Stuff we can do – ecological and climate crisis

Consume less in general!

Reduce your intake of animal products or go vegetarian/vegan

Walk to the shops instead of driving, use public transport

Hang your washing out to dry instead of using a tumble dryer

Say no to single-use plastic. Buy reusable bags, water bottles and cups

Reduce or avoid air travel

Recycle but first reduce, and then re-use

Change your utility to a renewable energy company

Buy local, support your local organic farmers

Take your money out of banks that invest in fossil fuels and weapons, there are many ethical banks

Invest in regenerative and sustainable projects, preferably local

Use your VOTE to elect politicians who believe in climate science, take these issues seriously, and put them at the top of their political agenda!

Extinction Rebellion

From 11am, Monday 15th April, London and all over the world.

331 groups in 49 different countries so far.

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.

ACT NOW

https://extinctionrebellion.org.uk

 

From the anti-fracking frontline in Lancashire

The government has recently proposed changes in planning laws that will make fracking in the UK easier. This is madness, fracking in this country was always a non-starter – it’s been banned in France, Germany and Scotland for good reasons. I’m supporting protests from a distance these days but here is a moving piece, re-posted from one of the long-term frontline protectors:-

“Recently after a nun, vicar and monk spoke during faith week… I asked some police officers, just who were the ‘good guys’? And they said themselves. So I asked who are the ‘bad guys’ they were here policing… was it the nun, the vicar or the monk? They laughed but it isn’t really funny is it… there must be ‘bad guys’ if policing levels are what they are and the only alternative on this road is Cuadrilla. The obvious fails to be seen by those who don’t look.

…………………………..

Today is day 501 since we arrived at Preston New Road to face Cuadrilla and the huge task of stopping them. Since then they have built a pad, changed their traffic management plan countless times, breached till it became so troublesome and obvious that they had to make a new rule that says: “If the police are accompanying the vehicle… it doesn’t count as a breach.”… they’ve proceeded but NOT as planned; if it had been as planned, they’d have done the flow test (fracked) by now. It is estimated they are 9 months and a year behind schedule.

Lancashire Police have estimated that policing the protests has cost £7 million

The ONLY thing stopping them being on-schedule is us. No part of our government or council has put any barriers in place or asked for pause on safety considerations when Cuadrilla made changes… they just get a well-greased ride from our ‘authorities’. The knitters, the ditherers, the delayers, the prayers, the surfers, the lock-ons, the dancers, the tea-drinkers… we’re the cause; every single moment of delay has accumulated into a huge headache for Cuadrilla, with suppliers having to work round us and some, getting wised-up or fed-up enough to pull out.

Success is impossible to measure, though the share price has not recovered since we caused the drop in it and remains below .40 cents (most investors bought in at a much higher than this price).

Failure though is felt every moment of every day that any of us stand before the beast of a rig. We feel small, inconsequential and aghast that we even have to do the work of regulators and authorities in order to keep our community and its children from harm.

Our right to peaceful protest is dependent on who is in charge at any given moment and the definition of acceptable peaceful protest has diminished to banner-waving across the road from the site entrance. We continue to sit in the entrance to the site… and are removed with the regularity of the vehicle arrivals and departures. Sometimes we are moved with care… other times we are quite literally thrown. We attempt too to get in front of the vehicles to slow them (as has been done on every other frack site) but here on the busy A583 PNR… the vehicles put pedal to the floor and don’t stop for anything. The police stand by and wrap-round the rapid vehicles, putting their own lives at risk for the flatbeds with pipes, the waste trucks, the water trucks, the skip hire and the toilet cleaning vehicle – each gets the sort of policing you’d imagine for an urgently required kidney en-route to a dying patient.

But still we come… still we gather and still we stand in protest anywhere we choose until we are rudely removed. It’s a weird thing… as a small child we are picked up and popped down all the time but as a grown-up, the act of being touched without permission and moved against your choosing – is such an affront to go through. We sit and get picked up and placed elsewhere so many times but after each… return to knit, sit, sip tea and carry on our essential defiance of the misappropriated ‘law’. The police say it is always for our own safety… there is no easy way to get them to see the lunacy of this statement when they make it in front of a drill rig they are facilitating into development with their services.

Is there a breaking point for us? There can’t be because what we are doing is too essential but there are certainly parts within us that ‘snap’.

I have had two episodes where I know I have been somewhat changed inside… the sort of change that although it adds to the determination to keep on keeping on and keeping on harder… but maybe a little something of the heart and spirit is damaged along the way. But this is a small price compared to what is experienced by those just like us, acting with the same urgency and motivation elsewhere in the world. Active citizens doing what we do are imprisoned, seriously hurt and killed in other countries and this fact… makes it all the more important that we DO NOT SUBMIT. We stand for our community of course but we also stand for all the others who do the same… one world, one water, one earth and air. I wonder what it is that gets us from our situation to theirs and only know that if we give up and say it is too much hurt, risk or difficulty – that we give up something very important in society.

Watching those we admire (if you’re fighting alongside us… you are amazing) getting hurt is so bloody hard… the natural sense of needing to peel off the police officer from their bodies or even thump the ones who threw them in the hedges or against fences, is hard to ignore. The problem is that all that anger builds and you can’t direct it at Cuadrilla because they’ve got the bubble-wrap of police around them and you can’t direct it at the police because they’ve got the protection of ‘law’ on their side. Honourable people fulfilling an obligation to safety in our community …are ‘the criminals’ in this scenario and that’s just plain bloody crazy.

It hurts to see anyone harmed and takes all our might to hold ourselves back… I swear a lot more now in place of constant charges of assault that would otherwise happen if I didn’t.

The eldest of my nieces is roadside with me and I have huge respect for the incredible job she does… her decisions are wise and I don’t worry that she makes dangerous choices as she’s intelligent and places her role as a mother as a priority. She was a distance from me last week during the exiting of a vehicle and all the crazy that comes with it… I glanced across and saw a tall, strong male body pushed up against the length of her from behind… his arms wrapped tightly round her front just below her breasts and as anyone would, saw obvious assault and ran to her. To me, her little face still looks as cute as it did when she was a toddler… I clawed at the officers hands to remove them but he had ‘law’ on his side. Our instincts that are natural, right and true are also attacked and squashed down into the growing tinder-box within ourselves and I wonder where this goes, what harms we are actually unaware of taking place within and how the hell we counter any of this.

Then I remember I am a grandmother and obliged to protect the young… and I remember George Bender and how the fight overtook him and the honourable lives lost where governments are even more brutal… and so I’ll get up and be there on day 502 and 3 and 4 until whatever it is that marks the last day.

To all who are at Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest and all who can’t be but ensure we are not unseen by sharing and supporting in any way possible – thank you, we will one day have time to pause, tend our wounds and heal past this theft from our lives.”

Tina Louise Rothery

Postcapitalism by Paul Mason

Most people would agree that capitalism is not working too well these days – to put it very mildly! Author Paul Mason takes us on a journey from the origins of modern capitalism through to the current crisis we are in. At the end he offers some possible solutions in great detail, some of them based on underlying social trends that are already emerging.

The first half of the book is heavy going in places, although readers more at home with economic theory might have a different view. I found myself struggling to take in the detailed analysis of the likes of Kondratieff, Schumpeter and the relevance of Marx. Gradually the author ties the theory in with where we are now and what may be ahead. Mason suggests that we are at the point of “The exhaustion of capitalism’s 250 year old tendency to create new markets where old ones die out”. The length of several cycles, such as the one just mentioned which corresponds to a complete cycle of Pluto, was interesting to me as an astrologer. Amongst other interconnected topics, the effects of automation in factories and the how neoliberal capitalism dealt with the 2008 financial crash are explored. Most neoliberal capitalist countries are now left with ridiculous unsustainable debts.

The emergence of the information economy and the networked individual are seen as crucial to the postcapitalist future. “A networked lifestyle and consciousness, at odds with hierarchies of capitalism”. The implications of this are examined in the last few chapters, covering climate change, the population explosion and just about every other major problem you can think of. A basic income is suggested. Many of the ideas will be familiar to those who have read the likes of Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation. The reader is left feeling that there may be some hope for the future.

Farmageddon – The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddonjpegFor anyone who has not cottoned on to how much harm is being done (to animals, people and the planet) by current methods of food production, I highly recommend this book. The authors demand that we reconsider how we are raising animals for meat and ask many other serious questions about our methods of agriculture and eating patterns across the world. For anyone who has already studied the issues here, there may not be much that is new.

A wide range of different types of damage caused by modern farming techniques are examined in great detail. The scarcity of bees, the massive overuse of antibiotics in farm animals (“Roughly half of all antibiotics produced in the world go to food animals”), the use of cereals and grains as animal feed instead of for direct human consumption (“A third of the world’s cereal harvest is used for animals. If it went directly to human’s instead, it would feed about 3 billion people”) the problems in modern fish-farming such as sea lice and waste (“A fifth of the world’s fish is effectively being wasted feeding other fish”) and so on.

Author Philip Lymbery

Author Philip Lymbery

Industrial agriculture is yet another example of how placing corporate profits before people and the environment is, in the long-term, self-destructive madness. The authors finish with the importance of consumer power and a call for more compassionate and realistic solutions as the way forward. Reduce and recycle food waste, take animals out of the factory sheds and restore them to the land, eat less meat, buy organic and free-range. Farming – a return to the old ways of mixed farming with plants and animals on the same farm. Use natural manure to fertilize crops, doing away with the giant pits of excrement found on mega-farms.

Many people still want to believe that pigs and cows and sheep and chickens all live on Old MacDonald’s farm, happily chomping away at grass in the fields or pecking in the farmyard, despite all the evidence that’s now available to the contrary. This book is a powerful, comprehensive and balanced wake-up call that doesn’t preach and it doesn’t say that we should all be vegan or even vegetarian. Time for us all to open our eyes a bit.

Fighting the frackers – locally and internationally

Frack free Lancashire

Frack free Lancashire

At the end of June, anti-fracking campaigners won a significant victory when Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s applications to start fracking at two sites between Blackpool and Preston in Lancashire. The Roseacre Wood site application was rejected due to “impact on traffic” and the Little Plumpton application was rejected on the grounds of “unacceptable noise impact” and the “adverse urbanising effect on the landscape”. Since a crash-course on the pros and cons of fracking during several visits to the Balcombe anti-fracking protests in 2013, I have been convinced that these kind of basic and immediate environmental concerns will ultimately be the reasons that the shale gas industry will never become established in the UK. There are of course a ton of other reasons to be more than concerned about fracking – the danger of water pollution, the risk of earthquakes, more fossil fuel burning contributing to climate change and so on. David Cameron and the Conservative government are wrong.

Frack stops here

Frack stops here – and everywhere

Although the council’s decision has been described as winning round one, victory in Lancashire was important. An article in The Ecologist shows what a significant achievement this was, given the shockingly low and dishonest tactics they were up against.

“The Planning Officer bears a huge responsibility to evaluate the application, via a reasoned summary of the best available evidence, in an impartial and responsible manner. Unfortunately, in this case the planning officer reports fell so woefully short of such standards that they raise the obvious suspicion of undue political and/or industry pressure and influence.” Dr Damien Short, director of the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

FrackOffCouncillor Paul Hayhurst:- “We were told we must vote for the application. If we didn’t we would be breaking the law and we would be deemed irresponsible members. If it went to appeal and we lost, costs would be awarded against the authority.” Hayhurst then insisted the DCC (Development Control Committee) publish the legal advice so that the public could see it. The meeting was then adjourned until the 29th June. But it wasn’t until 10 a.m. the next day when the legal advice, written by David Manley QC, was finally published on the Council’s website, and worse still it was toned down and expressly stated that rejecting the application would not break the law.

The Conservative government recently announced an end to subsidies for small-scale solar energy projects and a cancellation of home energy efficient schemes. Despite their occasional token green rhetoric, the government really couldn’t make it more obvious that they couldn’t care less about the environment. Earlier this month they made an outrageous U-turn on the promise to exclude fracking from Britain’s most important nature sites.

EnvironmentArticleMeanwhile, in the U.S. where thousands of wells have been drilled, the volume of waste produced is overwhelming the official disposal routes. It requires 5-8 million gallons of fresh water mixed with sand and chemicals to frack a single well. Some recent damming data comes from an Environmental Science & Technology article for ACS Publications: “Our findings indicate that discharge and accidental spills of OGW to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment.” http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es504654n

Fracking on international trial in 2017

FrackingTrialA coalition of human rights lawyers and academics have announced an international tribunal to put fracking on trial. More on this at New Internationalist and Oil Change International.

“The PPT will be inviting witness testimony from citizens all over the world who may wish to hold preliminary mini-tribunals in their own country. Evidence and findings from those early tribunals can then be submitted to the later plenary hearings in the US and UK.”

In the meantime, communities around the UK continue to organize and fight back. According to a recent survey by Frack Free Upton, of over 2,100 residents living within one mile of IGas and Dart Energy’s drilling site, 86% do not want unconventional drilling in Upton.

More information on fighting fracking in the UK at Frack Off or various facebook pages including B.I.F.F. (Britain and Ireland Frack Free) http://www.facebook.com/britainandirelandfrackfree

Cancel The Apocalypse by Andrew Simms

CancelTheApocalypseMore economic growth! It will solve everything! Or will it? In this book of relentless and exceptionally thorough analysis, Andrew Simms of the new economics foundation (nef) carefully exposes the many weaknesses of an economic system committed to growth at all costs. Perhaps more importantly, he is equally masterful at presenting the many practical alternatives that could help us (and maybe will have to help us) out of the mess we are in.

Certain basics are questioned in the opening chapters. The measurement of GDP only shows the quantity of economic growth, it says nothing about the quality. Is it really okay that banks literally create 97 per cent of the money in existence, simply by loaning it out? What is going on in advanced economies that leads to so much unhappiness for so many? Simms continually questions the whole value system, using countless quotes and examples from everyday life, history, science, politics around the world and just about everything else. Chapter 9 is particularly powerful as he rips into the advertising industry.

AndrewSimmsOne of the recurring major themes is the need to re-connect with our environment, with each other and with ourselves. “I believe that the way ahead – and I am fully aware that this involves inviting the scorn of that same culture – is to fall back in love with the world, and each other”. Andrew Simms presents us with suggestions for the way forward, many of which have already been tried and tested in different cultures at different times. Revitalizing local economies through co-operatives, shortening the working week, a move away from the doctrine of neoliberalism as taught in universities. “An obvious forward step is to shift the balance of corporate ownership and governance away from the domination of the shareholder model.” Towards the end of the book there are some very interesting observations and comments about China’s economic development. There is a clear, human and refreshingly sane voice, throughout this intense book. Nice one Andrew.

Fracking bonkers

Fracking

Green MP Caroline Lucas, arrested at Balcombe

Green MP Caroline Lucas, arrested at Balcombe

Last summer I made several visits to the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in Sussex, just a few train stops up from Brighton, where I live. I had only vaguely heard of fracking before, but had smelt a rat as soon as my girlfriend told me a few things about what was going on. Visits to the site were an education, in more ways than one. Apart from anything else, the heavy policing of the protests was extraordinary and unnecessary, since estimated to have cost the taxpayer £3-£4 million. One would have thought that this alone might have made David Cameron’s government question the viability of fracking, particularly in politically conservative areas such as Balcombe, but apparently not.

Protests at Barton Moss, 2014

Protests at Barton Moss, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is extremely dodgy. Irreversible water, soil and air pollution are part of the deal. And burning yet more fossil fuels in a time of climate change targets? Even discounting some of the environmental risks, there are a large number of other reasons for the UK public to be extremely worried. Fracking is a big industrial enterprise that will significantly disrupt communities and countryside if it takes off in the UK. There is obviously something very wrong if Cameron has to resort to bribing local communities and householders. He goes further and claims that opponents of fracking are “irrational”, quite an extraordinary statement to anyone who has taken the trouble to look into the pros and cons in detail. The government insists that there are “clear, robust controls in place” but a recent newspaper article uncovered the fact that the Environment Agency has precisely six full-time staff monitoring fracking. Those who have worked in the industry say that fracking can not be regulated and will therefore never be safe.

FrackedUpCameronEnergy expert Paul Stevens has carefully outlined all the issues (including the myth that energy prices will come down) and explained why fracking has conquered America, and why it can’t happen in Britain. Bribing local councils and the public is not the answer, David Cameron. It looks to me like you are in danger of committing political suicide.

A large number of videos are available including The Fracking Facade, Fracking Hell: The Untold Story and GAS – WAR.

Websites at Frack Free Sussex and Frack Off.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

23Things Cambridge professor Hu-Joon Chang’s international bestseller is an accessible, balanced, warm and entertaining analysis of the myths of modern capitalism. Many books on the subject of what has gone wrong have been published since the crash of 2008, but “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” goes right to the very heart of the problems in plain language. It shows how the world really works.

Early on, the author makes it clear that this is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. “Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same thing as being against capitalism.” With countless examples from people’s everyday lives, aswell as the world of business and politics, different forms of capitalism are explored. Particular issues with the USA and UK model from the last thirty years feature prominently. To a certain extent, the chapter headings speak for themselves. “Thing 1 – There is no such thing as a free market” (government is always involved in setting rules and regulations to some degree), “Thing 2 – Companies should not be run in the interests of their owners” (running companies for the often short-term interests of shareholders risks destroying the entire system in the long-term), and so on.

Ha-JoonChangFor many, some of the observations in “23 Things…” may seem like common sense, but Chang can still be quite shocking as he slices right through widely accepted political and economic orthodoxies. In the conclusion he suggests ways to rebuild the world economy – build systems that acknowledge the limits of human rationality, ban complex financial products that don’t benefit society in the long run, build a system that brings out the best in people, take “making things” more seriously, “unfairly” favour developing countries – who have suffered badly as a result of free-market policies.

This is a great book that cuts through a lot of economic and political waffle like a knife.

The Future by Al Gore

TheFutureAlGoreThis is a powerful and brave book from the former American Vice President. Al Gore attempts nothing less than a current overview of the whole human condition and our situation on planet Earth, suggesting the choices we have to make and where they will lead us. He is neither overly optimistic nor overly pessimistic.

Gore carefully covers all the complicated big issues in plain language. The current crises of global capitalism and democracy are explored in great depth and from many angles – “Democracy and capitalism have both been hacked.” Interconnected topics include the dominance of corporate elites, the corruption of politics, internet security, the origins of mass marketing, the ethics of modern science, the harm done by excessive use of antibiotics, population issues, the inability of GDP to account for the true consequences of economic growth, the depletion of topsoil and water supplies, the pros and cons of the rise of China, and the politics of the denial of climate change.

AlGoreIn the conclusion, perhaps inevitably, Gore makes the case for America leading the way forward. I must admit that’s probably the only bit of this visionary volume that doesn’t quite ring true for me. But, as with just about all the suggestions in this book, his “priority goals” for America’s recovery make sense – limit the role of money in politics, and reform old laws that allow a small minority to stop legislative action in the U.S. Senate. “The world desperately needs leadership that is based on the deepest human values.” Al Gore deserves to be taken seriously. Here’s hoping this book makes at least a small difference to the mess we are in.