Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Good day to you all!

I have just found out about a search engine that donates 80% of its profits to saving the rainforest (working with WWF) and which runs all its servers on renewable energy (servers are hungry and hot beasts to tame). It also, unlike Google, deletes all of your search results in a short space of time and doesn't use them for marketing purposes.

The address is http://ecosia.org/

Pass on the message!


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Consuming Adjectives

One thing I noticed when in Romania was that fruit and vegetables, as long as you didn't buy them from the new supermarkets that are springing up, tasted considerably better than that available here in our oh so wonderfully developed Britain! Even some vegetables I don't normally like were tasty. Interestingly, a UN or WHO report on Romania I read a while ago referred to its agriculture as being underdeveloped and in need of modernisation through the converting of land to large scale industrial farming. Maybe they mean everyone's food should be brightly coloured, shiny and made of plastic, but that doesn't make sense to me! But oh how stupid I am being, they weren't talking about quality in the report, and there was me thinking that they must have been, me with my mentally abnormal bias towards the health and happiness of individuals; they were talking about maximising outputs and profits. (In fairness they think that this will mean there will be more money available for treating illness, which is an interesting approach to take - reducing the healthiness of food to increase the money available for treating ill health).

Anyway, I rant! The point of this blog was an excellent quote from an article (Gazpacho and Coffee) in Resurgence magazine talking about food quality...

"In Armando’s view, his staff, earning £7 a day and growing their own vegetables amongst the coffee, ate better than most British people earning ten times as much. He went on to say, in a bemused way, that our food seemed to be more about consuming adjectives than quality, citing the packaging in supermarkets and the absurdly florid descriptions on restaurant menus"

'Consuming adjectives'! Yes that sums it up nicely! It is another part of the shared delusion we live under, where words, images and associations become more important than reality*. This is exemplified for me by the use of TV to advertise purfume - if you smell your TV while the advert is playing you will find it smells the same as when the advert is not playing (although if the world had a sense of justice the TV would smell more like excrement when the adverts are on)!

Have a nice day!

*The question of what do we class as reality is an interesting one. So much of what we take for real is clouded by our preconceptions, like if someone gives you a red sweet and tells you it is strawberry flavoured how you are more likely to taste strawberry, or if you expect a person not to be nice you will see the negatives more, or how you only see certain details of your environment when they have a relevance to you or you purposely open up to them (the sides of roads to me always used to look like green mess, now I see many different plants all with their own styles and uses). What I am suggesting here is that what we believe absolutely to be real contains much that is subjective (not objectively real), and this might have more and more increasing subtle levels to it, until you start to wonder what is true. If you think this is mere philisophical rambling and has no relation to living life then consider how much of your energy is spent chasing or fighting stuff that isn't real, and how much could be gained if we were to see a little bit more clearly, if we were to have a little more awareness.
A further thought on this is, if so much of our world is subjective, and we purposely shape and create this subjective (as is done in advertising), then are we creating a new reality and a new reality with with its own existence and worth? For example, if you buy perfume based on a stylish advert, others may see you as stylish, and you live in a world of style. However I think a new reality isn't created, rather an existing one is perverted. For instance, the basis for judging someone based on style is maybe linked to judging how well someone can look after themselves, which in itself could have worth. However, the world of style, I would suggest, has become divorced from these roots as image is picked up from mass media and is focused on at the exclusion of much else, and being able to fit in with that image may for some be dependent on credit cards or going along with the status quo, both of which right now seem unsustainable and therefore not necessarily the best way you can look after yourself. What do you think? I welcome a discussion on this, so feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Give a man a fish...

There is a proverb that gets used quite often, especially in relation to charities helping poor countries...

'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime'.

Well for a long time I have disliked that quote, for a start it shows arrogance on the part of the would-be teacher, who seems to be assuming that those that are hungry are so because they are not as cleaver as we. Of course that isn't always the case, and often it is valuable to share skills. But, and this may be the cynic in me, I also dislike it because it doesn't seem to match up well with some of my understanding of how things are and it ignores some fundamental issues. My version of the quote would be...

'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, try and teach him to fish and he will tell you "don't be stupid, I know how to fish, but the fish in the sea have been wiped out due to overfishing by the west, the smaller rivers are drying up due to climate change, and the larger river is polluted because of a factory upstream owned by a western corporation"'

Well today Andy Zaltsman provided me with a new version (on BBC iPlayer currently)...

"Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, but lease him a fishing rod and he will feed you cut-price fish for a life time, and that is a competitively priced labour market you have got there! Plus since you own the rod he better fish and fish hard, otherwise you can take his rod away, no rod means no wages and no wages means no imported tinned fish, which is now all he and his family can afford to eat!"

It seems to me that people, globally, often are not poor because of random chance or due to a lack of effort on their own part, rather, that people are poor largely because we have created a world that requires some to be poor so that others can be rich. This does imply a power to be able to create things differently though.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Terry Pratchett has a rather humorous adaptation of this quote 'give a man a fire and he is warm for a day, set a man on fire and he is warm for the rest of his life!'