Monday, 29 December 2008

Re-Wild at Heart



Whilst capitalism eats itself, radical re-imaginings are dared.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Deep Throat, the FT and the Grauniad

In his obit of Mark Felt, FT 20th December, Jurek Martin concludes with this:

“He escaped implication in Watergate for years but Mr Felt did encounter legal problems of his own. After leaving the agency which he joined in 1942, he was convicted in 1981 for unauthorised FBI break-ins at homes of alleged radicals in the 1970, but was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan. He then retired to California.”

The Guardian, that noble little bast...ion of liberal values, didn't see fit to tell its readers this, at least in the paper version I saw. There is something in the online version here.

It's something I've noticed- the FT actually is MORE willing to talk about state power, and to give extreme left artists etc a fair hearing, than the Guardian. Can I prove this? No, I haven't had the time or the patience to do a comparative analysis, a la Herman and Chomsky. Someday mabe...

Other comparison- I watched Silence of the Lambs at the cinema in Australia and on video in the US. In the latter, somebody had edited out this bit

Jack Crawford: I remember you from my seminar at UVA. You grilled me pretty hard, as I recall, on the bureau's civil rights record in the Hoover years. I gave you an A.
Clarice Starling: A-minus, Sir.

This sort of censorship is not uncommon. And the bigger picture is that movies “critical” of the US military get no co-operation from said military. The classic, but trivial, example is the “Gene Hackman goes mad” cold-war thriller Crimson Tide...

PS The break-ins that Jurek Martin mentions were part of a programme that went all the way up to murder...)

PPS See also Cril Payne's "Deep Cover", for an extraordinary account of an undercover agent virtually stranded by the uncertainty around the Hoover succession.

Democracy in action (again)

Friday, 26 December 2008

Review of Lobster 56

Robin Ramsay has been producing the twice-yearly Lobster for a very long time, and he is very very good at it. Lobster has been beavering away at the meeting place of the Secret State, the "Special Relationship" and "para-politics generally diligently and intelligently.

The format is always the same- an A4 journal, roughly 50 pages. Seven or eight meaty lead articles on a variety of themes, with footnotes to keep you searching. There's various snippets of information that you've either never spotted, or saw and simply didn't realise the context. This is something Lobster is good at- re-arranging the pieces we get in the mainstream media into a more plausible/coherent narrative. [That said, Lobster writers seem scrupulous in separating what they can prove from what they merely suppose. They're alive to the siren-call of making (up) the facts fit the theory.]

There's a series of judicious book reviews too, again mostly on themes around economics, politics, the secret state. Ramsay and his fellow reviewers will shower praise, but also get the boot stuck in where necessary.

This latest Lobster is of the same exemplary standard.
Scott Newton opens accounts with "Harold Wilson, the Bank of England and the Cecil King 'coup' of May 1968.
Simon Matthews has an excellent piece on Ken Livingstone, full of interesting titbits. I for one had never grasped the obvious point that-
"... the Labour Party is overwhelmingly oritenated around an axis of Scotland + Wales + the North and has a low tolerance level for London (something that Herbert Morrison- a completely centre-right figure- found out in his attemptst ot become Labour Party leader between 1935 and 1955)....

"The low regard that the Labour Party has for London has also extended to doing little about its own structures and apparatus in the area when it is threatened by the ultra-left... perhaps it expects nothing better from the Metropolis. Note that it only took actoin against Militant when Militant threatened Liverpool and had two MPs elected- neither for London seats. Note also the number of prominent individuals who have tiptoed away from any involvement in London politics for calmer pastures elsewhere: Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Charles Clarke, both Milibands, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper. The disinterest [sic] the Labour Party shows in its own structures and organsiation in the capital city of the country it seeks to govern is striking."
Colin Challen MP (head of the All-Party Group on Climate Change) has a long thorough piece on the Bush family dynasty.

The highlight for environmentally-focussed activists in this issue will be Philip Conford's "The politics of the organic movement." It really is- like Lobster- first-rate.
"The position of this "younger" generation is more clearly paradoxical in another respect though. Those who went off to escape the system and live self-sufficiently found that they could not survive unless they were able to sell what they grew. It is not too cyncial to suggest that one major reason for the assault launched on the old guard at the Soil Association was a desire to increase the market for organic produce; and so the radicals, who had imagined they were dropping out of the system, soon found themselves back in it again and, in effect, trying to change it from the inside. Some voices were doubtful about, or downright opposed to, cosying up to supermarkets and government bureaucracy, but they were ignored by those who felt that 'the market' could, through the power of the consumer, ensure that increased demand for organic goods led to increased acreage being cultivated organically rather than industrially. At one time the call was for '20 per cent by 2000', but this proved impossibly optimistic."

A subscription is 8 pounds for a year. Cheques payable to "Lobster"
214 Westbourne Avenue, Hull Hu5 3JB

Fourth World Review reviewed. (Issue 148)

Another Fourth World Review has found its welcome way to my door. It's another good issue, and before I (critically) review its contents, I want to point out just how much “invisible” work is embedded in these sorts of publications. I've put together a few, and have some inkling of just how hard the editor is working in chasing contributors, proofing, layout, printing etc.

Kirkpatrick Sale, the American thinker on technology and grass-roots politics, has a dismissive piece on Obama. He's probably right, but we live in extraordinary times, and I think that on a couple of issues at least, Obama has a few tricks up his sleeve, and is anyway opening a rhetorical/political space that could and should be filled by the right kind of people and ideas.

Nafeez Ahmed has a good piece on finance capital, peak oil and the growth imperative of capitalism-

“Experts like petroleum geologist Colin Campbell, who worked for companies like Shell, BP, Esso and Texaco confirm we are probably now on what is known as the 'undulating plateau'.
The plateau begins when peak oil induces massive price shocks contributing to economic recession. The recession in turn reduces consumption, lessening the strain on resources and precipitating a collapse in fuel prices. Lower prices create new space for renewed consumption and economic recovery. This 'undulating plateau' is a period of major price fluctuation, which could last from 5 to 10 years before oil capacity limits are permanently breached and we arrive at the era of irreversibly scarce oil supplies and high prices.”

This chimes very much with recent news reports in the Financial Times of alternative energy projects that were all systems go getting put on hold because of plummeting oil prices. Even the commentators have spotted it; see Gideon Rachman from the Financial Times, 23rd December-

"So my fifth choice for 2008 is the rise and fall of the oil price- up to more than $147 a barrel in July and then down to just above $40 now. In the first half of the year, with the oil price soaring, all the talk was of resource scarcity, the growing clout of sovereign wealth funds and the rising power of the world's energy producers. With a fall of $100 in the oil price, oi-rich governments suddenly look as shaky as a Wall Street bank. The Russians and Chinese are- along with the rest of the world- relearning one of the basic lessons of Marxism. Economics drives politics. That is a lesson likely to be driven home with even more force in 2009."

Herve Kempf and Peter Preston look at journalism- the invisibility of the poor and the necessity of the local- respectively.

Paul Buchanan, a Somerset County Councillor, gives his advice on how to bring change “to the Town Hall, District Council and County or Unitary Authority.”

Peter North, in an article that really needed more space to fully explore the issues, distinguishes between localism and autarky.

Tom Barker, associate editor of 4WR has a good piece on “the Ecology of Economics”. As he says-

"In ecological parlance, as a system interconnected on a vast scale, and dominated by international commerce that reaches into every locality, industrial society appears to be entering an unstable point in development called omega that precedes general ecosystem collapse.
The term omega describes the crisis point in a pattern of ecosystem dynamics known as the adaptive cycle, in which ecoystem resilience (against collapse from perturbations) undergoes periodic changes as it matures. As the most intelligent species on the planety (honestly!), if we care to look we can recognise this and potentially do something about it before it happens, but presently economic policy is in the hands of the market. Accordingly, we are being swept along by events in the same way as any other dumb organism."

The journal closes out with a bunch of letters, book reviews, observations and “fourth world news.”

All this for three quid- a bargain!

The journal's problems are the problems of “the movement” more widely. I suspect it's not getting “out of the ghetto”. The gender imbalance is pretty marked (that's NOT to accuse anyone of misogyny). I don't think it is examining some of its assumptions hard enough (small is beautiful, but also probably a bit more problematic than you'd know from this). I don't think it is always engaging sufficiently with its critics- there's nothing in the issues I've seen about the debates between Rob Hopkins and Trapeze, for example.

You can subscribe- and I have- by sending a cheque payable to Fourth World Transition

FWR, 96 Gayton House, Knapp Road, London E3 4BY

lipo-Diesel



Who needs Jonathan Swift when we have Californian plastic surgeons?
I wish I'd thought of that.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Coitus Interruptus



The pope fails the grasp the actual reasons behind the impending ecological debacle - preferring to characterise it as a vast gay conspiracy.


The great stain that is Clarkson continues with his "aren't I controversial" wankery by pretending that only petrol can save the world from ...petrol

The Police drum up business where they can

The Uk's public buildings emit more CO2 than Kenya.

I hope you all have a happy Yule, or whatever else it is that you may be celebrating.
Be of good cheer

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Baubles



Christmas brings the fortieth anniversary of the first image of Earth Rising - an image that (should have) transformed the way we, as a species, conceptualise ourselves.
Did it?



The UK gov't relinquishes all remaining control of its Atomic Weapons by flogging off Aldermaston to raise a few readies for Christmas

The Israeli gov't pulls out the usual excuses when somebody has the temerity to ever so gently remind punters about the illegal nature of their occupation of the West Bank

Check out this video of Santa taking some unwanted gifts to E-on.
It made me laugh

Friday, 19 December 2008

Jury of One peer



The attorney General - the duly appointed, cabinet-ranking, partisan politician Baroness Scotland - is making plans to withdraw the protection of legal precedent from climate protestors who break the law in their stirling efforts to avert catastrophe. Suggestions that this is motivated by the Government's need to pretend it's all hunky-dory untill after the election are, of course, cynical in the extreme. Nothing to do with Heathrow and Gatwick and Kingsnorth etc etc. No ambitions were engaged in the making of these decisions.

Meanwhile... Ugmug's methane jaccuzi goes into overdrive.

Concerned Businessmen for Growth and Continuity



As Woolworths collapses and sheds thousands of jobs; as Chrysler shuts down all operations for a month; as Zimbabwe descends ever further into hell and takes its wildlife with it; as British Airports Authority attempts to sidestep the Heathrow reports by secretly lining up another runway at Gatwick and as OPEC's plans to push up the price of oil founder on the rubble of shattered bubbles - the uber wealthy and the trop chic push on with their plans for a refrigerated, golf-based Eden in Dubai, in true pharonic style. This behaviour is what Janet Alty has characterised as a Suicide Cult ; the hell-bent, business-as-usual drive towards extinction. (Thanks Janet)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Wet Wet Wet




Sea levels will be rising faster than previous calculations predicted

The outgoing President's place in infamy is secure, whilst the incoming one has his team assembled

Monday, 15 December 2008

Ed Miliband speech- The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of a Department of Energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change website, which is here, as opposed to here, is beginning to bear (low-hanging) fruit, if you're a really really sad anorak, that is.

There's a speech Ed Miliband made on Tuesday 9th entitled "The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of a Department of Energy." (As I type this, I can see the spoof potential...)

Depending on how seriously you take these speeches, it may be a good guide to the man's intentions, which may be some sort of guide to his actions, which may (just may) be some guide to his effects. But probably not.

It's kind of boiler-plate, I think. I'd be interested to know what the Deiter Helms, William Blyths and Rory Sullivans of this world think of it.

Miliband compares and contrasts with a speech Nigel Lawson (ironically dad of climate denier Dominic) made in 1982 and shows how under the enlightened leadership of our present Lords and Masters we are heading for the gentle uplands of sustainability (low carbon via nukes), security of supply (Malcolm Wicks is writing a report) and affordability (aka fuel poverty alleviation by asking energy companies pretty please).

In the biggest surprise since Barack Obama didn't nominate Noam Chomsky as his Secretary of State, we do not hear the words "demand reduction" in this speech. Or any acknowledgement of just how radical the cuts in emissions need to be starting today (well, preferably starting in about 1988 actually.) There's worthy stuff about energy efficiency and insulating houses, but nothing that would scare the horses, or investors. (Ironically, today's FT carries a stern editorial about the EU climate deal last week, but that's a subject of another post...)

Quotable quotes from the speech:
"Next summer we will be publishing our response to Lord Turner's recommendations on carbon budgets and we will have to show how we can decarbonise electricity in the years to 2050, substantially so by the 2020s- in other words, how we can reach teh zero option: near zero-carbon electricity by 2050.
"As Lord Turner argues, the best prospects lie in the trinity of nuclear, renewables and clean fossil fuels."

And the following, almost Churchillian in its stirring effects:
"Some might ask whether the effects of carbon capture and storage in the UK on the wider world is really a calculation for our energy policy or a responsibility for us. My response is to say that it is, because the costs for us, in this country, of the world not meeting its climate change commitments, are so grave."
And, to reassure us all:
"It is no part of my climate change strategy to drive the most vulnerable consumers into fuel poverty." [Note consumers, not 'citizens' or 'human beings']
Worth a read, if you're an anorak...

Poznan- very second thoughts

More Poznan info rolling in.

There's a brief impressionistic (those adjectives used in a non-pejorative sense) piece here, by Andy Revkin and Elizabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times, as spotted by fellow Pending Ecological Debacle author Marc Roberts.

There's a very good piece summarising the "progress" at Poznan, by the estimable International Institute for Sustainable Development. I've cut and paste it below, because it doesn't seem to be available on their site. If they tell me it breaches their copyright, then it's gonna disappear like a fist when you open your palm...

As and when the high-level NGOs like WWF publish briefings, we'll post 'em. The IISD thing below really is worth a read...

SUMMARY OF THE FOURTEENTH CONFERENCE OF PARTIES TO THE UN FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND FOURTH MEETING OF PARTIES TO THE KYOTO PROTOCOL


The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland, was held from 1-12 December 2008. The conference involved a series of events, including the fourteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and fourth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 4).

In support of these two main bodies, four subsidiary bodies convened: the fourth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 4); the resumed sixth session of the Ad HocWorking Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 6); and the twenty-ninth sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 29) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 29).

These events drew over 9250 participants, including almost 4000 government officials, 4500 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, and more than 800 accredited members of the media.

These meetings resulted in the adoption of COP decisions, COP/MOP decisions and a number of conclusions by the subsidiary bodies. These outcomes covered a wide range of topics, including the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol, the 2009 work programmes of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP, and outcomes on technology transfer, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), capacity building, national communications, financial and administrative matters, and various methodological issues.

The main focus in Poznań, however, was on long-term cooperation and the post-2012 period, when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires. In December 2007, negotiators meeting in Bali had approved the Bali Action Plan and Roadmap setting COP 15 in December 2009 as the deadline for agreeing on a framework for action after 2012. Poznań therefore marked the halfway mark towards the December 2009 deadline. While the Poznań negotiations did result in some progress, there were no significant breakthroughs, and negotiators face a hectic 12 months of talks leading up to the critical deadline of December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

This report summarizes the discussions, decisions and conclusions based on the agendas of the COP, COP/MOP and the subsidiary bodies. It includes sections on the COP and COP/MOP, also covering the reports of the SBI and SBSTA (which contribute to the COP and COP/MOP’s work). It also includes separate sections on the AWG-KP and the AWG-LCA, which focused on work under the Bali Roadmap and Action Plan.

The full report is available at: http://www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb12395e.pdf
and in HTML at: http://www.iisd.ca/vol12/enb12395e.html


Our analysis of the meeting is included below:

A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF COP 14 & COP/MOP 4
POZNAŃ AND THE (LONG) ROAD TO COPENHAGEN

A year after the historic Bali Climate Change Conference, negotiators are now at the halfway point on the Bali Roadmap, which launched a two-year process to strengthen international climate change cooperation. Looking back, progress has been achieved in 2008 through four sessions and discussions on the key elements of the future regime. However, pressure is mounting for the remaining 12 months: serious negotiations must begin as soon as possible in 2009 to secure an agreement in Copenhagen next December.

This analysis takes stock of progress made at the Poznań Climate Change Conference and analyzes the key remaining issues for the critical year ahead. It will first discuss the political context in which the Poznań Conference took place. It will then review the main expectations for the meeting and analyze the results, asking whether they are sufficient for a successful outcome in Copenhagen next year.

(POLITICAL) CLIMATE AT THE END OF 2008

The political context for the Poznań Conference was somewhat different from the Bali negotiations in 2007. In Bali, the atmosphere was characterized by the strong international reaction to the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a sense of urgency about climate change. In Poznań, by contrast, the negotiations took place against the backdrop of a rapidly worsening global financial situation. Many were concerned about climate policy falling victim to the crisis – and even the most optimistic were expecting the financial crisis to have some impact on the process.

The European Union and others at the Conference tried to stress their ongoing commitment to combating climate change, arguing that a transition to a low carbon society entails not only costs but also important economic opportunities. However, at the same time as the Poznań Conference, protracted negotiations were taking place on the EU’s climate and energy policy package to implement a 20% emission reduction target by 2020, causing some to question whether the EU’s leadership on climate policy is faltering. On the last day of the Poznań Conference, delegates were pleased to hear news that agreement had been reached in Brussels on the EU package, even though some NGOs criticized the concessions made to secure the compromise. The package, covering the period from 2013 to 2020, lays down rules for the third phase of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), details individual emission targets for EU Member States in sectors not covered by the ETS, and contains a 20% target for renewable energy, a 10% target for biofuels and a 20% target for increasing energy efficiency by 2020.

At the same time, Barack Obama’s victory in the US Presidential elections was a reason for optimism in Poznań. Obama has promised to make climate change a high priority and highlighted a green energy economy as a remedy for the ongoing economic crisis. In Poznań, the US was still represented by the Bush administration and remained relatively subdued during the official negotiations. Some felt that uncertainty about the US position in 2009 caused other countries to refrain from making significant political advances in Poznań, and few expect developing countries to make significant moves before developed countries have clarified their positions on emission reductions and financing. Overall, most felt that the political circumstances surrounding the Poznań Conference were not ideal for major political breakthroughs, which could justify its modest results. “One of those less exciting in-between COPs,” was how some veterans characterized the meeting.

(VARIED) EXPECTATIONS AND OUTCOMES

The agenda in Poznań was exceptionally full, with six bodies considering more than 90 agenda items and sub-items. This put a strain on many delegations and highlighted the importance of prioritizing work. This meant that some of the less urgent agenda items were not given as much attention as usual, leading to a focus on issues related to the Bali Roadmap: the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments by Annex I Countries under the Protocol (AWG-KP) and the second review of the Kyoto Protocol under Article 9. Delegates also focused on a few other agenda items included the operationalization of the Adaptation Fund and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

AWG-LCA: At its fourth meeting, the AWG-LCA spent a lot of time considering “a shared vision for long-term cooperative action,” which was the subject of an in-session workshop, contact group and a ministerial round table. According to the Bali Action Plan, “a shared vision” includes a global goal for emission reductions. While some optimists had hoped for an agreement in Poznań on a long-term global emission goal to guide the negotiations in 2009, there were no serious attempts to achieve such an outcome. Instead, many veterans are predicting that this question will not be resolved until Copenhagen, since it seems likely to be a key part of whatever package deal is reached. They took it as a positive sign, however, that a common understanding seemed to be emerging in Poznań that “a shared vision” covers all the key building blocks of the Action Plan, namely mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance. Many also felt that progress was made on the concept of monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) and the idea of a registry for nationally appropriate mitigation actions in developing countries.

In contrast, suggestions for differentiation among developing countries were firmly rejected by some groups within the G-77/China – while being endorsed by many industrialized countries. Some proposals on adaptation were also made more concrete, including the insurance mechanism proposed by AOSIS. These and many other ideas were incorporated in the “assembly document,” a collection of submissions and proposals, which was one of the key outcomes of AWG-LCA 4 and is expected to evolve into a formal negotiating text during the first half of 2009.

AWG-KP: For the AWG-KP, the focus was on a strategic discussion of all the key items on its agenda and on the work programme for 2009, with a view to agreeing on further actions required to finalize Annex I countries’ post-2012 commitments in Copenhagen. Some observers and developing countries were hoping for a clear decision on the aggregate range of mid-term emission reductions by industrialized countries. However, while the 25-40% range by 2020 from the AR4 once again appears in the AWG-KP’s conclusions, the language is similar to that used in previous conclusions and falls short of a definitive commitment. According to some negotiators, this was mostly due to the reluctance of some Umbrella Group countries to commit to a mid-term range at this point. However, many also noted the lack of serious attempts to reach an agreement on this issue in Poznań, possibly because delegates realized the political climate was not yet ripe for such discussions. Overall, most felt that the outcomes from the AWG-KP were modest, limited to the 2009 work programme and to agreement that Annex I countries’ further commitments should “principally” take the form of quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROs). Those with lower expectations for the meeting noted that little more than this might have been expected, as parties wait for the bottom of the market downturn and the arrival of the new US administration.

ADAPTATION FUND: Along with the Poznań work programme on technology transfer, the only concrete outcome of the Poznań conference was the operationalization of the Adaptation Fund. The COP/MOP adopted several decisions to make the Fund operational, including on arrangements with the Global Environment Facility and World Bank. Importantly, all three tracks to access funds – through implementing entities, accredited national entities, and direct access by parties – have been enabled. The Fund is, therefore, expected to start financing adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries in the next year.

The success on the Adaptation Fund was tempered by the inability to secure additional resources for the Fund due to lack of agreement on extending the share of proceeds (or “adaptation levy”) to Joint Implementation and emissions trading under the second review of the Protocol under Article 9. As many had predicted, these consultations were difficult and were unable to produce an agreement, leading COP/MOP 4 to conclude the second review of the Protocol without any substantive outcome. Most developing countries expressed deep disappointment at the failure to increase adaptation funding.

While many parties and private sector representatives had also hoped for improvements to the CDM under the Article 9 review, the lack of outcome on the review meant that the improvements negotiated in Poznań were not adopted. The AWG-KP, however, agreed to further consider issues related to the mechanisms in the post-2012 period in its March/April session.

FROM POZNAŃ TO COPENHAGEN: KEY TASKS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD

Leaving Poznań, there was little doubt in participants’ minds that plenty of critical work remains for 2009 under the Bali Roadmap. For both the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA, one of the first key tasks is generating formal negotiating texts that must be communicated to the parties at least six months before Copenhagen to comply with legal formalities. The Poznań Conference was widely seen as a successful step in that direction as the Chairs of both AWGs were mandated to prepare documents for the March/April meeting in Bonn.

The task of the AWG-LCA for 2009 will not be easy. The group will have to finalize an agreement on all four building blocks and a shared vision. It is the only body where all countries, including the US and developing countries, participate in discussions on mitigation. Thus, negotiations on a global long-term goal, comparability of mitigation efforts by developed countries and MRV in the context of nationally appropriate developing country mitigation actions are expected to be central. Importantly, MRV also applies to developed country support to developing countries through technology, finance and capacity-building, so ways of doing this will have to be identified. With regard to financing and technology, the AWG-LCA faces the challenge of reaching agreement on the architecture to both finance mitigation and adaptation actions, and facilitate technology development and transfer. Evaluation of proposals contained in the assembly document will be part of this task.

The AWG-KP has a clear objective for 2009: to agree on further commitments for Annex I countries in the post-2012 period. Some developing countries were therefore somewhat disappointed at the lack of clear sequencing of tasks in the AWG-KP’s 2009 work programme. Many developed countries were, however, pleased with text reaffirming the programme’s iterative nature and agreement to “maintain a coherent approach” between the Convention and the Protocol in relation to Annex I parties’ commitments.

Based on some signals in Poznań, some are predicting that the relationship between the Convention and Protocol tracks could become increasingly relevant in 2009. Many developed countries maintain that the work of the two AWGs should be coordinated given that both, for instance, address mitigation by developed countries. In Poznań, Norway, the EU and others also alluded to a “package” and “comprehensive agreement” in Copenhagen, and New Zealand proposed forming a Committee of the Whole and proceeding on the basis of a single negotiating text in June 2009. However, many developing countries and the US have sternly opposed attempts to link the Convention and Protocol tracks, with many developing countries concerned that this could take focus away from new emission reduction targets for industrialized countries under the Protocol, and the US seeking to avoid any proposals that would draw it into discussions related to the Protocol. It therefore remains to be decided in 2009 how to avoid duplication of work under the different tracks of the Bali Roadmap and what the legal outcome of the negotiations will ultimately be. Important as the legal and procedural questions are for the negotiators gathering in Copenhagen, most predict that it will be political will that determines the outcome.

ALL ROAD(MAPS) LEAD TO COPENHAGEN

While many agreed that the Poznań meeting resulted in some progress and positive steps forward, the general feeling was that negotiators had not achieved any major breakthroughs. Those who had hoped for decisive action blamed a lack of political leadership and determination they think would have signaled impending success in the coming year. Instead, many predict that agreement on the most critical issues, including mid- and long-term emission goals and finance, will not be reached before Copenhagen. This has led some to reconsider their expectations of what would constitute success in Copenhagen, and how many details of the new climate regime will need to be finalized after 2009.

Understandably, some participants left Poznań somewhat worried, feeling that while scientific evidence on climate change is strengthening, the “spirit of Bali” is weakening along with countries’ determination to fight climate change in light of the serious economic crisis.

Others, though, were not willing to abandon their optimism just yet. They referred to statements from both the EU and the US on measures to tackle the economic crisis that would also contribute to climate change mitigation and transition to a low carbon economy. Some veterans who are more used to the ups-and-downs of international negotiating processes also suggested that Poznań’s modest outcome could be a positive thing in the larger scheme of things. In the words of one observer, “delegates needed to be reminded that success is not inevitable, and that without strong political will it is quite possible that they will fail to make the historic breakthrough needed in Copenhagen.”

Reckoning




The Police are obliged to fess-up to the gross inaccuracy of their public scare-mongering.
The IEA are obliged to fess-up to the gross inaccuracy of their energy forecasts

From Poznan, via Elisabeth Rosenthal via Andrew Revkin at DotEarth;-

Prodipto Ghosh of the Indian delegation berated wealthy countries for their “refusal” to “experience a minuscule loss of profits” to help poorer nations cope. He continued: “In the face of the unbearable human tragedy that we in developing countries see unfolding every day, we see callousness, strategizing and obfuscation.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Obama as Superman; Younge, Chomsky, Pilger etc.


photo courtesy of Liad Baniel
Obama Superman Mural
One of Los Angeles' most prominent street artists, Mr. Brainwash (a.k.a. Thierry Guetta), has created a mural of Barack Obama as Superman for SCOPE Art Fair Miami 2008. The French-born artist will also be presenting a large-scale, non-commercial installation sponsored by the SCOPE Foundation.



I suppose I should riff intelligently on Laurie Anderson's "Oh Superman" at this point, but, er, I can't. Instead, I'll point to a couple of recent Obama pieces that I've read.

The first was by the Guardian's Gary Younge. Younge is, IMHO, one of the most subtle and incisive commentators on race that we have (not a special field of interest of mine, I'll admit. The only other name that jumps to the fingertips is Tim Wise. But there are others).

Writing in the October/November Red Pepper he concluded,
"The potential to expand and build a borad progressive front to check and reverse the reactionary excesses of the past eight years has opened up as a result of Obama's run for office. To achieve their goals, his supporters must not stand still after election day."
So, as Chomsky wrote recently:-
"What would be the content of the "Obama brand" if the public were to become "participants" rather than mere "spectators in action"? It is an experiment well worth undertaking, and there is good reason to suppose that the results might point the way to a saner and more decent world."

The latest Doonesbury cartoon (14th December) takes that and runs with it- (be warned- it won't mean much to those who don't know the characters...)

We also have John Pilger, who seems to think that people thought Obama was going to bring radical change, and lists the "betrayals" of his appointments, in a piece in the New Statesman/Morning Star.

Finally for now, we have a piece by Richard Waters in the FT on the 9th December, "Obama weighs putting the wisdom of crowds to work"
"According to the adviser to the Obama transition team, the best approach will be to tap into the "edge intelligence" of the network- letting people with specialist knowledge have their say, much as Wikipedia draws on the expertise of volunteers to compile its online encyclopedia."

After all this, what do I conclude.?Obama is not the Messiah. If we sit on our asses expecting him- or anyone- to Save Us, then we are toast. We are toast anyhow, but couldn't we at least go down with a little dignity? Just sayin'...

Poznan- very first thoughts

Hmm, as Paul Kelly said in a different context "take your time, this thing needs some working on."

But, famously, time is what we don't really have on climate change, having pissed the last 20 years against the wall...

I've only read a few things, from the Beeb, the FT, and the Grauniad. All highlight the fact that Scientists Say short term targets of 25-40% reductions by 2020 are necessary (these are the optimistic scientists, btw. Others think we're screwed.)

Anyway, the Beeb's Richard Black has a piece Mood mixed as climate summit ends.

It opens with a paragraph that could have been cut and paste from any UNFCCC circus for the last 15 years;

"The UN climate summit has ended with delegates taking very different views on how much it has achieved. Western delegates said progress here had been encouraging, but environment groups said rich countries had not shown enough ambition. Developing nations were angry that more money was not put forward to protect against climate impacts."

(Dwight: I think it was either Benito Muller or Saleemul Huq who said that all UNFCCC conferences were either successes or great successes...)

My favourite quote from the rest of it is Black's piece is this-

"It is not clear how a 'strong political signal' can be sent by not paying for pollution that you have caused," said Pakistan's delegate Farrukh Khan. "We would have hoped that our partners would have taken this necessary step on the road to Copenhagen; but unfortunately the road to Copenhagen is being paved with good intentions."

The Guardian's contribution is this, from David Adam, who's been doing lots of good stuff over the last couple of weeks (and maybe longer- I've not been following!)
"The Poznan talks have made no progress on deciding new global curbs on greenhouse gas pollution, which scientists say are needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. Officials said new targets would not be discussed until the summer, to give Barack Obama time to signal his intentions as US president
And the FT, bless it, wrote some very interesting things about the EU negotiations on 11th-12th, which are worth several separate posts.
"Industrial sectors such as cement, chemicals and steel will receive free carbon emission permits at least up to 2020, instead of having to buy buy them under an auction scheme, as envisaged in a Commission plan published last January. The concession represented a victory for Germany, by far Europe's largest manufacturing nation. It means revenues from teh auctions are expected to be closer to 30 bn euros a year by 2020 than the 50bn euros previously forecast."
Apparently
"EU diplomats said pressure from industrialists on the climate change plans had been relentless this year and had become impossible to resist once it was clear Europe had fallen into a serious recession and risked losing millions of jobs."

I haven't yet watched Al "we cannot negotiate with the facts" Gore's speech
which comes highly recommended.

But look, all this is just our species flailing around it its death throes. We didn't institute Contraction and Convergence, and now we'd need that, sink protection and a whole lotta luck- deux ex machina and all that. Sigh.


Anyway, over the coming week(s) we will try to check out and digest comments from-
e3g- Jennifer Morgan and Nick Mabey are worth listening to.
climate progress- Joseph Romm
Grist Magazine
New Economics Foundation

The Morning Star 13th December 2008

Poznan musings to follow sometime soon, but for now, this-

When I'm asked for my opinion (and also when I'm not), I advocate reading the Financial Times and the Morning Star alongside each other. They don't cover all the same stories, but they give you a nice broad coverage between them, with predictable- and therefore compensate-able slants. There's lots of intriguing facts buried in the articles.


Anyway, yesterday, Sat 13th December, I practised what I preach for once. From the Morning Star we learn (on a climate perspective)

a) New Zealand 'dismantling climate friendly policies'

“Former New Zealand climate change minister David Parker slammed the new right-wing government yesterday for dismantling the country's fledgling sustainable energy industry.”

Apparently the new lot are repealing the obligation for oil companies to sell 0.5 per cent biofuels (from animal fat) in their petrol. They're also ending the ban on new carbon fuel power generation stations and suspending the emissions trading scheme. Charming.

b) Lord O'Neill, a member of the Lords science and technology committee, “attacked ministers for ending the ring-fencing of landfill tax revenue to fund waste reduction schemes.”

c) some good news- “Airport operator BAA admitted yesterday that combined passenger numbers for its seven British airports had plunged almost 9 per cent last month."

d) There's another good piece from Tom Sharman at the Poznan climate negotiations on money for an “adaptation fund.”

Separately, they reprint a John Pilger piece from the New Statesman about Obama's appointments that “already signal that his White House won't be for turning.” Well, yes, but did anyone expect he'd sing the Internationale and declare the US an anarcho-syndicalist commune?


And there's a very good letter about their coverage of the Plane Stupid action earlier this week, which I'm copying below-

Emphasis should've been on the cause

When did our paper stop supporting direct action?
Your headline and story about the Plane Stupid protest at Stansted (M Star, December 9) gvies much more space and emphasis to concerns about the security of the airport's perimeter fence ad the inconvenience caused to airline passengers than it does to the aims of the protesters.
They were trying to stop the expansion of the airport, which would greatly increase greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and speed up global warming.
Does the Morning Star not support them?
Chris Birch
London SW6

It would have been nice for the editors not just to run a critical letter (though that's good) but to reply.

Oh, and a name from my past- Chris Searle- who wrote a good book about Mozambique, among many others, is the Morning Star's jazz critic, and has written a book called “Forward Groove.”

Fame and Fortune



It was a toss up today between Gore's call for a serious focus on real issues and this story about refrigerating beaches in Dubai for the comfort of the scum of the earth. In the end I decided that the Dubai story satirised itself.

Meanwhile, the UK's limitless capacity for incompetence scuppers what few good ideas we have, whilst the wealthy slowly switch religions to temper their guilt.
Elsewhere ETA's self-serving, masturbatory logic excels itself, and some spy the beginnings of a youthquake.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Payment deferred



Who's paying for all this? You are, my son. You are.

OH BUGGER. News just in here at Throbgoblins International. My fellow Mancunians have voted with their arses once again and plumped for more of the same for ever by rejecting the congestion charge - and with it billions in public transport investment. Fuck 'em. It seems that peak oil, asthmatic children and a living hell of gridlock twice a day are outweighed by the urgent necessity to pretend you're Jeremy Clarkson. Had I read this earlier I would have worded the toon differently. But now I can't be arsed. It's not a surprise, but it's a bummer nonetheless.

I'm going to see Jeremy Hardy later. Hopefully he'll cheer me up.

Lawyers steal from miners and feudal Lords piss on their serfs in the time honoured fashion. It seems we have no skills and no money and no idea what we're doing.
So we're all defending our own small corner and throwing the odd titbit to placate the greenies, whilst leaving Mexico to show leadership whilst Germany snarls from the corner. The only thing we're bent on saving is our way of life, unmodified and ill-prepared.

Interesting article on Celsias about turning swords into wind-turbines that reminds me this DotEartg post on the enormous discrepancies between spending on military R and D and everything else

Thursday, 11 December 2008

No New Coal

Further to Dwight's post, below....


I missed this at the time. A lone anonymous protestor single handedly shaves 2% off our emissions by temporarily knocking out a turbine at Kingsnorth. How audacious. Desperate times - desperate measures

There's some good news for indiginous peoples land rights

and some bad news for everybody else

Who said individuals can't make a difference?

This below from John Vidal in today's Grauniad

Not that we're, you know, advocating this or anything...

The £12m defences of the most heavily guarded power station in Britain have been breached by a single person who, under the eyes of CCTV cameras, climbed two three-metre (10ft) razor-wired, electrified security fences, walked into the station and crashed a giant 500MW turbine before leaving a calling card reading "no new coal". He walked out the same way and hopped back over the fence.

All power from the coal and oil-powered Kingsnorth station in Kent was halted for four hours, in which time it is thought the mystery saboteur's actions reduced UK climate change emissions by 2%. Enough electricity to power a city the size of Bristol was lost.


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Human Wrongs



It has been noted that, for a humanitarian, Frank is something of a misanthrope. He would claim that he is merely a perfectionist. I'll leave that with you.
To Celebrate 60 glorious years of Universal Human Rights. Frank has opted for a deep green snobbery tinged with irony. Not everyone can pull this off. It helps if one is a fictional character - otherwise it might look a tad crass

The cost of too many folk consuming too much stuff is felt in more places more of the time, as Climate Change bangs on more people's doors and hunger follows it inside.

If you live in Manchester, I heartily recommend the Unicorn grocery in Chorlton for the beginnings of a solution to all this madness

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

No need for Language!



George Monbiot has something to say about talking bollocks and the road ahead.

Things continue to deteriorate to such a point that lawyers may soon be rubbing their hands in anticipation of a nice little earner.
Personally I don't think this is a sensible road to go down, as those worst affected can't exactly afford the price of law.

Complex and novel problems require complex and novel solutions from a trans-disciplinary perspective. Prof Stuart B Hill at Celsias has some useful suggestions.
Another bunch of pertinent suggestions HERE

Monday, 8 December 2008

Of seething frogs and multi-tasking

Two items of note (so far) from the Financial Times, Mon 8th December

On page 9 (despite what the contents on the front page says) we have "Paris to Press UK and Germany on climate agreement" by the estimable Joshua Chaffin

"The UK and Germany are being pressed to agree a bigger subsidy to eastern European countries as France makes a last-minute effort to rescue an ambitious climate agreement..."

I hope French diplomacy can live up to its ol' reputation then...

And then Clive Crook, who may not be reading the same scientific reports as some of us, tells President-elect Obama that first of all it's the Economy Stupid. Me, I think "it's the Ecology, Stupid."

But on both these stories- and this blog, and all of it in fact, I frequently wonder, "why bother." Then I remember the mantra. "We're doing this for the record. The fossil record."

DECC cancels proposed nuclear and coal-fired powerstations

This from the spoof website www.decc.org.uk, which is completely unrelated to www.decc.gov.uk...

DECC Press Release
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DECC SCRAPS NEW NUCLEAR AND COAL-FIRED POWER STATIONS

LONDON (8 December): Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (1), Ed Miliband, today announced the scrapping of all proposed nuclear and coal-fired power stations in the United Kingdom. Britain's energy security will instead be augmented by a massive array of renewable energy sourced from his own back-pedalling.

In a retrofit indicative of the government's ongoing commitment to insulating against power loss from both its houses, Mr Miliband stated that people- especially the Plane Stupid activists who occupied a taxi-way at Stansted this morning (2)- had misconstrued what he told the Environment Agency (3) and the Gaurdian (4) about the necessity of “people power” to pressure politicians. “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all” he said. “I've always been considered one of the dynamos of the Cabinet, and with this new back-pedalling generating scheme, I have the chance to show just how much I can achieve.”

DECC plans to have Mr Miliband chained to an exercise bike (possibly a tandem with his brother the Foreign Secretary). The bike will then be hooked up to the national grid. The Chief Scientific Adviser, John Boddingtons, has calculated that the energy produced by their collective back-pedalling should generate approximately 24MW, enough to avoid the construction of the controversial coal-fired Kingsnorth power station.(5)

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. www.decc.org.uk is a spoof website, in case this wasn't obvious yet. It is not the official government website. You can find that at www.decc.gov.uk

  2. 57 activists occupied a taxi-way at Stansted Airport on the morning of 8th December, delaying planes for several hours. www.planestupid.com

  3. In a speech on November 25th, Ed Miliband stated “We need people not just to come with us, but to push us for more. We need popular pressure - pressure on me, on local councillors, on our public services and businesses.”

  4. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper this morning Mr Miliband was quoted as saying "When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilisation," said Miliband. "Maybe it's an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there's a real opportunity and a need here."

As a comment on the Gaurdian website put it: “What a clever man, Mr Miliband. So if politicians, who have the power, don't get things sorted out, then the public can be blamed for not having enough rock concerts.”

  1. Baseload electricity generation requirements will continue to be met by capturing the energy generated by the routine spinning, ducking and weaving of the political classes.


Popular mobilisation?



"Plane Stupid" activists manage a high profile inconvenience and some high security embarrassment. Is this the Popular Mobilisation that Ed Milliband called for as the only way to secure change? It is. But he will, no doubt, wriggle away from it as fast as he can.

The nuclear industry , despite admitting that it has neither the expertise nor the money to make itself safe, has proclaimed itself "sexy".
Hmmm. Don't fancy yours much.

Sometimes I DO like Mondays...

... Like when I wake up to the news that 50 people from Plane Stupid are sitting chained to concrete blocks and fencing on the taxiway at Stansted Airport. Nice work, guys. It must be bloody cold out there and that makes me slightly glad that my arrestable days are, if not over, at least a bit curtailed by immigration considerations.
I can't help wondering what Ed Miliband is up to this morning, after recent comments about how the public should be putting 'pressure' on their parliamentarians and how we need a 'mass movement along the lines of Make Poverty History' (that resounding success) on climate change. I predict some energetic backpeddling in the very near future.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

New Balls Please



In our ongoing quest to make a bollocks of our entire planet, we have unwittingly de-bollocked the biosphere by pouring as much gender-bending chemistry over everything as our enterprise can muster.
This global castration is a profitable affair and currently has the full support of the UK government.

After 500 years of demonstrating their manifest superiority over the natives, Europeans doing business in South America turn to the wisdom of pre-Columbian societies to dig themselves out of the hole that their superiority has so cleverly dug.

Meat continues to be murder, one way or another.

Every cloud has a silver lining, apparently

Friday, 5 December 2008

Seasonal Variation



Ooh look - it's snowing. Everything must be alright again. Hoorah!

Thanks to Janet Alty for this link to the Righteous Mothers

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Nothing to fear



The government sneaks through extra measures to allow random apparatchicks to rifle through your sock drawer and pass choice nuggets on at their own discretion. They also backed away from the promised reversal of the laughable ban on protest within earshot of parliament

There is a fair wind and some good shit.

We live in Financial Times

Noam Chomsky (80 on Sunday) has said of the pink'un, "it's the only paper to tell the truth."

The truth, of couse, costs. In this case, £1.80 (normally I get to a newsagent that has discounted copies).

From today's paper, of interest for Climate Obsessed Guys/Gals in the machine, are the following-

Nothing on the Italian and Polish games of chicken over the EU climate plan.
Nothing on the car makers victory over those pesky environmentalist.

Instead an editorial that thunders "Officials in Poznan, but especially in Brussels next week must now show an unwavering commitment to action."
They don't mean a bunch of academics and lobbyists meeting for this, though it looks interesting.
They mean the EU Parliament meeting on December 17.

The Appointments section has an extremely clearly written piece by Andrew Taylor that ponders Will the hoped-for green jobs materialise?
"Government may find it difficult to step into the breach if private sector investors get cold feet. The billions of pounds being spent on bailing out banks may not leave much to bolster marginal offshore schemes. Politicians atttending the United Nations cliamte change negotiations in Poznan, Poland, this week and next, may be more concenred about safeguarding jobs in existing industries than imposing extra costs by charging businesses for the C02 they produce."

And the Companies and Markets section has two pieces (the links are added by me, Dwight)
Fink plans to raise $5bn for "eco funds"
Stanley Fink is aiming to raise $5bn within five years for a new environmentally-focused fund manager he has set up with former colleagues from Man Group, where he was chief exectuive until last year.

US car union makes concessions
"The United Auto Workers yesterday made significant concessions as the US's three largest car makers prepared to appear at Congress tomorrow to make their case for emergency funding..."



PS Matthew Engel, like Simon Hoggart only less self-satisfied, has a piece on Parliamentary Games that starts "On the day of the state opening, parliament observes more immutable traditions in four hours than the Catholic Church manages in an entire year." Hmm, I strongly suspect he knows that these so-called immutable traditions contain a fair few made up on the hoof...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The wheel keeps on turning? The Issue Attention Cycle

Whether the Climate March on Saturday- trailed in the Financial Times, of all places- gets 5,000 or 50,000 (my money is on a figure slightly closer to the former than the latter), there's still a central question the organisers should ask themselves- “If the government could ignore 2 million in February 2003, why are we making this the central plank of our campaigning activity?”

And when climate groups in my (adopted) home town are finding it difficult to attract even the usual suspects to their meetings, let alone draw in new faces, then something is amiss.


You can blame it on poorly conceived or executed campaigns. You can say that people haven't absorbed Susan George's lesson-

Give everyone a task. I had a dear friend who, until he was captured and sent to a concentration camp, had been a leader of the French Resistance. He was in charge of infiltrating agents into the ministries and public administrations, the railways, the post office, etc. He said the most difficult part of the job was not recruiting people- many brave French men and women asked nothing better than to risk their lives against the enemy,- but continually finding something for them to do. Because he knew that if they didn't have a task- even a not terribly vital one- they would drift away and be unavailable when a real opportunity arose.”

Page 167 of Another World is Possible, if..., Verso 2004

Or you can look to a thirty year old article about the “Issue Attention Cycle”.

In a nutshell,

“First, Downs says, each environmental issue goes through phases as its introduced and discussed.

Pre-problem: A problem exists, but only some experts and interest groups are alarmed.
Discovery and Enthusiasm: There is alarm and concern over a discovered environmental problem. People band together to support a solution and attack the problem.
Realization: The public starts to understand the cost and difficulty of making progress on the issue.
Decline in Interest: Because of this realization, there is a decline in public interest (and therefore media attention).
Post-problem: The issue isn’t resolved but there is less attention on it. However, the overall level of interest is higher than when the problem was discovered. This may result in small recurrences of interest.”

So, at the front end of 2007 meetings of various groups were pretty full, with the papers and airwaves full of the Stern Review and the IPCC 4th Assessment Report. Over the last 18 months, from personal experience regular meetings/events have either stayed the same size or gotten smaller. (Climate Camp is an exception, for various reasons).

Now that the government can point to legislation (“world's first” legislation, no less), are we in post-problem mode? Will that make it harder to motivate, mobilise (and capacity-build) a whole bunch of people to get doing more stuff, regardless of how crap/uncrap our repertoires and meetings are?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address...

For interesting perspectives on these sorts of questions, check out Campaign Strategy and Great Turning Times.

Meanwhile, George Monbiot gets stuck into the Climate Committee's report-

“Lord Turner has two jobs. The first, as chair of the Financial Services Authority, is to save capitalism. The second, as chair of the Committee on Climate Change, is to save the biosphere from the impacts of capitalism. I have no idea how well he is discharging the first task, but if his approach to the second one is anything to go by, you should dump your shares and buy gold.”

Running on empty (promises)



The Eu agrees to not bother on car emissions until it suits the car industry

The Brazilian government agrees to destroy the rainforest at a slower rate

Meanwhile an invasive creature with a tactic of constructing interlinked super-colonies, whilst exploiting other creatures and over-running the environment, makes a nuisance of itself. It's lasius neglectus - superants!
It seems a bit rich for humans to take exception to such a strategy. We make so much of it, ourselves

George Monbiot whistles in the wind

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

What's in a name? "Pending Ecological Debacle" uncovered

For some reason I had thought the phrase "Pending Ecological Debacle" came from Margaret Atwood. It's the sort of thing she'd write, after all. But Google is calling me a liar, while supplying an alternative plausible hypothesis- an article in Index on Censorship, October 2004, by Sara Maitland.

Now, I used to subscribe to IoC, and sure enough, my fully read and underlined copy includes the following (the links are mine, obviously):
"The pending ecological debacle has thrust a new issue on to the global agenda. Can a non-human species, a specific environment, or a planet (or parts of a planet) have "rights"? Can future human beings have rights? how might we assess these rights in relation to our own rights? Can the individualist tenor of Enlightenment ideology even frame the questions, let alone offer useful answers?
"Above all, quite simply, liberal representational democracy with universal adult suffrage- the natural political expression of Enlightenment philosophy- has not delivered equality or even prosperity. The gap between rich and poor individuals within all liberal democratic nations is growing. So is the gap between rich and poor nations."

I suppose at this point I could burble something about the bourgeoisie and their stooges not really meaning all that guff about Ideal Speech Communities, and the colonisation of life-worlds, but just wanting to get their hands on Power. But I think I'll just shut up and harbour massive resentment instead. Another World was Possible and all that...

Transition Positions

There's been a bit of a (non-violent) bunfight within Climate Change/Peak Oil circles of late, about the worth of the notion of "Transition Towns" (which are steadily metastasizing into Transition Cities etc). It's sort of a replay of the venerable fluffy/spiky, reformist/revolutionary arguments. There has been, as is usual in these situations, a bit more heat than light, and people talking past rather than to each other.

Venerable Brighton-based newsletter SchNews (the inspiration for Manchester Climate Fortnightly) published “Lost in Transition: Schnews fails to understand the language of climate group" a few months back, which I'm told was based on a piece by Trapese called "The Rocky Road to Transition" (I've only read the former).

And Peace News recently included a piece by Kelvin Mason entitled 'When Climate Camp Comes Home', reflecting on his experience of Climate Camps and Transition Aberystwth

Meanwhile, Sophie Andrews' review of The Transition Handbook, 'Transitional Therapy' was published in The Land magazine - Summer 2008.

Well, Rob Hopkins, one of the people who launched the notion of “transition” a couple of years back, has published a response to two of the above pieces in the latest Peace News... It's well worth a read. The following bits caught the eye of this cynical burnout hack:

“In the protest movements, we take up a position outside of mainstream culture, use language, dress codes, behaviour and forms of protest which at best bewilder and at worst enrage mainstream society, yet we expect them to see the error of their ways and the validity of ours and embark on a radical decarbonisation.

“What failed to come through in Mason’s piece, and in the Trapese piece, was any sense of humility, any sense that the answers might be found anywhere other than in their fondly-held beliefs.”

Hopkins agrees with Mason [quoted below] on this much at least;

“Transition calls for a different set of virtues: patience, tolerance, perseverance…. Above all perseverance. Transition isn’t glamorous or romantic, it’s a slog - more Sisyphus than Achilles: (re)forming community, building capacity to engage with lack of awareness, apathy, complacency, fear, hostility, bureaucracy, inertia….”
[the links are added by me, Dwight]

Do we have what it takes to listen to each other, find common ground and work really really hard to avoid the worst of the eco-fascist possibilities that become likely when the solid human waste makes contact with the air circulation blades? I suspect not, but it's a Pascalian Wager, innit?

Fashion victims



Consumers will pick up the bill for the green energy revolution. I suppose it will make a change from picking up the bill for the beach houses of speculators or the yachts of oligarchs - or even the long lunches of share-holders.
Personally I find most people's houses unbearably hot in winter, and most people's energy consumption really quite bafflingly high. If you want to sit around in your underwear eating ice-cream in the dead of winter whilst watching a 12 foot home cinema and tumble-drying your thongs, then yes -you will have to pay for it. Tough.
The vulnerable must be protected - that should go without saying -and capital should be policed for abuses, but the days of cheap energy are over. Get over it.
How did people imagine it was going to happen? Magic?
These are cultural as well as practical and political problems

Speaking of winter in the north of England; A few inches of snow and the world grinds to a halt around here. We are now so completely encased in the mental and technological bubble of our fabricated lives that the fiction we inhabit is bolloxed by entirely predictable seasonal variation. God help us when the real weather hits.

Here's an entirely predictable seasonal repost