Stikeez & The Sea

OK. Difficult one here. Difficult because I’m a big fan of the local Aquarium and virtually everything that they stand for, but I find myself disagreeing with them on this issue. A bit, anyway.

Firstly, let me tell you that I’m a member of the Aquarium, as are my kids. We have been for several (or more) years. We go there often, we love their behind the scenes tours, we were excited about their revamp, we take them turtles (well, a turtle) and we’re very supportive of their work.

Yesterday, the Aquarium published a blog post on their views about the new Stikeez promotion at local retailing behemoth PicknPay. For those unaware of what a Stikeez is, it’s a small plastic toy with a sucker on the bottom, one of which you are given with every R150 you spend at the supermarket. This is the second Stikeez promotion that PicknPay have launched. The first one was… well… a spectacular success.

But the Aquarium are unhappy about this new promotion, simply because it flies in the face of their understandable and commendable stance on plastics – namely that there’s too much in the ocean already. Their view has been brought even more sharply into focus by the fact that this lot of toys have an “under the sea” theme.

So, let me set my stall out here. Yes, I agree that there is too much plastic in the ocean, and yes, I agree that this is a bad thing. My family are doing their bit to help out here. We recycle all our plastic, we use refills rather than new bottles for washing up liquid, deodorant, shower gel, window cleaner and fabric conditioner, and we all routinely reject plastic straws at restaurants, much to the bemusement of waiting staff across the Western Cape.

But – and here’s the crux of my argument on this one – those things I listed above are single-use plastics. And I don’t agree that Stikeez fall into this category – our kids still have theirs from last year.
Looking at the Aquarium post, I’m not sure they are 100% on it either:

The issue is the fact that more unnecessary (and essentially single-use) plastic waste is being introduced into the environment via a major national retailer…

You could argue that additional introduction of any plastic is bad, and you’d probably be heading along the right lines. But you can’t just stop using plastic. It’s simply not possible – it’s an essential material in our lives whether we like it or not. And if we’re going to say no to Stikeez on the grounds that they are “essentially single-use”, why are we content to say yes to sweet wrappers, cling-wrapped produce, bread tags and the like?
And if you want to take the argument further and say that it doesn’t matter whether they are single-use or not, then presumably Crocs, Bic ball-point pens and toothbrushes are next on your hit list?
(Seriouslythough: if you actually have a hitlist and Crocs are next on it, well done.)

It’s that sort of inconsistency and s-t-r-e-t-c-h that doesn’t sit easily with me. The previous Stikeez campaign was attacked simply because people wanted to be seen attacking it. It became silly: people complained about the wrappers on the floor, and yes, littering is bad, but that’s not a Stikeez issue, that’s a teaching your kids general respect and responsibility issue.

And then remember all that drama over another supermarket promotion a few months back? The one that was blamed for starvation, unemployment, drought and inflation – before this pièce de résistance:

Maybe, a child might actually mistake it for food and try eat it and accidentally choke and die?
Shame on you.

I’m not saying that the Aquarium are going down Hyperbole Street, although I don’t doubt that some people will take things that way. But that’s not an Aquarium issue, that’s a people are just complete cockwombles issue.
There are already one or two on the Aquarium FB page:

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-27-100315-am-bmpI’ll share your post, and I’ll consider boycotting the store (of course you will) but your spoor continues to disgust me.

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-27-100504-am-bmpOf course you do, you Rainbow Warrior. You only buy half your groceries there and then you get into your fossil fuel powered, greenhouse gas belching car and drive somewhere else to buy the rest. Well done on taking a stand, making a difference and showing PicknPay who’s boss.

So will PicknPay pull Stikeez II? I very much doubt it, although it wouldn’t surprise me if this was to be last Stikeez campaign they run. In that way, maybe the Aquarium wins this one.
Well done. Next stop, Lego? (he said, facetiously).

Look, I understand the Aquarium point of view and I understand why they feel they have to pass comment on this. Do we need more ‘unnecessary’ plastic? No, we don’t. And is this a good opportunity to educate people and perhaps lever their behaviour? Yes, it is.
But are Stikeez really to blame for the world’s (and the oceans’) woes? No.
No, they’re not. They’re just toys and because of that, I’m not even sure that they are symptomatic of those problems.

There are far bigger genuine single-use plastic fish to fry (pun intended) and it would be a bit of an own goal if we got distracted by apparently low-hanging fruit like this.

Sodor latest place to be hit by fracking scandal

Toys are becoming ever closer to real life and the Thomas the Tank Engine range is desperate not to get left behind. I spotted this in a local toy shop just this last weekend:


We’ve seen plenty of robust argument, protest, misinformation and spin over fracking – not just in South Africa, but across the world – and Mattel are obviously seeking to capitalise on this, offering not just the Oil Derrick above, but also a Thomas the Tank Engine Protest Camp (complete without washing facilities), a Thomas the Tank Engine Industrial Chemical Leak Clean-up Kit and even the option of a Thomas the Tank Engine Aquifer, which comes polluted or unpolluted, depending on which side of the fence you choose to sit.

But it doesn’t end there: Sodor is also joining the alternative energy bandwagon and you can now kit out your kids’ playroom with Thomas the Tank Engine Wind Turbines, which do nothing for most of the time and very little for the rest of it, and Thomas the Tank Engine PV Solar Panels, which just take up most of the space on the floor, and are produced with a lifelike polysilicon byproduct toxic footprint.
Both the Wind Turbine and Solar Panel sets come with an obligatory 200% subsidy surcharge, which most people unknowingly pay while basking in the smug afterglow of their apparently environmentally conscious purchase.

I applaud Mattel in their efforts to keep Thomas and his friends up to date and I look forward to the upcoming release of the Thomas the Tank Engine Search Party for that moment when Jeremy the Jetplane allegedly gets hijacked en route from Sodor to Beijing.

Faces of Resistance

More fracking protests, this time in the UK. Despite the fact that the democratically elected government has researched the subject and their independent experts have come to the conclusion that things are ok and that fracking should go ahead, some people have decided that they don’t think fracking should go ahead, because… “stuff “, and they’ve organised a campaign of “civil disobedience”.

And who better to spearhead this campaign than these perfectly reasonable characters as introduced to us in the Grauniad’s “Faces of Resistance“.

‘White Rabbit’, 35
Activist from London

Balcombe frackingRabbit says he has been involved in WikiLeaks revelations and, as a result, cannot reveal his identity. He says he is protesting in the West Sussex countryside because fracking and Balcombe have become a central battleground. “One issue is that extracting shale gas is just speculation. I mean, it’s creating an artificial bubble. How many more bubbles do we need?”


Seraphina ‘Angel’, 31
Spiritualist from Notting Hill, West London

Balcombe frackingCamped by the side of the road for a fortnight already, “Angel” said it was her destiny to protest at Balcombe. She said she felt compelled to travel to West Sussex to register her disapproval against the hegemony of the “new world order”. She added: “I am here as an awakened rainbow warrior from the Maya calendar whose prophecy states that you’ll come back to save the Earth. Here I am.”

I think that it’s pretty clear that  Cuadrilla will immediately cease and desist their perfectly legal and acceptable plans to extract  shale gas from West Sussex. Jonathan Deal and his local loonies will surely now be looking for “awakened rainbow warriors from the Maya calendar” as this is obviously key to preventing fracking plans in South Africa.