Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Year in Review 2014

Well, what a year it's been.

It started with the Arctic 30 returning home, the conclusion of a successful campaign. Since then I've wished at least one them back behind bars (nobody's laughing Phil...) but it was a great start to the year.

The campaign against fracking at Barton Moss continued and, after Father Christmas delivered a wind turbine blade to the gates (with a little help from Reclaim the Power) people were starting to take notice. As an experienced media tart I muscled my way into the press team, elbowing aside protectors who'd been camped out in the freezing rain for three months to get my mug on the telly.

I soon found myself in a propaganda war with Greater Manchester Police. GMP would subsequently claim (to the PCC's Independent Panel) that they had trouble getting their message across.

Possibly this was because their claims that that there was a hard core of violent protesters at the camp who wanted to leap out of trees in front of lorries and shoot down their helicopters was blatantly untrue. Their attempt to stop Barton Moss Road being a Public Footpath by stealing the footpath sign was also legally flawed., whilst their arrest of a fifteen year old girl who was only there to do her school project really didn't make them look good either.

My talent for self publicity certainly helped in my self appointed role as Press Officer. I managed to get myself into both the Daily Mail and the Kidderminster Shuttle, which may be a unique double, and fielded calls from journalists who'd 'lost' Bez's phone number. Alas The Guardian never returned my calls.

Highlights of my year included the time activists in Bolton glued themselves to the wrong petrol station and when the Barton Moss camp sent out a Tweet saying they'd run out of gas. Oh well, they say there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Along the way I helped put on the UK's largest ever gathering against fracking and what may be the biggest environmental demonstration Manchester has ever seen, the People's Climate March. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was there, although as you can see she was less than impressed with my guided tour of the city.

Along the way I started a tertiary career as political rabble rouser. I spoke at the march in March, to the Manchester TUC May Day March, at a student debate (which the anti-frackers won) and at the Manchester People's Climate March (which is now on Youtube).

In June the We Need To Talk About Fracking road show came to Manchester. The debate was a little one sided as the opposition didn't show up, but at least I got to meet the most famous Glossopian of them all, Vivienne Westwood.

In August it was back to the county of my birth for Reclaim the Power in Blackpool. A trip home to have tea with my mum meant I missed the really exciting stuff, such as the eviction from the movement of all the conspiracy theorists, but ever the diligent media tart I arrived in time for the photocall. I'm behind the 'o' of 'not'.

I then forgot about fracking for a while and went
after another dirty fuel. After twenty hours on a bus from Islington with Greenpeace UK I arrived by the amazingly beautiful Deulowitzer See in the east of Germany to be part of a 7500 strong Human Chain against brown coal.

Greenpeace Germany accused us of drinking their bar dry. Probably because of that I found myself on stage singing a duet with a local musician at the village pub. Pity the poor Germans. However it was nice to know that despite coming from the land of UKIP the rest of Europe still likes us.

It'd too early to know if the campaign has been successful, but we managed to get the issue raised during the Swedish General Election debate and there is progress. Germany meanwhile continues to lead the world in Renewable energy.

In September there was a fracking fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference, where I finally got to meet the former Environment Minister Michael Meacher. When Lord Melchett and I trashed the GM test crop in 1999 Meacher had to go on Newsnight to defend the government's position. The interview took place to the backdrop of a picture of my bottom as I was led away by the police.

It was back to fracking September when I started my next job as a journalist for the Fracking North Conference. TV crews showed up and I got to look impressive in front of some clever people by being the one they chose to interview. The footage was never broadcast, but they don't need to know that.

In November it was back to rabble rousing as we hosted the Northwest launch of the One Million Climate jobs report, where I was blown off stage by some pretty power union speakers. However it was at least a chance to campaign on something positive for a change.

Somewhere along the line I did some work on the Arctic, signing up various "top influencers" to the Greenpeace Declaration on the Arctic. I bagged Ms Westwood and former Irish President Mary Robinson, amongst others.

So it's been an interesting year. I achieved a lifetime ambition of finally appearing in the Earth First! Journal. I've met interesting people. I've seen a good number of them loaded into police vans and taken away. I've been part of a fantastic team in Manchester that's put on some great events. I've tried to change the world and....mostly failed.

Oh well, at least I tried.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Justice or the climate, which would you choose?

So the Lima talks have apparently ended in 'success'.

If so you have to ask how much more 'success' the planet can take.

Twenty two years after the Rio Earth Summit you really would have hoped that we would have achieved agreement on rather more than an accounting system for greenhouse gas emissions because, whatever way you measure it, we are not doing anything like enough.

Lima also contains another, potentially very worrying, development.

In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol  split the world in two. There were Annex One nations who emitted the
most CO2 and who had a commitment to cut down, but only slightly, and then there were the developing countries who got a pass, for now.

The seventeen years since then have muddied this distinction a bit. China and Brazil have raced ahead economically and are now big polluters in their own right, but the fundamental divide between big emitters and small remains.

It's a crude distinction, but there is a certain amount of justice in it. Those who have benefited most from Greenhouse gas emissions should be the first to change. Those who have polluted most should pay first.

The new agreement does away with that. Instead everyone has to cut down and everyone has to pay.

How much has not been agreed. There could be a fair and equitable dividing up of responsibility in Paris, there could be no deal at all, or there could be an agreement that puts the burden of solving the Climate Change problem on those who have contributed least to making it.

You can almost rationalise such a move. Countries with little already infrastructure could perhaps more easily skip the fossil fuel stage of development, places with lots of sunshine could go solar quicker and populations with very little to do could be made to do environmentally beneficial work.

The only problem is that this would require the rich countries to invest heavily in poor ones, and Lima made it clear that's not going to happen.

Instead there remain the possibility that the big polluters will simply shaft the poorer ones.

International trade deals works on the principle that rich countries can put up trade barriers, but poor ones can't and international law works on the principle that tin pot dictators who use torture end up in court, but not US Presidents. So it doesn't require a lot of imagination to envisage a climate deal that sees poor countries making cuts whilst rich ones get richer.

If so, what should an environmentalists do?

Accept the deal? After all, we can make utopia tomorrow, but if we don't sort out Climate Change their won't be a tomorrow?

Maybe, but if there's one thing that we should have learnt in more than two decades of climate inaction it's that bad deals are often worse than no deal.

Believe it or not, back in 1992, the year of Rio, Al Gore and a raft of big conservation groups were trying to persuade us to accept NAFTA. Never mind the effect on jobs, this was going to save the environment. Well, it didn't. NAFTA has been a disaster for the environment, and a whole load of other people.

Then, after Kyoto, it was free market solutions that would save the day. Europe reluctantly agree to a
Carbon Trading scheme which the USA had suggested, and then backed out of. It was (and still is) a disaster.

And so on.

So if someone tells me in Paris next December that's it either justice or the climate I will choose justice, because only climate justice can give us lasting change. It will be bad enough having to spend my old age watching the world turn to dust without also having to live with the thought that I compromised my values for nothing.