Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nick Davies of the Guardian wrote movingly of the sister paper in a chapter in his book Flat Earth News; he titled it "The Blinded Observer." It is a litany of sins of the worst kind, and one wonders how anyone can still go out and buy this paper, taking part in the destruction of millions of trees each year to produce this pulp of fiction and fantasy.
By chance, I came across a leftover copy of the Observer Magazine in the launderette. On the cover is the new trendy model who wants everyone to think she is green indeed, so her first name is Eco, just in case one does not get the message. Everything seems to be named green or eco these days, and Katherine "E" Hamnett seems to be leading this trend. She is of course featured in this, I will get to Hamnett in just a bit.
Going page by page one finds incredible irony, it makes one want to scream. After flipping over the cover, we see a picture of the rejected mayor Ken Livingstone with a bicycle held over his head. It is not green, but red, as in Red Ken. But we get the graphic, Ken is supposed to be an eco-warrior. One might just note there are reasons he lost the election, one of which may be that he never listened as the pigeons he starved got sick and became a threat to public health. Flipping overleaf, we then find a double spread for a large car, the kind that takes up precious parking space, the kind that Ken in one of his brighter moments wanted to tax to death. One wonders then if he notices the juxtaposition of him and his red bike with the sleek silver coloured monster he sought to restrict. Previously I noted on this very blog the hypocrisy of these 'lefty-greeny' papers printing so many of these ads, and briefly, Media Watch and George Monbiot made some noise; obviously, no one noticed.
One does not have to flip many pages before another double page spread for yet another leviathan comes to light, this time for a Hyundai 4x4. And it is justified by having some award, maybe for the least polluting 4x4. Who gives these awards?Maybe it is Lucy Siegle, who is giving them out on the next page. Yes, the same Lucy Siegle who called me one night after somebody gave out my number without permission. After protesting, too much methinks, that she really was not so much in support of cotton, and that she read my blog every day and was delighted with my book, I took off some comments made about her, even though my eyewitness stands by his tesimony and pointed me to others who were there and could back up his story. After asking Siegle to back herself up about her claim that she too takes some issue with cotton and Kathine "E" Hamnett, I got the feeling I had fallen for a high pitched con job. Soft hearted bloke I can be, but not a total fool, so the time has come to call her bluff. If she reads this every day, then let her respond - weeks have gone by and she has failed to susbstantiate her claims as I asked. She can post a comment here; but how many times have we written in to the Observer and been ignored when we presented evidence about hemp and Omega 3 oil, hemp and its value as biofuel, hemp and its place in fashion? Not once. So allowing an Observer reporter to reply on my furom is in effect turning the other cheek.
Back to turning pages, I find no evidence at all that Lucy Siegle was honest with me. The awards seem to feature more and more cotton. And the way they work is that companies with lots of money can advertise in such papers and get to the attention of the reader, who in turn votes - based thereby on the amount of money a firm has to attract attention. Observer readers vote for Observer advertisers, like, doh. Turning yet another page in this sham popularity contest for rich kids, we see another toy for them - a Mercedes Benz. So far not one ad for a G Wiz or even a red bike. Just lots of expensice gas guzzlers which use up our resources and drive up the price of a barrel, causing massive economic hardship. Thank you very much indeed Lucy Siegle and the Observer.
And who is Lucy Siegle's pick of eco-politician? Red Ken, pictured on p. 23 with a bottle of champagne. Some of the winners though totally deserve their prize, and I am glad to see common sense prevailed with Tanya Ewing and her wireless Ewgeco, an instrument that measures energy consumption. But where is The Hemp Shop - which Woody Harrelson praised as the best stocked hemp shop he had ever seen - has Lucy Siegle seen it once or even mentioned it? Or Pure Sativa, which manufactures really strong and well designed luggage here in London? Or the exquisite multi-coloured creations of House of Hemp? Most or all of the fashion and textile coverage is on cotton, but then we get to some really good reporting on this once we get past Lucy Siegle. Dan McDougall gives us a fact only article on this weed's growth in Egypt, where child labour is the norm. A large part of this labour involves picking bollworms, and this takes place in the heat of the day. These plants are often drenched in pesticides, and no surprise that "accurate health studies are thin on the ground here."
The children often get no school, only the lash on the back from a foreman. But for all the hard work, there is less and less money. Part of this is due to US subsidies to US cotton farmers, which has occasioned a sharp drop in prices causing Egyptian farmers to lose money in a season. There is also the problem of cotton being overcultivated so there is a glut at times on the market, and whilst I make many arguments against cotton farming, economic reasons alone ought to bring common sense to the equation. McDougall rightly informs us "cotton has a long and chequered history." This history is not getting any better - it went from one form of slavery to another. Now that we have GM crops, the farmers are at the mercy of the seed companies, and I will not enter at large upon so well known a subject here as my readers, Lucy Siegle and Katherine "E" Hamnett included, must already know well the horrors of this.
The article is excellent, but again the strange juxtaposition of a 4x4 add lends an eerie sense of hypocrisy to this. McDougall goes on to talk about food riots, such as the ones in Haiti, but then tells us that there were similar or worse such disturbances in Egypt - at least 60 dead. One source of friction is water use from the Nile, and cotton is thirsty. In a hot country it is a greedy plant like the monster plant in Little Shop of Horrors. This of course causes "economic hardship and growing resentment in the west." Quoting Hamdi Wabid, he writes: "It is becoming apparent that cotton is not an economical crop. Now it's just hurting people - and perhaps most tellingly the environment - badly, and many families are going under."
What the article does not tell us is what to do to change this. A crop that does not attract bollworms and many other pests that cotton does, one which uses less water and can be grown for many uses - that is a solution. I would like to present not only the dark clouds but also the bright sunshine, but it is going to take people like Siegle and Hamnett to take on board facts and not just go and support more cotton farming. OK, Hamnett claims hers is organic, but in reality this uses even more water, and how do we get the bollworms and other insects off ths organic plants? Do we whip these kids to work harder and explain that it is better because it is getting written up in the Observer with lots of trendy people?
Turning the page again, I am face to face with a Lexus, its sleek black body coming out of a background of grey clouds. This is what drives the Observer, and I am sure Lucy Siegle, and the board of directors, are not unaware. Overleaf is brighter, an image of the blonde haired blue eyed Eco Herzigova - whose name I did in green just in case anyone does not notice that she is ECO - which one might just dare to question as she is advertising lots of cotton dresses and has ties to Al Gore. Oh she is happy indeed, probably not thinking at all about how much the cotton attire is depleting the water. Just stick an organic label on it and it's kosher, kind of like a Michael Sophocles chicken. And they are not cheap, a white cotton shirt worn by Eco goes for £314 at Harvey Nichols. And the Stella McCartney floral dress (I can only imagine a whore who smokes organic crack wearing it) goes for £645 at Matches. Page after page of this woman with the happy clappy organic smile has made me indeed depressed. But a good story about a family that went off grid for a month does have substance, and I am glad to see their more sensible faces, not the silly grins from Eco. Then it gets better, Dan Pearson talks sensibly about gardening in London. Here is someone with more than just a smile to get by - he studied at Kew, spent a year at Jerusalem Botanic Garden, worked with Miriam Rothschild, and toiled away in NY on the Lower East Side, where, incidentally, I spent my years, correcting my teacher's spelling at PS 64. Old habits die hard.
Sadly, however, a flip of the page takes me away from such a good bit of botanical ruminations back to the world of Gossypium promotion. A spread with the "top 5 Ethical outfits" looks suspiciously like an infomercial for the top 5 spenders in "eco"-fashion advertising - and these top 5 ethical outfits are not cheap. A sleeveless dress by Peopletree goes for £165 - it is black, quite suitable or a funeral, though cut above the knees. And of course, there is a Katherine "E" Hamnett T shirt, grey with a large slogan in block letters - this goes for £40. Cotton, of course. There is no hemp on this page. In fact there is no hemp at all in this 'ethical' issue. American Apparel, another spender on the ad scene is here, and Stella McCartney is ubiquitous - three out of five of the shoes are her creations - no price given, dare we ask?
Next page spread features Jocelyn Whipple, who does not mention hemp - even though she worked at hemp company for years in LA and is betrothed to Dru Lawson of The Hemp Trading Co. Or was it edited out?
Then on to Katherine "E" Hamnett and her £40 T shirts. Am I being too cynical, or is she ripping us off? Either she is making a killing on profits or else organic cotton is just not feasible. By the way, she reminds me of that very authoritarian teacher at PS 64 whose spelling I used to correct. Few people like it when I do that, but if we are going to have food to eat and not just trends to enthuse over, we need such hardcore reality. Nice to make expensive organic cotton outfits and then give them lots of awards in these lefty papers, but we need water - we need food - we need facts. And there are not being heard when I am nice, so I have to shout and hope someone hears. Mr. Nice Guy gets taken advantage of by the likes of Lucy Siegle, so no more of this game. It has to be reality, and I am not hampered by 4x4 companies, American Apparel, happy clappy organic crack smokers or any other nonsense. This blog is for the fact, the whole facts, and nothing but the facts. If you do not like what I say, and you have facts, then by all means, speak up - comment is free, as the Guardian and Observer like to tell us.
At present the press is working hard to keep the likes of me out of discussion, they prefer the rich and famous who keep wearing cotton. There are those in the press who are on the ball - Andrew Gilligan, Genevieve Roberts, Nat Hentoff, plenty of people who have done a good job, but this pseudo eco brigade is not among them.

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