On the first Saturday of every month I organise a local community farmers market in my home town of Portobello, part of the City of Edinburgh. At each market I try to have something fun to do on the sidelines. At the market in April I managed to attract the International Science Festival which had all manner of exciting experiments, mostly for the kids to enjoy.
Over the past two years that I have been running the market we have had various events: bands for live music, a regular face painter, marquetry, jugglers and on one occasion a huge llama! All of these events add to the atmosphere of the market, but the Science Festival also brings an element of education.
There are two "performers" with a mobile unit on a bicycle called The Busking Bike, who demonstrate science in action from everyday life things, such as the ingredients in fizzy drinks to the forming of carbon dioxide which is causing the planet all manner of problems. The kids lapped it up as all manner of things went fizz, bang and pop, while at the same time learning a thing or two.
It costs money to bring these events to the public, and as such the International Science Festival have to seek sponsorship. This they did in the form of a company called Selex. I'm guessing you've never heard of them.
Selex are basically an aerospace company, and everyone's immediate thought is to brand them as weapons makers. While they do make weapons, or rather the electronic parts that go into them, they are also involved in all manner of new technologies that benefit mankind in a positive way. Not just that but recently they donated technology that monitors the World Heritage site of Pompeii to keep track of its deterioration and so assist in its preservation.
Just two days before the Portobello Market was to be held all hell broke lose and a rather messy round of mud slinging ensued. It boiled down to people saying how could our local community farmers market attract an event sponsored by a weapons-of-death manufacturer. People said they would boycott the market.
Well here's a thought: The vast majority of people at some time or another fly in aeroplanes. Maybe some of these are made by Boeing, who also happen to make the spares for the B-52 bomber and construct the B1 Stealth bomber.
Or how about the company GKN? 80% of all cars in the UK use a driveshaft made by them, but they also happen to make Armoured Personnel Carriers for the military.
Maybe they shop in one of the big four supermarkets who have goods delivered by large Scania trucks. SAAB-Scania manufacture jet fighter aircraft.
Maybe they should take a closer look at their pension. They'll probably find that in order to give them a high return once they retire so they can live comfortably, their money may have been invested in some very profitable companies that have some connection to something they're not in favour of. But they'll still have that fat pension wont they?
Where do we draw the line? I understand people's sentiments, but at least Selex are not trying to hide the fact they are sponsors. They genuinely want to fund events that may educate and encourage young minds to be the future electrical engineers and scientists.
I for one thoroughly enjoyed seeing a soda bottle shoot a fountain of pop 20 feet into the air when a packet of Mentos was dropped in.
Oh hang on; Mentos are mostly sugar aren't they, which could attack and destroy your teeth?!