New Italian premiere Mario Monti vows to make Neutrinos run on time

After announcing his new cabinet, which includes no elected politicians, Mario Monti got to work in reassuring the public and markets of their focus in restoring confidence in Italy. “Further evidence this week that Italian scientists have measured neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light, has damaged confidence in Italian precision and efficiency,” said banker Monti. “I vow to make the neutrinos run on time,” said the leader of Italy’s first unelected government since the War. Along with creative austerity measures, such as making politicians redundant, Italy may be able to restore confidence in its bond issues. “This will enable us to fund international banker bonuses for another two years” explained Monti, demonstrating an acumen from his vast banking experience.

Some speculated that if the physics experiments are actually correct, it could be more unsettling to the markets. “For a neutrino to arrive faster than the speed of light means we must ask whether it is the same neutrino. Instead, could it be that the neutrino is being created out of nothing in the expectation of the arrival of a future neutrino? Might that create a momentary quantum debt that could be unsustainable if replicated on a larger scale?” pondered a theoretical physists who preferred not to be named. It is rumoured that the potential for this quantum-debt-default alerted Monti to settle the markets by outlining his neutrino doctrine. “There are so many quants in banking, who design the algorythms that do the high frequency trades, these neutrino results could knock their confidence in Italy’s science, or worse, in Italy’s time-space continuuum,” said the anonymous source. He added “being a Goldman Sachs man, Monti is used to controlling the universe, so subatomic adjustments might not be beyond his imagination.”

Unfortunately Professor Finzione, from the Italian laboratory Gran Sasso, was unable to attend the press conference, after his train was delayed. He sent your correspondent the following sms: “Time is not so linear. It could be a little bit of history repeating… Me ne Frego! [I dont give a damn!]”

[For more news of this type, check out the onion, news biscuit, daily show, colbert report, or, well, the latest headlines!].

Vogue and Marie Claire report on sustainable luxury

Jem interviewed in Marie Claire
Jem interviewed in Vogue

Can jewellery give miners decent work and livehoods, promoting sustainable development? Can India reclaim denim, as an organic, handwoven, naturally dyed traditional cloth? These issues are discussed in this month’s Vogue and Marie Claire. I talked to both, while sporting the organic denim Sherwani I created with Prema of Rangoli Fashion House and Rubina of Colours of Nature, when in southern India earlier this year (and photographed by famed photographer (and great chap), Paulo Pellegrin).

One focus of my work since 2006, has been helping promote more awareness of sustainable business issues amongst elites and middle classes across the global South, particularly in Asia and Latin America. So Im pleased that this month I get to promote sustainable fashion and jewellery in both the spanish Vogue and Marie Claire in India. In one of the articles I discuss the history of denim, and how it can be reclaimed as Indian. The side benefit of this work is that, as just an academic and consultant, I get to chuckle about appearing in top fashion magazines! So, don’t just stand there, let’s get to it (strike a pose, there’s nothing to it…)

Thanks to Noela Fernandez and Aekta Kapoor for the interviews.

Some snaps of us in action at Rangoli in Auroville….

Jem and Prema plan the lining
Getting measured at Rangoli
Getting measured at Rangoli
Jem discovers how Rubina and Jesus make blue
Jem discovers how Rubina and Jesus make blue

Colourful Cuba (cos your gray ain’t my grey)

I sometimes chat with my flatmate about what it was like growing up in the Communist East. We joke about how grey it was. In my books and films it was grey… the buildings, people, all shades of dull depressed and repressed grey. She tells me that books about the West that she read in East Germany showed the West as… also grey! “OK, so it was so grey in the East, that even our pictures of the West were grey!”.

Was an absence of neon lights and bright paints and colourful advertising actually grey? Its amazing how urban our thinking is… nothing is as colourful as nature. Walking through the UN today I saw paintings from an exhibition sponsored by Cuba. The artist from this communist country, Luis Antonio Espinosa Fruto, chose to paint all his pictures in… grey. But hey, they are bright, brilliant, beautiful images. They are all paintings of the natural environment in Cuba (continues below…).


Cuban nature is mentioned in the depths of a report published by WWF earlier this week. The Living Planet Report tells a shocking story of what we are doing to ourselves and our planet… as Frank Dixon said at a talk on Monday, “the science is telling us we are like the meteor that hit the Yucatan and wiped out the dinosaurs, we are the new great exterminator”. We really are behaving on this planet like we have another one to go to.

On page 19, in a section comparing the amount of resources each country is gobbling up in comparison to the social development they have acheived, as indicated by the UN’s Human Development Index, shows that only one country has achieved a level of social development and environmental protection that can be considered “sustainable development”. That country? Grey-painted communist Cuba. The journos seem to have missed that one in their coverage of the report.

This state of affairs should make us ask some serious questions about current forms of economy and capitalism… are they helping us get what we really want? Is the world any more colourful for its shining lights and gaudy adverts, if these help melt the glaciers, dry up the lands, and degrade nature? Is it any more colourful when people run the rat race to souless material excess while others are malnourished and oppressed?

I guess one reason Cuba comes out on top is because the HDI statistics dont place decisive weightings on certain political freedoms. Cuba probably comes out on top environmentally because of the US embargo has encouraged local production of foods for local consumption. Organic market gardening isnt a lifestyle choice for the middle classes wanting some more meaning to their lives, but a basic necessity for many Cubans. Whats the policy conclusion? That everyone needs to be embargoed by the US?

Open borders only work when you’ve got a fair game going on, with ground rules that mean you dont trade away the environment or people as mere ‘externalities’ that can be disregarded. The evidence from the Living Planet Report is more an indictment of the West than it is praise for Cuba. But, well done Cuba for reminding us that our brains are the only grey matter in nature, and its our choice to make them vitally brilliant or deadly dull.