A personal exchange of email with LEGO

In my original email to LEGO (via the Greenpeace website), I tried to be as brief as I could. Sadly, all I got was a generic reply that did not address the issues I was raising. Here is the correspondence to-date (any further responses from Lego will be appended as comments by me): —–Original Message—– From: Rick Altman Sent: 04 July 2014 19:48 To: Responsibility Subject: Invest in the future not the past – stop sponsoring Shell Dear LEGO, Fossil fuels are a 19th century technology and a finite resource. A post-carbon era is inevitable, the only question that remains is whether 10 billion humans will be able to share in it. I’m really disappointed to learn that you have agreed to help Shell clean up its image, while it helps to endanger the environmental biodiversity of the Arctic. You claim that it is your ambition to protect children’s right to live in a healthy environment, both now and in the future. If that is true, please cut your ties with Shell now. Yours faithfully, Rick Altman ——————— On 17 July 2014 10:08, CustomerResponseTeam@LEGO.com <CustomerResponseTeam@lego.com> wrote: Dear Rick Altman, Thanks for getting in touch with us. I’m sorry to hear you feel so strongly about our co-promotion with Shell. We really appreciate you taking the time to write and share your concern with us, and I’ve passed your thoughts and opinions to our promotions team. We’re determined to help make the world that children will inherit a better place. Our unique contribution is to inspire and develop children through creative play. By entering a co-promotion like the one with Shell, we can put LEGO® bricks into the hands of even more children around the world. This allows more children to develop their imagination and creative skills through building and creating models with LEGO bricks. The Greenpeace campaign focuses on how Shell operates in one specific part of the world. We expect that Shell lives up to their responsibilities wherever they operate and that they take appropriate action to any potential claims should this not be the case. We’re sad to see the LEGO brand used as a tool in any dispute. We believe this is a matter where Greenpeace and Shell must work out their differences between themselves. For more information, you’re welcome to read our CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp’s comment on this Greenpeace campaign. There’s also more information about our responsibility agenda in this area of LEGO.com. More information on the environmental targets that we have set for ourselves can be found here. Please let us know if you need anything else. Kind regards, Tanja LEGO® Service ——————— Dear Tanja/LEGO, Thank you for taking the time to personalise your response to me; and for explaining LEGO’s thinking in working with Shell. I understand and accept that, since Lego is itself a product of the petrochemical industry, such a “co-promotion” makes good business sense. However, the Arctic is not just a “specific part of the world” in which Shell is operating. In order to preserve a habitable planet for future generations, the Arctic is somewhere that Shell should not be operating! Even if it were good, therefore, this makes Shell’s operational safety record (etc) irrelevant. The only reason it is now possible to operate in the Arctic is because the ice is melting; and most of the ice is melting because of the exponential growth of fossil fuel use since the Industrial Revolution. Humans may well use fossil fuels to make all sorts of things (including Lego) but this does not make it right for us all to disregard the long-term consequences of continuing to pump geospheric carbon (i.e. that derived from fossil fuels) – in the form of CO2 – into the biosphere (i.e. the atmosphere and the oceans). In combination with deforestation and the exponential growth of livestock farming, global warming and ocean acidification were therefore an inevitable result of the exponential growth of the human population on this planet since the Industrial Revolution. However, now we know we are in a hole, is it not time we stopped digging? See my blog post regarding the Rio+20 Summit: ‘When in hole keep digging?’ (21 June 2012). If LEGO truly wants to preserve a habitable environment and planet, it should place conditions upon its support for Shell. Given that the vast majority of relevant scientists agree that there are now 5 times more fossil fuels left on this planet than it would ever be safe for us to burn – something the IEA, IMF, OECD and Pentagon all acknowledge – LEGO needs to encourage Shell to find alternative means to meet (or reduce) global demand for fossil fuels. As such, although “turkeys will never vote for Christmas”, the petrochemical industry needs to invest in finding non-fossil alternatives for its current products. Such things definitely exist (e.g. biosythetic fuels and energy from waste products). What is Altmaning is the corporate will or political incentive to pursue them. Things that are worth doing are rarely the easy option. Shell’s exploration in the Arctic is both the wrong option and the lazy option; one that is collectively endangering the future habitability of this planet. Therefore, I hope I may look forward to LEGO placing conditions upon its future support for Shell, which needs to adopt a long-term business strategy that does not contradict the science and economics underlying the call for humans to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground. For more information, please see this recent blog post: ‘Geoscientists get all ethical about climate change’ (2 May 2014). Yours very sincerely, Rick Altman


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Arctic, Climate Science, Economics, Energy Crisis, Environment, Fossil Fuels, Greenpeace, Politics, Renewable Energy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A personal exchange of email with LEGO

  1. uknowispeaksense says:

    Lego wants children to “develop their imagination and creative skills through building and creating models with LEGO bricks.” Excuse my cynicism but perhaps playing with LEGO will allow children of today to practice their engineering skills so they can build the seawalls of the future.


    • anotheralionel says:

      “Excuse my cynicism but perhaps playing with LEGO will allow children of today to practice their engineering skills so they can build the seawalls of the future.” And there you are trying to build a seawall and the only bits left are all those special fiddly shapes used in an attempt to make the chunky shape look like an Apollo rocket, a Concorde (yes my kids had one of these) or a petrol filling station. Those plastic trees don’t function well either.


  2. pendantry says:

    Rick: so glad to see you’re still fighting the good fight. I hope your studies are going well! All best wishes, Colin.


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