Sunday, December 16, 2007

unite for subjugation

They were so setting us up for an invasion of Iran because, like Iraq, it has a lot of oil and a government unfriendly to the West.

As early as last year, the Daily Telegraph was running maps showing the range of missiles from Iran and how they could hit the UK. Saddam's 45 minutes, anyone?

The only thing that could stop the looming invasion would be a sudden disappearance of our thirst for oil. Or else somebody with a power greater than the USA, who, we should remember, possess the largest arsenal of weaponry ever assembled. Neither sounds likely, does it?

Over and over the Americans talked of Iran's secret plans to make nuclear weapons and how stopping them was a matter of urgency. As recently as October, Vice President Dick Cheney was on his hind legs angling for invasion to avert Iran's feverish efforts to build nuclear weapons.

"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney said in a speech Sunday to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

He said Iran's efforts to pursue technology that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon are obvious and that "the regime continues to practice delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

Then this month, the greater power stepped in.

A National Intelligence Estimate report - a pooling of the knowledge and opinions of all America's security services - said that Iran stopped its weapons programme in 2003, and would be unable to make nuclear weapons until 2010-2015, quite possible not until after then. Even if they wanted to, which it may not as Iran 'is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging'.

It's a total U-turn for the USA, completely at odds with the extension of the oil empire. Overnight, it has squashed the drive to invade.

What was behind this? Who could be the puppeteer pulling such massive strings? Who could overrule Iran and the Americans at a stroke? Who is it who needs to heal international rifts so he can pave the way for a single world government of evil totalitarian shapeshifting lizards? Who - already noted as 'the only international artist to at the celebrations when East and West Germany were re-unified' - is now off to Tehran, the first Western musician to do so since the Islamic revolution of 1979 that banned all Western pop music?

Friday, December 07, 2007

asking the wrong question

You know, that speech of Claire Fauset's from the Global Energy Summit that I quoted in the last post is brilliant and seems like it won't be appearing online anywhere. So it wants reproducing in full somewhere, and that place is here.

There's been a lot of interesting discussion today but a lot of the time we are asking the wrong questions.

We are at a time of great change. How we act now is crucial to our future. Generations before us did not know enough about climate change. Those coming after us won't be able to prevent it. So the decisions we make now as a society are critical.

Unfortunately the dominant institution of our time, the corporation, puts profits above all other concerns. If we are going to avoid dangerous climate change, we need to make decisions that aren't only in the interest of shareholders who are a tiny minority of the world's population.

As we heard from Professor Ralph Sims this morning, almost everyone is saying 2 degrees above pre industrial temperatures as the safe upper limit for increase of global average temperatures. Beyond that the biosphere becomes the largest emitter, with carbon released from decaying peat bogs and forests, ice cap melting reflecting back fewer of the suns rays and so on. Beyond two degrees we no longer have any control and become merely spectators and victims.

Given this surprising degree of unanimity, the question is surely how do we stay below a 2 degree increase? We are looking at at least a 60% cut globally in the next 20-30 years to give us a good chance. If this is going to be equitable and everyone on earth has an equal right to emit, then that means a cut in the UK of around 90%. If we aim for any less than this then all our efforts will be in vain, then we are already over the cliff. There is no point hitting emission reductions that don't meet this target.

We aren't going to achieve this simply by replacing one source of energy with another. Anyone who thinks biofuels or biomass can replace fossil fuels is seriously misunderstanding what fossil fuels are. They are millions of years of solar energy in concentrated form. The biosphere cannot possibly produce enough energy to replace fossil fuels.

Any technology that can't be developed, deployed and on stream in the 20-30 year time frame is of no use to us. The companies discussing and developing them know this and many of the proposed technologies are being used as decoys to avoid more drastic action on climate change that tackles the real issue, which is levels of consumption, and to protect the corporate licence to operate. Of course oil companies invest in biofuels. It gives them the legitimacy to keep drilling oil which we critically need to keep in the ground.

Billions of dollars and huge amounts of human time and energy are going into researching technologies that are not going to help us. We have ways of living a comfortable low carbon lifestyle with the technologies we have right now. We could use this money and energy to start that transition off today.

For Green Business, sustainability doesn't mean what the majority of people would take it to mean. Rather than meaning that we use resources in a way that doesn't impact on the ability of others to use them in the future, it means to ability to maintain profitability in a changing society.

The legal structure of corporations means that they must be committed to profit above all other concerns, even if those concerns are our survival. Given two ways to make the same money they will choose the one that means the least murder, blatant theft and environmental devastation. And then pat themselves on the back for being so responsible. But if there is any conflict between responsibility and profit, profit will win every time.

Economic growth requires the increased consumption of mostly finite resources. It is by definition unsustainable. Everything we consume takes energy to produce. It is hypocritical to talk of increasing emissions in China when a great deal of this consumption is to produce products for export to the rich West. We are essentially outsourcing our carbon emissions.

Our levels of consumption will inevitably hit crisis point, and are already doing so in many ways.

You can see this in the way that even renewable resources are running out fisheries, forests, food, fresh water. We are facing peak supply of oil and gas, and we have an enormous problem with waste, the earth can't cope with the amount of carbon dioxide we are dumping into our atmosphere not to mention landfill, nuclear waste and all the rest.

The root cause of this is excessive consumption that is necessary only to feed economic growth.

We have to talk about more than replacing energy sources and energy efficiency and talk about energy descent. We need to talk about using minimal amounts of energy. Of reducing consumption.

A green capitalist approach is asking the wrong question. Instead of saying how do we continue to grow the economy while living on the limited resources left on this planet, it should be asking – why are we putting economic growth above survival in the first place?

Monday, December 03, 2007

survival vs profit

I picked up that leaflet a couple of weeks ago at the London Business School Global Energy Summit 2007.

The day opened with a stark speech from Professor Ralph Sims. He's a Lead Author on the world's definitive statements on climate change, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Assessment Reports.

He made clear what pretty much everybody knows. If we have global temperature increase of more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, we risk runaway climate change. The IPCC say it, the UN and EU overtly accept it, and governments around the world find ways to fiddle their figures to make it appear like they're aiming for it.

Professor Sims talked of the drastic cuts in emissions this would require. Indeed, some new research suggests it means zero emissions by 2050.

In the afternoon, there was a panel discussion about Corporate Green vs Corporate Greed. A guy from PepsiCo called Martyn Seal told us earnestly how they were being incredibly bold because they can't wait for regulation to take the lead, how they were now using some renewable energy, aiming to get it up to 20% for their UK use. 'And that's a real target,' he explained.

Oh well, that's OK then. Nobody ever misses a real target. More, they have 'an aspiration' to, maybe, one day, use 100% renewable electricity.

As if they wanted to be sure that we didn't believe a word from the corporate sector, he was followed by GE's Adrian Haworth. He proudly clicked us through his Powerpoint, showing us GE's initiative called - I shit you not - Ecomagination. It even has a sunflower logo.

Under this scheme, GE's projected carbon emissions won't increase by as much as they otherwise would have. He was really proud of this.

All through it I had two thoughts going round my head. One was throttling these fuckers, the other was something the panel's token radical, Claire Fauset from Corporate Watch had said.

The legal structure of corporations means that they must be committed to profit above all other concerns, even if those concerns are our survival. Given two ways to make the same money they will choose the one that means the least murder, blatant theft and environmental devastation. And then pat themselves on the back for being so responsible. But if there is any conflict between responsibility and profit, profit will win every time.

Even if the loser is survival!

Rather like Heathrow Airport, the UK's worst emitting site, parading itself as green because of the way a new terminal will be built, so these guys were knowingly tinkering round the edges and then patting themselves on the back, and expecting us to join in.

I put it to them that Pepsi, for example, use huge amounts of aluminium in their drink cans and crisp packets. Aluminium smelters emit fluoromethanes, gases with a climate impact literally thousands of times greater than CO2. What are they doing about reducing that, or, as they can't, reducing their sales? Why only 20% renewable electricity and just a vague 'aspiration' for more when 100% green tariffs are available right now?

And as for GE, they make aircraft engines! They still make fucking incandescent light bulbs! How can they be proud of a projected increase in carbon emissions?

They know the science as well as we do. They were there earlier when Professor Sims had walked them though it. Less than a 60% global cut in 30 years is not enough. To do these minor projects - even if we take them at face value as heartfelt rather than as just PR - is like a driver telling you they won't drive you over a cliff at 70mph, they'll slow down and drive you over at 50mph instead.

The only way those companies could act responsibly is by a drastic reduction in their operations, with a commensurate reduction in their profits.

To which they replied that they couldn't do that, because it would mean a reduction in profits.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

say no to no

A small oil company logo on the front of a leaflet with a picture of a green tree against a blue sky.

It can't go well, can it? The level of insult to our intelligence is already off the scale before we open the fucking thing.

But then there's the slogan, 'Real Energy Solutions for the Real World'. That really offensive use of 'real', like when people use 'realpolitik' in a non-perjorative sense. If you don't agree with Shell, you're not living in The Real World. More, what they present is not a decoy or greenwash but a Real Solution.

Shell's 'Real Energy Solutions' leaflet

Over at the associated website, you can watch the short film 'Eureka!' which is, ahem, 'inspired by' real events. Like around a third of movies, it has cows in it.

It basically runs like this: Shell engineer rebuffs his son's criticism of his dad's work by explaining that without oil we could have no cans of fizzy drinks. Son becomes proud of father who invents a way to drill previously inaccessible oil reserves, oil that would - they really do say this - otherwise 'go to waste'.

Message: if you keep wanting cheap oil, we'll keep supplying it.

A few months ago DVD copies were shamefully given away with Wired and The Guardian, two publications who undoubtedly know better.

Back on the leaflet, there's a reproduction of their Say No To No advert.

Shell's Say No To no advert

Yes, some test cars are driving around on biofuel made from straw. But all the straw in the world can't fuel even a serious fraction of our vehicle fleet. The only solutions have to involve serious cutbacks in transportation itself.

Now that there's real and vocal concern over climate change, the oil companies cannot deny it. So they shoot off these decoys. 'Yes, it is a problem, but we'll have it fixed for you soon with something that can't work, so keep on burning the stuff'.

To borrow a metaphor from Johann Hari, it's 'like telling an alcoholic that he doesn't need to quit drinking, because in a few years you'll give him a liver transplant with a few rusty old knives you found in your garage'.

In the real real world, there's a finite amount of resources, so we can't keep hoping to have an ever-increasing amount of raw materials. In the real real world, much as all of us love the comforts of the hydrocarbon age, we now know we need to cut our consumption right back as a matter of life and death urgency.

People who are campaigning for a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 are commonly told that it's impossible. Yet it is nothing of the sort. It is entirely possible. It requires no new technology, just a reorganisation of what we have.

They get told it's impractical. Yet it is merely what the science demands of us. If you think a swift move to a low-carbon economy would be socially disruptive, you're not understanding the results of a continued high-carbon economy.

The problem we face is not technological but psychological. The odds are mightily stacked against us. But if we don't try, we will never know what would've been possible.

Probably the greatest catastrophe to hit humanity is still - just - largely avoidable. But we won't stop it because, what, it isn't profitable under systems built before this knowledge was understood? It's not comfortable to the people who made the mess in the first place?

The solutions are in our hands. Can we do it?

Yes, yes, yes.

What does it take to turn no into yes?

Curiosity. An open mind. A willingness to take risks. And, when the problem seems most insoluble, when the challenge is hardest, when everyone else is shaking their heads, to say: let's go.

Overthrowing the consumer-capitalist model and the dominance of the oil companies; real energy solutions for the real world.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

flying in the face of their future

It was such an eye-opener seeing the media around the Camp for Climate Action. Particularly interesting was the way Heathrow's owners, BAA, wouldn't ever debate the issues. They'd talk about the fabricated idea that Campers were going to storm the airport and smash the Starbucks and McDonald's, but they backed out of every scheduled debate with anyone from the Camp.

This left several other organisations to do it instead, one of which was the pilots' union BALPA.

Thing is, in lying about aviation's real impact they're not doing themselves any favours. If and when carbon taxes kick in - and certainly once oil becomes scarce - mass aviation will disappear.. Seeing this coming, a union should defend its members interests rather then their employers, and be seeking a just transition away from this dead-end profession.

I've written about it in a new post over on UK Watch called Flying in the Face of Their Future

[No Comments on this post - the place to leave them is over on UK Watch]


UPDATE 2 APRIL 09: As UK Watch is offline, I'm republishing the posts from there on their pointer-posts here.



One of the curious aspects of the media response to the Camp For Climate Action was the involvement – or lack of it – from Heathrow’s operators BAA.

Several times they were scheduled for debates with people from the Camp, and every time they withdrew. Reports came in later that BAA’s owners, Spanish-based Grupo Ferrovial, had issued a gagging order. But if that were so, why did BAA repeatedly put themselves forward? On Saturday 18th August, a week into the Camp’s coverage, BAA said they’d take part in an extended interview and debate programme on Radio 5 Live, but pulled out when they heard a Camp person would also be on the show.

During the week, several others stepped into the breach left by BAA. The industry lobby group Flying Matters popped up a couple of times (though they also pulled out of one), the Airport Operators Association, some Living Marxism/Spiked front groups, and a handful of rentagob newspaper columnists.
The most curious, though, was the airline pilots’ union BALPA. In June they issued a report claiming that aviation wasn’t as bad for the climate as commonly portrayed. It ‘proved’ this with a number of exaggerated assumptions and scientific omissions that are so wildly inaccurate that it can only be considered to be deliberate. Even a basic understanding of climate science undermined their conclusions.

On Saturday 18th August BALPA’s General Secretary Jim McAuslan took part in that extended debate on Radio 5 Live [streamed in segments on YouTube starting here, downloadable as a single MP3 here].

Firstly they tried to pull a fast one by saying the Camp’s day of mass action should be cancelled in favour of talks with BALPA. As if BALPA don’t already know the science or couldn’t talk another day.

The debate’s presenter put this as a challenge to Camp representative Alan Gill, asking why the Camp wouldn’t debate. ‘Happy to do it,’ said Gill eagerly. Channel 4 News were keen to follow this up and wanted to host it on the Monday. Alan Gill was up for it. BALPA didn’t do it.

During the 5 Live debate Jim McAuslan made a variety of false claims. He said the report had been ‘drawn together based on a number of other scientists including the IPCC’, yet it clearly contravenes basic understanding and certainly the IPCC’s assertions. It presumes all passenger ships have the emissions of the QE2, and doesn’t even take into account the radiative forcing of aircraft (the amount by which emitting at altitude is worse than emitting at ground level).

He said ‘we haven’t had a comeback from the campaigning groups at Heathrow or indeed from groups like FoE and Greenpeace’. Greenpeace issued a press release on the day of the report’s release, dismissing it as ‘pure propaganda. Frankly the aviation industry should be embarrassed by this nonsense,’ going on to describe the flaws in the methodology. The story was picked up by mainstream media including the BBC, as BALPA surely know.

Tom Robbins from the Guardian was another person who found the BALPA report’s conclusions a bit too unlikely
Launching the 82-page report, [BALPA Chairman Captain Mervyn] Granshaw pulled out one key point: ‘Passengers going by high speed train to the south of France would be responsible for emitting more carbon dioxide than if they had flown there.’

I rang the union to check the figures and was directed to a section of the report quoting Roger Kemp, professor of engineering at Lancaster University. I then rang him. ‘No, actually that’s completely untrue,’ he said.

Richard George highlighted further twists in BALPA’s methods and then comes up with more accurate numbers, showing it’s no small error

In a more recent paper Prof Kemp reveals that on a London-Edinburgh route an Airbus A321 would actually emit 210gms CO2e/passenger km – more that five times as much as the 40gms emitted by a conventional GNER train on the same route

So, that BALPA are obscuring the truth is clear. But what really puzzles me is the principle of them doing so. Not because I expect any wide-ranging integrity from them, but because I expect them to be true to their primary responsibility as trade unionists.

There is a lot of talk of global solidarity in trade unions, but time and again it’s shown to be just that. Whether it’s the militantly lefty Liverpool dockers importing scab coal to help break the miners strike or the trade unionists running Workers Beer Company flogging Bacardi and Coor’s products, we see the self-interest of protecting their own jobs.

So the fact that BALPA are happy to keep killing Bangladeshis for a living saddens and sickens me, but it doesn’t surprise me. Noble as it would be, I don’t realistically expect them to defend those under threat from climate change by doing themselves out of a job.

But nor do I expect them to be the stand-in for BAA. They are not there to defend the aviation industry, they are there to defend their members’ interests. The two are not the same thing.

The Met Office hosted a conference called Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Experts in many areas described the threats and what would happen with varying levels of response. Time and again, it was clear that a carbon tax of $100 a tonne would be insufficient. Yet such a tax would slap around $1m a week on a jumbo jet doing the London-Miami route. Imagine what that would do to mass aviation.

Even without carbon taxes, a crunch is coming. Totally reliant on colossal quantities of cheap oil with no alternative fuel, no industry will be hit as swiftly and completely as mass aviation.

Today’s mass aviation pilots are the last generation of their profession. The employers they so stoutly defend will drop them like the proverbial hot bricks.

Rather than denying the threat aviation poses they should be accepting the fact. Not just out of conscience, solidarity, compassion or commitment to truth, but out of their very reason for existing, to protect the welfare of their members. Producing a report full of distortions and lying to the media about aviation’s climate impact is a betrayal of the people who pay their subscriptions.

Sustainability is about more than ecological interests, it’s about social sustainability. If they don’t want their members to suffer like Yorkshire’s mining communities have since the 1980s then BALPA, along with other aviation lobbyist unions like Amicus and the GMB, should be looking at a just transition. They should be calling for a scaling back of aviation and the retraining of their members into new jobs that have a long-term future and that are meaningful, worthwhile and hopefully socially beneficial.

Friday, November 16, 2007

masturbation is a sexcrime

The bike-fucker is found guilty:

Robert Stewart, 51, admitted a sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner and simulating sex. Sheriff Colin Miller also placed Stewart on the Sex Offenders Register for three years.

Mr Stewart was caught in the act with his bicycle by cleaners in his bedroom at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr.

Gail Davidson, prosecuting, told Ayr Sheriff Court: "They knocked on the door several times and there was no reply.
"They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white t-shirt, naked from the waist down. "The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex."

Like most people, my first reaction was one of astonished amusement that anyone would have sex with a bike. But this swiftly gave way to a greater incredulity at the way the law was framed. Does this mean if I unlock a door to your house, come in and catch you having a wank then you too can be arrested, convicted and put on the Sex Offenders Register?

Or is it the use of an inanimate object? In which case, anyone who has a vibrator should take care to properly barricade themselves into their bedrooms if they want to avoid arrest.

It's reminiscent of the Spanner Trial in the early 1990s. The state spent £3m prosecuting a group of sixteen gay men under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 for having S&M sex. It had all happened in private, it was all consensual, nobody had complained of any injuries, or of anything else for that matter.

The judge ruled that consent was not a defence, therefore the men had assaulted one another and they were found guilty.

I've yet to hear of any police raids on boxing matches or prosecutions of tattooists.

The men at the Spanner Trial received sentences of up to four and a half years. Lives were ruined. The Court of Appeal, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights upheld the convictions.

Somehow I thought those days had gone. But no. Indeed, there's The Spanner Trust - named after the trial - which is still campaigning to defend S&M practitioners and get consensual S&M made fully legal. They report that there have been several successful prosecutions for consensual S&M sex since. It could, and probably will, happen again.

In Robert Stewart's case there's no consent issue at all because there was nobody else involved. So I've a further wave of incredulity for his solicitor, Gerry Tierney.

What paltry effort does it take to successfully defend someone who was having sex by themselves, in their own locked bedroom, the sight of which offended people who walked in uninvited?

What kind of uninterested disregard for Stewart is going on here to let him get convicted? Another report says that in court

Tierney described his client as a "sad little man"

How completely awful as a human being, unfit for his chosen profession, damaging to his clientele and in need of finding another job - preferably cleaning Glastonbury toilets with his bare hands and tongue - is this man?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

mugabe's musical ally

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is one of the most vilified world leaders.

We often hear of pariahs like Mugabe, Saddam Hussain, Kim Il Jong, Suharto, etc, being compared to Hitler by those who dislike them. Mugabe, however, sets himself apart in the League of Evil by comparing himself to Hitler.

He goes one further. Indeed, ten further. 'Let me be a Hitler tenfold,' he declared.

And how would such a figure of gargantuan foulness celebrate their wedding? By hiring a band to play music of equally gargantuan evil, of course, invoking the darkest most dictatorial plotter ever to pick up a guitar.

on the day, his group played songs by Ottis Redding and Chris de Burgh among others... they proved at the wedding that they meant business when they performed songs such as Stand by Me and Lady in Red

Monday, November 05, 2007

a foot in both camps

I could be topical, you know.

I wanted to say something about how the upsurge of Hallowe'en tat is weirding me out. Not just for another load of overconsumption and how those east Asian factories have figured out that if we speak the same language as the USA then it's probably easy to sell us their English language plastic nonsense even if we have no traditional precedent. No, what gets me about it is the slogan 'happy hallowe'en'. I mean, it's meant to be creepy and scary and people doing tricks and whatnot. Doesn't the 'happy' seem at odds with that? Kind of like flogging 'with sympathy' cards that say 'happy funeral of a loved one'?

Or for today's festivities, how about the Guardian's green guy Leo Hickman saying we should do away with fireworks.

Name another product that maims children, scares pets and wildlife, costs councils hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and yet hasn't already been tossed into the dustbin of history.

The words 'motor car' spring to mind.

But no, no, my brain can't really expand on other topics. I've still got several 'Climate Camp vs The Media' things to get off my chest.

One is my new post over at The Sharpener, called A Foot in Both Camps.

[No comments here about the content of The Sharpener post, please - leave them over on The Sharpener]

= = = = =

UPDATE - The Sharpener is dead. So here's the post:

It’s always something of a fish/barrel/firearms combo going for Spiked and their writers. But given the scandalous denial of the facts and complete absence of research in one particular piece, I’ll do it anyway. Just so you know who we’re dealing with, Spiked rose from the ashes of Living Marxism, the magazine of the Revolutionary Communist Party. They had the traditional fanatical far-left party allegiance and devotion to allies right or wrong. This cost them dear when their love of Bosnian Serbs during the Balkan wars led them to fabricating a libellous story about ITN’s coverage, and LM was sued out of existence.

The party folded, the communist ideas evaporated, but that fixation with making the story fit your beliefs has endured. They always had a strong anti-environmental stance, seeing humans - and especially their technology - as capable of fixing everything with industrialisation. (Quite where the energy sources and raw materials are coming from, well, let’s just keep seeing further industrialisation as the only progress worth having and have faith it’ll all come out alright.)

This has led them to their present position of being fervently ‘pro-science’ (ie pro-corporate science) and extremely critical of environmentalism. The team donned suits and formed a number of front groups (am I the only one who always wonders why a person is presented as a plausible pundit just because they’re from something that can be called a think-tank?) with names like Global Futures and London International Research Exchange.

Living Marxism and Spiked folks were climate change deniers for as long as it was tenable and quite some distance beyond. Indeed, Martin Durkin, maker of denialist documentaries The Great Global Warming Swindle and Against Nature, as well as ones ‘proving’ that silicone breast implants are good for womens’ health and that genetic engineering is more or less the best thing ever, has strong links with the personnel and ideology of LM and Spiked.

Brendan O’Neill is Spiked’s editor. So we can expect anything he writes to be in the Durkin tradition of highly selective fact-mincing.

He’d already used his keen political intellect to lay into this summer’s Camp for Climate Action for being ‘made up of painful miserabilists, who wouldn’t know what fun was if it stamped its eco-footprint on their faces’.

But after the Climate Camp he wrote this other piece, comparing the Heathrow Climate Camp with the No Borders camp at Gatwick a month later. No Borders is an international network who work with and for migrants and asylum seekers on the issues of freedom of movement and for the freedom for people to stay in the place which they have chosen.

O’Neill talks of the contrast between the ideals of the two camps, concluding “You’re either in the Gatwick camp or the Heathrow camp. Make your choice.” All the hallmarks of LM journalism, there. Challenging, bullish, ideologically driven, and completely at odds with the facts.

The Camp for Climate Action and No Borders openly supported one another. Their websites link to one another. As well as the day of mass action, there were several smaller bits of direct action from the Climate Camp. One was an occupation of the offices of budget airline XL. The target was chosen not only because of their cheap flights but also for their contract to deport refugees from the UK. The action was explicitly in solidarity with the No Borders camp.

In the press release one of the protesters, Allannah Currie, explained:

environmental refugees outnumber all other kinds combined, and climate change will make that get a lot worse. We in the wealthy countries have welfare to protect us from climate chaos, but the world’s poorest have nothing to help them except us taking responsibility. Our carbon emissions threaten to take the essentials of life from the poor of the world, it makes a mockery of our concern about aid and debt relief.

The press release went on to plug the No Borders camp and had the No Borders URL at the bottom. When protesters (except one who’d locked on to a stairwell) were removed from the building they continued outside, holding a banner saying ‘CHEAP FLIGHTS… CHEAP LIVES?!!’. This action upped the ante considerably and led to XL pulling out of deportations within weeks.

The Climate Camp’s programme of workshops included ‘No Borders and the Harmondsworth Detention Centre’ and ‘Climate Change: Making Poverty Permanent?’. Additionally, there was one from anti-Shell campaigners in Ireland who’ve forged links with indigenous groups fighting Shell in Nigeria, and several from anti-biofuels campaigns that are largely based on the fact that oil plantations are destroying forests which is an attack not only on the ecosystems but also displacing the people that live there.

The final action from the Climate Camp was a protest at Harmondsworth Detention Centre where asylum seekers are kept in prison-like conditions. The report on Indymedia describes the protesters as being ‘from the Climate Camp, including many from No Borders’ and explains: “The link between the Climate Camp and detention centres is in no way convoluted. Climate change is already producing millions of environmental refugees. These millions will become hundreds of millions in a business as usual scenario. Many of those refugees managing to flee to this country, along with many fleeing torture and war, are met not with compassion and asylum, but brutal repression and detention. The policies of UK plc with regard to climate change are hurting these people, but instead of helping them, UK plc locks them up.

If he’d, ooh I dunno, checked what the Climate Camp actually did then O’Neill would have known this. Knowing any of it - all of it easily found in obvious places - would have totally undermined his case. If he’d gone one further and actually made contact with anyone from either camp he would have discovered all that and more too. O’Neill says of the No Borders camp ‘this time freedom-loving greens are nowhere to be seen,’ yet at No Borders many of the organisers and attendees were the very same people as the Climate Camp. They also shared infrastructure; the same marquees were used, the same bike library available for borrowing, the same vehicles delivering stuff and taking it away, you name it.

O’Neill talks about his imagined lack of solidarity between climate activism and No Borders as illuminating

the deeply anti-humanist strain in the politics of environmentalism. Because environmentalism is built on ideas about scarcity and shortage, it tends towards misanthropic solutions: demands for smaller families, harsher living conditions and restrictions on migration. Strip away the trendy gloss, and environmentalism increasingly looks like an expression of middle-class outrage against the masses and our dirty habits.

I love that, calling himself ‘the masses’.

As a rule of thumb, the richer you are the greater your personal consumption and carbon emissions, so environmentalism is pretty much an attack on people’s habits in direct proportion to the size of their income. It’s an attack on the rich and their dirty habits.

If we are to talk of global migration and global climate, we have to look at humanity globally. In those terms, the masses do not have dirty habits. Most people will never fly or own a car, indeed barely half the world’s ever made a phone call. To do any of these things says you’re actually in the rich elite. Why do the likes of O’Neill always use ‘middle class’ as the criticism? Don’t the upper class ever offend their beliefs? But the term is not used in a strict socio-economic sense. It has other connotations, it implies a woolliness of thinking, a kind of personal and intellectual inauthenticity as a human being. It’s a nice handy catch-all dismissal, vague enough to not have to be defended.

He says that it is ‘inhumane’ to restrict immigration if climate change is going to force vast numbers of people to leave their homeland. Quite so. Indeed, at both the Climate Camp and the No Borders camp this point was made repeatedly. But might it be more humane to let people stay on their land amongst their culture rather than deprive them of the basics of life and force their migration just so the rich can jet off for weekends in Barcelona?

Such an idea as espoused by the climate campaigners left O’Neill incredulous.

They were effectively calling for less choice, less freedom of movement, and for tougher taxes and restrictions on people’s ability to fly. Their argument with BAA can be summed up as follows: “We demand the freedom to protest against freedom!”

Absolutely. There are limits to freedom. Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. When climate change is already killing people in their thousands every week, the freedom to increase emissions is the freedom to throw ever more punches.

The whole principle of Contraction & Convergence is that we find the safe level of total human emissions - so nobody’s fist is hitting anyone’s nose - then we share those out equally. As opposed to the idea that whoever has money can do what they want and if it inflicts suffering and deprivation on the poor and those yet to come, well, tough shit.

In talking about the ‘masses’ yet just meaning those in the rich nations, and in talking about ‘freedom’ meaning the freedom to do what your money allows, O’Neill and Spiked reveal a deeply held sense of superiority over and contempt for those they exclude; those who do, in actuality, constitute the mass of people.

For the vision that joins up its thinking and acts responsibly out of concern for humanity at large, you need a foot in both camps.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

independent rests on sunday

Starting in 1997, the Independent on Sunday ran a campaign to decriminalise cannabis that they promised would only end when it was successful. They devoted huge amounts of their paper to it.

They staged a debate getting respected figures on both sides to talk it out, which Godhaven Ink published - it is objectively neutral, and in so being it ends up being the most persuasive piece of pro-legalisation propaganda. It has all the tough points from both sides, and any reasonable person can't help but see who's right.

The campaign petered out eventually. But recently the Independent on Sunday followed its run of cannabis scare stories with an outright apology for ever running that decriminalisation campaign. Its reasoning rests on one idea, the mounting evidence that cannabis can trigger certain mental health problems for a tiny proportion (0.01%-0.2%) of its users.

Considering these people, Gyrus wonders,

What else was going on in these people’s lives? Was cannabis really a direct cause? Was it more of a catalyst for something simmering away due to other factors? How many people out there would be driven crazy by their jobs if it weren’t for them being able to wind down with a spliff in the evening?

All good points. But let's say we know, for a fact, without a shadow of a doubt, that cannabis was wholly and unquestionably the cause of these people's psychotic episodes.

Firstly, let's be glad the hospital got to them before the coppers did. Imagine descending into schizophrenic paranoia and then getting busted and jailed.

Why do we put people who are on drugs in jail? They're SICK! They're not criminals. Sick people don't get healed in jail.

- Bill Hicks

But more, there is an underlying assumption that the Indy on Sunday - and indeed other newspapers - aren't mentioning. They presume that more stringent laws mean less users. This is just plain wrong.

Is that clear enough? Greater criminalisation does not lead to less consumption.

Cannabis was legally downgraded several years ago, from Class B to Class C. The Home Secretary in the aftermath of reclassification was Charles Clarke. Like anyone taking up the post, his instinct was to repress and restrict. Yet he had to concede that

contrary to my personal expectation, reclassification has not led to an increase in use

In fact, it has gone the other way. The government found that use among teenagers fell by 16% in the year after reclassification.

Even this isn't the whole story. Usage has been falling across society since the late 1990s. Reclassification hasn't made a blind bit of difference.

After the Netherlands decriminalised cannabis in 1976, use went down for six years. It has risen a little since, but no faster than in countries that have harsher regimes. Despite the greater availability, Dutch people are around half as likely to be cannabis users than Brits.

Jim Bliss tackles one of the hackneyed myths of cannabis consumption in a way I'd not heard before.

there are those (the UK Conservative Party for instance) who still trot out the “gateway theory” as a rationale for criminalising cannabis. The theory being that those who use cannabis will be more likely to use harder drugs due to some undefined biochemical conditioning that occurs in the brain. This is simply absurd and — when taken to a logical conclusion — rests upon the assumption that our neurochemistry is aware of which drugs are legally proscribed and which can be legally prescribed.

Seriously… think about it…

- “Cannabis leads to heroin!”
Wow, really? So does alcohol lead to heroin?
- “Of course not!”
Well, does tobacco lead to cannabis maybe?
- “Not a bit of it! Cannabis leads to heroin which leads to speed, ecstasy and cocaine.”
Er… do any of them lead to prozac?

In reality the “cannabis gateway effect” (which does exist in many places) has been demonstrated to be sociological rather than biological. It is the prohibition of cannabis which places it into the same supply-system as the harder drugs. Those who smoke cannabis are more likely to have regular encounters with those who sell hard drugs than those who do not. It’s all quite easy to understand when you actually think about it rationally for a second.

I've covered much of this stuff before (though in the face of the same old - let's use the right word - lies, it still needs saying).

For all this though, the thing that's prompted me here isn't the message, it's the messenger.

The Independent on Sunday has not only apologised for the brilliant cannabis campaign, it's now running a new one, The Military Covenant, running stories about how homecoming soldiers in America get tickertape parades and asking why that doesn't happen for our boys.

It's turned into a conservative rag akin to the Express. This has been no more starkly illustrated than at the Camp for Climate Action.

In the run-up, the IoS's Cole Morton extensively interviewed a couple of Camp organisers. He came along to one of the public meetings the Camp organised in villages near Heathrow to meet with local residents and explain what the Camp would be. They received 100% support.

Hip to what much of the media would be saying, Campers also went round thousands of houses in the area handing out letters explaining what would really be going on and why. Again, they got not one complaint and cartloads of praise.

Into this atmosphere stepped Cole Moreton. Despite appearing to understand climate change, despite the openness of the Campers, he did a stitch-up. He wrote of how the Campers were dark, shadowy anarchists hoodwinking the locals about their intentions. One of them wore a smart dress to the public meeting to lull the locals into a false sense of security. Another deceptively wore a T-shirt with a peace dove on for the same reason, apparently. Nothing to do with these being the clothes those people wear ordinarily.

So far, so irresponsibly sensationalist. But he then took a turn into the despicably tabloid, ringing one of them up saying, 'oh, your friend says we need to dismantle capitalism before we can tackle climate change, would you agree with that?', trying to coax out some outrageous quote to fit his story.

The friend, of course, had said nothing of the sort; quite the opposite, in fact. As she put it, 'revolution or survival, which one do you think we need most?'.

This from a paper that's supposed to take climate change seriously. As opposed to being staffed by the sort of journalists who follow children home from school pretending to be mummy's friend so they'll get a good line, or shout through a letter box 'we know you're in there' as a woman cries behind the door.

Then during the Camp a call came in from the IoS's Jonathan Owen. His opening gambit was to be clear the IoS wasn't like other papers because the weekday paper writes about climate change a lot. He wanted to run a story with depth for the Sunday of the Camp's conclusion. Something with purpose, something that others wouldn't be writing.

Having been told about the way the police were using the Terrorism Act to stop and search people coming to and from the Camp, he declared his outrage. 'This is supposed to be a fucking democracy,' he railed.

He saw that the attempted injunction - the widest ranging ever sought in this country - seen with the misuse of terrorism powers against people who were clearly not terrorists, and the smear campaign being launched via the Evening Standard were three parts of one story. They showed how the establishment responds to anyone who openly and peacefully stands up and makes demands merely for the emission cuts that even the government admits are necessary.

Numerous calls were had over several days, a personal relationship developed and Owen came to the Camp and met with people there. He declared himself impressed with what he found and, in keeping with all he said and all he'd been told and the Independent's support for action on climate change he went and wrote his piece.

He filed 1400 words whose main point - that unique angle he was looking for, something that encapsulates the urgency of the issue and the potential of this new movement - was that Swampy had come to the Camp. At least Heat magazine is open about valuing celebrity above other concerns.

Audacious front pages, Robert Fisk and whatever might make it an intelligent and thought-provoking weekday read, but on a Sunday, it has a day off.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

turn to the dark side

You start out writing politics but you find you have to get pretty deep in there with things that aren't to do with argument and morality.

As climate change becomes such an important issue, it's important to really understand the science, to get the difference between certainty and probability, to be able to sift knowledgably and rigourously through the reports, claims, theories and downright lies.

The information age has changed the nature of research. It is no longer about being able to find information, but to be able to gauge the credibility of the information.

In science, the only stuff to really trust is the peer-review system. There are august journals for every specialist field, and some very broad ones, and scientists publish their ideas, methods and findings in them. Then others who also have expertise can see what's gone on and comment, presenting their stuff to reinforce or counter what's said. Soon, everyone whose opinion is worth anything has weighed in and hopefully something like the truth - as best as we can ascertain it at that point in time - emerges.

So it is that I can find myself reading whole books on hydrogen as a fuel source or in the pages of the new edition of the mighty Science.

Despite being the most respected scientific journal on earth, not all of it is for the inquiring intellectual mind. Some of it best serves that joyously brainless smut-loving part of you that never left the playground. Check out this paper. Turn to the dark side.

Friday, September 14, 2007

elton john: why?

Been a long time, I know. The Camp for Climate Action turned out to be a staggering success and I've been enjoying time since away from political stuff, computers and news media. Hurrah for my allotment (apple crop time, unspeakably exciting) and the Firefly box set.

This hasn't stopped my questing pioneering mind from working, and I can report that one part Tia Maria in two or three parts chocolate soya milk is among the finest discoveries of our time.

I'll get back into blogging gently (a couple of things to write that came out of the Camp, and the new Tory eco-report needs talking about), but not quite yet. For now, let's turn our minds to the more pressing matter of Elton John.

He played the O2 Arena in London last week. The London Paper's review was headlined 'Elton Rocks It!'.

You need go no further. Elton John is clinically incapable of rocking. Across the entire spectrum of opinion on Elton, surely there's no point at which anybody can think that he can, does or ever could, rock. If we were to sort the human race into a thousand different degrees of ability to rock, Elton would be on a level with your gran and Arthur Lowe.

Whenever Elton does an interview he talks intelligently about popular music, very well informed and with impeccable taste. Then he goes and turns out another album of turgid turd.

People try to tell me he's a 'great songwriter'. My standard response is to ask for his ten greatest songs. I mean, with Jagger/Richards, Bowie, James Brown, Dylan, Patti Smith or whoever you run out of breath before you've got to the end of the list that comes off the top of your head. But with Elton John, by a faltering number five they're trying to tell me Nikita counts as a great song.

He played just after charity fundraiser Jane Tomlinson had died. He said that Paris Hilton and Britney Spears should take a lesson in dignity from Tomlinson.

As a diamond earring shaped like a cock and balls dangled from his ear.

Before he went back to playing songs in front of a 40 foot screen showing him driving about in a buggy that had a giant pair of glasses on the front.

Elton John, literally a dickhead

Friday, August 10, 2007

up the injunction

It was the widest-ranging injunction ever applied for in British courts. It was a breath-taking attempt at a draconian slapdown of peaceful protesters by a giant corporation. They were using anti-stalker laws against the Womens’ Institute. They claimed that, with their tanks and guns, they were vulnerable to attack from a group of unarmed people who have made a commitment not to attempt to breach the perimeter.

Perhaps the scariest part was the fact that the attempted injunction was without time limit. As climate activism increases - and it's not going to do anything else - then Heathrow, as the biggest climate-change site in the UK, will become more and more of a target for action.

An indefinite injunction would've even covered the residents of Sipson in a decade’s time as they tried to prevent the demolition of their town for the third runway. BAA wants to bulldoze the whole community, houses, school, pubs, the lot, and yet apparently it's BAA who need protecting.


Frankly, though, I feel the real villain here is not so much BAA as their lawyer, Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden. He cold-calls corporations that are the target of protest and offers his services to secure injunctions.

Iain Banks' superb novel Complicity features William Sorrell, who makes his money in 'non-ethical investment'. If the smart but ethical money is getting out of certain companies, the dividends have to be bigger for the unethical money that takes its place. All you need is a total absence of conscience.

Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden - in marked contrast to his initials of TLC - has worked for numerous vivisectors, GM crop companies, arms manufacturers and the like. SchNEWS explains

He’s made his living from introducing what amounts to PFI martial law around some of Babylon’s more noxious manifestations, pleading over twenty injunctions, banging up activists and attempting to seize their homes along the way. By twisting the Protection from Harassment Act, originally presented as protecting vulnerable people from stalkers (and which he helped draft by the way; now there’s an eye for an opportunity), into a charter for corporate repression he’s made a tidy pile.

Not content with having written the law, TLC’s legal chicanery has become notorious. Stunts include: being warned for re-writing judgements in his favour to secure disclosure from the police; amending particulars of claim (i.e. allegations made against individuals) days before going to court and deluging the court with irrelevant material. This might just be incompetence but it has the knock-on effect of upping the costs of the action meaning that anyone contesting the injunction runs the risk of bankruptcy. Judges have even forced him at times to employ barristers to sort out his messes!

Evidence of his instigation of the whole thing came out in court. He'd started working on some of the injunction documents in February. The Camp only chose Heathrow in May. For most of the time he's been working on the injunction there hasn't even been a target industry, let alone a company. Hence him reading out all kinds of irrelevances like Earth First! manuals on treespiking.

No order was ever sought or made against the Camp for Climate Action itself, though. TLC said it was impossible to find Camp people to injunct. He hadn't tried ringing either of the published phone numbers, writing to any of the published email addresses or either of the published postal addresses, come to any of the pre-advertised open public meetings, nor asked the police who it was from the Camp that convened a meeting with them and other emergency services to ensure the Camp runs safely.

The naming of people like AirportWatch seems a clear attempt to scare off the ‘moderates’ as they move to an ever more radical position.

Lawson-Cruttenden was quoted as saying 'I never sought to injunct five million law-abiding individuals', yet despite this and the absurdity of attempting to do so, right into his closing speech to the court he made plain that he wanted the injunction against all the named groups, their members and supporters.

Much of the banning from public transport stuff was dropped; Transport for London had sent their lawyers along for the defence(!), so it was difficult for TLC to argue that the tube would be affected when someone could - and did - stand up and basically say 'we're the tube and it's not a problem'.

TLC's injunction was so muddled that the judge (and bear in mind this is a High Court judge who really knows about these things) couldn't understand exactly what was being asked for. In the end, she made up her own injunction and handed that down.

It was a monumental defeat for TLC and BAA. They wanted it to be criminal, it was only civil (so it doesn't have the power of arrest). They wanted it to be indefinite, it lasts for less than a month. They wanted to cover anything in 'the vicinity' of Heathrow and thereby outlaw the Camp, but it only covers Heathrow itself and so the Camp is legal. They wanted to injunct five million people, but only got one small group and three named individuals, and even they can all perfectly legally come to the Camp.

If you want a solid measure of who won, follow the money. BAA were ordered to pay all the costs for the three groups struck off. The one group named, Plane Stupid, do not have to pay any costs as the injunction requested is so different to the one granted. All the legal bills are payable by BAA, none by the protesters.


So, because of all the weird misreports, let's be clear what happened in court and what the injunction actually says and means.

Three out of the four groups were 'struck out', that is to say removed entirely from the injunction; Hacan, AirportWatch and NoTRAG. Only Plane Stupid are mentioned.

Crucially, the claim under the Protection from Harassment Act was rejected. The judge refused to grant such an injunction pre-emptively, saying that defining harassment depends on the circumstances of the incident and is almost impossible to define in advance. There's been no history of anyone doing anything to Heathrow, and harassment has to be a repeated course of conduct.

This means the injunction granted is civil, not criminal. As such, it carries no powers of arrest except against the three individuals named on it. So if you were in breach they'd have to ask you to stand still while they ran off to London, got an emergency session of High Court judges to give permission to arrest you, then came back for you. In effect, it does not make anything illegal, it just adds possible additional penalties to things already illegal.

It prohibits all members or supporters of Plane Stupid, or anyone acting in concert with them or their aims, from causing disruption at Heathrow during August 2007. They are not to enter Heathrow's land, impede or prevent access or egress, or incite, aid or abet anyone to do so.


How this all played in the media was curious. As Lord Justice Greer once observed, 'the probabilities are all against what one reads in the newspapers. If it is a subject you happen to know something about yourself, you always find the papers are wrong'.

BAA didn't wait for the end of the court hearing before spinning it to the media as a great victory for them. Evening freebie The London Paper ran this front cover

The London Paper: Heathrow Kicks Out Eco-Demo

'Heathrow Doesn't Kick Out Eco-Demo' would be closer to the truth. It quoted the judge as saying 'I am satisfied that the terms of the injunction are no wider than necessary'. But of course she is - they're the terms she made up! Terms that are - and I quote her ruling directly - 'nothing like as wide ranging as that sought'.

The Guardian's leader comment said

the airport is right to worry about campaign leaflets promising "Heathrow will be closed"

even though no such leaflet exists.

Radio 4's PM programme did an interview with Craig Logan from the Camp. All the stuff he said about what the Camp would be like and the workshops and discussions, and the whole thing being part of a wider movement was cut out, and they just went for the stuff about potential disruption.

Editing for space and going for the juicy bits is fair enough though, right? But this wasn't just editing for space. They snipped out the word 'ordinary' from his sentence 'this is about ordinary people from all over the country coming together near Heathrow'.

Over at their News website the BBC were less evil and sensationalist, just simply confused.

The ban will not apply to AirportWatch, an umbrella group covering five million people including members of the RSPB and National Trust, because it is too large to define.

But it will cover Plane Stupid and certain members of two other groups - Hacan Clearskies and the No Third Runway Action Group - if they were intent on unlawful action.

No, it covers anyone, from any group or otherwise, intent on unlawful action.

As the injunctees and Camp representatives met the press the real story started to come out, though.

A spokesperson for the Camp read out this statement on the steps of the High Court

The Camp for Climate Action is going ahead.

We accuse BAA of abusing people's right to freedom of expression.

We accuse BAA of pushing for the expansion of airports in the full knowledge that it will lead directly to climate change and indirectly to the deaths of millions.

We accuse BAA of lying to local people, having first promised an end to the expansion of Heathrow in 1978.

We accuse BAA of being climate criminals. A crime for which they cannot be punished under UK law and which the government is actively supporting them in committing.

If you accept the right to life of the millions of people that will die because of climate change, then you can't stand by. Serious and immediate action becomes essential.

Today we are sending out a call to anyone

- that believes that BAA are the real criminals in this case,

- that knows that governments and corporations will not solve the problem of climate change but that it is down to ordinary people to find the solutions,

- that sees that we are living beyond what the earth's resources can sustain and need to create major social change to live sustainably.

BAA's legal action shows the lengths carbon criminals will go to defend their emissions. If you think that the likes of BAA and Gordon Brown give us any hope of a sustainable future then you can stay at home. Everyone else should come to the Camp for Climate Action from the 14th to the 21st August.

From the Camp there will be a day of mass action against corporate climate criminals on Sunday the 19th August.

The responsibility to tackle climate change lies with us all.


The time is here. Climate activism is kicking in. If we are to really achieve what we need to in the next 30 years, the first year or two's campaigning would look like, well, the last year or so.

Several articles have seen the parallels with the anti-roads movement of the 1990s. Every reason to ever be part of that applies here, and so much more. It is a lot bigger issue and a lot more is at stake, and time is a lot tighter. The incontrovertibility of our argument and the groundswell of public knowledge behind us is here too, just like in 1996. So much is within our grasp. Let's grab it, use it.

The Camp will be a big jump up for climate activism. But the movement can only succeed if it's a genuinely mass movement. It needs everyone who knows it's right to be not just onside and nodding at the TV, but out there taking action. That means you.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

turning up the heat at heathrow

British Airports Authority - operators of Heathrow airport - go to the high court tomorrow to seek an injunction against four people and the groups they represent, in order to stop them being part of the Camp for Climate Action.

Weirdly, the injunction isn't against the Camp, just against three groups who've expressed some support for it.

These are direct action group Plane Stupid, local anti-third runway group NOTRAG, and Airport Watch, an umbrella of various organisations such as the National Trust, Greenpeace, the RSPB, the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

This means all their members - some five million people - would be injuncted. Not just from a 100m radius of Heathrow, but from sections of the M4, M25, certain platforms at Paddington station and all of London Underground's Piccadilly line.

Transport for London, who operate the tube, have demanded all mention of their property be removed from the injunction.

Mayor Ken Livingstone called the injunction 'a serious infringement of civil liberties and an attack on the right to peaceful protest' and suggested that perhaps BAA's Spanish owners were under the impression they were still living under Franco. Others have also sprung to the defence of the right to protest.

BAA, sensing their foot-shooting, refused to talk to the press, but theyn issued a statement saying they didn't want to interfere with 'lawful protest'.

Thing is, there are already plenty of laws that criminalise anyone taking, planning or attempting disruptive action at airports. The injunction would redefine what counts as lawful.

It's utterly insane that if you're a member of the RSPB it would be a crime to have a balloon (one of the named prohibited items) on the platform at a tube station 20 miles from the airport.

The injunction is being sought under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, an anti-stalker law designed to protect vulnerable women from vicious ex-boyfriends. The idea that Heathrow - one of the most high-security sites in the country - needs such protectgion from peaceful protesters who've given repeated assurances they won't attempt any mass blockades of runways or anything like that - is ridiculous.

But this is where the battle lines are drawn. Aviation expansion is so extreme that it's BAA and the government on one side, and Livingstone, the RSPB and other such radical hoodlums with us on the other.

Most countries emissions aren't as bad as Heathrow's planes. There is no way Heathrow can operate at anything like current capacity without seriously contributing to climate change. BAA know that as the clamour to reduce emissions grows, so will pressure on them.

They see that organisations like the National Trust and RSPB are asking for us to do what the science demands.

The environmental groups' call will grow louder and more radical as the matter becomes more urgent; the drastic cuts in emissions are actually as reasonable as the National Trust or CPRE's image.

The attempted injunction is about intimidating those people and stifling not merely the right to protest but the demand that we halt climate change before it becomes catastrophic.

BAA's rabid defence of climate change is all the evidence we need that corporations and their friends and puppets in goverment are not going to solve the problem for us. We need to create a mass movement that pushes loudly, clearly and publicly for what we know is necessary. It's already well underway, and it needs everyone who knows the score to stand up and be counted. As the man said, it's a barbed wire fence - which side do you choose?

See you at the Camp.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

down to earth

I've put a new Feature article up over at U-Know.

With the Camp for Climate Action coming up next month near Heathrow airport acting as a clarion call for those who want to get busy in creating the sustainable low-carbon society we urgently need, there'll be a jump-up in direct action against the aviation industry.

But surely everyone flies? Surely we can't tell people they can't have a holiday? Is aviation really all that bad anyway?

The article tackles questions commonly levelled at anti-aviation arguments. It's called Down To Earth.

Monday, July 23, 2007

don't keep on truckin'

In Oxfordshire, two months worth of rain falls in one day. Precisely the sort of thing that climate change models predicted we would be seeing more of.

This means that Truck festival, whose electricity is sponsored by Npower - European power production's largest emitter of CO2 - has had to be postponed as the site is under several feet of water.

Land ahoy at Truck festival

If they want to have future festivals, they might want to rethink their sponsorship deals.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

de burgh cometh

De Burgh has been 'holidaying' in Mauritius. Yet the pictures show him up to his neck under a shroud. He taunts us as he dresses like Christ about to rise from the dead and ascend to heaven.

Chris De Burgh! Superstar!

Mauritius is best known for a bird whose fate is so remarkable that, like the Titanic, it is commonly used as a metaphor. The dodo.

De Burgh mocks us in the end days, that our freedom is doomed to extinction and he shall rise messianic and we will be forced to bow down to him.

The process of overthrowing the current lizard rulers began with the assassination of Princess Diana. It's no mistake that De Burgh appears in his holy shroud at the same time as the unveiling of a painting of Diana's crash with the words of Lady In Red superimposed. De Burgh over the royals. It couldn't be more obvious.

We can only have a matter of days left.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

de burgh's takeover looms

Remember how I warned you that evil lizard alien Chris de Burgh was wangling governmental posts? His insidious campaign continues.

The rearrangement of government in the UK has created the new Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, DBERR.

'Reform', one of those golden words of globalisation like 'modernise'. Because 'giving it away to the rich' and 'privatise' sound a little too controversial.

We can guess which way 'regulatory reform' will go. Expect to hear a lot about 'cutting red tape for business'. Who in their right mind wants more red tape? Yet who in their right mind thinks 'red tape' is a reasonable term for regulation that includes things like health and safety legislation and a whole slew of laws preventing employers and corporations from poisoning, maiming and exploiting us?

But anyway, it's not the function of the new department we're concerned with, it's the name, DBERR. Not snappy like DTI nor easily pronouncable like DEFRA is it?

The Daily Telegraph reports that it is being referred to in Whitehall as 'Chris', as in 'Chris DeBerr'.

Worse, the Telegraph advocate that it officially be called Chris, as the people who gave it the name have been indulging in a little acronymous computer hacking.

John Hutton should stamp his mark on the department by officially adopting the name. Aside from the ugliness of the DBERR acronym, it apparently also means database error in geek language and – according to a petition on No10’s website – is already wreaking havoc with computer systems nationwide.

If we can’t have the manageable DTI back, surely Hutton must embrace 'Chris' as a step forward?

A national newspaper, encouraging us to go the whole hog and embrace the Lizard Overlord! Not as anything so accountable as a minister, nor as something so ephemeral as an absolute monarch, but a permanent department of government itself.

These, surely, are our final days of liberty.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

flying in the face of sustainability

Last Sunday's Observer had a feature called The Big Green Dilemma.

It concedes that aviation is a huge problem for a world wanting to get its carbon emissions down to a safe level. But, well, we like flying. And what about the people who we fly to, won't they miss us?

The piece opens with a picture of a Masai herdsman (who presumably, I dunno, gets his cows petted by German holidaymakers or something).

Then there's several paragraphs about the forthcoming Camp for Climate Action, before

The tourism and aviation industries are mobilising, setting up lobbying groups, and pointing out some awkward facts. Did you know, for example, that some ferries emit far more carbon dioxide than some planes?

Yes, but you're talking about per passenger mile. You travel far more miles in a plane.

And just because there are some horrendously inefficient ferries doesn't mean that high-emitting planes are OK.

That driving can release twice as much carbon as flying?

Again, just because there are people driving big cars without passengers doesn't make flying OK. Comparing one unsustainable thing with another is ridiculous. Even then, the average UK motorist emits less CO2 in a whole year than someone taking return flight to Florida (2255kg CO2 vs 2415kg CO2).

And that's before we take into account that such statistics rarely include the 'radiative forcing', the extra damaging effect of emitting at altitude that makes flying 2-3 times worse than surface travel. Keep that in mind, because you certainly won't be getting it in the article any time soon.

It's an unpalatable argument, but even if everyone in Britain were to stop flying tomorrow, in less than two years the total number of passengers worldwide would still be rising.

'I'm not going to stop doing it until everyone else does'.

Which is what all those 'everyone else' people are saying as they look at you.

Perhaps we can lead by example and so influence the world to cut back on flights too. Britons took 234m flights last year. Discounting the 20% in the population who never fly at all, this works out around five per person. To hit the government's target of a 60 per cent drop in carbon emissions by 2050, we simply need to slowly wean ourselves down to two annual flights - one return trip. Maybe, if planes get more efficient, we could still afford two.

And still we don't mention the radiative forcing. Or the total inadequacy of the 60% by 2050 target. The science is clear it needs to be a global cut of 60% in about 30 years, which means our over-emitting nation needs to cut back by around 90%.

Goerge Monbiot's new article notes

the British government is well aware that its target for cutting carbon emissions – 60% by 2050 – is too little, too late, but that it will go no further for one reason: it fears losing the support of the Confederation of British Industry.

The message is getting through to us as consumers, and we are changing. Or, some of us are.

Recent surveys have suggested that 3 per cent of Britons have already stopped flying and a further 10 per cent have cut back, but people seem slower to practice what they preach - Ryanair say they have yet to notice any effect and have certainly yet to cancel a single flight as a result of such concerns.

This thinking confuses the number of people who fly with the number of flights taken. If 10% of people stop flying but the remainder all take more flights, the emissions go up.

The increase - even with the advent of budget airlines - is about the rich binge-flying. Passenger surveys show that the richest 20% of the population take half the flights. People with second homes abroad take an average of six return flights a year. The average income of a Stanstead user is over £50,000 a year - and that's 'the budget airport'!

Moreover, with China building two new power stations per week, mostly coal-fired, it's easy to wonder if it's worth agonising about whether you should go for that long weekend in Tuscany.

Again, because someone else is doing something bad I don't have to be good. As there are so many muggers out there anyway, it won't make any difference if I go and rob one or two people.

It's about total emissions - any reduction helps. More, it's about what we can do. It's a lot easier for me to decide not to fly for a holiday I can live without than it is for me to shut down a Chinese power station.

Let's not forget why there are all these new Chinese power stations, too. We shut down our manufacturing industry, then import everything from Chinese factories and tell ourselves we're so carbon friendly while they're the bad guys.

If they're making stuff for us, the emissions are our fault.

According to last year's government-commissioned report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern, power stations account for 24 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, shipping, train and road transport account for 12.3%, while flying accounts for just 1.7 per cent.

And according to the British government, flying accounts for 13% of our emissions.

(and they use underestimates; they only count departing flights instead of the total flights taken by UK citizens, they only use a radiative forcing factor of 2; the real figure's going to be more like 20%).

All this is for an activity that most of us won't undertake at all this year, that none of us needs to do and for which there's no low-carbon alternative. What better place to start on cuts?

Compare this with deforestation, which accounts for 18 per cent (half of which is attributed to the destruction of rainforests in two countries: Indonesia and Brazil). That's not to say we're damned anyway, so let's get on the plane and keep partying till the world goes up in flames, but it does put the issue into balance - should we devote nine times more effort to fighting deforestation than flying?

Yep, devote a very short simple effort into not flying; just decide it, in your own head, right now and it's done.

Because yes, we do need to tackle deforestation and coal fired power stations as well if we're going to avert dangerous climate change. Leaving any of the handful of key industries untouched will undo the good we achieve elsewhere.

Oh and that Indonesian deforestation? Much of it is burning them down to make way for palm oil plantations, to supply the processed food industry with fat and - the new big boom area - eco-friendly biodiesel for our cars. At a carbon cost ten times that of diesel from oil. Outsourcing our destruction again.

And being aware of the balance should steer us away from extreme positions - refusing to fly at all or ignoring the issue completely - towards taking practical, realistic steps to a solution.

Show me how flying can be sustainable and I'll accept it as 'practical and realistic' to continue. Until then, abstaining from flying is the only safe and sensible way forwards.

A return flight to Barcelona, for example, emits around 260kg of carbon dioxide per passenger. By insulating your loft you can easily make up for this - it will save, on average, 1,500kg of CO² per year. Replace 10 ordinary bulbs with energy saving ones, and you'll save 380kg. Chuck out your plasma TV and you'll save 404kg. Even turning off appliances instead of leaving them on standby will save 173kg - easily enough to allow a return flight to Paris or Amsterdam with a clear conscience.

Only if you presume the wasteful overconsuming domestic situation described is sustainable. It is not. The safe level is lower than that. That insulation and turning-off need to be done as well as not flying.

And still no mention of the radiative forcing.

'Dark green' environmentalists argue there is a bankrupt logic in this kind of carbon offsetting - you are doing the equivalent of donating to the RSPCA so you can keep kicking your dog, as the saying goes. You could, after all, take all those carbon-saving steps, and still cancel your holiday in Barcelona.

You said it, daddio.

Except that assumes tourism is a frivolous, self-indulgent activity which is as pointless as leaving your TV on standby. Even putting aside the benefits to the tourists themselves, this is clearly not the case. Tourism employs around 231 million people, and generates 8-10 per cent of world GDP.

Nobody's talking about an end to tourism and holidays. But maybe the Americans coming to Cornwall and the Brits going to Florida could swap destinations. Just as much tourism, much less carbon.

Elsewhere, there are places that don't send many tourists our way to exchange with, places that bring in much more tourism than they send out

in Kenya plans are being drawn up for a very different camp. Looking out from an escarpment over the deserts of Samburuland is a stunning hotel, the Ol Malo Eco-Lodge. Revenue from the small number of visiting tourists has allowed the 5,000 acres around it to be transformed from over-grazed cattle ranch to a pristine conservation site, but that is just the start.

This sounds really good. Let's just pretend that all foreign holidays are like this and none of them involve diverting precious water away from whole villages so we can have a swimming pool, or forcibly removing people so we can have their land for a (ooh, more water there too) golf course.

At a huge proportion of tourist destinations, the wealth doesn't go to the poverty-wage employees or locals but to the rich few.

More impressive still is the Ol Malo eye project. Up to 80 per cent of adults in the area suffer sight loss, caused by the infectious and preventable disease Trachoma, so the Ol Malo Trust runs regular surgical camps, bringing doctors from the UK to treat them. In January, the camp gave 102 people back their sight

You don't have to spend a couple of grand going to Kenya to save someone's eyesight. If that's your concern, the price of just one person's holiday can save the eyesight more than 120 people.

According to a Christian Aid report, climate change is likely to kill over 180 million people this century in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s more than ten 9/11s a week. To keep flying is to inflict that. It makes a mockery of our concern about aid and debt relief, and puts those 120 eye operations into a different context.

Sea level rises have already ruined vast areas of Bangladeshi farmland. Sea temperature rises are moving the rainfall in eastern Africa, drying up farmland in Ethiopia and starving people off their land. Bangladesh! Ethiopia! The very names have practically become bywords for global poverty, yet it is they who are bearing the brunt. Climate change – driven by luxury consumption such as flying – is taking food from the poorest people on earth.

Tropical diseases are spreading further and further from the equatorial zone. Should we wait until they get here before we do something, or do we care about those who are suffering for our luxuries?

Already the inhabitants of the pacific island nation of Tuvalu are having to permanently evacuate their home because of rising sea levels. People on islands in the Maldives – a favoured luxury holiday destination – face the same prospect.

We can’t seriously suggest that depriving millions of people of their food, water and health is alright because a few thousand get some tourist money.

'Our message to all air passengers is to stop feeling guilty about flying,' said Captain Mervyn Granshaw, chairman of the British Airline Pilots Association, unveiling a major study conducted by the union last month. 'We are now going to debunk the myths about air travel and spell out the facts.' Fine words but, given the level of self-interest and degree of enmity between those involved, getting the facts is a nightmarish task. Launching the 82-page report, Granshaw pulled out one key point: 'Passengers going by high speed train to the south of France would be responsible for emitting more carbon dioxide than if they had flown there.' I rang the union to check the figures and was directed to a section of the report quoting Roger Kemp, professor of engineering at Lancaster University. I then rang him. 'No, actually that's completely untrue,' he said. 'France generates about 80 per cent of its electricity using nuclear power

The fact is that, were French electricity as fossil-derived as the UK's, then the TGV would be about the same emissions as a plane. Superfast trains, like the fast ferries mentioned earlier, are very energy-thirsty. Moving fast is high consumption, whichever way you slice it.

But the difference between the TGV and the plane isn't just French nuclear electricity. It's that the TGV figures used by Granshaw, just like the article, still fails to mention the radiative forcing of planes.

A full plane, can sometimes compete with a car too. Paul Upham, a research fellow at the Tyndall Centre, calculated that travelling from Manchester to Guernsey on a full Saab 200 turbo-prop plane produced 103kg of carbon dioxide per person, compared with 226kg for a Nissan Micra carrying one person the same difference.

Mm-hmm. And how many of us fly by propeller planes? Or even by full planes? The carbon emissions for jets are far greater, and of course for part-full planes the per-passenger emissions are higher.

On average, though, a car carrying several occupants is usually better than a plane, and trains are almost always the best of all. The UK government's calculations suggest a long-haul plane emits 110g of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre, a medium-sized car with two occupants the same, while the train emits 60g.

However, as the pollution from planes is emitted high in the atmosphere, its effects are far worse, and vapour trails (or 'contrails') lead to the formation of cirrus clouds, which stop heat escaping from the earth.

There! He said it!

One of the most important points about emissions from aircraft, omitted from numerous points where it was crucial, and now we're three quarters of the way through the piece by which time most people have stopped reading. But still, there can be no doubt, he did say it.

Given the world's apparently insatiable appetite for flying, and accepting it is seriously damaging for the environment, it becomes crucial to develop new and less polluting aircraft. Already, there is some progress: the new Boeing 747-800, which will enter service in 2009, is 16 per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor, while the 787 'Dreamliner', which enters service next May, uses light carbon composites to cut fuel use by 20 per cent compared with the 767

Anyone think 80% of the 767 fleet flying is sustainable?

Let alone the damage done by the vast increase in aviation?

The climate doesn't distinguish between two five-tonne emissions and one ten-tonne one. And the increase in flights is crucial; these same manufacturers and airlines who are touting their eco-friendly reductions are the same people twisting the arms of governments to build more runways so there can be more flights, meaning the total emissions from flying goes up.

Virgin is even planning to test fly a 747 on biofuel.

Oh god, Branson stuffing the fuel tank with newspapers. The solitary fact that this article mentions the Virgin thing without guffawing or even questioning it tells us all we need to know. It is denotes the desperate psychological need of the writer for it to all be OK and nobody to take his toys off him.

So should we stop flying? If no one set foot on a plane again, it would undoubtedly help to stop climate change - though at the expense of killing off the tourism-based economies of many of the world's poorest countries.

As opposed to doing it to them, and many others, with climate change.

But in the real world,

Ah, the real world. The one where we're trusting Branson and Boeing to save us. Very realistic approach this real world has.

surely we have to take a more sophisticated approach:

It's another mark of his desperation that he needs to prefix his suggested solution with not one but two bits of linguistic bullying. There's the implication that the more drastic necessary alternative is not in 'the real world', and now it is also 'unsophisticated'.

Come on then, let's get all suave and refined, let's open a bottle of pink cava, put on a Bryan Ferry solo album and join in the sophistication

choose airlines with greener, newer fleets, and thus encourage plane makers to prioritise environmental performance

Airlines can only use oil based fuels. It's like opposing war by encouraging gun makers to have bullets made out of pink fun fur that cuddle and stroke the person they're fired at.

travel to destinations that help local communities rather than destroy them

There are almost none of them available. If we all went to them we would, by definition, destroy them.

take the train where possible

What does 'possible' mean? If I choose a weekend in Barcelona, my 48 hour window won't let it be possible to take the train. If I want to go to Disneyworld, it wouldn't be possible to get the train there.

The thinking is arse about face. It's not that we need to 'take the train where possible' so much as decide what to do based on what the train makes possible.

That rules out weekend breaks a thousand miles away and casual intercontinental travel. But there are more astonishing places between here and Kenya - hell, between here and Barcelona - than you'll ever have time to visit. If you can't find interesting places to go that are nearer then you're too unimaginative and dull a twonk to deserve a holiday in the first place.

We need to let the responsible travel options guide and define our choice of holidays.

reduce carbon emissions at home

Absolutely; but keep flying and you are still emitting more than is safe. It's a both/and response needed.

and, above all, lobby politicians to tackle deforestation and to switch to green forms of energy

Yes, that really needs doing too. Although to pass the buck on to politicians and corporations is as great a dodging of responsibility as the way they say it's all down to the individual consumer.

Government is more likely to make the necessary changes, and do it sooner, if we make it plain that it won’t be political suicide. There was enough of a fuss when Gordon Brown put air duty up to £10 (which wasn’t actually a real increase, just a reversal of the cut he made in 2001). What better way – indeed, what other way – is there to show that except by cutting demand?

Do all this, and we can start to cancel flights in the knowledge that it really will make a difference.

Yes, it's right that it needs to be part of a wider effort. But why do we need to do the other stuff before we start cancelling flights? That should be part and parcel of the strategy.

As flying is a luxury we don't need, and as stopping is merely an absence of action, it's something we can all do today. It should be top of the list. You can do it right now this second.