"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

Of grief

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2012

Untitled, by Maria Elvorith

Let me tell you a story.

It’s a story about our land – our home – and our ability to live peaceful, harmonious, respectful lives upon it and in partnership with it.

And it’s a story about the big bad political structures and corporate institutions that conspire to stop us doing so, using the unspeakable, impenetrable black magic of bureaucracy and backhanders to bind our best efforts with frustration and fatigue.

Oh, you already know that one?

~~~~~~~~~

Ok, then maybe you’re ready for the next chapter, about what comes after?

Fine. Sit down, make yourselves comfortable.
Read more »

Land, and the army marching to claim it, in the UK and around the world

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 20th, 2012

Greenham Reach

The right to access land matters, in a fundamental way. It is a place to live, a source for food, for water, for fuel, and for sustenance of almost every kind. And land management also has profound impacts on our ecosystems and environment, and thus on our well-being and our collective future. So it matters deeply that while UK supermarkets and housing estates find permission to build easy to come by, those who wish to use land to explore truly sustainable living are blocked and frustrated at every turn.

It is this sorry state of affairs that has given birth to the “Reclaim the Fields” movement and activist groups like Grow Heathrow and the Diggers 2012. Inspired by the example of Gerrard Winstanley’s 17th Century Diggers, these peaceful, practical radicals have moved onto disused UK land in order to cultivate it, build dwellings and live in common “by the sweat of our brow”.

In other words, they have asserted their right to simply exist on nature’s bounty, seeking neither permission from anyone nor dominion over anyone; a right that they believe people should still share with the other animals. A right, indeed, that was enshrined in UK law in the 1217 Charter of the Forest. More recently, however, the strange young notion of owning exclusive rights to land has pushed back hard (as this excellent article documents). Thus, as they fully expected – and as happened to their forebears – the Diggers 2012′s crops have been torn up and they themselves have been hassled, moved on and in some cases arrested.

It might seem, then, that the efforts of these determined folk are being successfully repelled by ‘the system’, were it not for two crucial considerations – that they have history on their side, and that there is an enormous army surging at their backs.

Read more »

Transition Money

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 17th, 2012

The Joy of Not Being Sold Anything

Last month I was one of forty or so attendees of the Transition ‘Peak Money’ day. It was a fascinating collection of people, from theorists to activists, and a potent opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing us all as the glaring errors at the heart of mainstream economics take their toll. This post is far more personal reflection than report, as Rob Hopkins has already done a great job on that front.

The key theme that seemed to run throughout the day, then, was ‘collapse’. Sadly, I was an hour late to the event, but the first sessions I witnessed were reports from Transitioners in Portugal, Ireland and Greece on the ‘front line’ impacts of the economic crunch. The talk was of collapse having already happened for many families and communities there, with statistics quoted including an 89% increase in Greek unemployment in three years, and Irish suicides having doubled since 2007.

They pulled no punches. Most of us were left grey and shaken as the harsh realities of the crisis were relayed. For me, a defining memory of the day was watching the alternative economists listening to this – people who have spent decades warning of these outcomes and trying to head them off – their heads shaking sadly with lips pursed, hands involuntarily coming to their faces in dismay as their Cassandra curse unfolds. Of course, the statistics were not new to them, but hearing these stories in person somehow always brings a heavier human impact. Watching that impact felt almost inappropriate, yet doubly powerful.

Read more »

My foreword for “The Future We Deserve” – out now

by Shaun Chamberlin on March 3rd, 2012

Untitled piece by Maria Elvorith
Untitled piece by Maria Elvorith
(from the cover of TheFWD)

The Future We Deserve, a collaborative book project edited by Vinay Gupta, Cat Lupton and Noah Raford, is available today. It can be read in full, downloaded or bought in hard copy here.

I contributed one of the one hundred short essays that make up the book as well as the below foreword (the same length as each essay!), which explores the unique nature of the project :
Read more »

OccupyTransition, or ‘this Halloween I dressed as the economy’

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 5th, 2011

Just woke up - Occupy Wall St

This post was written for the Transition Network‘s Social Reporting project, and published there on Sunday 13th November.

Having been invited to be this week’s Social Reporting guest editor and introduce the theme of economics, the burgeoning ‘Occupy’ movement seemed the obvious place to start.

Over the last couple of months I have been fascinated as the occupations started with OccupyWallStreet on Sept 17th, followed by others joining in solidarity around the world, including OccupyLondon, which has been the London Stock Exchange’s new neighbour since Oct 15th.

I’ve not been well lately, so haven’t been able to be there as much as I’d like, but I have been following events closely online and visiting when I can. It has been interesting to note that most of those I have met at OccupyLondon hadn’t previously heard of Transition, and that got me thinking about the parallels and differences between the two movements…

Read more »

My new heroes

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 25th, 2011

I recently heard an interviewer ask someone who their heroes are, and was struck by the lack of names that came up when I asked myself the same question (although Dr. James Hansen now springs to mind…)

But now I think I have one, having discovered the brave story of Robin Bank (AKA Enric Duran). He is a Catalan activist who spent the two years to 2008 taking out loans totalling nearly half a million euros, and then donated all of the money to various social movements working to build alternatives to our unequal and suicidal economic-political system. His video message revealing what he had done and explaining his motives is posted above. I consider it one of the most inspiring stories of insight and resultant action that I have yet heard.

Edit – Dec 2011 – A new video has been posted in which Duran speaks about the ‘Catalan Integrated Cooperative’ project – this complements his ‘financial civil disobedience’ with the hard work of practically demonstrating his thoughts on viable alternatives.

And another new hero of mine is revealed below the cut.

Read more »

Is activism therapy?

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 15th, 2011

Just Do It film

Last night I went to the première screening of an excellent new film called Just Do It. It’s a record of the direct action climate movement – Climate Camp, Plane Stupid et al. – made with the full cooperation of the activists, and it’s worth checking out, especially if you’ve never been directly involved yourself.

It is a story of people responding to the threat to their future with courage, determination, humour and camaraderie. It’s also a film that I remember existing only as a flyer, asking whether we would like to see a truly independent film developed outside mainstream production models and distributed for free. Hundreds of us donated, and I was keen to see the result.

Read more »

Revolution – RapNews #7

by Shaun Chamberlin on March 30th, 2011

Robert Foster’s brilliant Rap News makes it onto Dark Optimism for the second time, with a comment on recent events featuring the likes of Hugo Chavez, Glenn Beck, Bono (“Tell China to end first world debt”) and John Pilger, as well as footage from the ongoing American revolution.

Well worth a watch, as is this interview, where Noam Chomsky dismantles Jeremy Paxman’s worldview to his face.

Edit – 28/04/11 – And here’s a sincere call for American revolution, from Adbusters.

Happy birthday Transition Heathrow!

by Shaun Chamberlin on March 1st, 2011

Now here’s a video to lift your soul and make your day, celebrating the first birthday of the ever-more wonderful Transition Heathrow.

As discussed here last year, the site is not safe from the authorities, but it has now got an assured future until November at least. The ultimate aim is long-term community ownership. Thanks to all readers who supported the campaign, and huge congratulations to all at TT Heathrow – you are an inspiration.

Edit – Second short video now available.

Values and Propaganda

by Shaun Chamberlin on September 29th, 2010

Richard Avedon 1995

I have just spent an intrigued couple of hours musing over the outstanding new Common Cause report, which explores the battle over cultural values that underlies communications and marketing, while keeping one eye always on our environmental challenges.

The report has both stimulated a fair bit of controversy (as I will explore below the cut) and, excitingly, provided an answer to a question that has been bothering me for many years now, since reading Edward Bernays’ influential 1928 book Propaganda.

Read more »