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Tree-hugging? Computer says no

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I started the week on social media talking about petitions and tokenism.

I don’t normally ‘do’ petitions but for the first time in a long time I got really very wound up about what has recently like a systematic attack on the environment. So I felt compelled to ask people to sign not one, but two petitions.

The first related to Michael Gove’s ridiculous decision to shunt climate change from the geography curriculum to chemistry. The second to bring to wider attention the disgusting corruption of one of Malaysia’s ministers – Taib, the Chief Minister for Sarawak.

There seems to have been a lot of environment-bashing in the news recently. Tokenistic care for the environment is rife – it’s all too easy to say you care, without really thinking about what that means and how you are changing your life accordingly.

Among the Guardian articles about the environment I have read recently, here are a couple of choice examples:

1. Global food production going haywire; in Chile where prawns are washing up on the shore and in China where thousands of pigs have been dumped in a river

2. Stinking rich caviar-eaters, not content with bringing about the collapse of the Beluga are driving the illicit demand for paddlefish eggs from the US

3. Poachers slaughtered 86 elephants  whilst the CITES summit was agreeing to new sanctions for trading in endangered animals

4. More subsidies for fossil fuels as the UK Government releases a budget that supports fracking

5. Another story about Chinese hunger for commodities and the sell off of forests in South America.

So, while I’ve got a (small) audience and seeing as I’m up on my soap box about environmental tokenism… it was WWF’s Earth Hour this week. As Nan, from the Catherine Tate show would say…..

In case you don’t know about Earth Hour, it’s a global campaign whereby major celebrities, businesses and everyday individuals ‘commit to saving the planet’ by switching off all their lights for one hour. This really is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic (an expression favoured by some environmentalists to deride token actions).

No-one, not even the WWF, can say whether Earth Hour has over the years, and after all those millions of pounds in marketing spend, actually resulted in less consumption of electricity or genuinely created more sustainable consumers through increased awareness. Much needed at a time when concern for the environment is at its lowest in 22 years.

In Malaysia, trying to live with ethical consumerism in mind is hard; recycled, chemical-free, organic (organic usually means ‘village’ as opposed to farmed), fairtrade – sorry, ‘computer says no’.

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Ethical wine consumption? Here – forget about it. Luckily, one of my team kindly bought me some on a recent trip to Perth. This Cullen Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon-Semillon is both biodynamic and carbon neutral (10 points for those of you playing sustainability bingo).  And what a tree-hugging delight it is too. I had been planning on saving this li’l beauty, but instead cracked it open at a BYO Japanese restaurant with friends.

I absolutely adore Western Australian wines – the idea and image of surf salt-spray drifting over vineyards in Margaret River makes me go a bit gooey – especially Sauv-Semillon blends, the fruit and minerality of Sauvignon counter-balanced by the oily and floral characteristics of Semillon. I had high hopes for this…

…and it was everything I had wished for – a hint of oak and tropical fruit flavours followed by a whiff of cap-gun sulphur on the nose, and in the mouth it was clean, citrusy, slick and slightly saline, perfectly complementing the oily tempura and exquisitely fresh sashimi. Fantastic!

A carbon neutral and biodynamic wine would normally scream ‘tokenistic’ to me. Computer says no? Actually computer says yes!

Selamat malam

@jk_cunningham

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Grinding my gears

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Disclaimer –  I love Malaysia.  I wouldn’t have committed to being here for 2 years if I didn’t, but every now and then certain things remind you that it’s not all a bed of roses – and there’s nothing wrong with getting it out of the system.  The last week or so has been bitter sweet so I feel like having a bit of a pop at my adopted home.

I lost my phone a week ago at a chic little mountain eco-resort called the Dusun.  With logical but circumstantial proof I concluded that the staff simply did not hand it in, despite my checking with the owner.  It’s a real shame, but I won’t be back.  This weekend just gone, the Wife and I spent 4 days in the honeymooner’s isle of Langkawi for our 3rd anniversary.  Much of the experience was wonderful – the company, cocktails and stunning meal at the Bon Ton especially – but a lot of the time I felt frustrated, annoyed and disappointed in Langkawi.  Again, I would be reluctant to return.

Having reflected on my week, I was reminded of an old school-friend (writing as National Romantic) who lives in Finland.  He wrote a delightful and thoughtful note to me a few months back – about the ups and downs of living abroad – and it has once again struck a chord.  I connected immediately to how he was feeling about his adopted country.  As if to highlight cross-cultural differences, I am reading a book recommended by my Dad entitled Japan’s Cultural Code Words by Boye Lafayette de Mente.  Using Japanese cultural history, the author describes in detail the apparently invisible behaviours deployed consciously or unconsciously by the Japanese, and experienced by Westeners doing business in Japan.  For me the interest in what he says lies in the fact that being half-Japanese I recognise many of these behaviours in myself. Read the rest of this entry

Guilty parties?

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An altogether strange week or so since my last post.  The world seems to be descending into chaos, environmental disaster, racism and guilt.

KL was covered in smog a few days ago, and in places the pollution index exceeded safe limits.  I hadn’t quite counted on this level of pollution when moving here.  The air was thick and blue – from the condo window, downtown was totally obscured by a creeping menace – causing us to shut the windows and hunker down as if there were a plague coming.  Indonesia is blamed for its slash and burn policies resulting in plumes of smoke towards Malaysia.  Burning their pristine forest to make way for plantations of palm oil and cattle ranches is helping to prop up their economy, but boy those pesky Indonesians are a nuisance.

Rio+20, the circus-like summit of environmentalists, policy-makers, business leaders, media and oceans of hangers-on – all there to (erm…sip caipirinhas? watch the girls go by on Copacabana beach?) get a meaningful agreement on climate change and sustainable development  – has unfortunately passed most people by and is already looking like a failure. Rio+20 as a news item is competing with the economic collapse of two of Europe’s proud nations, genocide in Syria and the football. With the Greeks and Spanish queuing up at soup kitchens, it’s not surprising that environmental austerity measures perceived to be curbing standards of living are seen as a bum note.  The trade offs are short-sighted but it’s a reality we continue to fight against. Read the rest of this entry

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