Global Tags for Network 23

Squatters Handbook callout

We really want to get a new edition of the Squatters Handbook out, even if this would be tempting fate under present circumstances.

What we need from you is photos, cover design, ideas and feedback on the previous edition of the handbook, our current leaflets, any crap advice you got from us ……….

Offers of help with subbing, layout, that kind of thing, also welcome.


Women on Waves fundraiser 4th of June

The phenomenon of ‘new welfarism’.

Veganismus_logo.svgIt may seem consistent that vegans promote vegan philosophy and practice (if they were going to promote anything at all). However, this is not always the case, and part of the reason could be that many of the large North American animal campaigning organisations have adopted an approach that operates at the lowest common denominator for change, where they channel a desire to care about animals into tepid reforms of exploitative practices. The recent Walmart (non-binding) agreement to improve animal ‘welfare’ is a case in point, where organisations celebrate and perpetuate ideas of ‘progress’, when in reality there is little evidence things have changed, or when they believe the exploitation of non-human animals will actually end. Though these groups (essentially businesses 1) are often run by vegans or have vegan staff they maximise their potential influence by promoting small incremental changes in ‘treatment’, rather than promoting a paradigm shift to address the issue of ‘use’ in a way that is compatible with a vegan perspective.

One of the most prominent new welfarists (as Francione calls them) is Bruce Friedrich. He shares the position (but not with Francione..) that animal liberation is best served by withdrawing the challenge to animal use, and instead placing the emphasis on reducing suffering, because this tactic is said to be more effective in bringing forward the ultimate goal of animal liberation. It is the belief that progress is achieved by people reducing (or merely changing) their animal consumption, because they argue it is something attainable, compared to a campaign for people to end their consumption of animals completely. The approach of incremental change also has the effect of enabling organisations to engage with the animal industrial complex for their own gain through agreements, publicity, self-promotion and partnerships.

The foundation for the new welfarist perspective is the idea that people require ‘softening’ 2 before they make an eventual ‘leap’ to veganism – that is, these organisations still believe in veganism itself (as an ‘ideal’), as it is the chosen practise of many at the top of these organisations. However, this ‘softening’ does not allow veganism to be presented in a clear or coherent way. This is a different approach from the ‘ripened by human determination’ that Donald Watson spoke of. The difference is apparent amongst new welfarist activists, where they believe the recipient of their message hasn’t the requisite (at present) capacity to make changes when presented with a vegan perspective.

As such, veganism tends to be framed by new welfarists as advocating ‘all or nothing’ when the point of education could be that we describe our lived reality of veganism, and how that compares with the generally accepted definition. Telling people ‘how to live their lives’ or demanding people ‘go vegan right now’, is a false polarisation that rarely demonstrates (in my view) the reality of vegan campaigning from any perspective. Instead, this has more to do with vegaphobic propaganda, internalised both in and outside the movement, rather than an issue with promoting veganism itself. Being honest about veganism is not a demand for other people to do as you do, it is meant as a challenge to a belief system, and an opportunity to engage with ideas.

Vegan new welfarists like Friedrich tend to talk about vegetarianism instead of veganism, and others talk about their ‘flexibility’ where they intentionally consume non-vegan food. This lack of ‘purity’ it is claimed, leads people to be more open to the ideas of ‘veganism’ because they get to see that it isn’t a ‘strict’ discipline. So maybe they aren’t ‘vegan’ in all situations because some situations might be inconvenient, difficult, or a struggle, so the easy way in consuming animal products is sought. This isn’t to say that on a case by case basis there may not be situations following an explanation of veganism, where a mistake is made and non-vegan food consumed. There are likely to be issues in any learning process in a vastly non-vegan world. For people that are new (though rarely these days in western society will someone not have heard of veganism at all) to veganism there are going to be plenty of situations where learning can take place, and there will always be opportunities to learn no matter how long we have been vegan. So instead of aiming at something that is less than vegan for our practise, we can be consistent as far is possible and practicable, and ensure exploited animals are kept visible.

The question of purity also appears on various internet facebook groups, whilst there seems little evidence of ‘puritanical’ vegans (the vegan police) turning off potential vegans with harsh criticism and general intolerance (I am not saying they don’t exist, I am saying they’re in the minority, and should not garner much attention unless they need to be challenged for an unreasonable claim about veganism). However, they are rarefied by new welfarists as they offer a juxtaposition for their incremental approach to veganism. As an example of how ‘policing’ appears, it partly depends on perspective and interpretation. When a statement is formulated as ‘I’m vegan but still haven’t given up cheese’ it isn’t surprising that people clarify why this person isn’t vegan, so it is right to draw attention to that fallacy whilst supporting a move toward veganism. If someone else approaches a forum saying they are hoping to transition to veganism, the responses tend to be positive and helpful, with advice and personal experience offered regarding the various aspects. Being true to the definition of veganism isn’t being puritanical, it is being honest. Supporting the exploitation of animals whilst people transition isn’t a useful (or realistically vegan) form of assistance, nor is it what you might expect from a vegan group.

This is because we are not trying to assuage the concerns of people in their exploitation of non-human animals, instead we are trying to help people understand the issue with which we are engaging. Honesty can replace the dishonesty we find so often in contemporary politics, corporate marketing strategies, and subsequently society itself. Though culture plays a part in maintaining animal use, it is also the unequal structure of society that presents challenges to adopting aspects of veganism (such as diet), so for some it is easier to adopt vegan practices than others. However, this ought not affect the intent or recognition of animal rights, instead it should fuel broader efforts to bring about a society that would reflect equality and mutual aid, so that we can more readily practise our beliefs.

Further criticism for new welfarism can be directed toward the ‘animal groups’ themselves, for example, Mercy For Animals, Peta, FARM Sanctuary (where Bruce Friedrich is director for engagement and policy). These groups aren’t necessarily vegan, they tend to promote ‘veganism’ in some way or have vegan directors, whilst they support animal exploitation through partnering with the animal industry. This is a speciesist strategy that some new welfarists take in order (they allege) to work to reduce animal suffering. But instead they end up reinforcing the normativity of exploitation, which in itself does nothing to challenge the commodity status of animals.

It is important to engage with people that exploit animals through consumption (in ways that can increase awareness, leading to succour for non-human animals). Yet the animal industry is fully aware of its complicity, and their continued propaganda for animal consumption can be reinforced by groups such as Peta when they become part of that same propaganda, rather than providing a consistent challenge to industry. As Roger Yates says, let the welfarists do welfarism and the people that believe in rights based advocacy do that. The mixed messages of groups promoting welfare and an incompatible veganism do little to present ideas of animal rights in a clear manner. Instead, they fudge the issue. Opportunities to pressure industry and their powerful supporters have been lost by groups that have collaborated and in some cases celebrated the exploitation of animals.

The approach of new welfarism is also undermined by the argument that promoting veganism, and exposing various forms of animal use can influence industry to make welfare changes, where they adapt to increasing consumer scepticism. So when taking this view we see that animals can suffer less, regardless of whether the new welfarist groups are directly involved. It could even be argued that greater changes might have been made without the support of animal groups that have reassured consumers about their support for exploitation.

When groups openly collaborate with an industry that harms animals, it is a strategy that is going to draw scepticism from social justice advocates. In turn this is exacerbated when groups such as Peta use sexism and racism to sell their brand of ‘animal rights’ to the ‘mainstream’. In order to address these issues a broader critique of society is necessary so that our awareness includes an understanding of the exploitation of people, animals and the environment so that we can utilise strategies that are consistent with the radical aspects of a broader movement for liberation. So if we are going to oppose exploitation and domination of non-human animals, it makes sense to explore these ideas and how they can be applied to people and the environment as well.


Further references:

ARZone Podcast 84: Steve Best – The Politics of Total Liberation.

‘Circles of Compassion: Essays Connecting Issues of Justice’ by various authors (2014).

Comparing Social Justice Movements’ by Saryta Rodriguez (2015).

From animals to anarchism’ by Kevin Watkinson and Donal O’Driscoll (2014)

‘Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights’ by Bob Torres (2007).

‘Protest Inc.’ by Peter Dauvergne and Genevieve LeBaron. (2014)

Thoughts on Whether Animal Welfare Campaigns – and Many Welfare Organisations – are Even Needed’ by Roger Yates (2015).


1 Part of what Bob Torres called the ‘animal rights industry’.

2 As in softened by animal welfare ideology. So for instance, consuming ‘humane’ meat, or choosing vegetarian food that is generally considered to be morally progressive by society when compared to consuming meat, dairy and eggs.



A New Hobby from an Old Job

Jumping right back in… retirement became boring more quickly than I had expected! The firm sold at the beginning of the year and we had committed to transition the clients through this tax season. I’ve been working with some of them for over twenty years and I had thought I’d be glad to have all the time off. The sad fact is, I don’t miss it, but here it is coming near the end of May and I am already prowling around looking for something else to do. Thirty five years is plenty of time to have enjoyed all the ups and downs of having my own firm, so I can honestly say I do not miss the day-to-day. And I get to see the pretty office manager every day anyway!What more is there to ask?

Still, I need something to do. And more than that, I need something to do with numbers more than the Sudoku in the morning paper. The thought occurred to me during Mass last weekend when I should have been paying attention. Sorry Father! I have been in the business of advising businesses and people on their finances. When people took my advice they did pretty well. When they didn’t take my advice… at least I was paid handsomely to be ignored. So I sat there in my scratched oak pew last Sunday and thought that maybe it would be worth poking my nose into church finances. Not my own Parish, mind you, no, it’s too small to be interesting and two rotations on our “finance council” were sufficiently painful to make me not want to ever do that again. But the finances of the Oakland Diocese? Now that’s another kettle of fish entirely.

The Oakland Diocese has to be one of the most indebted Dioceses in the United States. We floated bonds. We built a cathedral. We settled lawsuits. We ran through about four Bishops in less than 10 years –it looks like they couldn’t get out fast enough! That has the feel of a complex financial story any good money person can enjoy digging around in. I only made it through two years of seminary, but the little Latin I do remember taught me: “sequi pecuniam”, which I think translates into “follow the money”. Don’t quote me on that, like I said, I came back home after only part way through.

My experience is that if you follow the money (at least where people are involved) it will lead somewhere interesting. The question is: how much can one learn about a Diocese from the outside? And, related, what are we not supposed to learn? What it is true of every financial statement I have ever read is that there are the things the statements are obligated to say and the things the statements would rather people not ask too many questions about. It is the second part of that truth that makes being an accountant so much fun: getting to the real story hidden in the numbers. So sitting in Mass I decided my new hobby would be to use my free time and 40 years of financial thinking to learn about the finances of Dioecesis Quercopolitana.

I skyped with the boy and he set me up with a new email and blog and I’m going to try to keep a running account of what I learn right here. Ruth isn’t too happy with my idea, but I like it. For now there is no need to make any of this formal. I intend to document my findings and keep the exercise materially academic.

Lords ‘will block the Tory bid to scrap Human Rights Act’

Concerns grow over government plans to curtail role of European court

Patrick Wintour and Alan Travis
The Guardian Weekly 29.05.15

The new shadow lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, has predicted that the Lords will throw out any attempt by the new justice secretary, Michael Gove, to replace the Human Rights Act. Falconer, speaking with the authority of the shadow cabinet, warned last Friday: “The Lords over the past 20 years have come to see their role as guardians of our constitution, and if the Conservative measures strike at fundamental constitutional rights the Lords will throw this back to the Commons.”

It was expected that a new British bill of rights would be included in this week’s Queen’s speech. Falconer said that the Lords, where the Conservatives do not have a majority, would be within its rights under the Salisbury convention to throw out any measure altogether – since the Tories’ intentions were only set out vaguely in their manifesto. If the Lords rejected a bill the governmemt would need to use the Parliament Act, probably in 2017, to force the bill on to the statute book without the Lords’ consent.

Falconer argued: “The basic pitch that the Tories are making…is that you can have some form of British human rights that don’t involve things that are quite unpopular – such as not being able to deport terrorists if those people are going to be tortured or killed when they get home. But you cannot have reliable human rights if the only human rights that survive are those that the executive are happy to tolerate, and not the human rights that are inconvenient to the executive or unpopular.”

The Tory election manifesto outlined a commitment to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European court of human rights. But the legislation is in an area filled with international and legal minefields. A policy paper was published last October – but it is only eight pages long and raised more questions than it answered. A 40 – page draft bill, which has already gone through seven editions, is in existence but the final legislation, which must detail how it is to be implemented, is expected to have to run to hundreds of pages.

The policy paper promised to repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act and put the text of the original 1950 human rights convention into primary leglisation. It promised to clarify convention rights “to ensure they are applied with their original intentions”.

It promised to break the link between British courts and the European court of human rights, limit the use of human rights laws to the most serious cases and limit their reach to the UK so, for example, British armed forces overseas were not subject to human rights claims. Yet it gave no indication as to how this partial withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the European convention on human rights might be achieved nor did it take into account the possible reaction from the Council of Europe, which overseas it.

Falconer described the plans as a dishonest muddle, and said with an overall Commons Conservative majority of 12 and some Tory MPs uneasy, there was a “question mark” over whether such a bill could get through the Commons without defeats.

The appointment of Gove, along with that of Dominac Raab, a maximalist Consertive libertarian, as justice minister, suggests David Cameron recognises the large intellectual, legal and political hurdles in turning the manifesto commitment into law.

Withdrawal from the convention would send “an appalling signal”, Falconer said, adding: “It would confirm to so many countries in the world that adherence to human rights is wrong and they could forever cite the UK”.



Vormen van vrijheid

This review of Forms of Freedom (Vormen van vrijheid) has been posted in Dutch on the site. The site also includes a translation of Freedom and Nature (Vrijheid en natuur), taken from the book and reproduced below, after the review.

Vormen van vrijheid

Wanneer zijn gedachten van anderen waarmee je kennis hebt gemaakt, in gesprek, van het net, van radio, televisie of film, uit blad of boek, nog van die anderen als je ze inmiddels eigen hebt gemaakt – uit herkenning of erkenning? In wetenschappelijke publicaties kun je maar beter wel met voetnoten werken om serieus genomen te worden door degenen die jou serieus zullen moeten nemen – in een eigen publicatie hoeft dat niet, op den duur, of meteen.

Paul Cudenec ontvouwt in zijn nieuwste boek, Forms of freedom (hij wilde het eerst Philosophy of freedom noemen, maar die titel was al gebruikt, door Jacques Ellul bijvoorbeeld) een benadering van definitie van vrijheid. (Vrijheid definiëren beschouw ik als een intrinsiek tegenstrijdig streven, ingaande tegen wat het definiendum is). Vrijheid is niet de afwezigheid van dwang en evenmin maar doen waar je zin in hebt. Paul kiest voor een diepergaande en radicalere analyse die individuele (ik zou liever: persoonlijke zeggen), collectieve, planetaire en metafysische niveaus van vrijheid beschrijft. Als hij er over had kunnen bloggen zou hij geen boek hebben geschreven, stelt hij zelf, dus ik zal het u bovenal aanraden te lezen.

Ik had de eer het boek nog in typoscript te mogen lezen en mijn mening of kanttekeningen te geven. De aantekeningen die ik bij die gelegenheid heb gemaakt, bewerkt weergegeven:

- Je kunt niet tegelijkertijd een groep mensen zien en een individu – je ziet het een of het nader, niet beide tegelijk. De groep bestaat bij de gratie van de individuen en omgekeerd. Persoonlijke vrijheid kan ook alleen collectieve vrijheid zijn en omgekeerd.

- Fons Elders omschrijft God in zijn Analyseer deconditioneer als de collectieve menselijke identiteit. Hoewel ik het een mooie benadering vind sluit deze wel de rest van de levende wezens, zoniet het universum uit. Is God niet meer dan de mensheid? Paul Cudenec wijst een god die buiten de schepping staat af, maar eveneens het pantheïsme, de voorkeur gevend aan panenhenisme – “al-in-het-ene-isme”. Als mensen maken wij deel uit van de uiteindelijke Eenheid, een benadering die overeenkomt met Ortts God in zijn pneumat-energetisch monisme. Dit panenhenisme kan ik niet anders dan mystiek noemen. Enkele uitwerkingen:
- Kunnen wij het gemakkelijk aanvaarden dat we tenslotte niet de stralen van individuele levens-essentie die op de wereld schijnen, zijn waarvoor we ons altijd gehouden hebben, maar eerder onderdelen van een en hetzelfde stralende licht, dat tijdelijk verdeeld is in verschillende stromen door de gaten in het dak van het universele bestaan die onze individuele vormen uitmaken? (Neen, Plato komt niet voor in de literatuurlijst).
- Er zijn mystieke momenten waarop we naar het schijnt ophouden te bestaan als individu en opgenomen worden in alles wat ons omgeeft – bomen, bergen, rivieren, wilde planten en dieren. Wij ervaren dan niet een illusie maar juist het wegvallen van een illusie.
- Mensen die begrijpen dat zij de uiteindelijke realiteit van het universum zijn zullen zich niet voorstellen dat hun eigen individuele sterfelijkheid hun bestaan betekenisloos of absurd maakt. Ze zullen evenmin door nepgoden bij de neus genomen worden die blinde gehoorzaamheid eisen als dat zij bezeten zijn door de vrees voor de inidividuele dood en zo de volle collectieve verantwoordelijkheden van het individuele leven te ontlopen.

Mystiek anarchisme dat tot constructief verzet aanspoort, zeker niet tot resignatie (u verwacht ook geen instemming van mij, hoop ik, als het anders was).

Vrijheid en natuur

Voordat we van het land werden afgesloten genoten we vrijheid om als deel van de fauna van de planeet te leven. We genoten een verbondenheid met het land die beantwoordde aan onze noden als mensen, die het ons mogelijk maakte vrijelijk volgens onze eigen natuur te leven.

Dit betekent niet dat het leven volmaakt was, of dat het leven ooit volmaakt zou kunnen zijn. Mensen hebben gebreken zoals de hele natuur gebreken heeft. Maar tegelijkertijd houdt de schoonheid van de natuur ook deze gebreken in, zij hangt er zelfs van af. De gebreken maken deel uit van de werkelijkheid, de natuurlijke werkelijkheid, en treffen ons niet als lelijk.

Een verwelkte tak, een warrige wijnrank, een afbrokkelende oever, ze leiden niet af van de schoonheid van de natuur, zij versterken deze. Hetzelfde geldt voor de vruchten van menselijke arbeid. Een middeleeuwse stenen boerderij met doorzakkende muren, doorbuigend dak en vervallende ramen is niet lelijk. Zijn onvolmaaktheid is een vorm van volmaaktheid, zonder dat er een zekere regelmaat en gladheid aan is waarmee we het woord “volmaakt” zijn gaan associëren.

Zo is het ook met de mensheid zelf. Wij zijn niet volmaakt zoals een computer of een robot volmaakt zou kunnen zijn. Wij maken allen fouten, beoordelen situaties verkeerd, gedragen ons zo dat wij later spijt hebben. Daar gaat het om bij het mens zijn. Dit maakt de mensheid mooi, wat het leven mooi maakt. Het is onze vrijheid onszelf te zijn, met al onze gebreken, die onze menselijkheid vormt.

Dus de gedachte van een menselijk bestaan in de natuur hoort niet verward te worden met een onwerkelijke opvatting van hoe deze manier van leven zou kunnen zijn. De werkelijkheid van een leven verbonden met het land vormt de schoonheid ervan. Bovendien belichaamt het opgaan in die veelvuldige, verfijnde werkelijkheid de vrijheid.

De eigentijdse cultuur plaatst de idee van de natuur los van de mensheid. De natuur wordt behandeld als iets wat misschien gekoesterd moet worden (en tegelijkertijd overheerst moet worden…), iets wat beschermd moet worden, bekeken en bezocht (en tegelijkertijd geëxploiteerd…), maar altijd als een ding of een verzameling dingen waarin de mensheid niet inbegrepen is.

We kunnen niet ophouden deel van de natuur te zijn, want dat is onze werkelijkheid, maar we kunnen ophouden te beseffen dat wij deel van de natuur zijn. Dit leidt tot een kloof, een onderscheid, tussen de werkelijkheid en ons begrip van de werkelijkheid. Een dergelijke kloof is gevaarlijk, omdat onze besluiten – individueel en collectief – niet gegrond zijn op een werkelijk begrip van de werkelijkheid.

Dit kan men gemakkelijk zien als het gaat om de richting waarin de menselijke beschaving zich beweegt. Niet-menselijke wezens worden als voorwerpen behandeld. Het levende bouwwerk van de natuur – de werkelijkheid waarin wij bestaan – wordt als een hindernis op de weg van menselijke belangen gezien en wordt opengereten, verscheurd en verwoest.

Als een man die hoog boven in een boom zit die de tak waarop hij steunt afzaagt, zo hebben wij het zicht op onze werkelijkheid verloren, met rampzalige gevolgen. We vernielen onze eigen vrijheid ook, omdat deze vrijheid voortkomt uit en afhangt van de natuur waarvan we deel uitmaken.

Wat voor vrijheid zou er kunnen zijn voor de mensheid als de oppervlakte van onze planeet onbewoonbaar wordt? “Vrij van de natuur” zijn – wat de aandrijvende wens achter het waanidee van industriële “vooruitgang” is – betekent vrij zijn van de werkelijkheid, en tenslotte en logischerwijze, vrij van het bestaan zijn. Voor een soort die biologisch deel uitmaakt van de natuur staat vrij van de natuur zijn eenvoudigweg gelijk aan de dood.

Cutting the Cloth: Ambition, Austerity and the Case for Rethinking UK Military Spending


This new report by Richard Reeve (13 May 2015) has been published by Oxford Research Group. The report analyses the UK’s past, current and future commitments to funding its armed forces in relation to other components of British international spending (development and diplomacy), the current threats to UK security, and the military spending patterns of its NATO allies, European peers, and other states.

The report analyses the UK’s past, current and future commitments to funding its armed forces in relation to other components of British international spending (development and diplomacy), the current threats to UK security, and the military spending patterns of its NATO allies, European peers, and other states.

It finds that, while UK military spending as a share of GDP fell markedly during the 2010-2015 Coalition Government, it remains well above the norm for European states and democracies worldwide. Two expensive commitments help to determine why the UK still spends so much on its military: submarine-launched nuclear weapons; and a force structure that prioritises global power-projection and expeditionary operations over national defence. In light of current threats to UK security, these commitments are either irrelevant or risk overstretch of diminished armed forces and blowback from foreign wars.

Manifesto commitments of the new Conservative government to pursue fiscal austerity while maintaining major equipment procurement plans, including bringing two aircraft carriers into service and renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system, are likely to severely squeeze the armed forces’ practical defence capabilities over the next parliament.

The report recommends that the coming Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) be seized upon as an opportunity to rethink UK security strategy and spending. In balancing ambition with austerity, the UK could actually strengthen its defence by committing to do less militarily with less money.

                                         Click here to read the report  

Bir soru bir sonuç

Bu sabah karga geldi, kondu, “Mübeccel” dedi, “Samiye” dedi, uçtu gitti. Biz bu söylediklerinden şunları çıkardık:

Bir trafik kazasında hayatını kaybeden altmış yaşındaki gencecik oğlu Selahattin’in yasını tutan, daha önce hiçbir seçimde oy vermemiş Mübeccel nine bir sabah kalkıyor ve “HDP’ye oy vereceğim” diyor, daha sonra görüştüğü bütün ahiret arkadaşlarına da “HDP’ye oy vereceksiniz, yoksa iki elim ahirette yakanızda olur” diyor. Niçin? Çünkü bu kararını aldığı sabahtan önceki gece uykusunda yıllar önce kaybettiği eşi İsmail Hakkı dede ona “Mübeccel, oyunu Selahattin’e vereceksin”, demiş.

SORU: Kestane pazarının girişinde, yerde, kaldırım üstünde satılan yazarı belirsiz “Rüya Tabirleri ve Tefsirleri” kitabından dahi habersiz Mübeccel ninenin eylemi mi devrimcidir, yoksa HDP’ye oy vermememin haklı olduğuna kendini ikna etmek için aylardır kendi kendine konuşan, aylardır kendi kendine yazan, sanki bugünlerde bir seçim yokmuşçasına, mezarlıktan geçerken ıslık çalar gibi aylardır abuk sabuk yazılarıyla okurunu kandıran, eğitimi için emdiği devasa boyutta toplumsal kaynağı sadece ve sadece, küçük ama küçücük kariyer hesapçığı için çarçur eden bir oportünistin eylemi mi devrimcidir ?


İlk oyunu 1950 seçimlerinde Adnan Menderes’e karşı İsmet İnönü için kullanmış ve o gün bugündür, kapatıldığı dönem hariç, her seçimde CHP’ye oy atmış olan 84 yaşındaki Samiye nine, hiç kimse kendisine tek bir sözcük dahi söylemediği halde dupdururken bugün “Kılıçdaroğlu tamam, ben Demirtaş’a oy vereceğim, yoksa bu adam gene kazanacak” dedi.

SONUÇ: Recebin komünistlerine layık oldukları küfürü bulabilmek olağanüstü bir hayal gücü istiyor. Onlar için, “artık bu kadarını da haketmiyorlar” denebilecek düzeyde bir hakareti bulabilmek olağanüstü bir hayal gücü istiyor. Ne yazık ki o da bizde yok.

What are the costs (social and environment) of divesting from fossil fuel companies? A personal view from “climateer”


While opening Café Politique on Tuesday 28th April 2015, Holly Flynn-Pierce noted that this event had been solely organised by a graduate student of Ustinov College, namely myself, a PhD student in Political Geography and affiliate researcher of the Durham Energy Institute. In my opinion, this discussion was a landmark debate — all three speakers gave an excellent account of three similar opinions about Divestment from fossil fuels. It is true that intellectual curiosity as an academic has been the main reason for investigating so-called ‘discourse’ on the Divestment movement. I also feel a responsibility to perform a role — as an academic, as a poet, and as a global citizen.

This blog appears exactly one month after the Café Politique event for a few reasons. I hope that this blog post acts as a follow-up to discussion about Durham’s Divestment from fossil fuels campaign; to pick up the discussion from where ‘we’ left off; to offer further clarity about the arguments raised. This blog also appears exactly one month before I perform poetry at the Empty Shop, Durham, on 28th June 2015 on the theme of global fossil fuel use and climate change. This live performance will take place as part of the Footprint Modulation initiative hosting live commentaries, performances and debates exploring climate change, global justice and human displacement.

Finally, this is a blog post by me; not representative of the entire Divestment from fossil fuels campaign; not a representation of the ideas of the three academic speakers at Café Politique; not a voice on behalf of others in Durham who are either a part or yet to become a part of the general debate — although many of these camps might agree with me. I aim to raise awareness on this debate and call for others to continue raising the profile of the campaign in Durham, which is a city not only historically of huge significance to ‘energy politics’ in the UK but home to a leading academic institution in both physical and human fields of geography.

Divestment at Durham a month ago

One month ago I introduced my research briefly on European imaginaries of Arctic space, which I explore through analyses of energy and climate change discourse. The exploration of ‘discourse’ — in the popular sense of the meaning — is interesting because it indicates the significance of politics in relation to energy and climate security issues that everyday people face as highly influential actors like national governments and fossil fuel companies seek to address them. With regard to energy and climate security, many agree that the stakes are unbearably high as the human population continues to grow and ‘develop’ at an unprecedented pace while growing carbon emissions lead to rising degrees of global warming and climate change.

With regard to Durham and the UK, the stakes are no different. This is why I organised a panel of speakers to discuss the Divestment from fossil fuels movement, which had originally spurred attention in the USA but thereafter gained momentum across the world and strongly in the United Kingdom. All three speakers were aware of the importance of popular discourse in the run up to the next major United Nations intergovernmental conference on climate change. Many participants were excited to hear that the Divestment from fossil fuels movement has been promoted by the UN itself, while media companies like The Guardian newspaper in the UK contribute to popularising the movement.

One month ago the stage was set for a discussion on whether Divestment at Durham University could lead to social and environmental costs. Most interestingly, the three speakers constituted a plethora of public positions: two professors; two Durham University graduates; one former oil industry exec; one ordained priest; and all writers of published material on the theme of energy and climate change. Thus presentations were varied and included Professor Jon Gluyas’ on energy production; Mr James Leaton on carbon financing; and Professor Michael Northcott on the political theology of climate change. Presentations were followed by questions from the audience in an informal setting comprising members of the public, climate change financiers and academics such as the Principal of Ustinov College, Professor Glenn McGregor, a respected climatologist.

Divestment of fossil fuel industry stocks

Professor Jon Gluyas was the first to mention how, in 2014, Glasgow University became Europe’ first university to divest its fossil fuel stocks. Glasgow is one of 800 organisations to do the same on the basis that emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels has raised the atmospheric content from 260 particles per million (ppm) to today’s 400 ppm with consequent climate change. Thus, he concluded, the fossil fuel industry is considered to be at blame and the aim of the movement joined by Glasgow is to remove the mandate for business of multi-national fossil fuel companies.

However, the movement raises important questions: is Big Oil (gas and coal) to blame? If the campaign is successful, will emissions be reduced? Will national energy security be compromised? Will energy poverty increase? Climate science demonstrates that emissions from fossil fuel burning have increased atmospheric CO2 while studies of the geological past have also proven that high atmospheric CO2 content drives mass extinction. Many would therefore ask, if continued use of fossil fuels would appear suicidal, why continue? Firstly, fossil fuels are energy dense and humankind craves fossil fuels’ cheap energy for purposes of development and future sustainability. In other words, the use of the short term use of fossil fuels brings huge benefits.

One other key argument by the Professor is the geopolitical fear of restricting the power of multi-nationals corporations in the face of competition to control the world’s fossil fuel markets. The general sentiment for this argument is stopping the production and supply of fossil fuels from multi-national companies would lead to the further monopolisation of the industry by ‘unscrupulous’ nationally-owned companies that already own rights to around 90% of global oil and gas reserves. In other words, Gluyas believes that the emasculation of companies like those targeted in the UK will have no effect on carbon emissions because supply will continue under demand and power will shift to companies uninfluenced by scientific evidence or public concern, which will decrease energy security and increase energy poverty.

As citizens hoping for a transition to a future dominated by renewable energy the Professor argues that we must use the technology of the big oil and gas corporations to geo-store CO2 and develop near zero carbon geo-thermal energy. Based on his own research at Durham University, Gluyas estimates this could cut 40% of of the UK’s emissions in twenty years and possibly even go carbon negative in 50 years. Gluyas voiced these arguments earlier this month in University World News, namely that the human race is dependent on fossil fuels and that multi-national corporations are essential to our own British society, both to address the balance of power in the world energy markets and to ensure research goes ahead to curb future carbon emissions.

How to make capital flows fit within the carbon budget

James Leaton from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, London, draws on discourse in fields of economic and climate science, which tells us that the remaining carbon budget to give the planet a chance of limiting warming to 2°C clearly exceeds the coal, oil and gas in the ground (see Carbon Bubble report). Even optimistic projections of CCS application only increase the carbon budget by 14% to 2050. If this can be implemented economically to new emissions sources it moves the dial but does not change the fundamental conclusion that some fossil fuels must stay in the ground compared to business as usual projections of consumption.

This climate logic has prompted those investing in fossil fuels to start questioning who the winners and losers will be. This discourse founds Leaton’s presentation on ‘how to make capital flows fit within the carbon budget,’ which argues that all fossil fuels are not equal in terms of cost, carbon intensity, potential substitution, and geographic distribution, which is why the energy transition towards a low carbon future is a complicated financial challenge we must all work hard to address. Such a provocative economic analysis is much needed today, especially with regard to forcing governments and other influential institutions to take seriously the repercussions of investing in an industry that contributes towards a ‘carbon bubble’ about to go bust.

Leaton’s presentation explored coal and oil, which are two of the most productive forms of energy with the highest output of carbon emissions. Both energy sectors provide insight into understanding the implications of the fossil fuel industry on the rest of the world in terms of economic growth and stability while also factoring climate change reduction. Regardless of whether Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a viable solution to carbon emissions it is still ‘late to the game,’ Leaton says, because the cost of applying this technology to new streams is too expensive. Essentially, the most challenging assumptions about the current status of fossil fuels relates to the future of the energy sector: does this include electric vehicles? Is storage technology viable?  What are the costs of renewables? How do we factor international developments like Chinese peak coal demand on oil volatility, climate change reduction or GDP growth rates?

With regard to the cost of Divestment at Durham from an economic perspective the movement appears logical as governments and other influential institutions have shown signs of moving away from high cost carbon projects and collectively aiming to meet carbon emissions reduction targets. As demonstrated by the Bank of England putting climate change on its research agenda, regulators are starting to recognise that the financial system is crucial to make a smooth transition in the public sphere but is this must be complemented by other positive changes. The economic logic behind the ‘carbon bubble’ discourse thus favours an active Divestment from fossil fuels.

A political theology of change

Professor Northcott’s presentation depicted the energy and climate change discourse occurring on different levels of political awareness and activism. Northcott’s  main theoretical claim is that national and international politics and modern political theory are ill suited to the global emergency that is humanly caused climate change. Those nations most responsible for causing it have become rich on the back of fossil fuel extraction and use while nations already suffering from human-influenced extreme weather have had few of the fruits of this great twentieth century economic bonanza. This inequality of gains from the fossil fuel industry is most evident in countries like Somalia, Eritrea, Syria and Mali, which are home to major sources of migrants to Europe in the wake of experiencing dramatic declines in crop productivity due to enduring drought and raised temperatures.

However, fossil fuel owning nations refuse to consider restraining fossil fuel extraction. Instead the UN framework convention on climate change process around climate change focuses on emissions, which Northcott likens to ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.’ With regard to Divestment at Durham, Northcott agrees that the movement rightly understands the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. On the other hand, the movement targets private multi-national corporations and investors as if they are the sovereigns of fossil fuels. The Professor’s presentation argued vehemently for the need to see the reality of politics of energy and climate change, which in reality is governed by nation states licensing fossil fuel extraction within their territories.

The theoretical point Northcott argues is worth noting with regard to the Divestment movement, namely that targeting fossil fuel stocks and companies as opposed to government licenses to extract fossil fuels colludes with a larger neoliberal tendency to downgrade sovereign power. Discourse on neoliberalism is used by nations like the UK to promote private capital and consumer decisions, which divert attention from the true essence of their sovereignty. As noted in A Political Theology of Climate Change, this misidentification can be traced back to the political theology of John Locke who identified the nation state’s core role to protect productive use of ‘nature’ by farmers, miners and others.

The neglect of the spatial aspect sovereignty is now endemic in national and international politics as Carl Schmitt first argued in his important book Nomos of the Earth. Climate change reveals again the wisdom of the ancients in linking sovereignty with territory by Previous identifying sovereignty of nation states with rule over a boundaried terrain. One must therefore exercise caution when naming and shaming multi-national corporations only because in a world where neoliberal development has become the status quo governments should be held accountable for private activity in the energy sector and not the other way around.

One month later

The most relevant points raised on the 28th April 2015 can be divided into three core discourses: the need to work with the fossil fuel industry (to use its technological expertise, its political influence on the international stage and its will to facilitate sustainable growth in the developing world) versus the need to cut our losses with the fossil fuel industry (to stop investing in an unviable economic project, to start investing in carbon neutral technologies) versus the need to address the real culprits of the great carbon emissions (i.e. nation states). All of these embody a ‘contested terrain’ in the public sphere.

As Professor Gluyas mentioned in reference to Durham as an historic contested terrain in its own right, the coal industry used to be taxed by the Prince Bishop whereas during the peak in coal combustion in 1991 over three hundred million tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted from the UK, which amounts to the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s total oil reserve. Combined with Professor Northcott’s political theology critique of the Divestment movement it seems that although there is a huge will to act on climate change it seems prudish not to assert that nation states are to blame for the current situation the developing world find themselves in.

Ethical considerations call for direct action against fossil fuel corporations that seem to sanction ‘Tar Sands,’ ‘BP blowouts’ or other scandals concerning the destruction of local environments and indigenous communities. With due respect to these controversial issues the Divestment movement is a worthy cause, indeed, but governments must also be held accountable. Moreover, Leaton and other experts in the financial, insurance and business sectors are right in calling for Divestment from the fossil fuel sectors in light of climate change reduction targets — though a huge portion of investment logic is influenced by government intervention.

In a world where capitalist growth and social welfare are depicted by governments as complementary policies the Divestment movement adds a sharper critique to nation state itself by calling for direct action from across a plethora of positions within the public sphere. So far these have included the academic sphere, faith sphere, financial and business sphere — and, as we will hopefully see by the end of the year at the COP21, the political sphere. Solutions vary according to contested understandings about the fossil fuel industry and its role in energy and climate change politics. However, what is certain is that climate change is a problem we need to solve together, which is why global Divestment movements are important in raising awareness of an alternative position to the existing status quo and applying pressure to intellectuals, policy-makers and investors in our collective future.

One month from now

In about one month Durham will host the Footprint Modulation, which comprises a bunch of exciting talks, performances, live film screenings and poetry readings organised local artists, transition activists and academics from Durham University. Academic discussions about forced migration due to climate change and the  effects of a steady increase in climate change follow a similar initiative called Ice and Climate, which was held this month in Newcastle as a collaborative project between the Life Centre and Durham University. This level of scientific engagement with the public  is essential to raise awareness of climate change using a wider platform of interactive forms. Similarly, Divestment at Durham as a social movement requires the same degree of curiosity to understand the likely repercussions of breaking financial ties between the public sphere and the fossil fuel industry, which equates to heeding the climate change problems we face across the world.

Being a poet and a scientist in the field of energy and climate politics I would argue that my own perspective on ‘social change’ remains steadfast within ‘discursive formations’ or ‘social structures’ that emerge from an understanding about problems different groups face. Thus Café Politique, Ice and Climate, and Footprint Modulation    projects have a great deal in common — they rope different subjective views together in order to harness the greater understanding of the problem that is atmospheric climate change. Sitting in our own ‘academic silos’ is not beneficial in the long run, the Academic Director of Kaleidoscope once told me at Ustinov College. And academic structures are no different to those existing in the public sphere at large, which is why calls for public engagement is vital to legitimise science, policy and decision-making with regard to investing in the fossil fuel industry.

The poem that I am writing and performing in one month explores one hundred years of fossil fuel use and its subsequent impact on the natural and social world. The syllabic structure mirror the growth in years and metaphorically reflects the carbon particles per million amassing polluting the atmosphere as the world ‘develops’ under the weight of its threatening need for growth. More importantly, my work features alongside other contributions from a rich multitude of artists, academics and leading public figures who want to connect the public sphere in a collective movement  to solve climate change. I am therefore very pleased to be among those who will be present in Durham throughout the Footprint Modulation project and encourage any future projects dedicated to raising awareness.

East London Rising

AANThe Anarchist Action Network is appealing for funds to help it put on a temporary anarchist space in East London during the first week of August 2015.

The network, which consists of individuals and autonomous local groups, based in towns and cities across the UK and further afield, says: “During the first week of August we plan to rent a space in East London, give away free food every day and hold workshops, talks and discussions about anarchism, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, feminism, ecology, housing, austerity, workplace and claimant struggles.”

The event follows the AAN’s Newport Rising event last year – see this report on indymedia.

To donate what you can to help make East London Rising happen, go to