Good morning, we are on Monday, the twenty first of January zero two thousand and eight. No this isn’t a typo, but rather a sign that we are taking into account the fact that humanity still has a few millenniums to go through. Well… hopefully! [One may have doubts when one considers the dreadful status of pollution in emerging behemoths like China (and this is just a beginning; despite courageous efforts by the likes of the ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown, there is little or no evidence that anything will be done to curb carbon emissions over there)]. Thus, focussing on the long term is what the ‘Long Now Foundation’ (a term coined by famous UK musician and innovator Brian Eno) is doing as a day job. The foundation is a think tank aimed at promoting long term thinking (by long term, the foundation member certainly don’t mean anything like 18 to 24 months). As a result their seven recommendations are that we should:
- serve the long view (and the long viewer)
- foster responsibility
- reward patience
- mind mythic depth
- ally with competition
- take no sides
- leverage longevity
All which items should be heard by marketers as the foundation for increasing Corporate Responsibility in what they are doing. Needless to say that we still have a long way to go, but there are also encouraging signs that things are moving in the right direction. Yet, those of us who are endeavouring to take a lot of hindsight and put Nature above Fashion and not sacrifice Culture and the Environment on the altar of greed, may have a tough time now and again. It was my case when I read that issue (Vol. 171, No. 4 dated January 28, 2008) of Time magazine Europe; the ‘briefing‘ section on page of this issue triggered a few thoughts related to that subject. In this section weirdly entitled ENVIROTECH and even more weirdly substitled Green Machines, Time describes some of the highlights of the Detroit 2008 auto show:
Detroit’s annual Auto Show displays the best and brightest prototypes for eco-friendly cars Jan. 19-27. A look at some of the top innovators from the U.S. and abroad.
- TOYOTA A-BAT Utilizes solar panels
- SAAB 9-4X BIOPOWER Runs on biofuels
- FISKER HYBRID First true electric plug-in car
- JEEP RENEGADE Gets up to 110 m.p.g.
- MERCEDES-BENZ VISION GLK Powered by a diesel engine
- LAND ROVER LRX 2-L turbodiesel
This is how huge diesel-powered SUV’s, dubbed Chelsea Tractors in London by Environmental activists, are deemed “green” (for a hint on what Diesel fumes have in store for you, please check the UK Government’s official Health and Safety Executive website). Seeing this makes you think about long term view doesn’t it.
The Long Now Foundation describes its Clock and Library project in the following way:
“Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think”.
But the real question is not whether people see the clock (or Arthus Bertrand’s earth from above photos or Nasa’s or anything else) and think it’s cool. The real point is how do we go beyond this and actually do something about it. Marketing and Innovation has to go beyond this green paradox and start acting on it, or it will disappear. For those who still doubt it, I would recommend that they read Futurelab’s Alain Thys’s presentation on how Marketing committed suicide.
Let us hope that the clock is really well engineered and that we’ll keep our eyes on it all the time, there is a lot of catching up to do.
side note: many thanks to Stewart Baines from Futurity Media for telling me about the Long Now Foundation.