Tim Longhurst's Blog

What’s wrong with Coke, anyway?

January 31st, 2006 · 2 Comments

Since starting the zero coke movement, I have watched discussions take shape on community bulletin boards around the world. People are asking all sorts of questions, but the recurring theme is, “What’s wrong with Coke? What have they done wrong?”

Setting up the zero coke movement has provided a forum to consider Coke’s business practices. Regarding their business practices, the FAQ page of the zero coke movement site links to information on concerns about Coke’s activities in India and Colombia, which are currently two hotspots. Coke has attempted to defend themselves at their own website, cokefacts.org. It’s amazing to read Coke attempt to defend themselves against some strong allegations.

It has also opened the opportunity to consider Coke’s role in our global community: to consider whether Coke’s use of a significant collection of our world’s resources is in the best interests of our society.

What’s Really Important

In the grand scheme of ‘What’s Really Important’, I believe that everyone deserves food and water… Globally, we have the resources to achieve this, but for whatever reason, it’s not happening.

Instead, in a perverse irony, we have some people who genuinly don’t have enough (many, but not all are in developing countries) and then we have marketing people. These people’s job is to make us rich people feel like we don’t have enough. That is, that our lives would be more complete if we had things a little better… a better car, a better soda…

In a world with plenty of genuine need, Coke’s marketers are busy attempting to “create needs” where they might not have otherwise existed.

Whilst in pure market economic terms, all needs are equal, most of us recognise that in the real world there exists a ‘heirarchy of needs’… A poor person’s desire for a drink of clean water at an affordable price is in most people’s minds more important than another person’s desire to have a pre-packaged, sweetened drink that is chilled and comes with a theme song.

But here’s the thing: a well designed, targeted, big budget campaign to deliver clean water to the remaining 20% of the world doesn’t exist. In the meantime, Coke are reportedly spending $18million to convince 20-30 year old image-obsessed males to drink fizzy, sweetened water.

While most of us would gladly give up soda right now if it meant some disadvantaged person had clean water, our world seems to complex and disconnected for that to seem possible.

If Coke were to shut down, would the world be a better place? We’d certainly save a lot of electricity with all those vending machines gone. There’d be less pollution with all those delivery trucks off the roads, plastics and aluminium complexes would pump less toxins into the air as demand for packaging takes a hit. People’s self esteem might start to improve as Coke’s advertising campaign impossipeople start to fade from our memories.

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Category: Tim's Projects

Anti-Poverty Week

October 16th, 2005 · No Comments

This week is Anti-Poverty week…

Anti-Poverty Week was established several years ago in Australia as an expansion of the UN’s annual International Anti-Poverty Day on October 17.
The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia and encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

The Aussie Anti-Poverty Week website has a selection of PDF resources. I am going to read at least one of these resources by the end of the week. They just want to inform you… they’re not asking for money, so relax and go and check out the link.

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Category: Peace between people

Miranda Devine puts well-heeled boot into eco-footprints

August 3rd, 2005 · No Comments

ecological.jpgA while ago I worked out my ecological footprint and discovered that according to a very rough calculation I was using three times my fair share of natural resources.

On Monday the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on how the footprint of Mosman residents is even larger than mine.

Three days later, SMH right-wing columnist Miranda Devine hit back. What was her beef with the ecological footprint? Did she think the maths was bad? Did it make her nervous to realise that maybe the way she lived her life was unsustainable?

A capitalist once shared with me something he considered wisdom: “The communist sees a rich man’s house and exclaims, ‘No man should have this much’. The capitalist sees a rich man’s house and exclaims, ‘Every man should have this much’.”

Perhaps a biologist would then retort, ‘The Earth’s biosphere is incapable of supporting a world where every man has that much.’

But Miranda Devine probably doesn’t listen to biologists. The only scientists she likes probably work for Monsanto.

Miranda Devine’s unsophisticated response offers no alternative model or scientific critique of the ecological footprint model. She seems to be annoyed that people would bother to calculate an individual’s ‘fair share’ of the Earth. She is, after all, incredibly hostile to concepts like ‘justice’ and ‘equity’.

Obviously the revelation that the Earth’s biosphere is finite has caused significant cognitive dissonance for Devine. Here’s how she deals with it:

MOSMAN ratepayers must be thrilled to find themselves portrayed as “big foot” eco-gluttons by their council. My vegetarian colleague John Huxley bravely revealed this week that his fellow Mosmanites consume more than six times their share of the Earth’s resources. He knows this because Mosman Council has expended lots of energy calculating its residents’ average “ecological footprint” – the amount of land and water needed to provide resources for one person and dispose of the waste. Lifestyle aspects, from food to holidays, were factored in.

While the “sustainable global average” ecological footprint is 2.3 hectares a person, the “yeti yachties from the north”, as Mosmanites are now dubbed, take up a huge 14.7 hectares, almost twice the Australian average.

Naughty, naughty Mosman.

But in truth, the ecological footprint smells like just another tool of social control that leftist green ideologues love. Fly overseas for a holiday or eat meat, and your ecological footprint balloons. Your only hope is to move into a cave, graze vegetable matter off the ground, and die young and childless.

This is the best rebuttle Devine could offer. It’s name calling dressed up to look like a column in a respectable broadsheet. Go ahead and read the whole thing, if you like.

The reality is there are several indications that this planet is heading for the first mass-extinction caused by a single species: us. That’s not my opinion, that’s the view held by Lord May, President of the Royal Society, one of the world’s most respected scientific institutions.

Does Miranda Devine think that the world could sustain 6.3 billion people if we all lived like the people in Mosman?

Perhaps her view is, “So what? We’ll just start a few wars and thin out the ranks!” Maybe that’s why she was such a pro-war zealot when it came to Iraq?

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Category: Our living planet

Susan George on the Worldwide Citizens’ Movement

May 27th, 2005 · No Comments

0412_susan_george_1.jpgSUSAN GEORGE is Associate Director of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, a decentralised fellowship of scholars living throughout the world whose work is intended to contribute to social justice.

Susan spoke at the Sydney Writer’s Festival on 26 May, 2005. These notes provide a general overview of Susan’s perspective on the “worldwide citizen’s movement” (sometimes referred to as the alter-globalisation movement).
Susan opened her presentation with a question:

Can this movement be something in the 21st Century that takes the role that Marx gave to the Proletariat?

…Although I’m not a Marxist, I do think that you ought to have read Marx and other philosophers to get a sense of themes and patterns in history…

Analysing the nuts and bolts of the movement:

  • We are internationalists
  • We recognise that we ‘can’t hold back the tide’ of globalisation. What we want is a different kind of globalisation.
  • We see ourselves as part of an historical movement toward human dignity and emancipation
  • Our structure is non-hierarchical, with moral leaders, not bosses. This has strengths and weaknesses.

Excerpt from 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Article 25:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Yes, it’s sexist, but the general principles remain worthwhile.

There are three kinds of people:

  1. Those who make things happen. Everyone ought to be part of this…
  2. Those who watch things happen. For example, so called “objective scholars”
  3. Those who never knew what hit them.

What we object to:

  • Continual tax-free currency trading
  • Commodification of all aspects of human existence in the marketplace
  • Neoliberalism

Continual tax-free currency trading

  • $US28,000,000,000,000 ($28 trillion) in liquid assets (i.e. money) is owned by 7.7 million people according to Merryl Lynch.
  • Our money is taxed. Thanks to tax havens (so called “Fiscal Paradises”) theirs isn’t.

Is democracy something to come to an end? It doesn’t exist at a supra-national level.

Commodification of all aspects of human existence in the marketplace
As aspects of human lives are moved from the public spere into the private sphere, with power held in the marketplace, the organizations that control so many aspects of our lives are undemocratic. One dollar equals one vote, and with most companies having a controlling minority interest from the US, an over-representation of American power.

The thinking that permeates the IMF and World Bank is a form of “Primitive Darwinism” – a survival of the fittest mentality that sees little role for cooperation.

We need a debate: What’s In the marketplace and what’s out?
Here’s what might be considered ‘too important for the market’
Public services provide a degree of equity and represent a social wage.
Health care if fully privatised represents an annual industry worth $3 trillion.
if fully privatised represents an annual industry worth $2.5 trillion.
Water Indespensible to life. Scarce and becoming scarce
Life Genes, seeds, scientific research

We have a great many demands:

  • A state of the Common Good
  • We are not anarchists, we want rules, not these rules.
  • ‘Futures’ should be considered plural: decision making should involve the people concerned.
  • Keynesian state, worldwide
  • International taxation
  • Drop the debt on the least developed countries
  • No tax havens: fair share of the common burden

Where ought the movement head now?
Yes, the movement is most visible when it takes to the streets… because there’s no where else to go… No other forum.

…But: serious work needs to be done: lobbying inside and outside formal political organizations.

The movement is made up of world social forums. There is no one single campaign, but we are linked by binding principles.

Most importantly, a campaign demanding a moratorium to ask the big question: what should be in the market and what should not? (This case is made in Susan’s latest book, “Another World is Possible… If…”)

An example of one campaign for moratorium…

The campaign against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) – French Example:

  • GATS ultimately moves education, health, culture and water into the market.
  • With little action against GATS at a federal level, campaigners contacted local governments and soon established “100 Local Governments Against GATS and For a Moratorium” (the number has since swelled to 700)… that’s the local government areas covering 75% of the French population.

Strong alliances are required betweent political parties, trade unions, the peace movement, community groups and others.

Finally, Susan commented on a journalist’s question about why the movement has begun to grow now… Her response? “Because the bastards have gone too far!”

, Susan commented on why she was voting ‘NO’ to the EU Constitution:

  • 800+ pages: too complicated and lengthy for many citizens to comprehend
  • Becoming further and further removed from ordinary people
  • Enshrines Neoliberalism into a body of law that is incredibly difficult to repeal.
  • Susan reminded audience that to many politicians, ignorance is a great national resource.

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Category: Peace between people