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

Transition Money

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 17th, 2012

The Joy of Not Being Sold Anything - Transition Money

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 reflected in their expressions felt almost inappropriate, yet doubly powerful.

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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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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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