Strip Mining with Dragline Equipment at the Navajo Mine in Northern Arizona 06/1972
Here I am seated on my couch with a blocked right ear and a red raw nose, trying to avoid unnecessary thoughts of Lemsip, a victim of the first head cold of 2014.

I would quite like to be at church this morning as we are having our annual harvest service which is usually one of my favourite services of the church calender.
We have so much to be thankful for!
It’s an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for our daily bread and to say sorry for the way we take so much for granted, especially for the way we take the gift of God’s provision for granted and the way we abuse creation with violence and greed.

I came across a new term yesterday, ‘extractivism’ in Naomi Klein’s latest book:-

‘Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. It is the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue…It is the reduction of life into objects for the use of others, giving them no integrity or value of their own – turning living complex ecosystems into “natural resources,”…It is also the reduction of human beings either into labour to be brutally extracted, pushed beyond limits, or , alternatively, into social burden, problems to be locked out at borders and locked away in prisons or reservations. In an extractivist economy, the interconnections among these various objectified components of life are ignored; the consequences of severing them are of no concern.
Extractivism is also directly connected to the notion of sacrifice zones- places that, to their extractors, somehow don’t count and therefore can be poisoned , drained, or otherwise destroyed, for the supposed greater good of economic progress’

This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein

That passage gets close to what I personally might hate most about modern life, the way that our intimate link to the natural world has been severed and obscured, the way that our worship of economic growth at any cost means that we treat the whole of creation (animals, birds, plants, minerals, lakes, oceans, sky, soil, trees etc and of course humans) as a commodities and mere objects to be exploited and abused in some race for survival that has us acting violently to each other and the world around us.

It’s the way that nations or corporations compete to exploit the planet for monetary gain in the here and now. The way they leave the tax payer to foot the bill for dealing with the effects of their pollution.

It’s the way that we treat chickens or salmon like non creatures but units to be marketed and farmed as cheaply as possible.
The way that companies pay employees only to work in a shop from 1-9pm knowing that they’ll not get finished up with putting people through the tills until 9.15pm. It’s squeezing that extra weeks work a year for free from a part time employee.

It’s the way that if we’re applying for jobs the other people who might need that job just as much as us is someone we have to compete to show ourselves as more capable human being. In fact, we tend not to even think about them.
The way that if we’re applying for courses we have to prove ourselves to be more capable that the other people. The way that we’re forced to do that sort of thing just to survive and pay the bills.

I know that this morning in church the lady from Tearfund is speaking about human trafficking. It is estimated that a child is trafficked every 30 seconds. We treat humans as commodities or raw materials to build the world we want.
My friends in the asylum hostels in Galway are not commodities as well.

The list could go on for a long time…

we don’t have to live like herring gulls

DSCN2803The herring gulls are young and one of them has grabbed a large hunk of bread being thrown to feed the swans (even though you shouldn’t feed bread to swans).
Up soars the gull followed by a pack of 4 or 5 other herrings gulls, mottled brown and harrying the gull with the hunk of bread, twisting and turned over the Corrib and pecking at his feet until the gull drops the bread and the gulls descend to squabble and fight over it, grabbing the bread. The winner takes all.
The man in the coffee shop tells the lady that ‘people don’t care you so I don’t care about them, you have to look after yourself as nobody is going to look after you’ .
It’s the herring gull mentality in our systems of living and navigating life. Science might even say that it’s in our DNA. Screw them though.
I don’t have to live like a herring gull grabbing hunks of bread. We can share. We can give. We don’t have to out compete our neighbours. We don’t have to live like mobbing herring gulls.

Lego Movie

I probably have two reviews of Lego and I can’t decide which to embrace

Review No.1
This movie has a lot of goodwill in the bank from hours of playing with Lego as a child, back in the days of child like innocence. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for days. It is bonkers and a whirl, so much of a whirl that I feel like I only caught a fraction of the film and want to see it again. The creativity and playfulness of creating with Lego is caught on camera and I was engrossed, it takes the mick out of things such as micro managers and self help manuals and the surly Batman made me smile. There is one part of the movie plot which I think detracts rather than enhances from the experience, but I didn’t even mind it so much. With so much going overall it was almost like a welcome time out.I enjoyed it and want to see it again.

Review No.2
This movie is the work of very clever corporations who have taken creativity and colouring outside the lines and turned it into an extended advertisement that will do wonder for sales of Lego and brand overall as well as film studios. I had fun, enjoyed the experience and wanted to go home immediately and play with my Lego. I walked past ‘The Art and Hobby’ Shop afterwards and the Lego sets seemed to be jumping out wanting to be bought, and I’m an adult. If I was a parent with a child walking past the shop after watching the movie I’d want to buy something. It was like watching a really cool movie about Apple or Coca Cola that you enjoy.

Creativity and believing in your ability to change the world seems to be something that we can’t challenge as it is seen as something good and desirable. The Lego movie gets away with being an extended advertisement as it encourages peoples to play and create. Yet that is also linked up with making a lot of money for Lego. And because that it is at the back of my mind it makes it hard to sit back and enjoy the show. But I did enjoy the show.

industrial fishing

I found this  sitting in a bookshop  a few weeks back and have been dipping into it ever since (the orange book that is, not the vegetable peelings..)


I skipped some chapters  as they didn’t seem to be that relevant to the world I live in.

When it was written in the mid 60s we didn’t have mobile phones and Twitter, instant digital communication in our pockets, ATMs, debit cards, Ryanair etc.  The population of the earth was 3.3 billion, now there are 4 billion extra people and growing.

It is a pretty good reminder of things I’ve been taught over the years,  from talks as a student to chats with people I know.
Reading it  now it doesn’t seem to engage with the world much outside the UK, which is was maybe to be expected. Perhaps before the computer revolution the world was less linked. I don’t know if the right term is globalization, but now we’re maybe more linked to people over the planet and not just those in the UK or Ireland.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by thinking about who is my neighbour and how am I to love them?
Assuming that everyone is my neighbour on the planet right now I don’t really know how to live wisely.
Do we have to make a sort of league table of things we care about a lot and then other things we relegate to near the bottom?

The problem is maybe praying those lines in the Lords Prayer of ‘on earth as in heaven’. The earth is so big! It is tiring trying to work it out. How do I change my actions in a globalized world to make it more like heaven?

An example of the sort of line which I would have accepted as being true when  I was student but now I am not so sure about is:-

‘The bounty of nature is there to be used and there is enough for all if only we have energy enough to lay claim to it’

I am not sure if there is enough for all, or at least enough for all living a typical Western diet with hunks of meat and driving cars.
There are 4 billion extra people in those 50 yrs since he wrote this book.  Does the planet have enough bounty to allow everyone to live even a modest western style lifestyle?

In some cases is there is even a bounty of nature left for people to use?
An example of that would be the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland.
Around the  60s when this book was written vast quantities of fish where being taken on an industrial scale and then the bounty disappeared.

a wicked double decker bus?

Oh world, world, world.. *sigh*

I was reading yesterday that the combined wealth of the 85 wealthiest people in the world, that is 85 ordinary men and women who will one day die like us all and who would easily fit on a double decker bus (not that they are likely to get on a double decker bus!) have the same amount of wealth as the 3,500,000,000 poorest people on planet earth.

If we wanted to put all those poor people on double decker buses it would take 41,176,471 of them, which is 41 million double decker buses.

These figures are a bit like trying to count the stars or comprehend the mysteries of the galaxy:- they are almost incomprehensible.

I was finding it hard to sleep last night so to kill the early morning hours I tried making a map marking on the 85 richest people.

What I noticed about the people on this map is that lots of them are no spring chickens (average age 74ish?). Moscow seems to have quite a few while the country with the most is unsurprisingly the USA

I was also thinking about a verse from Psalm 73:-

‘This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.’

Is there something wicked about amassing wealth?

packaged who knows where

Yesterday I was wondering why the own brand supermarket coffee from two different supermarkets had both been packaged in Belgium and wondered if they had even come from the same factory and vowed that I wouldn’t rest until I had tracked down the factory.

This was a stupid thing to vow to do as I haven’t been able to track the factory down even though I’ve been typing things into Google like a mad man. Which sort of illustrates the point. It’s just so hard to track the journey of our food from where it came from until we eat it.

One thing I discovered today was that the Belgian port of Antwerp is ‘where half the European stock of raw coffee is stored. The coffee is made available to roasting houses, traders and futures markets.

So I suppose that it would make sense to have a factory/factories that roast and package coffee for supermarkets near to Antwerp.

(Now imagine a huge gap of time when I route around the internet trying to find out a link between Tesco and the Co-Op coffee….ages and ages….a bit longer…finally…)

Eventually I put in some lucky words and found that it might be United Coffee who supply coffee to Tesco and Co-Op (and Lidl and the coffee you get in Subway and McDonalds).
Well not that it might have supplied the coffee I bought (an Italian blend) but they might have supplied an own label coffee for a Tesco at some time. This article in a local paper mentions that United Coffee roastery in Dartford supplies McD___ and Lyons but doesn’t mention any supermarkets.

I still can’t find any clues about where it might have been packed (and presumably roasted) in Belgium.
The United Coffee website says it operates in 6 European countries but Belgium isn’t one of those listed.
So unless they get some other company in Belgium to bag up the coffee which they then supply to the supermarkets, some type of secret factory that actually roasts all the coffee in the world. Or else I could have got things really wrong and someone else completely roasts the own brand coffee.Maybe these guys? Who knows?

Talk Talk about competition

I just received a phone call from a lady in South Africa, ringing on behalf of Talk Talk which lead me to be unusually rude and grumpy with her unlike my usual bog standard ordinary rude and grumpy which I get when one of these phone calls comes down the line.

There are a few reasons why I  was particularly grumpy this morning.

1 It’s Sunday morning. Nobody ever rings on a Sunday morning so I heard the phone and thought ‘Oh…that’s unusual, I wonder what is wrong…

In the space of 5 secs my mind had run away to bad, bad news and instead I get a *pause*….bossy sounding South African

2 They sound bossy. They ring me and sound bossy. I try to allow for cultural differences, I try to allow for being stuck in a job that mightn’t be the most enjoyable and that they are just  earning a living, I try to put myself in their job but no matter how much I try to frame it  it just pisses me off. Stop ringing me up from the other side of the world and sneaking into my house!

There are other reasons as well too long and boring to write in blog post but main reason I was annoyed was that this  phone call from Talk Talk seemed to sum up some stuff I’d been thinking about this morning.

I keep coming back time and time again to the role competition seems to play in life and wondering about it all. But here was this woman  sneaking competition in the name of making profit into my home without being invited or asked.  She was forcing herself into my home and pretending that was OK.

Talk Talk are a company. Their main aim is to make profit, more profit than last year, to continually make profit and grow

( Incidentally BT  also rang this week looking to get us to swap from Talk Talk)

They run on competition and competing, which everyone seems to assume is part of life and something we can’t avoid, or get around.

Our whole society seems to be based on competition. Only this week I was in SERC and saw a message from some student push called ‘Get the Edge‘ flashing up on the flat screen TV in the canteen every few minutes. It’s a tough world out there, it’s a tough job market but if you get the edge on your neighbour you will have a better chance than him or her of getting that all important job. The college can give

‘ students advantages, skills and experience other young people take years to get.’

There you go. You can do better than other young people if you do what we tell you.

This is just the way the world seems to work. Competition rules so you had better do everything you can to get the advantages, skills and experience that other people don’t have. It’s a free for all but if you are hard working and clever enough you can get ahead of the rest of crowd. If you don’t get ahead it’s because you aren’t good enough really, you’re a lazy.
Doing a quick bit of Google I came across this article in The Daily Telegraph in which the chief executive of Talk Talk gives

‘.. .a serious pep-talk, replete with extended Star Wars analogies casting TalkTalk as the Rebel Alliance and its competitors at the Death Star. “Think of it like a political rally,” she says.’

That is exactly like the talks I used to hear in B&Q from our manager in which our job was to take out Woodies or Homebase, on how we had to take market share from our competitors and grow the company.  They were exactly like political rallies


So that is what I was forced (or rather chose)  to do as a foot soldier. My job was to be a member of the Rebel Alliance (laminate flooring and tiling division) aiming to take on the Death Star. Thinking back on it now perhaps I was probably more like a member of the Death Star blowing up smaller competitors.

It’s a competition out there and it’s impossible (or seems to be impossible) to survive if you don’t believe that. You will get left behind and trampled on. This seems to be the way of the world from phone calls from Talk Talk  on Sunday mornings to initiatives in the local college.