activism

More carbon trading, and dodgy US subpoena

The Story of Cap & Trade. A short (just shy of 10 min), well-written and well-produced video explaining clearly why cap & trade isn’t a solution to the carbon crisis. From the “Story of Stuff” people.

On a slightly different note, EFF discuss the subpoena issued by the US government to indymedia.us, which included an illegally-broad information-fishing expedition and a bogus gag order. Good work by Indymedia & the EFF in standing up to this.

And finally, another reminder to come along to COP OUT CAMP OUT this weekend, where you will very probably be able to see The Story of Cap & Trade on a bicycle-powered projector.

activism

Land grabs in the developing world

An interesting (and infuriating) post on The Angry Black Woman about land grabs. Executive summary: ‘investors’, initially officials from richer countries apparently concerned about food security, latterly all sorts of other people just interested in the financial value, have been buying up land in the developing world, especially in Africa.

There’s lots of useful resources and links from that post, but it doesn’t really take a genius to recognise that this is unlikely to end well for the people living in those countries. It’s the same as the biofuels issue: the rich buy up the land at the expense of those who live off it.

Even if you think that local people where the land is being bought are actually getting the money (which is, frankly, pretty monumentally unlikely), the economics of the situation (on an assumption of food scarcity, which is after all why the ‘investment’ is considered valuable) means that it’s a bad deal. The money can’t make up for the loss of the food — because the cost of the food is going to be greater than the cost of the land (otherwise no money is made). Not only that, but the food is going to go first to richer countries who can afford to pay more.

Yet another way in which climate change and capitalism are screwing the poor of the world over first. Unfortunately it looks like it’s going to be business as usual in Copenhagen; continuing to put financial interests over global wellbeing. If you’re in the UK, the Wave march is this Saturday; after that there’s the more radically-inclined Climate Camp COP OUT CAMP OUT event. Come along to push the idea that Copenhagen needs to produce radical results.

activism

Time and sustainability

I worked out the other day that the various things I’m committed to (paid work, activism, food-growing, writing, other bits & pieces) add up to approximately a 50-hour week (that’s excluding the 5 hours I work on Saturdays). Which… is a lot.

Then there’s the things that keep showing up in my inbox, or on mailing lists, or in leaflets I see in Non-Commercial House or LARC. So many things that I would love to get involved in, and that would be valuable uses of my time. Except for where I already have no time left.

I know that activism has to be sustainable; that you need to look after yourself and avoid burnout. (It’s also my experience that far too often, that’s not seen as a priority — that there can be an attitude whereby it’s encouraged to run yourself into the ground for a cause. But that’s for another post.) But there is so much that I could be doing, and I don’t know how to choose or prioritise it.

The best I can do at the moment is to try to be honest about what I actually get something out of for myself (because you won’t work well at something that you’re doing reluctantly); and to watch my tendency to overcommit when I’m just trying things out. I keep reminding myself that it’s OK to try things out, to work out where I want to spend my energies.

My gut instinct is that what I’m doing at the moment isn’t long-term sustainable; so I need to do something about it. But that doesn’t help me work out what to drop whilst still feeling satisfied with how I’m spending my time. If anything, it’s a constant battle not to take more things on. Tales of other people’s experiences of managing this would be gratefully appreciated!

activism

Staying associated: Kenya, climate change, and action

Last week I read this Guardian article on the effects of climate change in Kenya.  It’s upsetting, and angering, and it left me with a feeling of empty helplessness.  As I read the final paragraphs, I felt my ability to engage with the issues sliding away, beaten down by a layer of “well, shit, this is just too bad, too awful, for me to do anything”.

“Best not to think about it,” my self-protection told me.

I’m sure this wasn’t the aim of the writer.  But it is often the risk with this sort of disaster story.  Faced with however-many hundred words of bleak doom, the easiest reaction is dissociation.  Thinking about it is too miserable; there’s nothing in it to indicate that there’s anything that you as an individual can do; so the self-protective response is disengagement.

Which isn’t helpful: to those affected by climate change, to us (so far only minimally affected if at all), to anyone.  To counter that, here’s some things that you can do about this, and about other climate change disaster stories.

  • Change your own consumption habits.  There may be a limit to the impact that you all by yourself can have, but it’s not just about you all by yourself.  It’s about many people – everyone – changing their habits, and that is one of the things that must happen for us to have any hope of minimising the changes in the climate.  Check out 10:10 as a possible starting point.
  • Campaign for other, bigger changes: Climate Camp (the Great Climate Swoop is upcoming in October!), Climate Rush, Plane Stupid…  Direct action really can make a difference, and the more people are involved, the greater the likelihood that we’ll have an impact.
  • To help people in Kenya (and other affected areas) more directly: Farm Africa are working in Kenya, promoting projects that empower local communities to manage their own resources and increase their own resistance to water (and other) problems.  
  • The charity Concern are also working in this area. 

It’s important not just to throw money at the problem (however good the charity in question is) and forget about it: that’s another form of disengagement. To halt climate change (and thus to make real long-term changes for those worst hit by it), we all need to act.  You yourself can make a difference.  We can react to distressing news like this, not with helpless dissociation, but with action. That’s the only way we can make the future better.

activism

Bikes and public transport

And the first proper post is a very practical one.  I spend a lot of time cycling, and when I go longer distances by train, I like to take my bike with me.  This can on occasion be a screaming nuisance.  Broadly speaking, local trains don’t require booking (and will usually have some variety of bike-space, of greater or less usability), but long-distance/Intercity trains do require booking.  Booking these days is free, but most of the online ticket sites don’t have a bike-booking option, which means either booking in person, booking by phone, or phoning up after you’ve bought the actual tickets (which can be… complicated, depending on who you speak to).

But!  There is good news amidst the confusion.  National Express East Coast have an online ticket-booking service which does allow you to book your bike on when you book your ticket.  They sell tickets for all trains, not just the ones they run, and the system, whilst Javascripty, is actually very usable.*  Highly recommended when you and your bike want to get somewhere.

Whilst on the subject of bikes and public transport, two questions:
1. Is there a good reason why the old-fashioned guard’s van (with lots of room for bikes and other bulky objects) can’t be brought back on modern trains?
2. Whilst in San Francisco a few months ago, I noticed that MUNI buses have bike-racks on the front (explanatory video also available).  This is a genuinely awesome thing.  I find myself wondering: are these things fittable post-hoc?  Could London’s buses (and other UK buses) be fitted with them? 

* I can’t comment on disability-usability issues – would be interested to know if anyone else can. 

activism, permaculture

An introduction

Of late, I have found myself wanting to write about a certain class of thing.  About the ways in which the world isn’t the place I want it to be; about the ways in which individuals can act to change that.  Right now I’m spending a lot of time thinking about environmental issues and climate change, but that broadens out very quickly, into considering the structural problems which have led us to the difficult and dangerous situation we are in today, and where we might want to be instead.

This blog is a space for practical tips: on cycling, and gardening, and reducing your own impact on the planet.  It’s a space for thinking about the issues: what is the deal with carbon trading?  It’s a space for thinking and talking about structural alternatives: how do we as a society make decisions, act collectively, talk to one another, and how else (how better) might these things be done?  It’s time to empower ourselves, through knowledge and skills, to create the changes we want to see in the world.