China has been an exportation hub for many years, supplying the rest of the globe with innumerable products on an ever-increasing scale. Unfortunately, it appears that an unwelcome additional extra has started to make its way around the world alongside these items: we're now also importing its pollution.
Debates about globalisation examine impacts on all concerned - whether importers of labour, food and goods or those countries losing key workers, giving up their food or being turned into polluted assembly lines. Debates about the EU and migration which lack that level of empathy - and concentrate purely on what Britain is supposedly losing - simply miss the point.
I wandered into a beautiful Shoreditch boutique called Labour and Wait the other day, and walked out with brown paper bags full of plain enamelled pie dishes and school canteen tumblers. Unpacking my purchases at home, I wondered why, given the asceticism of my purchases, I still felt my usual pang of shopper's guilt. If anything, it felt even worse.
I believe the answer is simple to identify, but deeply difficult to resolve. It lies in the fact that the dominant metaphor for the role of the individual in society today is that of the Consumer; and that while we talk to ourselves as Consumers, we simply will never solve climate change. Here are the four reasons why not.
I have seen no better symbol of boundless consumerism than the giant horse statue in the middle of Leeds Trinity shopping centre. It buckles under a sack distended, I imagine, with the dubious harvest of a thousand Chinese factories, the poor beast's hooves scrabbling to stay upright upon its narrow plinth. Quite what the developers were thinking I do not know...
It's a similar scenario with most products that are sold as 'green' or 'sustainable' alternatives. Virtually everything we buy new leaves a hole in the ground somewhere, because raw materials are required to make any new product. Energy is required too, and that has likely been generated by coal, gas or nuclear power. That doesn't sound very green now, does it?
Fuelling the shallow, consumerist aspirational culture (which ironically is what pervades the impoverished rioting kids) by whitewashing a veneer of affluence is not the answer. It will only increase social marginalisation and frustration. East London already has Westfield in Stratford, it does not need another twinkly mecca to consumption to further alienate its poor community.
The Myanmar launch presents Coca Cola with an interesting challenge. Here is a market that not only has no idea what Coke tastes like (sweet, fizzy, vaguely fruity) but one without any previous exposure to advertising either. I've no doubt that Coke will succeed, but I think the manner in which it will how achieve that success is very interesting.
In a speech earlier this week, Labour policy review boss Jon Cruddas said that his party is set to consider backing a Swedish-style ban on adverts that target children in the run up to 2015. Very noble, but he might be wise to reconsider; after all, haven't we already decided that such a ban is utterly pointless?
One of the immutable laws of travel is that once removed from their country of origin almost all souvenirs become ugly and pointless. Paella dishes look authentic in Spanish kitchens. Get it home to wherever home is, give it five days and it's living in the attic or on its way to the next car boot sale.