What Can We Learn From Australia In 1991?

January 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Meet the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (RAG) in the late eightees and early ninetees – running a powerful campaign to halt the importation of rainforest timbers from South East Asia – using water-based blockades of timber ships, dock occupations, widespread community boycotts and union green bans. Melbourne RAG was one of many RAG’s around Australia inspired by and acting in solidarity with the Penan and other Dyak peoples in Sarawak, Malaysia who were blockading their ancestral homelands.

Some stand-out learning points for me;

  • A fantastic explanation of why non-violent protest can be the most effective vehicle for a message, and definitely one for UK student organisers to think about for future protests (now that they have media-prominence).
  • Unusual voices putting forward a traditional message – hearing a union worker talk about protecting the rainforest is unusual, and therefore extra powerful (and newsworthy!). The Union/RAG strategy seems to have been built very carefully here – the sequence where we hear RAG organisers shout ‘three cheers for the union’ demonstrates the intentional relationship being built.
  • Giving space for, and attention to, personal/leadership development within the group as a requisite for being part of RAG – ensuring movement sustainability and personal transformation as part of the process. That’s what I call organising : )

A proud moment for Australian history!

Link Loving 27.01.11

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

  • BusinessGreen reports on how WWF is working with Vestas to launch the idea of ‘windmade’, ala Fair Trade.
  • Matt Taibbi is convinced Sarah Palin will be the Republican candidate in 2012.
  • Beyond One makes the link between cities and changing class structures.
  • Parag Khanna describes how modern cities represent the history of the Middle Ages more than anything in the last two hundred years.
  • Natalya Sverjensky (section 2 of the report) writes that we need to understand the the failure of CoP15 is a symptom, if we want progress.
  • Jeremy Allaire reveals how to create the DNA of an organisation when it starts.
  • Alain de Botton asks how our relationship with nature has changed?
  • Lisa Hymas explains where the GOP Presidential candidates stand on climate. Not near the answer, that’s for sure.

How Not To Deal With Systemic Problems

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

As illustrated by an exercise wheel and two sugar gliders.

This Won’t Work

January 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Start by watching this short video from Sony and WWF about a new project, Open Planet Ideas.

It won’t work.

1. This is not anything new. I’ve lost count of the number of online-green-community-spaces there are, and it’s pretty obvious that what’s holding us back is not the need for another one.

2. This is not the best way to get people to do what you want. It’s supposed to be reinventing community activism to attract the Facebook generation. As a proud member of the Facebook generation, I can tell you – I’m not attracted to things that are built for me without finding out what I want. I’m attracted to things that work. Facebook works, MySpace doesn’t. Avaaz works, petitions on the Number 10 website don’t. Follow the data, peoples.

3. This is not addressing the real issues. “You can collaborate to identify environmental issues, and tackle them as a community.” Well, let me do that first part for you – why not start with the IPCC 4th Assessment Report on climate change, then how about biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, carcinogenic toxins etc? As for part two, an unknown internet user on the other side of the world is not going to motivate me to write letters to my MP as much as a local group, or an established organisation. (Unless you do something like this)

It frustrates me that the significant resources Sony will have put into this project will end in six months time with a small presentation about how they’ve ‘engaged’ the public, and that the project is now closing down. Sony wields enormous influence and could have used this moment to transform their ideas of business, and taken their customers with them. That has not happened here.

Thankfully – there are ways WWF is collaborating with business in really positive ways, as Jason Clay explains in his fantastic TED talk.

We can’t all hide from the big business world. As Sergio Vieira de Melo once said, ‘you need to go and talk to the men with guns’. Parts of our movement absolutely need to work with corporates to improve their environmental and social behaviour, and to start changing business norms. After all, if they say they want to change – and we’re not going to help them do that, how are they supposed to improve?

That said – systems theory tells us there are three ways to deal with corporate pollution/exploitation/etc.

  1. Incentives
  2. Punishment
  3. Constraints

Right now, we’re ignoring number 3. Constraints. Our systemic goal of permanent growth ignores the environmental and resource realities of limited stock. That needs to change. Number 2. Punishment is under-used. BP executives should be behind bars following the oil spill last year. Monsanto and Cargill should be fined half their profits for their treatment of farmers around the world. And don’t get me started on Tar Sands.

But here’s the interesting bit – number 1. Incentives – here is where NGOs can work with business successfully. Think FSC standards, think Fair Trade. But we’ve got to make sure that the things they do together are actual incentives to change things.

That’s why the Sony/WWF project won’t work – because it doesn’t get us anywhere new.

h/t Greenormal

Link Loving 26.01.11

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

  • Seth Godin hits the nail on the head again.
  • Milford Bateman on why micro-finance has not provided people with a way out of poverty. (It’s systemic/transformational change that’s needed people.)
  • Jules Evans points out that he’s had long dibs on the ‘gyms are the new churches’ thing. And includes a pretty poster.
  • Ze Frank discovers some more internet magic – a football crowd that turn into human pixels.
  • Very cute blog of movies someone can’t quite remember.
  • The Freakonomics blog reveals that men on caffeine is basically the worst decision-making process ever.
  • (I’m late to the party here) Neal Lawson sets out his vision for the Good Society.
  • Nicholas Carr identifies three technologies that challenged our brains – maps, clocks and the printing press. (So, can we please get used to the idea that we can change our paradigm?)
  • Do you want to buy Myspace? You can.
  • Sunny Hundal enjoys James Delingpole’s car-crash interview on Horizon. (I’d never realised how posh he is!)
  • Dan Hodges on the Movement For Change/Citizens UK announcement to train 10,000 Labour organisers, and why he thinks this might not be such a good idea.

State Of The Union

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Obama focused his State of the Union address last night on his message to win for the future. White House Communications staff pushed the message that the most important contest America faces today is not between Democrats and Republicans, but the contest with competitors across the globe for the jobs and industries of our time. (A hint towards clean energy?). This was no doubt a timely message following the national debate started by Amy Chua’s book on tiger mums…

Perhaps most interesting from a climate perspective were these two sections –

“I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause)  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. (Laughter)  So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

“Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”
OK, so he hasn’t said anything wildly fantastic here – but these are serious indicators that energy/climate is still an administration goal. The removal of subsidies is one of the most powerful leverage points we have in order to foster innovation and scaling-up of clean tech, so this is especially welcome.
Some other State of the Union coverage –

Van Jones Crushes The Idea Of Disposability

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

I have a policy on this blog that if Van Jones gives a speech, I will post it here – no further questions. When I met him in the autumn of last year, I knew that this is someone who I believe in as a leader more than anyone else alive today.

His riff on how we think about the bottles we throw away is also totally hilarious 🙂

Economic Disobedience

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

This video from Russia Today is a corker. Economic disobedience is on the rise across America. As the Huffington Post explains:

With falling wages, cuts in benefits, and alarming public transportation fare hikes, New Yorkers are fighting back with their own brand of economic disobedience. The video below is about the People’s Transportation Program, an organization that is purchasing unlimited Metrocards and giving people free rides as a protest to the recent MTA fare increase ($104 for a monthly unlimited!).

Especially interesting is the mention of supermarket and fast-food chain managers giving their workers a little food to take home – a wrong they feel compelled to commit in order to deal with the bigger wrongs of tax-cuts for the rich and bank-bailouts.

h/t Waging Nonviolence

Link Loving 25.01.11

January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

  • David Roberts explains that the US can’t beat China clean-tech ‘as long as the GOP are kissing fossil fuel ass’.
  • Don’t miss the fantastic ‘Happiness’ series on Our Kingdom.
  • Hanna Thomas discovers Ben Jones and Frederick Douglass in one go and is suitably bowled-over.
  • Mary Kaldor discusses ‘human security’ instead of ‘national security’, and reveals how we’re imprisoned by conventional military and economic assumptions.
  • William Davies elucidates the history of the thumb-on-fist-politician-maneuver.
  • Penelope Trunk is creating stronger routines, proves that kids yearn to care for animals, AND gives career advice. In one post.
  • Greener London wants more and better music at protests.
  • Peter Bregman writes what you should do with the last five minutes of your day.
  • Peter McColl explains how the Irish Greens got into this mess.
  • Natalya Sverjensky reveals the extent to Monsanto’s lies. It really is vile.

Hands Off Our Forest

January 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m working on a campaign to protect England’s forests at the moment. The government are preparing to sell-off national treasures like the New Forest, Sherwood Forest and Kielder Forest – the definition of madness. One of the things I’m most enjoying as part of my work is the contact I have with amazing local groups like Hands Off Our Forest, in the Forest of Dean. This is a video from the rally they organised at the beginning of this month, and my spine tingled watching the raw passion and community spirit.

Help protect our national forests and woodlands here.

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