Recently in Activism Category
Despite the heroic-white-man myth, I loved Avatar: after all, how did our unobtanium get under their tree? It's the classic tale of colonialism, just with better effects. Be blue, go Green.
In South Lanarkshire today, it's the threat of opencast coal, and the locals are indeed getting help from outside - sadly, today the bad guys also arrived in force.
I've never before put a press release up here, but by coincidence today the wonderful Survival International (give generously) put one out with the following comments.
A Penan man from Sarawak (above), in the Malaysian part of Borneo, told Survival International:
"The Penan people cannot live without the rainforest. The forest looks after us, and we look after it. We understand the plants and the animals because we have lived here for many, many years, since the time of our ancestors.
"The Na'vi people in 'Avatar' cry because their forest is destroyed. It's the same with the Penan. Logging companies are chopping down our big trees and polluting our rivers, and the animals we hunt are dying."
Kalahari Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said:
"We the Bushmen are the first inhabitants in southern Africa. We are being denied rights to our land and appeal to the world to help us. 'Avatar' makes me happy as it shows the world about what it is to be a Bushman, and what our land is to us. Land and Bushmen are the same."
Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, known as the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest, said:
"My Yanomami people have always lived in peace with the forest. Our ancestors taught us to understand our land and animals. We have used this knowledge carefully, for our existence depends on it. My Yanomami land was invaded by miners. A fifth of our people died from diseases we had never known."
Survival's director, Stephen Corry, said:
"The fundamental story of Avatar - if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids - is being played out time and time again, on our planet.
"Like the Na'vi of 'Avatar', the world's last-remaining tribal peoples - from the Amazon to Siberia - are also at risk of extinction, as their lands are appropriated by powerful forces for profit-making reasons such as colonization, logging and mining."
Back to South Lanarkshire, Harry Thompson, former chair of the local community council, said:
"Despite massive community opposition to the mine at Mainshill, Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council continue to disregard the interests of those living in proximity to the mines. The particulate matter released in the open cast mining process in this area has caused unusually high rates of cancer and lung disease. Granting permission to a new mine 1000 metres from the local hospital is the final straw."
Update: if you have seen Avatar, or are sure you won't ever do so, and fancy its politics analysed in more detail, the Socialist Unity view is fascinating.
Like many, I find the jar-rattlers and direct-debit-form-wranglers intensely irksome. It's not just that I'm tight: I've given some serious thought about which charities to support, and I already make regular payments to each.
It occurred to me today to talk about the organisations I support in my own tiny way, and to put up some donation links.
I feel strongly about all four of them. Typically they're not the big names in the voluntary sector: to pick a topical example, although both Poppy Scotland and the Peace Pledge Union do good work, my view is that my donations will make more of a difference elsewhere.
In reverse alphabetical order..
Survival International. The leading charity defending the land and rights of indigenous communities. As an anthropology graduate, this was the first organisation I started giving regularly to. Most impressive recent action? Helping the Bushmen to take the Botswanan Government's eviction plans to court, and winning. Donate.
Shelter Scotland. The largest organisation I give to, slightly going against my rule of thumb. For me, homelessness is Scotland's most glaring social problem, and Shelter are practical and effective. If you want to see how pragmatic campaigning works, check out this page. Donate.
Sea Shepherd. A more militant offshoot of Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd specialise in anti-whaling campaigns, and some of my money just went to buy the insanely impressive new boat shown above. Story here. The relationship between them and Greenpeace ain't great, but I think they both do great work. I give to Sea Shepherd both because they're smaller, and because you know exactly what your money goes on - directly saving actual whales. Donate.
So, cycling: are we generally in favour? Personally I'm more into walking - I don't feel safe listening to music on a bike, and I like not having to lock up when I get there.
I'm passionately in favour of folk being helped to do it, though, and the provision of cycle lanes in Scotland is dire. Look elsewhere in Europe and see how dangerous it feels here, and how marginal cycling is to the planning process.
Scottish Ministers agree. Their Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) includes the following warm words from Stewart Stevenson:
"CAPS is about everyone in Scotland who is able to, having the choice to cycle in their everyday life by creating safe, welcoming and inclusive communities."
Lovely. It's like we live in Holland already. I particularly like the fact that SNP Ministers won't be forcing cycling upon those who can't. But let's not sneer. There are plenty of good ideas in this document, in amongst the vague "promote x, promote y" stuff. There's even a long section on Encouragement and Incentives.
But check out question 10 on p48, right at the end.
"Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?"
Tax discs on bikes? Seriously? I know times are hard for Finance Ministers, but this is sub-Thick Of It material. The paper's subtitled "More People Cycling More Often", after all, not "How We Could Force Folk Off Their Bikes".
You might also say it's just one option, but is this something Ministers should even be considering? The front page of today's Scotland on Sunday shows that some consideration has been given to implementation, but the Government's spokesman's backpedalling hard. Incidentally, that's a curious metaphor: as I remember it, backpedalling does nothing at all.
The SoS editorial against it talks about a tax on smugness. I don't think it's cyclists who'd get the worst of that. The fact that they're even considering this is entirely symptomatic of the SNP's complacent attitude to transport, where all that matters is the car.
They came into government with a list of tolls to remove and of bridges and motorways to build. The civil servants nodded, the building companies rubbed their hands, and the environment came last as usual.
It's enough to make one despair, it really is. And I doubt they'll ever do it. But think how much fun the protests would be.
Patrick went down earlier in the month to show solidarity and ask how we could help, but I think they'll wait a long time before any of Scotland's other party leaders make it.
I had a long weekend tunnelling at Manchester Runway Two in the mid 1990s, and I'd commend Disco Dave's guide to the practice to the Mainshill crowd. I'm sure the coal isn't that close to the surface to make it hard work. There's even an "opencast" model in his list of types. The irony would be pretty pleasing.
One thing Mainshill has in common with Runway Two is the community support. There are sometimes protests like this where the community think "dammit, we want our bypass", and others where the shopping arrives to keep the campers fed, families come for a tour to say hello and little kids get told that the nice people with dreadlocks are trying to save the woods for the badgers and the birds and so on.
Here's a couple of residents quoted in the Herald:
"I have done everything I can possibly do for them. We are surrounded by open-casts and it's the health issues as well. This area has one of the highest cancer rates in the whole of Scotland."
"It's all about money. I grew up here and it's always been forestry. They say they will restore it but how long will it take to be back to this?"
Finally, the camp have put together this wee youtube video. Most persuasive bits: bloke in the middle nailing Scottish Government hypocrisy on climate change, and the pan to existing opencast sites looking like moonscapes.
Hats off to Greenpeace - six of their activists just persuaded a jury to acquit them of criminal damage for the graffiti to the left, on the chimney of the coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth.
The best bit about this is that the jury effectively said "this criminal damage was an attempt to stop a more serious crime, the criminal damage caused around the world, by coal plants like this, through climate change".
It's the same sort of defence we used in our anti-GM case, but we had to wait for the appeal to get off, not least because Kingsnorth was heard by a jury, but we just had a sheriff.
If Labour or the SNP press ahead with more coal plants, they know they will be on thin legal ice now, and the potential protesters know it too.
The witnesses for this case notably included NASA's Professor James Hansen, an absolute star of early climate change science, and more detail on his evidence, including his written statement, is available here.
Greenpeace planned to write "Gordon, bin it", but I actually prefer the shorter version. Like Dennis Potter christening his cancerous tumour Rupert, after Murdoch, they renamed a grossly polluting chimney Gordon, after Brown. It's not just the dirtiest form of power generation, aside from nuclear, it's actually criminal.
Yesterday I had a lovely day out in Aberdeen with Greens and other activists, joining Aberdeenshire locals protesting outside the Inquiry into the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.
There's little more rewarding in politics than supporting local community campaigners, although this campaign will be a hard one to win when the First Minister is prepared to bend the truth in the name of forcing a road through. Our protest pointed out that this is an Inquiry where the decision has been taken to build the road no matter what, where all discussion has been prevented about the AWPR's effectiveness on traffic reduction, its economic, social and environmental impact, and about the alternatives available.
Salmond then went on the radio urging everyone to take part, as people always find this kind of Inquiry worthwhile, neglecting to address the fact that no-one I've spoken to has ever seen an Inquiry where the answer was known in advance. It's pure window-dressing (see above).
After our protest, Road Sense's QC pointed out a flaw in the Inquiry under European law. Because of the protected nature of at least one of the environments under threat, the Inquiry has to look at all the options, including not building the road. The Reporter will rule on this today, but the road's supporters should be urging him to back this line of argument, for two reasons.
First, if your road can meet the usual tests, the same ones the M74 failed, then make the case in public. Second, if the Inquiry continues on the current path then it will be obvious how any final decision by Ministers can be judicially reviewed. Do you really want that?
Hopefully I'll be able to keep updates coming here from my friends on the inside. P&J coverage is here and here, along with an absurd editorial here. Scotsman here.
Thanks to all who turned out at such an ungodly hour, including Ben, Daniel, Lindsay, Sarah, Sarah and Tom, who also posted on this, as follows. Love the title.
Update: the Reporter's decision is out. They ignored the legal concerns. No surprise there.
Astroturf is what it's called. Fake grass roots. Corporate shills, masquerading as locals. This tactic evolved into misleading pseudo-research bodies, funded the same way; by the tobacco lobby, the oil industry, the nuclear lot, anyone utterly unpalatable.
So why not turn the tables on them? Greenpeace did. (via the secretly optimistic Suitably Despairing)