Two Music Videos About Certain Inconvenient Truths

June 28, 2008

Friday afternoon: Al Gore blamed for 2000 election mess.

Friday evening: Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” on tv! I watched it all over again. It never ceases to impress, depress, overwhelm, and energize. I suppose if Gore had become president, he would not have had the time to focus on the bigger picture. Perhaps we are winning the more crucial fight after all. Or, at least we’re thinking about it.

The film always reminds me of one of the most visually- and aurally-captivating music videos I’ve come across:

“Timber” by Coldcut Hexstatic (1997). The mashups and repetitive sequencing in both sound and image are STILL unmatched today. (Ideally, watch on a large screen with major speakers. Till then, here’s a YouTube version.) This is a must-see.

And of course, the film’s perfectly-fitting and always-inspiring theme song: “I Need to Wake Up” by Melissa Etheridge (2006).

Here’s to Al Gore. And respecting the earth.

A Car Called Utopia

June 16, 2008

Green has been coopted as the new black. And the race is on to find “sustainable” means to travel more efficiently, quickly, and quietly along the earth’s surface. For a world increasingly hooked on speed and mobility, visions of utopia seem to be appearing in the shape of mass-producible compact cars powered by alternative — or cheaper — fuel sources.

BBC reports today that Honda of Japan is set to produce the first zero-emission, hydrogen-powered car. Branded FCX Clarity, the four-seater will run on fuel cells powered by hydrogen and electricity.

In the past six months, we’ve read about: the LIFEcar, a gorgeous, lightweight hydrogen-powered sports car being developed by UK’s Morgan Motor Co.; India’s Tata Nano aka “the people’s car”: high on fuel efficiency and low on emissions at a price tag of $2,500; and American GM’s ethanol-ready flexfuel engine. Lots more to come.

What do these have in common?

Aside from potentially smaller carbon footprints, these models of utopia have NOT changed much from Ford’s original Model T in 1908. They’re mass-produced wheeled units that can transport a family of passengers, have some type of protective and stylized exterior, and carry their own motors that run on some type of fuel.

Ford’s goal then was to get as many of these into as many consumer households. This launched the U.S. auto industry, but also led to the demise of U.S. railroads, i.e., collective forms of transportation.

No doubt, there is a need for these individual traveling units we call cars. But I hope we also start to see energy solutions for collective transportation systems.

The future, to me, lies in hybrid public-private people-movers that rethink the physics of movement, balance, and speed — perhaps a flex-form vehicle that combines and extends beyond the Getty Museum’s monorail, Dean Kamen’s segway, the batmobile, a sailboat, and a tandem bike. Not much to ask! Till then…


NOT Stuff White People Like (or a Forum on Indigenous People We’ve Barely Heard About)

April 21, 2008

Evo MoralesIn the past month of writing on WordPress, I’ve noticed that a blog called “Stuff White People Like” always seems to top the list of popular blogs. I thought I’d break ranks and look at some stuff white people do not seem to like very much. As the Clinton-Obama media spectacle roars on and the papal smoke leaves our post-9/11 air, the 7th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened today with barely a whimper. Evo Morales (Bolivia’s first indigenous President) led the opening ceremony at UN Headquarters this morning, launching a two-week long discussion on the session’s special theme:

“Climate change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges.”

Climate Change. Sustainability. Hunger. These are timely issues, HOT topics. Stuff white people seem to like very much lately. But, from the perspective and for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples. Now this makes a huge difference. Would it still count as stuff white people like or care about? Looking at coverage on the major English-speaking news publications, apparently NOT. As I’m writing this entry, there have been only two (2) news mentions. One in BBC News (< clicking on this link is a waste of your time) titled “Capitalism Harms Planet – Morales” where Morales’ speech is basically reduced to a single quote: “If we want to save our planet earth, to save life, to save mankind, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system.” This seems so uninteresting to the reporter that she barely manages to write a halfway decent summary of Morales’ other points: “In a side swipe at Brazil, major manufacturers of the biofuel ethanol, he said some presidents were putting cars ahead of people.” Okay.

The second news mention appears in Reuters UK. Titled “Bolivia’s Morales says biofuels serious problem to poor”, it’s at least a better snapshot of the complex issues now facing Bolivia and indigenous peoples. The multinational push for biofuels is driving up food prices, climate change, and social unrest. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, as policies and programs of the IMF and the World Bank widen the gaps. In standing for the poor and the indigenous, Morales now faces intensifying opposition from provinces that are seeking autonomy from his central government.

We read about wars, food riots, worker strikes, and government lockdowns and wonder what the world is coming to. We are seduced by talk of change from any stage, university or pulpit. We like to think we can teach “other people” better solutions. The pathetic news coverage of this forum is a clear indication of how much we really care. Maybe all we really care about is Stuff White People Like. I want to disagree. We need to listen, particularly to indigenous peoples who are losing everything. And give greater coverage to leaders who do not arrive in white robes on Shepherd One, but in everyday clothes of working people.

Links to background on Bolivia’s President Evo Morales:,, and a 9-minute video of Jon Stewart interviewing Morales on “The Daily Show” back in September 2007.