Tuesday 31 March 2009

Start the Week

Just listened again to Andrew Marr's show: 'Start the week' it is very worth a listen if you've got half an hour. This week saw Lord Nicholas Stern, the Climate Change Economics expert who is just about to release a book called 'Blueprint for a safer planet', Peter Singer (a philosopher) who has written a great sounding book called 'The life you can save'.... These two are joined by Alan Yentob who has just made a documentary on Obama and Oratory and geographer Susan Smith on home ownership.

No time to write about it now, will try to get something down later!

Monday 30 March 2009

Two Films

On Sunday I went to see two Environmentally themed films. Firstly I saw 'The Age of Stupid'. There has been lots of hype about this film and it was, Ok. For me it did seem a little bit like the makers had seen 'The Day After Tomorrow', 'An Inconvenient Truth' and 'The 11th Hour' and thought: 'hey we could do something like that'.... and that unfortunately is all they have done. The Age of Stupid would be useful to show someone who has either not heard of Climate Change before or is not yet convinced about it. It is dramatic, in places sad and upsetting, but it is the same old mix of Fear, Guilt and Chastisement. Those three things, for me add up to create paralysis, something the status quo feeds off.

There was a short Q&A after the film, I put my hand up first and asked 'why is it so pessimistic?' The answer from 'McLibel star and climate campaigning superstar Dave Morris' was 'I know, I kept trying to persuade Franny Armstrong (the writer) to inject more positivity, but she kept saying it is too serious for that, we need to scare people into changing and campaigning'. I really wish someone would make a more positive film, I wish someone would write about the real solutions, i.e. what a low carbon, low waste, wellbeing led economy would look like, we need to sell that to people before we have got any chance of selling something like 'carbon rationing'. No government at present will implement 'carbon rationing' it equates to telling people to give up everything the government and business have been telling us that we need for the sake of the future. It would be political suicide. We need to move quickly to start selling a wellbeing economy!

On that note 'Garbage Warrior' was so much better, so much more inspiring and so much more enjoyable. It is the story of one man, who has long been mystified by human 'progress', going out there to re-design the way we build and live in houses and communities. He has long been stifled by the dinosaur that is American politics but has persisted and now is an icon for architects the world over, I'm sure Kevin McCloud would love him. Be sure to watch that film, it is full of hope and joy and is a story of people who understand meaning and purpose and wellbeing, they are an example to us all!

In other news, I've been on a 'becoming self employed' course today and have discovered not only that I can claim 20p expenses on every mile I do on the bike when going about my business, but I can also claim the tax back on any 'training' I undertake including any films, conferences, talks and so on I go to and any relevant books and magazines I buy! Good news I guess!

Monday 23 March 2009

Win a Free Course at The School of Life

Carbon Retirement have teamed up with The School of Life to offer a free place on one of their excellent courses, if you want to enter you need to finish a sentence about why you are optimisitic about our chances of surviving climate change! I hope by 'our' they mean all living things, not just humans....

Click here to enter

The pen is mightier than the sword

Below is a letter sent by Dennis Mitchell founder of Global Footsteps to The Ministry of Transport. The letter is part of an ongoing correspondance between Dennis and the Ministry in regard to the proposed 3rd runway at Heathrow. It is very inspiring.

Steve Whyman,
Airports Police DivisionZone 1/26
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
21st March 2009
Your Ref: 12/00417/09

Dear Mr Whyman,

Thank you for taking the trouble to write and explain your Ministry’s reasoning behind the Government decision to favour a third runway at Heathrow.

It is clear from your response that in your view “significant economic benefits” over-ride my environmental concerns. Allow me to explain why I am still not persuaded that the expansion plan should go ahead.

Your rationale is based on a concept of costs and benefits that have no proper foundation in what is true wealth. As we have seen, sterling/dollars/euros/etc are an intangible invention of humanity that fluctuate at the mercy of speculation in the competitive casino termed a market. Your figures of £5.5 billion, £3.3 billion, etc are fictions that mean nothing to the real wealth of the Earth. Real wealth is inherent in the material nature of the Earth, its atmosphere and, above all, the energy of the sun. Such wealth, huge as it may seem, is finite and vital to the survival of life on Earth.

Your perspective downplays the welfare of future generations and reveals no concern whatsoever for the non-human life on Earth. It is a recipe for extermination, maybe not in the current generation, but it accelerates the trend to that eventual outcome – the consequence of materialistic policies excused as a need to compete with equally materialistic ‘competitors’ with no consideration for the exponential rise in emissions attributable to the extra air-miles.

You will recall the recent highly-lauded performance of the American pilot whose brilliant airmanship saved the lives of all the passengers when he ditched his damaged aircraft on the river. He was praised in all quarters and we are full of admiration for him. But did you hear anyone express any regret whatsoever for the flock of birds, killed outright and blamed for damaging the aircraft at take-off?

Such is the attitude of ‘growth-obsessed’ humanity to all non-human inhabitants, wildlife and other living nature, and even to future generations of humanity, that I despair at the man-made calamity which will inevitably befall life on Earth.

I shall oppose your plans for airport expansion at Heathrow to the bitter end.

Yours sincerely,

Dennis Mitchell

Wednesday 18 March 2009


Here is a video of a guy called Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, he is a psychologist who wrote a very good book about happiness and where it comes from called FLOW. It is quite a long and arduous book to read although it does have some fantastic passages. I have also read a chapter by him in a book called 'Psychology and Consumer Culture' which is a really good introduction to 'flow'. The best bit in this clip comes after about 2.30 mins when he says: ‘Young people get commercialised visions of the good life through athletes, rock stars, models etc...50% of young people expect to be [famous] and they think that is the route towards the ‘good life’' For more on flow and what it is click here

Monday 16 March 2009

Should I have a baby?

Please go here to find an interesting piece by Jonathan Porritt on the links between population and the environment. He makes the very useful point that the environmental movement needs to be brave enough to once again approach the taboo subject of population because in short more mouths to feed equals more environmental pressure. Paul Ehrlich spoke about this subject forty years ago in his very famous book The Population Bomb. My humble opinion is that the problem is not merely a high population it is how that population behaves, even if global measures could be put in place to slow down population growth, the problems would not be solved unless we also change the way in which we behave. As more of the globe is Westernised we, as a global population, are getting more and more materialistic. If this trend was reversed and as a worldwide population we were becoming less materialistic, the environment would be better placed to absorb a predicted 2050 global population of 9 billion.

I think Porritt is the best Environmentalist in the UK today (if not the world) he is brave, consistent and most importantly selfless and realistic. I recommend his book too.

Thursday 12 March 2009

A 'chance' to escape

This was the scene at Liverpool St Station today at 5.15pm. About 20 people were queing up for a chance to win a pair of flights to Asia couertesy of Air Asia. The queue was moving pretty slowly, these people were in no rush to get home, the chance to escape the monotony of city life was worth the wait even if the odds of winning were extremly thin. The engine type thing was actually a giant tombola which these lucky entrants were putting a boarding pass into in the hope that theirs might be the one drawn out at the end... or something like that!

The drudgery of everyday life fuels our longing to escape, airplanes are so often the cheap and easy means to that escape, but it begs the question of why we live lives that we are so keen to escape for a couple of weeks every year? Are 50 weeks of 'work, work, work' in exchange for 2 weeks of 'me, me, me' in some exotic location (plus a few days at home with the folks at Christmas) really worth it? Surely those hours from 9 til 5 everyday should be spent doing something enjoyable, rewarding, stimulating and socially useful? They are the hours of the day when we are most awake and productive (we spend them chained to desks while the sun shines outside.) At the very least we can get a sense of wellbeing if we know we are doing something that is collectively good, even if it is tiring and stressful.

As for the environmental battle to keep people out of the air for the sake of 'Climate Change' this just shows how keen people are to fly, they would rather spend fifteen minutes in a queue getting heavily marketed to by an airline for the tiniest chance of winning a flight than get themselves home to their families, their books, thier hobbies, their friends, thier 'life'. The need to escape is both created by and catered for by consumer culture, holidays are a key product. If you asked those pictured below whether they thought a new runway to make Heathrow more efficient was a good idea, they would probably answer: 'Yes!' I asked one man this question and he answered: 'Yes mate!' I also asked him 'do you think you'll win?' He answered 'Probably not.'

Saturday 7 March 2009

Affluenza Exhibition

On the 19th of March the Affluenza Exhibition opens in Clerkenwell London. It should be worth visiting there are a few talks including Oliver James and Neil Boorman. Visit the website here: www.theaffluenzaexhibition.org

Here are my top ten books and things to watch regarding Affluenza:

1. 'The Century of the Self' (documentary) by Adam Curtis)

2. 'The Hidden Persuaders' by Vance Packard

3. 'Status Anxiety' (docu and book) by Alain de Botton

4. 'Affluenza' by Hamilton and Denniss

5. 'Selfish Capitalist' by Oliver James

6. 'Flow' by Mihayli Csikzentmihalyi

7. 'Affluenza' by John De Graff et al

8. 'Slow' by Carl Honore

9. 'Bonfire of the Brands' by Neil Boorman

10. 'How to be Free' by Tom Hodgkinson

This is in no particular order and there are at least 10 more I can think of especially novels by people like George Orwell, Jack Kerouac and F.Scott Fitzgerald!

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Do the Green thing

I was speaking to my colleague at ecoACTIVE, Carlos, today about the lack of multimedia, modern, fun things to show school children. I got home and found this in my email from Green thing! This could be a nice little thing to show at the beginning of a lesson:

Plug Out Boy feat. Green Monday from Green Thing on Vimeo.

Enjoy, spread and use!