Sunday, April 22, 2007

What Price a Life? II

How do we individually and collectively survive and thrive?
What do we need to know from the past to avoid the mistakes of our forefathers?
How will our future depend on what we do in the present?

Reframing what looks like a question about death and mortality into a much deeper, broader question that can surprise and sometimes delight the viewer but always takes unexpected paths. There is enough variety in the question to make informative, provactive media for more than 10 years. Real information on our collective choices and their consequences will help shape the political debate and agenda in a unique way.

Having a Life

In 1901 Australia had a population of 3.8M. In 2006, it was well over 20M.
In 1911, 30% of the population worked in Agriculture, which accounted for 20+% of GDP. Over 40% of the population lived in rural areas. Most families were >4 children.
In 2006 this was around 4% and 3% of GDP. 90+% of the population lived in urban areas. Families are <=2.
ABS - 2001 Yearbook, "A century of population change in Australia".

AIHW life expectancy data:
1900 M:55 F:58
2000 M:77 F:82

In the 1950's the average family, with 4 children, was supported on a single wage or income:
- the average wage in a city
- 40 acres (16ha) in a 'mixed farm' (dairy, pigs, poultry, crops)
- or an author writing "one book a year" [no citation]

In the 2000's, two above average wages are needed to purchase a house, women are deferring children until age 32, 400ha is not economic for broad-acre or grazing enterprises - and authors need 8-10 books 'in print' at one time to make a living.

We are all better off - we must be. But at what price? Why does it take so much more to pay for our lives? Where does the money go...

Taking a Life

The headline meaning, "what does it cost to end a life?" can be examined in many ways.

For example comparing and contrasting the dollar cost per life in warfare.
  • the monetary cost of killing a person in War over centuries - the American Civil War, The Boer War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I & II.
  • What was the cost the USA of bombing Afganistan "back into the Dark Ages"?
    - and what about the cost to the Taliban and the Afhanhi community there and around the world?
  • And the low-tech version, How much money did it cost in Mogadisheu to wield machtees?
    - and what was the collectve cost of Ethnic Cleansing to their country and the countries that have provided aid for decades?

What is the effect on the global and individual economies of the Arms Suppliers (the USA, UK, France & Germany), the arms users and the Arms trade blackmarket?

But the world doesn't need just another War Documentary, even if it does take a different view.

And their is an individual, personal side to this equation:
What is the time, energy and opportunities passed up for a single man to fight for the US military?

If he does come home in one piece, what are the long-term effects on him, his family, his community?
And for those that increasingly come back as 'damaged goods', what of their lives afterwards?

Saving a Life

Every year hospitals, paramedics and rescue crews save thousands of road accicent victims.

There is a very real dollar cost in saving, or trying to save each of these people. It's part of our culture that we want to offer the same helping hand to everyone. But are we that equitable and elgalitarian? Are there places we quietly just don't serve because the people are somehow 'not as worthy' or 'the costs are too high'. Did the community make those decisions - or have them made for us?

But the victims and their families have to live after 'the accident'. Head injuries are often life-changing. Personalities change - people become violent, abusive and irrational. It's hard for them, and harder for their carers.

How do the paid professionals cope, the families and friends and those that used to depend on them?

And how do we individually and collectively deal with the knowledge that many were preventable?
We are better at not killing people on the roads than China and South Africia. But can we do better?
Commercial Aviation shows what can be done - if there is a will.

But do we want to pay that price? Discipline, rigour and attention to detail. And maybe not everyone automatically has 'the right to drive, to handle a lethal weapon'. How many people are we happy to see die needlessly by our collective inaction?

Politicians won't frame that question. But if they don't, who will?

Supporting us in the lifestyle to which we've become accustomed

We sit on the terrace and sip a nice latte or fine chardonay - but there are consequences for the rest of the world.

All the people who laboured to bring a simple thing together.
And to keep us safe while there and getting there.
We have water to drink, electricity to heat and light, phones to chat upon and buildings that stand up.
But most of all, we are blessed with abundance. We don't toil in the fields or labour in factories. Never before in history have so many had such a fine life. Many things we take for granted - even as a right - were once not even the domain of Kings. Refrigeration, detergents, clean running water, safe food, antibiotics, microsurgery, phones, TV, computers, the 'Net...

These we take for granted... It wasn't always so - and isn't so for the majority of the Earth's population.

And we are borrowing from the future, from our childrens' inheritance, to support this lifestyle.

"Water security" is now Real News. Wasn't it always? Folks in the bush have always been there.
Soon we'll have to consider the consequences of the drought - erosion, loss of soil and unavailability of food and goods.
And the profiteering that will go alongside scarity.

And where do our farmers go when the fertiliser runs out?

Oil is too precious to be burn like trash - look around you and find something that is not composed at least partly of plastics. It is either there because of petro-chemicals used in its production/manufacture or in its transport and use. When Oil runs out, the true cost will not be 'oh no, I can't drive', but 'where's all the consumer products?'.


The concept is to present difficult questions about how we live our lives and the implicit and explicit choices we make - in a sensitive and insightful manner. To ask questions to which there are no simple answers - only choices. Where 'living in the question' is the only right-minded response.

To provoke informed debate. To say things and address issues in areas politicians fear to tread.
And hopefully grab an audience and entrall them. To take them on an unpredictable, exciting journey.

What price a Life?

This is an idea for a probably infinite set of media programs... That could inform, entertain and may provoke (shock, horror!) some thought/introspection.

In 3 or 4 generations we in the Western World have gone from a farming and manufacturing economy and society, to a 'service economy'. Just one generation saw - electricity reticulation, street lighting, radio, automobile, aircraft, the 'production line', industrial scale War [WW I] and the end of domination of European Royalty and Nobels.

We've gone onto create new life forms and manipulating DNA. To knowing most of the building blocks of matter and creating nuclear bombs capable of extinguishing everyone on the planet many times over. And to generations living off social welfare, using drugs and escaping into the 'virtual worlds' of TV, computer games and on the 'Net.

We didn't get here by accident, but we could lose everything in a flash with an accident - or through others intentionally destroying it.
Appreciating what we have and why we have it is essential to preserving our lives.

"What Price a Life?" It's ambiguous and can be taken many, many ways. Such as:


'price' has many dimensions:
  • Dollars
  • Time
  • Energy
  • Resources (animal, mineral, vegetable)
  • Opportunity Cost - the cost of choosing 'this', not something else
  • Environmental
  • Human - personal, family, friends, group, community, town, country, ethic grouping
  • Human - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual
  • Sociological
  • Consequences - what are the on-going results of decisions, actions and inaction?

a Life - I

"What price for Taking a LIfe?" With a gun, a knife, .... Intentionally and accidentally. In War, in peace and at home.

  • Saving a Life - hospital, road safety, industrial safety, nuclear
  • Extending Lives - good health and nutrition
  • Prolonging - last month, 3 months, 12 months
  • Living a Life. e.g. a monk, a celebrity, a cleaner, a guard, a doctor, a teacher, a prostitue, a farmer, ...
  • Creating a Life - IVF, surrogacy, Gene Therapy...
  • Selling/Trading a Life - slave traders, 'black-birding', white slavery, sex slavery, ..
  • Preventing/Containing a Life - jail, detention, ...
  • Seeking a New Life - immigrants, refugees, ...
  • Freedom, Self-Determination, Self-Expression, Creativity
  • Justice, Equity, Fairness

a Life - II

"What Price a Life here and now?"
  • Over time
  • In this town, community, country
  • For this sub-group - aboriginals, Native Red Indians, Inuit
  • By religon/religous belief
  • By Sex (M/F/other)
  • By sub-culture - terrorists, drug-pushers, regime...

a Life - III

"What Price a Human Life?"
  • A wild animal
  • A pet
  • A domestic animal (food, fibre, fleece, milk, eggs, ...)
  • An endangered species
  • A not 'cute and cuddly' thing
  • Insects, parasites, pests...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Request to Twinings Tea Company: Create more business through the Net.

How to INCREASE your profits and keep old fogeys like me happy...

PLEASE bring back your wonderful variety of leaf tea!


Since the early 1970's I've been discovering and drinking your teas. There are other brands - but I like yours :-)

In 1986 at an IT startup company I helped found we collected & drank over 30 varieties of your teas - as well as our own Espresso machine. Wonderful times!

Around 1988 you changed the formulation of "Earl Grey" and the colour of the packaging. Tasted like Burgamont oil from mint not oranges.

And since you've increasingly focused on what can be easily sold in the high-street and supermarkets. Limited range and culling slow-sellers. Migrating to tea-bags.

All great, not merely good, business sense.

New Business Model

How can you increase your profits and cater to old fogeys like me???

A. The Net - direct sales with minimum qty.
B. Regular "speciality packs" into supermarkets.

Internet sales

  • The people who want to buy your specialist leaf tea are buying a luxury item. A higher price marks extra value. And yes, there would be a price-point sales will decline.
  • you already have many national distributors & can supply locally (by mail) to most of the world.
  • You get to charge double for smaller batches that you make less often.
  • Selling direct means you cut out the distributor/reseller - and double your margin again.
  • And you don't have to do anything much different. Every country now has Internet Sales 'Fulfillment' organisations that charge a modest fee and do everything else...
  • minimum quantity sales [like 1Kg or $25] means your profits don't get sucked away by transaction fees.

In the Supermarkets

  • Look at Aldi and their approach to 'special items'. They make them available for a limited period and then swap out the stock for new specials. You can do a different speciality pack every 3 months for 4 weeks. Savvy buyers will stock up.
  • In Australia, well known brands have occasional 'nostalgia' packaging. Tins printed to celebrate an anniversary usually. They aren't real 'collectables' - but a nice promotional vehicle that in today's recycling conscious world don't get trashed for quite some time. They are a long-term in-home promotional display - that you make an upfront profit on!
    [I have a 250g Earl Grey tin bought around 1990 that sits on my counter top & I see everyday.]

Generation X & Y effects

It's true the Baby Boomers [1946-1964] have a lot stronger connection to Ye Olde Teas - and all the ceremony surrounding them. They also have very high purchasing power now, like what they like (are brand loyal) and are generally comforted by links to their 'roots' - especially pleasant/fond memories.

Their children, Gen X, are surprising - they're turning 40 and have taken on many of their parents preferences and patterns. Why do the Beatles and Rolling Stones still sell so well?? Gen X & Y know and share many of their parents preferences.

And you could be tapping that market as well...

Market Testing

Australia is a great place to test :-) Two large supermarket chains with 60%+ coverage, 80%+ internet access/use [home or office] and a bunch of cashed-up baby boomers - and a reliable & cheap parcel post system.
Won't cost you much to market test and establish the vectors/relationships.

I suspect there is a HUGE pent-up demand for some of your now premium product, from a small but loyal band of 'believers'.
Surveys are unreliable - Dollars at the cashpoint are the only survey that matters.


You can have both the new market of limited choice, fast/easy prep., high turnover + lower margins
Ye Olde World "Slow Food"-style premium-product with high-margins and spectacular range.

The Internet has changed everything. Let it change your business too.