Monday, 27 January 2020


First an apology to Greta Thunberg. I once said she’s rather annoying. I should be less impulsive. I’ve listened to her a few times on the radio recently and recognise she’s calm and sensible. She’s determined, even implacable, and the way she conducts herself is admirable, not annoying. Sorry Greta.

She and others are right in saying ignoring an existential crisis because (as Al Gore, described it in 2006) it’s an “inconvenient truth”,  is just madness. Imagine hearing this on a plane:
“This is your captain here . The engineers say this plane in unsafe to fly. I say that your convenience comes first. We’re ready for take- off.”

As we watch the news – a plague of locusts in Africa, a dust storm the size of Britain in Australia following those catastrophic fires, a huge Turkish earthquake, an epidemic (rapidly becoming a pandemic) in China and spreading globally – it’s all  beginning to feel apocalyptic.

Whilst I don’t buy the view that we are all doomed – not yet at any rate – inventions that have brought us a greater comfort bring their own dangers. We are in charge (just) and we can influence the future.
Take the wonder of plastic. Imagine the world of medicine without it. Imagine a world without toys. Imagine a world without mobile phones (wouldn’t that be interesting by the way?) We invented plastic in 1907 and now it’s strangling us.

In the 1967 film ‘The Graduate’ Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is advised to secure a career in plastics following his graduation. Not any more I think.

So it was with interest I read the Coca-Cola story this week. They have decided not to abandon single-use plastic bottles… because? Because people still want them because they are light and resealable. The company makes 200,000 bottles a minute – that’s 3,000,000 tonnes a year. Ms Perez was talking on that subject at Davos. The Mail Online describes her as follows:

“Ms Perez is apparently the Coca-Cola corporation's 'Head of Sustainability'. Can there be a more comical job description? What's next? Hannibal Lecter as the face of Veganuary?”

Here’s what Ms Perez says. “Business won’t be in business if we don’t accommodate consumers.”
Or Beatrice – that’s her name – humanity will cease to exist unless we take this plastics issue more seriously than you are.

Apparently the weight of plastics in our oceans will weigh more than the fish by 2050 if we carry on like this. But so long as Coke’s customers buy plastic they’ll just carry on providing it willy-nilly. Unlike Tesco. Dave Lewis, its CEO, is taking a lead The banning the use of plastic for multibuys (regardless that customers find them convenient) and has declared war on plastic in their own label products. He reckons to remove 1 billion pieces of single-use plastics by the end of the year. Tesco seems to have a more enlightened view of what good business is than Coca-Cola does.

The operating theatre is open; plastic surgery has begun. And about time.

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