Robert Llewellyn: Still saving trees...

The novelist and actor Robert Llewellyn once rejected hi-tech consumerism, but these days, the host of Channel 4's Scrap Heap believes that some mod cons make the world a better place
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The Independent Online

I've always been concerned by unthinking consumerism since I was a hippie in my youth, but rather than rally against technology as the guilty party, I enjoy technology that helps to keep the world healthy.

I've always been concerned by unthinking consumerism since I was a hippie in my youth, but rather than rally against technology as the guilty party, I enjoy technology that helps to keep the world healthy.

The inventive mind is in part responsible for destroying society, yet there are technologies that can be a solution to the mess of living. It's important to get over the guilt about being human, especially in this country, where we so like to feel guilty. It's pointless to be walking around saying we're destroying the planet. Forget about the idyllic age: everyone died at 22, they didn't have any teeth and society was brutal and reactionary. Instead, seek technologies that make less of a negative impact on the environment.

Of course, when I was a hippie the whole notion of recycling and reacting against consumerism was very fashionable. And though I may not be as ferocious in my beliefs these days, it is an attitude I can still find reflected in my everyday life. For instance, my favourite piece of technology is a fruit juice extractor. It's a very basic conservation, but the main appeal is that after years of always chucking away manky apples and bendy carrots, I can now use them in the juicer.

Considering my beliefs, it's a fortunate incident that I now present a show about recycling junk. The thing I've learned from doing this show is how brilliant British people are at invention, but how they are utterly useless at making a living from it. The history of that is phenomenal - just look at recent history and the internet. That was an almost totally British invention and no one would fund it, so the American military took the code and developed it in to the Arpanet.

I'm happy for my children to watch a programme like Scrap Heap because it provides an understanding about how things are made, where they are from and what impact they've had on the world. I see young people who are obsessed with the latest mobile phone, and who have no context from which to view developing technologies: it's just a desirable commodity to them. My children are only three and six so they're not yet that interested, but we hope to live by example and not go around buying all the latest groovy tech.

However, saying that, we are a five-computer household. One is very old and dating from the late-Eighties and it could be considered a classic. I don't use it and although I could get an emulation programme to run today's software on it, I do have a life to lead. The others are all Apple Macs. The computers have helped me feel less guilty concerning the huge amount of paper I use when I'm writing. After years of writing comedy and scripts on the typewriter, throwing away pages and pages, it's saved quite a few trees that I've written my seven books on a computer. In fact, that's one technology that would definitely improve my life: a rubbish compactor.

Robert Llewellyn's 'Sudden Wealth' is published by Hodder & Stoughton, price £10.

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