The Mapping Climate Communication project publishes the Climate Timeline and the Network of Actors

Some really interesting info graphics.


The Mapping Climate Communication Project illustrates key events, participants and strategies in climate communication. 1) Climate Timeline visualizes the historical processes and events that have lead to various ways of communicating climate change. Key scientific, political and cultural events are plotted on a timeline that contextualizes this information within five climate discourses. These reveal very different ideological, political and scientific assumptions on climate change.

Climate Timeline Climate Timeline

2) Network of Actors displays relationships between 237 individuals, organizations and institutions participating in climate communication in Canada, United States and the United Kingdom. A clearer version of this graphic is available here.

Network of Actors Network of Actors

Details about this project can be found in the Mapping Climate Communication: PosterSummary Report. This report can be downloaded here.

The maps reveal how specific details in climate communication are contextualized within complex debates. For example:

  1. How does a climate march impact the volume of media coverage of…

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Food Sovereignty

Yesterday I wrote to the Today Programme in anticipation of Owen Patterson appearing today.
Here is the letter:
Dear Today Programme

I normally wake up to Today, and this morning was interested in the piece you ran in preparation for Owen Patterson’s interview tomorrow. Here are some thoughts on your interview with Mr Patterson.

Owen Patterson’s “Green Blob” is no different from Michael Gove’s “Education Blob” – it is a political attack on an opposition that he sees are gaining foothold. It has nothing to do with people feeling cuddly or fluffy and everything to do with his world view that global power must be exercised through a corporate elite – the neoliberal dominant ideology being marketed as the only ideology – against a vision that is more equitable, that puts people at the heart of politics. That he attacks the opposition so aggressively says a lot about his insecurity.
So, providing that we understand Owen Patterson as a politician taking an overtly political stance then we can remember that he is attacking the green movement entirely because he is fearful of their view – very different from his own. He will try and use scientific sounding arguments as a smoke screen, but as we have already discovered, he is no scientist.

Your trailer referred to the so-called Golden Rice, and that Owen Patterson does not like the green movement because it opposes GM crops. Why would that be?
Firstly, the biggest problem with GM technology is an economic-political one, the second a scientific (genetic) one. Let me explain.
Traditional farmers have collectively maintained several thousand varieties of rice over the Asian continent. These have been bred and adapted over generations to provide a range of nutritional, flavour and growth characteristics. Some will mature in as little as 90 days to avoid drought. Some are flood resistant. A few are even salt tolerant, being adapted to growing in coastal areas. In other words, they are collectively fit for purpose and ensure crops in a wide range of conditions. They are also free, shared and under continuous development.
Since the introduction of commercial seed in the so-called Green Revolution, these varieties have dropped from thousands to hundreds. This was beautifully illustrated earlier this year by Amar Kanwar’s moving exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Since the Green Revolution, seed patenting and licencing has been introduced. This has effectively made it illegal for farmers across the world to save and share seed, forcing even the most marginal farmers into commercial practices that leave them indebted and more vulnerable than when farming traditionally. Thus, they are fighting back through organisations like La Via Campesina and Navdanya. It is only through taking action that they can continue to express their independence and avoid debt. Over 250,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide because of such debt, and untold more have abandoned their farms and moved to find work in the cities. Yet Owen Patterson wants them to be forced to grow a single variety of GM rice crop (which does not yet exist) so that they can all be locked into punitive contracts with multi-nationals, so that they are dependent on the corporations for their inputs, yet they are vulnerable to variable weather because the one variety of GM seed is only adapted for idealized growing conditions. Thus, commercialized GM technology is genetically regressive and limited.

It is a lose-lose situation for the farmers in a system designed for multi-nationals to profit on the backs of the poor. This is what Owen Patterson wants, and why he attacks those who espouse a different view. These people cannot bear to see populations who can thrive or even survive independently of the multi-national elite.

Remember that industrial agriculture occupies the best 75% of the world’s agricultural land, but small and peasant farmers grow over 70% of the world’s food on the remaining 25% of more marginal land. This is the conversation that needs to be had – let us define efficiency as food produced and people fed, not on cost and profit terms that benefit the already over-rich.

You may well read this and think “Blimey, that’s a bit far out!”. But sadly, it isn’t. Monsanto, for example, are currently prosecuting the State of Vermont because they had the temerity to regulate food labeling – to force the labeling of food containing GMO. This is such a threat to their profits that Monsanto are using Investor State Dispute mechanisms to force the repeal of the legislation. They will probably succeed, because the case is likely to bankrupt Vermont if it does not back down. Just to make sure, though, several other multi-nationals are supporting Monsanto – Starbucks, Nestle, for example – even though they have no direct interest in GMO labeling. The issue being prosecuted is that of democratic states standing in the way of easy profit by trying to protect he rights of citizens.

I really hope this gives you some food for thought, and brings up some more challenging lines of questioning for Mr Patterson in the morning. I am sorry I could not have sent this earlier, but I hope it will be read and passed on by somebody in the team.

Yours, etc,

Today, having listened to Mr Patterson try and sell the benefits of GM technology to emerging nation farmers, I received the newsletter from La Via Campesina with a great video linked from it. Have a look at the video – it is a thing of beauty and clarity.

Today, 16th October, we celebrate the World Day of Action for Food Sovereignty and against Transnational Corporations. In this occasion, La Via Campesina invites its member organisations across the world, grassroots organisations and allied social groups to watch our video: La Via Campesina in Movement. Food Sovereignty now!, to inspire your actions and activities today.

The film is available in English, Spanish, French, and other languages…

This is a Day of solidarity, resistance, and mobilization in order to make citizens aware of the current threats to Peoples’ Food Sovereignty.

Seeding change

Read this and feel that you can stand up to the agrochemical TNCs.

Transition Free Press

small Over Winter Seed Salad Brotherhood Church Greenhouse73% of seed crops are now ‘owned’ by 10 corporations – while community and grassroots initiatives are working to keep global diversity alive. This weekend The Great Seed Festival in London celebrates the people and places that hold the future of many of our crops in their hands. In our Autumn issue we look at seed swaps, seed banks, and open source pollination (by bees and humans). Here Warren Draper reports on the radical acts of exchange happening…online

It is hard to comprehend how patent examiners can grant patents on seeds for plants which have been commonly used, exchanged and cross-bred worldwide for thousands of years: surely it’s like granting a large car manufacturer a patent for the wheel? But large corporations get their own way regarding patents in exactly the same way they control everything else – through powerful lobbying and relentless bullying.

As VQR Online reported recently in…

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An Open Letter to Our Party Leaders

Dear Party Leader,

I would like you to read this article taken from the Guardian. I would like you read the whole book, but the article makes the point very effectively, and I know you are busy people.

Having read the article, I would like answers to the following questions.

  1. Why has economic policy under Conservative, Labour and the Coalition favoured deregulated labour markets?
    Employers like deregulated labour markets because they lower the cost of their workforce, but as you can see, what to an employer is a flexible workforce is job insecurity to an employee. The policy of creating a flexible workforce is known to have the human consequences illustrated so eloquently in the article and yet these policies have been pursued for several decades. This is why so many of us criticise your policies as creating poverty and putting the desires of the wealthy above the needs of the poor.
    This is why I ask why you favour deregulated labour markets when you know that thousands get caught in the poverty trap as a direct consequence of your policies.
  2. Why is the minimum wage below the living wage?
    It has been clear for some years that the system of tax credits to “top up” low incomes is simply another government subsidy to business, giving them permission (encouragement?) to pay poverty wages knowing that the government will make up the difference. I understand the expediency of the policy’s introduction, but have you politicians really handed so much sovereignty over to corporations that you cannot make the minimum wage a living wage?
  3. Why is employment law framed to encourage employers to take two part-timers, neither of whom can earn a full living on 16 hours a week on minimum wage, rather than taking on a full time worker with rights?
    This is systematic abuse of people. It keeps people in poverty, it creates insecurity which induces family instability, which leads directly to social problems over which you wring your hands with mock sincerity, knowing your policies are directly responsible.  You will no doubt argue that to half half a job is better than to have no job, but if half a job still leaves you on benefits, and keeps you in a permanent state of insecurity, I am not sure if that really is the case.
  4. Why are you all supportive of the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? Platitudes about jobs do not actually answer the question, particularly as the evidence for such trade deals creating jobs is at least thin, at worst contradictory. For example, the US/Central American trade deal, despite claims, actually led to a loss of over 800,000 jobs in the US. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
    Also, whilst we, society, are debating a range of constitutional issues following the Scottish referendum, with your other faces, you are giving sovereignty away to unaccountable corporations through the TTIP. In particular, ISDS plans involving private courts run by corporate lawyers to sue national governments for loss of potential earnings because environmental or food safety standards are too high, point to a steady downward pressure on the standards of our civilized society.
    Why bring this up here? Because TTIP, especially with ISDS built in, will worsen the lot of the poor by increasing insecurity, by lowering health and safety standards and by driving down wages.  The end result of this can only be a growing underclass, widening inequality and the acceleration of the global shift in power away from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

As leaders of our main political parties, I would like to ask you one more question: what are politics, the economy and society for?

I believe that we govern to maintain the health, comfort and happiness of our population. Political and economic policy suggests that society exists to enrich a wealthy elite at the expense of an exploited poor majority, for this is the impact of most policies espoused by your parties.

I look forward to your replies. I am very keen to hear how you judge the moral contradictions that you live with.  I am very interested to hear your thoughts when you step back from the detail and take a holistic view.

On behalf of people everywhere.

What Next?

This is an important thread that is being picked up in lots of forums. The Green Party, IPPR and even the Labour Party have come out for a people’s convention on the constitution. Lots to talk about, especially how to guarantee the voices of the people are heard!

One Yorkshire Voice

For the most part, during the independence referendum, I’ve kept it zipped. I didn’t want to be drawn into arguments and there was certainly a feeling of letting the Scots fight it out amongst themselves. I’ve regurgitated other opinions, blogs and editorials, but rarely ventured my own. It didn’t matter that I was half-expecting Alex Salmond to promise unicorns in an independent Scotland – saying so would’ve only caused an argument and, frankly, one I could do without. It’s all about picking your battles wisely. Part of me hoped that Scotland would  vote ‘Yes’ and then the horrors of Salmond’s half-truths on currency union, EU membership and endless oil reserves could be exposed. However, this mischievous pixie part of me was beaten by the sensible part that didn’t want to see the break-up of Great Britain just to prove a political point (there were several moments in the campaign when…

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Seed Piracy as Modern Day Enclosure of the Commons

Seed Piracy as Modern Day Enclosure of the Commons

I have been reading the Seed Freedom Global Citizens Report by Navdanya:

This is something I have been concerned about for a long time, clearly with good reason.
Over recent decades, whilst we have been campaigning against GMOs as a narrow threat, in actual fact we have missed the point.
Agro-chemical giants, Monsanto, Syngenta, et al, have been creating the conditions for complete domination of plant based agriculture. Using GMO technology as a lever, they have managed to impose patent and licensing laws on global agriculture. They now use these laws to subjugate farmers: to remove their right to grow their own seed and to exchange seed with each other, to extort money from them when farmers declare independence from commercial exploitation and to steal their genetic inheritance, developed collectively over millennia.
How does this work?
Firstly, seeds have to be registered and licenced, so that it is illegal to swap or sell unlicenced seed. Farmers attempting to do so get sued.
Secondly, if farmers’ crops become contaminated by commercial seed by cross-pollination, instead of the violated farmer being able to sue for the contamination under the “polluter pays” principle, the farmer gets sued for theft.
Thirdly, the seed giants are trying all means to capture traditional seeds to steal their genetic diversity and include these commons in their patent library.
In this way, farmers are being trapped into commercial contracts aimed at profiteering by the corporations, where yield, nutritional values and cultural traditions are of no value or concern.
The impacts of this are huge:
– The homogenisation of the global diet which has the effect of undermining and starving local food cultures in every part of the world. It also reduces the nutritional value of the global diet as the number of plant species available in markets (supermarkets) reduce year on year.
– Farmers are impoverished and driven off their land through an economic system that they cannot sustain. The need to buy seed and the chemicals on which they are dependent imposes a cost burden that cannot be met by crop sales. Over 260,000 farmers in India alone have been driven to suicide. Countless more have abandoned their farms to seek work in the cities, in an amplified echo of the European agricultural revolutions of centuries ago.
– Genetic diversity is destroyed. In every region of the world, where farmers collectively would sow thousands of varieties, they are now restricted to just one or two varieties. Worse, these varieties are not well suited to the local conditions, having been bred for a single agro-climatic zone. Traditional varieties in contrast, have a collective ability to withstand drought and flood, to cope with different temperature and rainfall patterns, to mature at different times, to provide different nutritional and cooking values… I could go on.

Let us remember that despite 50 years and more of the so called green revolution, 75% of the world’s food is grown on small family farms, typically by peasant and subsistence farming, on 25% of the world’s agricultural land. Furthermore, this land is often the marginal land where peasants get displaced to following enclosure.

enclosure of the seed is as devastating as the enclosure of the land, potentially more so as crop genetic diversity shrinks, shrinking nut

Clearly, the way to feed a growing world population is to dispense with industrial mono crop agriculture, to return the land to family farmers, to encourage the growing of local, traditional seeds for local markets, to re-start the millennia old practice of collective seed development by farmers, and to recreate seed as an essential part of our collective commons. Our cultural heritage. In modern terms, as an open source technology, free to use, free to develop and free to share – as it always has been.

To achieve this requires rapid and co-ordinated global action to dismantle the neoliberal control of agriculture and the economy and to put the majority in control of their economic inheritance – the seed.

Constitutional Thoughts

Constitutional Thoughts

The Prime Minister has declared a review of representational politics across the UK, as part of his response to the Scottish Referendum result. However, he has declared that it has to be fitted into the same short timescale as the delivery of his last minute promises to the people of Scotland.

Is this a good thing or not? In one sense, it is, of course, a good thing. The democratic imbalance between the nations of the union is stark and needs addressing. However, the agenda Cameron has set is very much an economic one and is likely to cement a London-esque solution for England – one in which the large, ex-industrial cities are empowered as economic drivers of the UK, in which politics and people are constitutionally downgraded to a secondary issue. This has implications for established rural power held through landed titles, the NFU et al, perhaps of interest to the traditional Tories, but more importantly it ensures that neo-liberal economics are constitutionally raised above the people’s democratic voice.

It is no good us asking politely and waiting to be included in the discussions – that is not going to happen. It seems clear from the discussions on the news this morning that there will be a Westminster stitch up between the three parties that all represent the global capitalist elite.

The Scottish referendum was such an important process, because it showed how the population could be inspired by political questions, engaged in politics and we can’t let that genie back into the bottle. Our challenge is to learn from Scotland, to engage grass roots in the constitutional settlement and thus wider political activity.

We have several opportunities to make this happen: the media establishment have proved themselves to be enemies of the people by ignoring all populist issues, but these campaigns happen because we by-pass the media through social media and face-to-face meetings. We have a People’s Assembly structure to gather these diverse voices and we have a progressive left party on the rise in the Green Party.

It is not our place to sit at home, watching telly, surfing the net, waiting for politicians to do their worst – because they will do their worst. If we want popular engagement, it is up to us to BE that engagement and take power back from politicians who are passing their power and decision making to private global corporations as fast as they can.

We have been given an opportunity – will we take it?