Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain
- Posted April 5, 2009 by Stefan Fletcher in Landscape. Viewed 6299 times
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Something of a rant, I’m afraid. And this being a Sunday, too. Apologies to non-English speakers, this is definitely a blog post, not a photo post, but I will explain the images.
After the catastrophic forest fires in 2007, an artist friend of mine wanted images of those artificial car air-fresheners shaped like pine trees decorating some of the real, fried pine trees. I thought the artistic statement a bit bald, but forgave her because she’s German. (Uh-oh…) It was nothing like as bald as that mountain. We were horrified by the World War One scenes of devastation and rather lost our way in this artistic endeavour. Luckily, a thin layer of cloud spread across the valley between the two mountains on either side of Athens. It was completely invisible from the city and utterly beautiful. My attempts to capture it fail to express the delicacy and beauty and above all, the contrast with the desolation on the ground.
I learnt another lesson: think your projects through. My friend bought 50 of those damn air fresheners. We had no intention of just dumping them and had to drive back to Athens with the windows open, breathing through our mouths.
OK. You can stop reading now. I want to let off some steam.
It all started with the user manual of my new PnS, conveniently provided in PDF format on a CD-ROM. It really ticks me off that manufacturers side-step their ecological responsibility and pass on the cost of printing a booklet to the consumer. I suspect few people eagerly devour instructions displayed on a screen. What do we do? Print the damn’ manual, and our printers are far less energy, ink and paper-efficient.
In Europe, the aptly-named WEEE Directive makes manufacturers shoulder the responsibility for recycling old consumer goods we’ve spent the last 15 years busily buying. Some of the cannier retailers add an “eco-charge” to the retail price, but I suggest you have fun one day lugging an old computer to a store for recycling and try explaining to the minimum-wage sales assistant that they should process it. If you’re lucky, they’ll wait until you’ve left before dumping it in the bin. (I have seen them do this in Greece.) In countries with a more developed sense of recycling there are special treatment centres where you offload your old crap. They’re paid for by taxes. Hang on a minute, I thought the manufacturers were supposed to….
About the forest fires: Greeks have a third-world attitude to the ecology. There is no waste sorting here and it's only recently that you can find places to leave old batteries. What people do is drive out of town and dump anything bulky in the country. Most of the mountains I climb and ramble in look like landfills. Some of those fires may have been intentional (there are already building permits filed on ‘reclaimed’ land). The strong winds in August 2007 turned those fires into infernos, but judging from all the shards of glass strewn around bone-dry land under a hot sun, it’s easy to see how a forest fire can start.
It’s also easy to go the other way. I see concerned shoppers assuage their guilt by conscientiously buying more expensive, ‘organic’ produce. It takes between 2.5 and four times more land and far more fossil-fuel energy to produce organic food than your ordinary kind. What? You think organic farmers don’t use diesel tractors? No, they use them far more than the other kind. Natural fertilizers also seep into the water table. Because they’re less concentrated, the longer-term effects of ‘natural’ fertilizers are harder to assess and possibly far more damaging and the energy and protein intake from organic food is lower, so you consume more. Oh, and I don’t like knobbly, anaemic carrots.
The hysteria in Europe about genetically modified organisms is unjustified. We’ve been genetically modifying what we consume for the last 10,000 years. It’s called “farming”. Your dog is a GMO, although I understand you not wanting to eat Rover.
I was going to move on from yesterday’s smart flowers to examples of language prostitution such as ‘smart bombs’ and ‘friendly fire’ and the one offence I think still merits the death penalty: trying out all the different ringtones on your new mobile in public. I have also booked additional circles of hell for viral marketers who should be speeded on their inevitable descent by catching what they practice. And not forgetting the benighted son of a bitch who invented the concept of ‘snacking’ to entice first world children into obesity whilst two fifths of the planet starve. But I realise this is turning into a genuine rant.
Sod it. The real cause behind my rant is that I don’t know how to use this new compact camera and have to scroll down a screen instead of the tactile pleasure of reading a book, something Photopoet [photoblog.com] didn’t mention in her last post, which is far more positive and entertaining than this one.
If anyone reading my posts about lens and flash tests thinks I know what I’m doing, well – now you know better.
Against my stupidity I think the gods should stop trying to contend. They may just have to give up.
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