08 April 2010

Encapsulating class inequality

So, here we have the interior layout of Air France's new A380 aeroplane - the "super-jumbo". What a perfect reflection - encapsulation, even - of class inequality: 449 seats in economy (or "Voyageur") class, 80 seats in business (or "Affaires") class and, wait for it, just 9 seats in first (or "La Première") class.

449 > 80 > 9

Of course, it's not just a numbers game either. Consider the relative distribution of space between the classes. Here too is how the space is configured (working backwards this time from first to business to economy):

Interestingly, the Air France website offers no front-on views of economy seating - all shot from behind the seats - a telling reminder that the best shoulder-to-shoulder passengers are offered is a numbing entertainment system. There's even more insight into the semiotic production of class distinction (words, colours, sounds, textures, tastes, etc.) offered in this little promotional video from the airline Ambiences onboard the A380 (notice how the images of first class predominate, deceptively establishing it as the service norm):

01 April 2010

Liquid modernity

According to a 2008 Forbes Traveler article, these are the most expensive bottles of water on the market. From top to bottom, they range in price from $36.75 to a mere $1.88 (although equa comes in a "special edition bottle" at $17.50).

I'm just a little disappointed that my bete noire du jour (too much French?) VOSS didn't make it. Always on display in my office as the epitome of everything that's wrong with the world, VOSS offers its own online semiotic orgy:

Oh, and all of this is old news. The London Evening Standard reassured readers in 2007 that Claridge's - the high-end London hotel - had launched its "water list" - "a collection of the world's finest bottled mineral water with the most expensive costing the equivalent of £50 a litre":

And just in case the point of all this is not yet clear ...

And then there's 17 year-old Nyibol from Chad who, the Guardian tells us, walks 10 hours a day for water.

It's a story being lived across Africa - a story told in the "Burden of Thirst" article from National Geographic's latest special issue, which also features the work of Water Aid:

And to conclude, here's a statement issued by UN-Water two weeks ago on World Water Day:
Water quality has become a global issue. Every day, millions of tons of inadequately treated sewage and industrial and agricultural wastes are poured into the world’s waters. Every year, lakes, rivers, and deltas take in the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population––nearly 7 billion people––in the form of pollution. Every year, more people die from the consequences of unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war––and the greatest impacts are on children under the age of five. The economic losses due to the lack of water and sanitation in Africa alone is estimated at $US28.4 billion or about 5% of GDP. Water contamination weakens or destroys natural ecosystems that support human health, food production, and biodiversity. Studies have estimated that the value of ecosystem services is double the gross national product of the global economy, and the role of freshwater ecosystems in purifying water and assimilating wastes has been valued at more than $US400 billion. Most polluted freshwater ends up in the oceans, damaging coastal areas and fisheries.
Oh, and before I forget: