Tag Archives: Frances Corner

Mindless (and wholly hypocritical) climate tokenism

Frances Corner is Warden of Goldsmiths College of the University of London. The College currently languishes as 99th in the Guardian rankings of UK Universities, and Grumpy might have thought that the Warden would be putting all her energies to improve that near to the bottom position rather than indulging in pointless token climate exercises which can have no practical impact other than as a PR project.

She has instigated an initiative in which Goldsmiths are (amongst other things) banning beefburgers (and all other beef products) and putting a 10p levy on bottled water on campus. [The College press release doesn’t state whether this applies to all bottles, including glass reusable ones, or just plastic bottles.]

Goldsmiths have jumped on the bandwagon of declaring a ‘climate emergency’, a meaningless term on which Grumpy has previously written much (see, for example) http://grumpy.eastover.org.uk/climate-impotence/extinction-rebels-2/ .

What makes Goldsmiths stand out is that the driver behind this is the new Warden. Corner has spent more or less her whole life associated with the fashion industry (and has penned a book, ‘Why fashion matters’). However, as the United Nations Environment Programme points out, the fashion industry “produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally”. Her background in this Goliath polluting machine hardly makes her a poster girl for saving the planet.

Although the fashion giants’ PR machines issue butt covering statements on ‘sustainability initiatives’, the simple and undeniable fact remains that the very business model of many, if not most, of the multi billion dollar retain chains is based on high velocity turnover of essentially disposable clothing to drive constant repeat sales. As the UN also points out, “Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.” Further, the low wage basis of the associated production systems condemns countless thousand foreign workers to a survival level existence.

Corner’s pathetic response to “take urgent action to cut carbon use” is to ban Big Macs. As the link above to a prior post notes, anything they do is pointless in in the sheer scale of its insignificance, and hence the accusation of hypocrisy. She would have far more effect on CO2 emissions if she banned wearing of all fast fashion (rather than fast food) on campus and insisted on a Chinese style uniform of unisex dungarees for all students on campus. This would have the benefit of finding out if students were really prepared to takes steps rather than just paying lip service to climate change and having a spider plant in their flats.

Wining ‘green gown’ awards http://francescorner.com/sustainability/ means nothing if you are still prepared to take Amancio Ortega’s shilling and support the fast fashion business model.