December 13, 2004
The readable report
Many research reports that cross my desk are pretty impenetrable. However, some colleagues of mine have produced one that is brief, focussed and readable. Encouraging Green Telework does exactly what it says on the tin, and argues that the UK government is missing a trick in not using teleworking as a strategic solution for a range of policy dilemmas. The report's here to download
At the launch, Jonathon Porritt, one of our organisation's founders, made a typically robust speech exploring the policy angle further. Zdnet carries the full story
November 03, 2004
Who says US citizens have no sense of irony? Two news stories that seem most appropriate this morning as champagne corks pop at GOP parties:
October 27, 2004
An excellent point is made by Halley Suitt. Quoting a Poptech Conference speaker, she writes:
the generation who came of age in World War II has a new vision of a post-war America and a sense of how they would fill up the fifty years from 1950 to the turn of the century – and in fact, that they had a sense of the year 2000 that let them use it rather like a bracket, a bumper, a retainer wall, a “close parenthesis” which if you look at now – and here comes one – looks like half a happy face – here it is ).
She then goes on to suggest we need a 'real beefy, something-you-can-hang-your-hat-on vision of the future'. Too true.
Whilst musing on time as I penned an introduction to a forthcoming book on time and sustainable development it occured to me that many people alive now will know people who live until 2150. Why, even I may. We really do need, therefore, some compelling visions of the future. Tempting though it may be for someone like me who works in sustainable development to paint only dismal pictures of the future, the need is for the positive yet plausible visions.
Men went to the moon because people dreamt it first. As designer and television presenter Charlie Luxton said recently at an event I organised at the BBC: We have distopias like the film Bladerunner, but where are the visions of a sustainable future?'
It's time to get some. 'Something-you-can-hang-your-hat-on'. I like that.
October 13, 2004
And what do you do?
Last night someone said to me, 'Is Forum for the Future branching out into areas other than the environment?'
Forum for the Future is where I work and we do (and have done since 1996) sustainable development, which is not just a fancy name for environmental issues but the combination of social, environmental and economic. In fact much of what I do is more along social issues than environmental.
So, typically, the most prominent piece of media coverage we've had in a while has hit the headlines today and is about recycling. Ho hum. We do do social and economic things. Honest.
Worth a read though: link
September 23, 2004
Rogi links to the provoking Goodbye Romania. A series of photographs accompanied by spare text present brief vignettes of post-Ceaucescu life. 'It's a story about Romania,' explains the introduction, 'that is to say it is a story about change.'
The twist that makes the site compelling is that each time a photo is viewed, a pixel is removed, thus slowly eroding the image: 'by visiting this site you will destroy it' it declares. Once (I estimate) 90,000 visits have been registered, it is gone.
So simple a device suggests several lines of enquiry including the role of consumption in destroying a way of life, how retelling a story enevitably changes and obscures the 'original'. In effect we could call the process 'destorying'.
It reminds me of Douglas Adams' and Mark Carwardine's Last chance to see – see it before it is too late, but don't forget that you are directly implicated in its demise. It is nothing less than a story about sustainability.
September 14, 2004
About time too
According to the PM:
From the start of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago, developed nations have achieved ever greater prosperity and higher living standards. But through this period our activities have come to affect our atmosphere, oceans, geology, chemistry and biodiversity.
What is now plain is that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialisation and strong economic growth from a world population that has increased sixfold in 200 years, is causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long-term. And by long-term I do not mean centuries ahead. I mean within the lifetime of my children certainly; and possibly within my own. And by unsustainable, I do not mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment. I mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence.
Very true. In fact, Tony Blair, in his speech to the Prince of Wales Business & the Environment Programme today, neatly outlines the core challenge about time and sustainable development. This is of particular interest as I'm currently editing a book on the topic and have been pondering whether my introduction needs some kind of heavy-weight quotation.
Of course, whether my boss (who advises Mr B on sustainable development and who was only recently featured in a Guardian article on population) had anything to do with the 'sixfold in 200 years' line is anyone's guess.
July 02, 2004
Burning questions: BrandAutopsy on Starbucks
Former Starbucks marketing guy John Moore takes Starbucks (as reported in this month's Fast Company)to task for their latest big idea: burning personalised CDs for customers while they wait for their mochaccino.
His first post questions the strategic value in offering the service. To quote one or two well-put points:
The brand strength has never been stronger having received accolades and recognition from across the globe.
Are those symptoms of a company that needs reinventing? I think not.
Profit margins in the espresso business are HUGE!!! Huge as in up to 95% margins. Profit margins in the downloaded music are SLIM!!! Slim as in the wholesale costs for an individual song range from 65 cents to 79 cents and the going download rate for a single tune is around $1 dollar.
Given the slim margins in downloading music, I have my doubts that it’ll financially reinvent Starbucks.
Whilst his second post takes a longer term view comparing revolutionary versus evolutionary brand developments for the Seattle company; developments he saw first hand, of course.
To throw my oar in: Starbucks makes great play of being environmentally responsible. However, research for the Digital Europe project (covered in our book, Making the Net Work) demonstrated that burning individual CDs is much more resource-intensive than purchasing mass-produced discs. Does this matter? In the broad scheme of things, it may seem small, but if it does continue with this service wouldn't it be more responsible (a key reputational/brand issue) to provide music for iPod and MP3 users only, stating clearly why?