climate change

Time to give oil a Crude Awakening

If there's one thing Plane Stupid likes, it's direct action. If pushed to a second thing, we'd confess a penchant for bad puns. So when we heard about the Crude Awakening, we got rather excited.

So check out the video and make your way to London for October 16th. Whoop whoop!

New film takes us Beyond the Tipping Point

"We have 30,000 days!" "100 months!" "5 years left!" "Copenhagen (now Mexico) is our last chance!" In the face of consensus on the reality of climate change scientists, policy makers and campaigners are increasingly in the habit of issuing deadlines, ultimatums and points of no return.

But what impact does this language have on the decisions taken by activists, campaigners, and policymakers?

A provocative new film, Beyond the Tipping Point?, produced and directed by Dr. Stefan Skrimshire from The University of Manchester launched on a fortnight ago at the Manchester Museum.

Now it's publishers have made it freely available as an educational tool for campaign and community groups, schools and universities, to encourage people to discuss and reflect on the actions and decisions they take in relation to climate change.

The film features interviews with a Met Office international climate expert, a Bangladeshi social justice campaigner; members from direct action group Plane Stupid, Buddhist leaders and leading academics, alongside footage from the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.

A rich diversity of perspectives emerge from these interviews. Whilst some of the contributors argue that ‘shock and awe’ will force the public to take action, others say activists must be more careful in the way they communicate. One interviewee argues that we should focus our attention on adapting our neighbourhoods to combat the unavoidable effects of rising temperatures.

Our own Leo Murray, the creator of Wake up, Freak out, said, "This film offers insight into the implications of an imminent point of no return in the climate system, and should be seen by everyone involved in the struggle to prevent us from reaching that point. This type of critical reflection will be invaluable to our understanding of our own actions and what we seek to achieve by them."

It's so not about me

Recently, I was featured in The Independent’s ‘Green Issue’. I was nominated in the ‘Campaigner’ section as a result of the work I’ve been doing with Transition Heathrow, opposing the proposed third runway development. (She won - Ed.)

I was honoured to be put forward, of course, but it did bring home to me one of the massive problems the environmental movement is currently contending with. The perpetual search for a “saviour” to prevent us hurtling head on towards catastrophic climate change is not only doomed to failure but is, I believe, downright dangerous.

Focusing on one person can make everyone else feel like their contribution doesn't count. That they might as well not bother, because someone else has it covered. Away from the limelight, countless others work and strive just as hard, but are overlooked in favour of the obsessive celebritising of an individual and their efforts. This damages our movement twice over. First, it disempowers all those other people and devalues the extraordinary efforts they make. And second, it wholeheartedly fails to recognise the collective actions required from all to overcome the systemic problems we’re facing.

This focus on individuals is nothing new. Whether by their own attention seeking or through the focus of the media-friendly human interest stories, history’s narratives have always favoured names. But the real stories of social change are stories of mass movements. Emelline Pankhurst did not achieve universal suffrage single-handedly, just as Nelson Mandela didn’t cause the breakdown of apartheid on his efforts alone. Likewise, for the five Plane Stupid activists atop the Houses of Parliament or the fifty on Stansted’s runway, there were many others who, though less visible, were essential to facilitating their actions.

Maybe it is the focus of the mainstream media on individuals that neglects the true story? Or perhaps it’s individuals, furthering themselves as a result of an earnest desire to promote the agenda of our cause? For a movement that espouses the ideas of direct democracy and uses consensus-decision making to ensure that everyone has an equal voice, however, this perpetual focus on individual “celebrities” is counter to the very ethos we hold so dear.

To have any hope of a better future for ourselves and coming generations, we need to be ploughing our energy into building a movement that includes everyone, and addresses all the urgent issues confronting us. Rather than relying on big name leaders, we all have a part to play: not just activists or environmentalists, but each and every one of us.

As the activist and author Rebecca Solnit argues in her book Hope in the Dark ‘Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope… Anything could happen, and whether we act or not has everything to do with it’. We need to be confronting economic inequality and challenging social injustice worldwide, and we need to be doing this collectively.

This need not seem like an insurmountable task. It starts on a local scale. On land the government wants to see under tarmac as a third runway for Heathrow airport, a small group of us have been living in a former market garden which had been left abandoned since cheap imports made local food production uneconomic. Rather than the site of one of the world’s most polluting industries expansion, we along with many local people want Sipson, Harlington and Hamondsworth to be a model of what a low impact and socially responsible future might look like.

In whatever ways we can, we should be coming together to raise consciousness and take action. Bringing together different disciplines and developing strategies that work in our communities is central to our empowering of each other on common ground between environmental justice, race, class and gender.

By striving toward a future that embraces the 'we' rather than the 'me', that celebrates community not celebrity, that really empowers people, we would be building a movement that is actually sustainable, that actually has a hope of confronting some of these issues, and that actually has a chance of winning.

The joy of volcanoes

Thanks to Sylvie Winn at You Took That Well for this piece of genius. I actually spat cereal onto my keyboard reading it.

Volcano reminds us all there's life after aviation

Life's full of blissful little ironies. We've plotted and plotted and plotted to ground the aviation industry, only to be pipped to the post by nature. Which is funny when our understanding was that aviation was supposed to wreck the environment, not the environment wreck aviation.

One of the most striking impacts of the last few days without air travel is that not only is the UK much more peaceful with so many stag parties stuck in Prague, but day to day life seems to be carrying on. In fact, huge swathes of people across the country are being treated to a taster of a much better quality of life (although Tesco's is almost out of pre-packed pineapple chunks - oh, the humanity!).

It turns out the UK is actually rather a pleasant place to be when there's not a constant drone of aircraft overhead. Thousands of residents living under the flightpath have suddenly been blessed with a taste of life without being woken up at 4.30am on a daily basis by aeroplanes thundering overhead. Perhaps if we weren't tormented by high levels of noise and air pollution on a daily basis, fewer people would feel the desire to board a plane to leave the country for a break.

We're constantly preached at by the aviation industry about the essential nature of air travel. Like the 'essential' cargo flights from Nottingham East Midlands Airport to transport goods which are now being transported... wait for it... OVERLAND. According to a UPS delivery spokesperson, European roads are actually "very drivable".

So, Eyjafjallajokull, you may have an unpronounceable name and an odd smell, but nonetheless we thank you for giving us a brief glimpse of life without planes. And for demonstrating that, despite what the aviation industry would like to have us believe, a world without air travel could well be a very happy place indeed.

Nigel Lawson is an arse

Last Friday, a High Court judge ruled that expanding Heathrow was untenable in law or common sense, partly because it clashed with the Climate Change Act 2008. Residents living in the shadow of the third runway cautiously began thinking the best. But one man knew better. That man was Lord Nigel Lawson of Blaby... and that man is an arse.

Lawson - whose contribution to the climate change debate was to publish a really crap book and start a denialist organisation hell-bent on dissing UEA's research facility - spent the weekend swotting up (and, by the looks of the above photo, enjoying a rather fine glass of sherry or two) in advance of a debate in the House of Lords. Lord Adonis, who needs to show some backbone, given that everyone knows he hates the runway but has been ordered to build it, was answering questions about transport.

Enter Lord Lawson. "The third runway at Heathrow," he reminded his fellow members of the aristocracy, "has been kiboshed by the courts as the direct and predictable result of the Government's absurd Climate Change Act, which was passed with enthusiasm and complete thoughtlessness and acclaimed by all parties in this House and the Commons. Is not the only possible solution - if you think that a third runway is important and I agree with you - to put the Act in suspense?"

That's right. The runway interferes with a law designed to prevent the worst of climate change... so we should... scrap the law? Lawson, you're an arse.

One million green jobs now!

All too often you hear someone say: "What about all the workers that will lose their jobs if there were no short-haul flights" or "aviation expansion means more jobs". A new report from the Campaign against Climate Change, 'One Million Jobs Now', provides the answer. It shows how over 1,000,000 jobs could be created in 'climate jobs'.

These jobs would directly help to reduced the amount of greenhouse gases we're putting into the air - unlike the 'green jobs' the Goverment keeps supporting. The report suggests that new jobs could be created in all areas - including those in sustainable energies, homes and buildings and transport.

Providing this many new jobs is vital to tackling climate change and providing a transition for workers employed in polluting industries. It would also assist the two and a half million people currently unemployed in the UK. The report demonstrates how over half those people could be re-employed in new 'climate jobs'.

The report was partly inspired by the Vestas struggle, where a group of un-unionised workers on the Isle of Wight were given their marching orders when a factory manufacturing wind turbines was shut down. Work in sectors like the aviation industry is notoriously precarious, with boom and bust cycles creating little job security. The report argues for Government investment in genuinely sustainable employment, for work which will continue to be useful; regardless of the vagaries of the market.

This document is hugely important to climate change activists. It helps to highlight the compatibility of workers and climate activist's struggles and so helps to cement a crucial relationship in the fight against capitalism and climate change.

Post COP reflections: support activists still locked up in Denmark

Well we're back from Copenhagen. Some of us at least: reports are still coming in that while some people were deported for such crimes as carrying a Leatherman, others were locked up for holding a small cloth roughly the size of a hand towel somewhere in the vicinity of the great and the good.

The list of those detained or deported is growing - the convergence space where I queued for the coach had a special bit of wall for notes from the deported to their friends (mostly 'get my stuff'). It's criminal that the unelected lobbyists and fully-elected arseholes that conjured up this so-called deal on the back of a napkin have their mugs in the paper while the real heroes - those who took action to stop the world going to hell in a handbasket - are facing Christmas in jail.

Greenpeace UK has asked people to write to the Danish PM and whinge like hell about the detentions. They've got one of those standard template letter things, but you can modify it, perhaps to include the name of a friend, or to widen your objection to include those deported (including the foreign correspondent of the Spanish equivalent of the BBC, sent home for filming outside the Bella Centre while wearing full press credentials).

It's probably about as worthwhile as getting all the world's leaders in one place to solve a problem they created, but it's better than sinking into post-action despair. Actually, the best thing to do if you're living in Blighty would be to go blockade the Danish Embassy until they let everyone go... but it is snowing, after all.

Good COP, bad COP: politicians in Copenhagen have no authority

In the second of our debates around the COP15, Richard explains why he believes the politicians in Copenhagen cannot (and will not) sign an equitable deal and why the climate crisis is just a symptom of the larger crisis in capitalism.

In swanky rooms in the Danish city of Copenhagen, powerful people are deciding the world's future. They're thrashing out a deal which, they say, will prevent climate change from destroying our way of life. They talk of global equity; of the West helping the South to develop sustainably; of pulling together against a common climatological foe. They talk, and we should listen, right, because they're all so very, very important.

These people - our elected representatives - are liars and thieves and their solution, a complex web of carbon trading, offsetting and battening down the hatches, is not about solving climate change. It is a naked attempt to exploit a clear and present danger to cement their power at our expense.

We saw this on day two of the COP15 conference, when a secret agreement between "the circle of commitment" leaked into the open. It sought to bind the world's inhabitants into a two-tier emissions framework, with privileged Westerners getting double the carbon ration of the majority of the world's population.

This attempt to embed carbon imperialism and divide the world permanently into emits and emit-nots is just the latest in a long line of reasons to reject the COP15 outright. Another, more congenital problem is that those at the summit cannot solve climate change because they are the ones who caused it.

The conference-goers are committed to going only so far as is compatible with economic growth; entrenching the root cause of climate change and global inequity: free-market globalised capitalism. Their solutions rest on an economic and political system built on the exploitation of the planet and the people who inhabit it.

They'd have you believe that everything will be ok if we just internalise the climate costs: place a price on air and so it can be traded like a cheap bauble in a bazaar. But this just validates their pollution: they bought it, they can break it. While the Maldives and Tuvalu sink beneath the waves and millions of Bangladeshis are displaced by flooding, the global elite is opening up a new market for financiers to gamble with for short-term gain. Just as money is no use to an indigenous tribe forced from their land by illegal logging, what will we buy once they've rendered the world uninhabitable?

Look around you. The rush to create wealth for the very few at the expense of the rest of us has poisoned our seas, polluted our air, chopped down our forests and forced millions off their land and into indentured slavery at the hands of faceless global corporations. The politicians putting pen to paper slaughtered hundreds of thousands overseas in their quest for oil; support the cruellest of dictators if it smoothes the way for business; lecture us on 'doing our bit' while our taxes pay their mortgages; fiddled their expenses while the gap between rich and poor grew ever wider.

Throughout history people in power have taken every opportunity to put themselves first and to exploit every situation to their advantage. What makes you think they've suddenly changed?