Posts Tagged ‘miljö


The look of hate

To say that most of us want to be loved is hardly controversial. There is a joy in being loved but there is also an immense satisfaction to be had from being hated. The satisfaction of catching someone’s gaze across a crowded room and meeting a look of absolute loathing directed singularly at me and only me. A look of such detestation that the memory of that moment will almost certainly stay with me for the rest of my life and rekindle a warm and poignantly pleasurable sensation every time I think about it.

The moment I have in mind happened at one of the many sideshows at the COP15 conference in Copenhagen last December. I think the correct term was “side event” but I prefer to call them side shows. These side shows were a varied distraction from the main conference and to a large extent organised by representatives of big businesses, usually on the theme of how big business was going to save the environment by getting bigger and doing even more business. The event that I will always remember was organised by ACEA the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. The subject was how the car makers were actively working for the good of the planet or some such greewash.

The look of direst loathing I received was from no other than the illustrious representative of ACEA during the questions and answers bit at the end. To be honest I hadn’t really been on my best behaviour, not that I’d been heckling or anything, that’s not my style. I fell asleep. Worse I fell asleep while the illustrious representative of ACEA was speaking and woke up again when he stopped. This was not done on purpose but with reflection it could have been. There is hardly a better way to disconcert a speaker than by starting to snooze during their oratory. No my sleep was genuine, probably brought on by the string of very late nights and perilously early mornings that accompanied the Copenhagen conference. The free wine at the walking buffet before the show may have also played a part in my uncontrollable drowsiness. Having said that, a speaker, who with passion, presents a subject that they totally believe in and burn for will always keep me awake. Unfortunately nothing of that kind was on the menu that particular evening in the Bella Centre.

Dropping off during the show was of course not enough to generate that look of hate. No no, to gain my status as the most despised person in the room I had to wake up and ask a question. The look started to form on the man from ACEA’s eminent mug when the bloke who’d been snoring at the back during his discourse stood up and introduced myself as a representative for Friends of the Earth Sweden. (I’m not sure if I really was snoring but one can always hope for the best.) I explained that I was based in Gothenburg. At the very heart of the Swedish car industry and that some Swedish trade union members were expressing a fear. A feeling that the motor industry was in a state of decline and that some of the most advanced industrial technology and skills would be lost unless production was redirected to produce something that the world needs more than just more and more cars. The loathing grew visibly when the greeny mentioned trade unions.

My question was simply this. What message should I take back to Sweden with me for my friends in the car makers union. The answer I got was a look of hate. A look of hate accompanied by a reassurance that the car industry has a bright and rosy future. That there always will be a rising demand for more and more new cars and that anyone who even considered anything else was quite simply naïve.

I hope that this is a comfort and a reassurance to the crew at Volvo.


Guerilla gardening on a Sunday afternoon

The biggest problem I’ve found about starting a blog is not having anything to write about. Just now I have a spare hour before a dozen local activists turn up at my house to learn how to reclaim urban wasteland and I feel that I should try and write something, but what? Nothing interesting ever happens around me. Ok I’m helping to run a training camp for radical horticulturists in my spare time but I have to do something. I don’t have a telly.

Gardening, guerilla or otherwise has never been one of my big things. Its one of those blind spots in my patchy education. That is one of my main motives for getting involved with a gardening course, whatever comes up I’m sure of learning something. And what knowledge could be more valuable nowadays than knowing how to grow my own food?

Gardening can be seen possibly as a natural reaction to what happened at COP15 in Copenhagen back in December. That last sentence could be interpreted as a bit gloomy and in some ways it is very gloomy but that is not the whole picture, on the whole I think I’m more optimistic now after the Copenhagen disaster than I was before. Before Copenhagen I was hoping for an international agreement and a great deal of my time last year was spent in the build up to the Copenhagen summit. This hope was to be honest, conscious self delusion. I knew there was no hope of those men in grey suits ever reaching a consensus for the common good over their short term interests. It was pretty obvious.

All the while I was concentrating on Copenhagen I felt that I was neglecting my home patch. I think most of us environmentalists did that. We all focused our attention on the United Nations while at home we did less than we could have done. After Copenhagen I think many people, myself included, realised two important facts. One that we need to focus on a climate cleansing of our own cities. And two that people with that shared attitude were going home to cities all around the world. Stopping global warming is a global struggle but the real battle ground is here on our doorsteps.

This brings us back to guerilla gardening, it’s about more than just the food. Locally sourced food from, what is today, urban wasteland is clearly an important part of the way forward but that is not best bit. The best bit is that twelve people who previously didn’t know each other are getting together on a hillside in Sweden with the shared dream of wanting to make their city a better place. Isn’t this how powerful grass roots social movements are formed?

Gothenburg 9 may 2010

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