears would be of frustration.

Finally Leia, Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and a couple of robots show up and tell these others they’ve found a way to blow up the whole Death Star. The rest of the rebels—even those who’d previously been in favor of surgical strikes aimed at “removing” Darth Vader—are horrified. They point out that blowing up the Death Star will do nothing to change the hearts and minds of those who create Death Stars, and so will accomplish nothing. Han Solo replies, “It will stop this Death Star from destroying this planet.”

The pacifist rebels are unmoved. They remind the unruly four that the Death Star has a crew of 265,675, plus 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 25,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 167,216 pilots and support crew. Each of these people on the Death Star has a family. Do you want to make their children orphans? The pacifists themselves begin to cry. (That same screenwriter comments: “If that doesn’t yank the tears out of audience members’ tiny ducts, I don’t know what will!”) They say, voices firm behind the sobs, “You cannot blow up the Death Star. What about the custodial engineers? What about the cooks? What about the people who work the shopping malls? What about those who joined the empire’s armed services just so they could go to college? You—Leia, Han, Luke, and Chewbacca—are heartless and cruel.”

In the exciting final scene of the environmentalist version, a scuffle breaks out between Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewbacca on one side, and the pacifists on the other. At last the pacifists chase those four from the room and from the film. They’re never seen again, which isn’t really important since in this version they’re minor characters anyway.

The Death Star looms closer and closer. Audience members chew their fingernails as they wait to see whether the letters and petitions and lawsuits will work their magic. Viewers see lasers inside the Death Star warming up to destroy the planet. The lasers glow a hellish red. The camera switches to cover the endangered planet.

Suddenly a cheer will rise up from the audience as they see a small bright speck emerge from the planet’s surface and speed into space. “Yes!” they will roar, as they learn that all of the intrepid environmentalist protesters were able to get off the planet moments before it got blown up!

Coda: The final shot of the movie, revealing what a complete triumph this was for the rebels, will be a still showing an article on the lower-left of page forty-three of the New Empire Times devoting a full three sentences to the destruction of the planet. Yes! The protesters got some press!

Friday, November 17, 2006

upwards at 210 degrees

Media reporting on the use of illegal drugs is always prone to comedy.

However, I dislike the intentional comedy, low-grade punning headlines about cannabis policy 'going to pot' or 'up in smoke' and the like. The criminalisation of cannabis sees thousands of people incarcerated and tens of thousands convicted (thus unable to take many government jobs, work with kids, etc) when they've usually done no harm to anyone, not even themselves.

But even in the netherworld of shoddy journalism characteristic of drugs stories, this BBC report of a police crackdown on cannabis growers stands out both for unintentional comedy and the how-did-any-journailst-get-paid-for-this factor.

With a tinge of hypocrisy I revel in the unintentional comedy, most especially the low-grade punning.

The sidebar has links to related stories, including one headlined 'Cannabis policing relaxed'; yep, it even relaxes coppers.

It goes on

Allan Gibson, of the Association of Chief Police Officers', said it was an "increasing problem which must be nipped in the bud".

Let's see, it's about a police crackdown on drugs, so what should the BBC's subeditor have as the pull-quote in big letters? Information about the raids maybe?

'A lot of people who grow the cannabis are illegal immigrants'
- Det Insp Neil Hutchison

'A lot'? How many is that exactly? They don't say. And in fact don't have that quote anywhere. In the actual quote in the article 'a lot' is only 'sometimes';

The proceeds are used to invest in other crimes, Det Insp Hutchison said, and illegal immigrants are sometimes trafficked illegally to the UK in order to grow the cannabis.

'illegal immigrants are sometimes trafficked illegally' - there's some other way to do it?

But more to the point, why the fuck would anyone risk importing an illegal immigrant to do an easy job that doesn't take much time? Even if it happens a bit, do we really think it's so common that it should be seen as a noteworthy part of drug-growers' strategy?

It's just more of that thread of racism that gets quietly woven into news stories, like when Radio 4 covered the conviction of a driver who'd killed a pedestrian by saying, 'An asylum seeker who killed a woman when he drove...'. Associate one lot of bad people with another, whether there's any truth in it or not.

Police are already using thermal imaging cameras to spot the factories, which can be up to 10 times hotter than a normal house because of the heat from the lights.

Let's say the average house is 21 degrees. Does this mean houses growing cannabis are at around 210 degrees? Are they sure about that?

Not so much need for thermal imaging, just look for the front doors with the fulminating paint blisters.

In the UK, the type of drug which is mainly grown is known as skunk, a strong variant of the drug which is potentially harmful.

Gotta love that, 'potentially harmful'. Can we expect crackdowns on other potentially harmful items? Forks, shampoo, wine glasses, cotton-rich socks?

There are many risks associated with illegal drugs. And a serious proportion of them are entirely caused by prohibition. Drugs being cut with harmful substances (or the flipside, being usually cut so when a pure batch comes through people overdose). People being uninformed or misinformed about the effects. People having to buy from profiteering gangsters who don't give a fuck about them, as opposed to getting quality stuff at a price commensurate with production. But one I'd never thought of was the house fires.

The gangs who run these farms often steal electricity using wiring set-ups which can carry a risk of causing fires.

Then they have a table of 'tell tale signs' so you can shop your local grower.

gardening equipment left outside or a pungent smell coming from the building.

That's my dad - a keen gardener and wonderful cook - fucked then.

Politicians and prohibitionists always weasel out of anything that corners their absurd approach to drugs by saying 'we can't say anything good about drugs because it would send out a confusing message'. Leaving aside the volumes it speaks about their incredibly patronising view of us (you morons only understand THIS IS GOOD or THIS IS BAD), how fucking mixed is this next bit?

In January, the government decided to keep cannabis as a Class C drug...

But on Monday Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: "Those who use and sell cannabis will face tough penalties - up to 14 years for cultivation and dealing.

The same law that declassified cannabis increased penalites for supplying it! 'We don't think it's so bad for you to have it after all, so it's important that we're harsher on people who give it to you'.

There is no reason for cannabis to be illegal. None. Really, absolutely none. Get everyone who thinks there is and put them versus me, on my own, on live global TV, stoned off me nuts and I'll still win the debate. Prohibition delivers none of the things it is supposed to do, there is no evidence that it will or can do so, and in the mean time it demonstrably causes a great deal of harm.

This isn't just about smoking dope, or even the right to do what you like to your own body. Just like my high school's banning of boys wearing white socks, it's about normalising the persecution of random activities. So, like new army recruits being made to march round and round for no reason, no matter how much we dislike it, we learn to obey authority.

I could go on all day, but I've written about this elsewhere before, and there's been recent excellent eloquent posts at The Quiet Road and Rhythmic Ginger which between them say all that needs to be said.

The so-called War On Drugs is not a war on pills, powder, plants and potions, it is a war on mental states - a war on consciousness itself - how much, what sort we are permitted to experience, who gets to control it.

- Casey Hardison speaking in Hove Crown Court court, 2005. He was convicted of manufacturing LSD and sentenced to 20 years.

Friday, November 10, 2006

divide and rule

It's quite extraordinary how swiftly climate change has become one of the major topics of our time. Even two years ago there'd be dismissal of it as a lentils and sandals issue, and when it did get discussed oil-funded climate deniers got given airtime.

Even those branches of the media that don't want to admit it much are latching on as they see the groundswell of concern. Murdoch's minions at The Times dismissed the Camp For Climate Action (only to come round the day after the big action with their tails between their legs asking for a story).

On Tuesday their front page main story was headlined ‘THE GREEN DIVIDE: Times poll shows the gulf between words and action on the environment’.

Yet, as I say at The Sharpener,

It shows nothing of the sort. The table that, ahem, proves it uses reasoning that could be easily unravelled by a brain damaged gerbil reading the newspaper in the dark.

The post is me being that brain damaged gerbil. It's called Divide And Rule.

[no Comments here on this post; the place to do it is over at the Sharpener]

Monday, November 06, 2006


Every new year at midnight I join hands with friends in that traditional cross-armed way and sing Ace of Spades.

Tonight, I finally went to see Motorhead live. I just heard Ace of Spades as loud as I'll ever hear it. The sense of glory and satisfaction is hard to articulate. My ears are still ringing. Fuckin A.

I'd use this as a prompt to put some Motorhead rarity up on Dust on The Stylus - like I did when Pixies blew me away last year - but I don't have any. Don't own an album even, and feel I'm unlikely ever to do so. Yet they are something perfect and the concert was little short of sacramental.

It's been tough trying to find someone who'll go with me to Motorhead. People seem to think that cos they don't know many tracks it won't be any good. That's such a load of arse. When you go to see a bebop sax player or an Indian sitarist you don't know the tunes; you immerse yourself in this ocean of sound that they improvise, you bob about on the emotional waves they generate. Same with Motorhead. It's all got that fantastic rumble and frenetic pace and Lemmy doing that unintelligible straining growl. A couple of lines up the nose and a bottle of something strong down the neck and you're away. As pure and brilliant a musical experience as you'll get.

And I love what Lemmy stands for. The way he's still at it, not mellowed or sold out at all. The people who see that sort of wilting as inevitable are just trying to make excuses for their cop-outs and failings. Lemmy is a clear reminder of this and an inspiration to keep fuckin hammering away.

"We are Motorhead and we play rock n roll," he said before the first song.

Before the last song he told us, "we are Motorhead and we play rock n fuckin roll".

I am deeply spiritually grateful that both points are true.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

sustainable irresponsibility

Corporate Watch's recent What's Wrong With Corporate Social Responsibility? report is a total must-read.

Even those of us well aware of the viciousness with which corporate power is wielded still get taken in by PR stuff. We really want to believe that people want to do good, so somewhere inside we think corporations would like to mitigate the damage they do.

So we try to ethically consume - and let's be clear that Fair Trade is a fucksight better than its alternative, slave trade. But so much of the ethical choices are a gloss to shine the surface of something foul, a smokescreen to haze our clear view of what these fuckers really are.

Corporate Social Responsibility was conceived by the most anti-social corporations like Shell, whose core business does not change in the light of their CSR programmes. CSR is, therefore, just window dressing.

Moreover, one of the main points that Corporate Watch's report is built upon is the inability and illegality of a corporation acting in a genuinely responsible way. They are legally obliged to maximise the returns for shareholders, so responsible actions can only be done if they are also profitable. Which they usually aren't.

Slimy oraganisations have been set up to help the destructive corporations and co-opt to castrate the campaigners, NGOs and activists that would undermine them. They give themselves cuddly names likes like AccountAbility, the Environment Council and the ReAssurance Network.

In their 'What We Believe' page, the ReAssurance Network inform us

Despite the production of over 100 annual social reports in the UK each year, big business is still largely mistrusted. Readers often perceive these reports as clever public relations exercises that fail to give a true insight into how an organisation thinks and behaves

They continue with an explanation that corporate responsibility is a good idea as it

supports business strategy, for it is these very qualities that determine how successful an organisation is at managing risk, strengthening relationships, building trust, enhancing reputation and developing new business opportunities.

In other words, as their earlier paragraph disimplied, it is good PR.

They know there's no defending sweatshops. They know there's no defending unsustainability. So they have to pretend they're not really doing it.

The oldest and simplest method is to lie outright, but that can backfire. When activists showed that Nike's denials about its sweatshop factories were false, Nike were reduced to defending it by saying they could lie if they wanted to as the American Constitution guarantees freedom of speech.

Imagine trying that defence for, say, an Enron accounting scandal, and you see how much they regard money as important and environmental and human rights as piffling.

So as a second option they can do a few nice things that make us feel they're not so bad really, and we leave them to carry on. This false legitimacy is quite cheaply bought. The cost of BP sponsoring a few art galleries is nothing compared to the profits they make from massively exacerbating climate change.

And the gall of some of it - Shell sponsoring the Wildlife Photographer of The Year! Makes me glad that language isn't inter-species. I'd hate to tell that one to the thousands of types of plants and animals being decimated and obliterated by oil-induced climate change.

There's a third tactic too, which is to adopt the language of your detractors as claim it as your own. The most important environmental word is 'sustainability', so it should come as no surprise that it is the most abused.

According to the UN Division for Sustainable Development, the definition is 'to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

Don't take so much that those who come later won't have enough.

Seems clear and obvious enough, doesn't it?

But that's not what it means in a post-CSR world. It means sustaining profits and economic growth. In other words - to return one more time to the clearest reason why our entire society is suicidally insane - it means finding a way to eternally consume finite resources.

And any talk of not impinging on future generations ability to use resources is right out.

When the European Bank For Reconstruction and Development said it'd finance the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, many people took exception. Here was an undemocratic organisation funded by our taxes putting an oil pipeline through half a dozen war zones to deliver exacerbation of climate change.

Activists paid a visit to EBRD's headquarters. The EBRD's finance man disputed the activists' assertion that the pipeline is unsustainable.

As oil, once burned, ceases to exist, and once a well is drilled dry it doesn't replenish, and the oil fields the pipeline exploits will run dry within 50 years, his response looks completely mad at first.

But when you realise that he's talking about BP's short to medium term ability to sustain current profit levels, you realise where he's coming from.

Unsustainable companies such as Lafarge Cement have to concur with the EBRD's stance. Lafarge's Sustainability policy opens with the line

For Lafarge in the UK, sustainability means fulfilling our commitments to our customers, our employees, our communities and our shareholders.


In what way does that have anything whatsoever to do with anything you could ever call sustainability?


It doesn't. It's that sustainability is now a synonym for profitability.

So they can cluck about, offering nice cuddly adverts saying things about 'sustainability' in soft reassuring voices; they even employ ReAssurance Network to do their reassuring for them.

Just as you can easily see the truth in their propaganda by changing 'War On Drugs' to 'War on Some Drugs', and 'War on Terror' to 'War on Peace', so you can get clarity from CSR and eco-ads by changing 'sustainable' for 'profitable'.