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

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…

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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.

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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.

All Party Parliamentary TEQs report launch

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 23rd, 2011

APPGOPO TEQs front cover

What a week – Tuesday’s launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil’s report into TEQs was a tremendous success, with excellent media coverage, including Time magazine, The Sunday Times, Bloomberg News, the BBC, the Financial Times and many others (linked article list). The only problem has been that the degree of interest has been such that I haven’t found a moment to write anything here – although I have been Tweeting, I feel as though I’m the last to cover it!

A fuller, more thoughtful piece may follow when time allows, but for now take a look at the videos from the event (Caroline Lucas MP, John Hemming MP, Jeremy Leggett and me), the various blogs that are discussing the implications, and of course the report itself.

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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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Heinberg – after Copenhagen

by Shaun Chamberlin on March 15th, 2010

An interview with the ever-insightful Richard Heinberg, discussing where we should put our efforts in the aftermath of the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit. It is well worth a watch, and you might want to consider spreading it to your contacts via the “Share This” link in the bottom right corner of this post.

I heartily endorse his perspective, but disagree when he argues in support of carbon taxation at around fifteen minutes in, saying that “we need to make fossil fuels more expensive”. In my opinion, we do not – we need to guarantee a fair entitlement to the available energy, not ration it by the depth of people’s pockets.

As Richard says, “if you’re taxing everybody on their use of fossil fuels – raising their cost of living – it’s pretty hard to get their buy-in to that”, but once you guarantee people a fair entitlement, in line with a declining cap, society can then collectively focus on keeping the price of energy as low as possible, which is a simply-understood task that everyone can buy into with enthusiasm.

Richard is touching on a widely-unrecognised contradiction at the heart of present energy/climate policy discussions – the desire to raise carbon prices while keeping energy prices low. Market-based approaches struggle to see past this, but TEQs would resolve it at a stroke, through the recognition that reducing the quantity of carbon emissions can be best achieved by means other than a high price.

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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Heroes and villains in Copenhagen, and beyond

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 5th, 2010

ObamaMan

“Tell everybody
Waitin’ for Superman
That they should try to
Hold on, best they can

He hasn’t dropped them,
Forgot them,
Or anything,
It’s just too heavy for Superman to lift”

~ The Flaming Lips

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Holyrood 350 interview

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 22nd, 2009

Above is a recording of a quick interview I gave immediately after speaking at the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, as part of the Holyrood 350 campaign.

The Story of Cap and Trade

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 1st, 2009

The Story of Cap & Trade is the second offering from the project that brought us The Story of Stuff. In this ten minute video, host Annie Leonard presents an excellent, clearly explained look at some of the devil in the detail of Cap & Trade, explaining how it works and who it benefits.

Having said that, it does leave out perhaps the most damning criticism of cap and trade schemes like the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) – that they are not only a passive distraction from real solutions, but are actually used to justify avoiding them. As The Guardian reported in October 2007:

“One of the main objections of government to meeting the renewables target…is that it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme.” Leaked UK Government documents argue that “[Meeting the EU’s target of 20% of energy being renewable by 2020] crucially undermines the scheme’s credibility … and reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power.”