Welcome to the newly updated Climate Radio archive. We have made this site fully accessible across a range of devices and also introduced sharing buttons for social media. We hope you enjoy it. Feedback welcome. So far in 2015 we have produced four in-depth Climate Solutions programmes exploring some of the big ideas that are supercharging the climate change agenda. Thanks to Network for Social Change for their support for this series. In 2013 we produced monthly Climate Radio programmes as well as a number of special broadcasts including New Economics Foundation fellow Andrew Simm’s talk “Seeking Goodland”, coverage of the Reclaim The Power protest camp against fracking in Balcombe and an audio document of the Two Degrees festival of climate arts-activism. Thanks to Artists Project Earth, Resonance FM and New Internationalist for their support in 2013.
If we need a democratic revolution to properly deal with climate change, the small country of Iceland (population one third of a million) has a lot to teach us. Here’s a referenced version of the Big Read I wrote recently for The Independent on the country’s experiments in democracy after the ‘pots and pans revolution’.
“I stood in front of the parliament building every lunch-hour and asked people, ‘Can you tell me what has happened in this country? Do you have any idea what we can do?’”
Singer-songwriter, poet and gay rights activist Hordur Torfason turns 70 this year. He remembers how Iceland’s “pots and pans revolution” started from small beginnings just days after the government stepped in and nationalised the country’s three biggest banks in October 2008. As the stock market plummeted so did peoples’ trust in the government. The country’s banking bubble had burst, unemployment had tripled and Torfason recalls rumours that the supermarkets might run out of food.
What started out as daily conversations with ordinary people quickly turned into weekly demonstrations involving thousands. After five months of escalating demonstrations the protesters demands had been met: the government, the head of the Central Bank and the director of the Financial Supervisory Authority had all resigned.
The climate movement is coalescing around a powerful campaigning tool which has proved decisive in previous struggles in history: economic divestment. What does this campaign look like on the ground in the UK? What have the wins been so far? What creative direct action tactics are being employed? How does campaign for a cultural boycott fit in? And can the campaign succeed where the UN talks have failed?
Our guests in this fourth and final show in this mini-series are:
The food system is responsible for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Moving to a system of small-scale climate-friendly farming (“agroecology”) would drastically reduce these emissions and provide numerous co-benefits into the bargain. Recognising the right of local communities to determine how their food is produced (“food sovereignty”) would protect those already farming in this way against the destructive forces of large-scale agriculture. Your guides for this week’s programme are:
- Vicki Hird, acting policy director with Sustain – The Alliance for Better Food and Farming
- Colin Tudge, author of Good Food for Everyone Forever: A people’s takeover of the world’s food supply and co-founder of the Campaign for Real Farming
- Dr Ian Fitzpatrick, author of of Global Justice Now!’s new report From the Roots Up : how agroecology can feed Africa and
- Humphrey Lloyd of Land Workers’ Alliance and Edible Futures.
Do we need to reform our democracy in order to get serious action on climate change? Is it time to fight for radical reform of our democracy so that it serves people and planet rather than the narrow interests of powerful groups such as the fossil fuel corporations? We look at the fledgling Occupy Democracy movement, the newly emerging campaigns for a 21st Century Great Democratic Reform Act and a citizen-led constitutional convention which could kick the corporate influence out of our government so that it starts to work in the public interest once again. Featuring:
- George Barda, John Sinha, Aisha Dodwell and Julie Timbrell of Occupy Democracy
- Donnachadh McCarthy, former Liberal Democrat vice chair and author of The Prostitute State
- Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy
- Dr Alan Renwick, associate professor at Reading University and author of A Citizen’s Guide to Electoral Reform
We are proud to present the first programme in a new mini-series focusing on Climate Solutions. This is actually the first of a two-parter on democracy. This first show takes a look at fracking as a case study which lifts the lid on the corrupting influence of fossil fuel corporations (and the banks that finance them) on our democracy. The imposition of fracking in the UK threatens our basic human rights, hampers our ability to tackle climate change and makes a mockery of the democratic process.
- John Ashton who served as the Special Representative for Climate Change 2006-2012
- Tina Louise Rothery of Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking, The Nanas & Frack-Free Lancashire
- Kathryn McWhirter and Charles Metcalfe from Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association
- Rose Dickinson, campaigner at Friends of the Earth
Next week, we’ll follow up by looking at the newly emerging campaign for a 21st Century Great Democratic Reform Act which would kick the corporate influence out of our government so that it starts to work in the public interest once again.
Owen Jones’ latest book, The Establishment: And how they get away with it (Allen Lane), is a pithy retelling of recent political scandals, studded with dozens of revealing interviews with power brokers.
It has hugely important things to say about the state of our democracy, the shocking pace at which the gains of the post-war settlement (the National Health Service (NHS), the welfare state) are being rolled back, and the extent to which bankers and corporations are now sitting at the very heart of power. It concludes with a call for a democratic revolution and sets out proposals for reform.
I interviewed Owen for New Internationalist online and reviewed his book for the October issue of the magazine. Read the interview here. Climate Radio looked at the rotten state of our democracy and the need for radical reform in a panel discussion in April last year which you can listen to here. Meanwhile Occupy London are calling for an occupation of Parliament Square from 17-26 October. Here’s some advance information about that:
“The domain of art and culture presents us with a realm where we can explore issues we are hard-wired to avoid in a soft or mediated way or in a way that directly speaks to our unconscious. It was interesting then to see how a number of artists explored different ways of confronting extinction in an evening dedicated to performance programmed into the June Facing Extinction conference.”
“Facing the reality of our ecological crisis is one thing. Acting to stop it is another. To be effective, I would argue, requires having a political analysis that addresses the question of why governments are failing to respond adequately to the signals coming from the scientific community. It also requires artists to think about where to intervene in a complex system.”
Read the full piece at The Wire.
Legendary radical artist Gustav Metzger has become increasingly concerned the impact human activity is having on nature. In a rare interview, I spoke to Metzger about the two-day conference he initiated at UCA Farnham entitled Facing Extinction – which asks the profound question “What role can artists play in radically limiting the ongoing decimation of nature?” – as well as his formative experiences and a lifetime of radical artistic practice.
The interview took place on Saturday 31st May at Gustav’s studio in London Fields. Climate Radio also recorded the proceedings of the Facing Extinction conference (7 & 8 June) for a forthcoming series on Resonance FM which will be archived in due course. Update: The Facing Extinction series is being broadcast by Resonance FM on Wednesdays, 1pm-2pm.
A revamped alternative audio tour for Tate Modern explores why sponsor BP’s problems are deep and structural. By Phil England. Published by Platform London.
It was four years ago this week that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded while drilling into BP’s Macondo oil well, killing eleven people. In a report issued last week, the National Wildlife Federation records that over 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the area since the disaster. Amongst other key species they noted an abnormally high number of dead sea turtles – around 500 every year. Respiratory problems and skin diseases continue to affect the human population and last month 300 pounds of tar balls washed up on a beech in Mississippi.
Fisherman Bert Ducote who helped with the clean-up effort in 2010 and has suffered with skin boils said, “The little amount of money they’re trying to give us, it’s never going to replace our quality of life, our health.”
It’s a far cry from the “temporary difficulty” that Tate director Nicholas Serota described his “friend” BP as having back in July 2010, while millions of barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for the third month in a row.
In 2012 sound artist Jim Welton and I produced an alternative audio tour for the Tate Modern as part of a triptych of audio artworks taking issue with BP’s controversial sponsorship of the Tate galleries. One critic described it as “A highly effective, unpreventable form of non-violent dissent – and also a sensual, personal work of art in its own right.”
This week we launch a new version of the guide to accommodate changes in the gallery displays so that it now incorporates works by Derek Jarman and Pino Pascali. You can download the MP3 onto your mobile phone and listen on headphones or earbuds as you are directed through the gallery. Alternatively you can listen to the piece online at home.
Nicholas Serota’s belittling of the Deepwater Horizon disaster was offensive to those thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods were ruined by the spill and the dispersant used in the “clean-up”. We used his quote in the title of our piece – Drilling The Dirt (“A Temporary Difficulty”) – to draw attention to this misunderstanding and because it resonated in so many different ways. Most importantly we wanted to show that the problem with BP was not temporary and minor but deep and structural. Its business model is rooted in colonialism, puts profits before safety and is predicated on our collective descent into a world of climate extremes.
BP began life as the Anglo Iranian Oil Company after the British and French carved up the Middle East between them at the end of the first world war. Iran’s riches were expropriated at little benefit to the country’s population. In 1953 the UK and US even organised a coup to oust the democratically elected president Mohammed Mossadeq in order to keep the oil flowing. This colonial model continues today with BP “developing” the oil resources of poor countries in unfair deals that are maintained by supporting repressive regimes. Azerbaijan and Egypt are two cases in point.
According to the US Department of Justice’s lawyers currently prosecuting BP under the Clean Water Act, BP’s activities are underpinned by a “culture of corporate recklessness.” It’s nothing new. The investigation into the explosion at BP’s Texas City oil refinery in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 180 concluded that “organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation” were responsible. They traced this managerial malaise back to two major cost-cutting drives – mandated by the then CEO Lord Browne – in 1999 and 2004.
This month the accident-prone company spilled over 1200 gallons into Lake Michigan from its refinery in Whiting potentially contaminating the drinking water of seven million Chicago residents. Oops.
And as if these concerns were not enough, it is the potential of fossil fuel companies like BP to influence our energy future that should concern us most.
BP’s projections assume we will not take sufficient action to tackle climate change as a global community. As a company they are essentially betting against your future and my future. We now know that 80% of fosil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. If BP wins, we lose.
The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago caused the company’s share price to nose dive and brought BP to the brink of bankruptcy and there’s still a possibility the disaster could end up breaking the company. The current CEO Bob Dudley has overseen asset sales worth around $50 billion. That’s resulted in a 20% reduction in oil and gas output and a loss in profits of about $5 billion a year. If the US [Department of Justice] [courts] determines that BP was grossly negligent under the Clean Water Act the company’s liabilities could rise by an additional $18 billion.
The final reason we subtitled our work “A temporary difficulty” was because we believe it is only a matter of time before the Tate cedes to public pressure and ends its relationship with BP. The campaign was given high-level endorsement earlier this month when Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for an Apartheid-style boycott of fossil fuel companies to help drive forward action on climate change. “People of conscience,” he wrote, “need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”
The Art Not Oil campaign has achieved some notable successes recently. A group called Reclaim Our Bard brought an end to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s relationship with BP using the power of their pop-up dramatic skits while choral campaigners Shell Out Sounds were successful in singing Shell out of the “Shell Classics” concert series at the Royal Festival Hall. The idea that fossil fuel companies are suitable sponsors for the arts and sport is coming to an end and the longer Tate clings on to its relationship with BP, the longer it will be on the wrong side of history.
Download the Tate Modern alternative audio tour from www.tateatate.org or listen online below.