G20 protests – a change is gonna come.

picture of protesters outside the Bank of EnglandToday I went down to the protest outside the Bank Of England that coincided with the meeting of the G20 in London. It was a multi-angle protest, seeking to bring together the shared concerns of the environmental movement, anti-capitalists, the climate change brigade, the stop the war coalition and those who wanted to see a greater degree of culpability placed on the financial systems and institutions that presided over the current global economic collapse.
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Earthhour – Inspiration, collective meaning and the dangers of virtual absolution.

photo of a candle burning at st luke's church, holloway8.30-9.30 on Saturday night was Earth Hour. The idea was for everyone to turn off their lights for one hour as a symbol of their recognition of the problem of climate change, and the effect of our energy consumption and its environmental impact thereon. (at least, that’s my paraphrase).
Continue reading “Earthhour – Inspiration, collective meaning and the dangers of virtual absolution.”

Live Earth – not crossing my radar..

So the Live Earth Gig is going on, on TV, on radio, everywhere. And the only time it’s registered on my radar was talking to Oroh last night who’s playing at it with Corinne Bailey Rae, arranging to meet up afterwards…

Why hasn’t it? I’m HUGELY concerned about climate change, a qualified but largely enthusiastic supporter of what Al Gore’s taken up as his cause (An Inconvenient Truthx is definitely required viewing), but the notion of a bunch of largely ill-informed rock stars flying in in private jets to ‘lend their support’ (and prop up their often-ailing careers) is just plain hideous. Claiming to ‘carbon offset’ your private jet useage, and putting low energy lightbulbs in on your yacht does not make you a shining example of planet-saving eco-warrior-ness. It means you’re trying to party as the ship goes down, pretending that planting a few trees excuses your King Kong-sized carbon footprint. And that, my dear bloglings it’s what’s known in scientific terms as complete bollocks.

The organisers are claiming that they are trying to make the whole event carbon neutral and have booked bands in the cities they live in. But they don’t seem to have asked the bands to sign up to any kind of rock star eco-charter that curtails their use of private jets, and commits them to running their tour buses on bio-fuels and selling fair-trade bleach-free merchandise etc. Surely the concert would have smacked less of being a giant photo op for some of the worst abusers of aviation in the world if there’d been some kind of commitment to change, to reducing their own load on the planet – if you will, ‘putting their own house in order’, rather than looking like the bunch of fucking hypocrites they are. And I say this as someone who so far this year has made two return flights over the atlantic, and one return flight to Edinburgh, but who has also done two month-long tours round Europe in the last year on trains, and is committed to continuing that trend, and to not flying domestically (someone else booked and paid for the Edinburgh trip, and I was too slow to change it to a train ticket..)

So there you go, Live Earth – great cause, dreadful way of making the point. Please don’t be fooled by the myth of carbon offsetting – we all need to radically REDUCE our carbon footprint, rather than thinking we can carry on as normal but just plant some trees to make it all go away. It’s not going to work.

more great thinking and writing on Climate Change…

No, that heading isn’t me bigging myself up for some super new poorly researched fanciful idea that I’ve come up with, it’s a reference to MarkLynas.org – Mark is the New Statesman’s chief writer on all matters climate change-related. He’s a great writer, and a very honest blogger by the looks of things.

I’m sure you’ve all by now book-marked monbiot.com for George’s weekly stuff about the same subject. Put Mark’s in alongside it… great stuff, and hopefully some inspiration to change the way we live a little…

When Climate Change starts to sting…

Ok, this is a tough one to write, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to echo the words of Hugo Schwyzer in his post about this subject, I love flying. I love travel, I love the feeling of limitless possibility that one has in airports. It’s my one major concession to hyper-modernity – the sleek lines, shiny metal and monorails make me feel like I’m in the Jetsons. I’m a travel junky, and I’ve benefitted hugely from my experiences when traveling.

However, it’s quite clear that aviation is one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – factor in the climate change disaster in which we currently find ourselves. So what do we do? Hugo, in his post above says, basically ‘nothing’ – flying’s great, travel’s great, so fuck it, we’ll just have to go on feeling guilty and hope guilt soaks up some carbon (that’s a fairly unfair paraphrase, but that’s the gist…)

OK – firstly, full disclosure – I’ve got two transatlantic flights coming up – I’m flying to NYC in Jan, then to LA and then home from SF. That’s a lot of flying. It pretty much uses up my carbon allocation for the next year. So what have I done to change things? Well, I’ve pretty much sworn off short-haul flights (I say ‘pretty much’ – I haven’t been faced with a really good paying gig that I’d be required to fly to in order to accept it.. I’ve no idea what I’ll do if that comes up, to be honest) – but I’ve completely changed the way I do gigs on the continent – it’s now all about doing a month at a time, and doing it all on the train. And as my October trip proved, it works. Well, even as a solo artist. As a duo, it’d be a cinch.

So – I really need to think hard about how the transatlantic thing works. I’ve looked into boats, honestly, but it doesn’t seem possible for less than a couple of grand… So where do I draw the line? Allow myself a couple of transatlantic flights a year? I dunno, I’m struggling here, but I am going to get the train and boat to Belfast over new year, so that’s one short haul flight I’ve foresworn… it’s much cheaper on the train/boat anyway!

For now, though, go and read what George Monbiot is writing about this – Monbiot is without doubt one of the most important thinkers on climate change, and the things we need to do to combat it. A lot of people are desperately trying to discredit him, but it’s not working. And while you’re there, check out TurnUpTheHeat.org – and why not write to Gordon Brown about taxation of aviation, or Douglas Alexander about the airport expansion policy? And how about signing up to the year of living generously, in order to look at the myriad ways we can cut back our global footprint…

sleeping with the enemy…

…actually, that’s too horrid a metaphor to use. Writing to the enemy, more like…

Having just had another read of TurnUpTheHeat.org, I emailed David Cameron. Here’s what I wrote (check out me with my not swearing or calling him Tory scum!)

“Dear David,

it’s been wonderful to hear you highlighting the dangers of climate change in your many public engagements of late. It’s quite clearly the single biggest issue facing mankind over the next few years, and your assertion that there are things more important than money was surprising for a Tory leader but deeply heartening.

In the light of this, I’m decidedly puzzled by your choice of John Redwood as Shadow Transport Minster, a man who is a climate change denier who is clearly more in favour of promoting private car usage than providing incentives to promote mass transit in the form of trains and trams (I’m a musician and travel regularly on the continent by train to avoid flying, and the trains there put ours to shame – surely we need a transport policy that would reinvigorate the train system in order to give people a positive incentive to use them as an alternative to cars, which are such a huge contributor to our climate change emissions problem).

As I said, I’m utterly delighted that you are so concerned (and informed) about Climate Change, but it is definitely going to require a joined up set of policies that regulate the aviation industry, the car industry and house building.

I look forward to seeing your concern coalesce into a strong defined environmentally minded set of policies.


Steve Lawson
www.stevelawson.net “

Turning Up The Heat

One of the major problems with the ideological left and the green/ecology movement is that they/we are generally terrible at marketing – you just have to have seen the footage of the Green Party conference to see how just unattractive earnestness is. It’s all very worthy, but who wants to hang around with a bunch of beardy arran jumper wearers tilting and windmills and pissing in the wind, however much you agree with their basic premise that something needs to be done about the way we are screwing up the planet.

So it’s always hugely heartening when someone comes along with a strategy that’s marketable, engaging, zeitgeisty, funny and sexy. So it is with turnuptheheat.org, the latest venture from journalist and activist George Monbiot. George has at times come across as the earnest beardy-without-a-beard type, but his research is pretty damn near faultless and his journalism is honest, human, and at times actually funny.

Turn Up The Heat is George’s attempt to hold celebs and notable figures who claim to be eco-monkeys accountable for their hypocrisies. So whether it’s Branson giving billions to fight climate change whilst still forging a head with a space flight program, or Chris Martin giving it the eco-warrior spiel while flying all over the place in a private jet, George catalogues it, and gives them the space to respond. Whether any of them will or not is debatable – it would be fantastic to see these people change their ways as a result.

there’s a poster campaign in London for the website, and for George’s new book, ‘Heat’, all about combatting climate change – it’s well designed, eye-catching and engaging. Thanks George!

We're screwed

I’ve just been reading a couple of incredibly depressing articles on George Monbiot’s website. The tragedy of them is that, he’s not being melodramatic at all, just telling it like it is.

The two articles are on the whole area of climate change, fossil fuels and alternatives – the first is his speech to the climate change march in London last Saturday and the other is from yesterday’s Guardian.

Simply put, if we keep consuming energy at the rate we’re going, we’re screwed. the planet is screwed. Those of us in the wealthy 3rd will stay un-screwed for a bit longer than those we’re working hardest to destroy, but long-term we won’t fare much better. and it’s not just a matter of finding energy alternatives. We need to use less, consume less, travel less. It’s not nice, it’s not easy, it doesn’t make life more fun, but there really doesn’t seem to be much of an alternative.

the biggie for me is air-travel. As a travelling musician, I fly a fair bit. I’m off to California in January to the NAMM show. I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’ve booked the flight, and can’t really get out of it (cheap ticket ‘n’ all that), but I’m going to have to rethink my travel plans in the future, decide whether I can justify any air-travel. Is it ever legit to fly? Questions, questions. I think it’ll take me a while to come to some decisions.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in pondering this stuff – generous.org.uk is home to the ‘year of living generously’ – effectively a support group for people who want to make a difference. there are tips on ways of living generously, from using less energy to giving more time and resources to others. Travelling less to composting your vegetable peelings. And it’s normal people, not just eco-warriors. There’s no brow-beating, no hectoring, just a lot of people who are quite a way ahead of me on many of these things. People I can be inspired by, and maybe inspire a bit in return. That’s the plan. I’ve signed up, you should too!

More on the G8 aftermath

Gig report from last night, and a couple of online reviews to come, but first, some politics! (yay! i hear you cry)

Today’s Guardian reports that Blair is a bit hacked off the aid agencies are down on the G8’s ‘acheivements’, but also suggests that he has some fairly ambitious plans during Britains tenure as president, to push for more movement on getting rid of farming subsidies, and for a new treaty on climate change.

Now, the problem here is, Tony now has a foil in both camps – he knows that Bush is not going to give in on capping emissions, and he knows the French aren’t going to go quietly on the CAP, so he can happily talk in non-definite terms about wanting things to ‘move forward’, ‘develop’ etc. without much fear that he’s actually going to have to do anything.

Of course, there’s the off-chance that he means it, which would be good. But there’s no real way of knowing. I don’t really trust him on anything these days. I can’t really see why anyone would after the outright lies he and his government told over Iraq. Why should he change now? He hasn’t even come clean over that disaster.

But I live in hope. We still have the problem of the G8/WTO/IMF/World Bank actually existing in the first place, but I’m a pragmatist and I really hope things move forward in a direction that is favourable for the world’s poor. We just need to remember that we’re still operating within a fundementally inequitous framework, and at some point, the world’s poor and working classes need to realise that the billionaires don’t really have our interests at heart. The globalised neo-feudalism of G8 style political dialogue is all about seeing what concessions they can make without spoiling things for share-holders. And therein lies the fundemental problem.

More Fudge than a trolley-dash round Cadburys World…

So here it is, The G8’s paper on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development – a few things are noteable from it.

Firstly, they admit there’s a problem. Well done, old rich white men, you’re catching up with the scientists who’ve been saying it for decades. Particularly well done for getting the bell-end in The White House to finally acknowledge that it might be a problem.

Thence follows a list of vague stuff they intend to do. An example –

6. We will, therefore take further action to:

(a) promote innovation, energy efficiency, conservation, improve policy, regulatory and financing frameworks; and accelerate deployment of cleaner technologies, particularly lower-emitting technologies

(b) work with developing countries to enhance private investment and transfer of technologies, taking into account their own energy needs and priorities.

(c) raise awareness of climate change and our other multiple challenges, and the means of dealing with them; and make available the information which business and consumers need to make better use of energy and reduce emissions.

Notice – no figures, no firm commitments, no deadlines, no admission of culpability. Just fudge, fudge glorious fudge.

And let me quote section (b) again –

(b) work with developing countries to enhance private investment and transfer of technologies, taking into account their own energy needs and priorities.

So, hang on, getting third world countries to privatise their currently publically owned energy services is part of the fight against global warming?????? I’ve heard it all now. Not only are they tagging it on as an IMF-sanctioned condition of debt relief, they are commencing bullying impoverished countries into selling off those public services to western energy giants under the guise of it being the greener option. IT’S BOLLOCKS! We have been had – the G8 are once again acting purely in the interests of big business in the west. Bush’s best friends, the guys he called ‘the haves and the have mores’, as though that’s a good thing. Evil, twisted, uncaring, disgusting parasites. How dare they. God, I’m angry.

Make Poverty History my arse.

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