BEN TROVATO

The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page -

Turn to page 12 to read about Trovato try­ing to save the planet.

When one’s in­creas­ingly in­fre­quent thoughts turn to those in the front­lines of the bat­tle to save the Earth, one does not im­me­di­ately think of the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try. Con­versely, when one thinks of the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, one’s thoughts fre­quently turn to what one can do to has­ten the demise of the planet.

I have seen ads on the telly so crush­ingly aw­ful that it’s not enough to want to kill my­self. I want to kill ev­ery­one else, too, just to make ab­so­lutely sure that no­body can in­flict such atroc­i­ties on any liv­ing thing ever again.

Fail­ing that, there should be a sep­a­rate court in The Hague where the Bashar al-As­sads of the ad­ver­tis­ing world are forced to an­swer for their crimes against hu­man­ity. Cre­ative di­rec­tors in the morn­ing, copy­writ­ers in the after­noon. And ex­ec­u­tives at night, be­cause they shrivel up and die if ex­posed to sun­light.

The gen­uinely al­tru­is­tic green­ing of the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try sounds about as likely as Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng get­ting a doc­tor­ate in the hu­man­i­ties.

How­ever, there are signs of agen­cies be­ing in­creas­ingly pre­pared to spend a lit­tle less on cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem stim­u­lants and a lit­tle more on do­ing some­thing for the greater good of hu­mankind.

It’s fan­tas­tic karma and even bet­ter PR.

A lot of eco ads are made by non-prof­its (like there’s such a thing) that rely heav­ily on fora-good-cause mar­ket­ing tech­niques. They guilt you into stop­ping or start­ing things that, if done cor­rectly, should make the world a hap­pier, health­ier place.

As for fuzzy shib­bo­leths like, “Take a train, not a plane” and “Burn calo­ries, not oil” – they do about as much good as my mother say­ing to me as a kid: “Fin­ish your bloody sup­per. There are peo­ple starv­ing in Ethiopia.”

For a long time, I thought I was the cause of the famine. What a ter­ri­ble bur­den for a child to carry. What was I meant to do – courier my broc­coli to Ad­dis Ababa?

If we were se­ri­ous about pro­tect­ing the rain forests, we would stop bleat­ing about think­ing twice be­fore print­ing and groups like Ama­zon Watch would start cre­at­ing ads that read: “Join us in our fight against il­le­gal log­ging. Meet at the San Pe­dro Lodge, Iquitos, on 5 Fe­bru­ary. Ma­chetes and au­to­matic weapons will be pro­vided!” Free guns? Half of South Africa would be there in a heart­beat.

For green ad­ver­tis­ing to be truly sus­tain­able, agen­cies will have to come up with fresh ways to jolt us out of our tor­por. When I see im­ages of New York un­der wa­ter, I don’t think: “Oh my God, I have to sell my Land Rover and buy a horse!” Other thoughts go through my head. Things like: “Oh my God, I have to get to the bot­tle store be­fore six!” I’m sure I am not the only one suf­fer­ing from pho­to­shock fa­tigue.

One of the more un­usual ads I have come across is Green­peace’s “Global warm­ing will af­fect us all”. A mal­nour­ished child fair of skin and blond of hair squats for­lornly on a drought-rav­aged plain. A piece of old sack­cloth is draped across his skinny frame. Flies crawl on his fright­ened lit­tle face. Quite frankly, I find it ridicu­lous. As long as Africa has no per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the United Nations Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, this will never hap­pen to white peo­ple. Amer­ica, Bri­tain and France will sim­ply not al­low it.

Right now, I don’t nec­es­sar­ily want peo­ple to think twice be­fore they do some­thing to harm the en­vi­ron­ment. I want them to think twice be­fore they do some­thing to harm me. Be­fore get­ting peo­ple to agree to re­cy­cle, we should first get them to agree not to cut our throats for a cell­phone.

Buy re­new­able en­ergy cred­its? I can’t even re­mem­ber to buy elec­tric­ity.

My house is reg­u­larly plunged into dark­ness at the most in­ap­pro­pri­ate of times. My ex-wife would get so an­gry with me that she lit­er­ally glowed in the dark. I should have rented her out as a source of eco-friendly mood light­ing.

Frown­ing men in beards will tell you to find the most en­ergy ef­fi­cient house­hold ap­pli­ances. For me, an en­ergy ef­fi­cient TV is one that al­lows you to change chan­nels just by think­ing about it. I’d save a con­sid­er­able amount of en­ergy if I didn’t have to look for the re­mote ev­ery night.

And the most en­ergy ef­fi­cient fridge is one that senses when my beer is al­most fin­ished and dis­patches a ro­botic trol­ley car­ry­ing a fresh one. The trol­ley should be pro­grammed to find me wher­ever

I am in the house. Maybe it would be eas­ier to train the dog.

In Amer­ica, you can get what they call a “do-it-your­self so­lar elec­tric sys­tem” for about R4 000. Even though I am a firm be­liever in DIY (ev­ery time my ex gave me a chore, I’d say “do it your­self”), I am not so much Mr Fix-It as I am Mr F**k-it-Up. I would build my own so­lar pan­els in such a way that they would ab­sorb enor­mous amounts of en­ergy and then sud­denly dis­charge it all at once, blow­ing up the sun and tar­nish­ing my rep­u­ta­tion as an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist.

I took an on­line test to check my car­bon foot­print the other day. I lied, of course, like I have lied in ev­ery test since sec­ond grade. I said I lived alone in a one-bed­roomed house, didn’t own a car and never flew any­where. In­stead of laud­ing me as some kind of hero, I was told that I emit 9.2 tons of CO2 a year. And I’m the liar?

What the hell do they want me to do – live in a cave and wear a loin­cloth made of straw? Warm my­self over a pic­ture of a fire drawn on re­cy­cled pa­per? Eat noth­ing but meth­ane-free beans and bread made from bark? Ex­cuse me while I curl up and die. Sorry. Will that be okay? I don’t want to be any bother.

Then again, the en­ergy the planet will waste on de­com­pos­ing me could be put to much bet­ter use. It’s all very con­fus­ing.

I thought I was the cause of the famine

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