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

Lazy politics?

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 22nd, 2008

Blair lazing

I find myself wondering if our current political system (like so much else in our modern culture) might be partially a product of the bonanza of abundant cheap energy we have been enjoying for the last century or two. Have we been so comfortable that the pressure has been off for our decision makers?

Now I am certainly no student of politics, and my musings should be taken with that proviso, but it has always seemed a little strange that there is such a widespread perception of our politicians as incompetent and immoral, and yet they continue to be entrusted with the ultimate decision-making role for our society. There is widespread disinterest among the young people I know, and perhaps part of the reason is that people have ‘learnt’ that it really doesn’t matter how ineffective politicians may be – there still always seems to be water in the tap and food on the table, so surely they must be doing something right? Read more »

Focus on Climate Change and ignore Peak Oil? Not good enough

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 14th, 2008

Oil Platform - Day

Lately I seem to be encountering many climate change activists who have a blind spot when it comes to peak oil. At present, Friends of the Earth appear to be particularly prone to this.

They assert that climate change is overwhelmingly urgent (no arguments from me there) and so that the depletion of fossil fuels is largely irrelevant. In fact they argue that it can only be good news, limiting the availability of these dangerous substances which have the potential to destabilise our climate.

But this ignores the reason why humanity is so loathe to wean itself off these fuels in the first place. They are exceptionally potent energy sources which greatly increase our ability to change our human infrastructure and shape the world around us. Energy is perhaps best defined as the ability to do work, and there is much work to be done in the transition to a low-carbon way of life. Read more »

TEQs (downstream) or Cap and Dividend (upstream)?

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 8th, 2008


In the climate policy community there is a growing debate between advocates of ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ carbon caps (dams?). The terms draw an analogy between the flow of water in a stream and the flow of energy through an economy. ‘Upstream’ advocates want to regulate the few dozen fuel and energy companies that bring carbon into the economy, arguing that this is cheaper and simpler than addressing the behaviour of tens of millions of ‘downstream’ consumers.

At first glance this seems a convincing argument, but there is one important regard in which an upstream scheme fails – it does not engage the general populace in the changes required. Read more »