Discover Eindhoven, The Netherlands in this catalogue of creative happenings

Extinguishing the flames of inspiration

June 26th, 2010


I have only attended one of the zillion events attached to the 2010 Inspiration Days in Eindhoven. The one I chose was part III of a three-part forum which posed three separate questions on the topic of sustainability, and part III was ‘greenwashing’. It’s funny what they say, when one has “fire in one’s belly” – people are passionate, and ready to do anything for the cause.

Taco Nijssen speaks about greenwashing

Taco Nijssen from the foundation “Students for Tomorrow” (Studenten voor Morgen) presented his introductory speech, which he opened with the video above. Later on, the word would go to the audience, and questions¬† moderated by star-debator Ali Al-Jaberi playing the Geoffrey Robertson in an Eindhoven version of Hypothetical –¬† but in Dutch and without the studio audience. (There was actually a competition attached to this event, but as I didn’t attend the whole session, I can’t compare the other speakers or even announce the winner of the cradle-to-cradle Herman Miller designer chair.) The two speakers I saw were competent, but passionate, I’m not so sure. Maybe it had something to do with the overwhelming subject-matter.

There is a pocket of socially active, alternative, environmentally aware residents in the Eindhoven region – but I’d hoped for a bigger crowd. Only about 35 people were in attendance, but it’s possible the rest were at the beach/camping/gardening given the rare but glorious weather. Despite the small turn-out, what was interesting was hearing statements like this:

-90% of the chocolate we eat is the output of slave trades somewhere else in the world, unless it’s Max Havelaar chockie
-“Coca-cola is poison”
-Ali Al-Jaberi has not bought a stitch of new clothing for 2 years, on principle – he cannot reconcile himself to the water and effluent that goes into bleaching cotton alone
-“Consumers should be more responsible about what they are consuming, presuming that manufacturers become more transparent about really is sustainable”
-“Manufacturers should become more transparent about what really is sustainable”
-which do you choose – fair vs sustainable or your wallet?
-“Oil is everywhere: it’s in your shoes, in your buttons, in this microphone stand”
-“How can I tell whether a company has just made up some logo and is just telling me it’s organic/sustainable/fair trade?”
-There are lots of people who don’t give a toss about sustainable issues
-Coca-Cola is a company whose production methods are wrong; capitalism has helped make this to become normal practice
-Being aware about sustainable issues is something the individual has to organise and take responsibility for
-Are we prepared to make sacrifices? vs Do we really want to make a difference?
-Mud Jeans is an affordable (Dutch) brand of jeans made from bamboo and organic cotton

Mud Jeans - made from bamboo which needs less water to process

We were a motley crew: students, local hippies, scholars and even Wubbo Ockels was there – the first Dutchman to go into outer space 25 years ago. Almost everyone had something to say, but not a lot was said about greenwashing really. Talk was turned around to put the responsibility on the consumer, because companies will never really be regulated (so, that was the end of the greenwashing discussion). Was the ‘debate’ inspiring? To be honest, Ali and his crew were preaching to the converted. What I came away with were feelings of guilt and anxiety about how to do the right things/the right things right. Do I stop drinking Coca-Cola (well, I don’t drink it, but I do drink other products, like Ginger Ale and Tonic)? Do I stop taking flights never to see my family in Australia again? Do I jump off the fence and become a proper vegetarian? This activity at the 2010 Inspiration Days may not quite have inspired me, but it gave me cause to reflect again, about what is important to me and how much I’m prepared to sacrifice on an individual level if I’m going to do my bit for the world. Because sadly, that’s what a market economy teaches us – whatever is good for business goes; life can be comfortable if you can afford it; and if you want to make a change within the system, it has to start with number one. It’s a pretty tall order, surrounded as we are by others who are oblivious to the time-bomb. A time-bomb that’s ticking, with a fuse that seems to be getting shorter and shorter by the day.

Will the spark that I have in my tummy burst into flame and transform into inspiration? Maybe, but not directly as a result of attending this debate.

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