A recent article exploring how the increasing cleanliness affects water and energy consumption in Sweden. My conclusions are that we should ‘Shower less often, Wash dishes less often and do laundry less often.’
A recent article exploring how the increasing cleanliness affects water and energy consumption in Sweden. My conclusions are that we should ‘Shower less often, Wash dishes less often and do laundry less often.’
This week I had a really nice correspondence with Anna who emailed me about her experiments with washing less. I was very much touched by her enthusiasm and curiosity and asked her to write about her experiences. Here is what she sent.
Hi there, my name is Anna, I am a 18 y/o girl living in France. I follow a horticulture training and I hope to become a gardener and landscape designer. I am a vegetarian and I love animals (deeply involved in animal protection). I feel also strongly concerned in environmental protection, saving resources and sustainability. I am also involved in charity and help to homeless girls.
As an example of my ecological commitment , I constantly try to decrease my energy and water consumption as much as possible by wearing warm clothes when cold (so maintaining 18-19°C at home), switching off light when lighting is unnecessary and limiting the frequency and duration of showers. In fact, I usually shower twice a week, more if necessary but also less in winter and during weekends and vacations.
I exclusively wear heavy cotton sweatpants (so comfy!) with soft hoodies, and blue jeans and sweaters. I am aware that such garments made of cotton are not environment friendly to make. For this reason I mainly purchase unwashed dark blue denim jeans (the making of which consumed less water) rather than stone washed jeans. Moreover the way they naturally fade and become well-shaped and worn on my body make them unique(so cool!). I have a limited number of clothes: 2 blue cotton sweatpants and hoodies (one for home and sleeping, the other for sport training) and 3 pairs of jeans and 3 sweaters,1 jean overall and a blue work coverall. In my ecological approach, I also decided to space out their washing. I must admit that they go for a wash only when looking really dirty and stinky. No problem for that since I have no washer in my small studio flat! As an average, I wash those pants and sweaters only after wearing them 3-5 months each. Although they get a strong smell of me, they do not seem to be too messy and stinky. I must admit that I do not keep them all so longer for environmental reasons only but also because I love the way they look and smell, the smoothness of their fabric and the history they keep and bring. I was even wondering if I could simply keep them all unwashed… Should save much water and energy!
Of course, I tried to convince my parents however they are quite reluctant to reduce showers and laundry frequency. My little sister (16 y/o), who is a low washer too, was keen to keep her jeans, sweaters and sweatpants bottoms unwashed for longer time and even for not washing them at all. Actually she has to deal with our mother and she got used to wash them every other month (and less frequently when possible). My cousins also accepted to decrease showers and laundry frequency to the strictly necessary as did some of my friends as well. We frequently meet wearing dirty jeans and if it is true that we noticed that their smell is more intense after 3 months, nobody found that disgusting. Jeans and sweatpants smell like our bodies though they tend to concentrate smell. Somebody told us that (when meeting in a room) it smelled like dirty linen, but this was not really bothering.
From this viewpoint, I mainly got derogatory remarks from my mother who stated that my unwashed clothes smell bad but most of those who were asked about found that the smell was rather “strange”, “human” or “not bad at all” and defined it as “intense and mysterious”. Presently, one of my jeans is turning yellow-grey on the thigh, the butt and the pockets edges with a strong smell of dirty linen and the fabric has got a “cold” touch which means (I fear) that time has come to wash it. My two pairs of sweatpants have also reached the “go to wash” point however I hesitate to put them to the laundry because they are too comfy (I do not mention my blue work coveralls which are filthy as any coverall must be ;). Any comment will help me to take the decision ;). Anyway, I keep to the low washing style and try to communicate about that in order to popularize these laundry habits because it is cool and it contributes to reduce our impact on the environment.
Som en del av min forskning har jag läst 5 populära tidskrifter från 80-talet fram till nu, och analyserat deras innehåll. Nu undrar jag på vilka sätt tidskrifter överensstämmer med vardagen. För att ta reda på detta ska jag genomföra fokusgrupper där vi kommer att läsa och diskutera olika tidningsartiklar och jämföra dem med vår verklighet.
Fokusgrupperna genomförs i mars 2017. Jag kommer att sätta samman grupper om mellan 5 och 7 personer och intervjuerna kommer att pågå i 1,5 timmar inklusive fika på sociologiska
Välkommen att kontakta mig på firstname.lastname@example.org eller 0722805145.
My word for 2017? Solidarity.
In the last years compassion has been slowly cannibalising solidarity. Sympathy numbed by terrorism clickbait: children dead on Turkish beaches, children buried under Alleppoean rubble, Yemeni children bleeding to death. It’s becoming impossible to feel any sort of connection with this plethora of foreign images. My life is far removed, the only dead person I’ve ever seen is my grandfather. I can’t relate. I feel no solidarity. I feel only pity.
“Distant suffering” is how Boltanski (1999) refers to this outcome of exploitation and repression in places seemingly far away from the “West”. Solidarity is hard to muster even if people suffering in these (not-so-far-away) places are actually similar to us. They have parents, siblings, friends, lovers. They study, work, think, write blogs, probably binge on chocolate just like me. But there is some difference, some removal and I can’t see myself in their position. The suffering is distant. I can’t relate. I feel no solidarity. I feel only pity.
Even local suffering is hard to relate to. I am becoming more used to walking briskly past the beggars at Lund Central Station. They seem so different to me. I don’t need to offer them a cup of coffee or to use my washing machine. They are distant. Used to their suffering. I feel no solidarity. I feel only pity.
Pity is one way of dealing with undeserved privileged. Washing one’s hand with donations to the deserving poor. Recreating social stratification. Not dealing with the need to create a society where everyone has equal worth, an Australian ‘fair-go’. A society where there are no poor, deserving or otherwise. If you feel pity you are a good person, there is no urgency to tackle our in-egalitarian system. Compassion exonerating the need for solidarity.
Solidarity is not a moral obligation of the privileged to feel compassion for those in need. It’s the ability for people to feel each others’ feelings. Solidarity is empathy plus unity. To feel and then share: to be able to see from others’ perspective and create mutually beneficial outcomes. Understanding those with more privileged is just as important as understanding those with less. How else are we going to deal with the Trump palava in the coming years?
How else are we going to deal with the coming climate change challenges? As a researcher I’m interested in the social repercussions of climate impacts. Unlike predicting responses from natural systems, there is a risk with social science that the way in which we discuss social responses to climate change may contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies. The sea will rise, regardless of the political discussion, but the social response is very much tied to dominant discourse. If we don’t feel solidarity with different forms of humanity, the way we talk about responding to climate challenges will exclude certain ways of being, and lead to oppression of groups who are not like researchers.
This is happening already. Up to 50,000 people in Sweden are paperless. Without claim to legal employment they work on the black market, often under poor conditions. To handle this, parliament is currently discussing lowering legal working conditions. The people deciding seem unable to imagine themselves in the precarious position, and so use pity, and economic forces, rather than solidarity to frame the discussion. However, if we do widen gaps between working conditions there is a clear danger that this will only legitimise inequalities, and not provide a better life for all. Not create a society where everyone has equal worth. We need solidarity to create rules that care about everyone having the best chance to contribute.
We need solidarity to make us care about positive global conditions for everyone. To create a world where we all have equal opportunity to thrive. And equal opportunity to contribute to improving the human experience. As evolutionary biologist Gould (1979) put very nicely ‘I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.’ More solidarity will provide better chances for everyone to make an Einsteinean contribution. Let’s have more solidarity in 2017.
Moments of solidarity
Having dinner with a new friend at Open Table Melbourne
Hanging out at Kontrapunkt Malmö
Reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I want to have a conversation with someone, not the social script. One can only ever interact with the script. We are inaccessible. The script is always already there. The script subsumes.
Talk about how busy you are.
Tell people how things affect you. Defend identity with life. Attack identities that jeopardise yours. Border security. Create identity in difference with the other. Substitue solidarity with shallow compassion. Criticize the other at every opportunity. In the name of trying to understand difference. Scripted.
Family. Partners, friends: scriptulous social value.
Struggles. Fighting diseases. How I overcame… struggle with cancer, being bullied at school, the death of a loved one. Follow the script.
Eating. Relationship with food. Weird masquerading as normal. Normal masquerading as normal. Normal is relative.
Sport. Run a marathon. Individualisation of wellbeing.
Things: computers, apartments, not having things, I just want a nice suit and that’s enough for me. ‘This old thing? It’s just from H&M I don’t usually shop there but they are good for basics’ Yes that’s flattering, how to get a bikini body? Wear a bikini. Resistance.
Beautiful people. Credible.
Religion. Free shot.
Critiquing somnambulist following of socially acceptable scripts is still following scripts.
Wake up! Haraway’s trickster.
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Scripts as short cuts for greater reflexivity. As long as you discard the raft once you cross the river.
Truth? Resonance? Reflexivity? Scripted.
Materiality – scripted? Light – wave particle duality. Materiality of light. Realism constructivism. Particles are heterogeneous. Post humanities ontology: the world and ourselves, we are co-construing us with semiotics. Relational ontology. Quasi objects. Quasi subject positions. Long live Barad.
(Pre)scripted materiality – asymmetry of access to the physical through layers of discourse. Laclau’s discourse is more ontological than relational ontology, materiality is part of discourse (thank you Liv). Hegemony is produced in different contexts. Power aspect lost in post-humanities research – the focus on ontology and using the right language, the right scripts = self-referencing analysis. We are operating in a scripted vacuum. Who said that? Did I?
A friend of mine, Devrim, who grew up in Turkey, posted his mind dump during the aftermath of the recent failed coup. His thoughts struck me as spot on in describing our silo societies and tendencies to form our own virtual reality bubbles. I am posting him word for provocative word.
My thoughts on the popular claim that the military coup attempt was fake; it was staged by the Turkish government to design suitable conditions for a political system change:
Chomsky once commented that in this so called information age we started to create – more than ever – political islands, where we use social media as primary information source and we rely on Twitter and Facebook feeds constituted by people whose opinions are similar to us. We do not want to be disturbed by the alien thoughts; we pursue harmonic havens. Contemporary news websites are also organized in a similar manner, it is becoming rare to see conflicting columnists/opinion builders within the same organizational frame. This is sure a part of bigger trend; we witness more and more examples of increasingly homogenous gated-communities; physically, socially, politically and virtually. These partial and multiple realities make a direct impact on how we ‘read’, interpret and experience major social and political events.
Yesterday I read in the social media that many people in Turkey claim it was the French State who was the mastermind behind the recent Nice attack, because they needed stronger reasons to expel all ‘migrant’ communities from the country. Similarly many claimed in Turkey that the government was behind the ISIS attack in Istanbul because they wanted to rule a country based on fear. The ‘alternative’ readings and interpretations of events, in our time, got a bolder ‘conspiracy’ tone, I argue, as a result of proliferated mentioned opinion and life-style enclaves. Some like to talk about Illuminati and New World Order, while some believe it is the Jews who rule the world, some truly argue without direct consent of White House nothing major thing can ever happen on Earth. However, for instance, when one reads cables revealed by Wikileaks couple of years ago, what is exposed was lame and mundane everyday politicians/state officers who were trying to make sense of what is going on around them, often enfolded beyond their control, understanding and their interference capability. The coin side of overstating the organizational and mental capacity of power-holders is, it encourages pacifism while fueling pessimism. Continuously depicting a world inspired by dystopias of fictions like Matrix and 1984 clearly blocks a possible imagination of a social change because it attributes supra-human abilities to the organizational organs of inequality.
When it comes to ‘readings’ of the unfortunate and horrible course of events last night, I recognize a similar pattern. Many claimed that, even in the ‘western’ mainstream media, it was a staged coup by the government, referred as mistakenly self-coup, to pave the way for Erdogan to fasten his grip on the country. Some others reminded that without USA’s consent no coup could be realized in Turkey so it was the White House who ordered the coup. Others believed it was UK who was orchestrated the turmoil. I consider we humans are much more mundane and we function in a much more colorless manner than what all these circulated meta-readings and conspiracy theories imply. I cannot imagine that Erdogan has Star Wars’ emperor-like organizational capacity to design and perform complex ‘scenes’ with bombings and fighting jets involved resulted in around 200 dead including members of the governing political party. I actually believe no-ever government has ever had such power. As far as I know from my history readings such things happened only in smaller scales under military governments for manipulation the public opinion. Actually we have had multiple similar failed military coup attempts in Turkey’s history, the most famous ones happened in 20 February 1962, led by Talat Aydemir, and in 9 March 1971, Cemal Madanoglu was the protagonist. They carried many common qualities with the attempt yesterday with seemingly amateur organization and their limited ground capacity. So it is not for the first time a clique in the military tried to take the control of the rest of the army to settle their rule in the country and eventually failed. In addition when we examine the high rank army officers detained today and last night, we see no ideological link to the government in any possible way. There is no solid evidence backing such claim, apart from pro-coup soldiers disorganization, limited capacity and Erdogan’s arrogance.
The official claim from the government side is coup attempters belonged to outlawed Gulenist movement, but no evidence has yet been presented on this issue either. I personally have a difficult time believing that Fetullah Gulen followers had that much power in the army. Nevertheless, the army in Turkey has long believed that they are the real owners of the land and it is their duty to interfere if politicians fail to defend some core Kemalist values, such as laicism, westernisation and nationalism. In other words the Turkish army has a specific institutional history augmented with repetitious practices. At the height of his 14 year-old rule, Erdogan has never suffered such a bad reputation in the ‘western’ world as today, and pro-coup soldiers might have thought that they could therefore enjoy ‘international’ support as was partly the case with Sisi in Egypt. One common thing among some of the high ranking commanders detained today is that they were reportedly expected to be retired this summer; it might to some extend explain the premature condition of the coup as well as its timing.
Luckily the coup was not successful this time, just like the majority of coup attempts in the relatively short history of Turkey. However it is obvious that Erdogan and the current government are the ‘winners’ of the night, they played the major role, with the help of their supporters and the police, in defending parliamentary democracy – as much Turkey has claim to it – against military rule. It is very likely that they will tighten their rule as an outcome, just like many commentators claim. I think, it would have been much better if opposition (both secularists and pro-Kurdish) was also protesting intensively last night against the attempted coup; so they could also claim a share from the democratic ‘victory’ and could hold a stronger position against future authoritarianization of the government.
At a time when instability has become the transnational norm, wars are tearing down existing social orders and people’s lives, unjust global order pushes war-survivors to richer countries to claim their share from the global wealth, organizations such as EU and USA are increasingly leaning towards xenophobia, isolation and mass manic-aggressive paranoia, the last thing we needed in Turkey was a military coup. Albeit the near future looks still dark.
‘What’s everyone doing next week?’ I asked over lunch at work. ‘Does anyone want to come to a norm-critical seminar for teachers on the 17th?’
‘That’s old news, I don’t think I’ll have time to go.’ Replied my lovely straight white male colleague.
I choked back an indignant ‘But we’re in Sweeeden‘ and drifted silently to the fringes of the conversation.
Confusingly upset by his reaction, I had to consciously stifle an urge to blame my (norm deviant) body – I must be coming up to that time of the month etc. No-one wants to be seen as playing the woman-card at work.
My disgruntlement may be due to some residual angst from the birthday present that my lovely straight white male brother sent me: Bertrand Russell’s The History of Western Philosophy. 893 pages canvassing the writings of straight white males. Interestingly wikipedia notes that his wife did much of the research for the book. But his name adorns the cover, sitting beside a swathe of (presumably lovely) definitely straight definitely white males including Kant, Hegel, Byron, Schopenhauer and Marx.
I confided in one of my lovely straight white male friends. ‘But I can’t say why I’m annoyed!’
‘Don’t worry’, he comforted, ‘there are plenty of women who experience discrimination’ – before launching into a monologue about women in professional cycling. Apparently there are only 8 or so who make enough money from cycling to not have to work part-time.
I found this conversation only added to my directionless disgruntelment. The cock-sure way he felt entitled to share his experiences and opinions and then presume to speak on behalf of women after listening to a podcast while I sat there quietly agreeing.
And then I realised I am mostly disgruntled at myself. I have a good education. I have listened to many podcasts. And read books. I can be articulate. Sometimes even funny. I am familiar with theories of structural inequalities. Why can’t I be just as cock-sure as my lovely straight white male counterparts?
Well because there are structural inequalities. Children’s books have straight white male heroes. The rich are straight white males. 9 of the top 10 most influential spiritual leaders are straight white(ish) males. And only 2 of the top 100 highest-paid athletes are female. With all of these powerful role-models it’s easy to believe that men are better, more valid members of society. I think we all do on some level, and that makes it hard for women to be so cock-sure. Especially if one lacks the anatomy in question.
We take differences between men’s and women’s confidence for granted. Men dominate conversations, at work, at school, at home – that’s just the way it is.
It’s hard to constantly be critical of the status quo. Especially for my lovely straight white male friends. They have the absolute best intentions, and even describe themselves as feminist. But if enjoying one’s privilege means not being critical of norms, it can be very difficult to be norm critical.
Even if my colleague is right and all of this is old news (in his defense there are critical studies dating back to the 80s, perhaps even earlier) then why are we still perpetuating norms that value some members of society over others? Looking around my office at the literature I teach to undergraduate students, there are only books written by men.
Knowing a problem exists – and naming it – is one small triumph. The next challenge is to build new norms where all members of society are equally celebrated. That includes spending time reflecting over and being critical of one’s assumptions. Possibly at workshops.
If anyone is in Lund next week please come with me 🙂
Tuesday May 17, at 1-3 p.m. (in Ed 367), Viktorija Kalonaityte, senior lecturer at Linnéuniversitetet, will give a seminar on norm-critical approaches to teaching and learning in higher education.
In Sweden we have just endured a minor uproar over Superstar Surgeon, Paolo Macchiarinis fall from grace. Macchiarini has been recently convicted of falsifying test results and continuing to perform his new operations despite controversy. Six of the eight patients who received his synthetic trachea transplant died since undergoing the procedure. Alarmingly highly regarded medical journal The Lancet, published a paper by Macchiarini and colleagues in 2011.
This confirms what many researchers fear – much of what we publish is at best nonsense and lethal at its worst.
Not that any of my writing has had an enormous impact. It is possible that my friends wash their jeans slightly less often with a slightly positive impact on energy and water consumption. But I do – on some level – recognise the feeling of meaninglessness.
Writing a scientific article is an exercise in slowly numbing your darlings. Baring your ideas to anonymous reviewer, receiving ruthless feedback, reading up on reviewers’ favourite theories, citing said ‘anonymous’ reviewers in a flattering light, rewriting, resubmitting. After the third or fourth re-submission your once poignant truth is watered down to limp, nearly unrecognisable shadow.
Being a peer reviewer is not much better. Spurred on by a niggling feeling of one’s duty to contribute to the scientific project, you begrudgingly accept to review an article based on an abstract vaguely in your area. After skimming the article, you realise that to review it thoroughly you will need to read five more papers and see the authors data-set. You try your best but you are never sure if you understood exactly what the authors intend and if your feedback makes their findings clearer or easier to replicate.
Is there any evidence that our hallowed peer-reviewing process actually makes articles better? I haven’t seen any proof – regardless I continue the farce. Publications are the academy’s currency. The more articles you have, the easier to find a job, secure a promotion, write successful grant applications…
As a result a huge volume of our nonsense makes its way into the pages of scientific journals. Since Sokal‘s famous mumbo-jumbo acceptance to Social Text in 1994, there has been an increase in the acceptance of hoax articles, even in credible publishers like Sage and Elsevier. One researcher, John Bohannon, received more than a 50% acceptance rate for 304 versions of the same nonsensical research in 2013. This against the background of the more sinister proliferation of ‘instant article software‘ where software helps your research and put together articles. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what forms modern knowledge.
We have known about the pointlessness since at least 2005 when John P. A. Ioannidis published his eye-opening Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. And it is now more pertinent than ever with the recent Open Science Collaboration, who replicated 100 experiments from papers published in 2008 in three high-ranking psychology journals. Less than one half of the studies gave significantly similar results to those originally reported. What we publish is rubbish.
Yes, discrediting is the easiest game in town. I actually don’t think that these experiments undermine the entire scientific project. They show, rather, that self-critique has grown bolder within the academy, which can only mean an improvement in the quality of research. And an improvement in our collective body of knowledge. Because that is the point of research.
This post was inspired by a seminar by Roland Paulsen who is presenting again at Lund Konsthall 6pm April 21st. See you there?
Somehow a whole year has flown by since I last posted. A combination of professional and personal satisfaction – life is good inside my bubble – and the imperative to contribute to our collective betterment subsides. Contentment has a mellowing effect.
But I still want to be active in re-imaging a fairer world.
Because we still have huge problems to overcome. Run away climate change (1). Burgeoning gaps between haves and have-nots (2). Global displacement (3). The general failure of capitalism to deliver a high quality of life for everyone.
Yes I am still aware of these problems, but evidently I’m not riled up enough to be actively involved. Comfortably numb as Isabelle put it yesterday. Or villa villains as other colleagues describe themselves, knowing full well the consequences of a consumerist lifestyle, one nevertheless indulges in everyday luxuries like cars, imported food, summer houses, international travel…
It’s not that I’m seeking a paranoid state of constantly finding conspiracies and pointing out evil masterminds behind everything. More that I want to be aware of the different elements in our social system. To see not just my own individual challenges, but also the challenges faced by less privileged groups. To deconstruct the mechanics underlying our social system. To understand how inequalities are perpetuated. To image better modes of existence. Making poignant arguments. Being active in debates.
Perhaps doing well-considered social critique from a space of comfort is more sustainable than an reactionary tirade to every micro-injustice. As long as one in involved.
Apathy is the real villain.
1 Klein, Naomi. This changes everything: Capitalism vs. the climate. Simon and Schuster, 2015.
2 Piketty, Thomas. Capital in the twenty-first century. Harvard University Press, 2014.
3 Sassen, Saskia. Expulsions. Harvard University Press, 2014.