Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A dust bowl causing tornedo

Post number 30

The following issues and assumptions are brought to light as a result of the crisis in world’s money and financial affairs. There are no solutions in sight for getting the wheels of employment, internal economies, foreign trade, consumerism and many others in motion.

The coming to light of a 78 year old in Florida (Mr Bernard Madoff, pronounced Made off!) making $50 billion disappear and the world leader’s establishment not detecting it for a decade is alarming. The rest of the world may no longer trust any solutions offered by the US in any thing. The ‘Road Runner’ cartoon cited in the case of the financial crisis in a British newspaper when running at 200 miles an hour then free falling down a vertical abyss of unknown depth can be applied to other fields: Hollywood, MTV, global brands, popular culture and anything else you could imagine.

As an example in one field, we cite The Graham Norton Show ( last weekend when Brandon Fraser promoted his coming block buster film. Either the fellow had come from a different planet doing his ‘Jungle George/Boy’ thing and asking the audience if they wanted his pine apple, or that we come from another planet and you can all stop reading this, and get back to what you doing earlier.

Mr Fraser is a fine product of global multi nationals, Hollywood, MTV, CNN, Fox, McDonalds, KFC, brands and the rest have produced: To be nothing, sell nothing, think nothing, and yet be the envy of Graham Norton’s audience every one of whom would love to be a Brendan Fraser. Aren’t they going to wake up one day, no thanks to the financial crisis that is on its way to produce other Sonamis heading ashore. These Sunamis will hit our cities and urban centres instead of our beaches. They will come later.

Since money makes the world go round, then the current financial crisis and it’s devastating effects can be used as a model to predict future trends in all walks of life including changes in life styles, what we wear.

We are trying to find our ways in a dust bowel uncertain of which way to go to reach safety. Unlike the financial crisis which sees no clear way through, we use wool as a guide dog for the blind if you like. Some observers have returned to history in a hurried effort to find examples of crisis (not necessarily finance) and solutions devised in the past. We cite a new book reviewed recently about London, for, at least getting your minds off other things:

Medical London, City of Disease, City of Cures, 10 November, 2008 by Richard Barnett, published by Strange Attractor Press, paper back, 500 pages. The book takes you through the history of London’s 2,000 years as a city and is a good read for those wishing to visit London. A short walk from The Embankment to The Cleopatra’s Needle points out land marks that relate to various ages. It tells you how ‘poor houses’ (at least one, St Bartholomew hospital) were set up outside city gates to cure migrant workers before allowing them to work in the city. London was a city of migrants where death rates exceeded those of birth. Gripping stuff.

Progressive London ( a recent scheme set up by Ken Livingstone may also be interested to know about our campaigns and efforts to set up a knitting café in London.

Wool, ‘the guide dog’ opened our eyes to consider the following relevant changes and plot our way ahead:

• China’s reduction of 2% in exports in November may not seem significance in absolute terms, but it may be when we realise that China has not experienced such a down turn in 7 years

• At least 70,000 factories have closed down in China this year. Migrant workers are returning to villages with no job prospects. Some of these factories could have been producing cheap cotton clothes for importing to the US and Western Europe. We do not have facts at this stage. To avoid civil unrest, China is investing inwards to enhance internal trade in favour of the export sector

• Consumer demand even for cheap imported clothes in the US and Western Europe diminished

• The US is the second largest cotton producing country after China (17 million bales in 2007). What happens now to the cotton in the US and China alone?

• India is the third largest cotton producer with a production figure of 12.50 million bales for last year

• 880,000 textile jobs lost in India up to the third quarter of this year

• Economies in other countries producing cheap clothes will be impacted. Some of them are: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and further afield from Asia, Mauritius

• Fall in TV advertising revenues questionably putting at risk the very survival of commercial channels

• Possible change of cotton fields for food production to ensure food security. Shortage of fresh water resources may be an influencing factor

All thanks to wool, the guide dog. What we listed above are only very few jigsaw pieces of a puzzle, 1,000s of pieces complex. Think tanks and others have undoubtedly identified other pieces. These can all be put together in the knitting café.

President –Elect Obama used the phrase ‘bold’ in his speech yesterday when announcing the appointment of his energy secretary, Steven Chu, the Noble physics laureate. Bold decision will be made, he said, based on facts. He will rely heavier on sciences to arrive at facts. May be Mr Chu has had ideas to do with energy decades ago but was unable to express them. Soon he will be able to. We empathise because we’ve had 1,000s of commercial hours practising a fit for purpose dry cleaning that would have ensured the survival of natural fibres, wool among them.

Life in general is in a free fall like ‘Road Runner’. Wool has helped us predict some aspects. Wool will help regenerate some of our long dead rural economies and will create new jobs, and more food. It is reported that the world experiences an over supply of cheese. Yes, but that was in the old world order that the likes of Mr Madoff helped destroy. If nations are to ensure food security, then the supply and demand situation on cheese may also change. We simply cannot tell, but as engineers we must consider a hefty safety factor.

Future posts will expand as best we can the bullet points above. Our programme of work will be interrupted by our identifying TV commercials that have latent messages of promoting unintelligent and socially irresponsible dressing: T-shirt, combats and jeans. All in efforts to keep British wool and related industries dead, among them English wool cloth, Harris Tweed, Scottish tartans, Pringles, Barbour (wool jumpers), Saville Row, and the sponsors of IWTO congress of 2007 in Edinburgh as reported in an earlier blog post.



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