Fair Trade Man, aka Ben Clowney, hit the headlines last year by eating nothing but fair trade products for two weeks. Such efforts should not be confused with Mr Clowney's fellow Brit Ethical Man and his explorations of composting his own corpse, nor New York-based No Impact Man and his efforts to live without toilet paper. However, such confusion may be inevitable as we have just heard that Clowney is taking on a new persona, namely that of Low Carbon Man. It seems that such super-hero alter egos are part of Mr Clowney's job as campaigns manager for Tearfund, a Christian aid organization that is this year calling on people to hold a carbon fast for lent. While such a campaign is certainly admirable, given the looming threat of climate change, some commenters on The Guardian's website have questioned Low Carbon Man's methodology in drawing attention to the struggle.
The problem is that in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint by 95% for the fast, Clowney will be living in a tent in the car park of his offices and canoeing to the shops. He will also be relying on wind up electronics for much of his communication needs. Apparently the biggest challenge will be persuading his girlfriend that "eating cabbage in the freezing cold outside a tent is a nice way to spend Valentine's evening." It seems that some people feel that such low tech, primitive efforts are counterproductive, playing into the hands of those who see environmentalists as wanting to abandon the comforts of modern civilization. As one commenter, calling themselves Mmmmmf, put it:
"I have to say that this kind of dumb posturing narcissistic nonsense gets right on my wick. If you can live in a regular house for a week, going off and doing a regular job and still use zero carbon, then you could genuinely say that something valuable could be demonstrated. All this will say to Joe Public is that if you want to address your carbon footprint you have to live in a tent, which is about as counter-productive message as you could wish to put across.
We tend to take a more charitable view. Just as Clowney's previous efforts did not suggest that everyone should live off chocolate and bananas for the rest of their lives, his current escapades are not intended as a blueprint for us all to follow. They are simply a way to draw attention to the campaign, and to illustrate just how carbon intensive many aspects of modern life we rely on really are. The very fact that we are blogging about this now and that people are debating it in The Guardian and elsewhere suggests that he has already succeeded. ::Tearfund::via The Guardian::