1 March 2019
Last night heard London's Gentle Author, of the famous Spitalfields Life site, speak to artist Doreen Fletcher. Really interesting, amazing and refreshing to listen to the sincere passion both have for East London.
You can read the details at the links mentioned here, but very briefly, Doreen had been painting East London from the early 80s to the early 2000s. She then stopped when she started working a more secure 9-5 job. As she said in the talk, "I did not want to be just a Saturday/Sunday painter." The Gentle Author then discovered her and was amazed to find that she still had dozens of paintings hidden away in her attic. Well, she is now finally gaining the reputation she deserves - in fact she has now converted her attic to a studio and has started painting again.
Her retrospective is at Bow Arts until March 24th, 2019.
Above are just a few paintings that I really like, if only because they are only one minute from my house! I walk past each of these places almost every day.
4 May 2018Hi MLE,I’ve been thinking a lot about Lush Cosmetics lately… I’ve known this brand since forever, as there were always shops in the city where I grew up in Canada. However, I’ve never really shopped there, as I’ve never really bought things with fragrance. Well, now I am a big fan! There are so many things I didn’t know or appreciate about this brand until recently, and I thought I’d pass thing along to you, as you may not have known either.First, a little background. I had an epiphany (finally) last year: I buy things based on "price" and "brand" (order depends on the product). Now I buy things based on another variable: "ethics." And I've pushed "brand" out. Sometimes I put “ethics” ahead of “price,” and I think of this a bit like a donation to charity. Sometimes I put “price” first, but that’s okay. Often, however, I find I can shop ethically without it being any more expensive than what I was buying before.I have a good friend who works at Pepsi. I was discussing ethics with her one day, and she said something that may have lead to this epiphany. She said quite simply, “as long as consumers want to buy something, we will give it to them.” Our consumer dollar is very very powerful. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that where we put it has a significant effect on the world in which we live.Hence I have been doing a lot of research into the ethics of the companies I buy from, especially regularly. In terms of cosmetics, my buying has totally changed. No more MAC, Nars and Chanel. I buy from companies like Lush:Every Lush product is made by hand.Lush volunteers to pay the Living Wage (higher than the minimum wage) to all its staff.Lush has doubled maternity and paternity leave and will pay for 20 hours a week of childcare for primary care-givers who have been with the company at least two years and return to full-time work.Lush was awarded the Fair Tax Mark. It reports on tax paid in each country, showing an effective rate of 30.5 per cent, compared with UK standard corporation tax of 20 per cent.Lush refuses to open stores in China because of animal testing regulations. (Though the soap bar above is created to bring to China).Lush does not buy from companies that carry out, fund, or commission any animal testing. They test their products on human volunteers before they are sold to the public.Lush products are 100% vegetarian, while 80% are vegan.Over 40% of Lush products are sold packaging-free. Says Lush, “For most cosmetics, you're paying more for the packaging than you are for the product. Something like seven parts packaging and three parts contents is the norm, and that's just for a branded package of shower gel. I'd like [the cosmetics industry] to stop being subdivision of the packaging industry.”Lush has phased out its use of sodium palm kernelate, which is often derived from trees in the natural habitat of orangutans and home to tropical forests with overall endangered biodiversity. Since 2008, all Lush soaps have been made with palm-free soap base, and they have since removed all traces of palm oil from the products.In 2007, Lush launched Charity Pot. One-hundred percent of the purchase price goes into a Charity Pot Fund, which is donated to environmental, humanitarian and animal rights charities. In the first five years, the company donated $2 million to charities through the programme.The annual £250,000 LUSH Prize is designed to reward individuals working in the field of cruelty-free scientific research, awareness-raising and lobbying to help bring an end to animal testing. Recipients could be scientists, campaigners, lobbyists, training specialists and young researchers.Lush admits a lot of the campaigning it does has nothing to do with its own business. Far from carefully choosing a few business-friendly good causes, Lush has backed a plethora of controversial causes from Guantanamo prisoners, to hunt saboteurs and the anti-fracking campaign. Such blatant politicisation is a tactic few other businesses in the UK seem willing to replicate.But it is working for Lush. Worldwide sales in 2016 were £723 million, an increase of 26% over the previous year. The company is projecting 25% growth for fiscal 2017. Maybe more companies will follow suit?
7 April 2017Hello MLE,As you know, I was on the the Canary Islands the past couple weeks. While on the island of Lanzarote, I have come across local artist who is very famous over here, and who more people should know about. I really admire him the more I learn about him and I thought you may like to hear his story.Many people warned me about the Canary Islands: “there are too many greasy busloads of budget holiday makers who have ruined it.” Well, I wanted to see for myself. And I learned that if you take a drive into the interior of Lanzarote, and look at it through the eyes of this local artist (and one of the world’s great tourism innovators) you won’t see a cheap package destination - rather you’ll see what the future was meant to look like.This local artist is Cesar Manrique - who was a true multidisciplinarian: a painter, a sculptor, an architect, a town planner, an ecologist, a landscape gardener and (most interestingly to me) a campaigner.He was born in Lanzarote in 1919 to well-off middle-class family. He studied architecture for a few years before studying fine art in Madrid. After graduating, he lived in New York where he rubbed shoulders with the celebs of the day, including Andy Warhol. He became a very successful artist, with a number of exhibitions in New York - but he chose not stay there. Luckily for Lanzarote, he chose to return. In the 1970s this island was one of the very first places in Europe to introduce package holidays, and his home needed him…In Cesar’s own words: “When I returned from New York, I came with the intention of turning my native island into one of the most beautiful places in the planet, due to the endless possibilities that Lanzarote had to offer… I made it a point to show Lanzarote to the world.”Lanzarote today would be little more than an all-inclusive tourist trap, but it has more than this, and we all have Cesar Manrique to thank. Cesar Manrique is inexplicable without Lanzarote; Lanzarote is also inexplicable without Cesar Manrique.Cesar was one of these people who was deemed eccentric, but he was really only way ahead of his time. For example, he lobbied authorities to develop sensitive “intelligent tourism” - something that was relatively unheard of in the 60s and 70s. In his words: “We had to do things correctly, thinking of the tourists that come here to see what they can’t see in other places.”Thanks to him even today, advertising is strictly controlled: “I think this is the first place in Europe where all the advertisements have been removed from the landscape. I used to go around at night destroying the adverts. We have advertising in the press, on the radio, on TV, and also when you go to see the nature? Enough!”Building is also controlled: Unlike the other islands, Lanzarote is mostly 2 storey, and some 4 storey buildings in the traditional white with green trim. Says Alejandro Gonzalez of the Cesar Manrique Foundation: “…he was trying to educate the local people to build their houses using traditional techniques, reshaping the landscape as they had for hundreds of years instead of using cheap new materials. They were very sceptical at first, but now when you ask any of the old timers about Manrique they will tell you he is a master, a genius.”Finally, unlike most people at the time (and even today), Cesar was deeply concerned about the environment, and felt frightened and pessimistic for the future that he saw being carved out ahead of him.Over time, he peppered Lanzarote with sculptures, fantastical attractions, signs and stunning pieces of architecture:Jameos Del Agua (pictured above), is a volcanic tunnel turned cultural centre that features a concert hall, two dance floors, three bars, an underground lake filled with blind albino crabs, and a swimming pool that only the King of Spain is allowed to swim in.Says Pepin Ramirez, one of Manrique’s childhood friends, who had become a prominent politician: “The Jameos would have been much cheaper to build then, because the skilled labour and knowledge of handcraft was more readily available. Today it would be impossible.”Taro de Tahiche, was Cesar’s private home (also pictured above) between 1968 and 1990. It is dug out of five underground volcanic bubbles, and like so much of his work, sympathetically blends in with it’s natural environment.Cesar faced his biggest challenge in the 80s, when the Canaries really started to become popular as a budget tourist destination. The developers really pushed their way in, and so began a relentless tide of soulless construction that threatened to destroy everything he had worked for.Manrique began protesting at the building sites, lobbying the government and fighting to resist this development. “I don’t have any kind of patriotic romanticism,” he said in the early 90s. “I am a citizen of the world, and we have to have a feeling for the future, not a stupid and provincial mentality. I think the most beautiful feeling is to be a citizen of the world. But there is a speculative mafia in Lanzarote that I hate from the deepest place of my soul. Even Mussolini would not have allowed this fascist architecture, because it is horrible, terrible! But there is hope. Berlin was destroyed during the war, it has been rebuilt into an extraordinary city. Even though we destroy the Canary Islands, there is always hope from people with fantasies, good and enthusiastic people.”The resorts of Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise continued to expand regardless of Cesar’s protestations, albeit without the massive high-rise apartment blocks that have plagued the other Canary Islands.After his death, the Fundaçion Cesar Manrique was established to continue Manrique’s work for the island, and in recent years they have brought to light a number of illegally built hotels. However, they have not been able to stop the development of Playa Blanca, the island’s third resort, which has expanded rapidly in recent years. “It used to be just a pretty little fishing village,” explains Jose Amigo, owner of the small rustic hotel Casona de Yaiza in the middle of the island. “But instead of keeping the old town and developing it outwards, keeping the feel of the traditional buildings and creating high quality accommodation, they tore it all down and started to build massive budget hotels. Cesar wanted Lanzarote to be an island where there would be a queue to get in – but how can you create that kind of place when you build hotels that have 800 rooms?”I’m sure if Cesar saw Lanzarote today, he would be very sad about some parts of it. But as soon as you leave those parts, the beautiful island that he helped to create is pretty much as he left it.Suzan
23 January 2017Hi MLE, Now that we have a climate change denier in the White House, it seems timely to report on my correspondence with UNICEF regarding responsible use of plastic bags. It was disappointing and frustrating.They told me that it is okay to manufacture, and then discard tens of thousands of unused plastic bags for a few seconds of publicity at a tennis championship, even when many alternatives were available. The first photo above shows the audience at this event holding up these bags for a few seconds of television coverage. The second image shows all bags that were discarded afterwards.Sure Donald Trump and governments around the world initiate environmental policies, but we all have to do our part for these to be effective. Unless individuals, corporations (not just groceries stores), and organisations (yes, even non profits like UNICEF), change the way they use plastic bags, this will remain a serious environmental issue.I believe that we need to consistently speak up against such behaviour, if we want to see change. If we don’t say anything, it sends the message that we're okay with it, and such behaviour will likely continue on and on and on.So I wrote UNICEF a letter. And they replied, with a very defensive letter stating they did nothing wrong:- The bags were “low density polyethylene” - but most plastic bags are made out of this material. LDPE is non-biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.- The bags could be reused as a plastic ‘bag for life’ - but this is a familiar argument. One of these thicker bags need to be used at least 7 times to justify replacing a thinner bag. The 15,000 ‘bags for life’ used at this tennis tournament are about the same as 105,000 thinner plastic bags. Importantly, no one ever asked for these bags, no one wanted them, and hardly anyone took their bag home with them to reuse.- The bags are recyclable - but UNICEF never ensured that there were any recycling facilities available for us to put these bags for recycling. And of course, the solution is to reduce plastic bag consumption, not recycle. This is why many governments, including the UK, have imposed a charge for plastic bags in shops in an effort to reduce their numbers.
Yes, UNICEF's reply was disappointing and frustrating, especially as I am a UNICEF supporter. I admit that I expected that they would at least consider making even some small change... But I am happy I took the time to write to them, as I remain convinced that when people speaking up, with time, sometimes change can occur. It was better than doing nothing.
- -- The U.S alone uses 12 million barrels of oil every year to make plastic bags.- 70% of marine pollution is caused by plastic.- Because of the environmental damage they cause, many governments have banned plastic bags completely, including Mexico City and Italy.Suzan
Posted in: environment