Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Research is an addiction. A relatively harmless one, unless you literally can't tear yourself away from the screen.

But all the dead ends, spoofs, pompous middle aged American men who set themselves up as chairmen of a one man band, who give themselves ridiculous titles and pose in front of a 1960s desk and pot plant, with expensive teeth and over-groomed hair, all those grimly disappointing places are worth it when you find a good poem.

A few years ago I was poet in residence at Lever Brothers, that became Lever Faberge, that became Unilever. One of my tasks during a relatively long association with the company was to send a weekly poem to people - to provoke thought or entertain.

One week I decided to send a found poem. To me, a found poem is a moment of delight, recognition, surprise that exists in a headline, an idea, a few lines, an overheard conversation, graffiti, a snapshot, a view or something you encounter unexpectedly.

This particular found poem emerged from research I was doing at the time into water. I'd been led to it by an Adbusters magazine (September/October 2001) report on inventions by the Intermediate Technology Design Group. I encountered Adbusters when I used to write about retail and was so desperate to find an alternative to regurgitating press releases about warehouses and distribution networks. Retail is unremittingly bland, despite the desperately glamorous advertising. But that advertising is led by brands, whose spending is obscene.

Adbusters is still virtually a lone voice challenging this criminal waste of cash and squewing of values. Somehow, though, in among the hilarious spoofs, I found a reference to a project in Nepal. The project I REMEMBER finding was called the Dew Line and it was the name given to a water collecting scheme.

Yesterday I found it again. It's even better. It's name's even better, certainly in my mind a few notches up.... this is Fog Collecting. Thick fog in the mountains of Nepal is harvested as clean water, drips from mesh screens into tanks for villagers who have no other fresh water.

It's brilliant. For its concept, for its execution....everything about it. That's what I call new thinking. Oh, and another wonderful example is Helen Storey's disappearing dresses, which have led to an innovation which could really change the world. Both websites are in my links.

There are a couple of other sites I've found too, that resonate steadily and both are collections - one the Rosetta project is a collection of languages and a campaign, too, to preserve what is disappearing as fast as Amazonian forest, the other a collection of traditional wisdom and knowledge mainly from India but with a worldwide remit, the Honey Bee project.

The Billboard liberationists remind me of a postcard of graffiti that I've had since I was a student. This is more than graffiti, this is seriously planned and project managed! Check out the link to Reverend Billy on their site. It all reminds me of those brilliant French anarchists who were around in the sixties and seventies (strings of nostalgia here).

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