Tuesday, October 20, 2009

173 Million!! Stand Against Poverty

So this year I didn´t do or go to a Stand Against Poverty event. I had been berating myself for my inaction, I had wondered about whether I could somehow bring it into our gig last Friday 16th October, which was actually a Švyturys (Lithuanian Beer) promotion night. But realised that it would probably be a gesture as hollow as the barrels at the end of the night. I can´t escape the fact, for me it´s got to have some meaning. With further thought I let myself off the guilt trip as last year I helped provoke two events: the Darwin´s Nightmare screening in the streets of the Raval and the Freud Quiere Bailar gig at Comafosca. (Thereby inadvertently playing with the Guinness Record Book statistics in the process...) Here´s the vid:

All this thinking (if not standing) did lead me to reflect on those little things I´ve done over the last year that I hope might have done something for the cause: volunteering as an interpreter for Medecins Sans Frontieres (really intense, really difficult!), making Kiva microcredits (great karma - your money comes back and you put back the same $25 into circulation, doubling the benefits!), upping my membership subscription to MSF, spreading the word about Kiva by setting up group lending teams for Kroonos (members have now lent $1,200!) and Avaaz... Small actions but big results!

Which should be rewarded success, failure or inaction?
I´m reading Weird Ideas That Work about fostering corporate creativity and innovation and one of the ideas is that inaction should be punished; success and failure rewarded - after all, the benefit of failure is you can learn from it, and hell! at least you tried, took a risk, stopped playing it safe.

Giving is rewarding, maybe that´s also considered a selfish motive, but so what! Altruism is not a common word in today´s thinking. I think it can be easy to turn our back on other distant people´s suffering, hearing about nasty things can make us feel really uncomfortable, saddened and hopeless - but ignoring them doesn´t make it go away either. (And don´t worry, I´m the first - I can´t watch the news, but I like to think that´s a slightly different story.) I think the MSF are really positive in how they present their campaigns, and although NGOs get a lot of stick nowadays, at least they´re doing something - the aim should be not to stop doing things, but to learn how to do things better! Films like Hotel Rwanda and The Constant Gardener do credit to the film-makers in the way they can deal with emotionally impossible subjects in a swallowable form, but there is still an important place for hard documentary like Darwin´s Nightmare or Channel Four´s Dispatches How to get ahead in Africa - we mustn´t completely lose touch with reality.

Anyhow, the good news is 173 million people stood up against poverty last weekend, breaking last year´s record of 116m! But what´s most interesting should be the follow up - what happens between now and this time next year, how do we keep the pressure on for the Millennium Goals and what little things can we do to make a difference?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waste not Want not: Blog Action Day 2009

Climate change - are we being force-fed the new terrorism?

I´m not a scientist, but that doesn´t stop me being titillated by the prospect of debate.

Every now and again I check out George Monbiot´s blog to see what he´s got to say. My friend Coco suggested I watch The Great Global Warming Swindle, I thought why not - you´ve got to know both sides of the story...

I thought it was interesting, and quite convincing... the scientists are quibbling over whether current climate change is caused by us, more specifically our CO2 emissions, or whether it´s a result of solar activity. For all I know it could be both... We don´t live in a vacuum - climate will inevitably change, so what do I care? Well, arguing about the causes for me is largely beside the point.

The point for me is that we need energy, well that´s why we eat, isn´t it? On the very simplest level, life is energy and we require energy to live. This makes it ubiquitous but at the same time highly valuable, you know, just like water (another often taken for granted requisite for life). So the bone I´ve got to pick is not about what´s causing climate change - but how we waste and misuse the energy that is available to us and in the process cause damage to ourselves and other species and possibly prevent a more equitable distribution of energetic currency. CO2 is a killer - as can be seen from one suicidal practice and if you´ve become asthmatic like me you can most probably attest to the discomfort of running to catch a train or bus in the city...

In the (over) developed world we´re living, like some hormone-injected cow, on the edge of the "golden age" of consumerism - the sickness of plenty. The more you have, the more you waste. Recycling is not new. When you have less you value little things more. There are no end to the old sayings that reflect this: one man´s rubbish is another man´s treasure. We wallow in our own depressing solipsism: if it has no value for me, it has no value for anyone. Me, me, Me, me, ME! We´re the prey of modernism: new = better. What happened to "If it ain´t broke don´t fix it" - do we have a choice? No! Nothing´s designed to last too long, companies would lose future markets, and anyway they can produce it, export it and sell it for cheaper than anyone can fix it. What a waste!

Oh yeah and time, don´t forget how we can waste time by "saving" time. So we spend our life buzzing around like blue-arsed flies - it´s always quicker by car (haha) - and then we find we´re stressed and don´t know how to wind down. So we drive to the gym to do some exercise or to the yoga centre to do some meditation. Maybe biking to work would give you that adrenaline rush and walking to school would give you time to think about things. We should do ourselves a favour, giving ourselves more time to do things that take longer, sacrifice a bit of comfort to taste the air, see what´s happening in the world.

Climate change could just be a tag being put on the tip of that environmental iceberg which contains all the harmful consequences of our interference with our environment - there are countless pollutants we´ve used over the last 100 years or so, countless projects tweaking nature to serve us better but having unconsidered consequences for someone or something else further down the cycle. It´s quite easy to see carbon deposits as a resource which is now depleting - we extract until there´s nothing left, big deal, the bowl´s empty. However the water cycle is highly complex - it involves everything from rocks to trees, from people to seas. What happens to the ground when water is over-exploited from the catchment area? What happens to the soil when the trees are burnt or chopped down. What about the water capacity of woods and forests? What happens to the delta when the river´s dammed up stream, what happens to the plants waiting for the river´s food to flood over them? Why is a natural disaster always said to be "natural"? Greed, carelessness and lack of consideration are human disasters.

I wouldn´t be a vegetarian if I didn´t think that small gestures can affect the world, habits can be changed if you think it matters - imagine, I used to love meat!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Flores Para Frida

Most of the most interesting opportunities spring straight out of the blue... and this was definitely one of them! A friend from the parashuts collective asked if I´d be interested in doing a photoshoot for a Mexican Fashion and Design company, Flores Para Frida.

After a number of false starts during an unusually showery spring in Barcelona, we decided to go for it, despite the threatening clouds, armed with a suitcase full of elegant dresses and exotic accessories from the Flores Para Frida Collection.

We headed for The Park of the Labyrinth, nestling in the folds of the hills around Barcelona. The gardens are full of hidden arbours, fountains, pools and statues - ideal, and because of the weather there were very few visitors.

Seeing the photos up on the screen I couldn´t resist going for an ultra-saturated look (see Flickr)... now I can see that it´s laying it on a bit, but I loved playing around with the vibrancy of the colours and recomposing the image with some heavy-duty cropping... there´s plenty of fun to be had from experimenting!