Category: Responsible Consumption

This is America, the rest is a lie (part II)

I’ll tell you all about our wonderful time in Yosemite national park A S A P – but first Ill take you on a visual journey of the road trip getting there from Fresno.

Starting with a breakfast at a good old American diner.

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In places like these (I refer to the more remote, local diners) pancakes are pretty much the only veggie option (if you remember to tell them to skip the bacon).. And they are yummy! Our waiter (also from Mexico) even told us they’re healthy!?

Next on the bucket list before departure was to find a bike for Burning Man, thus we Googled markets in the area, and sure thing; Every weekend there are two separate (flee) markets in little Fresno. We only made it to one of them, which was enough as it was a huge Mexican market with dream bargains. We got ourselves a cowboy hat, zebra scarf, socks and a BIKE.

Walking around on the market was practically impossible due to the heath (35 degrees and no shade to hide in), but when I got to the – in my view surprisingly large – bird sale section I had to stop for some serious purchase considerations.

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Why not take some of these poor birds to Yosemite or even Burning Man, and free them free, I thought. After discussing whether they’re better of in these cages hoping for new kind owners, or in the Nevada dessert, we decided to trust the salesmen saying “They are happy birds.”

“So are we” I told myself  when we next hit the road for a three hour long journey towards Yosemite National park.

 

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Things we saw on the way:

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Oh, America, you little clown.

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The last picture is from Nevada, very close to the Black Rock desert where we soon will enter what everybody tells us will change our lives, the Burning Man festival.

Peace & Love

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Venice Beach, baby

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It may be a touristy cliche strolling down Venice beach with an ice cream, gawking at the rollerblading girls in bikinis, the street performers, the body builders at Muscle beach and getting surprised that the Baywatch towers and cars look exactly like in the series.

But I loved it!

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Spending a day in Venice Beach also made us realise its neighborhoods are more fun than the ones of West Hollywood (where we stay), though it’s true we haven’t got our head around local things in Hollywood yet,  part from understanding that the area – just like Venice beach – truly EXIST on earth (and not only on Television).

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Indeed, I’ve been way too prejudiced about this place. Somehow I wasn’t specifically interested in neither Venice beach, Santa Monica or Hollywood. I simply thought I knew them.

You know, when you’ve got a destination so interpreted (involuntarily or not) through images for so long you think you know it. That’s one of tourism’s logics. The travel industry lives on people’s imaginations of places. Depending on your interest, tastes and presumptions, you’d think of a destination as different or indifferent, a-must-see, or not interesting at all, paradise or hell.

Personally I think most destinations are interesting even though I don’t picture myself loving that specific place due to my assumptions of its features and energies. Still, I always desire to see new places, so I can understand them better and make up my own mind about them.

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Thus,  I really found myself getting surprised while walking and biking around on Venice beach. I kind of expected Hasselhof and the bike cops from that stupid series (I watched when I was 17) to turn up around every corner. I understood I had many more prejudices than I was aware of. And I’m starting to realise that L.A is everything and nothing like the stereotypes we’ve been told.

The places from telly do exist. Yet, it’s all so much more low key than it is on telly… (hah!)

In real life, lots of interesting, chill & fun people turned up wherever we went, with big smiles on their faces – interested in chatting. Everybody I saw and talked to struck me as very welcoming towards the hordes of tourists occupying their streets.

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Now, I’ve not doubted Americans friendliness. I certainly became aware of that during a visit to the country (East side) in 2006. I guess I’ve just forgot how important that is for a place to feel good – especially when you’re only visiting a day or a two and don’t have the time to get under everybody’s skin.

Although, friendliness is one thing. I can honestly do without it when I travel, as long as people come across as genuine. Thing is, they do in Venice beach. Moreover, the locals (or whoever live here and create this place into what it is) seemed truly respectful towards the locality of the place.

Saying that I refer to the low branding on site and the vast variety of all kinds of random small businesses and organisations existing in one small place. Just a stone throw away from the touristy Venice beach strip there are plenty of more residential streets, all with colorful buildings and people, many with hipstery corners and small restaurants and shops.

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Coffee shop on Rose ave.

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Shop with a Green approach on Rose ave.

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And. The Californian cherry on the top is that extra liberal, somewhat edgy and always good old American outgoing touch of theirs.

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Really liberal.

Stunning short movie

I just found a treasure of a short movie! Please take 15 minutes to watch it.

Jonah is a beautiful and thought-provoking story about dreams and expectations regarding tourism development in a poor place.

Burning Man here we come!

So hold the press motha f’ers: FINALLY IT’S CONFIRMED: WE ARE GOING TO BURNING MAN!

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photo creds: dailymail.co.uk

Oh God, how I’ve wanted this so badly for so long!! And as I wrote about a time ago, my long time beloved, yet distant, thus missed friend, Monika from Canada is FINALLY getting married to her Tom in the US mid September, which gives us the perfect opportunity to do a much wanted West-coast journey prior to the wedding, and maybe some more traveling in the region afterwards. As Burning man happens in the transaction of August / September, we instantly started dreaming about and planning how to for once get there.

Thing is with Burning man, tickets are sold out ages ago, and left overs or second hand tickets aren’t as easy to get for this fest as for many others. However. Thanks to my man’s industry contacts we didn’t even have to suffer much to get the tickets, because yesterday we got two left overs confirmed! I am soooo happy and excited and  just spent the morning reading advices for fresh men, looking at house cars, masks and bikes, temperatures etc.

So. What is so special with Burning man? As said on their official website; “trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind”... Fair enough.

That around 30,000 people leave their homes in order to live for a week or more in the middle of the dessert, far away from cities, shops, traffic and a hectic society, where the day is as hot as the nights are cold, may be weird to some. However, community is the word. The need to escape perhaps, but if so, with a desire of creativity, alternative life style or a more meaningful way of spending time on this planet. With a will to share love and open-mindedness with others. “Burners” as they are called after having been once, will never be the exact same person again, many claim.

Hah! Well, bring it on, I’m ready.

Personally since I discovered the festival through some random Norwegian media articles, I’ve kept an eye on Burning man, dreaming of once attending, mean while getting updated on the fest yearly through blogs, pictures and stories among friends that have been there..

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What happens during Burning man is that “once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever”.

I mean, look at this:

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photo creds: festivalfling.com

One of the reasons of its success, as well as its uniqueness is that “Burning Man isn’t your usual festival, with big acts booked to play on massive stages. In fact, it’s more of a city than a festival, wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the event”.

I like! All sounds very much like Responsible Travel and Consumption to me.

Still keen to learn more?

Here are the festival’s ten principles, as seen on the official website.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Gifting
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Participation
Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediacy
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

Ha! To be continued then 😉

Bridges for Music at Sonar 2013

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Few people would have expected to see Richie Hawtin, Luciano and Skrillex in the same panel discussing social responsibility within EDM (Electronic Dance Music), but that is what people got last Friday at Sonar. The three electronic musical icons were invited to talk about their involvement and experiences with the project of Bridges for Music in South Africa together with the organisation’s director, Valentino Barrioseta. For the lattter it was of course like a dream coming true; seldom have I seen his eyes sparkle as much as this day. 😉

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As I lived the experiences up-close together with the above mentioned men and their crews (told in previous posts here), the excitement of seeing them gathered to present it at a festival like Sonar was huge. Considering the full schedules these guys have one can only imagine how much they’ve traveled since February/ March in South Africa.. Thus some days prior to the conference V and I talked about whether it could seem difficult for them to recall how they perceived the special atmosphere during the township events and express it ‘live’. Additionally we were excited to see how many people would appear.

Thumbs up! Despite of being held in English only, the conference attracted over 200 people and what we knew already we just got confirmed again; Rich, Lucien and Sonny are all highly passionate and professional artists that know well how to engage with their audience. From the very beginning they shared their personal reasons for believing in the project and told various anecdotes surrounding their involvement.

Eager to share the moment we posted many quotes directly to Twitter. Have a look:

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It was indeed touching and inspiring to hear the way Rich, Lucien and Sonny talked about their experiences and motivation for the project’s future. And after the screening of this video, I spotted that more than one person was indicating the appearing goose bumps on their arms.

Have you not seen it yet? Then have a look.

If this interests you, please make sure to like Bridges for Music on Facebook and follow the project on Twitter. I can assure you a lot of cool stuff is to come from that side!

Cheerio

Why love festivals

The internet has revolutionized the world in many ways; one being the way we’ve shared and got access to new music. But whilst file downloading facilities for long has been an issue of concern in the music industry because music artists earn a lot less on album sales than what used to be the case, the new paradigm for music sharing has indeed contributed to many positive trends; like for instance the clear increase in live music events.

Think about it. Today’s musicians can share, promote and sell their art via the internet in so many new ways at the same time as they deliver it all in person to their audiences in terms of concerts. Because indeed, the new paradigm has led to new music events popping up, and old ones becoming even more popular. And then I’m particularly speaking about festivals.

As a devoted concert- and festival goer since my early childhood I’m personally very thrilled about this development. And I’m not saying that solely from a hedonistic point of view, but out of the strong belief that we all earn on a world where competition within art sectors is more fair. People become better and happier in a world where we more often get together to enjoy art, created by many more artists because it generates new sources for inspiration and creativity as well as an increased feeling of community.

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Therefore I’ve put together 4 reasons why to LOVE festivals:

1. Festivals cultivate a special type of atmosphere. Festivals are massive events, they become experiences. Think about it, if you go see Coldplay on their own, for example, you might go with one or two friends, you might have a good time, and then the whole thing’s over in two hours. But if you go to a festival, you spend the entire weekend surrounded by a (bigger) group of friends and tens of thousands “alike” people and there are plenty of concerts to choose from.

2. Festivals are great places to discover newer artists. At a regular concert, you go because you know and like that band and want to see it, but at festivals the lineup is varied and really diverse. You can read about unknown bands and go to their set and discover new acts.

3. Festivals offer several alternatives to music acts for peoples’ get-together and inspiration, and cater for more diverse group of people. This means you are more likely to meet many interesting people (like yourself) on a festival. Hours spent in your camp, in toilet- and food & beer queues often means new friendships, or at least a fun flirt and timely deep random conversation with people you don’t know. And trust me, many of these talks wouldn’t be as natural to get into while queuing for an ATM on any high street during a working day. Because people relax and loose up when at a festival. This is what I refer to with ‘the feeling of community’.

4. Lastly, festivals are good for the economy – many ways. Recently I read that according to Steve Baltin from Rolling Stone magazine, the trend of festivals selling out earlier and earlier each year is a reflection of how people are watching their spending these days. He said that “due to recession people don’t have a lot of money, and the economy is struggling, therefore people rather spend $300 to go see 50 bands and get a feel for everything, or go spend $70 to see one of these headlining bands on their own”. I’m not a victim for recession, but follow that strategy anyway, because I feel I get much more value for the money.

Besides, how many concerts have you seen organised as non-profit events? Not many, right. What I early on loved with festivals like Roskilde and Glastonbury is their non-profit structure and choices of worthy causes. I’m confident that this attracts certain people and energies that we have to keep finding place for in this capitalistic world…

Here’s to a very happy festival summer!

 

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Please note: This post is also published on www.RhythmTravels.com

How to become a responsible consumer?

In our times, public awareness about responsible consumption is fortunately increasing. And whether one is looking at the travel – (that I write a lot about), textile -, or food industry, similar points become clear:

In order to combat unethical production practices, it is essential that consumers get aware of the issues and understand their potential to change things for the better by using their purchase power. In this lays the notion that it is essential that consumers don’t expect that private sectors (corporations) and governments alone to take responsibility. The latter factor relates to a common reason for why irresponsible practices continue to thrive: the lack of an all-industry-stakeholders responsible approach.

Thus if consumers understood themselves as a crucially important stakeholder group, perhaps they’d be less passive and more aware of their power to positively impact on the production circle by taking a few aware actions.

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Here are 10 good advices for responsible consumption:

1. Like I wrote about in the previous post, the first action is simply gaining awareness. Get to know a little more about why the system we live in today is like it is. If you really care and wish it would be fairer for all of us, decide to engage somehow. Don’t avoid engaging due to a belief that your small actions won’t count. This is a common misconception that too many of us have, that ironically only benefits the system to continue being unfair.The more awareness you gain, the more you engage one way or another and the more others do too. It’s a lovely good circle to discover. 

2. When you start engaging, let the world know it. Social media platforms are wonderful channels for this purpose.

3. Strongly linked to the above: Discuss and debate the purpose of your engagement. Of course you can be a total fashion slave AND engaged in how the textile producers’ worker conditions. In fact it makes more sense to show that you care about ethical production the more interested you are in a product. This way you show the world that you reflect and understand how things are interrelated.

4. Find out what further engagement you can afford to take. For instance, if you have some favorite designers or tour operators you purchase from, or food chains you love, check out their CSR schemes, and google their names + topics like location of fabrics, production place, social responsibility, transparency etc. If you cant find enough information, email them about your concerns. Trust that your voice has a real impact!

5. Yes, I know. It may be both time-consuming and overwhelming to search for ethical and responsible companies. Therefore the good news are that many organisations and individuals have done a big part of the work for you already. Find out more about civil society organisations and initiatives within the sector you are interested in approaching more responsibly. Despite of being critised as slactivism in the media, believe me on this: It is better to sign online petitions than doing nothing. There are several proofs this has increased improved corporate & government action.

6. Buy ethical. Many (e.g. travel, clothing, food and technology) companies now a days have a well designed CSR scheme or show ethical credentials regarding the environment and local communities they affect. However, when you are now entering the ‘awareness world’ don’t believe everything you read at first glance. Take some time to browse various sources; jointly look at websites, NGO sites and media articles (or blogs) about products/ companies you’re interested in in order to avoid trusting the many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there.

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7. Support companies that are ‘ethical’ based on more than a few environmental credentials. Whatever industry you are purchasing products from, they are produced by human beings, and the sad truth is that most of these workers have few or none worker rights compared to our own. So, think about the environment yes, but look for companies that support workers rights and actively tell you what they assure of goods for their most vulnerable workers.

8. Whenever tragedies like the recent one in Bangladesh happens, get informed by, engage with and support organisations that work hard to teach us about this. Due to some of them and a long time pressure from the media and consumers, H&M, Tesco, Helly Hansen +++ actually just signed new agreements to OPENLY tell where all their production takes place. This means a tremendously lot for many poor workers in the ‘Global South’ and wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for social media and consumers’ engagement on top of civil society’s work. You can learn more about a very active and good organisation called Clean Clothes here

9. Get familiar with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and opinions about fair labour standards, which is the very core of the question of this blog post: Why become a responsible consumer? You can read about ILO here.

10. Lastly. Beware of the manipulative consumption industry and try to purchase less crap in general! 🙂

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