Category: Ethical living

Taking a stand

This is a post that I should have written long ago.

About a month or so back, I posted a link to an xkcd cartoon. It was inspired by an incident around that I was going to write about. However every time I tried to write the article another incident came back to my mind, and threatened to swamp the piece I was trying to write. It’s obviously something I need to get out of my system. I keep alluding to this incident time and time again, so I think it’s time I got this off my chest.

I’m going back ten years now. I was a member of an association within the Liberal Democrats aimed at improving the use of information technology and the internet. A key committee member of this group was a problem. The person would respond to any perceived slight against people who lacked IT skills with a level of aggression that was totally inappropriate and out of proportion to what he was responding to. In addition he would be incredibly snide about technically skilled people, seemingly thinking clever people needed taking down a peg or two. I put up with it for a while, but the constant sniping got too much.

Firstly, I tried politeness. I sent a kind and friendly email, pointing out that he was being a bit over the top. I received an unexpected response, “Are you always this nasty”. Shocked that my tone had been so badly misinterpreted, I pointed out, that no, I wasn’t being nasty, I was trying to be helpful. More aggression. I called him publicly on the group mailing list over his behaviour. I was threatened with legal action for standing up to him!

I tried to address the problems directly by writing a philosophical article addressing people’s perspectives toward technology. This was met with public aggression and my conduct was falsely described as abusive.

So I wrote to the chairman of the group, expressing my concerns about the culture of aggression, and disrespect. And was ignored. Friends and acquaintances promised that the problematic behaviour that I was concerned about would be brought up at the next committee meeting. However I never found out if this happened or what action, if any, was taken. I tried to find if there was a complaints procedure for low-level bullying within the Liberal Democrats. There wasn’t.

By now I had a thing about low-level online bullying. I championed the case of a slightly autistic acquaintance who was being given a bad time on a private members forum. Again, the mods I messaged didn’t even acknowledge that I’d contacted them or reassure me that they were on the case.

Things have, thankfully, changed. The Liberal Democrats have introduced new codes of conduct. Not because of me, or anything I have written about here, I hasten to add, but because of more serious incidents of an altogether different nature that have come to light. While the seriousness and the nature of these incidents and complaints was far different to what I was dealing with, the new code of conduct is broad enough to define the sorts of things that I, and those I stood up for, as unacceptable. It also makes it clear that complaints and concerns like mine should not have been simply ignored.

Was the behaviour I stood up to that serious? No, not really. But even though the problem behaviour I experienced wasn’t a serious, it was a real and genuine problem, and I was right to stand up to it. While it was ultimately futile, and has remained with me for far too long, I remain proud of taking a stand.

22/05/2016 Coda:

I had intended this to be “getting the issue out of my system” and to an extent it has. This week I have refreshed my safeguarding training with the Scout Association, and was pleased to see their robust policies regarding bullying. It also confirmed that the behaviours I highlighted in the Lib Dems back in 2005 that went unacknowledged do constitute bullying, at least according to the definitions uses by the Scout Association.

Fairtrade Fortnight in Keighley

FairTrade fortnight is in full swing. Sarah and Matthew are out now as I speak with the Bradford FairTrade camper van, giving out quizzes and free samples. Matthew was having fun, but has only got the idea of handing out the teabags- not letting people take them!

They will be out again in the Keighley area on Tuesday, at Silsden co-op in the morning, and Sainsburys in the afternoon.

End of an era

Back in September, new regulations meant old fashioned incandescent (OFI) light bulbs can only now be sold in clear types.

In our house we were down to one light fitting with an old fashioned bulb in it. The R63 spots in the kitchen were replaced this time last year, following an assignment for an OU course on sustainable living. I’ve not regretted it either. The bulbs light the room just as well as the ones they replace, and they have outlasted enough of the old type to be saving me money.

Which left one solitary light fitting in the bathroom unable to accommodate the now standard compact florescent bulb. Which, to be honest, needs a bulb equivalent to 100w to provide sufficient light. We’ve all known for some time that the end of the 100w bulb was due, but we just didn’t get round to getting that light replaced.

Fortunately there was a solution. It has to be noted that compact florescent bulbs come in a variety of different shapes and wattages. But I’d already tried and failed to squeeze one into the space available. CF bulbs are not the only type of bulb out there, Philips and GE produce a halogen bulb that is the same shape and size as the OFI 100w bulb. I bought the 100w equivalent and it is a brilliant stop-gap measure. It lights the room just as well as the bulb it replaces, and fits in the same amount of space.

It’s a shame that it’s come to this to be honest. It would be nice if we could all have gradually moved ourselves onto the new technology, and restricted our purchases of 100w OFI bulbs for those few remaining fittings where a standard CF bulb of the required brightness won’t fit. But too many of us were sticking with old fashioned bulbs for reasons other than the merely practical. The obnoxious, ignorant “Wah shud ah”s have basically spoilt it for the rest of us.

I’m certainly nice enough to be embarrassed by my intransigence, rather than incandescent (ha ha) at the inconvenience.

A rubbish post

I’ve got conflicting emotions about this story.

On one hand the fine seems a little petty, and out of proportion. But on the other hand the man lives in a house with a reasonable sized garden, and has been warned- several times. It seems he doesn’t want to think about his rubbish beyon making sure it goes in the bin.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask people to think about what waste they produce when they buy their food, to be honest. Am I being too Marie Antionnette here? I don’t think so. In times past we would be creative with our food. We would eat everything on our plate because it would be rude not to, and we would save and reheat the left overs. We’d be creative with our cooking. Now we just throw out anything that’s 5 seconds past the useby date, and don’t do anything to avoid it.

It’s true our supermarket culture sells a lot of over packaged goods. Recently a columnist tried to live a plastic-free lifestyl. But there are alternatives- even in the supermarket. Meat can be bought in a simple plastic bag with a sticker. You can buy some of your veg loose and despite having a plastic window, a mushroom bag takes up less room in the rubbish to a box.

We have a very good stystem in our street. We have a fortnightly recycling collection, with which you can recycle almost everything reclcylable but only 1 in 10 houses in our street use it. It seems too much effort and something needs to be done to snap people out of their complacency.

Yes there are circumstances where fortnightly collection won’t work, in high rise blocks in inner cities you have no storage space for example. But because a system doesn’t work in one area doesn’t mean it is universally useless. In some areas food waste is recycled weekly- putting the pressure on people to think about how much of everything else they use without causing a health hazard.

In short the man should have been fined. About £30 would have been sensible.

Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade Fortnight

Just a quick nudge. Fairtrade fortnight starts today. As well as being able to buy from fairtrade shops both online and physical, you will be able to get some products alongside your regular groceries at your local supermarket.

Co-op fairtrade wine is particularly good, as is their policy of sourcing only Fairtrade coffee and chocolate for their own brand.

Keep a look out when you are shopping, because last year many supermarkets trialed several new fairtrade lines at discount prices. Not only are these new lines a fair deal for both producer and consumer, seeing these lines snapped up will encourage more responsible buying by those who have power to make as much of a difference as the great British buying public.

A goat’s not just for christmas

There’s been a bit of a furore over Charity gifts recently. In particular two organisations Animal Aid and the World Land Trust have both been campaigning on the message that gifts of animals provide unsustainable assistance as in the long term they cause more problems than they solve. Their messages have been partially discredited, Animal Aid are not, as their name implies, an aid charity, but animal rights campaigners ideologically opposed to the use of animals in… well anything. The World Land trust have their own charity gift scheme, in competition with .

I have yet to find out any independent analysis of the goat giving phenomenon, that isn’t either repeating the received wisdom of the two organisations above, anecdotal reportage in a lower quality Sunday newspaper, or on the lines of “well they would say that, wouldn’t they, they have a vested interest”. However I would still not be that pleased with a charity goat as it would show the giver didn’t even bother to look at the catalogue and find something less ubiquitous!

From the publicity you would think goats were the be all and end all of charity gifts. Oxfam unwrapped list loads of different types of gift, most of which lead to projects that don’t involve animals in any way shape or form. However isn’t the charity gift just clever marketing, a way of packaging up what is really just a simple charity donation? Oxfam Unwrapped are quite clear, open and honest about the fact that your money doesn’t actually directly buy the thing that represents the gift. For example if you buy someone some exercise books, your money may not actually buy exercise books, but something from a list of things relating to education. So if I was a vegan, giving my charity catalog gift, how sure could I be that my gift of a school desk wouldn’t fund the purchase of livestock? I’ve no problem with my gift of an Aids education session turning into condom kits, but if it turns into something totally unrelated I may as well have just avoided the expensive marketing and just put the money in the collecting tin.

Certain charities do ring fence your money, and what you pay for is actually bought. However, I’m not sure I’d really want to be so fussy as not to trust my chosen charity with any flexibility over what they did with my gift. I also have an image in my mind, probably erroneous, of the charity telling the recipient of the nice person from England who paid for the gift, and I’m not sure I’m so comfortable with that!