Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Top UK Christmas Sales

with 6 comments

Do They Know Its Christmas? (Band Aid, 1984)Following on from yesterday, my second revelation courtesy of Christmas television is this: The 1984 Band Aid single “Do they know its Christmas? (Feed the world)” is the biggest-selling Christmas Number One of all time in the UK (selling twice as many copies as any other song).

It is believed that the sales of this record prevented the deaths of over a million people. However, the fact that 2.5 million people still died in Ethiopia in 1984-5, and that people are still dying in the Horn of Africa today, should be sufficient evidence for most sensible people to accept that starvation and death are not just the result of poor food distribution, they are a consequence of poor people being unable to produce sufficient food to feed themselves.

Unfortunately, “most sensible people” is a category that would appear not to include large numbers of economists and politicians around the world – those who continue to deny the reality of limits to growth and/or that the Earth is already over-populated. This is a subject about which I have written a great deal over the last few months and, no doubt, is one to which I will return in 2012… However, the necessity of Band Aid in 1984 and Emergency Relief work every year since, should act as a sobering reminder of the reality that the vast majority of people on the planet are not interested in finding a bargain in the shops, they are just trying to eek out an existence from an environment that is barely capable of supporting the current number of humans on the planet; especially as more and more of them aspire to such a comfortable existence as we do in ‘the West’…

Therefore we are all to blame; because we are all far-too-comfortable with our Western way of life. However, as Mike Berners-Lee recently wryly observed: “If the Chinese middle class want a Western lifestyle, then Western lifestyles had better become lower carbon”. It was for this reason that Dr Myles Allen said in 2008, at the 4 Degrees and Beyond Conference in Oxford (UK) in 2008, pointed out that We did not save the ozone layer by rationing deodorant!

On that thought, it only remains for me to wish you a Happy New Year!

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6 Responses

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  1. I’m no expert, but in order for countries like China and India to reach our level of consumption (while, at the same time, our level of consumption is maintained), our design and manufacturing practices will have to drastically change because we simply do not have the natural resources. There needs to be much more effort to design every product to either be recyclable or compostable. This “design-for-the-dump” method that we are using cannot go on.

    There is actually a great book about this subject called “Cradle to Cradle”. One of the solutions the book discuses is that people no longer “own” products. For example, if you were to get a TV, you would only pay to use it (kind of a lease). But the company, say Panasonic, always owns the TV. That way, when the TV is longer useful, it is returned to Panasonic. This puts pressure on Panasonic to make the TV easily recyclable because they are the ones who have to do the work.

    jpgreenword

    31 December 2011 at 01:32

    • Yes, thanks. That is clearly a book I should read, although Mike Berners-Lee does make similar points in “How Bad Are Bananas?“.

      Martin_Lack

      31 December 2011 at 10:05

    • I agree, jpgreenword.

      I think there’s a need to be a little careful when using the word ‘lease’ in this context though; ‘leases’ tend to be used as excuses to charge five times as much for things.

      Then again, once externalised costs are taken into account, I suspect that we should all be paying about five times as much for everything anyway — the real difficulty will be making sure that the extra is reinvested in making things better, not simply ending up (as in today’s economic model) in some bwanker’s pocket.

      pendantry

      1 January 2012 at 03:06

  2. Responding to your main post, Martin — I cannot listen to ‘do they know it’s christmas’ without a heavy heart, knowing that some 30,000 people starve to death somewhere on our planet every single day.

    It’s not just the morans who are in denial about perpetual growth: many people also seem to believe that it’s possible to do something about poverty without also dealing with the problem of obscene wealth. ‘Poverty’ is a relative term, so (a) it can never be eradicated completely and (b) it increases as the rich get richer (the word ‘duh’ springs to mind).

    pendantry

    1 January 2012 at 03:20

    • Last night I watched a summary of 2011′s Red Nose Day and could not help feeling that, no matter how much good it unquestionably does, such charitable giving is merely applying a sticking plaster to a gaping wound: Because there are already too many humans on the planet, even if we eliminated population growth tomorrow, we cannot eliminate poverty, starvation and premature death unless we are willing to moderate our over-consumption of the Earth’s resources. Denial is unfortunately an all-too-common response.

      Martin_Lack

      1 January 2012 at 17:51

      • Denial, greed, and an obsession with “economic growth” are, to me, at the core of most (if not all) of our problems, from poverty and income inequality to climate change and the deterioration of natural ecosystems.

        jpgreenword

        1 January 2012 at 19:24


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