Unsustainable European Vacationing

It has always seemed like, when compared with say – the US, Europe is credited for being more environmentally conscious.

Indeed, when you look at many Central European capitals, there is strong evidence when it comes to energy conservation, waste management, and alternative transport investment. Daily life might be said to have a flavor of “environmental consciousness”.

Yet as I look around during my recent semi-vacations to places like where I sit now – Portugal’s southern beach paradise: Algarve, there is a far different spirit.
Perhaps it begins at the airport, as you sit waiting to get on your giant carbon generating flight, a look out across the tarmac reveals a big number of new airline companies you’ve never heard of. Indeed after all the 9/11 airline industry drama, low cost flights are booming in Europe, and it would seem that every filthy rich business person is launching some easyjet style point, click, and pollute airline. And the people are eating it up, even if they militantly recycle and never leave the lights on at home.

At the popular destinations, Europeans seem to also take a break from their green lives. Renting cars and driving all over beach resorts, many of which have no public transportation anyway, and you don’t vote or live there so no chance to vote on that issue anytime soon. Instead there are cars everywhere, including the SUV’s since many Mediterranean getaways involve some crazy uphill offroad pollute-the-place driving.

Then you head to the hotel, where the towels are washed everyday with lots of industrial chemical filled detergents, and people specialize in leaving the lights on or turning the air condition nice and high. Or maybe they buy a fancy new vila built on what was formerly the natural habitat of plants and animals.

All this can be topped off by a big meal at a local restaurant that uses lots of non-recyclable materials, maintains all kinds of energy in-efficiant fridges, and gives you lots of plastic bottles which you happily take and possibly throw into a random trash can later. Or it stays on the beach and the beach fairy recycles it.

Sheep

I know there are ambitious green vacation projects taking root, even in places like Portugal where I recently stopped at an ecological farm. But I also know that an unsustainable number of middle and upperclass Europeans are coming to these massively popular destinations and getting away from it all, including their sense of respect for the environment. And the tourist destinations themselves aren’t doing nearly enough to help in the process, keeping the priority to the timeless goal of making big bucks this summer and worrying about everything else later. Even if there is no later.

Going green in our daily lives is more than a nice idea, it is absolutely necessary for having any kind of future. But it is not something we as Europeans should pat ourselves on the back for and then take a vacation from it as if we’ve done enough. It is a lifestyle for everyday, anywhere and everywhere.

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Executions and Torture Flights

My good friends and fellow podcasters have been speaking about the upcoming execution of Troy Anthony Davis, death row inmate who’s case has a long list of irregularities and unanswered questions. Like them, and many people around the world, I’m against the death penalty and beyond that, against wrongful convictions and corruption in the legal system.

Then I read the latest information about the US government sanctioned, CIA torture flights which flew all over Europe pretending to be transporting government officials. Again, like many citizens around the world, I don’t support any government torturing people and the facilitating of that torture by looking the other way at the airport.

Yet the sad reality, at present, is that both of these things will go forward. The broken death penalty system in the US will execute another person as most Americans will simply go about their business. Later some dedicated investigator or guilt-ridden lawyer will come forward with facts that prove in fact the man they executed was innocent.

Meanwhile in Europe, the German newspapers will fill lots of pages condemning the previous government for allowing the torture flights to use their airports. In Brussels they might just appoint yet another committee to further investigate and then verbally reprimand members states for supporting the practice of mobile-torture.

While plenty of concerned people will be angered. And some might even take to the streets and express themselves, or maybe save their anger for the next ballot box. Most people, in Europe or the US, will keep going about their business… maybe without even thinking twice.

This is the kind of world we have in 2007. Governments torture, governments help torture, a minority of people get concerned, a majority of people can’t or won’t do something about it.

Stop the crap.

Oh and of course, someone blogs about it.

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El Sicko

Well I can’t ignore all the mainstream subjects… I have to write something about Sicko, Michael Moore’s new film. (which you can watch, in two parts, here)

I’m sure you’ve heard something about it. And Im also sure you can go anywhere in the blogosphere and people will be talking about it. Even YouTube have opened a channel in cooperation with Mike, so people can record their own health insurance horror stories.

Despite the mainstreamness, and perhaps the excessive buzz, I cannot remain silent about how important this film is. Simple… but important.

Of course plenty will echo this feeling. But I’d like to add that this film is more than important for the USA, this film is important for Europe. Why? Because Europe is forgetting what a good health system is. Or perhaps to put it another way, I see that much of Europe takes their universal and quality healthcare for granted. Worse than that, the health insurance lobby is growing in Brussels, and its seeping into many countries where people have some of the highest standards of health and human services. Seeping in and selling this idea that health should be privatized.. for everyone’s benefit.

Even though we can find plenty of evidence worldwide about how dangerous this can be, I don’t hear many voices reminding the governments about this. At least not the most powerful voices. Sure France is still holding tough, and England still has the NHS, but there is growing pressure in Europe, and private health insurance companies are popping up and expanding right under our noses.

So yes.. Sicko is a very powerful and important question to the USA. Not just why can’t they have a good health system, but also what is happening with values in America that people don’t care enough to have such a system. BUT this film should also be seen by Europeans who should ask themselves what is changing in their values.. and what direction they are heading when it comes to who runs and who can access the health system.

Bike in the air

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Gaza on my Screen

Sitting there eating my tofu-stew, watching BBC News, supposedly about to go to some Amsterdam club to see a band play… and there it is on the screen: Hamas Takes Gaza.

On the euronews podcast I watch the video of Fatah supporters in the street, armed to the teeth, supposedly prepared to fight to keep the city.

Since by nature I always look behind what I’m given, I sit watching these images thinking about all those who benefit from the chaos. The desperation that comes with poverty and decades of fighting, loss of your home, loss of family members… loss of all logic. Meanwhile wealthy nations, who have long played a big role in what does and does not happen in that part of the world, standby and roll camera. That’s what it has become for them, a little media blip for your daily dose of violence and confusion. For me to watch as I eat my dinner and prepare for an evening out on the town.Then Ill blog about it.

While people keep dying.

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