Monday, 17 December 2007

I've been kind-of-semi-sort-of-quasi-web-published

The New Internationalist magazine are using one of my poems to promote the latest issue, "Corporate Responsibility Unmasked". Don't let this put you off, though: it's a great (and very timely) edition of the magazine, and you should definitely check it out.

The NI is one of those publications that despite still having a lot of subscribers (about 35,000 apparently, more than the New Statesman, the Ecologist or any other ostensibly left-wing UK magazine), it hasn't really established itself on the web yet and so seems to have slipped off a lot of people's radars. This is a real shame, as it's one of the most consistently well-researched, incisive and thought-provoking publications around. Although I do need to declare an interest here (my girlfriend is one of the editors), there aren't many magazines out there that have managed to remain fiercely independent (unlike most political magazines, they have no wealthy backers and are kept afloat by sales alone; they're also very strict about what advertising they accept), continually tell stories that no-one else is telling, bring in marginalised voices from around the world, undertake proper research and write stuff that is genuinely interesting rather than the recycled opinion and ill-informed bile that passes for analysis in most "current affairs" magazines.

Sometimes it's rather dense, or a bit too worthy; they also really need to sort out their web presence and get more up-to-date stuff online. However, when you're trying to find out what's really going on in the world behind the puffing, pouting and posturing of the corporate media, then the NI rarely disappoints. If Corporate Watch is the fervent, fired-up colleague who meets you in the pub to tell you about the shocking new scandal they've just uncovered, and Schnews is the friend who bangs on your door unexpectedly to drag you out to some outrageous event that you'd no idea was happening, then the NI is the knowledgeable, worldly-wise mate that you go to when you're feeling confused about something important and want to talk it through properly, figure out what to think, and decide exactly which piece of planet-wrecking machinery you most need to D-lock yourself to.

However, magazine subscriptions are falling across the board, and the NI's aforementioned stringent advertising policies and lack of billionaire backing mean that if we want it to continue to exist, we need to keep supporting it. So check out the latest edition, sign up for their free trial subscription (if you're not already a subscriber), and help raise their online profile by giving them a friendly link or two!

This shameless pluggery is now over, and I'm going home to make some soup.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Look At My Big Train

I’m so sick of transport campaigning.

We know what the sustainable transport solutions are - it feels as though we’ve known them forever - and yet we’re still having to fight the same wretched battles over motorway expansion, the privatisation of public transport, new runways, and the continued existence of Jeremy Clarkson.

But wait, Danny, wait! What about the Shiny New Eurostar Terminal?

This was Greenpeace’s comment on the matter:

This did make me smile. However, even though commentators all over the place are queuing up to declare that this is a Jolly Good Thing and Why Did It Take So Long, and despite the fact that a two-hour-and-fifteen minute journey from London to Paris should make any flight-free holidays I might want to take in the future notably easier, my cynicism muscles still won’t stop twitching.

A fast train to the continent is clearly a good thing if it gets people out of planes, but why isn't this kind of money and organisational clout being used to sort out local bus services, cycling facilities, inter-city coaches and so on? Where are the decent, affordable public transport facilities for all of the people in the UK who don't make frequent business/shopping trips to Paris and Brussels, but do want to travel within their local area and occasionally around the UK (i.e. most of us)?

I think this article on Indymedia illustrates this problem all too well:

“Around 30 cyclists met at 8.30 this morning for the opening of the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras station, London. They were highlighting the poor facilities and planning for bikes in contrast with the much-publicised claims of carbon-neutral travel to Paris…”

As well as the complete lack of cycle access and parking at the station, the author also notes that if you want to take your bicycle to France,

“you either have a choice of dismantling your bike, putting it in a bike bag and carrying it on as luggage - I've done this and it's not great! - or you can take it to the station the day before you want to travel, and send it ahead for some £40 each way (adding another two-thirds to the price of a cheap passenger ticket).”

This is just one more small example to add to the heap, but once again a huge gleaming "prestige" project has taken priority over less glamourous but equally vital people-scale solutions. Sadly, it seems that the government (on the rare occasions that they’re prepared to give some serious backing to a public transport project) have decided that sorting out bikes, buses, coaches and pedestrian routes is fiddly and boring compared to big shiny trains, and might involve pesky "controversial" stuff like clamping down on profit-hungry private bus operators, subsidising "unprofitable" public transport routes and making things a bit less convenient for car drivers. Plus, of course, there isn't much scope for the government’s corporate mates to siphon large amounts of public money out of bicycle lanes and free bus rides for the elderly.

We definitely need more fast, reliable train services, but we mustn’t forget to get out there and shout for all the other, less prestigious (and less elitist) kinds of sustainable transport too. Even though the very thought of yet more bloody transport campaigning makes me want to crawl under a big pile of John Whitelegg transport policy documents from the early 1990s and weep.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

What I Did On My Lunch Break

This is a video.

It happened on Monday as part of a National Day of Action against the Royal Bank of Scotland. At least 25 different actions happened all over the country. I'm feeling rather inspired by it all.

Friday, 31 August 2007

What I Did On My Holidays / A Climate Uprising

It was around 1am, and in the small tent village that had appeared across the only vehicle entrance of the British Airports Authority’s corporate headquarters, a giggling gang of protesters ate lentil pate sandwiches and sang daft songs while a large white bunny rabbit scampered around the feet of the bemused police officers standing nearby. This unlikely scene was part of the much-heralded Day of Mass Action for the Climate Camp near Heathrow, and it was the culmination of the most extraordinary, hilarious, inspiring, exhausting, terrifying and wonderful week of my life. Even as I fought through my fatigue and tried to prepare myself for the barrage of stupid questions that the morning media scrum would bring, I was filled with the warm, glowing knowledge that this week had been A Very Good Thing.

Inside the BAA car park shanty town (Image by Kristian Buus)

The fact that I have such powerful, personal memories of the Camp for Climate Action might cause some to doubt my ability to take a cool, rational overview of the whole affair. To such doubters I say: ahh, you’re just jealous that you weren’t there. Plus, you’re missing a really important point: many of the two-thousand-odd people who came through the camp will have left with similar feelings of inspiration, energy and hope – and this, more than anything, was the camp’s real achievement.

Yes, the camp got incredible global media coverage, reaching news outlets serving ¾ of the world’s population. Yes, activists were able to appear all over the mainstream media hammering out the key messages about aviation expansion being madness, about how climate change will only be solved by major social change, and about the importance of mustering people power against entrenched political and corporate interests. Yes, the political balance in the UK seems to have shifted, with Heathrow’s 3rd runway no longer seeming like a done deal, and the government now talking about including aviation in the Climate Bill. This is all fantastic stuff – but these weren’t the most exciting or important things to come out of the camp. Oh no.

During the eight days the camp was officially open, I counted at least nineteen peaceful direct actions taking place against climate criminals. You can find more information, pictures and first-hand reports at Indymedia, but the brief run-down goes something like this (with much text taken directly from the Climate Camp website):,


- A group of activists set up a climate camp on the wing of an Airbus A380 on its way to be assembled in France. The Welsh police decline to arrest them, and they all walk free.


- Farnborough and Biggin Hill airports, both exclusively used by private executive jets, are blockaded by two teams of climate activists in disgust at the obscenity of the super-rich using planes as a taxi service.


- The doors of six London travel agencies are chained shut and plastered with signs saying 'Closed, gone to the Climate Camp.'

- Activists superglue themselves to the front doors of the Department for Transport's London headquarters. A tourist spontaneously joins the protest by chaining himself to the doors.

Main entrance to Department for Transport - closed (image from Indymedia)

- Ten people occupy the office of private charter company XL, which has a contract with the Home Office to deport rejected asylum seekers, exposing the connection between climate change and forced migration.


- Children and their parents blockade the World Freight Centre at Heathrow in protest at the damage to the climate caused by unnecessarily flying food around the world.

Cargo terminal closed by slightly damp picnickers (Image from Indymedia)

- 60 people occupy Carmel Agrexco's Heathrow warehouse in Hayes, where produce is air freighted in from territories occupied by Israel, highlighting the issues of food miles and the unjust and unlawful distribution of natural resources in the Middle East.


- Several marches take place around the site of the proposed third runway, involving local residents from Sipson and Harmondsworth (the villages that BAA is planning to demolish), John McDonnell MP, and the striking sight of hundreds of activists wearing copies of the Tyndall Report on their hands, carrying a banner reading, 'We are armed....only with peer-reviewed science'.

Pictures of people affected by climate change that doubled as handy cardboard shields when the police got their batons out...leading to the horribly surreal sight of cops trying to beat their way through the faces of Bangladeshi children to get at peaceful protesters. (Image by Kristian Buus)

- Despite the presence of 1,800 police wielding batons and the Terrorism Laws, BAA’s attempts to slap injunctions on people, and the fact that the date, time and target had all been announced in advance, hundreds of protestors still make it to BAA’s corporate headquarters, blockade the only vehicle entrance, set up a new neighbourhood of the camp and stay there for 24 hours. BAA tells most of its staff to stay at home or work elsewhere on Monday.

It was around this point that the words of the song "Power To The People" became changed to "Shower to the people...coz the people need a shower..." Look, it was funny at the time, OK? (Image by Kristian Buus)

- BA World Cargo depot is blockaded for about four and a half hours by eight protestors locked to each other.

- Three teenaged girls make it onto the roof of the Heathrow Business School and unfurl a banner that reads “Make Planes History”.


- Two carbon offsetting companies (in Oxford and London) are targeted by protesters dressed as red herrings. In Oxford the campaigners get into the offices and have a round table discussion with the staff about the problems with offsetting.

- Five protesters use a concrete lock-on to block the entrance to Sizewell A and B nuclear power stations. Their banner reads, 'Nuclear power is not the answer to climate chaos.'

(Image from Indymedia)

- Eighteen protesters occupy the office of the owners of Leeds airport, Bridgepoint Capital, on Warwick Street in London, armed with Yorkshire puddings and a banner declaring “Yorkshire’s flooding, yer daft puddin!”

- Twelve protesters superglue themselves to the entrance of BP’s headquarters.

It's clearly meant to look like oil, right? Not blood. Journalists are weird. (Image from Indymedia)

- A troupe of rebel clowns stake out a fourth runway in the garden of Clive Soley, pro-runway lobbyist and Campaign Director of Future Heathrow.


- The building works for a controversial gas pipeline being constructed through the Brecon Beacons are sabotaged overnight.

Despite the patchy-at-best coverage of all of this in the mainstream British media, it’s not hard to see why a CNN news bulletin referred to the week as a “climate uprising”. And for those of you sceptical about the effectiveness of this kind of action, here’s why it’s so important:

1) It’s proportionate to the scale of the problem. As George Marshall has pointed out, it’s hard for people to see climate change as a huge problem when the proposed solutions are “change your lightbulbs” or “pump up your car tyres”. Once people start taking peaceful, arrestable action on climate change – demonstrating that they are ready to break the law and go to prison over this issue – it significantly raises the game and marks climate change as a “real” issue.

2) It raises the political temperature. The Iraq war demonstrated how much attention the Government currently pays to large numbers of people marching from Point A to Point B. Every past movement which required major social change – from the anti-slavery campaigners to civil rights in the US to women’s suffrage – required an element of civil disobedience and peaceful law-breaking to keep the issues on the political agenda. Tackling climate change will require bigger changes than all of these previous campaigns were calling for. Direct action helps everybody working on climate change issues across the whole of society, by opening up new political space and pushing the debate forward.

3) It identifies and confronts the culprits. The uncomfortable truth is that the prevention of catastrophic climate change won’t happen with a big warm cuddly consensus. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, massively reduce our reliance on cars and planes, and make some fundamental changes to the way we run our lives and the economy. A lot of influential people and corporations who rely on the current system for their wealth and power will lose out in a big way (while the great majority of people should benefit from a low-carbon world, if we do things properly), and so we can’t pretend that there won’t be confrontation and conflict. There will. We have to accept that, and then figure out how, in the battle of people vs. corporate profits, the people are going to win.

4) It’s the most genuinely empowering form of action that anyone can take. To strip away all of the distractions and just place your body in the way of the bad stuff…it’s not enough by itself, but it’s infinitely more powerful and inspiring that turning down your thermostat or paying £50 for a pop concert.

There are now thousands of people all over the UK who have been informed, trained, educated and inspired by the Camp for Climate Action, and are gearing up for more action (as Green Party Speaker Derek Wall put it, the camp “built capacity, with a vengeance”). Hundreds of new people have been drawn into the movement (the poets and folk singers at the camp's open mic session were joined by rappers, post-rock noise merchants and a teenage emo-punk duo), and loads of older activists have been re-energised and re-inspired. If you want to know more about what’s happening near you and how to get involved, have a look at, or Indymedia, or ask whichever one of your online friends seems to be a member of the right sort of Facebook groups.

Even if you’re not ready to take peaceful direct action yourself, then think about what you can do to support it – the actions around the camp couldn’t have happened without the time and energy of hundreds of helpers, and the camp would have received far less favourable media coverage without the quiet (or, better yet, noisy) support of millions of people across the UK. So turn up to meetings, make sandwiches, organise benefit gigs, gather donations, give talks, write supportive letters to the local paper, set up or join community food/transport/renewable power projects, create stunning political artwork for people to take on demonstrations…there’s loads you can do. The Climate Camp was important, but it was still just one step along the path to building a real, powerful movement for climate action in this country – a movement that we all need to be a part of.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Mr Foot! I’d like you to meet Mr Bullet.

Oh my word. Whoever would have thought it?

The award for the biggest supporter of the Camp for Climate Action 2007 goes to…the British Airports Authority and their ludicrous attempt at an injunction.

Aided and abetted by corporation-lovin’ lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden (famed for defending poor defenceless multinationals from nasty peaceful protesters), BAA have spent the last week attempting to slap climate change campaigners with the most extraordinary and wide ranging criminal injunction in British legal history. They wanted to make it illegal for members of fifteen groups (ranging from local anti-runway lobby groups to the National Trust) to protest anywhere near Heathrow Airport, including the Piccadilly Line and parts of two major motorways. BAA tried to use the 1997 Prevention from Harassment Act to criminalise up to 5 million people and prevent them from coming to the Camp for Climate Action (14th – 21st August).

They completely and utterly failed. One farcical court case later and BAA’s proposed sweeping ban on peaceful protest was reduced to a small civil injunction against three individuals and the direct action group Plane Stupid, with the upshot being that if certain people do certain things at Heathrow that are already illegal, then they might face stronger penalties than usual, if it can be proved in court that they were breaking the terms of the injunction as well as the law. For this glorious non-triumph BAA ended up paying not only Lawson-Cruttenden’s doubtless extortionate fees, they also had to pay for everyone else’s costs as well (apart from the three injunctees and Plane Stupid, whose costs were covered in any case).

The mini-injunction (minjunction?) that BAA ended up with provides no extra powers of arrest and does not cover the Climate Camp, which will go triumphantly ahead and will probably be much bigger than it would have been thanks to the enormous amount of publicity generated by the court case. (You can check out the latest fantastic-looking timetable of workshops and events planned for the camp here.)

Other good things to come out of this:

  • Thanks to the juicy court case story, campaigners were able to pop up all over the media this week talking about the link between aviation and climate change;
  • BAA managed to simultaneously look evil and buffoonish, which can’t really add much credibility to their already-pretty-pathetic arguments for airport expansion;
  • The judge (Mrs Justice Swift) made some clear rulings on how the Prevention from Harassment Act was not intended to be used to stifle peaceful protest, which will hopefully make it much harder for amoral slimetoads like TLC to play their nasty little legal games in the future.

There was one slightly sour twist in yesterday’s events, however: those cheeky rapscallions BAA sneaked out of court before the hearing was finished and, displaying the integrity and honesty that make them such a beacon of good corporate practice, they told all the media that they’d won the case. Combine this with a healthy dash of lazy journalism and what do you get? All the major media outlets trumpeting BAA’s “victory” for a few hours before getting round to reading the results properly and realising they’d got it wrong. By this time, the almost hilariously dire freebie “London Paper” had already printed their brilliant “Heathrow kicks out eco-demo” headline, accompanied by an article so crudely cut-and-pasted from the newswires that it included both of the following sentences:

But campaigners claim the order will stop up to 5 million people using the roads and public transport near the airport.”


A spokesman for Plane Stupid, one of the organisations behind the protest, said: “BAA sought a criminal injunction against 5 million people and in fact didn’t get anything like that – it was a complete failure.””

Sheer genius.

Even the usually-reliable George Monbiot managed to get confused over this – in today’s Guardian he’s written what would have been a great article about the erosion of the right to peaceful protest if only BAA had won their case. Except they didn’t.

One last time then, just to clear this up: as explained on the camp’s website, the Camp for Climate Action is completely injunction-free, is going ahead as planned, and is going to be utterly brilliant.

Special thanks must go to BAA for all of their hard work in making this possible.

Thursday, 2 August 2007


See below for a statement from the Camp for Climate Action on the injunction that BAA are currently trying to get imposed on peaceful protestors (originally posted as a comment to my earlier posting). For some background see this Independent article, for the news from yesterday's hot court action see this Indymedia article. The court case is due to finish tomorrow, and the first best place to look for the outcome will almost certainly be Indymedia.

Sorry I've not posted for a while - ludicrous busyosity!

Proper update soon...well, probably at the end of August.



Whether or not BAA win their injunction today, the Camp for Climate Action and direct action against corporate criminals will go ahead.

We accuse BAA of abusing these 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.

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

We call on anyone who wants to find a way back from the brink of climate catastrophe to come to the Camp for Climate Action near Heathrow Airport from the 14th to the 21st August. To join a day of mass action against corporate climate criminals on the 19th, and to learn together how we can turn this situation around.

The responsibility to tackle climate change lies with us all.


The injunction's under the Protection from Harrassment Act 1997, intended to protect vulnerable women from dangerous stalker ex-boyfriends. It's insane that one of the best protected sites in the UK could feel harrassed by peaceful protesters outside its perimeter, let alone a member of the RSPB with a balloon - one of the named prohibited items - standing on a Finsbury Park tube platform.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A Flight Of Fancy

(Note: I updated the passenger statistics in this post and put in proper references on 07/07/07. Instead of watching Live Earth. I feel I made the right choice.)

Slightly teeth-grinding article in the Observer Travel supplement this week. After a great start (two opening paragraphs about the Camp for Climate Action) the article meanders with cheerful incoherence through a mish-mash of statistics and quotes from the Indian government, Airbus, a Kenyan health and conservation project, the British Airline Pilots Association, an engineering professor from Lancaster University, the Tyndall Centre and Greenpeace, before concluding:

"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. But in the real world, with the US and the developing world demanding thousands of new planes, surely we have to take a more sophisticated approach: to choose airlines with greener, newer fleets, and thus encourage plane makers to prioritise environmental performance; to travel to destinations that help local communities rather than destroy them; to take the train where possible; to reduce carbon emissions at home; and, above all, lobby politicians to tackle deforestation and to switch to green forms of energy.

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

Sigh. Once again a well-meaning journalist tries desperately to prove that we can tackle climate change without a drastic reduction in flights. I have some sympathy - it must be a really, really tough thing to come to terms with if you're used to flying off to all kinds of wonderful places as a travel reporter - but the unpalatable truth is that it's a highly destructive activity and if left unchecked will wreck all our efforts to reduce emissions in other sectors. Flying is a luxury - most of the population of the planet have never done it, and never will. There is no sustainable alternative, so we need to do much, much less of it.

For a more clear-eyed viewpoint - and a fantastic example of the self-contradictory nature of the mainstream press - you might want to check out the article about Plane Stupid from the same edition of the paper. Or, if you've got a few minutes to kill, you could join me on a merry journey through rant-land as I make myself feel better by pointing out the main things that are stupid or wrong in this article. Hurrah!

"Some ferries emit more CO2 than planes"

This is true for the high-speed ones with the inbuilt shopping centres which come out worse than planes even when you include radiative forcing (the extra impact from other greenhouse gases that planes emit, and the fact that they're emitted in the upper atmosphere). However, just because some ferries are highly polluting doesn't magically stop planes from being highly polluting. The same goes for inefficient cars and badly-designed trains. We shouldn't be using any of these things. Stupid argument. Next!

"Even if we cut our flights, the rest of the world's flights will still grow massively - India, China, blah blah blah"

Cutting flights in Britain would send a hugely significant signal to the rest of the world. It's hard to think of many things that could send a stronger message about the unsustainability of air travel. More generally, action on climate change must begin with the biggest polluters, and if we want to have any credibility in talking about global emissions cuts with the rest of the world we have to get our own house in order first. The Government's plans on aviation expansion would make it impossible to hit even their own inadequate targets, even using their favoured wacky measuring system of only including UK citizens' outgoing flights (even though, you know, most people do fly back as well). So this argument is pretty weak as well.

"People talk about taking fewer flights but no-one's really doing it, or if they are Ryanair haven't noticed, and it wouldn't make much difference if they did, except that we only need to take a couple fewer flights each per year to hit the Government targets"

Huh? OK, I'm going to ignore all the weird self-contradictory stuff in this article and just respond to the points raised. Clearly, the fact that people have started realising that flying everywhere is bad for the climate is a positive step, and shows the message is getting through. However, any individual action people are taking seems to be being lost amidst the overall growth of aviation. The author of the Observer article enjoys some GCSE maths fun by working out that, on average, five flights are taken per person in the UK per year, and so
to make a 60% cut in emissions "we simply need to slowly wean ourselves down to two annual flights - one return trip". This is misleading in three ways. Firstly, it misrepresents the reality of the IPCC's carbon emissions reduction target: to hit a global reduction of 60% by 2050 will require larger cuts in the most polluting activities like flying in order to allow developing nations some room to develop – unless being able to fly out to one’s Spanish cottage every year is just as important as powering a Tanzanian hospital or an Indian school (this is what Contraction & Convergence is all about). Secondly, it pretends that all flights are the same length. Thirdly, it ignores the fact that UK citizens are not really taking five flights each per year - it is a minority of wealthy people who are taking the majority of these flights. Here are some statistics you might find interesting (with thanks to Airport Watch):

* The richest 18 per cent of the UK population are responsible for 54 percent of flights, whilst the poorest 18 per cent are responsible for just 5 percent (calculated by WDM based on 2006 data from the Office of National Statistics).

* In 2005, 86% of the passengers who used Heathrow were from the better-off socio-economic categories A, B and C1 (my calculations, using data from the Civil Aviation Authority 2005 Passenger Survey)

* The average annual income of people using Stansted (where low cost carriers account for nearly all the flights) is more than £50,000 (
Civil Aviation Authority 2005 Passenger Survey)

* Each year, 60% of UK residents do not step onto a plane (MORI poll 2001).

The article claims that 3% of people have stopped flying and 10% have cut down because of "environmental concerns". If this is true, fantastic - but this will have little impact on the overall flight numbers if it doesn't include the people who are actually taking all those flights. The continuing boom in airline ticket sales suggests that it probably doesn't.

This is why campaigners like me aren't just asking people to stop flying - we're demanding that the Government halt, and then reverse, airport expansion. The only thing absolutely guaranteed to reduce the number of flights in the UK is a reduction in airport capacity. If we don't seriously reduce our flying, we are absolutely guaranteed to miss all our CO2 reduction targets, destabilise the climate and turn the planet into a floods-droughts-storms-and-resource-wars lucky dip of disaster. It's that simple.

“Flying is only 1.7% of global emissions – deforestation is much more important”

There's actually a good point hiding in here somewhere - deforestation is a massive problem, and we don't just contribute to it by purchasing forest-unfriendly products (burgers, palm oil, Government office refurbishments); the UK Government's role in the
WTO, IMF and World Bank helps to encourage, finance and defend disastrously destructive projects all over the world. We do need to take action on this. However, there are some excellent reasons for the current campaign focus on flights:

Flying is growing rapidly, and we have the opportunity to stop it before it gets completely out of control. Flying is done by the wealthy, which puts the onus firmly onto us. Flying is an activity that produces benefit for a tiny minority but has a proportionally huge impact on the climate. When we try to figure out what a sustainable, low-carbon lifestyle would look like, flying is too polluting to fit into it as more that a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime luxury. In addition, one of the major technological solutions being suggested to reduce the impacts of flights – biofuels – would massively increase deforestation. The UK Government is proposing a huge airport expansion that would wipe out all of its own climate change targets. If we don't win this one, everything else becomes much, much more difficult.

“Stopping flying is less important than insulating your roof”

Clearly, this depends on how much you fly! But more importantly, we know that there is a limit to how much greenhouse gas we can put into the atmosphere. This means there is a limit to how much we can each emit per year (somewhere between 1 and 2 tonnes of CO2e per capita by 2030, depending on whose analysis you go with). This means a massive, across-the-board cut in the UK’s emissions – we have to cut our energy use AND our flights. We can’t choose between them. The only difference is that no-one in the UK needs to fly, whereas everyone needs a warm home.

"Techno! Techno! Techno! Technofix!"

The absolute best case airline industry scenario is that aeroplane fuel efficiency might increase by 1-2% per year.
Planes have a lifespan of about 20 years and so are replaced too slowly for efficiency gains to take effect at even this slow rate. Air journeys from the UK are currently increasing by 4% per year. No-one has any feasible plans for running planes on anything except kerosene, or kerosene with a splash of biofuel (bye bye rainforests).

“Flying isn’t a luxury activity – it’s vital for tourism in countries like Kenya”

This argument is fairly awful for three reasons. Firstly, unchecked climate change will do far worse damage to countries like Kenya than the loss of tourist revenue, and the fossil fuel industries that fuel the planes are already destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the Global South. Secondly, the only way to cut global emissions whilst still allowing poor countries to develop is for the wealthy countries to make deeper, earlier cuts – with flights being top of the list of luxuries we can afford to lose. Thirdly, the equitable solutions to climate change that social movements in the South are demanding – renewable energy transfer, local and regional food and energy networks, the halting of extractive industries, community control of land and resources, a moratorium on biofuels and destructive offsetting projects – have the potential to provide far greater benefits to the people of the South than tourism ever has.

OK. Enough ranting. I'm going to try to condense some of this into a probably-doomed-but-worth-a-go letter to the Observer.

D xXx

Friday, 25 May 2007

A Changing Media Climate?

Following on from the last post, looking at some of the other press reports (the Guardian, Bloomberg, the Times) in conjunction with the Telegraph article mentioned earlier, shows a strange trend – they all take a reasonable or even sympathetic angle on the protest. The Times is probably the most surprising, with a well-balanced and even – gasp – interesting article on how more “mainstream” NGOs are now considering non-violent direct action to be a reasonable tactic in the face of environmental destruction and climate chaos.

A big chunk of the credit for this must go to the volunteers on the Climate Camp media team who’ve spent the week talking to journalists and newsdesks to ensure that our side of the story gets across. But perhaps – just perhaps – this more sympathetic tone reflects the fact that the public mood has changed in our favour, and that activists standing up for the climate and for social justice can no longer be written off so easily?

Well, maybe. Just don’t read the Express. But then, when isn’t that good advice?

Anarchists and Eco-Warriors

From last night’s Evening Standard:

Thousands of green campaigners are planning to cause massive disruption at Heathrow airport.

‘Eco-warriors’ say they will set up a Greenham Common-style protest camp near the perimeter fence.

They intend to use it as a base to disrupt flights at the peak of the tourist season in an attempt to focus attention on climate change and global warming.

At a secret meeting in London at the weekend, protesters said they would occupy land around Heathrow between 14 to 21 August.

From there they will threaten the boundary and attempt to cause havoc inside the airport - or at least tie up hundreds of police.

The (lack of) Standard’s parent paper, the Daily Mail, unsurprisingly carries a very similar article.

Ah, those lazy right-wing journalistic standards we know and love. Anyone who’s disillusioned with what passes for a political system in this country and sick of the three major parties’ utter inability to grasp the urgency of the climate change issue, and who therefore decides to take a stand in the name of our common future is clearly an anarchist-eco-hippy-tree-munching-lentil-loving-mud-warrior and must be DESTROYED.


Luckily, the Climate Camp media team are darned sorted and well-organised, and through well-prepared press releases and media appearances have so far mostly succeeded in managing this sort of dross and putting out the real story of what the Camp is actually about. A quick web search reveals a good selection of much more balanced articles with significantly less mouth-foaming – it’s all rather refreshing, really. Even the Telegraph has a surprisingly friendly take on things.

I thought I’d try to do my bit to help, so last night I wrote the following response to post in the Comments section of the Standard and the Mail articles:

“The direct action mentioned in the above article will be happening as part of the Camp for Climate Action – see The camp will be a 10-day event encompassing practical low-impact living, education and training as well as direct action.

“As already announced on the website, the aim of the action is not to target passengers, but to highlight the lunacy of the government's airport expansion plans, target industry giants profiteering from the climate crisis, and raise awareness of the need to fly less. The camp will also support local residents in their long-term struggle against the building of a third runway and the destruction of their communities. In the interests of public safety there will be no attempt to blockade runways.

“The meeting last weekend was not “secret”, but was advertised widely and free for anyone to attend. This are an open, non-hierarchical movement of people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, united by the belief that we need to take action, as citizens, to avert climate catastrophe. Labelling everyone involved in the action as “anarchists” and “eco-warriors” is inaccurate and fails to represent the diversity of the people involved; anyone reading this now could walk into the camp and be a part of it, or take action where they live and be a part of the same growing movement for climate sanity.

“Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and all our efforts to tackle climate change in other sectors will be undone by the government’s proposals for massive growth in air travel. Government and business have already shown that they are unwilling or unable to act with the urgency required to avert disastrous climate change. It’s time to take things into our own hands – please visit and learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference.”

Clearly this was far too long, but it made me feel better. Other members of the excellent Climate Camp networking team then took up the baton, wrote a shorter, punchier response and actually got the Standard to post a good chunk of it in the (moderated) Comments under the Standard article (though there's no sign of it on the Mail site yet).

Only a small thing, but indicative of the hundreds of small but potent actions that are being carried out every day in the build-up to the Climate Camp. As a huge, sprawling, disparate collective who are organising - in a non-hierarchical way - a massive, high-profile and hopefully very effective action camp, I find it really encouraging that these smaller details are still being picked up on. Of course, this assumes that we're on the case with the big things too...ahhh, of course we are.

This is a great thing to be a part of. If you're reading this, you should join in too. Get yourself over to the Climate Camp website and find out how to get involved!


The Festival Of The Summer

HOT NEWS. See below, then visit to find out more and get involved. Hope to see you at the camp!

Danny x


2007 location announced!
Camp for Climate Action comes to Heathrow this summer: 14th – 21st August

Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and all our efforts to tackle climate change in other sectors are undone by the massive growth in air travel. Holding the camp at Heathrow aims to highlight the lunacy of the government's airport expansion plans, target industry giants profiteering from the climate crisis, and raise awareness of the need to fly less. The camp will also support local residents in their long-term struggle against the building of a third runway and the destruction of their communities.

There will be a day of mass direct action aiming to disrupt the activities of the airport and the aviation industry, but in the interests of public safety there will be no attempt to blockade runways.

Although the location is different, the philosophy of the camp remains the same: to be a place for the burgeoning network of people taking radical action on climate change around the country to come together for a week of low-impact living, education, debate, networking, strategising, celebration, and direct action. The camp will feature over 100 workshops covering topics such as climate change impacts, carbon offsetting, biofuels, peak oil, permaculture, practical renewables, campaign strategy, skills for direct action, and much more. Run without leaders by everyone who comes along, it will be a working ecological village using renewable energy, composting waste and sourcing food locally.

It all comes down to us, now. We are the last generation that can do anything about climate change. In 20 or 30 years' time, should we not change our ways, we'll be committed to emissions increases that will see forests burn, soils decay, oceans rise, and millions of people die. If we don't get this issue right, so much else is lost too.

We still have time, but not for long. Make it count.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007


I’m slightly dazed. I’m a bit confused. But I’m also Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam Champion 2006/7!

Yup. Last night, I somehow emerged triumphant from Oxford’s infamous annual live poetry showdown using a poem about consumerism and the environment, and a poem about pigeons bent on world domination. I couldn’t tell you the exact scores but it must have been pretty ruddy close – the other contenders were all excellent (particularly Sian Robins-Grace, who came in second place), plus I think I scared the judges a bit by adopting an (admittedly rather disturbing) high-pitched freak-voice for parts of the performance. I should probably have given them some warning, but of course that’s far less fun. Heh.

Poetry slams are weird things – each poet performs a short piece, then the judges (who are 5 random audience members at H&T) hold up scorecards to show what they think. This makes the whole thing pretty unpredictable, as you can probably imagine; excellent poems can get low scores if they’re not immediate enough in their impact, and poems you wouldn’t think much of written down can capture the crowd if they’re performed with enough panache. Poetry slams are great fun, but are probably best thought of as a way of raising the profile of live poetry and getting more people involved (it worked for me), rather than an objective method of finding the “best” poets.

All of which means that although I did put a lot of time and effort into writing and practicing the poems, I wouldn’t have won without a big fat dollop of good luck as well, and so I shouldn’t let it go to my head. Despite all of this, though, I can’t help feeling REALLY EXCITED, especially coz the poem “Don’t Buy It” – which is my attempt to challenge the warm fluffy myth of “ethical” consumerism – got the highest score of the evening. Hurrah - people are up for a bit of politics in their poetry, based on this totally representative sample of people who live in Oxford and go to performance poetry competitions!

I’d better call a halt to all this shameless self-congratulation, but if anyone’s actually interested in my poetry here are some ways that you can see/hear it:

  • Buy the book and CD “This Poem Is Sponsored By…” from Corporate Watch for only seven pounds – it includes “Don’t Buy It” and loads of great political poetry from an amazing selection of poets.
  • Contact Hammer & Tongue for information on their forthcoming CD “OxTongue”, featuring performances by Oxford-based poets (including me).
  • Come to one of my upcoming performances: the Christian Aid climate change poetry event in Oxford on May 15th, the Corporate Watch book launch as part of Acoustic Night in Bristol on June 18th, or (hopefully) the Poetry & Words tent at the Glastonbury Festival!
  • Go to my lonely, barren new MySpace page (which I’m still in two minds about because of the Murdoch connection).
  • Send me an email at dannychivers [at] and I’ll keep you updated on future gigs and things.

Enough of this. I’ll try to do a proper post again soon about exciting important things like the Climate Camp and suchlike (OK, I'm getting overexcited about this whole embedded link thing now).



Monday, 9 April 2007

And Only Two Months Later...

...I've finally got round to posting my summary thoughts on the World Social Forum! See below if you're interested.

In other news, the Hammer & Tongue poetry slam final (1st May) is hurtling towards me and filling me with some apprehension but mostly with excitement. All I need to do is gather up the various bits of scrawled-on paper from around my bedroom and somehow transform their contents into punchy three-minute performance poetry nuggets (because everyone loves a punchy nugget). I need to do this quite soon. Well, very soon. In between all of these other things I'm meant to be doing. Ah, I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm currently being haunted by the pigeons of the past, they seem determined to claw their way into a poem somewhere...we'll see what happens.

Anyway. I'd best get on with some research I'm doing for the Camp For Climate Action (which I can't recommend enough to you all - come along, it's going to be amazing).



P.S. So far, according to my helpful web-counter/stalking service, over 440 different people have read my Global Warming Swindle post. Which does make me feel glad that I put it up here, although I have a sneaking feeling that more than 440 people watched the programme, so I still have some way to go yet...


Perspectives From The World Social Forum (WSF)

At the end of January I represented People and Planet at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. The WSF is an incredible global gathering of grassroots activists and social movements, with the emphasis firmly on people and groups from the Global South who are struggling against injustice and environmental destruction in their own communities.

This year, around 60,000 people came to the Forum, and I had the privilege of meeting – and attending workshops, discussions and rallies with – a range of incredible activists from around the world. I wrote the following summary with People and Planet campaigners in mind, so it focuses particularly on the issues P&P is currently working on - climate change, extractive industry, trade, and AIDS/HIV; however, I hope that it might be of interest and use to anyone - not just P&P campaigners - who wants to hear more about the perspectives of Southern activists on these vital global justice and environmental issues.The Big Issues
Although thousands of different groups staged hundreds of meetings over the four days of the WSF, certain issues kept coming up again and again. These included:

Free Trade Agreements

There was enormous concern over the damage caused to the lives and livelihoods of the poor by unfair trade rules, with especial focus on EPAs (European Partnership Agreements). As the World Trade Organisation’s own efforts to install more and more unfair trade rules seem to have stalled, individual states and groups of states have started coming up with bilateral agreements of their own, with EPAs between Europe and Africa being the most high-profile and pernicious example. A new campaign is building around this issue...

Debt Repudiation

When it comes to snappy slogans, “Repudiate Now!” isn’t going to go down in campaign-soundbite history. But despite the awkwardness of the phrase, the concept behind it could represent the next major step in the campaign around “Third World” debt. Southern activists – particularly the Jubilee South coalition – were rallying hundreds of groups at the WSF behind the concept of debt non-repayment (which is what repudiation means). Tired of all the posturing from wealthy governments, and the tiny crumbs of debt relief (with strings attached – if you can imagine crumbs with strings attached to them) offered so far, Southern activists have changed their direction of attack and are instead demanding that the governments of poor indebted countries simply refuse to hand over their repayments. If they are successful, then the implications for the economies and banks of wealthy countries – many of which are propped up by international debt – could be enormous. If nothing else, this could be a way for the poorer countries to hold the rich ones to ransom and demand serious changes to anything from trade rules to Structural Adjustment to access to medicines and technology.

Extractive Industries

Some people are calling it “the new scramble for Africa” – but it isn’t only affecting African nations. People all over the world are finding their lands, local environments and ways of life threatened by a growing hunger for resources from the high-tech throwaway cultures of the wealthier countries, as well as from the breakneck (but uneven) development of countries like China, India, and Brazil. I met activists from across the globe who are struggling against rapacious mining and drilling corporations as well as corrupt governments in the battle over land, health, and the environment – and sometimes winning. There are surprising success stories out there that we rarely hear about – with the Ogoni women’s non-violent campaign against Shell’s gas flaring in Nigeria being just one example.

Biofuels and Carbon Offsets

This goes hand-in-hand with the issue of extraction, as it involves struggles over land rights and the environment, and links into climate change. I met campaigners from Brazil who were almost spitting blood in their rage about their agricultural land being turned over to growing sugar cane for ethanol production (“feeding cars instead of hungry bellies”), and Indonesians who had watched rainforest being razed to the ground to create palm oil plantations (thus contributing more to climate change than the petrol they’re meant to replace). I also heard the stories of people from Latin America who’d been promised income from carbon offsetting plantations and had instead been locked into financially crippling legal agreements to oversee unproductive stands of dying trees, planted in the wrong place in the wrong climate. When I asked the Indian activist and academic Dr Vandana Shiva what UK campaigners should be focusing on, she said “BP and Shell want to remove Indian farmers from their land and replace them with biofuel plantations”. Meanwhile, as several Southern activists pointed out, fossil fuel extraction continues apace – biofuels seem to be supplementing, not replacing, oil, coal and gas…

HIV and AIDS Independence

One of the most inspiring meetings I attended took place in a room packed with (mostly African) AIDS activists. They were there to share their experiences, forge alliances, and put forward their ideas for action. Their tone was almost unanimous: they were sick of having to rely on donations from wealthy countries – often channelled through corrupt governments – to provide the care and treatment that their communities so desperately needed. They were full of suggestions for raising the money themselves, tackling corruption and finding ways to take control of this issue into their own hands. I asked what campaigners in the North could do to support them; I was told that the best thing the North could do would be to stop screwing over their economies with unfair trade rules, privatising their healthcare through the IMF, supporting corrupt regimes and using intellectual property regimes to keep the price of AIDS treatment too high. In other words, although they conceded that right now they are dependent on money from organisations such as the Global Fund, they were more interested in trying to remove the barriers that are preventing them from developing their own healthcare and treatment programmes in the longer term, rather than just calling for more donations.

Plenty More

I wasn’t able to go to everything! But campaigners for labour rights, gender equality, gay/lesbian rights, corporate accountability and a whole host of other issues were very much in attendance. For a flavour of all this – and for the story of the local Kenyans who stormed the event after they couldn’t afford the entry fee – see my earlier posts from the Forum itself.

The Other Issue

Climate change, however, was not on the agenda – or at least, it was only being explicitly discussed in a handful of sessions. Yes, that surprised me too at first, until I realised that the majority of Southern activists are spending their time dealing with more immediate and pressing issues, and that the great majority of the research into climate change science and policy is still restricted to the wealthier countries. I did meet a number of activists who were very well-informed and inspiring, but they were very much the exception. As things transpired, I ended up standing up myself in front of the Assembly of Social Movements at the end of the Forum, and trying to remind everyone (in hopefully not too nervous and garbled a way) that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but an issue of global justice – a position that is becoming increasingly popular amongst those Southern movements and governments who are becoming vocal on climate change.

Some Campaign-Related Thoughts

Following on from all of that, here are some of the conclusions I personally drew from all of this (although you’re obviously free to disagree!):

  • There is an enormous amount of amazing and inspiring activism going on all over the world that we rarely hear about. It might help us if we try to remind ourselves that we are not alone in this country, or even in the English-speaking world – there are so many people out there whom we could work together with, and learn a lot from. If anyone working on any of the above issues wants to be put in touch with the relevant Southern activists I met at the Forum please let me know - it is vital that we continue to build these links.

  • Although making links with Southern activists around the stand-alone issue of climate change may be difficult, there is real potential for forming alliances around the related issues of fossil fuel extraction, access to energy, biofuels, land-grabbing carbon offset projects, and the concept of climate justice (everyone has the right to develop, and the countries that have got rich by polluting the shared atmosphere have a responsibility to provide clean technology to the rest of the world). We have a lot of potential allies out there who are struggling right now with these various impacts of our global fossil fuel addiction, and who ultimately share our goals.

  • Many of the issues relating to poverty, uneven development, inequality, health and the environment which are affecting people across the world are either being directly caused or massively exacerbated by international rules on trade, investment and debt. These are issues where Northern governments – and thus, potentially, Northern activists – currently have far more direct power to influence things than people in the South (with some exceptions, such as the possibility of debt non-repayment); however, the voices of Southern activists must be included in this debate if we are to find equitable solutions. Finding ways to tackle these root causes will be very difficult and require global networking and alliances, but could potentially have enormous effects.

  • Many influential people in developing countries were educated in the North. Many people who are currently international students at UK Universities will go on to play very significant roles in their home countries. Could student activists in the UK be doing more to work together with international students on these issues?

Some different perspectives:

Jess and Adam’s new Internationalist blogs

A more critical viewpoint from Firoze Manji of Pambazuka News

...and another one from Kathambi Kinoti, with a particular focus on the involvement of women at the Forum.