I have this idea that the prime movers of our civilisation who are in the process of transforming Western society into a zombie power, a source of wonderment and entertainment for the future rulers of the planet in Asia and Africa, are not Obama, Cameron, or Miliband. They’re people on a slightly lower level of intellectual attainment – Cambridge professors like Stephen Emmott, or millionaire celebrities like Vivienne Westwood.
I wrote this article on Vivienne
and I thought it was time to go back and see how she was doing with her effort to raise £120 million to save the world via her website Climate Revolution. So I googled her and found
Vivienne Westwood · Home · Menswear M tops – Shirts – Knitwear – Trousers – Coats and Jackets New Arrivals Shop Menu. basket · Shop. New Arrivals Women’s Accessories Bags – Wallets and Purses – Shoes – Eyewear – Belts – … Jewellery Necklaces – Earrings – Rings – Bracelets – Men’s Jewellery – … Womenswear Dresses – Tops – Jackets – Skirts – Knitwear – Trousers – …
OK, she sells clothes. I knew that, but what about her plan to save the world? So I googled “Vivienne Westwood climate”, and found an ad for her t-shirt at viviennewestwood.co.uk/ and on the homepage of http://climaterevolution.org.uk/ which announces:
COMING SOON… We are waiting for a more friendly structure for the Climate Revolution site, so now we want our computer Joe to do it but he’s busy until October. However we can build the site now by introducing samples of the information that goes on it.
The site has just two pages: a screeenshot of an article by Noam Chomsky on “Media Control”, and another screenshot of their handwritten charter, which I reproduce here:
Get a Life, Vivienne Westwood
[That’s the title on the top of the article]
CLIMATE REVOLUTION CHARTER
Climate Revolution really is Revolution, nothing more nor less than changing the world order so that the human race can survive and evolve, toppling the global financial machine that causes extinction and CLIMATE CHANGE: profit for the few, war & poverty for the many.
Everything is connected:
Climate crisis & economic crisis are the cause & effect of each other; they are like serpents who eat each other’s tails. The only way out of this double crisis is: WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE PLANET IS GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY
WHAT’S BAD FOR THE PLANET IS BAD FOR THE ECONOMY
Everything is connected – all NGO’s are connected.
Fight for Chelsea Manning & you fight for the bees, Save the Arctic & you save the small farmers.
Culture is connected.
Read, go to art galleries & know the names of trees & you cultivate lasting values instead of short-term consumption.
“ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL.”
-> We will now work for a new world government, – democracy through the social media.
Information is power. By following the site you are connected. You are now a member of Climate Revolution.
[Vivienne, can you hear me? I’ve digitalised your manifesto. Now people can read it, copy-and-paste it, do what they want with it. If your Computer Joe had done that, perhaps someone would have heard your cry for help for the planet.
Vivienne, in the time that your site has put up two screenshots, I have published 96 articles. A few thousand people have read them. I’m not a famous millionaire capitalist like you. Vivienne, give us job at a reasonable salary and I’ll come over to the Dark Side – all the way up the Amazon]
I also found this:
which expressed Vivienne’s opinion on why you shouldn’t have children:
“Please consider if you want to have children. Do you want to bring them into a world in which 80% of people are going to die?…Within one generation we could see mass extinction. We’ve already started.”
[What? 80% of us are going to die? And what about the other 20%? Do we get to ascend directly into heaven and sit on the right hand of Vivienne?]
On quantitative easing:
“Print some money and give it to us for the rain forests.”
On the Chinese consumer sustaining the fashion industry:
“If we didn’t have the Chinese buying things, we’d be on the floor.”
On the division between people who believe in climate change and those who don’t:
“Before we have had class war, rich against poor. You know what the division is now? It’s idiots against eco-warriors. That’s it.”
Vivienne is not poor. She is rich. She’s a millionaire. Vivienne is an eco-warrior. Those who are not for her are against her. They are idiots. They are poor. Vivienne, poor people whom you treat as idiots are not going to join your Climate Revolution.
But rich people with the time and motivation to become eco-warriors might.
* * *
Then I went to the site of Frank Field’s Cool Planet to see how the struggle was going on the ground. There’s a lovely account of Vivienne’s Carry On Up the Amazon, complete with film of Vivienne splashing about with the piranhas. Here’s an abridged version, with my notes in brackets.
It confirms everything you’ve ever heard about the impossibility of satire. I filled my latest chapter of Apocalypse Close with cheap jokes about Vivienne, Kate Moss and Naomi Cambell, an Amazonian called Kitikati and penile sheaths. And it’s all there, (though I would have hesitated to invent a shamaness called Noemi or a guide called Jaime Pene, or a tribe who’s idea of a fun evening is catching a frog skull on the end of a pointy stick).
By Jemma Woodman, Head of Fundraising and Communications for Cool Earth
Day 1 London
Vivienne Westwood tells me she has just returned from a party held by Naomi Campbell, “It was very bling”. I’m really hoping that Nazario has finished building the outside toilet in the Amazon village of Cutivireni, where she’ll be camping in two days time
Day 2 Lima
I ask my colleague Kitty if the construction of shower and sleeping facilities are finished in Cuti, the Amazon port where we shall have our first night in the rainforest. “Yes, they’re amazing” she says…. We’ve done as much as we can to make the rainforest a little less hardcore but the fact is, as much as it is a beguiling paradise, it is also a harsh and unforgiving environment. We will experience both extremes…
Day 3 Mazamari
Vivienne emerges for breakfast looking wonderful in grey culottes, a brightly coloured jersey shirt, flat slip ons and an iridescent blue peaked cap. She wears this for walking over the next three days in the heat and rain, true to her philosophy of ‘buy little, choose well’. Andreas is like a tall Che Guevara in combats and we’re all a little mesmerized in our waterproof trousers (zip off at the knee) and quick dry shirts. Vivienne and Andreas are glued to the scenery but the intensifying heat sees us all drift in and out of sleep.
When we reach Cuti there’s a sea of faces ready to greet us. Dressed in a traditional corona and cushma, Cesar Bustamante stands out from the gathering. He is the village chief and instrumental in forming the Cool Earth conservation model.
Day 4 Cutivireni, Amazon rainforest
This morning Vivienne asks me where she should wash, I hand her a big bottle of water, a towel and then gesture loosely towards some trees. Tomorrow the water will be back on but storms have caused silting in the pipes. “That’s fine, I’m happy to do exactly as the locals do, I want to experience things as they do.”
The walk to Tinkereni is hot, long and exhausting. At 71, Vivienne is extremely fit, but I’m concerned about how tiring it is. When she rests by lying flat on her back by the side of a track we stand like sentries guarding for snakes and other venomous rainforest dwellers.
Deborah Ross from The Times asks Vivienne and Andreas about being fashion designers and how they feel about the glamour and extravagance of this compared to the paired [sic] down existence of the people they’re staying with in the rainforest. Vivienne is very clear that her passion now is to fight climate change and acknowledges that fashion has given her a platform to be heard and take action.
[Why on earth does providing alternative sources of income to indigenous people so they don’t have to sell their forest to loggers have to be justified in terms of climate change? Why not just do it beause it’s the right thing to do?]
That night Deborah and I are chased from our tent by an army of huge headed termites. They are everywhere and have eaten their way through a plastic bag with all of my underwear in it. They have vicious looking pincers and are shredding my week’s supply of knickers. We alert Dilwyn who is an anthropologist and has been working with the Ashaninka in this area for 30 years. He’s never seen anything like them before and makes the unconvincing suggestion of blocking the holes with corn on the cob …
[Pity they found it unconvincing. The idea of Deborah and Jemma blocking the holes in their knickers with corn on the cob is just too too divine]
Day 5 Tinkereni, Amazon rainforest,
Breakfast is fresh papaya and plantain, which is in abundance.
Noemi is about the same age as Vivienne and remembers when her tribal community was completely isolated from the outside world. She is one of the few remaining female shaman in the region and the rainforest is her medicine cabinet. She noticed that Vivienne seemed fatigued yesterday and would like to give her a shamanic healing … As Vivienne changes, Noemi heats up rocks over a fire. She places various leaves she has gathered into a pot before asking Vivienne to stand over it…. Noemi uses the edge of a machete to pick up the boiling hot stones and places them in the water. They spit and splutter and a thick cloud of steam rises upwards. The women grab the end of the cushma and waft it furiously as the steam engulfs Vivienne. They massage her limbs with Noemi placing more and more of the hot stones in the water. I ask Vivienne if she’s ok and if she wants to stop but she says it’s soothing. After the steam healing, Noemi reads the leaves left in the pot, similar to how someone’s tea leaves might be read. She reports that negative energy from a leaf cutter ant and a black dog has now cleared.
[The above shamanic healing is what we would call a steam bath. The fire used to heat the stones used to heat the water was presumably a wood fire]
Ashaninka have put on a special day for us full of unusual competitions. The men arrive with their bows and arrows and the challenge is to see who can shoot the swinging grapefruit. Next there’s the speed spinning and finally catching a frog skull on the end of a pointy stick. Women from surrounding settlements arrive with their hand-made jewellery and lay-out the rainforest version of a pop-up shop. Andreas comments on how they look like Kate Moss with their wide cheek bones and almond shaped eyes. He makes sure the women receive an authentic experience of what buying and shopping entails, he chooses a necklace made from white seeds and waits patiently for change before moving to the next display. The crafts are all intricately hand-made using tree seeds. It’s the women’s first step into developing their own economy and has proved a commercial success. Cool Earth supplies the Environmental Justice Campaign’s temporary shop on London’s Carnaby Street. They’ve sold out three times. It’s also a serious aspect of rainforest conservation. Before the community partnered with Cool Earth, Dilwyn recalls how he met a woman in the rainforest who had told him a traveller had paid three times the amount for a piece of jewellery than a logger had paid for a whole hardwood tree. A eureka moment.
[Indeed. The great advantage of entering the world economy is that you learn about relative value, and that you’re better off selling bits of stuff made from the feathers of rare birds to rich people in Carnaby Street than whole forests to loggers to make orange crates for poor people in Peru]
Day 6, Tinkereni
We wake early to visit the largest tree in the area, the mashonaste tree. We need to cross a river and the locals use narrow rafts with a large punting stick to take us across one by one. As Vivienne clambers on and spreads her weight by kneeling on all fours… Over the last few days everyone has commented on how she never makes a fuss or expects any special treatment.
Jaime Pene, who has lived in the rainforest all his life is leading us… Then like a holy temple we see the mashonaste tree, towering up and beyond the forest canopy. When Jaime tells Vivienne, if not protected by the local people, this tree would be cut down to make orange boxes she seems visibly distressed.
Day 7, Cutivireni & Lima
The heavens open for our walk back to Cutivireni.Two local boys push their heads through huge palm leaves, creating home-made anoraks. Vivienne makes the wise decision to remove her soaking culottes and walk in her underwear, less restrictive.
Later that day, Dilwyn and I take Vivienne for a short walk with Chybucca who tells Vivienne that that for the first time she can remember, they have had hail in the rainforest.
[Hail in the Amazon? Must be global warming]
Before we say goodbye to our hosts, Ana (Cesar’s wife) shows Vivienne how to beat cotton and spin it. It’s a fascinating process. Then she quietly gives Vivienne a present she’s been making but I don’t glimpse what it is. Later in Lima we attend an event at a boutique full of young Peruvian fashion designers and industry press. Vivienne arrives wearing Ana’s hand-made headdress, the careful beading and brightly-coloured feathers work perfectly with her vivid blue trousers. She looks stunning.
Today we go to meet the Peruvian Vice Minister for the Environment, Gabriel Acosta. Matthew Owen, Dilwyn Jenkins and Carlos Montenegro lead the discussion…
Vivienne is keen to know what their commitment is to saving the Peruvian forest. After a lengthy discussion Garbiel Acosta addresses Vivienne in English.
“Please be an ambassador for the rainforests. We are very open to working with you.”
[I bet they are. Who wouldn’t be open to working with a bunch of milionaires eager to shower their wealth on your poorest, most exploited citizens?]
Now I’ve got that load of negative energy (no doubt due to black dogs and Englishwomen) off my chest. Cue for a song: