In this issue:
- Skin-deep solutions
- Greta and the story-tellers
- Regulation is a gas, for the oil industry
- Bristol celebrates radical history
- Poetry of the rebellious seed
- Mohandas Gandhi: an orgrad inspiration
Imagine that somebody in your family falls ill, with a whole range of symptoms including breathing problems, extreme fatigue, stomach cramps, mental confusion and rashes on their skin.
Medical advice is initially unclear, until one doctor turns up who confidently announces that the skin issues are the core problem.
He produces loads of information of skin disease, refers you to all sorts of scientific studies and even starts referring to your family member’s illness as “the skin crisis”.
Others in the family pick up on this habit and soon all the other symptoms, some more troubling in fact, are half-forgotten.
One day this doctor phones up in great excitement declaring that he has found the solution to the skin crisis.
A new wonderdrug has been developed in the USA which, he says, will sort it out once and for all. The only trouble is that it is, as yet, only available privately.
When he tells you the price of a course of treatment with this new product, your heart falls. There is no way your family can afford that.
Don’t worry, he says. You could always remortgage your house, cut down on your living expenses, take out a loan. After all, this is an emergency.
The rest of your family are convinced by the doctor and start preparing to break open the piggy bank to pay for this miracle cure.
But you are not so sure. A friend puts you in touch with an alternative healer, who says the underlying problem is a general poisoning of the body.
What is needed is fresh air, plenty of water to drink, lots of exercise, a healthy non-industrial diet.
You try and persuade the rest of the family but they are scornful.
Next, your suspicions aroused, you do some online research into this new wonderdrug and the big pharmaceutical company which is selling it.
To your horror, you discover that your doctor is a paid adviser to a charity which is heavily lobbying for the new drug and lists among its “partners” the pharma company in question.
You alert the rest of your family but they say you’re being paranoid, that the doctor is a lovely fellow, totally trustworthy, and his advice must be followed.
You keep arguing the point. You point out that the new wonderdrug does not even pretend to address the other important symptoms and if the real issue is toxic overload, then it will only make the situation worse.
The family will be bankrupt and the patient still sick, probably even sicker. The only beneficiaries will be the pharma company and the doctor who is essentially on their payroll.
The whole thing is a scam, you tell them.
They are furious. They accuse you of claiming that the family member is only pretending to be ill, of being a disgusting and uncaring human being, a conspiracy theorist and “denier” whose selfish and “purist” stance can only delay or scupper the long-awaited skin cure.
This, as our quicker readers will have spotted, is pretty much the situation with the climate movement and those of us who dare to question the direction it is taking us.
The key, as we have said before, is the term “climate”. Why build a whole, supposedly environmental, movement around this single symptom of the industrial disease?
Could it be because, like the dodgy doctor above, the capitalists manipulating the movement have a “cure” on hand to sell to to us?
But this cure – this “Green Industrial Revolution” of electric cars and solar panels and wind turbines and carbon capture and “smart” everything – is not a cure at all.
It is a continuation of the industrial destruction, exploitation and pollution which has brought us to this terrible point.
It is not “purist” to point this out. It is essential, if we really want to defend the natural organism of which we are part, rather than just help kick-start a new and trendy branch of industrial capitalism.
Greta Thunberg’s first solo “school strike” back on August 20 2018 has become iconic in some circles.
Adoring fans insist that the lonely youngster’s charisma and determination, sitting on the pavement with her placards, forced the whole world to sit up and take notice.
If rich and powerful capitalists and politicians have since paid homage to her, they argue, it is only because they are running scared of the tidal wave of moral outrage the plucky Swede has unleashed.
But investigative journalist Cory Morningstar has highlighted some very interesting facts about that first Greta moment and the extraordinary way that some rather dubious people were already on board her climate bandwagon before it even left the pavement in Stockholm.
One of these was a certain Callum Grieve, who, on August 20 2018 itself, sent Greta a Twitter message declaring: “We’re right behind you. Stay strong”.
And who is Callum Grieve? His Linkedin profile says he is currently a “communications specialist” based in New York.
Cory reports: “The founding partners of We Mean Business are Business for Social Responsibility, the B Team, Carbon Disclosure Project, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Together, these entities represent the world’s most powerful corporations and investors”.
We Mean Business has made great use of Greta Thunberg’s name to promote “economic opportunity through bold climate action” and something it terms “new power”.
Grieve was communications director of We Mean Business from 2014 to 2016. At the same time he was director of This Is Counter Culture, sometimes described as being based in Edinburgh, although Companies House last had it listed in London.
A document on Changemakers.com reveals that its customers included “international corporations, small businesses, social enterprises, NGOs and government”.
This Is Counter Culture was voluntarily dissolved in the UK in December 2017 and its Twitter account last tweeted in May 2018.
Cory Morningstar has much more to say about Grieve – not least his connection to Christiana Figueres, the very powerful daughter of right-wing CIA-backed Costa Rican president “Don Pepe”. (See our own exposé ).
But let’s turn to another Day 1 Greta Thunberg fan, in fact the man who spoke to her on the pavement on that fateful day in August 2018 and tweeted the world about it.
This was Ingmar Rentzhog (above), CEO of the climate campaign network We Don’t Have Time. He also happens to be a PR professional, like Grieve.
Rentzhog founded Laika, a prominent Swedish communications consultancy firm providing services to the financial industry.
According to the Greta myth, he happened to come across her protest while walking to work and it was this piece of luck which ensured her voice was heard so widely.
It also turns out not to be entirely coincidental that Rentzhog came across Greta’s little protest. He later admitted had already done PR work for her mother and was “tipped off” about the event in advance.
So the bottom line is this: from the very first day of her “rebellion”, Greta Thunberg was being promoted by two corporate PR professionals paid for their skills in “brand development” and “storytelling”.
Since then, of course, she has addressed the UN, the WEF, the European Parliament, featured on the cover of Time magazine, which named her a “next generation leader”, met Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is all rather strange in a world where the usual reward for environmental activism is a criminal record.
We also recommend Kim Hill’s two-part analysis Unpacking Extinction Rebellion in which she also warns how climate campaigning is being exploited for capitalist profiteering – at the expense of the natural world it pretends to be protecting.
She writes: “This is the future that Extinction Rebellion is envisioning. These are the solutions that millions of people around the world have been marching in the streets to demand of their governments.
“Not to cut back on fossil fuel use. Not to protect wild nature. Not to repair and regenerate the land. Not to do anything at all to address the causes of climate change and extinction.
“Instead to save the very system that continues to wreak havoc on the land, sea, and air, and kill us off at a rate of 200 species a day.
“You might want to take a moment to let that sink in. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the need to go outside, and scream”.
The Oil and Gas Authority, which is supposed to regulate the controversial industry on behalf of the UK public, is nothing but a joke, a new article has confirmed.
Will Cottrell, chairman of the Brighton Energy Coop, takes a close look at the OGA in the run-up to the recent planning verdict on plans for five new wells at Horse Hill, Surrey.
He writes: “The OGA oversees drilling permissions around the country. Its self-professed mission is to ‘maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas’.
“Indeed, the OGA receives £5m of funding to do just that from the UK Treasury.
“High at the helm of the OGA is Chairman Tim Eggar. Eggar is an oil industry executive with various positions in government.
“An oil banker, Eggar’s history is a backstory of board positions for the likes of Monument Oil and Gas, Indago Petroleum, and 3legs Resources, Expro & Braemar and Energy venutures.
“Meanwhile, Eggar’s number two is chief exectutive Andy Samuel who has 20 years’ experience at BG Group, an oil services conglomerate.
“Non-executive Frances Morris-Jones spent 30 years in oil and gas. The director of operations – Gunther Newcombe – spent most of his career in the same industry. It goes on”.
The article reveals a similar saturation of industry stooges in the objective-sounding British Geological Survey.
It adds: “Back in 2012 (the last time financial figures were produced) the BGS’s annual report showed 29% of the organisation’s funds came from companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger”.
The industry connections of “experts” at Imperial College London and Bristol University are also examined.
The article concludes: “The purpose of the regulator and its stooges is to construct a seemingly-consensual smokescreen.
“The parallels to climate change denial are striking – the creation of a body of ‘opinion’ that looks like it comes from a cross-section of venerable institutions, but that in reality is thoroughly penetrated by the oil and gas industry. Plausible denial is always the objective.
“And while a smog of earthquake denial has been wafted over Surrey planners, what has not been shown is who pays for these firestarters.
“Now that Cuadrilla have been put on a temporary hold, the focus can switch to who are those that support the industry, and the vested interests that lie behind them. These denial industries and their financial ties – just as their dirty frontmen like Cuadrilla – need to be held to account”.
And the Surrey County Council planning decision for Horse Hill? The drilling was approved of course, with planning development manager Caroline Smith even citing the reputation of the OGA to reassure councillors worried about earth tremors.
As we said, a total joke.
The Bristol Radical History Festival 2019 is being held on Saturday October 12.
There are two themes this year: “1919 – Year of Revolutions” and “Green History: from 18th Century roots to Extinction Rebellion”.
Explains the website: “Following the success of the 2017 and 2018 events, this year’s Bristol Radical History Festival is again hosted by M Shed, Bristol’s social history museum located on the historic harbourside”.
Highlights include a talk on Green Romanticism by Stephen Hunt (10.30am), Leonard Baker on Ecology from Below (12.30pm), A People’s History of Poetry by Peter Bearder (1pm), Back to the Land by Kath Holden (3pm), Roots of Resistance: Earth First! (3pm) and a talk on the massive wave of discontent which swept through the British armed forces at the end of World War One (3.30pm).
Say the organisers: “It’s not just talks! Expect walks, films, singing, a performance space with a puppet show, storytelling and poetry, and an exhibition space, as well as stalls with books and merchandise from local and national groups.
“Not to be missed – go up to Level 2 to see the Regional Radical Press exhibition, with highlights from UWE Bristol Regional History Centre’s current project All the events are free with no booking required!”
The Zapatistas, those rebel anti-capitalists in Chiapas, continue to inspire with their communiqués.
A message from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee — General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (featured on the excellent Enough is Enough site) reveals some wonderful names for new caracoles and autonomous municipalities.
There is, for instance, Esperanza de La Humanidad, which means Hope for Humanity.
Others are Floreciendo la semilla rebelde (The Flowering of the Rebellious Seed) and Sembrando conciencia para cosechar revoluciones por la vida (Cultivating Conscience in order to Harvest Revolutions for Life).
But our favourite is Espiral digno tejiendo los colores de la humanidad en memoria de l@s caídos, which translates as Spiral of Dignity Weaving the Colours of Humanity in Memory of the Fallen.
Wednesday October 2 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas Gandhi, in 1869. Although Gandhi is mainly remembered in the West for his strategy of non-violent direct action, which proved ideal for the Indian independence movement, there was much more to his thinking, as this article from the orgrad website explains. The Gandhi Haiku posters are by Gabriel Rosenstock and available via etsy.com.
“Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin”
Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) was a political activist who played a key role in the successful Indian struggle for independence.
His involvement in the resistance to British imperialism went hand in hand with a deep opposition to the life-crushing industrial capitalism which it imposed on the sub-continent.
Ranchor Prime notes: “Gandhi was opposed to industrialization. It wasted resources and took people’s work from them. What was the point of labor-saving devices when they created unemployment?” (1)
Gandhi himself wrote in 1909: “Machinery has begun to desolate Europe. Ruination is now knocking at the English gates. Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin… Railways accentuate the evil nature of man. Bad men fulfil their designs with greater rapidity”. (2)
Later he added: ” The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is an evil. I make bold to say that the Europeans will have to remodel their outlook, if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves”. (3)
In opposition to industrial capitalism and its insane frenzy to exploit, produce and consume, Gandhi proposed a future in which humankind lived in organic harmony with the rest of the planet.
He wrote: “It is a fundamental law of nature that nature produces enough for our wants from day to day; and if only everyone took enough for their own needs and nothing more, there would be no poverty in this world”. (4)
Gandhi’s vision for India, betrayed by his capitalist successors, was a return to the simple village life his land had known for thousands of years.
Writes Prime: “Mohandas Gandhi, called by his people Mahatma, which means ‘great soul’, loved India’s villages. He believed that they were the key to its happiness and prosperity. In the face of powerful political and economic forces, he tried courageously to preserve their simple way of life.
“Economic behavior determines the way a society treats the earth, therefore any discussion of environmental values has to include economics. The village economics of India give a practical example of an environmental way of living”. (5)
Gandhi argued: “Given the demand, there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied by the villages. When we become village-minded we shall not want imitations from the West or machine-made products”. (6)
He saw that this decentralised village economics was the only sustainable long-term way forward for humankind as a whole.
He wrote in a letter to fellow independence campaigner Jawaharlal Nehru in 1945: “I believe that if India, and through India the world, is to achieve real freedom, then sooner or later we shall have to go and live in the villages – in huts, not in palaces. Millions of people can never live in cities and palaces in comfort and peace”. (7)
Gandhi referred to himself on several occasions as a kind of anarchist and always opposed the centralised state and its inherent use of violence. (8)
He was greatly influenced by John Ruskin and translated the title of the Englishman’s Unto This Last as Sarvodaya, or welfare for all. He was also influenced by Leo Tolstoy and Peter Kropotkin, notably by the latter’s vision of a decentralized society of autonomous village communes.
However, Gandhi’s organic radicalism arose primarily from Indian metaphysics and its belief in the cosmic unity of all beings.
Prime writes: “A way of life does not exist in a vacuum. It is based on a way of thinking, a philosophy of life. Gandhi recognized this truth. He believed that it would not be possible to bring about change in society without a corresponding change in the way people behaved.
“To change the way people behaved meant to change the way that they thought. Therefore Gandhi’s primary objective was to influence people’s philosophy of life”. (9)
Central to the Gandhian world-view were the principles of satya (truth), karmayoga (self-realization through disinterested action), varnasramdharma (the Hindu law of right conduct), and ahimsa (non-violence).
Peter Marshall adds: “The most revolutionary aspect of Gandhi’s teaching was undoubtedly his social and political interpretation of ahimsa in which he turned the principle of individual self-realization into a principle of social ethics.
“He also drew on the traditional Indian values of village life and the joint family and the practice of making decisions by consensus”. (10)
Gandhi promoted the idea of swaraj, or self-government, which was the first step towards his ideal of an enlightened anarchy in which social life is self-regulated and “there is no political power because there is no state”. (11)
For him, swaraj had a far deeper meaning than mere political independence. He wrote: “Swaraj is a sacred word meaning self-rule and self-restraint, not freedom from all restraint which ‘independence’ often means”. (12)
At the end of his life, Gandhi was disappointed that India, which gained independence in 1947, was not fundamentally different from India under British rule, except that whereas previously Englishmen had lived in the imperial palace, now Indians did. He feared for the direction India was taking.
Prime comments: “He had always said that real independence for India was not just to become free from British rule. It was also to become free of British culture and industrial way of life and to reestablish the traditional Indian village-based culture for which he had always struggled”. (13)
1. Ranchor Prime, Vedic Ecology: Practical Wisdom for Surviving the 21st Century (Novato, California: Mandala, 2002), p. 84.
2. Mohandas Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, 1909, cit. Prime, p. 86.
3. Mohandas Gandhi, Young India, cit. Prime p. 78.
4. G.A. Nateson, Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (Madras: 1935), p. 384, cit. Prime pp. 84-85.
5. Prime, pp. 78-79.
6. Gandhi, ‘Constructive Programme’, cit. Prime, p. 87.
7. Gandhi, letter to Nehru, October 5, 1945, cit. Prime p. 91.
8. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: Fontana, 1993), p. 422.
9. Prime, p. 81.
10. Marshall, pp. 422-23.
11. Gandhi, Young India, July 2, 1931.
12. Gandhi, Young India, 1931, cit. Prime pp 83-83.
13. Prime, p. 90.
If governments and corporations get their way, the bright blue seas of western Greece will be turned into oil fields. The Greek government is selling vast areas of sea and land for oil and gas drilling, report Corporate Watch. The businesses involved include Energean, a fast-growing oil company with close ties to the Israeli government and Israeli corporations. “But it’s not a done deal yet,” add Corporate Watch. “Greece has strong traditions of resistance to capitalist devastation – and now, across the threatened areas, people are coming together to fight the oil plans”. See the Save Greek Seas site.
* * *
Ignored by the corporate media in the UK, the Gilets Jaunes’ revolt against neoliberalism is still going strong after more than ten months, with the weekly round of protests now up to Act 46. Levels of police violence are insane and the cops increasingly coming across as a politicised fascist militia. After left-wing opposition politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon condemned them as “barbarians”, not only did authoritarian Interior Minister Christophe Castaner say he would be prosecuted for this opinion, but a police trade union staged a show of force outside Mélenchon’s party HQ in Paris on September 26. Gilets Jaunes turned up as well, to oppose the police… More about the Gilets Jaunes here.
* * *
“The black bloc more or less destroyed the global justice protests at the beginning of this century. We must do everything we can to exclude them from the climate protests”. These were the words of self-styled radical George Monbiot of The Guardian, surely spelling the end of any remaining credibility for this arrogant, warmongering, pro-nuclear upper-class gatekeeper of the system, who pretends via his corporate media platform to be “one of us” in order to impose limits on our resistance.
* * *
Degrowth is the only responsible way forward, argues an interesting article by Joël Foramitti, Marula Tsagkari and Christos Zografos. They write: “If we free our imagination from the liberal idea that well-being is best measured by the amount of stuff that we consume, we may discover that a good life could also be materially light. This is the idea of voluntary sufficiency. If we manage to decide collectively and democratically what is necessary and enough for a good life, then we could have plenty”.
* * *
Some upcoming radical events in the UK: Saturday November 2, Nottingham Radical Bookfair, 10.30am-5.30pm, Mechanics Institute, South Sherwood Street; Saturday December 7, Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair, central Manchester; Friday May 1 to Monday May 4 2020, UK-wide Anarchist Festival.
* * *
Global resistance to the nightmarish 5G network (see Acorn 51) is picking up speed. Plans to roll out 5G in Australia were ditched “due to community fears regarding the health impact of the technology”. And thousands have protested outside the Swiss parliament in Bern to call for a halt to the threatened countrywide 5G imposition. Meanwhile the International Society of Doctors for the Environment has called for a halt to 5G in Europe on a precautionary basis. In the UK, the Royal Society of Medicine’s Alan Cooke is speaking on 5G in Eastbourne, East Sussex, at the Friends Meeting House in Wish Street at 7.30pm on Friday October 25. And Dr Karl Cox of Sussex University is speaking at a day’s symposium on 5G at Fairwarp Village Hall, Fairwarp, East Sussex at 10am on Saturday October 26.
* * *
Acorn quote: “Organism is spontaneous self-regulation, the mystery of formed growth, the inarticulate wisdom of the instincts”.
(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)
If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.
Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress