Saturday, 12 December 2009

I should have known, really

Well, surprise surprise, I'm here in Copenhagen and I'm too busy doing things to have time to write about them. Have already seen some amazing things and met some incredible people. Outside the talks is totally where it's at - far more interesting than inside I reckon. Will try to do a proper update when I get a chance!

In the meantime, check out Jess's blog for her experiences within the summit, and a video interview with the lead negotiator for Bolivia...

Monday, 7 December 2009

COPping Off

Well, this is it - I'm off to Copenhagen on Wednesday.

I'll be doing research for a climate change book I'm writing, and will also attempt to blog from the protests as best I can, web access permitting...

Watch this space for update-y things as and when. Also keep an eye on Jess's blog, as she'll be casting a critical eye over goings-on inside the conference centre.

In the meantime, why not watch Lord Monckton and Al Gore square off in a rap battle?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Copenhagen summit is screwed - but that doesn't mean the rest of us are

Worried about climate change and the Copenhagen talks? Go and read this excellent article immediately.

Then go here for some ideas of what to do about it.

Then tell all your friends.

We still have a chance here, people. Let's get on it.

Number Ones

Merrick has slapped me with one of those blog meme challenge thingies - to find five phrases which, when typed into Google, bring up my blog as the number one result.

To give some context, Merrick's own phrases of Google-related glory include "An old man wanking into a sock" and "Caviar enemas". Lovely. You won't be surprised to learn that he's awarding bonus points for anything that sounds even slightly salacious or perverse, bless him.

Here are five of my number ones, which I believe reflect my spectrum of writing topics fairly well:

"sex kills more people than terrorism"
"Pink and purple sparkly cowboy hats"
"Zombie-freezing technology"
"sprayed with Kelvin Mackenzie's bile"
"police premature ejection"

Though I'd like to also give honourable mentions to:

"The people vs. climate chaos"


"a boat carved out of a giant carrot"

This particular phrase returns 101 exact matches, all of them referring to me. Which I think, according to the rules of the internet, means that I now have to get it carved on my headstone.

Merrick tagged a few others too - you can check out their results here (this is also a good excuse to plug these rather delicious blogs):

Alice in Blogland
The Quiet Road

I'm now meant to tag five other blogs and thus spread this delightful bit of time-wasting across the internet. So let's see if I can persuade this lot to do it:

Punk Science
Contains Mild Peril*
Graham's Grumbles
Chicken Yoghurt

Or if you fancy having a go yourself, why not declare your results in the comments below?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Mark Lynas was ill

I got drafted in at the last minute to do a climate talk for the Women's Institute this afternoon.

I was given only the vaguest of briefs, so I tried to cover the basic science, climate denialism, where the UK's emissions were coming from (with the help of the Walk The Walk training that I worked on for COIN), and what we could do about it. With a focus on moving away from individual lifestyle choices towards campaigning and creating solutions in our communities, with a burst of anti-consumerist poetry at the end.

I had no idea what to expect...but I have to say that they were one of the most switched-on, engaged and vocal(!) audiences I've ever spoken in front of. Loads of useful discussion and practical suggestions from the floor, and the feeling that they really were going to go back home and take some useful action on this stuff. Followed by tea and cake all round (which reminded me that I must send the WI some vegan recipes...). Next stop Climate Camp?

This means that I've now done climate action talks for "excluded" teenagers, head teachers, the police, and the Women's Institute, as well as having had a head-to-head debate with someone from Spiked (ugh), and been sprayed with Kelvin Mackenzie's bile on live radio. I now truly feel ready for anything life can throw at me. With the possible exception of rampaging cows.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Mongrel Hordes

"The indigenous British people" = Celts + Romans + Saxons + Angles + Jutes + Vikings + Normans...which brings us up to the 11th Century. Over the next 1000 years, chuck international commerce, the victims of the slave trade and the imperial colonies into the mix, and what do we get? Bloody foreigners, coming over here and being our ancestors. I blame the EU.

Ode to E.ON

Friday, 16 October 2009

Swoop Swoop Swoop

Direct action works:

See you on the Swoop?

You really couldn't make it up

Had some fun at a BP recruitment event last night. Tee hee.

At the end, some of us cornered Peter Mather, Head of BP UK, and had a bit of a chat with him. He said some rather...interesting things, as Jess Worth documents on her blog:
He waxed lyrical about how amazingly sensitive about locals’ rights BP are these days. ‘20 or 30 years ago, I admit, the industry was doing some pretty bad things. But those days are gone. You can’t just go round the world raping and pillaging any more.’
If you fancy a slightly outraged chuckle, then read the rest.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Video Frenzy

Having spent two years muttering to myself about needing some online videos of my poetry, suddenly there's been a mad rush of them. It's getting so you can't type "ranting performance poetry video climate change bespectacled freak" into a search engine without my leering face popping up in front of your startled eyes. This is my attempt to compile everything out there so far.

Most recently, the following video was made by Tenner Films at Dungeness nuclear power station, as part of a series called "Thirteen Short Films About Nuclear Power". It's my response to using nuke power as a "solution" to climate change:

Then there's the series of short films I'm making with Undercurrents, the A-Z of Climate Change. Most of them contain some poetry, but several are straight-up videos of the following poems:

Don't Buy It (B for Buying Ethically):

Consumed (O for Outsourced):

Lifestyle Choice (L for Lifestyle):

The Sustainability Manager's Statement To The Board Of Directors (M for Magic Bullets):

Plus there are the videos that various helpful people have made of me performing at the Climate Camps in April and August:

Lifestyle Choice

Don't Buy It

Risk Assessment

Election Day

And as if that wasn't enough, I was on Radio 4 last night and all (if you're so inclined, you'll be able to hear it here for the next week or so).

So apologies for all that.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Various Exciting Things

Hi all,

News Part One: My debut album is very close to being released! The wonderful Stig is designing the front cover for me - it's a work in progress, but so far it looks like this:

Wanted: more images of ridiculous unecessary eco-tat, please let me know if you've seen any good ones...

The track listing for the album is:

Don't Buy It
Risk Assessment
Collapse Part 2
The Sustainability Manager's Statement to the Board of Directors
Stakeholder Engagement
A Billion Pounds So Far, Apparently
Election Day
International Emergency
Their Wings Wings Beat
The Right Thing
Lifestyle Choice

It's all very exciting, and I'm taking advance orders right now! I'm going to be dishing out the album using a sliding scale of donations - you can choose how much to donate, based on how much you can afford and how much you think it's worth, and bearing in mind that I'm a skint self-employed writer/researcher/campaigner/eco-poet and really could use your support...

I'd suggest somewhere between £2 (which will cover the costs of production and UK postage) and £10 (if you're feeling especially generous), but it really is up to you. To order a copy, contact me at dannychivers[at] and we'll get it sorted - thanks so much. I'm away until September 27th but will respond to your emails very soon after that.

News Part Two: Tonight, I'm off to take part in the semi finals of the Radio 4 National Poetry Slam. Wish me luck - and listen out for it on the radio, at 11pm on Thursday October 1st. If you're here because you heard me on the radio - hello, very glad to have you here, feel free to browse around the site, sign up to my email list (the box on the right) and order my album (which includes both the poems I performed at the slam - see above). Marvellous.

News Part Three: The fun-packed micro-budget series of short climate change films I'm making with Undercurrents continues apace - see for the latest!

News Part Four and Five: I've got some interesting projects on with both Tenner Films and the Guardian, but can't reveal anything else just this space...

Thanks for reading - when I'm back, I'll put something more interesting up instead of all this outrageous self-promotional nonsense. Until then, here's yet another video of me capering and gurning about in a field:

Monday, 7 September 2009

More live prancing and flailing

The wonderful Jody recorded a couple of my performances at the Climate Camp on Blackheath - "Election Day" on the Tripod Stage and "Risk Assessment" in the Main Marquee. A bit of background noise on both of them, but you should get the general idea:

I'll write up a proper report-back from the Camp when I get the chance. In sumary: it was utterly excellent and there's a genuine feeling that we're building a real movement here...

Friday, 14 August 2009

Listen To This

Climate Camp(s) 2009

55-minute special featuring the voices of Climate Camp activists. Arthur of the London Camp for Climate Action media team is live in the studio discussing

* the rapid take-up of the Climate Camp model around the world - there are over a dozen Camps around the globe this year
* policing and legal aspects and
* the justification for direct action in the face of inaction to prevent devastating climate change

We have interviews with four London campers on

* what’s planned for this year’s camp
* legal and policing aspects
* the direct action training that’s on offer and
* the mass action that’s planned for later in the year

We also have four short statements from the Camps in Australia, New Zealand, US and Finland; and a range of voices taken from a recent Climate Camp promotional video.

A political reality may be emerging here that civil action could well force the government to act. This might even be one of those rare ocassions where everyday but resolute citizens have a lasting impact on the great issue of our time. - Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Less Talk, More Wind*

I've written an article about my experiences at Vestas, for the New Internationalist.

Do wander over there if you have a minute.

* This isn't my slogan, it was nicked from a placard at the Vestas camp...

Monday, 3 August 2009

Save Vestas

Spent a few days down at the Vestas occupation last week. Utterly inspiring.

I'm writing up a piece for the New Internationalist blog which should go up tomorrow morning, but in the meantime here's a poem I wrote while I was down there. It's not exactly subtle or sophisticated, and as usual it works better performed than on the page, but it does come from the heart!

If you have time to be at the Isle of Wight tomorrow for the court case, then get yourself down there. If not, head over to the Save Vestas blog and send some support to the campaign!

Or you could always glue yourself to something...


They chose to fight
Against the greed of industry
To do what's right
For their jobs, homes and families
But more than this
They've shamed our greenwash government
Watching ministers spin madly as the turbines lie silent
They can't be moved by hot air from
Gasbag MPs and corporate smirkers
Their huff and puff won't be enough
To shift the windmills - or the workers.

They saw their jobs sliced on the edge
Of the “wrong size” of turbine blade
They stand defiant on their ledge
We make tea on the barricades

And all of this is part
Of a global fight to save us
A frontline stretching round the world
The people vs. climate chaos
Indian farmers closing coal plants
Forest rights in Ecuador
Arctic peoples leaving melting lands
To drag Big Oil before the law
From the pipelines of Ogoni
To the Vestas factory floor
They're fighting for their futures
And the futures of us all.

Because the way to save the climate
Won't be found down at the shops
Or when “global leaders” meet up
Behind rows of riot cops
It isn't even in your lightbulbs
Or your recycled organic cotton forest-friendly Fairtrade ethical designer tank top
It's found when people stop
And then fight back against a system
That values profit over people
And the planet we exist on.
If there's injustice on the wind,
Don't take it quietly – make a fuss
And stand up for the Vestas workers
Coz they're standing up for us.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Like A Rash

I'm all over the place at the moment...but you know, in a good way.

Check out the first two instalments of "The A-Z of Climate Change", an Undercurrents project that I'm working on - these were filmed at Glastonbury in a slightly off-the-cuff way, future ones should be a little more polished...!

Also, the extended version of my "Just or Bust" article has been published in a new book from the NI called "People First Economics", where I appear to be rubbing some very illustrious shoulders. Klein, Chomsky, Bello, Morales...Chivers. What?

In addition to all this, I've made it through the South East heats into the semi-finals of the national Radio 4 Poetry Slam. It'll be recorded on September 13th, not sure when it'll be broadcast - rest assured, I will let you know!

Oh, and I've been doing some filming for a project called 13 Short Films About Nuclear Power by Tenner Films. Watch this space...I think it's going to be a good one!

So, all quite exciting really. Plus, my album is really truly nearly finished. Honestly.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Word Of The Day: Kakistocracy

So. European elections this week. It's a rare occasion for me, because for once I feel as though my vote will actually mean something - I get the chance to support one of the very few politicians I have a modicum of respect for (Caroline Lucas) while also helping to keep the BNP away from power (if you still need any persuasion on the need for this, go read this blog post by Merrick).

Sadly, I feel somewhat less enthused by the prospect of a General Election. My thoughts on the subject seem, once again, to have taken the form of a poem - as usual, it probably works better performed out loud rather than written down, but here it is anyway, for what it's worth:

Election Day

It doesn’t feel like a choice.
Please tell me how I’m “empowered”, how I’m “using my voice”,
As the Labour party stumbles through its awkward closing dance,
And we all await the chance
To watch the next load of gloating, scapegoating, moat-owning stoats
Being shovelled into government
By default and by accident
By a public with plenty of spleen to vent
Giving Westminster rinsers a kick in the ballots
With a vote for Esther Rantzen, Terry Waite or Timmy Mallett
While secretly hoping that someone – the workers?
Joanna Lumley at the head of an army of Ghurkas?
Will sweep in and save us from Babyfaced Dave.
They say we’re sleepwalking into a Tory government -
I’m shouting and screaming all the way.

But hey
Maybe between now and May
we’ll get a sudden storm of electoral reform
so the whole thing’s no longer decided
by a few thousand voters residing
in a handful of sweet little swing seats
And maybe the media
will stop feeding us
the same old race
between one horse and
pretty much the same horse with a different face
and start giving alternative opinions some space?
Probably best not to hold your breath unless asphyxiating to death seems easier to handle than seeing the Tories bathed in glory
(which would be understandable).
How did it come to this?
Is this what generations were arrested and tried for, fought and died for?
The right to swap one sorry crop of planet-plundering, war-mongering, wealth-concentrating bastards for another lot who’ll do the same only harder?

But enough whining. I’m here to register my vote.

Here it is:

I vote for justice and peace.
I vote for not being beaten up by the police
I vote against oil, and warfare, and pride
And humanity’s slide into mass suicide
I vote for the seasons
I vote for the sky
And the thoughts in his head
And the glint in her eye
And all of the things they’re not offering us.
Our dreams are too big for their ballot boxes
For once-every-five-years pencilled-in crosses
Where do I write in the world that I want?

So I’ll vote with my body, my hands and my words
With all that I do and all that I say
I won’t vote when I’m told
I’ll vote every day
I’ll vote by getting in the way
Of all their awful plans and schemes
With a banner, or a spanner, or a tape of M.C. Hammer
And a tone-deaf karaoke team.
I’ll be the grit in their pistons
The glitch in their systems
The lump of toast in their machine
Every word and every deed
A quantum of democracy:
A little vote.

Voting early, voting often
But not voting all alone
We’ve been growing quietly in the cracks
It’s time to break the stones
It is your democratic right
To not go down without a fight
Don’t sit their feeling powerless
They can’t ignore you when you vote
By camping on their duck island
And pissing in their moat.
So every day’s election day
You coming out to vote?
Yes, every day’s election day
You coming out to vote?

- Danny Chivers, June 2009

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Catch Me If You Can

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.

The Government want to build new coal plants. They're justifying this by saying that they're also going to build four "carbon capture demonstration units" that will be tagged onto the new power stations, try to catch some of the emissions from them, and squirrel the nasty carbon away underground for ever and ever. This somehow makes the whole plan wonderful for the climate and a big victory for green campaigners.

This is, of course, complete and utter bilge.

The mainstream media seem to have fallen for it hook, line and sinker, with this fawning piece in the Guardian being a typical example (it didn't help that Greenpeace gave a "cautious welcome" to the ludicrous plans). With some honourable exceptions (like the Omnibot), journalists have been cheerfully parroting the Government's "clean coal" nonsense without spotting some very obvious logical chasms:

1) The Government are suggesting that researching carbon capture requires the building of new coal power stations. This is like saying: "We need to beat this malaria epidemic by developing new ways of catching mosquitos, so let's build some huge mosquito farms and release millions of them into the air, so we've got more of them to practice on". Have the Government forgotten about the 70-odd fossil fueled power stations that already exist in the UK? Perhaps we should try shutting some of them down and see if they notice (oh, wait, I shouldn't write that, I might be arrested for thoughtcrime).

2) The proposed demonstration units would only capture, at most, 25% of the emissions of these super bonus coal power stations. That will still leave them significantly more polluting than gas power stations, let alone the wind, tidal, wave, solar, or stop-using-so-much-pointless-bloody-energy-to-make-useless-crap options. So these whizzy new "clean" power plants would actually be dirtier than power plants we were building last century. Woo hoo.

3) The Government have no plans to scale up the technology for 15 years - which is hardly surprising, as even the coal industry have admitted that it'll take at least that long to find out if carbon capture can work on a large scale. Meanwhile, global emissions need to peak in 2015 (6 years away) and then start to fall if we have any chance of avoiding global disaster. Large-scale carbon capture will arrive far, far too late to help with that. The only technologies that can help us to avoid climate catastrophe are the ones that already exist.

4) All of the above assumes that carbon capture will ever work at all. We still don't have any sure-fire method for the long-term storage of nuclear waste - and that only needs to be kept safe for tens of thousands of years. Carbon dioxide would need to stay underground forever - or at least for as long as the human race exists, a time span that would be considerably reduced if there was ever any major leakage from a carbon store...

Putting our faith in carbon capture is a bit like being in a car speeding towards a cliff. Rather than changing direction, we're desperately trying to develop "magic flying car technology" before we reach the edge.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

More Badger Bites

The excellent Bristling Badger on the Nottingham 114:
Arresting such a huge number of people smacks of a wide trawler-net strategy, too. And lo, despite the need to deploy 200 officers and arrest people before they've done anything, none of them were charged with anything at all. Not one.

However, it was reported that many were given onerous bail conditions to stay away from sites that climate activists would want to protest at.

What a smart move. Breach of bail is a crime in itself, and those who break it tend to get remanded in prison. As the summer's climate camps and similar events appear on the horizon, what better way to take the wind out of their sails than making over a hundred activists stay away on pain of indefinite imprisonment?

Then, when the protests are over at the end of the year, the police can just drop the bail conditions. No charges required, let alone a crime.

Just like the attacks on peaceful protests, this is a way for the police to make people back off. Reports say many of the Nottingham 114 had their houses raided and possessions taken away. Just like a baton to the head, this will discourage people from joining in. It is political policing. It cannot be justified to smash down your door (and bill you for the board-up), search your house and seize your computer because they suspect you of planning a crime that - even if they secure a conviction - would be unlikely to incur a prison sentence.
Go and read the rest before the thought police find you.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

G20 Climate Camp - The Film

The Climate Camp legal bunnies have put together this film of what happened on Bishopsgate on April 1st, and have managed to get it linked from the Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday(!) websites as well as the Guardian. Check it out - it's an excellent overview of the day, from positive protest party to police thuggishness:

Friday, 3 April 2009

More Video Evidence

This time, crimes against poetry:

I honestly don't usually flail about that much while performing. I was possibly a bit over-excited about the fact that the Climate Camp had just occupied a large section of a major London road for an anti-carbon-trading protest party. Or perhaps I was simply overwhelmed by the power of my shiny shirt. It's hard to say.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Glorious 12-Hour Bishopsgate Camp Ruined by Police Premature Ejection

I'll write a more personal account when I've got my head together a bit more after such a crazy few days, but here's a summary of what happened:

Yesterday around 2000 protesters set up a Camp for Climate Action in the middle of the Square Mile, closing a major road for 12 hours. The Camp was located outside the European Climate Exchange on Bishopsgate, to protest against the G20's plans to use deeply flawed carbon trading mechanisms to tackle climate change.

(See for some beautiful pictures of the Camp.)

As planned, hundreds of protesters “swooped” from all over the City at 12.30pm and set up tents, bunting and bicycles in order to reclaim a large portion of the financial district. Throughout the day there was a programme of workshops on themes such as the absurdity of carbon trading, the history of social movements and alternative economic models, whilst pedal powered sound systems and live bands provided entertainment, a kitchen provided hundreds of meals and a farmers market gave away organic vegetables.

One camper, Jessica Harward said: “The atmosphere was creative and joyful. This part of London is usually a major part of the climate problem, through the funding of fossil fuels and disastrous carbon trading schemes. For 12 hours we turned it into part of the climate solution.”

Despite assurances made on Tuesday morning by Commander Broadhurst to climate campers in the office of David Howarth, MP, at 7pm on Wednesday riot police violently attacked the camp, injuring many peaceful campers and bystanders who were not allowed to leave the area.

(You can see an extraordinary video of this here - note how all the protestors have their hands in the air to show they are unarmed and peaceful, and are chanting "this is not a riot").

Despite this incursion, the atmosphere at the Camp remained calm and happy until around
midnight, when riot police again moved in and aggressively dispersed the Camp.

Another camper, Dave Spencer, said “We were here to expose carbon trading as a financial fraud which has nothing to do with climate change. Our success in turning Bishopsgate into an eco-camp has clearly rattled the authorities, who once again have used unnecessary force against us. We won't be deterred though – climate change is the most urgent issue in the world, and our movement is growing stronger all of the time.”

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Toughest Audience Of All...

I'm beginning to do more work in schools. This puts me in a challenging position: attempting to write poems that make some kind of useful political point but that aren't going to go over the heads of 10-15 year olds, whilst simultaneously trying not to be a patronising git.

I'm probably doomed. But I'm going to have a try anyway, so below is my first attempt at a poem specifically for younger audiences. As with most of my stuff, it's designed to be spoken rather than read, so the dodgier rhymes will seem less obvious in practice (I hope). Comments and suggestions very welcome...

Handles (The Engineer’s Dilemma)

In the Palace of Ultimate Malice
On the perilous peak of Mount Fear
Emperor Zawl holds the country in thrall
With strange doomsday devices, exotic and cruel
But I live in a cellar, underneath it all
And I’m just an engineer.

All the same, see, some folk try to blame me
For the Emperor’s death traps and guns
But I don’t make the blades, or the laser arrays,
The Apocalypse Sludge, or the face-melting sprays,
Or the self-launching, fun-seeking missile bays;
No, nothing to hurt anyone.

You see, I just make the handles
For the Emperor’s machines
And if that still seems like a scandal
Come with me, behind the scenes
And once you understand all
Of my reasons, hopes and plans
You’ll see I’m not some violent vandal
But a kind and peaceful man.

Though his highness demands just the finest
Rockets, missiles, death-tanks and guns
He generally fails to check all the details
And if every last handle weren’t carefully nailed
Then the Night Horror Cannon might run off its rails
And destroy not the moon, but the sun.

If I weren’t there to line up the crosshairs
With the handles on every death-ray
The next heroes who try to sneak carefully by
Our defences – the type that we’d normally fry
In an instant, might find that our aim goes awry
And their grisly end could last all day.

It’s fine to demand I take some sort of stand
And walk out – but where would I go?
And whoever replaced me would probably kill
Far more people, without my attention and skill
And how would I cover the rent and the bills?
I do have a family, you know.

So, though the Emperor has banned all
Children aged seven to nine
And with a giant Roman Candle
(That was partly my design)
Blasted three cities into sand, all
Coz he missed his morning tea;
I just make the handles
So you can’t blame me.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

My Big Fat Geek Wording

OK, here it is - the super extended remix version of my New Internationalist Copenhagen article. In addition to all the stuff from the published version, it also includes some extra background on the "right to development" and "common but differentiated responsibilities" in the UNFCCC process, and it includes a brief look at the concepts of historical responsibility, carbon intensity, the REDD proposal, technology transfer, carbon rationing and community-driven solutions.

It's a teensy bit long - there's a reason why I had to hack all this stuff out before it could be published in the New Internationalist. All the same, I hope it might be useful for those of you working on trying to get something effective out of Copenhagen.

My next blog post will be shorter, and probably sillier.

The Same Boat

Imagine 10 rabbits lost at sea, in a boat carved out of a giant carrot.

The carrot is their only source of food, so they all keep nibbling at it. The boat is shrinking rapidly – but none of them wants to be the first to stop, because then they’ll be the first to starve. There’s no point in any of them stopping unless everyone stops – if even one rabbit carries on eating, the boat will sink.

This is the international climate crisis in a (Beatrix Potter-flavoured) nutshell: action by individual nations achieves little unless we all act together. Of course, reality is a little more complex. While it’s easy to imagine the rabbits reaching a simple agreement where they all learn to dredge for seaweed instead, our situation involves massive global inequalities, differing levels of responsibility, and a history of exploitation and broken international promises.

Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the international climate negotiations – which began in earnest in 1990 with the talks that created the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – have not yet got us a workable global solution. The best we’ve managed so far has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which industrialized nations (known as ‘Annex 1’ countries) pledged to cut their CO2 emissions by a completely inadequate 5.2 per cent by 2012. The US famously pulled out of the deal, and most of those who remained in are unlikely to achieve even these small cuts.

A Fair Point

Meanwhile, no definite plan has been agreed for ensuring that the poorer nations switch to a climate-friendly development path. The US says it won’t play unless, in the name of ‘fairness’, all non-Annex 1 countries also take on emissions reduction targets. Southern governments, however, point out that they’ve arrived late to the fossil fuel party: the industrialized nations got us into this mess by emitting, over the past 200 years, the vast majority of the greenhouse gases currently warming up the atmosphere. How can the Annex 1 countries demand that the South restrict its development with tough carbon targets when the North has mostly missed its own Kyoto goals?

At the same time, despite promised funds to support low-carbon development, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to transfer to low-carbon technology, the only real money flowing from North to South through the UNFCCC process has been via the highly flawed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This has allowed wealthy nations to offset their domestic emissions with such ‘clean development’ projects as urban landfill sites, giant dams that were being built anyway, and slightly more efficient steel refineries. There are now near-universal calls for the CDM to be reformed, or scrapped altogether and replaced with something fairer.

With Kyoto limping to the end of its life, governments are feverishly trying to strike a new deal on global emissions cuts between 2012 and 2020. They’ll be thrashing it out in meetings in Bonn in April and June, with the aim of signing an agreement at the next big Conference Of Parties (COP) – Copenhagen, 1-12 December 2009.

Efforts have been focused on getting the US – responsible for 30 per cent of current emissions – to sign up. But a deal that favours the interests of wealthy nations over the real needs of the world’s people would fail on two crucial counts. The expanded carbon market demanded by the US and the EU would enrich private traders at the expense of lives and livelihoods in the South; meanwhile, any deal without a strong justice element would almost certainly be rejected by many Southern governments.

Poorer nations have fought bitterly to enshrine a ‘right to development’ and an acknowledgement of countries’ ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ within Kyoto, which means that richer countries are expected to act first. Unless the Annex 1 countries start showing real commitment to these principles – through deep domestic emissions cuts, strings-free funding, technology transfer and development allowances – the chances of the South staying on board with a post-2012 deal are slim [see Boxes 1 and 2, below].


Box 1: Right You Are

Kamal Nath couldn’t believe it. The Americans were at it again.

It was the last day of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and the outspoken Indian Environment Minister was not, by all accounts, in the best of moods. Along with members of the 171 other national delegations [1], he had spent all night thrashing out the wording of the Rio Declaration – the key final statement on which all parties to the Summit were meant to agree – only to learn at the last minute that the US delegation wanted to make some changes to the text.

Morning coffee in the Indian delegation’s offices was not, therefore, a peaceful affair, with Nath declaring angrily that “at 6 o'clock this morning, the United States told us they want to remove the phrase 'right to social and economic development’”. The Kenyan ministers he was addressing whistled with amazement [2]. In fact, the US team had issued a statement containing the following words: “The US does not…change its long-standing opposition to the so-called ‘right to development’. Development is not a right…[it] is a goal we all hold” [3].

The phrase “right to development” did end up in the Declaration [4] despite American reservations, but many Southern negotiators are still reluctant to sign up to strict emissions targets that they believe would keep their populations in poverty.

Talking It Up

Unfortunately, the trend has so far been in the opposite direction. As the climate talks have progressed from Toronto (1988) to Kyoto (1997) to Bali (2007), the rich countries’ targets have been weakened by around 1,900 million tonnes of CO2, and the role of carbon trading has grown steadily [5].

For example, a major subject at the recent Poznan talks was the REDD initiative (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), which proposes that the carbon stored in the world’s forests be added to the carbon market [6]. In one fell swoop, forest lands where people have lived for thousands of years would be commodified and sold from beneath them, generating credits to allow wealthy Northerners to carry on driving and shopping – despite the fact that new research has revealed that recognizing indigenous forest people’s land rights would cost less and be more effective than using the carbon markets [7].


Box 2: With Great Power…

In their 2007 book “A Climate Of Injustice” [8], Timmons Roberts and Bradley Parks show – through robust statistical analysis – how the Global South has a number of claims to climate injustice. Not only are the wealthier countries responsible for most of the total greenhouse gases emitted throughout history, they also bear a share of blame for increasing the vulnerability of many poor nations to climatic disasters, thanks to past colonial practices. Countries that were once extractive colonies are more likely to have high levels of inequality, restricted land rights, large rural populations and limited press freedom, which are all crucial factors in increasing the number of deaths and lost homes when storms, floods and droughts strike their shores.

High-income nations are also more likely to achieve international agreements that work in their favour, thanks to the amount of money and staff time they can commit to the relevant meetings. This has led to climate deals that lean more heavily towards the needs of richer nations. Poorer nations have, however, succeeded in establishing the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” within the Convention, with the wealthier “Annex 1” nations expected to make the first emissions cuts, and to provide financial support to the poorer nations.


Here are some of the main proposals on the table and how they measure up when it comes to climate justice.

What's on the table?


‘Grandfathering’ of Kyoto Targets

What is it? A delightfully twee name for the way industrialized countries’ emissions targets have been allocated through the UNFCCC – everyone has to reduce their emissions a certain percentage below the amount they were emitting in 1990.

  • FAIRNESS: 2/10 Countries that were big polluters in 1990 get to stay as big polluters, with a slight percentage cut. A fairer system would instead be based upon per capita emissions (such as the ‘Contraction and Convergence’ model championed by the Global Commons Institute), historical responsibility for emissions, and/or ability to pay.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 2/10 The 1990 baseline is completely arbitrary, with no relation to climate science.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 10/10 The EU is proposing a new target of a 30% emissions cut by 2020 for Annex 1 countries. The coalition of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) has said it would prefer that to be a 45-50% cut. Both of these targets are against the 1990 baseline – it’s just being taken for granted. Alternative ideas such as ‘Contraction and Convergence’ are sometimes discussed, but not acted upon.
It’s A Bit Like… A group of wealthy tourists and destitute refugees have survived a plane crash and are stranded on a mountain. They decide to ration out the food based on how much each person ate in the week before the crash – the more you ate per day back then, the more food you get now.

Global Commons Institute:

Greenhouse Development Rights (GDRs)

What Is It? An alternative method for setting carbon targets. It assumes that everyone on the planet below a certain income threshold should first have the right to get themselves out of poverty and are therefore exempt from any emissions targets. Responsibility for climate action is then allocated to countries based on how many of their citizens are above the income threshold, how far above it they are, and how much greenhouse gas that country produces.

  • FAIRNESS: 8/10 Includes an explicit ‘right to develop’ for the world’s poor (North and South), while ensuring that wealthy Southern élites are not excluded from responsibility. However, it doesn’t acknowledge historical responsibility or the ‘offshoring’ of emissions by wealthier countries, and there are many potential devils lurking in the details – such as how to set the income threshold.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 9/10 The targets within the framework are based on up-to-date climate science, and if they were met it would give us a decent shot at avoiding the worst stuff.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 4/10 Some G77 governments have talked about it, and it’s gained the backing of Christian Aid and Oxfam, but as yet has no official position within the UNFCCC process.
It’s A Bit Like… A city is razed to the ground by alien invaders. The people who escaped unscathed because they lived in solid houses built from money they stole from the aliens (thus provoking the attack) are expected to take on most of the rebuilding work. The people who had left the aliens alone, stayed poor, and lived in rickety houses that collapsed on them during the attack are allowed to recover in hospital before joining in the work.

Other Methods For Divvying Up Emissions and Setting Targets:
  • Historical Responsibility: The idea that the total emissions emitted by a country since the industrial revolution should be used as a measure of how much that nation is to blame for global climate change. Gives a good sense of how much climate change has actually been caused by that country throughout history. Frequently cited by Global South governments but very difficult to use as a basis for future targets without using lots of estimates and complex calculations – Brazil had a go once, but it never really caught on.
  • Carbon Intensity: The amount of carbon dioxide produced per dollar of GDP. An interesting measure but useless for setting meaningful targets because it doesn’t relate directly to total emissions. Nonetheless, when the US pulled out of Kyoto in 2002, they said they were going to cut America’s carbon intensity by 18% in 10 years instead. They seem to be roughly on track to do this, but as their GDP has risen at the same time their overall emissions have continued to grow steadily. So that was a big help, then.

Emissions Trading

What Is It? It’s the main way in which wealthy industrialized countries are planning to meet their reduction targets – by trading ‘carbon credits’ (permits to pollute) with other countries. Forests are due to be added to the scheme at Copenhagen.

  • FAIRNESS: 1/10 The system allows polluting industries and governments to buy their way out of their carbon commitments, using complex trading rules written by Northern economists. Private trading firms get rich by buying and selling the rights to the carbon in other people’s forests and fields, investing in dodgy quick-fixes and propping up polluting industries.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 2/10 The EU Emissions Trading Scheme has yet to produce any proven emissions reductions. Wealthy governments and companies can avoid difficult-but-vital domestic emissions cuts by buying (both real and imaginary) carbon reductions from elsewhere. Politicians get an excuse not to stump up desperately needed cash for more effective low-carbon development in the Global South.
  • MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS EFFECTS: 8/10 Want to unleash a genetically modified carbon-munching microbe, create a famine-inducing agro-fuel plantation, privatize a forest or build a few nuclear power stations? The carbon market is the place for you!
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 9.5/10 Unless we decide to stop it.
It’s A Bit Like… Handing control of the Earth’s vital natural systems over to a bunch of grinning Wall Street traders. Oh no, wait: it’s exactly like that.

Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)

What Is It? A major discussion topic at Poznan. The latest proposal involves adding the carbon stored in forests into the carbon market, allowing countries to generate emissions permits by NOT chopping down their forests.

  • FAIRNESS: 2/10. In one fell swoop, forest lands where people have lived for thousands of years would be commodified and sold from beneath them, generating credits to allow wealthy Northerners to carry on driving and shopping.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 4/10. Protecting the forests is vital for preventing climate disaster – deforestation is currently responsible for about 20% of global carbon emissions. However, inclusion in a trading scheme would mean these savings would be cancelled out by extra emissions elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, new World Bank-funded research has revealed that recognising indigenous forest people’s land rights would cost less and be more effective than using the carbon markets.
  • MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS EFFECTS: 6/10. Quantifying the carbon in forests is incredibly difficult. Whatever carbon value is placed on a patch of jungle will be scientifically dubious, but then used to justify an equal amount of emissions elsewhere.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 5/10. This is very contentious and hotly debated within the UNFCCC process. Southern countries may eventually be forced to agree to it if other sources of forest protection funding don’t show up.
It’s A Bit Like… “Your house is now an important carbon sink and has been used to justify 200 Australians driving to the mall. Don’t worry, follow these rules and we’ll still let you live here…for now.”

Mitigation and Adaptation Funds

What Is It? The G77 (a coalition of, confusingly, about 130 developing countries) and China are proposing that the wealthiest countries put the climate change support money they’ve been promising (for years) into a central fund for spending on low-carbon technology, emission reductions and climate change adaptation in the Global South [9].

  • FAIRNESS: 7/10 Putting it into a central fund has pros and cons: paying it straight to governments instead could lead to corruption and squandering on unhelpful projects, but the central fund takes the decision even further away from those affected by it.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 5/10 Will the funds be spent on effective projects such as protecting the land rights of indigenous forest people, or on expensive distractions like nuclear power?
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 7/10 The wealthy nations are going to have to hand something over if they don’t want the talks to collapse completely.

It’s A Bit Like…
The guy who drove a bulldozer through your house and sold off the rubble has promised to buy you a tent in compensation. As a huge storm gathers on the horizon, you post him another stiff reminder letter.

Technology Transfer

What Is It? Another hot topic at Poznan. The industrialised nations pledged to give access to low-carbon technology to the developing countries. They haven’t really done much about it yet – with international patenting rules being a major stumbling block.

  • FAIRNESS: 8/10. It’s clearly fair and clearly necessary – especially the relaxing of patenting rules.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 6/10. It has to happen in some form if we’re going to avoid disaster – but providing the means to make solar heating systems would have a different impact to, say, helping to build new nuclear power stations. The type of technology transferred will be crucial.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 7/10. Southern countries are pushing hard for this, but questions remain around when, how much, and what strings will be attached.
It's A Bit Like...The bloke who knocked your house down gives you a bicycle so you can pedal desperately away from the approaching storm.


What Is It? A new proposal, where companies wishing to drill for oil or gas or dig up coal would have to purchase permits. These permits would be tightly restricted, and fall each year in line with the demands of climate science. The money from the permit sale would go into a global fund to protect forests, pay for adaptation measures, create a ‘revolution’ in sustainable technology and help poorer communities make the transition to a low-carbon world.

  • FAIRNESS: 7/10 The polluters pay, and the money goes to the people and places that need it. All pretty good – so long as the poor are protected from sudden fuel price rises, and the institutions charged with distributing the funds (Oliver Tickell, who developed the proposal, suggests UN agencies and NGOs) do so in a transparent and accountable way that actively includes the affected communities.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 8/10 It looks good on paper, and is based on solid climate science. However, we all know how adept fossil fuel companies are at finding loopholes…
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 1/10 This new proposal would involve totally changing the terms of the international negotiations, shifting the responsibility from countries to corporations (including a lot of state-owned companies). Will it be seen as a distraction from the main debate, a Northern-biased proposal that doesn’t explicitly recognize historical responsibility, or a neat way out of the current deadlock?
It’s A Bit Like… That moment near the end of a meeting where someone suggests an interesting new idea that might make the previous four hours of discussion completely irrelevant, and you don’t know whether to shake their hand or throw the water jug at them.


Underpinning the climate talks are a raft of ideas for how emissions reductions can be achieved. Here are some of the forerunners.

Government-Funded Climate Programmes

What Is It? Publicly funded schemes to tackle climate change – from revamped public transport networks to mass home insulation to giant offshore wind farms.

  • FAIRNESS: 5/10 Depends on how much you trust your government. Publicly owned climate solutions are more accountable to the people they affect than corporate or consumer-driven solutions (in democratic states, at least). However, there’s also plenty of scope for corruption and the siphoning of public funds into expensive ‘solutions’ that benefit wealthy élites rather than the climate.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 5/10 Utterly dependent on the details. However, there are some things, such as legislating against corporate polluters, and reforming national transport and energy networks, that people and community groups cannot do alone, and governments will need to play an active role.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 6/10 There are positive examples out there (such as Germany’s big renewables roll-out), but they are often cancelled out by the simultaneous development of roads, runways and fossil fuel power stations.

It’s A Bit Like… Asking a big kid you don’t really like or trust to chase away some bullies for you.

Carbon Taxes

What Is It? A government tax on sources of carbon pollution.

  • FAIRNESS: 5/10 Could hit the poorest in society hardest through higher fuel prices, unless it were carefully designed. Taxes on companies producing or burning fossil fuels could be fairer, if those companies were prevented from passing those costs on to others. British Columbia’s new carbon tax includes a rebate for the poorest families.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 6/10 Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Italy, and a few US towns and counties have experimented with carbon taxes, with mixed results. The taxes do seem to reduce carbon emissions, but usually on a smaller scale than was hoped for – often due to loopholes and concessions demanded by industry or angry consumer groups.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 5/10 Carbon taxes are talked about within the UNFCCC process as a potential tool, but they’re not generally very popular back home.
It’s A Bit Like… Asking a big kid you don’t really like or trust to charge the bullies £1 for every time they thump you.

Nicola Liebert, ‘Why Ecotaxes May Not Be The Answer’, NI 416, October 2008

Techno-fixes and Geo-engineering

What Is It? Examples include genetically modified algal fuel, capturing CO2 for underground storage, launching mirrors into space, discovering reliable nuclear fusion, turning food crops into agro-fuels, dumping iron in the oceans and spraying sulphates in the sky.

  • FAIRNESS: 1/10 Most of these schemes would place disproportionate control of the global climate in the hands of a small number of companies or governments. Imagine if the US or China had control of a giant space mirror that was the only thing preventing the world from being fried, or if Monsanto held the patent for an algal fuel that the whole world relied upon for power. What a beautiful future we’d be building.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 2/10 Most are more than a decade away from large-scale implementation, and would drain resources away from proven and sustainable solutions.
  • MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS EFFECTS: 10/10 Poisonous algal blooms, disruption of little-understood oceanic food webs, mass appropriation of lands, seas and forests, acid rain, sudden future CO2 eruptions, and corporate control of the climate system… will that do?
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 7/10 European governments are desperate for carbon capture to materialize. There have been pro-sulphate-spraying demonstrations in Australia. An open market in carbon emissions would be a big boost to a lot of these wacky schemes.
It’s A Bit Like… Your house is on fire, so you sit down in the living room and start drawing up designs for a giant wall-smashing robot.

‘Climate Techno-Fixes’ report, Corporate Watch.

Community Solutions

What Is It? Another ridiculously broad category encompassing community-owned sustainable energy, food and transport, and the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights to land, forests and traditional farming practices.

  • FAIRNESS: 9/10. Solutions designed and implemented by the people most directly affected by them are far more likely to be fair and accountable. However, if they don’t also lead to major emissions reductions then millions of people round the world will still suffer from disastrous climate change.
  • EFFECTIVENESS: 7/10. Local solutions may lead to dramatic local carbon savings but unless they are part of a wider carbon-cutting plan there’s no way of guaranteeing that they’ll be enough.
  • CURRENT SUPPORT: 3/10. Most international discussions and national programmes are focused on large-scale, market-driven solutions rather than supporting community initiatives. However, international social movements are starting to get active and vocal on this issue – the powerful small farmers’ network La Via Campesina have just issued a demand for “Food Sovereignty” because “peasant agriculture cools the planet”.
It's A Bit Like... Just ruddy well getting on with it.

Open Letter From Maputo: V International Conference of La Via Campesina, 26th October 2008


Box 3: Carbon Rationing: The idea of issuing personal carbon emission quotas to businesses and/or the public, with a national limit that gets smaller each year. An idea embraced by some (voluntary Carbon Rationing Action Groups have sprung up around the UK), and rejected by others as an infringement of civil liberties and personal freedoms. The fact that most of the schemes proposed include some form of quota-trading means that the wealthiest would be able to prolong their high-emission lifestyles by purchasing permits from the poor – although some commentators note that this could be an effective form of wealth redistribution. Others call it a privatisation of the atmosphere on a par with international carbon markets. No such scheme exists anywhere yet, although some governments have talked about it.


The road ahead

If the talks continue in their current vein, then Copenhagen is likely to produce a similar deal to Kyoto – arbitrary (though larger) targets against a 1990 baseline, perhaps giving targets to some of the larger developing countries in return for extra mitigation funds, and with carbon trading as the main ‘delivery mechanism’. It would probably end up about as successful as Kyoto, too.

Fortunately, global dissent is growing. Large NGOs such as Friends of the Earth International, Oxfam and Christian Aid are becoming increasingly vocal on the issue of climate justice. New networks are forming amongst Northern and Southern social movements to demand community-led solutions to the climate crisis, and an end to the privatization of lands and forests through carbon trading schemes.

Down with Kyoto

We shouldn’t get too hung up on Copenhagen – we’re far more likely to create lasting change by building powerful national and international movements than by pouring all our energy into specific summit meetings. But it’s hard to deny that we need some sort of international framework for tackling this global issue. Despite its flaws, the UNFCCC is the only one we’ve got, and the urgency of the climate issue requires us to work with it.

However, the Kyoto Protocol has been a dismal failure. Should we demand that governments scrap it completely and start again from scratch? It’s tempting, but would be unlikely to gain the crucial support of Southern negotiators, who fear that a brand new deal would see them lose their hard-won ‘differentiated responsibility’.

A better approach might be to create space within the existing talks for alternative, fairer systems and ideas – such as GDRs, Kyoto2, community-led solutions, indigenous rights, strings-free clean development assistance, patent-free technology transfer – to get a hearing. Currently emissions trading, private financing and market-based mechanisms are seen as the only route to greenhouse gas reductions, and are crowding everything else out of the debate.

This suggests a simple, effective starting point for developing a successful – and just – global agreement: we need to get rid of carbon trading.

Just: do it

Many groups and movements could happily unite around a major campaign to discredit the carbon markets. However, this needs to start now. The massive protests planned for Copenhagen will be too late to have much effect on the talks (unless things have gone so badly that they need to be shut down!)

Let’s face it – whatever gets agreed at Copenhagen, governments are unlikely to stick to it unless there is an international movement powerful enough to make it happen. A global climate treaty will never be a panacea, but we can at least make sure it’s a step towards – rather than away from – climate justice.

Danny Chivers is a writer, researcher, activist and poet on all things climate-change related.

A shorter version of this article was published in the January 2009 edition of New Internationalist Magazine.

2. James Brooke, New York Times, “Delegates From 4 Nations Warm to a High-Profile Role: Global Powerbroker”. June 12th, 1992.
5. Diana Liverman, ‘Survival into the Future in the Face of Climate Change’ in E Shuckburgh (ed.), Survival: The Survival of the Human Race (2006 Darwin Lectures), Cambridge University Press, 2007
6. See:
7. The Guardian, ‘Pay indigenous people to protect rainforests, conservation groups urge’, 17 October 2008
8. T Roberts & B Parks, A Climate Of Injustice, MIT Press 2007
9. Financial Mechanism for Meeting Financial Commitments under the Convention. Proposal by the G77 and China to the Poznan meeting.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A billion pounds so far, apparently

Today I awoke into a bright, white, living nightmare.
I stared, horrified, as the fat flakes settled gently
On my driveway and lawn
Topping each gatepost with a fluffy white fez
Transforming the hedgerow into an indigestible
But beautiful
Christmas cake,
And I cried “Oh my God!
What about the economy?

As I walked to the park I stared with mounting panic
At the parked cars adorning the street
Each coated three inches deep
Or with patches swept clean
Arsenals for snowball fights
I almost wept to think of the petrol not being burned
Of the mindless tasks not being performed
In offices thirty miles away.

In the park, it only got worse.
Children and adults were laughing together
Whole streets united in play
Great snowy constructions were rising from the ground
As the treacherous flakes continued to fall
Ramps, forts and igloos,
A menagerie of assorted snow-beings
Icy sculptures of ethereal beauty
Or lumpy majesty
My head went light and I struggled not to faint
At the thought of all that creativity
Hard work and productivity
Not being spent on the tedious administrative tasks
And the learning of pointless facts by rote
So vital to the functioning of a modern economy.
A newly fostered sense of community
Of shared experience and humanity
And the kind of childlike wonder
That reminds us that it’s good to be alive
Is all very well
But it’s not going to revive the flagging share index now, is it?

I went back home to get my snowplough -
They’ll thank me for this one day.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Copenhagen Article Now Online!

Check out the online magazine version here.

Super extended version to appear here very soon...!


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Just Or Bust / Risk Assessment

I'm in the New Internationalist magazine again! This time in printed, not just audio form (oooh).

I've researched and written a piece about what's likely to be on the table at the climate talks in Copenhagen this December, and how the different proposals shape up in terms of effectiveness and global justice. Its quite a detailed article, with a healthy smattering of bad puns and daft analogies - the best way to check it out is to go to the NI website, sign up for a free trial subscription and wait for the magazine to land in your letterbox!

It's part of a special double edition of the magazine dedicated to Climate Justice, and the whole edition is well worth checking out, so seriously - go do the free trial subscribing thing. It's an independent, cooperatively run, informative, radical magazine and it deserves (and needs) your support.

For those of you who already have a copy, I'll be posting a special extended version of my article up here in the near future. I guess those of you without a copy of the mag might just be allowed to read it too, but it won't have the funky formatting and images and things so you'll be missing out...

In the meantime, here's the text of one of the poems that will be featuring on my upcoming album. It doesn't work quite so well written down, but you should still get the general gist - if you like it, you can hear the audio version on Radio New Internationalist here (scroll down until you find the show called "Enter Stage Left"), and more of my poetry here.

Happy New Everything and stuff,

Danny x


Since September 11th 2001, 70 people in the UK have been killed by terrorists.

In the same period, 400 people in the UK drowned in their own bathtubs, and 500 people were killed whilst doing DIY.

This poem is called:

Risk Assessment.

I used to like bees
I’d watch them bumbling through the leaves
And hum along with their good vibrations
Until I learned that they killed more people last year than THE TERRORISTS did.
Now I write letters to the Daily Mail
Demanding strict border controls on the entrances to hives
And random police raids on patches of lavender.

Which makes about as much sense
As our attempts
At a notional national defence
Against a terrorist threat
About as dangerous as stepping outside in the wet
(Pneumonia is Britain’s fifth biggest killer)

I almost feel a kind of pride
In our innocence and trust as we’re all taken for a ride
On the paranoia bus with the
Bullet-proof windows firmly closed and every steel door secure
Glancing at the dark-skinned people outside.

Mount Snowden kills as many people as terrorism
So let’s drag it down to Belmarsh
Hold it without trial for 42 days
Til it confesses to conspiring to undermine our British way
Of life.
Whatever that is.

More people are killed by taking the wrong pills than by terrorist attacks
Which means the money that’s planned for ID cards, armed guards, putting people behind bars without charge
Would save more lives if spent instead on
Better-labelled jars.

You’re more likely to be killed by a rare disease
Or win the national lottery
You’re more likely to be killed by a hernia
You’re more likely to be killed by your furniture

You’re more likely to be done over by your lover
To meet your end at the hands of a friend
You’re more likely to commit suicide yourself
Than be killed by the suicide of somebody else.

And stress kills thousands every year
So – an ironic twist -
You’re more likely to be killed by the fear of terrorism
Than by a terrorist.

So how to explain this?
Our government’s obsessed
An endless war against a risk
Not properly assessed

For which they need broader state powers to watch you at all hours, CCTV, ID – they don’t mean to intrude, but could you include an ample selection of bodily samples? – longer detention, not to mention the need to obtain evidence mysteriously from overseas but let them explain: it doesn’t count as torture if somebody elsewhere is doing it for ya, same as having your phone tapped by some information vandal isn’t really a scandal because civil liberties must be balanced against the need for greater security, surely you don’t really need that jury, with so many new offences in store there’s bound to be one or more made just for you, even if you only meant to create peaceful dissent against society’s ills, you’ll still find yourself on the line out front in a new witch hunt during open season…

But it’s definitely all about terror and you’d be making a grave error bordering on treason to suggest that they might want these powers for any other reason.


I won’t be gagged, or tagged and numbered
Won’t have my genes and eyeballs plundered
At my own expense for a defence that won’t work against a threat that couldn’t get much smaller,
They won’t get my photograph, my details, my age
(So long as they don’t log onto my Facebook page)
And when they show up for me
I won’t go quietly
I’ll tell them to go out and fight the real enemy
Because sex kills more people than terrorism
And so does pregnancy
So let’s drop the terror cops
And swap
The thought police for the sex police.

I bet they’ll have much better uniforms.