I currently work for ActionAid UK, an inspiring NGO who has been fighting poverty for over 30 years. One of my recent projects has been to use simple infographics to highlight how biofuels cause hunger across Africa. Biofuels are a real problem affecting real people. In just five African countries alone, 1.1 million hectares have been given over to biofuels – an area the size of Belgium. Burning huge amounts of food in our cars has reduced the amount available to eat and subsequently caused global food prices to rocket. Join the debate http://www.facebook.com/actionaiduk http://www.actionaid.org.uk/103246/how_biofuels_are_pushing_up_world_food_prices.html
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will without doubt be one of the most significant premier sporting and cultural events to take place in the capital and will be remembered for decades.
The Games will bring urgently needed regeneration to parts of East London and bring great opportunities for promoting many positive things such as inspiring children and young Londoners to take up sports and other physical activity. However, healthy physical activity can only be achieved if it is fuelled by healthy nutritious food. Here, lies the appalling mismatch between the top 2012 sponsors Cadbury, McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Heineken who have successfully secured exclusive marketing rights with the Games and at other major sporting events, or secured sponsorship deals with top athletes, which then continue to perpetuate the perverse link between fast food and drink and sporting achievement.
Coca-Cola is one of the International Olympic Committee’s main partners and has exclusive marketing and advertising rights until 2020. According to the Food Commission, a 330ml bottle of Coke contains 35g of sugar, more than half the recommended daily sugar intake for a 10-year-old child. The company has sought to counter criticisms by promoting its diet brand and launching the sugar-free Coke Zero. McDonalds deal prevents any other branded foods being sold at the 40 Games venues. The chain is to build four restaurants on the Olympic site – two in the Park, one in the Athletes Village, and one in the Media and Press Centre – which will serve over 1.75 million meals during the games. The Hackney Citizen has worked out that a fit eleven stone adult visitor to the Olympics would need to run ten miles to burn off the 1096 calories contained in a modest McDonalds meal comprising a Big Mac, medium fries and a McFlurry. In response to claims that many of its products are high in fat, sugar and salt, McDonald’s has also launched healthy options such as salads and fruit juices.
Cadbury signed a £20million deal in 2008 to be a tier two sponsor of the 2012 Games. The deal gives the now subsidiary of American Kraft Foods, the right to sell confectionery and ice cream at the Olympic village. Dr Keith Reid, deputy chairman of British Medical Association’s public health medicine committee, called for food sold at the 2012 Olympics to carry labels so that spectators were made aware of its unhealthy content including fat, sugar and salt levels. However, this does not change the fact that many will be forced to eat
high calorie junk food due to limited choice of healthy foods. I’ve always been intrigued by the prospect of creating work, which has a potential to change people’s perceptions. Not many are aware of the absurd relationship between London Olympics and junk food and
drink companies. As an artist, I feel a sense of duty to highlight this contrasting message we are about to convey to the world. I have used the instantly recognizable Olympic logo to embed images of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Cadbury and Heineken products to create body of work I entitled ‘Legacy’. I photographed junk food in close proximity to highlight the detailed and undesirable texture of junk food to convey my message.
How do we measure the value of a family meal? Who gets to make decisions about the quality and integrity of the food we eat? The World is not for Sale is a story of french farmers fighting against our food getting treated like an industrial commodity by faceless trade institutions.
They raise issues of genetic manipulation, cetralization and medicalization of food production. Their story starts in Millau, southwest France, on 12 August 1999 when they dismantled a partially constructed McDonald's in their town. They did this in response to America's trade barriers on their main export: Roquefort cheese, introduced in retaliation for Europe's refusal to import hormone-fed beef. The dismantling act was symbolic, non-violent and known to the local police. But mere 24 hours after the rally, McDonald's boss was in media claiming that a million francs worth of damage was caused and that the act was anti-American. Several farmers were arrested including Jose Bove who led the protest. He has since become the spokesman for Via Campesina member of European parliament and even ran for French presidency.
The World is not for Sale is an insightful book. Good read. The Jose Bove's story is vivid and his answers feel personal and genuine. But I can't help finding him somewhat idealistic. Can we, western consumers, all do niche-farming and pay more to get less? Globalization is already well on its way and some might argue, inevitable. On the other hand, if Bove can make money selling sheep's milk, so can we.
Naomi Klein says about the french farmers in the preface:
'For them, food is more than bodily fuel; it is a ritual, relationship, family, love, tradition, and so much more'.
This quote should be written on all junk-food packaging.
Erick Scholosser - Fast Food Nation
Not that long ago, I read an article somewhere on hormone-induced meat where it stated if the hormone-fed beef is good enough for Americans, it should be good enough for us. This book gives some answers.
Every day in the US, roughly 200,000 people are sickened by a food borne disease, 900 are hospitalised, and fourteen die. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter of the American population suffers from food poisoning each year. Schlosser talks about Beef Trust, cattle breeding, E.coli and hamburgers, the fact that American kitchen sinks have on average more bacteria than American toilet seats etc. It's an entertaining account of where food comes from but at the same time, feels exaggerated. It must be the selection of stories - all shocking to extend. After a while it feels -too much. However, it's a good read and if it could change the way we eat, putting us off those 'tasty' burgers, that so be it.
BBC - Super Size Ambulance
Every third Briton is now overweight or obese and in desperate need of hospital treatment. A new kind of patient has led to a new kind of ambulance service. The Thames Ambulance 's bariatric service is now equipped to treat patients weighting up to 70 stones.
This documentary is a moving story of four morbidly obese and their families. The impact the illness has had on their lives in most cases is catastrophic.
John`s life is a far cry from 12 years ago. He saw active service in both Ireland and Falklands. But now, he weights nearly 40 stone and needs an extra size stretcher and help of 5 men to get into his own house. We don't find out what led to John gaining all the weight but one thing is clear. He doesn't like whom he's become and leading his life in constant pain from obesity related illnesses is wearing him down.
Alex, 62, who is 30+ stone, says, 'My life fell to pieces in the last four years, I'm married but I have no sex life, my skin is just rotting away, my penis has gone up inside me and I've got to pee on the floor like a dog'. Then later, when wheeled out of hospital, someone asks him if he looks forward to going home. He answers, 'Give me one of them lethal injections'.
Another patient, Debbie, 33 and weighing 37 stone says 'the only time I look into a mirror is in hospital when I'm in the lift. I close my eyes as soon as I go in there'.
We know that obesity and depression go hand in hand, but sometime it's unclear which is cause and which is effect. While researchers are still looking for the link between the two, there is no doubt that majority of the people in this program are depressed (some severely). Throughout the documentary we see patients receiving medical help, being consulted on stomach stapling and other weight loss surgeries, treated for painful lymphodemas. Not a single patient received any mental support or counseling for depression. It's almost ridiculous that we spend millions of pounds on treatment for obesity related conditions (Over the past year, the number of people having a weightloss surgery on NHS has gone up by 70%), but refuse to look for causes. People with eating disorders have low-self esteem and that's part of the reason they stay in-doors, don't go out or socialise. Lack of exercise and eating comfort foods then inevitably leads to weight gain. In the current economic climate, NHS should consider looking after mental health of their obese patients rather than offering expensive surgical options. After all it's about how people feel and how they feel about themselves. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b011k479/Super_Size_Ambulance/
Went down to George and Jorgen this morning to see Martin Newth talking about his latest (and oldish) work.
Never met anyone so passionate about pillboxes. Apparently, there is 18,000 of them in the UK. They were built during the Second World War in anticipation of a German invasion.
He's transformed one of the pillboxes into a camera obscura and using a sheet of red photographic paper, he's produced large negatives.
Newth's playful approach to experimentation is evident. Makes you think and want to try some yourself.
I've always been drawn to the industrial nature of Dunkerque's port (or Dunkirk). Regularly, crossing with a ferry from Dover, I take pictures of cranes, ships, machinery etc. It's easy to visualise the 2WW history when passing through. We might never know why the Wermacht let 330,000 French and British men escape in 1940 but so much in and around Dunkerque is there to remind us.
Inspired by Newth's work I scanned some of my photos from Dunkerque experimenting with green and acetate paper.
Jim Goldberg won this year's Deutsche Borse photography prize for his Open Sea series. (He previously won the Henri Cartie-Bresson). He came ahead of three other photographers and artists - Thomas Demand, Roe Ethridge and Elad Lassry.
His recent exhibition at the University of Westminster featuring refugees and immigrants from Iraq, Congo, Bangladesh and other war torn or poverty stricken countries exceeded my expectations. One of the larger prints was this image of a man who found a rancid goat in Dhaka's city dump to eat.
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. That's mostly because agriculture is the key economic drive and suffers from regular monsoons and floods caused by climate change. (Bangladesh tops the Global Climate Risk index out of 170 countries most vulnerable to climate change). The United Nations warn that if we don't take an immediate action towards global warming, as much as a quarter of Bangladeshi coastline may disappear if the sea rises in the next 50 years. The photograph of Dhaka's city dump should serve us as a reminder of consequences to our luke warm actions to tackle global warming.
I find Goldberg not only a great photographer but a great anthropologist. In some of his portraits the subjects are covered in their very own hand written messages, full of hopes and fears offering a personal insight into their lives and relationships. I like his subtle way to bring viewer and photographed subject closer together. His photography speaks to me on a very personal level.
A great american photographer's currently exhibiting in Tate (Modern) - Diane Arbus.
Her portraits of mentally handicapped, transvestites, naturists, dwarfs and giants, expose the complexity of the human condition.
Supposedly, 'normal' American citizens are captured leading their 'normal' lives.
The black and white photography intensifies the seriousness of the subject matter.
But there's something morbid to a portrait of a mentally handicapped holding a hand grenade...
more great photography at Tate
The first ever photographs taken in Afganistan were made by John Burke (Irish). There's portraits, landscapes, battlefields; some work seems more lyrical, some quite stiff. There are Victorian photographs by Norfolk
and some more recent by Burke. I found the more current prints from the US invasion more appealing. These are Afgan police trainees being taken to firing ranges by the US marines in Helmand
The blue photograph is a landscape covered in grave stones...
I took some time off work/study in April to travel and take some photos
It's a half way through a year long venture for PepsiCo and Britvic in their 'Reward your Thirst' campaign. And they cannot go wrong. The intake of soft drinks have more than doubled in the last few years. Researchers are now urging parents to consider health risks associated with consumption of soft drinks as a report emerged from the British Dental Health Foundation showing that half of five years olds now have eroded milk teeth and one in ten of five year olds needs rotten teeth removed. Another disturbing fact is that consumption of soft drink significantly reduces the intake of milk and water. The lack of calcium in child's diet can cause so called 'weak bones' and may lead to osteoporosis later in life.