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

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

Read more »

Despairing of Ed Miliband, Becoming a Filmstar, and Other Adventures

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 4th, 2009

Shaun Chamberlin
It has been another crazy whirlwind of a month, with this weekend set to be the first in five which I get to spend in Transition Town Home, having spoken recently in Bungay, Glastonbury, Belsize Park and the Forest of Dean, as well at the Transition Conference (I hate that name, can’t we call it a ‘Gathering’ or something?) in Battersea, and at the Sunrise Celebration Festival.

One highlight for me was watching the world première of the movie “In Transition” and being surprised and delighted to find that I was in it (having completely forgotten the quick interview they grabbed with me at my book launch!). Another was meeting an A-Level teacher who is already using my book as a teaching aid for his Environmental Design students.

But perhaps of wider interest was the fact that Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, turned up at the Transition Conference as a ‘keynote listener’, but still managed to drop a few bombshells. Read more »

The Crash Course at Christmas

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 26th, 2008

Neoconservative stewardship

I spent a few hours this Christmas watching former Pfizer Vice President Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, which undertakes the daunting task of presenting the overarching interplay of economics, energy and environment in today’s world, and doing it in a friendly, accessible way. He does an impressive job, and it’s all broken down into easily digestible videos from 2-15 minutes long.

His simple indisputable explanations of topics such as why economic growth does not equal prosperity are invaluable, but most impressive to me was the clarity with which Chris distinguishes between his own beliefs and the facts he is sharing which have shaped those beliefs. For example, he states up front his belief that “the next twenty years are going to be completely unlike the past twenty years”, and then shows us just which facts have led him to that belief. It becomes hard to disagree. Read more »

What a month!

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 7th, 2008

Barack Obama

What with the founding of the new UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), our Government’s commitment to 80% emissions cuts by 2050, the election of Barack Obama, the International Energy Agency acknowledging that “current global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable” and the latest shudders of the moribund economic system, a lot has happened since my last post.

In fact I have had a real sense, both through public events and private discussions, that things are starting to shift – that finally a recognition of the collective nature and overwhelming severity of these challenges is starting to spread. That said, at this stage the problems still appear to be worsening more quickly than our awareness is improving and, crucially, the real challenges of the interactions between these crises and the implications of addressing them still remain largely unacknowledged. Read more »

Reinventing collapse

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 29th, 2008

Reinventing Collapse

As George Carlin once said, “they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it”.

At the risk of this blog becoming ‘review corner’, that seems the perfect introduction to the book I just finished reading – Dmitry Orlov’s brilliantly enjoyable Reinventing Collapse. This is a true work of dark optimism, with a fair dash of dark humour to boot.

In it, Orlov draws on his experiences of the collapse of the Soviet Union to explore the future American residents like him are likely to face as the effects of the USA’s disastrous economic, energy and foreign policies take hold. Read more »

Concentrating Solar thermal Power (CSP) – a step in the right direction, but no panacea

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 19th, 2008

CSP parabolic trough

As I mentioned in my earlier post, last week I met Polly Higgins, The Lazy Environmentalist. She specialises in CSP, and informed me that we may now be seeing serious political movement towards an EU-MENA supergrid bringing CSP-generated electricity to Europe from the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

For those not familiar with the concept, CSP is not about photovoltaic solar panels, but rather the simple use of mirrors to focus solar heat on pipes filled with water. This generates steam which turns turbines to generate electricity. It is a simple low-tech concept that has been operating a 165 MW power plant in California for over 20 years.

It has been calculated that, if it was covered with CSP plants, an area of hot desert of about 254 km x 254 km — less than 1% of the total area of such deserts — would produce as much electricity as is currently consumed by the whole world.

An area measuring 110 km x 110 km, a small fraction of the area of desert in North Africa and the Middle East, would produce the same amount of electricity as the European Union consumed in 2004. This is illustrated graphically below the cut.

So this political movement towards a CSP supergrid is a very significant development, and, I think, a positive one. Read more »