See also "Reactions", with frequent additions.
A very fine weapon.
More sex, less violence.
Are we just consumers?
Life or NYSE ?
Do you care ?
What do you eat ?
Or free-of-charge noise?
Tap or bottled water?
A landmine is cheap to produce, and expensive and time-consuming to remove once it has been placed in the field. As long as it is not removed, it kills. 30 years after the war is over. France has 1.4 million of such mines in its arsenals (is that by fear of a Belgian invasion?). It has now committed to destroy them within two years. Will China, India, Pakistan and the U.S. ever follow?
Governments tend today to be more sensitive to the pressure of the public opinion. Your opinion counts. For a better information, goto the American site supporting the ban of landmines.
(*) See F. Héritier and P. Karli in "Science et Vie", N°1031, Aug 2003, p.43.
Speaking of politics — but this is actually a different subject — I recommend you to read the opinion of Vaclav Havel.
Obviously, fashion is not something new: Molière already denounced it (1659) in Les Précieuses ridicules. Today, ten year old children fume against their parents if they are refused sports shoes with a bright Nike or Reebok logo.
Coca-Cola is sold in Goa (photo taken in 2003). The company already advertised this beverage in 1900. Advertising (disguised as "communication" by those ashamed of speaking openly of advertising) tries to make us buy all sorts of products that we do not really need — and often succeeds. And this is how, going to the supermarket to buy a box of washing powder and a tube of tooth paste, you come back home with a load of sweets and a miracle can-opener that will soon find its last residence at the back of the kitchen drawer.
Clearly, if I really have to buy something, I wish to find information helping me chose among a vast offering. I am thus not totally opposed to advertising. But I vehemently combat magical claims about the health benefits of industrial food, "rich in omega three and calcium". See an example in my "Reactions" page. It is mostly a deception.
A few consequences of our consumer frenzy:
The story of stuff: a little simplistic, but basically correct, about the life cycle of products, designed obsolescence, why our society turned human beings into consumers, how it harms the planet and what will be done to avoid a total ecological disaster. Watch the 20 minute video to its end.
"5 reasons not to shop in supermarkets" (from Environmental Graffiti).
When you pay 3 Euros for a cup of coffee on the Champs-Élysées, the Indonesian, Ugandan or Colombian producer gets less than a cent.
The revenue of the coffee producers dropped from 12.5 G$ (Gigadollars, or billions of US$) down to 5.5 G$ over the last ten years. In the same time span, the turnover of the five biggest coffee traders moved from 30 to 60 G$. In other words, the income of the producers was halved, and that of the traders has doubled.
It does not seem vital to me that the value of the Nestlé common share maintain a high level. On the other hand 500,000 jobs have been lost in 2001, because the market price for coffee beans has collapsed. 25 million rural families (yes, 25,000,000) are suffering a dramatic decrease of their income. This is blatant injustice, and throws a peculiar light on the "global policies" which are developed for the sole benefit of the rich countries. We are creating explosive conditions amidst the peoples who suffer from these policies. The day a revolt appears, you and I will have created a part of it.
We can act, modestly, against this trend, when we buy coffee, chocolate or bananas for which we know a fair price is being paid to their producers.
More information on "Fair Trade" (links).
What I said on this subject in January 2000: A fair price
See also: Reactions (updated regularly)
In the USA, (source: USNews.com), the per capita sugar consumption was 65 kg per year in 2003...
My father used to say: the people of Wallis (a mountainous area of Switzerland) used to have excellent teeth until commerce with the bottom of the valley, and thus with the rest of the world, developed, and they had access to sugar. In less than a generation, they all lost their teeth.
I am not saying that their life was all rosy: they suffered other diseases due to malnutrition, especially goiter caused by insufficient iodine in the food and in the salt.
Since the beginning of life, many populations had to struggle everyday to get food. Many still have to. In the so-called "developed world", plentiful food is available to - almost - everybody. But what food? White refined sugar, glucose from starch, wheat flour as white as snow, plus any amount of chicken and beef raised with generous doses of hormones, processed carcasses and antibiotics. Here is a list of the permitted food additives in Europe, with a few comments.
A few years ago, Europe was sitting on a "butter mountain" that seems to have melted since, meaning probably that we have eaten all. This is now our food: sugar, white flour, cheap meat and milk fat. The basic ingredients of a hamburger. When you happen to pass through Los Angeles or Philadelphia airport, you can't help wondering at the number of obese people wandering around.
The danger expecting Elian, the Cuban kid, if he stays too long in Miami...
(according to the satirical paper "Le Canard Enchaîné" dated 19 Apr 2000)
Click to enlarge