Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Austerity driven responses to the financial mess is nothing short of simply 'displacing' private loses into public debt. What we're witnessing is a socialism of the rich - we're seeing the 'socialisation of risk' (through this displacement, now copper fastened by the European Commission's decision as you indicate in your post. But we're not seeing the socialisation of profit or benefit - that's still privatised! The transformation of private/banksters debt into sovereign debt is perhaps the nearest we have seen to a process of political economic alchemy – turning the dross /worthlessness of private losses into a publicly (tax-payer) backed but still privately owned income/capital stream.
This can be most graphically seen in the Irish case of the coalition government in September 2008 being forced with inadequate and partial information and the deliberate manipulation by the main banks operating in Ireland (which deliver revenue to banks and bondholders in Germany and the UK and elsewhere), to issue the bank guarantee scheme. The latter was the legal instrument by which the alchemy worked – transforming privately held debt into public, tax-payer backed debt, and kicked off the austerity drive in Ireland.
Another good analysis of the financial crisis in the Eurozone can be found here European Monetary Union: Muddling Through, Falling Apart, Going Where?
With forthcoming elections in both parts of the island of Ireland in early 2011 (Assembly and local elections in NI in May and a general election in the republic of Ireland, probably in March) it is timely to look ahead at what and where next for the Greens in NI.
It seems to me (and I write this in a completely personal capacity) that there are 4 issues which will figure large for the Green Party here in NI.
1. Establishing itself as a permanent political force within NI politics: the coming local and regional Assembly elections in May 2011, will be a real test for the party. It will establish whether the breakthrough of getting one MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) elected in 2007 (Brian Wilson in North Down) can be built upon and a green presence in the Assembly and local government be maintained. Brian Wilson will not be standing again and the party has wisely decided to put its limited resources behind the candidate chosen to replace him (Steven Agnew, European candidate from 2008, the party’s research officer, and the highest profile Green in NI). It is vital that the party keep the North Down seat since this is the best chance we have of electing another Green to the Assembly. There are other strong chances for the party – for example there is a strong presence in South Belfast – with Adam McGibbon as candidate there, another high profile candidate and elected member of Queens University Student Union, who should make a strong electoral impact, building on his excellent Westminster performance earlier this year.
2. Building the party at local level and connecting with communities: as the newest of NI political parties (in the sense of having an electoral presence), it is vital that the party increase its representation at local council level. This is for a number of reasons. The first is strategic and ideological – as a political movement based on bottom-up, grassroots democracy, the party needs to avoid being too ‘top-down’ in terms of having an unbalanced electoral profile. The party really needs an organic bottom-up, locally-focused development plan, selecting candidates and focusing on issues and areas that will offer Green Party representation for local communities and their issues. A second and relayed reason is that through greater local engagement, working with communities and local groups, the party can develop a ‘post-conflict’ analysis and agenda. The political conflict which has shaped and continues to shape NI politics is something that Greens cannot shy away from, and the best way of doing this is to engage more with communities and from that engagement develop and articulate what ‘green politics’ (and associated issues such as sustainability/and the transition away from unsustainability) means for communities (especially urban working class ones) who are coming to terms with the ‘post-conflict’ process in NI. Here key issues/questions are – how to connect the transition from unsustainability to issues of conflicting ethno-nationalist identities; can the party articulate a political analysis and vision that ‘connects’ with the ‘realpolitik’ of the hegemonic ‘nationalist-unionist’ dynamic?; can green politics be ‘indigenised’ in the sense of being a ‘normal’ feature of the NI political landscape? Indeed how can it portray itself not only as ‘normal’ but the natural choice for progressive voters? Some of the work on these issues have been done over the last number of years, but more is needed to localise and build the party and its political analysis and project as entrenched and enduring political presence in the tough political environment of NI politics.
3. Maintaining its distinctiveness : it is clear that as issues such as climate change and peak oil (usually of course translated into energy security) become mainstream political issues, there is a danger of Green Parties losing these policy/political issues as uniquely ‘theirs’. Even in NI, where our last environment minister (from the hardline unionist DUP) was and still is a prominent climate change denier, our most recent budget (ironically from the same DUP Minister who is now minster for finance) has flagged up the ‘Green new Deal’ as a key policy area for investment. In NI traditional Green Party policy areas have been adopted and adapted by local rival political parties (noticeably the constitutional Irish nationalist SDLP, and the ‘soft unionist/cross community’ Alliance Party). The Green Party in NI must (in my view) welcome the (late) adoption of Green policy by these ‘slow learners’ while pushing ahead in maintaining its distinctive approach to these issues. For example, the party needs to begin to question orthodox economic growth – largely unquestioned in most ‘Green new deal’ type proposals- and also the really attack the neo-liberal economic ideology underpinning the current economic crisis and also at the heart of all other political parties’ manifestos and policies.
4. All-island dimensions of the Green Party and green politics: the Green Party in NI is officially a ‘regional council’ of the Green Party in the Republic of Ireland (since December 2006), thus meaning that it is the NI branch of an all-island Green Party. At the same time the party has strong links to the Green Parties in Scotland and England and Wales and has signed Memoranda of Understanding with our sister parties to formally establish these important East-West links. These all-island and all-UK aspects of the Green Party in NI are work in progress and clearly there is more that could be done in terms of coordinating policy development, electoral support, media support etc. between the Green Party in NI and its sister parties in Scotland, England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland. The Green Party in Northern Ireland, like NI itself, is (in my view), the place where these ‘islands overlap’ and there are multiple benefits for all sister Green Parties of these islands in seeing NI as a place, an issue around which the uniqueness of a Green political vision can be articulated. Doing green politics in NI is like running on sand, given the legacy of the war and conflict and its outworkings. The creation and sustaining of a strong Green Party in NI will benefit all sister Green Parties throughout these islands, by acting as a key link between them all, and demonstrating how a shared green political perspective (often viewed as ‘fragile’ and ‘soft’ by some) can thrive and be relevant and take strength from its tough political surroundings.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
The first presentation was from my colleague Andrew Baker who gave a wide-ranging, informed, incisive and provocatively entitled paper "Why Austerity is not commonsense but a politically driven nonsense". In his paper and subsequent discussion during the Q&A, Andrew systematically outlined and then demolished 5 'myths' that characterise the UK Lib-Con coalition's economic rationale and rhetoric of 'austerity' as the only policy option for the UK.
The five myths are
1. The country was on the verge of bankruptcy and risked becoming like Greece
2. Government debt is like household debt, or credit card debt. Like a household we have to balance the books and not live beyond our means as a nation.
3. Spiralling public debt is the result of 13 years of ruinous Labour spending and economic mismanagement.
4. Bond markets were demanding cuts in public spending and without them interest repayments on government debt would have spiralled out of control, choking off any prospect of UK economic growth.
5. Fiscal austerity is expansionary and will lead to private sector growth
The upshot of Andrew's analysis is that there is no economic rationale behind the drive for austerity, but rather represents a poliotically opportunistic attempt by the coalition to:
a) drive through deep public sector cuts now and blame the previous Labour adminstration on it, while the latter is still fresh in the public's memory. As Andrew puts it in his conclusion:
"The principal driver of the strategy is political opportunism and a concerted effort to pin the blame on the last government. This is the coherent thread running through the narrative the government are constructing."and b) ferment/re-ignite class divisions and social tension. As he puts it
"Government strategy looks to be an effective way of fermenting class politics, social polarization and dislocation. "
Both the dogmatism around 'there is no alternative' to austerity and the deliberate creation of class tensions have obvious echoes of Thatcherism and its clear the Con-Lib adminstration is laying down a marker for how it wishes to proceed in 'remaking broken Britain', largely by breaking up the welfare state and immiserating millions with all the social costs of that, it seems.
Andrew's presentation was followed by John Woods (Convenor, NI Green New Deal group) who talked about a green approach to responding to the economic crisis. His presentation on ‘The Green New Deal in Northern Ireland’ outlined how this rather unique coalition of groups and organisations (from the Trades Unions to the CBI, Friends of the Earth, NICVA and the Ulster Farmers Union) have proposed job creating policies around the retrofitting of social housing, which also tackles fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions. See here for the group's Housing proposals.
The final paper was from Andrew Fisher (Coordinator- Left Economics Advisory Panel) the title of which was "It’s the politics, stupid: ‘Responding to the UK Comprehensive Spending Review’" in which he pointed out the millions in unclaimed tax which could be used to address the fiscal problems of the British state, rather than attacking those on low income and welfare. Based on previous research by the Tax Justice Network he explained how the existing Tax Gap and Tax Injustice within Britain means that £120 billion in tax is lost, avoided or uncollected.
The final element of the day was a open discussion around the relationship between the Trades Union movement, progressive economics, academics and academic research. It was opened by Brian Campfield (NIPSA) and touched on issues around the research needs of the trades union movement, the importance of being briefed and up to speed on the latest research and the need for a focus on challenging the media's constant re-inforcing of the dominant neo-liberal line when discussing the economic crisis and Northern Ireland's response to it in particular.
It was a good start, the first of many and well done to all who participated and helped in its organisation.
It is hoped that the papers and presentations from the day will be put up on the Centre for Progressive Economics website soon.
Monday, 18 October 2010
The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) is according to its website, the oldest secular pacifist organisation in the UK and each year at this time promotes the wearing and public display of the White Poppy as an alternative or in addition to the Red Poppy. The origins of the White Poppy campaign can be traced to the aftermath of the First World War, there was discussion about the link between the commemoration of those who gave their lives in that war and the ways in which that commemoration promoted and sustained a ‘culture of war’.
Thus the idea of decoupling Armistice Day, the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain. A member of the ‘No More War Movement’ suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this pacifists and others who rejected war as a means of resolving conflict should make their own flowers.The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the ‘Haig Fund’ imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women's Guild who in 1933 produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union joined the CWG in the distribution of the poppies and later took over their annual promotion.
The key motivations and distinctiveness of the White Poppy from its origins in the mid war period to this day are a) to commentate all war dead (the British Legion’s red poppy campaign only commemorates British war dead) and b) it rejects the military culture which still characterises Remembrance Sunday and to promote instead a culture of peace and challenge war and state-sanctioned violence. Within Northern Ireland and Ireland as a while where thousands of men (and women) have fought and died in the British armed forces since the first world war onwards, the White Poppy also has the advantage of enabling those who cannot support the British Army connotations of the Red Poppy a way to acknowledge and remember those Irish men and women who have died and fought in the British Army.Indeed, while I am a pacifist (but a believer in non-violent direct action if needed) I am drawn to wearing the White Poppy also as my way of commemorating my grandfather, a Dublin man who joined the British army and fought and was injured fighting in North Africa. In providing this way of commemoration, the White Poppy, finally allows those in the Republic of Ireland or those from the Irish Nationalist community in Northern Ireland, to publicly express and acknowledge those Irish citizens who fought and died while serving in the British armed forces. Up until recently, there was a silence, a shameful silence politically about these men and women, as if from an Irish nationalist perspective one had to ashamed of them. Thankfully this is now changing and one can only think that a wider appreciation and awareness of the White Poppy can help rectify this wrong.
At the same time, the White Poppy campaign in its expression of non-violence also means it has a very real and current relevance in drawing attention to the continuing ‘culture of violence’ which characterises how states (and others) seek to resolve conflicts and tensions. For example, one of the motivations behind the Peace Pledge Union is to highlight the ways in which military spending (at essence improving the capacity to inflict death and injury) takes funding away from life-sustaining efforts to improve human life. The PPU estimates (as of Monday 18th October) that Global Military Spending Since Jan 1, 2010 is approximately $1,065,098,794,869. Against that figure consider the following: Estimated costs to provide the following:
Shelter for every human being $21,000,000,000
Eliminate ALL Starvation and Malnourishment $19,000,000,000
Clean Safe Water for every human being $10,000,000,000
Thus, the White Poppy campaign is a call to question this shameful waste of resources and also to remind us that we should never be fooled (if in these days where talk of public spending cuts and reducing budget deficits serve as blatant propaganda to soften us and prepare us for reductions in the welfare state) that the issue is funding. How is it we can spend hundreds of millions of pounds on an illegal war and occupation of Iraq yet are told there is no money for new hospitals? How can we take seriously the proposition that we can and will spend millions of tax-payers money on upgrading the Trident nuclear missile system yet we cannot subsidise university education so that its available to all, but rather are told we have to allow universities to charge what they like? In this case, the PPU and the White Poppy campaign enable a space to be created where we can look forward to the day when it is an army general rather with a tin can on the main street looking for donations for a new tank, rather than a junior doctor doing the same looking for funding for a dialysis machine. Ultimately, the question is where do we want our taxes to go – on funding better ways to kill or better ways to sustain life?
In many respects what the White Poppy campaign attempts to do is to move Remembrance Sunday celebrations away from a mere commemoration of past conflicts and an exclusive focus on only British servicemen and women, towards an expression of sadness at humans’ inability to resolve their differences in a peaceable way. Wearing the white poppy is an opportunity to reflect on the causes of war not just the inevitable human casualties and should not be seen as an insult to those who choose to wear the Red Poppy. There should be space given to those of us who choose to wear the White Poppy and we should not be made to feel, as I sometimes do at this time of year when I wear the White Poppy, as disrespectful to the memory of those who have died in conflict. The White Poppy, when properly understood and placed within its context, is a more universal and encompassing expression of remembrance within which the wearing of the Red Poppy can be placed.
More information on the White Poppy and the Peace Pledge Union can be found at
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Friday, 24 September 2010
Part of me was repelled by the strong pessismtic (or realist) 'ecocentric' critique of human-centred green thinking - largely I supect because I detected or could only believe that the almost celebratory tone of 'the end of human civilisation as we know it' was motivated by a deep and disturbing misanthrophy...and therefore I was transported back over 20 years to my negative and gut reaction to certain misanthropic - and at times racist strands of - 'deep ecology'. It is clear that the Dark Mountain project is animated by deep ecological concerns, and can be seen as yet another spontaneous green/ecological response to the crisis of our time, and the great transitions that are unfolding and will quicken as this decade progresses. Other related responses include the Transition movement, the related peak oil /post-carbon discourse, such as the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, permacultural inspired thiking and movements (especially around food and land - is it perhaps no surprise, at least from my anecdotal evidence, that most Transition towns are focused around, are strongest in or at least have their foundation in local food production and connecting to the land?), to Collapsonomics and anarchistic 'eco-primitivism' .
But there is a growing number of reports and writings both within civil society and from within the 'state system' which point to the looming threats coming down the pipe in the coming years. These range from the recently leaked German Military report on the destablising political implications of peak oil to a report from the Irish think tank FEASTA, written by David Korowicz entitled 'Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production - An Outline Review' .
Collapse, threats, apoclyptic thinking, dread and a clearly identifable 'endism' can I think be fairly used to characterise these new and emerging forms of green thinking and action. Dark thinking for dark times indeed...
And I think they all have a point, and whether one agrees or disagrees they should not be simply dismissed as doom-sayers, irritating 'teetotalers pissing on the party' - though no doubt they will and have been. They may after all be simply pointing out the bleeding obvious that 'the emperor has no clothes' and rather than trying to green our existing way of life (perhaps in a more regulated, perhaps even more democratic manner), we should prepare ourselves and our communities to live different lives, 'fit for purpose' for living in more resilient, low-impact societies. That issue - and its a huge one of course - will have to wait for another time.
For now what I'd like to conclude with is what attracted me about Uncivilisation. Apart from its brutal honesty, it was in both the Dark Mountain manifesto and subsequent edited volume, the integration of culture, music, poetry, imaginative fiction all tremendously 'life affirming' (or the sugar to sweeten the pill perhaps). It has always been my view that one of the appropriate responses to crisis is creativity and imagination, and certainly the style (if not necessarily) the substance of the Dark Mountain project is one that those of use active in thinking and acting about green issues and the pressing need to create and sustain individual and collective resilience in face of the inevitable transitions we are facing, need in these anxious times. To think about living life in a carbon constrained, climate changed world will require not only courage, something I think is evident in the Dark Mountain perspective, as it is is also in all those movements, practices and groups that stand against foundational aspects of our dominant culture (and here, and of course partly speaking from where I stand, people active in Green parties and environmental, transport, food, land reform groups etc. - though I feel the DM perspective wrongly dismisses the latter). But along with courage it is the creativity, the reaching into our culytural imaginary that I also think is to be applauded in the Dark Mountain intervention. An perhaps 'intervention' is entirely appropropriate here in that the DM call (for it is clearly such) is one which in part calls on us to 'stop', down tools as it were and re-think and re-act. If as the now commonplace view has it 'business as usual is not an option', why would we not entertain the prospect that 'thinking as usual is no longer an option'?
This cultural turn is to be welcomed not simply for the inlcusion of this life affirming perspective but also more importantly because it forces us to confront the deep cultural, ethical and psychological imperatives driving ecocide (if I were not weary, as a humanist, of the term, one could include 'spiritual' in that list). Perhaps my main worry here is the tendency (and one I detected long ago in deep ecology) for this cultural turn to also go along with or act as a prelude to a depoliticised or anti-political turn in green thinking. While of course a lot more argument is needed to substantiate my closing comment here - I remain unconvinced - and not a little troubled by - the claim that the solution to the deracinated contemporay human condition lies in a depoliticised reponse to our current crises. Perhaps one indication of this is when the The Dark Mountain Network becomes a Movement.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
He notes the following:
It was said that in the first seven days after the stock exchange crash, wealth amounting to 2.5 trillion dollar was lost, and since the stock exchange peak of one year earlier, stock owners lost 8.4 trillion dollar (Wall Street Journal, 10.10.2008). But what does that actually mean? One says in such cases, the wealth vanished into thin air. But in reality, nothing concrete vanished, no house, no car. What vanished into thin air were only some numbers on paper, some zeros after a digit. The 8.4 trillion dollar were only fictitious wealth. A year before the stock prices peaked, the same stocks were valued much lower. Only speculation had driven the market value of the stocks upward. After the crash, what was in any case fictitious wealth ceased to exist.
Worth remembering of course that much of this lost wealth was illusory, paralleling the creation and circulation of 'fiat money' within an over-heated economy fulled by a double whammy of a stock market bubble and a housing bubble. But...while this correct, how many peoples' pensions were reduced or lost in that process of fictitious wealth destruction?
Later he suggests that what really triggered the crisis is the fact that the capitalist world has reached 'limits to growth'
Trade-unionists and all kinds of leftists may blame the current misery of the working people on brutal capitalist exploitation, on the weakness of the working class, on speculators without any conscience, on greedy bankers, on globalization that has caused the relocation of many production units in cheap-wage countries etc. Of course, at first sight, all these explanations are partly correct. But on closer look one cannot but realize that when, on the whole, there are less and less resources to distribute because it is getting more and more difficult to extract them from nature (think of oil exploration off the west coast of Greenland!), then, even in a better capitalist world with a strong working class, at best a fairer distribution could be achieved, not more prosperity for all. It is now necessary to think in totally new terms; a paradigm shift isnecessary, a shift from the former growth paradigm to what I call the limits-to-growth paradigm.
His analysis is that we are headed for a long period of economic contraction, which must, in his words, lead to a 'steady state economy' as we adjust our economic system to the available energy and natural resources we can exploit and use sustainably. And he concludes that what we are witnessing is "not simply the crisis of capitalism. It is the crisis of industrialism altogether, in whichever socio-political frame it might be packed. "
Interesting and provocative analysis as one would rightly expect from an eco-socialist perspective. It would have been useful if there had been some attention given to what one might call the classic question posed by Lenin 'What is to be done?'
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
"I believe that the onset of the decline of world oil production is likely
in the next two to five years. And when I say “oil,” I mean all liquid
What's noticeable from the interview (though the book may be different) is
the typical American focus on the individual (how we as householders can best
protect and forewarn - and forearm - ourselves about the decline in world oil)
and the blame being put on the government. While there is talk of that new
buzzword 'resilience' there is no sense that this is a collective property or
venture. I'll hold off any further comment until I read the book but I would be surprised (pleasantly) if the analysis involved more than techno and individualistic options all filtered through a free market pro-innovation lens...
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Sunday, 25 July 2010
Saturday, 24 July 2010
His comments were welcomed by the Orange Order and some unionist politicans while others, such as the normally sensible Nick Garbutt in the Newsletter condemned it his opinion piece yesterday 'Flags, Emblems and Ignorance' http://www.newsletter.co.uk/columnists/Flags-and-emblems-and-ignorance.6438266.jp. His argument completely by-passed the possibilities and debate opened up by McDowell's comments, focusing instead in McDowell's starting position of 'republicanism' and the fact that not all Protestant or Unionists are members of the Orange Order. On the former point I think McDowell was engaging in an attempt to reclaim republicanism from Sinn Fein (something that is to be welcomed and indeed the articulation of a 'civic republicanism' is something I support and have attempted to flesh out from a green political perspective in some of my academic writings). On the latter Nick seems to approach the debate about a more inclusive celebration and public acknowledgement of the 'orange tradition' in Ireland, determined from the outset to reduce that tradition to the Orange Order. That was not McDowell's point at all. His references to truly celebrating the 'orange panel' in the Irish Tricolour is, if one reads his speech, is about the 'non-gaelic, non-catholic' tradition on the island of Ireland i.e. that bit which is (take your pick, British, Anglo-Irish, Ulster Scots) and largely located in Northern Ireland. No one, I think, reduces the 'orange panel' to the Orange Order but the call for the celebration of the 12th opens up a debate about the Republic of Ireland becoming more mature and inclusive and living up to the spirit of a republican polity and society in the public acknowledgement of pluralism and diversity (and as indicated below, a recognition of the sectarianism suffered by the Protestant community in the Republic. But more significantly, and taking Nick's point head on, it raises the issue of what the 12th of July celebrations mean for those Protestants and Unionists who are not members of supporters of the Orange Order. It seems to me that this calls for a debate about whether there is a need for another non-Orange Order, non-12th July celebration of Britishness, Anglo-Irishness, Ulster-Scottishness etc? Because at present this public celebration is defined and confined to the 12th July. Thus it is unfair to criticise McDowell for reducing the cultural celebration and public display and acknowledgement of Unionism to the 12th celebrations since there are no other ones currently available. But the main issue is that McDowell should be congratulated not accused of ignorance for starting a long overdue debate on this issue.
My own views are that what McDowell's suggestion opens up is to be first and foremost to be welcomed. If the Republic of Ireland is to live up to its 'republican' (i.e. civic republican) not Irish nationalist character (though of course the latter has historically dominated and coopted the former) then making the 12th July a public holiday in the Republic - or failing that, providing some state-backed i.e. public recognition of it (beyond the President hosting a 'private' reception), has another (in my view) progressive advantage. And that is the acknowledgement within the Republic of Ireland that the Protestant community has suffered sectarian discrimination, marginalisation and unequal treatment since the foundation of the Irish state. That this discrimination was uneven, subtle and did not mirror the levels suffered by Catholics in Northern Ireland, does not in any way undermine the fact that there has been a wall of silence and a refusal within the Republic of Ireland to acknowledge the fact that to think that 'sectarianism' was and is something confined to Northern Ireland in general and is another term for 'anti-Catholic' in particular, was and is simply wrong.
That many within the Protestant community in the Republic quickly realised that to get by within the new state the best course was to 'keep their heads down' is itself evidence of how, to abuse that well-worn phrase and apply it to a different context, the Republic of Ireland was 'a cold house for Protestants'. It is of course for members of the Protestant community in the Republic themselves to articulate the extent to which this was and is the case, and it is good to see that in the last number of years there has been a steady stream of academic research focusing on the sectarianism and discrimination experienced by them.
If we are to build a new relationship between the two parts of the island, the two dominant political and religious traditions (which involves the active seeking to create a more pluralist set of identities upon which to base political interests and politics), then a public debate needs to begin the Republic of Ireland around the claim that it was 'a cold house for Protestants'. This has begun - fitfully - for an example see the exchange between Senator Eoghan Harris and historian John A Murphy on the extent of anti-Protestant discrimination in Cork http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/corks-bloody-secret-a-small-dispute/
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Clearly the Tories don't want any friends paid by the taxpayer (critical or otherwise) while they're running the show (as a rule Tories don't have too many friends...unless the 'market' dictates some 'optimum' number of course). The message is clear, the Tories (despite Cameron's piffle about 'being the greenest government ever') could not give a fuck about the environment, climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, soil fertility erosion or any of the other related newly categorised 'non-problems' the UK faces. Have a problem with the implications of really implementing 'sustainable development'? Well, here's a solution, simply kill the messenger. Power speaks so clearly and eloquently when it organises...in this case organises something 'out' without reason. Why should a reason be given, the fact that the government has spoken and determined that the £3 million saved from the SDC is 'the reason' is sufficient...nevermind that it was one of the few decent initiatives of the previous government in terms of preparing this country for life in the 21st century, that is life in a carbon constrained, climate changed world.
Monday, 19 July 2010
Mission statement of the new Centre
The Centre for Progressive Economics Economic exists to promote an alternative, progressive economics for Northern Ireland and beyond. A range of progressive economists, activists and social policy researchers working in universities, the labour movement and activist research organizations have come together to break the cosy neo-liberal consensus that controls the public debate and dominates economic policy. We have joined forces to ensure that a critical and alternative perspective is heard.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
a Low Carbon Future'.
One of the things we argue for is that the transition to a low carbon economy should not shy about from embracing, accepting and ultimately viewing conflict, debate and disagreement about that transition as negative or worse, to shut up, marginalise or otherwise vilify those who object to the decarbonisation of the economy in general or who raise objections to specific renewable and low carbon energy technologies or initiatives - such as most commonly objections to wind farms. Rather, from a broadly civic republican perspective (which values pluralism and agonistic/respectful democratic disagreement over 'consensus') we suggest that what is required is to move the debate away from a narrow focus on renewable or low carbon energy production (which is sadly the dominant political response). To quote from our conclusion:
"The argument we have outlined is that, by allowing a greater range of options for communities to choose how (but not whether) they ‘do their bit’, changes their incentive structure to allow a greater range of low carbon options to be negotiated in each locality. This requires moving beyond a focus on energy production to include reducing energy consumption, increasing, efficiency and adopting nonenergy carbon options such as ‘green’ waste management, food, transport, housing etc. This would require a major reformulation of the institutions in which energy and development are regulated; for example, changing land use planning to energy descent planning. Indeed, a rethink of the regulatory system is necessary in order to provide the appropriate context for the bargaining we have outlined here, with a need for a nationwide low carbon energy strategy in which communities (spatial or aspatial) know that they must achieve carbon reduction targets, but with a degree of flexibility about how they do this.
This may paradoxically) deliver more renewable energy deployment than one which narrowly focuses on the installation of renewable energy technologies. However, the greater penetration of renewable energy is not the only, or indeed the most, important consideration – it is but one among a variety of means by which the transition to a low carbon economy can be achieved. We need to take a ‘bigger view’ than renewable energy production as the only way in which we can create a sustainable energy future: allowing communities the option, for example, that a sustainable energy future may be one that uses less energy. "
Now yer appetites are whetted, go ye out and buy loads of copies!
"But as oil becomes ever more difficult to extract, and as demand for oil surges in the emerging economies, we need to recognise the dangers inherent in our history of fossil fuel addiction"
Also interesting to note his brazen appropriation of the language of the 'Green New Deal' championed by the Green Party and think tanks such as the new economics foundation.
No mention of peak oil, unlike Eamon Ryan's open acceptance of this as the policy and geological context within which we need to address energy security, and of course nothing about reducing energy consumption. It will be interesting to watch how far each - Huhne and Ryan - can get in their plans for decabonisation of the economy given the constraints each face politically as junior coalition partners in bed with right-wing, non-progressive parties.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
"The deputy leader of Rwanda's Green Party was found murdered yesterday amid a crackdown against opposition organisations before next month's presidential elections. Andre Kagwa Rwisereka's body was found in the early hours on a riverbank, a couple of miles from his abandoned pick-up truck. His head was nearly severed and a large knife was found nearby. The murder followed complaints by senior party officials of death threats, police harassment and intimidation."
Terrible, just terrible...
Thursday, 15 July 2010
On a related point I cycled into work on Monday - the 'Twelfth' as its known here, the main day for the Orange marches and met about four of the them on my 14 mile trip from Bangor to the University - no issues there. But I went to get lunch round the corner from my office in Botanic Avenue - those from norn iron will know - quite an experience...Two drunken young men out of their heads singing sectarian songs (could not make them out they were that drunk but something along the lines of "If you're....you're a taig"), groups of people squatting around drinker export larger and blue WKD, general air of menace about the place. Two PSNI landrovers cruised about, one with a touching (and large) sign which read 'Alcohol may be confiscated'...decisive policing!
Went home late ...mistake, Botanic a sea of druken men and women with the policce trying calmly to contain them, had to pass people blocking the road on Donegall pass, then the stand off at Short Strand where on the other side had to wade through crowds of people - drunk of course- and hoping they would not hear my accent. Welcome to Norn Iron!
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
The "normal" late-20th century economy of seemingly endless growth actually emerged from an aberrant set of conditions that cannot be perpetuated. That "normal" is gone. One way or another, a "new normal" will emerge to replace it. Can we build a different, more sustainable economy to replace the one now in tatters? Let's be clear: I believe we are in for some very hard times. The transitional period on our way toward a post-growth, equilibrium economy will prove to be the most challenging time any of us has ever lived through. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we can survive this collective journey, and that if we make sound choices as families and communities, life can actually be better for us in the decades ahead than it was during the heady days of seemingly endless economic expansion.
The link to James Howard Kunstler, an author of fierce and honestly held views - largely offering a 'doomer' analysis of peak oil - or a 'realistic' one depending on one's views - think Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but with more jokes and acerbic wit (and a bit more hope...). Somewhat like John Gray - another author I've strangely come to admire more and more over the years (sure sign of me becoming more conservative/reactionary?!) , Kunstler offers a scientifically informed, ecologically and energy-informed analysis of our coming post-carbon world, and it ain't pretty....Hobbes and Malthus for the internet age...but sobering nonetheless to read if nothing to temper the often hopelessly unrealistic views of those who think 'the market/reform' will take care of it, or others who think simply circling the wagons and re-localisation (by itself) will suffice.