There’s an article in the New Statesman, under the standard photo of smoke (i.e. steam) billowing out of a power station chimney against a skyline of wind turbines at
entitled “Why Greens should love Big Brother” by Sally Uren of Forum for the Future. Her reasoning is simple. The marvels of total electronic surveillance mean that it is possible to tag everything (not just humans) and find out everything about it (or him or her), thus enabling Greens to check the ethical sustainability of everything they (or you) do or buy. Or as Sally puts it:
“the exponential growth of digital processing power seen over the last decade is also giving global citizens access to knowledge that in the past brands probably would have preferred remained buried in complex, global supply chains”.
The New Statesman was once an influential left wing intellectual journal employing writers like George Orwell, who wrote about … oh, never mind. The five most read articles in the Statesman today are about feminism, feminism, royal parks, atheism, and Richard III.
Sally Uren’s article suggests that total electronic surveillance of everything and everyone is good because:
“by giving civil society a voice, digital platforms are allowing debates about important social issues, which in turn are encouraging businesses to be more accountable as they realise the sheer impossibility of controlling their messages”.
You buy a handbag, say, and discover that it was made from the hide of a mistreated animal from an endangered species by underpaid workers in an insalubrious factory run by the Mafia.
Thanks to the wonders of total electronic knowledge, you can rattle off a letter of protest to the shop you bought it from and go and buy another, more sustainable one. The shop is obliged to hire one of your fellow Greens as Chief Sustainability Officer to answer your whining diatribes, and you get a new handbag, and a sense of moral rectitude into the bargain.
Of course, it’s not just Greens who are empowered by Google. We are empowered too. Thus I can find out all I want to know (and more) about Sally Uren. She is Chief Executive at http://www.forumforthefuture.org/.
She says about herself:
“..as well as leading the organisation, I oversee Forum’s partnerships … as well as Forum’s networks and communication activities. I also oversee our work on sustainable business and our projects in the food system. Much of my work involves working with leading global companies .. unlocking the opportunity agenda presented by sustainable development. I am also passionate about the potentially transformative role of brands in making sustainability mainstream and have helped many leading brands .. weave sustainability into their brand identities. I currently oversee a specialist network with our wider Forum network.. where we are working collaboratively with a wide range of brands, helping them operationalise sustainability… Recent projects I’ve overseen have included .. and I am currently Project Director of a global multi-stakeholder consortium focused on delivering ..I am Chair of .. and act as an independent advisor on Advisory Boards … I am an independent member of … I am also Chair of … and an Advisory Board member for ..”
and so on. And on and on.
You can see her giving a talk called Systems to Solutions to the Food and Drink Federation last year at
in which she says:
“Systems thinking sounds as though it can be really clever stuff, and that’s a good thing because we’ve heard really eloquently this morning, the Secretary of State included – that the food system is not sustainable, nor is it on a course to become sustainable any time soon, and that actually when we try and address single issues in the food system it doesn’t work. There have been multiple interventions across multiple issues within the food system, and yet we’re still not looking at a system that sets for sustainability. I guess just a bit of personal experience of systems experience, I’m reminded seeing all these slides of my PhD which was really snappily entitled “The Effects of Nitrogenous Atmospheric Pollution on Semi-natural Ecosystems”. So for those of you who are not environmental scientists, this is the effect of nitrogen on ecosystems which again we heard about this morning [...] If you want to know more I can bore you rigid later …”
(I was viewer number 58 on that talk. Forum for the Future has another video with voice over by Sally, called “Slow is Beautiful – Fashion Futures 2025” which has had just 39 views. The text for that goes:
“In 2025 the world has slowed down, with communities and businesses using and emitting less. The low income countries, not so dependent on fossil fuels, adapt quickly to low carbon development, while China and the US go head to head in sustainable technologies. Floods, resource shortages and ensuing conflicts means that climate change remains at the top of the agenda. But in most countries, draconian legislation ensures that …”
And there the video inexplicably stops. Just when it’s getting draconian.
There are 73 people like Sally at Forum for the Future. You can meet them all at
listed democratically in alphabetical order from Aaron to Zoë. They include:
- five sustainability advisors
- fourteen principal sustainability advisors
- seven senior sustainability advisors
plus creative advisors, strategic advisors, communications advisors and a human resources and knowledge manager.
Thre are also twelve affiliates who help “to provide the cutting edge advice, communications and collaborative projects that characterise our work”.
I had a look at the CV of one, Andrew Acland, who looks older than the others. He specialises “in designing and facilitating stakeholder dialogue and consultation processes in complex, multi-party, multi-issue contexts, often with environmental and social sustainability dimensions”. He is the author of “A Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense: Managing Conflict through Mediation”,”Resolving Disputes Without Going To Court” and “Perfect People Skills”.
Their “affiliates” (i.e. donors) include Shell, BT, Tesco, Bank of America, Boots, Unilever, Associated British Foods, EDF, M&S, Lafarge Tarmac, the Co-op and the Crown Estate.
Their income was £4.8 million in 2012, up from £3.9 million in 2011. £3.2 million came from corporate sources, with smaller amounts from central and local governments and trusts and foundations. Founder Director Jonathon Porritt’s salary is £88,705.
Porritt is a big name in the environmental world. After Eton, Magdalen College, Oxford, and “dossing around planting trees and farming in New Zealand and Australia” he became a teacher in a West London comprehensive, which he “absolutely loved”. So he left teaching to become Director of Friends of the Earth “where I stayed until 1991, just prior to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – which for me, was a life-changing experience”.
Of course it was. Four years later he set up Forum for the Future. Instead of campaigning openly to persuade the public of the evils of non-sustainable predatory capitalism, why not go straight to the source of evil and take your cut in the form of conscience money? “Donate to us and we’ll give you a green label” to show that you’re a sustainable grocer or oil company or Heir to the Throne or whatever.
Of course Sally loves Big Brother. As a high ranking member of the Thought Police (section: moral protection racket), what’s not to love?
With a four million quid income per annum, Forum for the Future has a magazine (Green Futures) and a blog – of course. As seems to be the case generally with million pound organisations supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, it’s a zombie blog. The three articles posted in the past fortnight have received a total of zero comments
Porritt writes on the blog. His last article, in February:
elicited one comment, which I quote in full:
“More people should be aware of ‘Industrial Biotechnology’”.
His previous article
got two comments, the first of which appeared two weeks after the article, and said:
“Precisely put. Plague seems an accurate analogy. We need to think about the human presence in these terms, as clearly nothing else catches our attention or imagination. And you could be Patron of Plague Matters”.
Patron of Plague Matters, eh? That’ll sound good when you’re announced on Any Questions. Give that commenter a job (if he isn’t already on the payroll, of course).
* * *
In the mysteriously cut video about Fashion in the Year 2025, we are informed that by that year most countries will have imposed draconian legislation, though the break in the tape or film or whatever means that we do not learn what that legislation is to be.
The word “draconian” meaning “severe” derives from Draco, an Athenian legislator under whom even minor offences were punished by death. Draco died a victim of his own success in the Aeginetan theatre, where “in a traditional ancient Greek show of approval”, his supporters “threw so many hats and shirts and cloaks on his head that he suffocated, and was buried in that same theatre”.
At least you don’t risk that fate on Any Questions.