Bioturbation – worms at work

Why I have no faith

Do you know what’s a thousand times scarier than “spending an eternity in hell”?

Realising that you only have one life. That death is final. That you could die at any time. That you could die and not accomplish the things in life that you set out to accomplish.

I think life is a very special gift. That’s why I try to make the most of my life here and now. I don’t waste it with faith. I don’t waste it with prayers. I just try to get on it with it.

I do know that if I die slowly I’m going to be questioning myself whether I tried to make a difference in the world. I think there is only so much we can accomplish in one day.

I think it about death all the time. I think about being on my deathbead. I wonder what I’ll think about. I wonder whether I think I’ll think I’ve had a useful life.

And that is why I started this blog. I don’t want to die without sharing my thoughts with the world.

Design disappointment.

Today I’m going to share with you a little secret that’s been bugging me lately

It’s about one of my inner-most feelings about the design industry. For several months now, I’ve been getting disappointed. I have a bit of a dilemma. A moral dilemma 1.

Here it is: there seem to be very few what I call “ethical designers”. And that worries me.

I know because rarely do the creatives ever ‘like’ my environmental posts on LinkedIn. Rarely. Almost never.

Now keep in mind that probably about half of my connections work in the design industry. They’re senior graphic designers. They’re art directors. Executive creative directors. Chief creative officers. Important people. Important people with important accounts.

Designers are supposed to lead the way when it comes to new trends. I mean, fashion designers have the power to change what a billion people wear, within the space of a year (or less). Right?

And yet on this subject, the environment, most designers are suspiciously silent. And I think I know why. I strongly suspect it’s because there’s this so called ‘professional’ [read: confidential] client relationship.

In other words, the never seem to speak up, because they are too afraid that they are going to lose money. Not just with customers, but with their real clients, the businesses that hire them to design. You can’t be seen to criticise the business that gives you work. Like they say, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

Here’s the thing. If people say or do the wrong thing —like the wrong post say— then they lose the account. I know because one of my design teachers told me. If anyone is caught drinking Pepsi in the design room when the Coke representative walks in, your agency loses the Coke account. That’s the way it works.

You see, I really think designers are forgetting just how difficult it is to accomplish good design. I think they’re underestimating themselves. They’re selling themselves short. And I think they should act a bit more like they way they were in highschool. Back then they were the trendsetters. The people who dared to be different. The people who stood against the status quo. Those rebellious kids. The cool ones, you know.

I would like to see the designer charge three, five or ten times more than they normally would for their design. Use that extra money. Give half of it to an enviornmental charity. But I would prefer to see you refuse the brief altogether. Don’t do it. Not for any amount of money!

People who changed the world in the past were never really popular during their time. People like Galileo questioned the status quo. And now today we have satellite communication and GPS navigation systems.

It could be that my “save the planet” content is preferentially served to all my conservation connections. But somehow I doubt it. Many creatives would have seen my posts as well. Many. They lurk, they don’t like. I’ve noticed.

And I was actually going to write this on my LinkedIn feed, but decided to write about it here instead. Because over there, it’ll only become very ‘awkward’.

I’ve also noticed that whenever I post a ‘controversial’ update or comment, I get about three times the number of people looking at my profile. They’re probably checking out who is making all the waves. But they never say anything. Not even privately.

It’s like they’re thinking something like this behind my back: “well if he doesn’t know, we’re not going to tell him; more work for us”.

I know how social groups work. If you say something controversial enough, something to upset people enough, something that goes against the norm, something that people can’t deal with, you risk getting expelled. Banned from the group. And I don’t want that to happen. I’d still like to get a few illustration commisions.

I know how the world works. I know it runs with money. I’m not stupid or naïve. So it’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing. Oh no; I know exactly what I’m doing. I also know something that most designers don’t know. I know a thing or two about science.

In that respect, I suppose my training is pretty unique because I have a strong background in science but my most recent qualification was a diploma of graphic design. So I speak the dual languages of science and design. I don’t know too many ex-scientists designers. None, in fact.

The thing is, I can’t forget my past. No matter how hard I try. I can’t not be a scientist. I trained for more than ten years to be a scientist. I can’t forget who I was or who I am today. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. Sometimes I wish I could forget. Then I could probably ignore all these conservationists and and indigenous people and just “get on with being ‘successful’ “.

It’s not that science and design are incompatible. Oh they are perfectly compatible alright. Yes business, design and science are indeed all compatible. But not when it comes to big corporations they’re not. Because the bigger the company, the less accountable the employers, employees and customers all become.

The bigger a company, the more ethical rules they seem to break. Seriously. Environmental rules. Especially when it comes to the following industries: mining, engineering, manufacturing, development, construction and transport/logistics. They just don’t give a fuck. Or so it seems.

I know enough to know that there are many unknowns in science. But for every ‘unkown’, there are ten or a hundred ‘knowns’. Science is pretty good. Science works. Your computer works. Your smart phone works. Your iwatch works.

The trouble with designers staying silent is this. The bigger the account gets, the less people see the effect of their design decisions. Designers are not seeing the impact.

But what is worth more? The account? Or the planet? If we lose the planet, we lose pretty much all future accounts. Right? Riiight?

So my new rule of business is that I only want to work towards a better future, not a worse one. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If we are all working towards a worse future, if all there is is “now”, if that is so important, why bother working at all? Why bother building cities, freeways and skyscrapers? Why bother with children and grandchildren? You tell me. What is the fucking point? What is the fucking point of having children if this world is not sustainable?

And don’t get me wrong, I try to live in the ‘now’ as much as humanly possible. It’s just that I also consider the future as well as the past (which I think is wise).

When a client comes to you asking for a rebrand, they’re obviously thinking about the future, aren’t they? They are looking for a newer, better future. Right?

So what I would like to see is this: I would like to see creative executives have the balls to say to someone like Mr Gautami Adani something like this:

“well the thing is, Mr Adani, we can’t actually make your logo any cooler, accessible or friendly, you’re asking the impossible. Fossil fuels have become out of vogue, out of fashion, we can’t change that. No one can change that. Solar and wind are “in”. Coal is out.”.

I would like to see Chief Creative Officers, Executive Design Directors remind the CEO, the CFO, the board of directors about the future. Remind them that they are hoping for a better ‘future’ design, hence, they must care about the future. That’s why they’re investing money. Because they’re hoping for a better future.

I’d like to see more people remind these fools at the top just why the environment has to come before business. And then maybe the business owners and investors would insist on a newer, more sustainable, ecological design. Who else is going to design for them?

I think it’s absurd that people are too afraid to even say anything. Everyone should be able to harp on about the environment as much as they bloodywell like without fear of losing their job. Otherwise, we are all fückéd ladies and gentlemen. Fückéd!

Here’s what I would like to say to all investors. I would like to walk into a boardroom meeting and draw this fucken equation on the board:

no environment = no business = no profit.

Because I can tell you one thing right now. People can see straight through a logo or a design. I used to think a great logo was everything. but it’s just an identity mark.

If the companies’ ethics and morals aren’t in the right place, then people will eventually go with the ugly logo. I love a good logo, I do. I choose companies based on their logos and their design. True! But once I turn on a company, there’s almost no going back. If I had to choose between designer logos and saving the planet, bring on the ugly logos.

People are fickle. Customers will change banks. No amount of design can be used to sell a horrible company to well-informed people. That might have worked in 1990. Or even the year 2000. But this is the age of information, the age of connection.

 

The reason is that money can only be used to ‘offset’ things up to a certain point. And I think we are fast getting to that point, if it isn’t already behind us. Beyond that point, money doesn’t do any good. Sure money can buy a forest. Money cannot buy us a new atmosphere or a stable, unpeturbed weather system. Money cannot buy a clean ‘new’ planet. That is not how the world works.

Sometimes I like to entertain the idea of hypothetical situations, because I find them to be very insteresting. For example. if the major powers launched all of their nuclear weapons (more or less simultaneously), then how much would it cost to ‘fix’ the planet afterwards? What if it couldn’t be ‘fixed’? What then? That’s one reason we try to avoid a nuclear holocaust. Because we know about the consequences.

Things can’t keep on going on like they’ve always done. Again, the world doesn’t work that way. I know that’s not the way it is at the moment.

You may think I am some hippie nutter. But I’m not. I am a bit of a dreamer though. I don’t really care too much about money. I care that what I think, what I say, and what I do are all aligned — in the right direction.

So where am I going with this? A few years ago I read that whenever an organisation grows, it reaches a critical size of about 150 people. That is the maximum number of people we can efficiently deal with. Beyond that and things get too disconnected and bureaucratic. Efficiency goes down.

So these days I prefer to work with smaller businesses. That’s what my gut instinct tells me to do. Businesses that are small enough to change and adapt. Businesses that are able to put the environment first. They’re the ones who I want to trade with.

 

 

 

McDonalds feedback

Nuggets. When I order 6 or 10 McNuggets, I expect to receive 6 or 10 McNuggets. Not 5 or 9. Am I right? But I never feel like complaining over one nugget. But really, this happens quite often.

Noise. Why does the kitchen sound like the cockpit a 747 that is about to crash land? WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP PULLUP STALL PROXIMITY WARNING!!! You cannot call it a “restaurant” with all of that noise happening…

Chips. They should stand up in the packet, proud and tall, not be placed in there chaotically all “mumbo jumbo”. Because that way, not as many fit and we get less. :(

Sauce. Why no chilli sauce with McNuggets? Is there an embargo on chillis? Wordwide chilli shortage? No. Not everyone likes BBQ or sweet & sour sauce. Hungry Jacks has chilli to go with their obviously and clearly inferior “non-McNuggets”.

Thank you,
I shall collect my extra chips now.

Dr. Leslie Dean Brown
www.LeslieDeanBrown.com

Why am I a minimalist?

I am a former materials scientist. The first question I always get asked is: “what is that?”.

Materials science is the study of mostly synthetic materials such as metals, polymers, ceramic and composites. We study their physical & chemical properties and how they are extracted from the Earth.

I am telling you this because I think that people need to start listening to scientists. More people need to listen to more scientists.

That’s a two way thing. I think that more scientists should start their own blogs (and other mediums communication like that).

Right. So I am a former materials scientist. And do you know what I now think about materials? What I now know?

I think that everything that you buy kills some part of the world somewhere else. The metals in the electronics that you are buying come from mines and natural spaces have to be destroyed to get them. I think we have to realise that and remember it every time we go to buy something. We need to think about that whenever Apple tries to sell us some new product. Do we really need it? What is the environmental cost?

My view now is that the things that we buy have to come from somewhere. Ask yourselves where. Most plastics [polymers] in use today come directly from oil. Uh oh.

All metals that aren’t being recycled are mined. Mines are always built in the natural environment (just look what happens when they are not –like with coal seam gas– people complain their heads off and usually get their own way).

But the problem isn’t just big banks and mining companies. Because I think 99% of adults have simply forgotten where they get their stuff from. [Read more…]

The true value of soil

Food practically grows all by itself on planet Earth.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.

Let me ask you something: do we actually ‘make’ our own food? Do we? The answer is “no we do not make our own food”. We just throw pre-existing seeds in the ground and make sure most of them get enough water to sprout. We don’t make it from first principles; it grows all by itself from the soil! We simply harvest that food (once it has already grown).

Let me ask you the next question: do we humans ‘make’ soil? Not can we make it, do we make it? Again, no. Bacteria, worms and insects do that for us. Sure we might put organic matter such as apple cores, banana skins and orange peels onto the old compost pile and think we’re making

loads more soil. We might even throw things like paper and cardboard onto our compost as well and think we’re creating heaps and heaps and heaps of soil.

But are we? What are we really doing? Once gain, where did that apple core come from? Where did that banana skin come from? Where did that paper come from? Where did those trees come from? The chances are you’ll find that most of it wasn’t hydroponically produced (using liquid fertilisers and zero soil). Was it? No. It was mosty farmed, from pre-existing soil. And I’m guessing that that soil, ladies and gentlemen, took thousands and thousands and thousands of years to form.

And so you might say: “well okay, I know people that actually eat 100% hydroponically-grown foods, I’ve seen it”. And again I ask: but the people who made the hydroponic setup, did they also get all of their food from hydroponically grown plants? What about the people who made all that fertiliser? What about the people who built the whole darn fertiliser setup? What about the people who transported all of the above? And what about the people who built the vehicles so that all of that lot could be transported? Did they all eat hydroponically grown food too?

Is everyone in that hydroponics industry only eating 100% hydroponically-grown foods? Short answer? No. So my point is that at the moment, even if we can hydroponically grow a bunch of food, it’s being heavily, massively subsidised by nature.

Do you know how many apple cores, banana skins and orange peels it takes to make just one kilogram of soil? The answer is: I don’t know, because I lost count. What I can tell you is that I have been throwing ALL of my organic scraps, and those of a second person, into one giant green 400L bin for the past two years. Everything from my hair to my paper offcuts. And it has never filled up. But how much soil did all that organic matter take to produce in the first place, for two people? I’m willing to bet that it was WAY more than just 400 litres.

So is it any wonder that farmers commit suicide, when they tell us that the quality of soil is falling?

We certainly tend to the plants. We avoid flooding unless we’re growing rice. But what I think humans really do is collect, store and distribute food. If we had to do all of that for 7 billion people, for 7 million people, for even 7 thousand people, with no air, no water and no soil to begin with, I think you’d see scientists really starting to scratch their heads. Can’t be done! It just can’t be done.

In other words, we’re not somehow magically separated from nature. Scientists are never really able forget this. If seven, eight, nine or ten billion people want to live on this planet for more than a few centuries into the future, then we’re going to have to re-evaluate our values and our priorities. I think it’s time we refocus our efforts on Earth (even Carl Sagan’s last book, pale blue dot was as much about Earth as deep space and look how ‘into’ deep space adventures he was).

Koalas fast disappearing; investors in CSG mining ought to be shot.

Get a load of this, the latest news story, people:

Mining company QGC given approval to clear critical koala habitat for CSG wells near Dalby

The company’s own reports submitted to the federal Environment Department said habitat “critical to the survival of the koala” would likely be affected.

“I have written to minister Jackie Trad and the Premier in recent times on several occasions saying that not one single piece of koala habitat in Queensland should be allowed to be cut down,” she said.

“You get up to 70 and 80 per cent mortality once you move animals away from their homes,” she said.

“It’s like saying to you tonight, ‘I’m going to knock your home down, no worries, I’ll build you another one, but just wait 20 years and in the meantime just wander around’.”

[source]

I used to look out for koalas every single time we went on camping vacation in Australia. Never saw a single one, not once, in all my childhood years of peering out the back car window.

Investors (and I know they’re reading) ought to be shot. Just plain taken out into a field, and shot.

Why climate change researchers are freaking out

Rich requests

Rich people buying luxury ice cubes

What scientists fear most.

I don’t even think  this debate is merely about “global warming” anymore…

I think it’s more about whether you believe humans can alter the environment at a global as well as a local scale. I mean, all of us can accept that even cockroaches and rats can change their local little jaunts easily enough…

(either inadvertently and/or purposefully; it doesn’t really matter for the sake of this argument whether the changes are intended or not) 

There is no question that we alter things at a local scale. We can directly manipulate the atomic, molecular and microscopic scales. We manipulate things at the ‘macro’ scale, too (the scale of what we can see without the aid of a microscope). We make things, change things, on the scale of millimetres, centimetres, metres, even kilometres. We make runways for instance. How long are they? Right?

Here’s a timely reminder — Earth’s atmosphere is only about 10km ‘thick’. I’m sure most people don’t stop to appreciate this on their morning or afternoon commute: most people travel more in one single day –be it driving a car or walking in the Ethiopian desert– than the Earth’s atmosphere is ‘deep’. They most likely travel at least this distance every single day of their lives, perhaps more.

One only needs to look around a city, any city, to know that the human civilisation built it. We most definitely changed it. Why? Because it doesn’t look like it did before humans settled there, that’s why. Isn’t it obvious? Before that, it was a forest or a jungle, a river’s edge or a peat bog.

And so we continue to dam rivers and build bridges. We build skyscrapers and oil tankers and cruise liners. We construct entire airports offshore.

We tear down forests and we mine the Earth. At every and any opportunity. Why? To make it more ‘comfortable’ for ourselves. We spew out all kinds of gases and chemicals into our waterways and our atmosphere. And somehow, miraculously, none of this can even remotely alter something so basic as “the average temperature”. Somehow “that’s impossible”1.

At what point along the size scale do people go from accepting that “yes absolutely humans can and do cause local changes in the form of urbanisation” to becoming ones of “oh no, humans are too puny to have caused this, this is god’s realm, carry on” in someone’s mind? At what scale? Where exactly do they let go of reality?

Here’s the thing that most people don’t seem to understand or comprehend: if you do enough “local-scale things” all around the planet, then it has to change at a global scale as well. It has to! Indeed, there really is no black and white distinction between ‘local and global scales’. The cosmos presents a continuous scale, all the way from the very tiniest subatomic particle (and probably smaller) right the way through to galaxies and beyond. And I don’t care what you think you want to believe, each scale does affect the other.

Man is not exempt from the effects of any of these scales (at either the very large-scale end, the very small end or anywhere inbetween). All scales can potentially be ‘dangerous’ to us. We have radiation, we have poison, we have knives, we have trucks crashing into things, we have nuclear bombs. And we also have something else. Something else we can’t quite control as well. The environment: the oxygen in our atmosphere, fresh water, food (and to a lesser extent, gravity). Each represents a different scale. And the presence or absence of each one can equally kill, albeit at different timescales.

There is simply no getting around it… “do enough shit” to the surface of this planet, any planet, and you’ll most likely fuck it up completely rather than make it only slightly ‘better’2

Whether carbon dioxide gas, or any other compound, it really wouldn’t matter what is causing it either, would it? Would it matter to people if it were a different compound such as methane, krypton or something else they’ve never even heard of? Would that help them understand what is going on with vibrational modes of this molecule at infrared frequencies?

Actually, surprisingly, I think the answer to that question is: “it depends”. I think the answer lies in how much this presence or absence of whatever it is we have to give up contributes to our current lifestyle. And I think we all know that we are far less likely to give up our ‘comforts’ than if it’s something we never (or rarely) use anyway.

If we don’t have much to give up, like with CFCs for example (because we simply used a spraycan with a different propellant inside of it), then by all means “let’s do this right now, starting today”. The Result? Ozone hole partially closed already.

A scientist might say that our reluctance to change is “inversely proportional” to the amount that it affects our present and future lifestyle. Lots to give up? Climate change = fake news. Not real. Not happening. Nothing to give up? No reason why it couldn’t be true.

On the other hand, if you’re talking about giving up the power of your very own automobile, reducing your electricity consumption, buying and using less stuff, travelling less, or just even generally using less and less technology instead of more and more — then on second thought, “perhaps not quite so fast”. Right?

Do you know what scientists fear most? Do you know what scares scientists absolutely shitless? Well they might not know it, but I think all scientists inherently fear that one day we’ll lose control of nature. Because right now, science can control nature (well sort of).

Now we don’t want you to panic. But quite frankly, it’s fast getting to that point. Because species are becoming extinct all over the place… and it’s an understatment to say that biologists, entomologists, and soil scientists are not happy about that.

I think to many people, technology may make it seem like “we can do whatever the fuck we want, however we want, whenever we want and wherever we want” and still we’ll all be okay. That no matter what happens, scientists will be smart enough to “figure a way out it”. I mean heck, “who ‘invented’ the ipad?”. People. People are smart. Right?

Wrong. Because even today, in the ‘modern age’ (whatever that is) we don’t have to create our own gravity, sunlight, air pressure, oxygen and water. Do we?

And somehow –some truly clueless, ignorant people– think that “everything’s going to be alright, Jack”. Maybe because it always has been. Maybe because they don’t have a very good imagination about the future. Maybe because they are ignorant. Or maybe they believe in some kind of higher power and that “man can do no harm”, that man’s job is to “work and be more productive”.

These “deniers” generally retort: “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” whenever anyone becomes even remotely ‘alarmist’. As if all alarms are false ones. Even if the alarmists do have a higher IQ.

But I really would really like to see those very same [science] deniers in another, very different, scenario. Say they we have organised a tour of a nuclear power station for them. Just say. Would they stick around, for example, if/when a nuclear scientist is yelling at them: “THE CORE IS GOING INTO MELTDOWN, GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!!!!”. Would they be hanging around the containment building, tardily and proudly proclaiming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!”? Would they be so quick to make a cup of coffee in that instant? Or would they, far more likely, heed the scientists’ advice and flee their sorry arses right on out of there as fast as their legs could carry them? Yes I think the latter.

Or maybe I reall am missing something. Maybe we really are puny. Maybe. Maybe we are so fucking puny, nature will continue to evolve and adapt all around us.

But then I recall biololgists tellings us that the less biodiversity there is, the slower nature recovers from all kinds of change.

My politcally incorrect branding plan.

Here’s the thing, I know I shouldn’t mention politics where business & branding is concerned.

I *know* I should be more politically correct. But quite frankly, I don’t care. Or I do care somewhat, but I don’t let that stop me… I see icecaps are melting and still no one says anything through official channels. I don’t see any designers criticising Porsche for making their gas-guzzling 5.0L V8-engined Cayenne for example.

Yes I see all the other designers and creatives and their ‘approach’. And I think 99.9% simply prefer to remain silent.

But I don’t see too many designers with a science background. And my science background CANNOT allow me to sit idly by and “say nothing, do nothing”.

The truth is, our lifestyles impact this world, greatly so.I’m even having a hard time convincing my psychologist of this fact. I think she seems to think that we are all “equally to blame”.

I’m sure other people absolutely cringe when they see me always sharing things about the environment on LinkedIn. But quite frankly, if I lose people’s business as a result of being politically incorrect, maybe “it wasn’t mean to be”. I don’t want to help people ruin this planet. I want to help make it a better place.

So my branding plan is this: what I lose in being politically incorrect, hopefully I gain elsewhere by genuinely being committed to the environment. And if only half the number of art directors woule like to commission an illustration from me, well that just means I’ve got to be twice as good to make up for it. So the quality of my drawings goes up. Right? What’s wrong with that?

I would really like to see other designers and creatives be more vocal. Forget being politically correct. Be brutally honest for once. Have the confidence to know that your work is good enough to lose a few clients to be able to sleep at night.

If you know a product is crap, perhaps more people should say so? I won’t work for fossil fuel companies. Well I would, only for about $800M. I hope people see that ethos is part of my brand.

Lord Muck, revisited.

 What kind of BULLSHIT is Lord Muck even talking about here? Honestly.

Yes I am calling him Lord Muck. I think it’s “rather” an appropriate name too! Let me tell you, Lord Muck over here would be laughed out of a room full of true intellectuals. Because this is definitely not the manner in which scientists discuss real science in order to convince other scientists who are already in the know of anything new.

Maybe some of my readers should wander right on in to any old university campus. And sit in a lecture, just to look and listen for a while. To know what real science sounds like.

Science universities are not isolated fortresses after all. They hardly ever get any visitors! So I don’t think many lecturers around the world would disapprove of you being there. You just… won’t be able to sit in on any exams and/or graduate and get your degree unless you pay your union fees is all.

Contrary to seeming like an authority on cimate change, the global science community just collectively laughed at his expense. He might as well have incinerated his degree, for all the good this presentation did.

Having a posh voice only makes you an authority on… umm… poshness. It doesn’t automatically give you extra clout whenever you are ‘talking’ about climate change. And I say ‘talking’, in inverted commas like that, because, well, he doesn’t actually ‘talk’ much at all about the data at all. He’d rather put up slides that say: “Greens are too yellow to admit they’re really red”. Wow. That sentence certainly has a lot to do with climate change. [Read more…]

Tanzania: paramilitary to tackle poachers

“In a bid to combat poaching in the country, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has announced the establishment of a paramilitary force system that will directly protect animals from being attacked and killed by poachers.” [source]

Richard Levicki: I dont like the sound of this, it should be Environmental Enforcement Officers not paramilitary. Very happy to see Tanzania seriously deal with the issue, but we do not want the agents of environment and human rights using the methods of the abusers, the word military contains all the wrong vowels.

leslie dean brown: Well I do like the sound of this. Not sorry! A few months back, they [poachers] shot and killed environmentalists in a helicopter. They should be taken out. All of them. No better (or worse) than ISIS. The only good poacher… is a dead poacher. They keep doing it… mainly because everyone else allows them to. Ultimately, I feel that 1000-5000 rhinos alive are worth more (both to humanity in the long term, no to mention “as is”, being lovely innocent rhinos) than 100 poachers in a planet of 7.5 billion people. They just are.

What I think of Nike HyperAdapt 1.0s

Yes they do look very VERY cool.

But ever since reading cradle to cradle, what worries me is that this contributes to even more e-waste.

Are they recycleable or biodegradable? Compostable? No? Why not? Oh. We can create great technology alright, but let’s see Nike come up with the same concept that is actually good for the environment. That’s going to be a challenge, not just for Nike, but all tech-companies.

And since a lot of materials aren’t ever recovered or recycled, it means more mines. You know? Mines! The things that nobody really likes to live next to.

Don’t get me wrong –I love all things design– but I just bought a pair of shoes from Novesta because they are more eco. That’s the direction I’m moving in.

Break the chain!

How do I feel about trophy hunters?

Warning. This is a big, long rant which I saved for posterity.

Personally, I think that trophy hunters should have a bounty placed on THEIR head… of about $500,000 – $1.0 million. To see how they like being shot at (and at any time of day when they might be taking a piss without their weapon for example).

What annoys me even more than the bastard that shot Cecil and his stupid face with over-whitened teeth, is all the stupid dumb bitches lying down smiling with dead animals. And propping dead animals’ limp heads up so they make a ‘better’ photograph. Somehow I don’t think that is an appropriate image to be taking for posterity.

From my perspective, this shows a complete and utter lack of respect for the animal. It shows that they’d rather gloat over a corpse than to respect another sentient, feeling being. So this to me is truly unethical. It’s immoral.

Where does this lack of respect originate? Well, I have a hunch that many hunters have a religious upbringing. And religious people always think that humans are somehow ‘above’ animals. They think that humans are superior beings. But the fact is, we are all animals!
Once you accept that we too are animals (because as David Suzuki says, we’re certainly not plants), then you can start to see how out-dated trophy hunting really is.

To me, lying down with a dead animal is a bit like lying down with a slain human! Except it’s worse! It’s worse because there might be 7,000 of those animals in existence in the known universe. And yet there are 7,000,000,000+ humans! So naturally I respect the animals about a million times more, don’t I?

How do I feel about the lying down with dead animals thing? Well, they are the only women that I would love to punch in the face. Or shoot in the back. That’s how I feel and unfortunately it would be illegal to act on that…
But you know anger and hatred doesn’t solve much, so I prefer to put their behaviour down to their upbringing. Trophy hunters can’t help what their parents taught them about morality and purpose in life. So it’s probably not even their fault. But I think if they are truly good people they should definitely learn something from it. Rather than be controversial, I think they should just go “Oh I didn’t know this would piss off a million people so much. Right. I better not do that any more.”

And that’s the thing with the Cecil killer. He completely justified his actions. He’s not a 19 year old teenager. And apparently he wants to continue trophy hunting!

I don’t even think people are annoyed that Cecil was a celebrity. There’s more to it than that. Cecil was merely the last straw in something that is coming under increasing pressure globally. I can assure you that the average citizen on Earth does not want to see ANY lions hunted, famous or otherwise. The fact that he was a celebrity is just the fucking icing on the cake as far as poaching is concerned.

So I don’t like his response. It’s pathetic. It’s like arguing that killing non-celebrity lions is okay. But it’s not. I think lions can and should take care of themselves. There were loads more lions, elephants and tigers, etc before humans came along. Humans are the ones that decimated their population. Before humans, lions and tigers ‘managed’ themselves just fine. The only thing that needs ‘managing’ are poachers and trophy hunters!

There’s still more to it than that though. As an Australian, I actually have an affinity for the underdog. And the underdog is the rhino. It’s the giraffe. It’s the lion. I have an affinity for the underdog. Because the odds are stacked against them and they definitely stand less chance of survival than a bunch of cowardly humans with high-powered rifles. As if human encroachment isn’t enough for them to deal with! So I have an affinity for the underdog, because they are out-gunned.

A much fairer fight would be to go hunting with your fingernails filed into little points!

I can understand people wanting to eat deer and other game for their meat. I can understand that and I can accept that it happens on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis. I get it. I get that people eat meat. I too was brought up to eat meat! We ate meat every single day. And I still sometimes eat meat. Although I have to say that I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to.

And yes I can even go so far as to admit that some hunters do seem to care about keeping nature alive. That’s not something I was previously willing to accept. It’s true that they pay for hunting and fishing licenses… it’s true that they are contributing more to conservation efforts than the average Joe (certainly not the average conservationist or activist though who donates money and asks for NOTHING in return).

What I truly don’t understand is people wanting to stuff dead animals in the name of conservation. Especially endangered animals. Why? I see this as no different to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who allegedly stored his victims’ heads in freezers — to preserve them so that he could look at them from time to time. But even Colonel Gaddafi had his good points! Even Colonel Gaddafi didn’t take selfies with his victims!! Even Colonel Gaddafi had his limits!!! Am I right?

The way I see it, ‘taxidermy is preservation’ not ‘conservation’. It wouldn’t bother me if the practice was completely outlawed. It’s probably illegal to stuff human beings. And likewise, it should be illegal to stuff endangered animals.
You asked how do I feel about it? Well, it’s a good thing that dentist isn’t living in in my suburb. Because it makes me so seething mad I have already committed all manner of horrible thought crimes. If it was legal, I’m sure there are many people that would want to torture the dude. Like it or not, that’s how it makes thousands of people feel.

The thing is, I know if Walter Palmer was my neighbour, I’m not sure I could stop myself from blowing up his letterbox at the very least. I’d just be plotting and scheming all sorts of Karma events. Possibly the letterbox would be sprayed with expanding foam. Possibly he would have nails propped up against his car tyres so that when he drives off he gets four instant flat tyres. Possibly there would be loads more sabotage events… you get the idea. Of course, that’s just how I feel. :-)
If Walter Palmer was my neighbour, I would undoubtedly have to move. Because, yes, basically I feel like torturing the little bastard myself. Does that anger come across in the text? The feelings you have asked for? I hope so. I hope it makes trophy hunters think twice. Because I’m predicting that before too long, they’re going to find themselves hunted.

So the last thing I am going to say is that I think that if trophy hunters GENUINELY cared about the environment, if they were really ‘concerned’ they’d be better off donating that $50,000 or $60,000 directly to an environmental charity.
They’re prime mission is not to save the world or make it a better place. They’re prime mission is not to feed African families. If it were, they would simply donate that money to Oxfam instead. Wouldn’t they?
So I think hunters in general should really be the ones to distinguish and distance themselves from trophy hunting, and fast. Before people start getting hurt. Because the world is ever-more connected. And what went on in the 1980’s doesn’t cut it in the age of information.

The only constant is change.

Today I’d like to talk about change. We live in a changing world. And yet most people seem to be very afraid of change…

When people talk about ‘change’, it’s usually on ordinary time scales: milliseconds, seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years.

Unless you’re a scientist, you rarely talk about change on timescales involving decades, centuries or millennia. Do you?

I’ve noticed most people don’t like change. People get all anxious whenever anyone speaks of change. We get anxious about changes outside of our control. We get anxious too about changes that are self-imposed.

Here’s the thing: most people are afraid of change when it is too great for them to cope. So they block it out, go into denial and distract themselves by doing something else like watching TV. [Read more…]

Kelvinator Foodarama

Here’s an interesting video for advertisers, marketers + product designers.

Last week one of my connections posted something about this being the “lemon age” of appliances. This got me thinking…

I had an old Kelvinator when I was growing up in the 80s. And yes, ever since then, the life expectancy of fridges has sorely decreased…

Ever since about the turn of the century, I’ve always wanted one those classic old vintage Kelvinators. Not for the style, just for the longevity. But I never did anything about it.

I must be getting old or something, because spurred on by “the age of lemons” post, tomorrow, that dream will become a reality! I’ll be the proud new owner of a working* vintage Kelvinator fridge.

Not a rebuilt modern ‘retro’ model. A fully original single upright “round shoulder” model. From the late 1950s.

These really should be in the MoMA collection or something if they aren’t already. For some reason I can’t find much info on them…

*In fact if you look inline, they all appear to be working still.

Word count

I just installed a word count plugin. It tells me that there are now over 138,006 published words on this site. I just thought you might like to know…

Ants in a field.

Mother nature herself

I’ve always wanted to catch a lightning storm on film!

We’ve just had two lightning storms in the space of 15 hours. Here’s a video I recorded last night. I’m very pleased that I was able to capture a lightning strike…

Open letter to Mcdonalds CEO, Steve Easterbrook.

“Hello, I was wondering who is in charge of selecting which drinking straws to use?”

Yes. Because I have a materials science degree/PhD under my belt and I can tell you right now that you are using the wrong material!

And right now I have 13,347 people who happen to agree with me on this one, 13,347 people who have signed a petition on Care2, specifically asking McDonalds to change to more eco-friendly straws.

I’d include the link, but LinkedIn won’t let me.
[you can google “mcdonalds eco paper straw” and find it easily enough though]

Why? Well, so that they don’t blow straight off of the landfill they all end up in, eventually ending up in the ocean, stuck up turtles’ nostrils and loads of other places that they shouldn’t be.

Why does the straw last thousands of years when your drinks barely last ten minutes? Why? Why those silly-looking stripes down the side of them? So we can identify all the McDonalds straws in the Pacific Ocean?

You, the entire McDonalds corporation, are giving polymers a bad name.

You can also read the following document, written by McDonalds itself in detailing your commitments to eco packaging in 2013-2015. Google “McDonald’s Australia Limited Australian Packaging Covenant” for more info on that.

But it seems you have done nothing since then. NOTHING. You even list plastic straws in the list.

Here’s a thought. Instead of writing useless reports on your [unbinding] commitment to ‘sustainability’, how about you actually DO something about it? Skip the report and issue a change notice.

Can your corporation not afford it? What’s the problem? Why the delay? And you are after all the CEO of McDonalds. Do you not have the power [or the balls] to convince the board members? What?

Even 7 year olds are requesting you to change your plastic straws for something more sustainable and less polluting…

I am truly sorry for being so rude blunt, but I am tired of getting the run around. I am tired of the polite reply. I want to get your attention and I want to see YOU make changes. Not in ten years. Now.

In the future, I’d like to be know for having a personality a bit like Gordon Ramsay — someone who knows his shit so well, he doesn’t even have to be polite.

Sincerely,
dr leslie dean brown
[former materials scientist]
aka “the eco nazi

Is the weather becoming our enemy?

Every time I turn on the news or read a newspaper, it seems as if everything is against us, the Earth itself included.

Have you noticed that certain weather incidents are now portrayed as a bad thing? Don’t misunderstand me. When I say they are bad, if there are casualties, it goes without saying that a tragedy has taken place.

What I don’t agree with is the notion that that the environment has somehow reached enemy status. Like it has a mind of its own and it’s out to get us to teach us a hard earned lesson. No! It’s our friend for Pete’s sake. It’s the oxygen we breathe. We grew up here. It’s almost like teenage children rebelling against their parents! Here’s a thought: if you’ve driven a car today, don’t attack the weather afterwards like some kind of evil foe. We’re the ones changing the weather.

I guess unlike a lot of other things, the weather can be dangerous and we’re naturally afraid of that. Just witness the air travel chaos caused by the recently erupting Icelandic volcano (Tenerife is a primary European holiday destination, so we were indirectly affected by all the flight cancellations). But then people begin to react with fear & anxiety which stems from a threat which usually can’t be controlled easily.

I’m just waiting for the day when some bright spark proposes [seriously] putting a stop to these ‘human inconveniences’ by plugging that Icelandic volcano or some other grandiose idea to reduce the volcanic ash cloud. Because my biggest fear is actually the moment when humans do try to stop or prevent weather phenomena in order to create a more ‘stable’ environment. Oh wait, seems it’s already happening:

Climate intervention is a field so new that the senior scientists who attended the five-day meeting don’t agree on its name. Some are calling it geoengineering; others call it climate remediation. Either way, it involves complex –and, some say, ethically questionable– processes to reduce the impact of global warming. Like dispersing sulfur particles into the atmosphere. I don’t think we should do that… we might just get sulfuric acid rain clouds.

You may or may not be aware that us humans have a great history of fucking things up big time. And the bigger the scheme, the greater the fuck-up.

Sorry to say this, but whatever we touch, we end up destroying in one way or another.

Sometimes we’re so stupid, we don’t even know what we’ve destroyed until it’s too late. Sometimes we’re that ignorant and we’ll never even know what we buggered up.

Mark my words people, because the first thing scientists do before attempting to create an artificial ‘solution’ is to measure or characterise something. Some of the most powerful computers on Earth are dedicated to weather prediction.

I hope we never reach the stage where we try to interfere with Earth’s natural systems. It’s probably too late, since it looks like we have already kick-started another global warming phase.

I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if some clever schmuck is right now devising an artificial gas halo to protect the Earth and cool it back to it’s natural level. Or they could extend the Earth’s orbit a bit and cool it down that way. If it isn’t clear already, I think that these sort of grandiose schemes are doomed to failure right from the start. Not because they won’t work, but because of the unintended consequences.

Journalists are not entirely to blame. You even hear people being interviewed on the street. Too much rain is bad, too much hot weather is bad, too much snow is bad. There is drought and at the same time there is flooding. But who decides how much is too much? In my opinion, the rapid change in weather patterns we see now probably are caused by humans.

I’m not convinced that we can fix our mistakes quite so simply. Anyone who thinks otherwise should probably read the book “why things bight back”… In conclusion, I think it’s our entire mindset we really do need to change not just our lifestyle.

Eco search term trends





On self driving trucks

I actually got my truck license a few months ago. It weighed more than 8 tonnes. No not the license, the truck!

And what I discovered was that driving a truck is way harder than driving a car. There are way more things to consider than driving a car. Length, height, width, load, stopping distance, being a courteous driver, defensive driving.

During the driving test, a large piece of polystyrene foam blew onto the road in front of my lane. I was quickly able to work out that it was not really any great threat, because of its low weight/inertia. And so I *didn’t* do an emergency stop and just rolled straight over the top of it. Are self driving vehicles able to distinguish truly hazardous obstacles from non-hazardous ones? I’m not convinced that the software ‘understands’ what it sees.

Would a self driving truck stop if live powerlines went down in right front of the roadway? Or would the software only see that as fairly harmless ‘lines’ crossing the lanes?

Does a self driving truck take extra precautions when a approaching a school zone? Or does it merely “slow down”?

Does a self driving truck take extra precautions if they see a drunk man staggering on the pavement outside a pub on a friday or saturday night? Or does it merely drive right past — oblivious to the accident that almost happened?

Does a self driving truck know when a sports car is approaching from way behind and give that extra bit of room to overtake?

Can a self driving truck actually ‘anticipate’ other dangerous scenarios? I don’t think so.

I can’t imagine a self-driving B-double or road train. Someone still has to unload the truck. Someone still has to accept the delivery. Someone still has to maintain the truck. Driving a truck is definitely not an easy thing to do. I can’t imagine how much code would be required to replace a truckie. All I know is that I do have a lot more respect for truckies now. A lot more.

 

McDonalds’ straws suck.

This sucks, McDonalds. Sorry, but it just sucks. And I for one am not afraid to say so.

It took two design agencies to model a new type of straw for thickshakes using computational fluid dynamics. I don’t know about other designers, but I think McDonalds should be focusing on more eco straws, not pfaffing around with this. IMHO, it’s a waste of talent.

You generate 60 million plastic straws every single day on this planet, practically none of which actually get recycled (do they?). And half of them are ending up in turtles’ nostrils and other marine creatures’ stomachs whenever they blow off of landfill.

It’s 2017. Note that the first three pages of google’s search results when searching for the term “McDonalds straw”. And not a single webpage spouting off about how fucked up it is.

How about doing something about that problem? How about something like this:

This is my PhD thesis, today it is exactly 12 years old.

Untitled-3

If you’d like to read all about the structure formation of natural opal, this is one of the most complete models of opal formation available anywhere.

Here is the link:

Characterisation of Australian Opals — leslie dean brown

At the time I remember my supervisor said to me that it was one of the most well-presented theses that he had ever seen.

Not necessarily the results, but the quality of the illustrations and I guess you could say the “design layout”.

I always want to be proud of my own work and do things to the best of my ability.

Today I was able to open up my original word document file that was almost 12 years old.

To my surprise, it kept the original formatting and page breaks. And why shouldn’t it? Although I am not so keen on the changes that have been implemented to Microsoft Word between since then.

Okay so truth be told,the original word document came in at 281 pages and the printed copy came in at 282. So something was not right.

It turns  out that one graph had to be pushed down by one line and the original date was also restored. I was so paraoid that I would forget to change the date, the field updated itself automatically.

The reason I am doing this and sharing it again here is that my thesis was finally digitised by the UTS library this week, but the quality ain’t all that great, because it was rescanned from the printed page.

Hopefully google robots will scour my site, find the pdf and index it so anyone can access it.

So I’m deciding to generate the pdf myself (I never got around to doing that).

The principle of “the five whys”.

It’s called “the five whys”. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.

I think more people should use this technique so that we can improve society. What is it? What does it entail?

It was ‘invented’ at the Toyota corporation as a method of determining the root cause of something unwanted. You keep asking the question why, a bit like a bratty little kid who first figures out the true power of the word ‘why’.

The central idea is to keep on asking ourselves the ‘why’ questions — we keep asking ourselves why something is so, even if we might not like the answers.

For example, if we apply the principles of the five whys to depression, we may discover the true cause of depression (at least in some people). Scientists have got to the point that they can determine whether someone is depressed based on their brain chemistry. Right, but do they then ask the further question: what causes those brain chemicals to be different? One line of research will lead to a ‘cure’. But the other will lead to ‘prevention’. Which is better? I already know the answer.

It’s no good knowing about brain chemicals if we don’t know what factor change the chemicals in the first place. Otherwise we will never prevent depression, we will only have a ‘cure’. So I think asking the five whys in terms of depression is a simple but effective approach. I think that is part of the success of the very simple approach to holistice medicine.

And this is why I think psychology is a very powerful and underrated tool. Because psychologists, unlike psychiatrists, get to the root causes. Psychologists are already three steps ahead of the scientists studying brain chemistry. Because first of all, psychologists have already figured this out. Secondly, they are already asking the five whys. In fact, they are asking a hundred or even a thousand whys. And they already know that depression has triggers. It’s their job to look for the triggers.

The triggers in my case are a mixture of genetic and environmental. They are genetic because I’m told that I have the ‘melancholy’ or inhereted type of depression as opposed to aquiring depression. That’s all I know.

I can tell you right now what causes my depression, what triggers it. I’m going to do this in point form:

  • Firstly, seeing concrete everywhere. I believe that it’s a horrible ugly material. It’s overused, it’s grey and —unlike nature— it’s very prone to being sprayed with graffiti.
  • Suburbs. Yes. suburbs. I generally find suburbs ugly and therefore depressing. Particularly places that have been either not well designed or overdesigned. That includes all forms of urbanisation, land clearing and ‘development’.
  • I generally find any place without trees quite literally depressing. So in my opinion, if you’re a town planner or an architect, and you’re reading this, the best thing you can do is a) design around existing trees b) plant more trees (and not just in a hole in the asphalt, because as one person put it: “a tree is a community”)
  • Cars with exhaust pipes. Because I have known for some 25 years now about global warming. It’s time to stop producing fucking internal combustion engines already and build more electric-powered cars.
  • Grass. I find the patch of mono-specific grass to be unnatural and therefore depressing. I think back gardens need to look more like meadows. That would attract bees and other insects like dragonflies.
  • Lately, mowers. Why do we even mow grass? Really, what for? If we don’t like long grass, why did we put it there to start with? Depressing.

Today, that’s all I’d like to talk about. But in future I will return to the subject of the five whys, but next time it will be applied to GMOs.