Saturday, August 13, 2005

Meat is still murder
From the Guardian today...
It is the ultimate conundrum for vegetarians who think that meat is murder: a revolution in processed food that will see fresh meat grown from animal cells without a single cow, sheep or pig being killed.
Gosh what a simple-minded and patronising statement! If they choose to become a vegetarian, a person's reasons can be many, varied and complex. Mine was because I became aware of and was increasingly worried by the seemingly all pervasive industrialisation of the meat industry. The tipping point came while reading an article about genetically enhanced animals being created for food consumption in 1987. The idea that I'm going to start eating meat again, because they are now growing it in a laboratory is patently riduculous. Frankly if I were to start eating meat again, I would buy land and some chickens, feed them organic food and slaughter them myself.

Link: read full text of Guardian article here

Friday, August 12, 2005

A small but vocal minority
Sunday Bloody Sunday Following on from my post about 'otherness' (know your enemy, 13 July 05), I want to highlight some of my findings about the nature of prejudice. As part of an assignment for a module called 'Bent Screens', which looked at the representation of homosexuality in the media, I undertook a survey of people's attitudes to gay kissing. The survey polled some 300 students and what the results indicated was that the vast majority of them were pretty tolerant of scenes of homosexuality in the cinema and on television, however there were a small and vocal minority who were strongly against. For example if you compare people with opinions on either side of this debate, according to the survey, it is five and a half times more likely that the homophobe will have stonger opinions about gay kissing, compared with someone who is supportive of homosexuality.

See the full survey here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Brithdir Mawr
Tony Wrench outside his roundhouse As part of my recent holiday I spent some time with the woodcraft folk camping at a place called Brithdir Mawr situated in Penbrokeshire in Wales. Brithdir Mawr is a community of like minded people, attempting to live as ecologically as they can. They are also famous for being Britain’s ‘lost tribe’ and Brithdir Mawr has been called “the land that time forgot.” For instance this BBC article from 2001 reports:

"For years they lived in seclusion, until one day the authorities stumbled over Wales's "lost tribe"…It's hard to imagine anyone - let alone a whole community - could disappear for long in modern-day Britain. ..But obscurity was what the people of Brithdir Mawr wished for and obscurity was what they got, for almost five peaceful years…In that time the community, which is tucked away in a corner of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, toiled hard towards its aim of becoming self-sufficient…It's a bitter irony that this drive for autonomy eventually helped betray them to the outside world. Photographs taken by a survey plane revealed a solar panel glinting in the sun… When the park's authorities went to investigate, they were stunned to find a community of about a dozen adults, some with children, living contentedly and quite comfortably off the land… The story went out of a "lost tribe", journalists and TV crews showed up, followed by curious members of the public, and district planners pondered whether to pull down much of the development, which had no planning consent."

This article is perhaps a little hyperbolous and over romanticised. But there is some good news to report and that is, despite many battles, the community is still in existence and has not bee closed down or disbanded. For example the famous roundhouse, which has been threatened with demolition since 2001 is still standing.

I think it is very admirable for anyone to question the received opinions of their society, for instance there is much about our contemporary norms that I actively disagree with; our attitude to manufactured food and growing obesity to pick just one obvious example. The people of Brithdir Mawr are set upon forging their own path and redefining the very conditions of their existence, especially with relation to their impact on the environment. This project is of course a utopian one, and as such is extremely challenging. Progress can be slow when every taken-for-granted assumption needs to be rethought, and disagreements among the community are common and sometimes serious. The guy who showed me round the place, Paul, admitted there had been schisms, especially over the use of technology – and as a result of these the community has divided, with one side embracing sustainable technologies like solar and wind power and the other opting to live without modern technology altogether.

Like I said I find this admirable but also challenging, but I hope that some of the knowledge learned at Brithdir Mawr gets written down or passed on somehow as I think such experiments are important to read about, even if I may stop short of wishing to be such a pioneer myself.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

[[IMMERSIVE]] human computer interaction Human computer interaction
This is the idea that we will one day be able to integrate computers with human consciousness. Today to access a computer a user has to use a keyboard or perhaps voice recognition software. Human computer interaction would get rid of this intermediate stage. The dream is that a person would literally be able to think commands to a machine, for example retrieve some information from this internet as one recalls a memory. This would mean that what is known today as extra sensory perception ESP will be technologically achievable.

I stress that this is a technology that is very much in its infancy. But imagine the societal implications if it ever became feasible?

Here is a BBC article about a new breakthrough in 'mind reading computers