Consumers conned, claims eading reen

The views of Friends of the Earth International’s new Scottish chairman are not comforting for the green lobby, as Stephen Naysmith finds out.

While Friends ofthe Earth Scotland launches a recruitment drive and continues to campaign for clean air, its Scottish director has admitted British people are disillusioned with green politics, and claimed many of the environmental movements' successes have been limited.

A membership campaign in cinemas, and the annual Green Mask Day this week indicate it is business as usual for Friends of the Earth (FOE).

However, Kevin Dunion. recently appointed as chairman of Friends of the Earth International, says a complete shift in social attitudes is necessary if anything of wonh is to be achieved.

‘You win the politicians over, only to find out that you have really lost,‘ he claims. ‘Some victories have been achieved through a kind of guerrilla warfare, but it is no good ambushing people, we have to change attitudes.‘

He quotes the ‘victory’ over CFCs (ozone-depleting propellants, used in aerosols and fridges) as an example. ‘There is a campaign we thought we‘d won. But there is still an international trade in CFCs involving the UK - even the Government admits that.‘ he says.

He believes consumers are being misled. ‘CFCs are often replaced by other ozone-depleting chemicals. Shop shelves are full of items which say CFC-free but never had CFCs in them in the first place.‘

Clean air campaigners claim success in tackling pollutants in petrol, but Dunion is unconvinced. ‘We got lead taken out of petrol in the UK but the indttstry put benzine back in so now our children’s brains aren‘t damaged but it is giving them cancer instead.‘ '

Environmentalists‘ views are sought by govemments keen to establish their green credentials. but this too is a con, according to Dunion.

‘One of the ways enemies deal with the environmental movement is to co-opt us into committees,‘ he says. ‘It neuters and silences us —.

Scotland‘s Advisory Group on Sustainable Development earlier this year.

As chair of FOEl. Dunion will coordinate the activities of member organisations in 58 countries. More and more. the struggle is an international one, he claitns.

‘If you look at the energy industry, we‘ve basically killed off nuclear power in the west but that is negated by the industry who say: “Hell. let‘s take it to Asia and Eastern Europe instead.“

The battle is with the vested interests of international capital and governments looking for easy solutions. ‘The enemy is always looking for ways to preserve its privilege.‘ is Dunion‘s analysis.

All of which makes it sound as ifthere is little individuals can do to make a difference. But Dunion insists Scots can have an impact. ‘It is true that currently people in Scotland don‘t have the opportunity to have a sustainable lifestyle.

‘The Government say it is up to the consumer to demand changes. But you can’t I'd like to recycle. but they have taken away my local bottle bank in

Green masks: but clean air campaigners have been hoodwinked, says Bunion

just consumers, they are citizens. But the idea that mass-consumerism is related to the quality of life is one of the fundamental things we‘ve got to address.‘

This should be easier to do than people think, he argues. Dunion believes that deep down most people recognise their happiness is dependent on more than mere goods. But it is the wastcfttlness of modern society that he sees as the worst evil.

‘We have to tackle built-in obsolescence head-on. Why do we have washing machines with eighteen programmes most of us never touch? That kind of spurious added-value has to be tackled.‘ he argues.

Dunion‘s new role will include pushing forward FOEl‘s sustainable development plans. In 28 European countries, including Scotland. FOE has produced sustainable development programmes tackling the imbalance between what we use, and the dwindling resources available.

Despite having to guard against constant setbacks. Dunion believes this sort of forward thinking is only being done by environmentalists.

Mainstream politicians on the left and right are

they can grind on for years.‘

However the tactic places the green lobby on the horns of a dilemma. If you refuse to play ball. your credibility is dented. Perhaps that is why Dunion accepted an appointment to the Secretary of State for


We aren‘t all frustrated environmentalists though. Aren‘t people only too happy to buy into the consumerist dream? Dunion disagrees: ‘People aren‘t

characterised by cowardice. he claims: ‘There is such a timidin in politics nowadays that we have to take the place of the visionaries who used to be in the political parties.‘

And finally . . . should Julian Spalding call the helpline?

Who better to warn youngsters against the perils of drug misuse than Trainslmmng’s sussed smackhcad Renton, aka Ewan McGregor. who supplies the voice-over to the latest Government ads? The ubiquitous young actor was chosen for the task because of - it says here his ‘distinctive interpretation‘ of the message. Nothing to do with his role in a hit (in more ways than one) movie about the dubious delights of heroin. then. Of course not - the campaign is targeted at acid, Ecstasy and speed, another matter entirely.

The gulf between different drug cultures brings to mind an old Sherlock-Holmes film in which the coke-snorting sleuth is held captive by a female villain. ‘Drink this,’ she

adjures our hero, ‘you‘ll feel more relaxed.‘ lndomitable as ever. Holmes responds cuttly: ‘No thank you, I don‘t approve of sedatives.‘ Perhaps using McGregor is a surreptitious attempt to send an anti-stimulant signal to the kids: Just Say I Can‘t Go Clubbing, I Can‘t Lift My Head Off The Carpet.

The Health Education Board for Scotland boasts that the three short films about chilling communicate accurately people‘s fears about drugs. There is a certain stoned logic in considering it necessary to remind people how frightened they already are. Back in the real world the predictable response will be to further whet the curiosity of inquisitive youth.

Speaking of junk. is it mere coincidence that the financial dilemma facing Glasgow’s museums and

Ecstasy: beware exploding doves galleries comes only six months after the opening of GOMA (Gallery of Mediocre An) at a cost of over £7 million? Galleries director Julian Spalding has vetoed the introduction of admission charges to meet the

shortfall, deciding instead to close all venues except the Art Gallery & Museum, Kelvingrove every Tuesday. Two cheers for forward planning; no cheer for the museum staff facing cuts in hours and wages. It seems likely there will be job losses in the next financial year. following this year‘s total of 80.

Mr Spalding has pronounced imperioust and at length about ‘Art for the People‘, claiming traditional art has more to offer than ‘modem media‘. Setting aside the question of intellectual condescension (and whether Beryl Cook has anything to offer the over-58), isn’t his main task to bring ‘the people‘ to the an? He should consult the Scottish Office. which does marvellous recruitment work for all manner of recreational practices. (David Harris)

The List l8-3l Oct 1996 5