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

‘The Impact of Transition. In numbers’ – a note of caution

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 19th, 2014

This post was originally written by me as a guest post for Rob Hopkins’ Transition Culture blog, but I have kindly given myself permission to reproduce it here ;)

Moomin

A response to a recent post by Rob Hopkins ‘The impact of Transition. In numbers.‘.

Transition is a wonderful melange of conversations, projects, interactions, inspirations, hard work, failures, successes and entirely unexpected events which we are altogether unsure what to make of!  Transition initiatives themselves are as unique as the people who make them up.  Initially termed ‘Transition Towns’, they have twisted and squirmed out from under that label like squealing children from under a favourite uncle, becoming Transition Islands, Sustainable Villages, Cities in Transition and all the rest.

To use Rob’s favourite quote from Moominland: 

"It was a funny little path, winding here and there, dashing off in different directions, and sometimes even tying a knot in itself from sheer joy. (You don’t get tired of a path like that, and I’m not sure that it doesn’t get you home quicker in the end).” 

Yes, Transition: fun, exciting, inspirational, powerful, even maybe uncharacterisable!

But, remember, it is just one thing, this Transition.

Blergh.

Deadening isn’t it, this counting?  

What does it even mean anyway: "one thing"?  Surely Transition is a mess of thousands of different people, communities, activities, passions..?  At best it’s one category.  And who wants to be categorised?  

And what’s a category anyway? 

There is always a difference between any one thing and any other, so to say that there are two of something (let alone two hundred) is always an imperfect statement, in the same way that an analogy between two things is always imperfect.  Analogies may highlight important similarities between two things, but they gloss over important differences too, which is why they can be dangerously misleading when applied too widely.  Numbers too are imperfect analogies for reality, and are dangerous in just the same way.

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The secret truth behind environmentalists’ favourite argument

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 20th, 2013

Argument

When environmentalists argue amongst themselves, whether at some formal debate or late at night over a few drinks, I confidently predict that the argument will go like this.

One will say (in one form or another):
“There’s no time to wait for radical change or revolution; the crisis is overwhelmingly urgent, we simply have to act within the frameworks we have now”.

The other will argue (in one form or another):
“But there’s no point in acting without radical change or revolution; without that we are only addressing symptoms and not the real problems”.

We’ve all participated in those kinds of arguments, and we’ve all heard them a hundred times.  They become a little tiresome.  But I believe that they point towards a truth that remains unspoken.
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Of grief

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2012

'From fire, Redwood', 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.
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Robin Bank – an invitation to mass civil disobedience

by Shaun Chamberlin on April 2nd, 2012

My hero Enric Duran (AKA Robin Bank) has posted this new video explaining his legal situation and inviting others to join his radical action against the banks.

For those who haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend watching his inspiring 2008 video first.

What I find particularly fascinating about this new video is Duran’s statement that “I know speaking of the extension of disobedience, of the risks of detention and prison, brings up our fears and insecurities. But I also know from experience, that the experience of freedom, understood as the consistency between thought and action, generates a feeling of well-being that 1,000 bars cannot block.”

This echoes the account of another hero of mine, Tim DeChristopher, now in jail, who recently said,

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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.

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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.

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The art and music of our world’s predicament

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 3rd, 2010

Emma Wieslander, ‘Derwentwater I’, 2006

I got back from the Dark Mountain Project’s Uncivilisation festival a few days ago, and while I could write about many of the aspects of that stimulating week, one thread it really tugged on for me was the role – the critical importance – of the arts in shifting the cultural stories that shape our future.

So today I would like to highlight a few musical artists who have inspired my personal journey, and to invite you to suggest a few artists of any kind who have brought something to your engagement with the global problematique, in whatever way, and perhaps deserve a little more exposure.

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Applied Philosophy

by Shaun Chamberlin on February 23rd, 2010

Resurgence cover

Below the cut is the text of my latest article for the highly-recommended Resurgence magazine. They asked me to tell the story of my own personal journey thus far, and how I ended up doing what I do. Thanks to Resurgence for permission to reproduce it here (and on my articles page).

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Punk rock and permaculture

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 18th, 2010

I just stumbled across this documentary (English with Dutch subtitles) following the story of the 70s/80s punk band Crass. They are still living wholeheartedly by their Do It Yourself ethos and “There is no authority but yourself” philosophy. A recommended watch.

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The final word – Al Gore debates climate sceptic Monckton

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 25th, 2009