Back on the streets with Extinction Rebellion

Great energy with Extinction Rebellion in both Brighton and London at the end of August and the beginning of September. Since attending the Brighton debrief session after the now legendary April 2019 rebellion, I’ve been to nearly all of the big London events.

This time I decided to get a lot more involved with the local XR Brighton group and I’m very glad I did. The Rebel Rising event in August (kind of a warm-up for London) was a great success, it felt like a village fete with an edge! Once up in London, with the help of others from Brighton, I took part in the pink table Crisis Talks. This was one of XR’s latest strategies to encourage more participatory democracy. Helped by the recent IPCC “Code Red for humanity” report, there were many in-depth conversations with members of the public about the current situation and possible ways forward.

Major road junction occupied in Covent Garden

With a focus on the City of London, XR’s wide range of (often unreported) actions called for an immediate ban on further investment in fossil fuels. Later in the rebellion, I met up with good mate Joe Bridge for the Stop The Harm march, which culminated with some inspirational speeches outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Economist Kate Raworth was excellent, as was George Monbiot in this speech – We don’t do hate! We do anger! We do love!

Do we want more capitalist business as usual, or do we want life on Earth? The politicians are currently leading us off the edge of a cliff. We must completely change our economic and political systems – individual and collective behaviour. Change is coming. Get out on the streets, folks!

Reminder that the giant corporations always have our best interests at heart – of course they do!

Less Is More – How Degrowth Will Save The World by Jason Hickel

Brilliantly joining the dots in a post-capitalist world

Economic anthropologist Jason Hickel leaves no stone unturned in this visionary and sharp analysis. This is a book about the climate and ecological emergency and how to solve it.

The first half of the book is a detailed overview of everything that is wrong and the root causes. The origins of capitalism are explored, particularly during the few hundred years leading up to the Industrial Revolution – how it rose on the back of organised violence, mass impoverishment and “the systematic destruction of self-sufficient subsistence economies”. A world view that separated humans from nature helped economic growth to became more important than human or planetary needs. Since the 1980s, “growthism” in developed countries such as the UK and USA has gone completely crazy.

Part two is all about the solutions. Hickel looks at the unquestioned assumptions of so-called progress. After a certain point, increased economic growth corresponds with a large number of social problems such as rising inequality, political instability and the deterioration of people’s physical and mental health. Chapter 5 outlines steps we need to take in order to survive – “Once we understand that we can flourish without growth, our horizons suddenly open up”. Hickel suggests ending planned obsolescence, cutting advertising, a shift from ownership to usership, ending food waste, and scaling down ecologically destructive industries. He goes on to look at how capitalism is organised around the constant manufacturing of scarcity – degrowth calls for abundance in order to render growth unnecessary.

In the final chapter, “Everything Is Connected”, the author presents a deeper opportunity for healing and recovery from the mess we are in. Learning from indigenous communities, we can develop a genuinely ecological world view and way of being. Behave as if all of reality is intimately interconnected – because it is.

Why haven’t we tackled the ecological crisis and what can we do about it?

The following is a recent keynote speech for Nesta FutureFest by Dr. Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion. A few pictures added by me. Available to view on FuturePlayer http://bit.ly/FuturePlayer

In these coronavirus times it’s common and understandable to hear people longing for when we can get back to normal. But “Normal” was responsible for creating pandemics and normal was not prepared for crises of its own making. Normal should have been prepared for the coronavirus crisis because pandemics were named as the most impactful, high-likelihood event on the Cabinet Office National Risk Register created as a result of the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act.

The coronavirus pandemic is of its time and also a shape of things to come. It is a white swan event. Look around and see all the swans! A variety of crises are already here or clearly on their way, with global south countries especially on the frontline as well as the most vulnerable people in our country. A coroner recently made legal history in the UK by ruling that air pollution was a cause of the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah. Researchers believe that 1 in 19 deaths in the UK are linked to air pollution.

Other white swan crises include devastating floods, water shortages, antibiotics and anti-fungal resistance, a crisis of soil fertility and of production of food from the sea and on the land.

Our bodies contain chemical and plastic pollutants that we can’t get rid of; except that a mother offloads her toxic build up of dioxins and PFOA, etc, onto her baby, through her placenta and her breast milk. We are setting mothers up to literally poison their babies with their own bodies (breast is still best).

Let’s really pay attention to what we are talking about here — we are living on the most beautiful, life-filled planet, and we are both annihilating it and removing the support systems that sustain us: the pollinators, the aquifers, the fertile soil, the glaciers that regulate water flow and temperature, that are leaving us right now.

A “Frontiers” science paper from January this year — authored by 17 ecological scientists, in institutions spanning the globe, said:

“The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms — including humanity — is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp even for well informed experts”.

They go on to state: “Ours is not a call to surrender — we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future”.

How could we have failed to act and continue to do so, how can our so-called plans be so deeply inadequate? It is a time requiring a true emergency response, not unlike that of a war economy, though I prefer to think of a postwar reconstruction — we have been and are at war with nature.

Have we failed so badly because of the ‘tragedy of the horizon’? — — because the crisis is not affecting us enough now for us to step up and act. This is the hypothesis of the former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, from his 2020 Reith Lecture. Can that really be the case, even with the wildfires and the experience of Covid19? Covid, as a zoonotic disease, is a clear example of nature’s response to our abuse.

I would argue there has been and continues to be a systemic failure of leadership, within the media, business and of course politics. This is not to discount those voices who are and have been shouting as loudly as they can, though I might suggest to them that doing so whilst glued to a government building will add much amplification to their messages 🙂

A 2016 report called Thinking the Unthinkable, based on interviews with leaders across the world, made it clear that our leaders are perilously inadequate at facing the very real possibility of extremely difficult, non-normative events.

I believe our leaders are rendered unwilling, by the culture of our political economy, to confront the reality we find ourselves in. It’s a culture that has led to a new market in the building of bunkers for the super rich, in an attempt to survive what is called “The Event” when our civilisation collapses.

We are not simply talking of significant risk and harm here, rather of existential risk.

An existential risk is an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

Last June the government’s own climate change committee issued a warning that we should prepare for a 4 degree warmer world, despite having said in 2008 “The Committee’s judgement… is that if a 4°C rise were reached, extreme consequences potentially beyond our ability to adapt would arise”. In fact, there is, according to Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre, a widespread view that 4°C is:

  • incompatible with an organised global community
  • beyond ‘adaptation’
  • devastating to eco-systems
  • And highly unlikely to be stable

We can’t be sure of when impacts will arrive and and how deep they will be, because the climate science community is still figuring out climate sensitivity effects. But Sir David King, former government Chief Scientific Advisor, is not alone in believing that we are already breaching climate tipping points and that we do not really have any so-called carbon budget left.

Also there are second and third order effects that arise with overlapping crises; thus outside the domain of physical sciences. They are studied via a variety of disciplines which feed into a lesser known branch of social science: collapsology. The path we are on — based on actual emissions as opposed to inadequate and unmet promises, points towards the collapse of our civilisation, endless war, famine, and billions of people dying.

Crimes Against Humanity are being committed right now on a vast scale. It really is hard to get your head around.

So let’s stop pretending we have got this one, or we are about to sort it out. We’ve failed. We have passed thresholds, meaning we are in the age of consequences and the severity of those consequences depends on our ability to prepare, to adapt; and the extent and urgency with which we are willing to go into full, effective and meaningful, emergency mode.

The “Frontiers” authors go on to ask: “what political or economic system, or leadership, is prepared to handle the predicted disasters, or even capable of such action?”

And then they state: “The predominant paradigm is still one of pegging ‘environment’ against ‘economy’; yet in reality, the choice is between exiting overshoot by design or disaster — because exiting overshoot is inevitable one way or another”.

The public are with them it seems. A recent survey by B lab UK says that 76%* of the UK population believe that capitalism either isn’t working properly or is harmful AND 72%* believe that businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people, alongside maximising profits.

As Mark Carney states: “The current generation, with our horizon fixated on the current news, business and political cycles, has few direct incentives to solve the issue, even though the sooner we act, the less costly it will be; for an issue that can only be solved in the present, we have to value the future.”

While hinting at the systemic nature of our predicament, Dr. Carney falls short of naming that the current system actively incentives harmful behaviour, keeps us focussed on the current, with little ability to care for the future (bear in mind the future means our children’s lives), as well as containing feedback loops that shape our values. The $560 billion global advertising industry, growing in their power to shape consumerism, the algorithms in social media, deciding what we see, and so on.

It is known from the work of ‘The Spirit Level’ authors, Wilkinson and Pickett, for example, that income inequality affects trust, many aspects of personal and social wellbeing and our ability to consider and act on climate change. The richest 10% are also responsible for 50% of emissions and if we were to bring the carbon footprint of the richest down to that of the average european, emissions would go down by a third. Meanwhile global south countries are not in a position to pay for measures to transition to a green economy, due to vast wealth inequalities between countries. This is caused in large part by the systemic looting enabled by secrecy jurisdictions, aka tax havens, and the biggest facilitator of this neo-colonial plunder is the UK and our crown dependencies and overseas territories. If we want to work together on this, we need to stop rigging the system, in a way that is costing governments of the world the equivalent of an annual nurses salary every second.

This is a time for truth telling and speaking out and I’m especially calling on leaders of institutions and businesses to come out and make career risking statements about the inability of our current political economy to address the apocalyptic situation we are in.

I was once invited into the inner sanctum of a ‘corporate responsibility’ retreat in a FTSE100 tech company to be a ‘critical friend’. The senior manager who was there said to the group, ‘I love this company, I feel like I can be my true self here and say what I think’. In my session, I said to the group, ‘Here is the evidence of your wholesale tax dodging. How can you pretend to care about inclusion and then participate in such inequality-creating corruption?’. In the coffee break, the same senior manager took me quietly to one side and said: ‘Thank you so much for saying what you did — there’s no way I could have done that’.

Where are the business leaders with the backbone to risk their careers for the truth? Those who can admit that many corporate business models would collapse if the ‘externalities’ of pollution, biodiversity loss, health impacts, and social costs were internalised? Business models built around aggressively persuading people to buy things they don’t need, things that will soon break through built-in obsolescence.

When will business leaders admit that the straight-jacket of profit over purpose incentivises the damaging of our world? When will they call out the absurdity of a system that insists on growth regardless of whether social and environmental wellbeing is growing too? Can they truly stomach a system that enables monopoly power and erodes democracy? A system where money, funnelled through a global network of corruption, buys advantage; subverts the media; manipulates behaviour; and weaponises big data?

It is time to speak out, the political economy emperor has no clothes on and it needs to be said by you, business and institutional leaders. The path we are on can easily lead to fascism; hear the call of your greater responsibility here.

Questioning the status quo is often dismissed as ‘extremist’ or ‘anti-capitalist’, but all I’m doing here is calling for a system that puts measures in place to protect life. What’s extremist about that? Don’t we all want to live? We shouldn’t have to protect the economy, as if it is an emergent natural phenomenon — it isn’t- we have choice — the economy we choose should protect us. There’s a bounty of ideas for better economic systems, which prioritise the wellbeing of people and planet. I’m asking us all to set aside preciously held ideological positions, to have a coming together, a grown up conversation. There’s a bounty of ideas for making incremental system changes — this isn’t about pulling some huge lever that points from one system to another whilst foregoing all the immediate action we could be taking. And, there are 9 different schools of economic theory all with things to offer. Many economies are in reality a blend of approaches.

So this is not about throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water — if business and markets within the current set up can rapidly decarbonise our energy systems, then let it happen soon, though without furthering global injustice.

The ecological crisis isn’t all about carbon however. We need to consume less and lower our energy usage. The IPCC has been clear on that point. Where is the systemic drive for that? Why isn’t the system willing to step into a wartime economy, as it has had to before when faced with other existential threats?

Let us be honest- this isn’t a failure of the system- the system is working perfectly well, with its goal to convert nature and human labour into profit and economic growth…

The political economy is wedded to GDP growth. Growth requiring extractivism, consumerism, and “excretivism”- plunder, gorge and waste. The logic of cancer. Growthism advocates are trying to tell us a new fairy tale where we magically can now have green growth.

A two part literature review essentially seeking evidence for green economic growth, assessed 835 papers, screened from a base of 11,500. The authors stated “We conclude that large rapid absolute reductions of resource use and greenhouse gas emissions cannot be achieved through observed decoupling rates, hence decoupling needs to be complemented by sufficiency-oriented strategies and strict enforcement of absolute reduction targets.” In plain english we can have growth or we can avoid a climate and ecological catastrophe. The argument that we can have both, is untrue.

This does not preclude growth in certain sectors or in countries whose economies are developing. But overall we need to let go of GDP as if it is measuring something only positive and work with other measure sets, several already designed, that include measures of ecological, social and personal wellness.

Ha Joon Chang, a reader of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge has said that a foundation of democracy is ordinary citizens challenging economists, because power politics are far more important in determining what policies get implemented than economic theories.

Citizens Assemblies at national, regional and international levels have been used to tackle challenging issues and there is a growing body of work understanding how to optimise their effectiveness. In such deliberative processes, ordinary citizens could work with economists, and other experts, to assess issues that are contributing to humanity’s crisis point and help design alternatives.

There seems to me to be a desperate attachment to a “no value lost” transition — leaders are hoping for incremental, “politically-realistic” changes from a business-as-usual mindset, dominated by vested interests. We are playing a lethal game of appeasement with nature. Can we stop lying to ourselves? We fucked up and there’s a price to pay. And those with the most resources have to pay it- as in times of post war reconstruction.

So we are experiencing a kind of denialism, a form of bargaining. And this includes pernicious greenwashing. Listen to what Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and BlackRock have to say about their green credentials and then look at who is funding the destruction of the Amazon and new fossil fuels across the world.

The capture of rational thought has gone so far that a so called Nobel prize for economics in 2018 was given to William Nordhaus who suggested 4 degrees of warming was actually optimal (this work has been thoroughly debunked by Professor Steve Keen but the damage is done, the work helped to shape and justify policy thinking for years).

The political economy is a manifestation of a diseased way of thinking and feeling. A disease that has, however, not infected humanity forever, as far as I can tell. And it does not seem to infect all cultures. Indigenous people in the algonquin languages name this disease Wetiko. We are so infected with it, it can be hard for us to imagine living differently.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a scientist and decorated professor, as well as an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In Braiding Sweetgrass she describes that when she asks her students for examples of how humans are destroying nature, they provide her with plenty. When she asks how humans interact with nature in a way that is beneficial to nature, the class is silent.

With sweetgrass disappearing from its historic locales, Robin and her students wanted to find out how harvesting practices might be causing its demise. In one method pickers pull the whole plant up from the roots, in another they snap the plant off near its roots. They carried out a field trial, observing both methods alongside a control area where no harvesting took place.

The result showed the sweetgrass actually thrived with either method of harvesting, if the indigenous wisdom law of leaving more than half unharvested, was honoured. Surprisingly, the place of most demise were the control areas, where no harvesting took place at all. So sweetgrass wants us to pick her, we are in a reciprocal relationship so long as we honour the agreement.

What relationships do we need to have with nature in these modern times? And I really mean relationships. What agreements do we need to honour? Where are these questions being asked in the mainstream discourse in tackling the ecological crisis? They need to be foundational. We can set this right.

Another name for wetiko is patriarchy. A paradigm of domination, of one group by another, of humanity over nature, one that leaves us feeling powerless, separated and with a sense of scarcity. The shift that we need is profound. Systemic shifts can be both fed by and be an enabler of the shifts we make internally, as individuals and within our communities.

There are other forms of power coming into the force- the power of what Miki Kashtan calls the soft qualities — traditionally seen as feminine and accessible by all of us regardless of gender. The power of humility and vulnerability, the power of truly feeling these times, then of letting go of the attachments we have to the numbing comfort and status afforded to some of us, telling the full truth of what we are bearing witness to.

There is a true force in the power of no longer giving a shit what the system will do to punish you if you step out of line. Thus the power of collective action, especially civil disobedience, which expresses the inflammation of a system that is diseased.

In Extinction Rebellion’s Money Rebellion we are organising financial civil disobedience and actions targeting banks and economic institutions calling for change. This includes conditional commitments where some are pledging to withhold mortgage payments if others join them. It includes taking out loans with banks and giving the money to those resisting and repairing the harm that is being caused by the bank, with the rebel having little if any intention of repaying. Some of us will withhold the percentage amount of tax money that the UK Government is using to fund destruction, such as through the subsidising of fossil fuels- we are the worst offenders in Europe- and projects like HS2 and the road building programme. We do this in solidarity with those who can’t afford the debts they have, and mass non payment therein may be considered by some.

Space for dialogue and change can arise when you disrupt the operation of “normal”.

The demands of XR Money Rebellion, targeting government, banks and wider institutions, are:

  • Tell the truth: our political economy distorts priorities and rewards harmful behaviour; it is hard-wired to create crises and destroy life; we must set aside differences and confront why we have failed to act.
    Act now to stop financing and enabling destruction, fully disclose their social, climate and ecological impacts, and reorientate their purpose to minimise harm, repair the damage, and prepare for crises.
  • Champion Citizens’ Assemblies at all key levels, including global, with mandates to design a regenerative political economy in service to all people and life on earth.

There is already greater interest in transformative approaches to democracy- so that we can (in George Monbiot’s words) rewild democracy, bringing it back to the people, through deliberative processes like citizens assemblies and participatory budgeting.

So I don’t want to go back to normal, but what I do want us to do, is to reimagine what a new normal might look like.

Where climate anxiety can debilitate or create panic stricken burn-out, facing and feeling our grief and remorse together, has proved to be liberating, opening up the space for imagination, courage and vision.

Let our grief and remorse break us open in a way that means we are ready to build a new world, as this paradigm falls to pieces around us.

In the words of Transition Towns founder Rob Hopkins, let us move from What Is to What If

  • What If we redesigned our economy and our production so it mimicked nature — abundance within boundaries and nothing wasted?
  • What If we redesigned our democracy, so that it was orientated towards providing our basic needs, repairing the harm we have done and planning for, and adapting to, the crises to come?
  • What If we cancelled HS2 and used the money instead to support our farmers to transition from factory farming, pesticides and fossil fuel fertilisers, to agro-ecology, which offers one of the biggest hopes for carbon capture and storage- in healthy, life filled soils.
  • What If a Global Citizens Assembly, and there’s one on the way inshallah, brought our beautiful human family together to address systemic issues? Like tackling our corrupt global tax system. Like bringing about a global crime of Ecocide. Like redesigning the foundations of business so that it is purpose led?
  • What If we prioritised using all the latest knowledge to rapidly heal from the trauma we are all carrying, in different ways, our own version of wetiko, to restore our dignity and free our capacity?
  • What If we decided to repair the harm caused by years of colonialism and racism?
  • What If we used our skills where they were most needed, with a deep sense of living in our purpose, on the way to becoming worthy ancestors?
  • Rob Hopkins has a book full of these “What IF’s” and I’m sure you have your own..

SO What If we all took part in civil disobedience, refusing en masse, in meaningful and mischievous ways, to participate in a system that is killing life on earth? What If we did that in solidarity with all the communities of resistance across the exploited world? And What If that sparked the change that so many of us are longing for…

I’ll end with this quote that I love from Martin Pretchel’s book, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, recounting his time living as a shaman with Mayan people :

“Mayan tradition does not teach that the Gods want people to be sinless or perfect, but they believe that the Gods love beauty, eloquence, fine clothes, great music, fine poems, bravery, high animal spirits and gratitude.”

Thank you.

Gail Bradbrook

Astrological Association of Great Britain 2020 Conference

It is an honour to be speaking at the 52nd Astrological Association conference, originally to be held in Bedfordshire but now taking place online at the end of this month, 26th-28th June.

The theme of the conference is Serving The Future.

A rich and diverse programme, with 45 great international speakers! Access to all conference webinars for 21 days.

Speakers include: Bill Meridian, Christian König, Wendy Stacey, Lynn Bell, Wade Caves, Benjamin Dykes, Amanda Bradbury, Maria Blaquier, Tim Burness, Rod Chang, Frances Clynes, Jadranka Coic, Jodey Collorick, Mark Cullen, Kieron Devlin, Gill Dorren, Anna Estaroth, Crystal Eves, Kim Farnell, David Hamblin, Stephanie Johnson, Ryuji Kagami, Jupiter Lai, Jane Lewis, Susan Lionti, Ray Liu, Omari Martin, João Medeiros, Martin Sebastian Moritz, Fernanda Paiva, Giulio Rocco Pellegrini, Izabela Podlaska-Konkel, Robyn Ray, Christina Rodenbeck, Gali Sat Puran Livneh, Anne Schneider, Henry Seltzer, Jan Seward, Richard Smoot, Tom Stedall, Cathy Stronach, Aswin Balaji Subramanyan, Richard Swatton, Mark Urban-Lurain, Lara van Zuydam, Leigh Westin.

I will be talking at 5.30pm to 6.30pm on the Saturday evening, 27th June. Having attended the AA conference in 2018, I know it can be an exhilarating but exhausting experience taking in so much high quality astrology in such a short space of time – I hope enough people have enough space left in their brains for me by Saturday night! From the programme:

Total Transformation – Tim Burness. As we continue to experience the seismic shifts of the 2020 triple conjunctions, where are we headed? Total transformation is required. Using a wide range of charts to explore the interconnected crises of capitalism, ecology and democracy, this talk will explore possible ways forward.

More details at www.astrologicalassociation.com

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

 

2020 astrology – the end of an era and new beginnings

Astrology for 2020 – three major conjunctions

“For many reasons, 2019-20 and the years that follow will confront the world economy with reality”, astrologer Roy Gillett in ‘Economy, Ecology and Kindness’ (2009).

Thoughts from other astrologers here and here. Conjunctions occur when planets reach the same point in the sky, as seen from the Earth. Astrologically, according to the planets involved, they signify the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. It is unusual to have three conjunctions involving three of the five outer planets in the same year.

Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, building during 2019, exact on 12th January 2020 and continuing during 2020 and beyond

At the time of writing this piece (January 2019), Saturn in Capricorn has recently moved significantly closer to Pluto for the first time, within about 8 degrees. Correspondingly, warnings of recession are being made by many experienced commentators in the world of global finance and the interconnected crises of capitalism, democracy and ecology appear to be accelerating. During April and May 2019, the conjunction will be within 3 degrees of exact, before easing off then building to January 2020.

Using the western tropical zodiac, the conjunction falls in Capricorn, hence the worlds of economics and politics and other Capricornian themes (hard reality, organization, limitation, integrity) are the focus of a profound transformation. Along with countless other astrologers, I have previously blogged about Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) and Saturn teaming up with Pluto in 2020 is a crucial focus of that process. As extensively researched and documented by Richard Tarnas:

“The successive alignments of the Saturn-Pluto cycle coincided with especially challenging historical periods marked by a pervasive quality of intense contraction; eras of international crisis and conflict, empowerment of reactionary forces and totalitarian impulses, organized violence and oppression, all sometimes marked by lasting traumatic effects. An atmosphere of gravity and tension tended to accompany these three to four year periods, as did a widespread sense of epochal closure; “the end of an era,” “the end of innocence,” the destruction of an earlier mode of life that in retrospect may seem to have been marked by widespread indulgence, decadence, naivite, denial, and inflation. Profound transformation was a dominant theme…” Richard Tarnas, Cosmos And Psyche

The astrological charts of Donald Trump, the USA and China are all clearly impacted by Saturn-Pluto in 2020. The Cancerian Moon of the UK chart is already being hit with Brexit and other crises.

Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn throughout 2020, exact on 4th April, 30th June and 12th November

Unlike Saturn-Pluto, the second conjunction of 2020 is potentially much more optimistic and creative, although not without a dark side. At its best, Jupiter-Pluto is all about positive healing and re-generation. It signifies upbeat new beginnings, here likely in relation to the broken Capricornian worlds of economics and politics. Many huge drives for success, improvement and achievement in the pursuit of excellence are likely to be launched at this time. Taking genuine responsibility is a key theme but a reforming zeal and obsession with power could be problematic. The old may have to be eliminated as organizations and bureaucracies dig deep into their roots, bringing hidden or secret aspects of reality to light. At its best (think Gandhi or maybe even Bill Gates, who were born with Jupiter-Pluto) this conjunction can sow the seeds for healing the world. The currently scheduled date for the next USA election is 3rd November, immediately followed by the final pass of Jupiter-Pluto.

Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius, exact on 21st December 2020

Many western astrologers have had their eye on this one for a long time. The general historic importance of Jupiter-Saturn cycles has long been observed. Since the 1840s, all the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions (except a few in the early 1980s) have been occurring in the Earth signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. Falling in the first degree of Aquarius, an Air sign. the late 2020 conjunction marks a significant long-term shift towards fairer social attitudes. The change of conjunctions from Earth to Air indicates moves away from, for example, fossil fuels and materialism. In their place come an emphasis on new ideas, information, technology, equality for all and respecting our environment. The decentralized political structures indicated here are very different to the regeneration of corporate power indicated by Jupiter-Pluto above. Perhaps they will combine, or just simply co-exist.

Many thanks to Roy Gillett of the UK Astrological Association for fully drawing my attention to the significance of the 2020 triple conjunctions, both through his talks and his book ‘Economy, Ecology and Kindness’. Also to Julian Venables for banging on (and on!) to me about the importance of the new Jupiter-Saturn cycle a few years ago. I recommend an extraordinary book by Professor Richard Tarnas – Cosmos And Psyche. which (amongst other things) masterfully documents Saturn-Pluto correlations with countless traumatic periods throughout modern global history, ranging from the beginning of World War One to the events of 911 and many more.

I haven’t mentioned the 2020 eclipses, retrograde Mars in Aries or even Uranus in Taurus (further emphasis on radical changes in relation to global finance and ecology) – the above is a deliberately brief and general summary. We may have to wait until Pluto enters Aquarius in 2023-24 for the real revolutions.  Good luck to all – I think we need it!

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk

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.

Sanctuary Group’s new chairman, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and corporate Britain

Jonathan Lander and David Bennett of Sanctuary Group

New Chair Jonathan Lander (ex-PwC) and David Bennett, Chief Executive of Sanctuary

As the Sanctuary Housing Facebook page continues to regularly delete large numbers of complaints (many of them serious and long-standing, others complaining of Sanctuary Housing Association’s general incompetence and/or fascist tendencies in one way or another) all appears to be well at the top of the corporate world of Sanctuary Group.

Last month it was announced that Jonathan Lander, a former senior partner with internationally huge accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is the new group Chair. Smiles from Mr. Lander and Chief Executive David Bennett in the press release, it’s all jolly good news. Bennett said: “Sanctuary is known for its exemplary governance (many tenants will be asking what planet he’s on – the organization on the front line is often a total shambles at best) and these new appointments ensure the group board continues to have the skills and experience required to oversee our complex organisation.”

PoundSignUKLander said he was “enthusiastic” about working with Bennett and the board “to deliver customer-focused services that represent real value for money”. There’s a good few thousand elderly, disabled and vulnerable people who are being badly ripped-off (or who have been abused in other ways) by Sanctuary who might have something to say about that last comment. Please see other blogs here for many personal accounts, details and newspaper reports of overcharging, nationwide abuse and neglect, cheating, bullying, lies, bad services, incompetent contractors and substandard properties left to rot for years.

On 2nd October, there was further shuffling at Sanctuary with the appointment of Elwyn Roberts (also ex-PwC) as the new Chair of the Sanctuary Audit Committee. Steve Wood, head of Sanctuary Care resigned the following day, Sanctuary now has him listed as Director of Property.

pwclogoPwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), “independent” auditors to Sanctuary Housing Association and just about every other big company in the UK and America

As can be seen in Sanctuary Group’s financial statement for 2013-2014, PwC are Sanctuary’s independent auditors. Hang on a bit… two ex-PwC men are now at the very top of Sanctuary, Lander having been a senior partner until 2008. Exactly how independent is that? (KPMG, another government-linked massive firm, have since become Sanctuary Group’s auditors… Tim, 2017)

Elwyn Roberts, also ex-PwC, new Chair of Audit Committee

Elwyn Roberts, also ex-PwC, new Chair of Sanctuary’s Audit Committee

PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) is one of the Big Four accountancy firms who between them carry out around 90% of all audits for FTSE 350 companies. They are absolutely massive in the UK (see pwc.co.uk), America and internationally. “In the 2014 financial year, PwC firms provided services to 417 companies in the Fortune Global 500 and 462 in the FT Global 500… For the year ending 30 June 2014, PwC’s gross revenues were US$34 billion, up 6%.” (see pwc.com). However, in 2011 they were heavily criticized by the House of Lords for not drawing attention to the risks that led up to the banking meltdown in 2008:- “It may be that the Big Four carried out their duties properly in the strictly legal sense, but we have to conclude that, in the wider sense, they did not do so.” PwC were particularly singled out for not drawing attention to the risks of the Northern Rock business model.

In 2012, the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) of the UK fined PwC a record £1.4m for “very serious” misconduct  over its audit of JP Morgan Securities. At the time it was the heaviest fine ever given to a professional accountancy firm in the UK. Some comments on the above article:- “Auditors are so conflicted in their relationship with clients it is a joke.”, “Add at least one zero to the fine and it might start to be meaningful.”, “The elites are just letting themselves off… Theft!!”.

Corrupt and wrong, too big, too greedy. And, as revealed in The Great Tax Robbery: How Britain Became a Tax Haven For Fat Cats and Big Business by former tax-inspector Richard Brooks, unlikely to change. When the government (and opposition) considers any change in financial law, it consults PwC as part of the process.

Current questioning of PwC integrity in recent over-estimation of Tesco profits by £250 million 

Or rather a lot in PwC's case

Or rather a lot in PwC’s case

Right now, the integrity of PwC is once again being questioned in an ongoing investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority. “PwC has been Tesco’s auditor for over 30 years. For that service, Tesco paid PwC £10.4m in the last financial year – plus another £3.6m for other consultancy work. Of the 10 directors on the supermarket’s board… two are ex-PwC… Mark Armour, a non-executive director, and Ken Hanna, chair of the company’s own audit committee.”

Sanctuary Group – an exempt registered charity rip-off and everything that is wrong with greedy and hypocritical corporate Britain today

Craig Moule, Finance Director

Sanctuary Group is very fond of telling the world how successful it is, particularly financially. “The 95,000-home landlord has reported one of the highest levels of gearing – borrowing in relation to assets held – in the sector…  ‘in line’ with the landlord’s business plan and treasury policy. The landlord reported a surplus of £42.6m, down from £54.5m, from a turnover of £592.3m and built 1,481 new homes during the year.” (Inside Housing 1.10.14) There had been earlier reports of a £72 million surplus last year but this apparently included assets from the takeover of Cosmopolitan, which I believe have since been discounted. No doubt PwC are doing their job, legitimately or otherwise. (KPMG, another government-linked massive firm, have since become Sanctuary Group’s auditors… Tim, 2017)

SanctuaryGroup

 

The privitization of housing stock has happened quietly over the last thirty years and more. Large housing associations have become greedy money-making machines. All Sanctuary care about is money and building their property empire, make no mistake. They are right in there at the heart of the government, the financial establishment and even the Church of England. Local councils also seem to be quick to support Sanctuary, rather than those suffering as a result of their countless bad practices – in fact Sanctuary seem to be good at buying off all sorts of people. The publicity machine is often grotesquely dishonest. Sanctuary are a classic example of the amoral screw-you capitalism that has gradually taken hold over the last 10-15 years and longer. They do some good, offer some good services and help some people and communities – one would hope so with the millions of pounds they have and 11,000 staff. However, if more Sanctuary tenants were middle-class – with money to defend themselves (few Sanctuary tenants now qualify for legal aid) and/or with better education and/or more self-respect – Sanctuary would not last 5 minutes. There would be an outrage, as there should be right now.

PoundSignUKTo anyone out there who has been genuinely helped by Sanctuary – great stuff, you might be wondering what the fuss is about. All things considered though, this shambolic, scandalous, useless, uncaring, arrogant, rip-off corporate monstrosity of a company should be shut down immediately.

Fully supported by the government, Sanctuary’s tax-free, registered charity, “business model” stinks. Sanctuary are the lowest of the very low for making massive profits while continuing to abuse and exploit many poor and vulnerable people in our society. 

(Chief Executive David Bennett was made a CBE for services to social housing in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list – an absolute disgrace.)

The Sanctuary Group Board

Jonathan Lander

Jonathan Lander

John Doughty

John Doughty

Dr Gareth Tuckwell

Dr Gareth Tuckwell

Nick Baldwin, Group Chair

Nick Baldwin, Group Chair

Robert McComb

Robert McComb

Elwyn Roberts

Elwyn Roberts

On the Sanctuary Housing Group website, you will find pictures and brief biographies of Directors and Executives with lots of letters after their name. Naturally, I would not wish to show any of the Sanctuary Board members (David Bennett, Craig Moule, Ian McDermott, John Doughty, Jonathan Lander, Liz Meek, Nick Baldwin – oooh, LOTS of letters after his name, that must be why he’s the Group Chair, Robert McComb, Thelma Stober, Elwyn Roberts, Dr. Gareth Tuckwell – even more!) or other Executives and Operatons Directors (Amanda Gonsalves, Peter Martin, Nathan Warren, Sophie Atkinson, Steve Wood, Simon Clark, Gordon Laurie, Dennis Evans, Chris Munday – wait a minute, according to the website Chris hasn’t got any letters after his name! OMG!) any disrespect. I myself am Tim Burness L.A.Y.N.A.M. – Letters After Your Name Are Meaningless.

David Bennett, Chief Executive

David Bennett, Chief Executive

Craig Moule

Craig Moule

Such impressive credentials! The author of a book called “A Question of Healing” who has been involved with the hospice movement, an Accredited Mediator, a woman who has worked to improve services for people with schizophrenia and for ex-offenders. Ah… oh dear, here comes the stench of Big Money – two ex-partners of PwC the massively powerful firm of accountants, an investment banker, an ex-Chief Executive of Powergen.

An investment banker? The head of an energy company? Can you hear those Corporate Rip-Off alarm bells ringing!?

Please see previous blog Are Sanctuary Housing Above The Law? and its 500+ comments for how bad this company can be.

I would absolutely refute any suggestion that I might have the view that, whether they realize it or not, these individuals are a money-grabbing, hypocritical bunch of fraudsters who front a totally corrupt and morally bankrupt organization. Any such suggestion that I might think this, or anything like it, made by anyone would leave me with no alternative but to invoke my Persistent, Cereal and Herbacious Complainants Procedure against them.

Yes, Sanctuary Housing Association does some good work – but nationwide neglect and abuse of tenants, including the elderly and vulnerable is no joke. An exempt rip-off registered charity that lies, cheats and bullies people is no joke. Bad services, incompetent contractors and substandard properties left to rot for years is no joke.

£72 million surplus last year. Shame on you, Sanctuary Group Board.

(The above figure was apparently later revised down to £54.5 million – they make around £40-50 million every year. Unbelievably, Chief Executive David Bennett was awarded a CBE for services to social housing in 2015.)

Liz Meek

Liz Meek

Thelma Stober

Thelma Stober

Ian McDermott

Ian McDermott

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.