Sunday, May 30, 2004
Part of poster for L’Art Brut Museum, Lausanne (©JE)
Across to Lausanne, mainly to see La Musee de l’Art Brut, put together by the artist Jean Dubuffet and opened in 1976. The word brut denotes raw, crude or rough, and – as The Lonely Planet Guide to Switzerland notes, “that’s exactly what you get.” None of the artists whose work is featured is or was properly trained, indeed many were held in prisons or asylums. There are paintings, posters, sculptures made out of broken plates or discarded rags, and – the only thing we would like to have hauled away – a life-sized horse made out of branches, twigs and others bits of wood that was surprisingly life-like. I remember saying that when I started reading Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast some 30 years ago, I felt as though I had taken opium after less than 20 pages. At the museum I felt I was on something darker, something that wouldn’t just have you up in the attics, which is where a lot of thesee exhibits are displayed, but hanging from the beams.
Speaking of hallucinogens, though, when we came down the slopes from Caux the other day, we came across a little shop selling marijuana plants and everything to do with their cultivation and use. When we asked the delightful young man who was minding the store whether it was legal, he said it neither was nor wasn’t. Although I profoundly disapprove of the black market drugs industry, I still wish we had been able to find a way of absorbing hallucinogens into our culture in the way that people Aldous Huxley had in mind. The relatively few times I used them in the Sixties led to the opening of channels in my brain that might otherwise have stayed closed. Maybe that’s why I feel touched by the wing of madness when reading Peake or confronting the outpourings of these artistic obsessives.
La Feuille d’Or (©JE)
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Byron and other Wildlife
Chateau de Chillon (©JE)
Inside the Chateau (©JE)
A long walk, via the Chateau de Chillon, which we last visited many years ago on our way back from Italy with the girls. Did Byron carve his name in the column of the dungeon, which was meant to have housed the Prisoner of Chillon, or did someone else? Not sure I really care: he was there at some point and the place, from its fragmentary murals to its scaffold, is full of the echoes of romance and horror.
After the castle, we went on around the lake, to Les Grangettes, an area of woodland and reed marsh towards the point where the Rhone enters the lake. Saw a fair amount of wildlife, including a woodpecker, some fairly large frogs of variegated colours, a grebe which popped up in a pool almost at our feet, and a beautiful slowworm – the golden-brown, tiger’s eye colour of a humbug, with chocolate brown stripes along its flanks. Wonderful greens and dappled light.
Les Gagnettes (©JE)
Mossy stump (©JE)
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Brainstorm with a view (©JE)
Across by train to Geneva and the World Economic Forum, for brainstorm with Pamela Hartigan (far right in photo) and her colleagues at the Schwab Foundation on a conference for social entrepreneurs they are planning to hold in Brazil in November. Process facilitated by Katherine Fulton of the Monitor Institute and Global Business Network (GBN), third from left in photo. Ged Davis (ex-Shell scenarios unit) was also involved for most of the day. Very stimulating, good fun. Also read David Bornstein’s book How to Change the World as I travelled to and fro, to review for Resurgence magazine. Excellent – and particularly illuminating about Florence Nightingale!
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Marmottes Paradis, Not
Elaine walking down from Caux (©JE)
We took the rack-and-pinion train up to the Rochers de Nayes today, widely advertised hereabouts as a ‘Paradise for Marmots’. What we found, apart from spectacular views, was a set of marmot concentration camps, with electrified fences and the animals, not surprisingly, sulking undergound. We took the train back down to Caux, had a hot chocolate, then walked the rest of the way down vertiginous footpaths.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Pathology, Poppies and Mint Tea
Poppies along Montreux foreshore (©JE)
Interior of just-painted boat (©JE)
Mint tea at Le Palais Oriental (©JE)
Elaine and I flew in to Geneva yesterday, then by train to Montreux, for a week’s holiday. Weather is delightful and we are enjoying wonderful walks along the lake. Am now back to reading David McCulloch’s stunning biography of President Truman, having read Joel Bakan’s The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power on the way across. The most relaxing thing of all is mint tea in the Moroccan ambience of Le Palais Oriental, just along from our hotel, Eden au Lac.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Have always had something of an immune response to the Daily Telegraph, but we buy three copies this evening because Gaia appears, in a couple of photos, on the front page of the paper’s gardening section today. The piece is a full-page profile of Jonny Norton (the ‘Captain Courageous’ of the article’s headline), founder of the mail-order gardening firm Plantstuff (www.plantstuff.com).
Titanic Melting Away
My eye was caught by the photo in today’s Guardian of the mini-submersible Alvin, whose deck we stood on last year (see first posting, 30 September 2003). Robert Ballard, who found the wreck of The Titanic in the Alvin, is heading back nearly 20 years later to see what has happened to the ship. Not good news, apparently. “The ship is definitely dissolving,” says one lawyer who has worked for the salvage operators. “It’s melting like a candle from the top down.” But, while most of the damage is thought to be natural, there is also a growing sense that the process has been accelerated by treasure-hunters, including a 2002 operation which tried to smash through into the first-class cargo hold that contained a cargo of diamondThursday, May 20, 2004
Missionaries in Porsches?
To Cambridge again, for the entrepreneurs awards ceremony. I give a kick-off speech, introducing the 3P Awards, which now join the £50K and £1K Awards as an annual offering. Open the envelope for the not-for-profit 3P (People, Planet, Productivity) Award, which goes to Aidworld (www.aidworld.org), an IT group that helps NGOs in less developed parts of the word boost the speed of their Internet connections some 30-fold. Suggest that people give their acceptance speeches in tears, but no-one obliges.
Interesting that one of the speakers, from the chip company ARM, starts with a slide showing what he thinks motivates normal entrepreneurs: high-end Porsches and yachts. Before the ceremony, we had a joint session with the judges of the £50K and £1K Awards, which was like being alongside a bunch of CFOs. One or two were fairly dismissive of the 3P idea, describing them as “missionary” and saying that the 3P business plans they had seen they would have “flushed”. But it was also clear that the social entrepreneurs who tended to scoop the 3P awards were motivated by other concerns and interests.
The whole event was built around surprise, but the laptop that held the series of presentations and announcements seemed to be infected with a genie determined to give advance clues as to who had won the next award. With one exception, the organisers managed to cut it off at the pass, however. Even so, once these business plans are out in the real world, the element of surprise will be back with a vengeance. I hope a few years from now we can point to 3P concepts that have gone ballistic, whether or not the innovators are then driving around in Porsches.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Fascinating session this morning, in which 13 of the SustainAbility team – most of the London office – shared their visions for time-scales extending variously to 2009, at the nearest, and 2014 at the farthest. The congruence of some of the visions was extraordinary.
Yasmin (Crowther) had also asked us to bring something significant, so I brought a Japanese-made ‘Global’ transistor radio which I used to listen to under my pillow at Bryanston, in the early 1960s. I explained what it was like to listen to Radio Luxembourg, and made the twin points that one felt connected to a wider world and that the thing you remembered was the tunes.
The implication, I said, was that we should not simply collect information but develop the ‘tunes’ that would ensure our thinking lives on in people’s memories. We had done that with phrases like ‘green consumer’ and ‘triple bottom line’ (Geoff Lye, who was in Rio last week, chipped in that at the conference he spoke at there the triple bottom line was just coming into fashion there, 10 years after I coined the term), and with the name ‘SustainAbility’, a word which had little meaning when we adopted it 17 years ago. Now we needed to develop the next generation of melodies.
Then Yasmin asked who would go next and Nick (Robinson) said he had to. It turned out that he had also been thinking in terms of music – indeed, he held up a bit of score by Bach. Amazing case of parallel invention. And by the end of the session, we had an enormously rich set of ideas to play with. In the afternoon, a different group of us got together to plan the revamp of the SustainAbility website, with a couple of folk from Saltmine.
Nick knows the score
Francesca (Muller), too
Yasmin (Crowther) conducts
Geoff (Lye) shares his 2014 vision
Kavita (Prakash-Mani) muses
Hair piece: Judy (Kuszewski) and Peter (Zollinger)
A reflective Tell (Muenzing)
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Afternoon spent in Cambridge with CU Entrepreneurs, a Cambridge University initiative (www.enterprise.cam.ac.uk) to spur entrepreneurial activity – and, specifically, to encourage students to develop business plans and business models based on the 3Ps of ‘People, Planet & Productivity’. Part of judging panel with Professor Charles Ainger, Mary Archer, Anne Cotton, Polly Courtice and Helen Haugh. Ended up with two short-lists of three business plans, one for for-profits and one for not-for-profits. Impressive field made it tough to choose. Results to be announced next Thursday.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
The Day After Tomorrow
Just back from chairing a panel discussion that topped and tailed the preview of the new film The Day After Tomorrow at the 20th Century Fox building in Soho Square. The panel included people from the Energy Savings Trust, Future Forests, Greenpeace, the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University and the Tyndall Centre on responses to climate change at the University of East Anglia, plus Michael Molitor, who acted as science advisor on the film.
Probably the best special effects I have seen to date and one of the best science fiction films, but science fiction it is. Several of the journalists and a couple of the science people present were horrified by the liberties taken with science at some points, one even arguing that this would set back the debate years, but I disagree. Just as Jurassic Park got people talking about cloning, so this film will get us talking about climate change. And that in the US presidential election year has to be a good thing.
One point I made was that I wrote my first report on climate change, for the Hudson Institute, in 1978. I have spent a good deal of time on the issue, but it has only been in the last couple of years that the notion of abrupt climate change has started to surface in my world. That’s why I visited the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution last year (see entry for 30 September 2004). If the film does nothing else, it will ensure that the abruptness of some past climate shifts gets onto the agenda.
For more information, see www.thedayaftertomorrow.com
Monday, May 10, 2004
Human rights session at SustainAbility, with about 7-8 of our people, plus Chris Avery of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Chris Marsden (who chairs the Amnesty International UK Business Group) and John O’Reilly, who works with Amnesty but used to be with BP in countries like Colombia and Indonesia. Fascinating and instructive, with growing interest across the team.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Lovely, rainy stay with parents in Cotswolds. Vegetation looking radiant, especially things like cowslips and rainbow chard. Interesting to see the walnut tree that a squirrel regularly strips of its nuts: apparently they puncture the walnuts to ensure that, when buried, they don’t sprout. Malevolent little buggers. Good to see cousin Toby (Adamson) after a long time and to go through some of his photographs (www.tobyadamson.co.uk). Caroline has also been doing some wonderful, large-scale paintings – Toby’s brother-in-law, Don, is working on a website for her. Then Elaine, Hania and I drove back to London, listening among other things to Jools Holland, The Shadows and The Pink Panther theme music. Nothing too serious, though with radio news breaking through periodically to tell us unplesant things about Iraq torture and sexual abuse scandals and the assassination of the Chechen president.
Once back, I got on with working through the business plans for the Cambridge University 3P(‘People, Planet & Productivity’ – slightly mutated from my original ‘People, Planet & Profit’ back in 1995) enterprise competition, the final judging for which is later this week.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
Cycling home this evening through Grosvenor Square, I stopped off at the memorial to the US Eagle squadrons, which fought alongside the RAF in WWII. Reminded of their role when watching Pearl Harbor on TV the other evening. The Americans may be screwing up royally in Iraq at the moment, but this was a welcome reminder of the best of America.
Eagles in flight (US Air Force Museum)
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Letter from RSA invited me to join their Council. Cycled to work for first time in what seems like ages. Glorious, though almost came to grief when a foolhardy cyclist cut across me in Hyde Park. Am more than usually conscious of the dangers of travel: Heather Brigstocke, High Mistress when Gaia and Hania were at St Paul’s School, was killed earlier in the week when crossing a road late at night outside Athens. The same day The Times carried her obituary, yesterday, it also carried – literally cheek by jowl – the news that Hania’s friend John Jenck’s step-sister Martha Lane Fox, previously with lastminute.com, has been involved in a terrible road accident in Morocco.
During the day, hail storms thumped down and thunder rolled across London. I wonder how many people today had the problem Seb (Beloe) and his family had recently: during a London storm his kitchen filled with three feet of water. They have had to move out. As the rain fell, I worked first on the Global Compact report, then on the media report Seb, Francesca (Muller) and Frances (Scott) have been putting together with WWF. When I cycled back through Hyde Park, some of Rotten Row’s sand had washed out in mini-Mississippi banks and the riding surface was deeply puddled. But this evening when I went out into the garden, the Big Dipper was crystal clear overhead. Waiting to bail us out after the next storm?
Sunday, May 02, 2004
25 Nation EU
Extraordinary weekend, with the EU expanding yesterday to 25 nations, 450 million people and 20 languages. I’m pretty miserable about the Greek Cypriots, though, who managed to spoil Kofi Annan’s attempt to reunite Cyprus. Looks as if any plans to visit the island to see childhood haunts from the late 1950s will have to be shelved for the moment. Someone was quoted in the press yesterday as saying that it was like being trapped in a womb with a stillborn twin. Can’t remember whether it was a Greek talking about Turks or vice versa.
Glorious birdsong over the past few days, with a pair of robins streaking around the garden and swifts quartering the evening skies. Liquid song of a blackbird broken by the squawking of a passing parakeet. Such a delightful day that I took a whole stream of pictures, several of which appear below. Elaine’s handiwork evident all around our small garden. Otherwise, have been working on the Global Compact project.
Parrot tulip (©JE)
Top of invitation card in kitchen window (©JE)