Saturday, 28 February 2009

Glass half empty

As 9 out of 10 firms ignore their supply chain emissions in calculating their climate impact, and the daily hate gets alarmed at something other than immigration, we hurtle towards Copenhagen without effective brakes

With thanks as ever to Dr Glenn Barry and Climate Ark for sterling work in digging up the links

Facilitating your protest in a safe and peaceful manner

OK, this post should have been done 6 weeks ago. What can I say, I'm lazy.

The image is the two sides of an A5 flyer the police gave out to each person who chose to take part in the "Northern Climate Rush" at Manchester Airport in January 09 . No "ticket", no progression through the revolving doors.

That sound you hear is Kafka chortling, with a Max Weber chuckle in the background.

The police, to "Facilitate your protest" were willing and able to say how many, where and when and how long this little 'disruption' (sic) would continue. You can hardly blame them of course. Given their responsibilities and the danger of real egg on face, who would have done anything differently?
But you can wonder at the tactical nous of the protestors, announcing exactly where you will be and what you will do months in advance, when nimbleness is about all you have going for you. What did they hope to acheive by this?!

So, let's look at the balance of forces after this little event.

The Police
Now have dozens of photos of every single person willing to walk through an intimidating paparazzi to exercise their democratic rights.
Have doubtless racked up some impressive overtime payments processing this vital intelligence.

The Airport Security and PR teams
See above.
Feel relieved that they didn't have to do a public debate like after the very recent (i.e. November 2007) previous action.

The Protestors
Um. What HAVE they achieved by this?
Other than damaging their own credibility by claiming there were nearly a hundred people there?
What do the people who attended now know that they didn't before? How were they inspired or empowered? What can they do that they couldn't before?
Was their time well-spent?
Maybe some felt it was, but the (admittedly few) that I spoke to didn't think so.

The onlookers
Did anyone watching make any connection at all?

God help us all.

BBC complaints- morons who can't read.

Yonks back I blogged about the December 6 interview Peter Sissons did with Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, where he trotted out a line we've not been subjected to for a while by the BBC, the "some doubt it's even happening" line.

Slightly less yonks back I got a reply to a complaint letter I sent.

Lucia Fortucci, of BBC information, kindly informs me that
"As an impartial broadcaster, we have to reflect all viewpoints. There are scientists who dispute climate change and Peter was simply pointing this out."
Bollocks. Bollocks on stilts. There are historians who dispute the Holocaust. There are tobacco company shills who dispute the cancer/smoking link. The BBC doesn't wheel these clowns out on Holocaust Memorial Day or when there's a Smoking-Bad-For-You story. As I pointed out in the letter I sent in, which she's not bothered to read...

Then Lucia tells me they have a website on climate change. No shit sherlock. I kind of already knew that, and it is patronising in the extreme to think that anyone who wrote in to complain as I did would be ignorant of this. The BBC correspondents do some very very good work on climate change (see here and here). Peter Sissons might try to pay attention to some of it.

What I got from Lucia is simply the "Send this crazy the bug letter" treatment. What a surprise.

Fourth World Reviewed (issue 149)

Latest "Fourth World Review" slaps onto the doormat. (Last issue reviewed here)

Highlights include;

a provocative list of actions for re-imagining society by Will Sutherland,
"It is such a shame we cannot use the brains that evolution has given us. We may not be fiddling while Rome burns but rather frantically shopping until the planet is destroyed. 'Me now and feck thefuture' is the scream of a culture that is barely out of nappies. It is ugly and pathetic and will be viciously removed by nature- a rather unpleasant prospect for our children."
"How Green became a Screen" by Keith Farnish
"Greenpeace, WWF, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and every other mainstream environmental organisation believe that you can "fix" the problems inherent inthe system, to make this planet a better place; that you can appeal to the goodness of politicians and industrialists to make them curb their destructive behaviour; that you can bring about a sustainable society by urging people to change their light bulbs, shower instead of bath, travel a bit less, offset their emissions and recycle."
True, but doesn't address the institutional reasons for this, making it not just an issue of ideology, but practicalities (maintaining the flow of direct debits, relations with ministers, the need for regular victories etc etc). And the Thatcherite call- "what's the alternative?" is, to me, unanswered, here at least.

Transition Today- Peter North sort of responds to critiques made by Trapese, except he sort of doesn't.

"Planning a New World Order" by Donald Henry is- for me- the highlight of the issue, showing the conflicts of interest involved in planning consultancies when they work for councils and retailers, and the toothlessness of the regulatory bodies.

John Papworth closes out, as he does in every 4NW I've read so far, with some pungent observations.
"The motive power of the global economic system seems to have collapsed, and the prints, both tablids and broadsheets, appear to share a common ground of utter incomprehension, manifest contradiction and a capacity for limitless self-delusion."

All in all, worth a read, worth subscribing, which you can by sending a cheque payable to Fourth World Transition

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

Sheeple, frogs and walking out

This Labour Government- slouching towards a massacre no later than June 2010- is like any other government, only maybe more so. Deeply suspicious of the population, unwilling to tell anyone what's going on [treating them like sheeple], and more and more up to its neck in alligators when it (says it) wanted to drain the swamp.

So, people opposing it, and its assault on civil liberties, should be trying to do the opposite, right? Telling folks what is going on, encouraging them to make links of their own rather than wait for Salvation?


I went to the Manchester "Convention of Modern Liberty" event this morning. I should still be there, but instead I am here at home, smashing my fingers into the keyboard in frustration.

The event programme looked a little passive for my liking- large chunks of time spent watching a bunch of the great and good pontificate in London, rather than figuring out what we are going to do, here, now, hearing about local successes, failures, challenges, lessons learnt. But still, a joined-up national conference is a worthwhile venture, and you got to dance with the one that brung you, so I sat there. And sat there.

The appointed start time of 9.45- to watch Shami Chakrabaty of Liberty give the keynote- came and went, with no announcement.

10am came and went and we were supposed to be watching video link of pontificators.

No announcement of welcome, apology for delay or -crucially- explanation of what was going on.

A few more minutes and then I went up to the front.
Me: "While we're waiting, can I encourage people [the room had filled up, but everyone was in rows, subdued] to talk to the people behind them?"
Chap struggling with a laptop: "For what purpose exactly?"
I was a little gob-smacked at that. Surely events like these should be about creating new networks, stronger weak ties? Or do the organisers imagine that everyone who attends will fall in serried ranks behind them and they'll then somehow magically storm the Winter Palace?

Anyway, permission granted, I gave a little spiel, and a fair proportion of people did indeed start talking to those behind them, or alongside them, and energy levels raised a bit.

And still we waited. No apology (and there were circumstances beyond the organisers control- the venue hadn't opened early enough for them). No welcome. Nothing.

If that's how No2ID treats potential members/volunteers, then I weep.

So I walked out. That's the law of two feet in action.

P.S. The frogs reference? Well, climate change and the erosion of civil liberties are both things that don't Happen Overnight. We aren't going to go to sleep one night in perfect liberty and wake up in a fascist regime. It is a slow chipping away, a steady erosion, where each new restriction seems not worth the effort to resist. Like, as the environmentalists are wont to point out, the frog: throw it in boiling water and it jumps right out. Put it in water of comfortable temperature and slowly raise the heat and the thing will just sit there, till it boils.

UPDATE: Reading through the Feb 23-March 1st edition of "The Big Issue in the North"- an excellent publication- I learn that "The convention is here so people can find others with similar concerns. And it's designed so that people can find groups campaigning in the area that concerns them and find things that they can go away and do."

Well, that may well be what the organisers aspired to, but they didn't begin as they meant to continue. Maybe it all got better later. I have my doubts.

Friday, 27 February 2009


Toilet humour. I know. It's not big. It's not clever. Some sophisticated souls pull their faces over material like this and end up looking like a bulldog licking piss off a thistle. They think it devalues the currency. I pooh pooh such notions.
Anyway...American's dedication to a luxury defecatory experience leaves virgin forests depleted, with a nagging feeling that they could have done so much more with their lives. Maybe they could have been the mainstay of continental water equilibrium. Rather water than water closets. Maybe in another life.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Age of Enlightentertainment

In a sad and hopeless bid to upstage Dilbert...

Apparently this blog no longer materialises on some browsers. I suspect Ern has wedged a sabot somewhere in the gears.
For those few who remain....

The media don't take this stuff seriously. It's not good for business and its simply not sexy -so no matter that we're pumping it out faster than ever or that we're going to be left holding frazzled stalks of nowt come harvest time - we'll wait untill we're staring down the barrel before we think about dodging the bullet. We'll sell more ads that way.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

"Eat me", as the gingerbread man said

More on bees, and rabbits, and metaphors soon, but for now, this Dilbert cartoon...

Reposted from this rather excellent website

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Char wallahs

BioChar seems set to be a nice little earner for those unable to fill their boots with biodiesel. But before everybody runs away with the idea that this is some sort of tried and tested technology, lets have a little look at the downside, shall we. (with thanks to Almuth Ernsting and Rachel Smolker)
Especially in light of the unsettling ups and downs of the palnet's forests, the state of the larder and the urgency of the task

This is something of first for Throbgoblins International:
Of all the links we have included over the past year we have never had occasion to link to that great British arse wiper, the Sun. But there's always a first time, and their splash coverage of "The Age of Stupid" can be seen here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Safeguarding our way of life

The instinct of crisis hit government classes throughout time and across continents seems to be to keep the people down and dumb. This seems to be a default position of power and it is no surprise to see it exercised against green dissidents, despite the fact that their concerns are widely shared within the establishment itself.
So, as the Andes gets ready for structural readjustment, the food supply dries up and the North Atlantic gets ready to tip us all over into more interesting times, we are encouraged to distract ourselves with boffin-magic and unreachable stars

Meanwhile we dump our shite out of sight and out of our minds,

Monday, 16 February 2009

Much ado about nothing

Things get worse and get worse quicker, and the media fudge and the businessmen run for cover.

today I'm posting a curate's egg of a cartoon, putting my feet up and watching some crap TV

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Zombie repertoires

If you keep doing a good thing too long, because it is in your comfort zone, it becomes a stupid thing. Fitness is about matching your actions to the environment (which your actions can play a small or large part in shaping, it's true). It's an iterative, dialectical process.

What the hell am I talking about?

I'm talking about a) Climate Camp keeping on doing the same thing, squeezing the lemon dry, rather than- as mooted in June 2006- doing different things to prevent ossification, burnout, colonisation by NGOs (this based on participant observation, a couple of friends' recent reports on the camp meeting in Oxford and- gosh- a PhD about climate camp that I've just read.)

I'm talking about b) flash mobs.

I can't say I was ever a huge fan because I'm a young fogey. They always seemed like pickets for the ADHD generation If they're followed up by intensive work on creating the conditions for further "proper" engagement, then fine, but they're not, I think (I could be wrong of course). So here in Manchester we recently had a charity "organising" a flash mob as a publicity stunt.

That's what this tweet conversation is about...
"Sarah_Hartley @MartinSFP @davemee charities r using the means & style.But is it flashmob in truest sense of the word or organised gathering?mobilisation"
When the corporates invade, it's just as bad as the cops figuring out tripods or tunnels or whatever, and it's time to get the creative juices flowing again.

In the meantime, we need some re-branding to stop "our" brand from being smeared by "their" use of the term. Phlash mobs? (like phishing, you see). Flash harries? Flush mobs? Answers on a postcard to the usual address...

Here's something I wrote from last September:

"Flash! Ah-ah, it'll save every one of us. Not." or "The revolution is just a t-shirt away?"

The title is ironic of course, no one is claiming that the latest Cool Tactic- Flash mobs- will save everyone. It's not like spokescouncils or social forums where the advocates claimed that direct democracy was here. And before that there was tripods, there was tunnels, there was camps.)

All of these things attract a bit of a buzz and then become passe. By this time next year, today's flash-mobbers will be chasing some Kewl new fad.

Flash Mobs perfect for this generation.

  • There are very very low "entry costs"

  • Unlikely to get nicked

  • Demands no particular forethought or preparation

  • Only requires a few minutes of your time
  • Get to express your individuality (or collectivity) by what you wear, totally in tune with what we're being told.

  • Capturable on your mobile phone. Youtube friendly. All ipoddy and so forth.

  • Oooh, all hip and daring to organise.

As with any action/event, we should be asking ourselves a set of questions-

What does it achieve?
Who does it threaten? How does it force them to change their ways?
What capacity does it build among those who participate? How are the participants smarter, more able to do things in the future?

NOT all actions have to have great answers for all of the above, but my god, Flashmobs achieve so fucking little, in inverse proportion to their popularity and sexiness. And the media will very soon get sick of them.

Groundhog Days

In the autumn of 2006 I put together a spoof newspaper called "Socialist Lurker." It got handed out at the (in retrospect and at the time) disastrous meeting where the Climate Campers decided- with a little stalinist push from a couple of very hierarchical "non-hierarchicals", to keep doing big Climate Camps, bringing them to their current impasse and colonisation by NGOs.

The lead story in Socialist Lurker was "Scientists admit climate reports wrong: It's actually far far worse." I may get round to posting it here at PED, who knows. The point of my rambling is that the story pointed out that there was a discernible pattern of scientists recanting their previous predictions of the speed and scope of climate change's impacts of food production, glacier melt, ocean acidification, forest die-back etc etc. Science is too small-c conservative on this particular wicked post-normal science problem

The drumbeat of bad news gets louder and louder, with the latest example being, Dr Chris Field, a co-ordinating editor of the previous IPCC report (which got a roasting for its caution), telling a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that - you guessed it- the carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing a lot quicker than they'd thought. Ties in with the recent NOAA story that last year we went up 2.3ppm. Sink failure, positive feedbacks from forests and soil etc etc. What a doomed stupid species. And I remember that my mate Marc Roberts did a fantastic cartoon about this... (he's done fantastic cartoons about lots of things)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Glaxo, Baby.

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty seeks to rebrand the Pharma giant with a raft of humanising proposals

Throbgoblins International let out a round of applause, a gasp of disbelief and a burp of rather tart cynicism.

Feeding The Hand That BItes you

There's been a lot of debate lately about whether this or that extreme weather event - from China to Australia - is a symptom of Global Warming or merely a surprisingly large cluster of normal freak events. Are these disasters the last of the rare disasters or the first of the common disasters? This seems to me to be like asking - whilst under violent assault - whether one's assailant is the familiar local nutter or a scout for the rampaging army of zombie psychopaths that are on their way to ravage your neighbourhood but at present are still some miles away enjoying a breakfast of griddled brains in a nearby town. The fact of imminent zombie invasion should surely be focusing our minds rather better than it is. But the general consensus seems to be that, untill our shopping malls are actually being over run with slavering mutants, there is no need for any action that might interfere with the day's business.

Changing the lightbulbs in the mall isn't going to stop an army of zombies. We may need to choose a different battlefield

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Trading Places

The carbon market, being as bolloxed as every other market, has screwed the price of carbon into the ground. One result of this is that the contribution to emissions reductions made by Germany's world-beating renewables industry is offset by the ease with which less scrupulous players can get their hands on the newly liberated excess permits - thus enabling carbon spewers to party like there's no tomorrow.

We're old hands at this

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Beast Market

Seeing as the markets have done such a wonderful job of securing a safe and happy future for everyone, the British Conservative party suggest leaving the safeguarding of bio-diversity in their caring and capable hands

It'll drive us all mad in the end, but some folk have got off to a head start, (short sighted dinosaur politics in the North of Ireland? - who'd've thunk it?)

We begin to say goodbye to Asian water supplies, Indian rains and the salamander

Monday, 9 February 2009

End Daze

As Australia burns in a record breaking drought -(as does China and, soon, California) - James Lovelock advocates a Churchillian battening of national hatches, whilst others man the barricades.

Friday, 6 February 2009

The kids are NOT going to be alright

My wife and I decided years back we didn't want kids, for "environmental reasons". Not to "reduce our carbon footprint" (a semi-dubious concept anyhow) but because from our best analysis, the trajectories for this species are extremely unpleasant. Peak water, peak soil, peak democracy. The whole human civ thing is looking quite peakish.
So I had the snip (less plumbing, us blokes) back in 2004.

And then we did an interview for one of wifey's colleagues. And then it spiralled into a TV appearance. And more newspapers (the Absurder, Daily Hate Mail). And an Irish Radio interview for me. And a near miss the wife can blog about at length, on some mid-West radio station that rejected her because she wasn't the swivelled-eyed loon they needed.

Recently the World Service got in touch, and the researcher was keen to have me, even after I explained it wasn't "what our children would do to the planet, but what the planet would do to them". She phoned back, full of apology a few minutes before the programme was supposed to happen (live) to say her producer had nixxed it.

I'd expected that, despite her assurances, and wasn't bothered anyway. I get my 15 minutes hee and there anyhow. I also know a little of how meeja works. There's a frame, an angle, a line. And what wife and I are saying is just not within the frame they are (currently) operating. Give it a few years...

When I had the snip and explained why, people thought I was batshit. Since 2004, a lot more people have been able to read the writing on the wall, and I don't get the 'you're batshit' response anymore. People may not agree, but they see why I might think that.

So, the phone just rang. A Radio 5 hack wanting to speak to t'wife about the not-having-kids thing. They also wanted an opinion on the woman with the octuplets. Wife is out having a life, not chained to keyboard, so I Spaketh Upon Her Behalf.
I said, speaking for myself, that I wasn't going to lecture anyone (if he wanted that- then Jonathan Porritt has recently come out in favour of two maximum) but- deep breath-
it's not what the kids would do to the planet- it's a little late to be worrying about that- but rather what the planet will do to our kids, and that any child born now would hit adulthood with this realisation and that the sorts of things the radio producer and I take for granted will just NOT be available, that life is going to become worse than merely unpleasant, but truly appalling.

And guess what, the researcher knew where we coming from (i.e. he had done his research) and we didn't fit the bill, so I don't have to do the whole interview thing.

Environmentalism of the hand-wringing kind is legit, but a clear-eyed (or swivel-eyed: time will tell) view of where we are going is not (yet) permissible.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Fresh from mapping the ocean floor for our surfing pleasure, Google now joins forces with NASA to create a "SIngularity University" to ride that steep learning curve and maybe get us the jet-packs we so richly deserve

Elsewhere - being profoundly bolloxed gives the Australian government pause for thought.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Fart Gags and/or Climate Justice Analysis

On a day when news reaches us of a shambolic and literally unendurable Climate Camp meeting in Oxford, and on a day when the Financial Times reports that the price of carbon in the EUETS is at a record low, with predictable negative consequences for investment in low-carbon technology, it's hard to find Reasons to be Cheerful.

Sure, there's the inevitable fart gags of Marc Roberts. But for once he is trumped (ho ho) in the RtbC stakes.

Danny Chivers [disclaimer- I know him a little] has written a very clear and actually amusing (no, really) summary of what is likely to be on the table at Copenhagen. More up to the minute than my look last June or so...

Chivers' piece is in the New Internationalist.

Cartoon Capture and Storage

I could have gone for a serious exploration of the food crisis, or a sober appraisal of the possibilities of solar technology...... but I went with a fart gag with a poop punchline. Come the revolution humour will be resilient and sustainable.

There is no such thing as clean coal.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Fox Trot(?)

And lo - Darkness is upon the face of the waters pretty much everywhere you look, whilst Australia maintains its historically low tolerance of humans. Is it any surprise that Uncle David Attenborough should feel moved to take a small swipe at biblical half-wittery in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species.

Jonathan Porrit also speaks out about the elephant in the room.

A price is put on life.

Elsewhere, disappointingly, - Jim Hansen declines to support those struggling against airport expansion - declaring it an irrelevance in the face of the real problems - which centre around coal. Of course Jim Hansen is not a man whose opinions one dismisses lightly - and he no doubt has well considered reasons - but we at Throbgoblins International consider that the cultural significance of the conspicuous carbon consumption of habitual frivolous air travel makes it a crucial target in the struggle for a resilient and sustainable post-carbon society.
Mr Hansen will no doubt be on Michael O'Leary's Chritmas card list this year