31 May 2012

Join me at indigenous protest at Peru Embassy tomorrow!


Peruvians in London will be picketing the embassy in support of the people of Cajamarca Peru confronting the Yanacocha gold mine. The people are protesting 20 years of environmental damage by the mine owned by Newmont and Buenaventura. Through the Conga Project, the mineowners want to expand operations that would affect 4 lagoons at the head of the valley, contaminating the water supply for cultivators and cattle rearers throughout the province.

Local communities demand that their right to prior consultation is repected, and that independent Environmental Impact Assessments are carried out and evaluated.

Solidaridad con el pueblo de Cajamarca! Conga no Va! Agua sí, oro no! No a la militarización de Cajamarca!

Alto a los abusos de Yanacocha! No a la destrucción del medio ambiente! Defensa de la Pachamama!

Embassy of Peru, Sloane Street SW1 (nearest tube Knightsbridge, very near Colombian Embassy)

1pm – 4pm Friday 1 June

22 May 2012

Julian Dobson on the commons


You would also expect to find well maintained parks, relaxing open spaces and places where you can take children to play, go for a run or just sit in the sun. You would assume that a city which takes care of itself also takes care of its green spaces.

You might be surprised to find that most towns and cities have no obligation whatever to care for their green spaces. Local councils have no legal duty to preserve local ecosystems, keep parks and gardens open or preserve public access. No surprise then that green spaces are easy targets for spending cuts.

There is even fewer safeguards for green space that is in private hands. A study by the London Wildlife Trust in 2010 found that nearly a quarter of the capital's green spaces were private gardens - and while they are rich in wildlife and a vital ecological resource, more than one third of this garden space has already been paved or tarmacked over.

There is a better way, and it's one many of us can find on our doorsteps. The idea that publicly accessible green spaces are a shared benefit, to be enjoyed and cared for, is an ancient one. It is captured in the concept of the commons, areas of land on which local residents enjoyed particular rights and privileges.

The remaining historic commons in England and Wales are now covered by legislation, the Commons Act 2006, that protects public access and reaffirms the responsibilities of stewardship and maintenance. What is significant about the commons is not who owns the land - many are privately owned - but the continuing right of public enjoyment and duty of care. They provide a model for flexible partnerships of public, private and voluntary interests working for everyone's good.
report published this week to mark the 30th anniversary of the community and environmental charity Groundwork argues that this model of the commons should be applied to all publicly accessible parks and green spaces, enshrining in perpetuity their role and value as public goods, as well as the responsibilities of care that accompany public rights and privileges.
Wanstead Flats in east London, on the border between Newham and Redbridge, is typical of Britain's commons. On a Saturday you might find football teams playing in organised amateur leagues; kids learning to ride bikes or feeding ducks on the pond; dog walkers, runners, cyclists and model aircraft enthusiasts. In the past you might even find someone exercising their traditional right to graze cattle.

There are more than 7,000 commons in England, covering nearly 400,000 hectares - 3% of the country's land. Contrary to popular folklore, they are not everybody's property. Many are privately owned: Wanstead Flats, for example, is part of Epping Forest, owned by the City of London Corporation. 

Despite names that often suggest poor quality land of low value - Wormwood Scrubs, Roadside Waste, Nether Mire - these commons are hugely important. Nearly half England's common land lies within national parks, 30% within areas of outstanding natural beauty, and one fifth of them are within sites of special scientific interest. More than one tenth of England's scheduled ancient monuments are on common land.

The commons are vestiges of much larger areas that were historically open to all for foraging, grazing and recreation. Although these open spaces are no longer required for subsistence, they are recognised as public goods that provide benefits to all of us.
Far from being a historical anomaly, the commons have been a rallying point for civic pride and involvement and are seen as prized local assets. They have also been centres of protest and politics: Blackheath was the setting for Wat Tyler's Peasants' Revolt of 1381, while Putney Heath hosted the famousPutney Debates during the English Civil War in 1647.

20 May 2012

How does one define entitlement to enjoy the commons?

Blogging has died a little with the advent of facebook and twitter.  I am also very focussed on writing about the commons.

I have written a first draft of my book on the environmental history of the commons and currently waiting feedback from the publishers (MIT) and am know very deeply into a new book on Elinor Ostrom's work.

My Green Party collegue and friend Andrea Claire-Smith http://www.greenparty.org.uk/individual/291 wrote this in response to the first chapter of my book on the environmental history of the commons, which I think puts forward some interesting questions.

The issue that I kept returning to was how does one define entitlement to enjoy the commons? If one believes that the only boundary with legitimacy is the eggshell thin layer of atmosphere that surrounds this planet, then I would have the right  to move to the rainforest and inhabit the same territory as the people currently living there. If I was ripping up that forest, then it seems reasonable for them to object, but what if I promised to follow their established ways for living in that area? It seems that agreement to follow the lifestyle of people already successfully living in balance with the land would be a good criterion for receiving usufruct rights.
Then I thought of the public services that we have in the UK as a commons. How should it work if someone from outside of the UK wants usufruct rights for that commons? Should there be a criterion that they have to meet to enjoy these public services? Of course, there are numerous criteria but should they exist at all? If they should, what should they be?
I would not like to make a distinction between someone joining this society from another country to someone joining it because they were born here. If there is a criterion for the former, than it should be applied in the latter case too. But the problem with criteria is making sure they are fair and able to adapt to the diverse circumstances in which people find themselves.

Then there is entitlement on a group scale with the cases of either geographically overlapping groups using the same commons or as in the example you give from Thompson of different communities of interest using the commons for conflicting purposes. Both the entitlement of the individual and that of the group are touched on in many of the examples that you give and I wondered if you had plans to discuss in a later chapter how these can be arbitrated?
I had two further examples of commons. The commons system in New Forest which appears to integrate different uses of the forest successfully (maybe it doesn’t and that’s why you haven’t mentioned it! ) and the electricity system.

I was thinking of the electric grid as a commons. In this case the suppliers of electricity to the grid in the UK have not worked together to provide the public good of reliability of electricity supply because investing in generating capacity that is only occasionally used will benefit competitor’s customers as well as your own. It is a market failure and power shortfalls are not too far away. DECC proposed a strategic reserve – a small fleet of powers stations – that would only be brought into use when power cuts threatened. However, they have were persuaded to go for another type of market – a capacity market. The details of which are as yet undecided. This is not a failure of the commons though – just evolution of its management. The CEGB managed the grid pretty successful. I think electricity grid are example of successful commons where co-operation over the use of a resource – the ability to generate electricity -  is more efficient than individuals or groups operating without the benefits of connection.

13 May 2012

Who will be the new leader of Green Party as Caroline stands down?

'was going to send this to you at midnight but unfortunately the news has been broken on the twittersphere.  We had given the Independent an exclusive and this story was embargoed until five mins past midnight but what happened is that someone at the Independent decided to put it on the front page on the net and therefore the news broke out.Please be reassured Caroline is not standing down as an MP.  She is simply not re-standing as Leader in line with green principles and allowing the opportunity for other talented people in the Green Party to offer themselves for election as Leader.  Caroline remains totally committed to the Green Party and all her colleagues.'  Writes a Green Party Press Officer.

I think the focus will remain on Caroline as MP not on the leader title.  Its what you do not what you are called that matters.  

In my view a new person with the title should be another radical women but we shall see.

EMBARGOED TO 00.05am, MONDAY MAY 14, 2012 Caroline Lucas Opens Door to New Green Party Leaders
In September 2012, Caroline Lucas MP will reach the end of her second term as national Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and has announced today that she will not be seeking re-election for another two-year term, in order to broaden opportunities for the range of talent in the Party and to raise the profiles of others aspiring to election.
 Caroline Lucas said:
"I’m hugely honoured to have served as the first Leader of the Green Party and I’m proud that during the four years of my term, we’ve moved Green politics forward to a higher level, with the Party by far the most influential it has ever been. We’ve seen significant breakthroughs in winning our first seat at Westminster and gaining our first ever local council in Brighton and Hove. These were followed by further breakthroughs onto new Councils in the recent local elections, which were among the most successful we’ve ever had, as well as establishing ourselves as the third party, ahead of the LibDems, in the elections for London Mayor. “I look forward to continuing to do all I can in my very demanding role as the MP for Brighton Pavilion, representing my constituents and defending them against the Coalition Government’s disastrous economic policies and its refusal to accept its environmental and social responsibilities. I will also be able to dedicate even more of my work to the political frontline, putting the Green case for change in Parliament and in all circles of national political debate.”
Cllr Darren Johnson, London Assembly Member, said:“Caroline has made a huge impact in her time as Green Party Leader and has helped shift Green politics from the margins to the mainstream of British political life. She will be an extremely hard act to follow but this is an ideal time to allow new talent to come forward.”
Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member and recent Green Mayoral Candidate said:The Green Party has made some massive breakthroughs in the past two years, since having Caroline as our Leader, in Parliament, in Brighton and most recently in London, where we are now the third party behind the Conservatives and Labour. Caroline’s decision not to seek re-election at this point is entirely in keeping with Green principles: it's a strong move, allowing other talented people to come through and to take the Green Party even further forward. She has set a superb example of how to lead. Whoever is elected in her place has a tough act to follow.”
Nominations for leadership candidates are now open within the Party and will close towards the end of June. The new Leader (or Co-leaders) will take up the two year post in early September. No nominations have yet been received.

Caroline Lucas added:
“We’re lucky to have a wealth of capability and experience in our Party. Now feels like the right time to step aside, to allow more of that ability to come forward and help the party to grow. I offer my very best wishes to the next Leader, whoever they may be."

9 May 2012

No impact man runs for the House of Representatives

A New York City author whose book and documentary film No Impact Man helped bring climate change into popular consciousness today announces his candidacy for the United States House of Representatives. Colin Beavan PhD will run on the Green Party ticket in New York’s 8th Congressional District, following the vacancy left by the retirement of Representative Edolphus Towns.

Beavan rose to prominence as a spokesman for the international environmental movement after worldwide press and media interest followed the release of his film and book. His campaign, citing “growing world crises” in climate, environment, economics, and energy production, calls for a complete change in priorities including an end to consumption-based economics, massive decentralization of government and business, and huge investment in local communities.

“The economic system is supposed to make people safer and happier, but it can no longer do that because it wasn’t designed to deal with our new planetary crises,” says Beavan. “The tired old Democratic/Republican debate over taxation isn’t going to fix it. We need to create a new, more stable system based on investment in people and local communities instead of shareholders and corporations. We have to face up to climate change, the end of oil, and the failure of consumption to make people happy. Robust local economies help solve all these problems.”

Government investment in local businesses creates ten times more jobs than investment at the national level. Local economies have lower reliance on foreign oil and create less climate pollution. Creating conditions to allow people, talent and profits to stay within their communities lowers crime, increases access to education and provides support to at-risk populations like children and the elderly.

“We have a crazy system where our communities’ human and financial capital are siphoned away by far-away corporations and government. Then, we beg the same institutions to send us jobs and services. What if we strengthened our communities and didn’t have to send our wealth away in the first place? We’d have healthier communities, happy and safer people, much less crime and a greater quality of life for all.”

Colin Beavan’s campaign organization is an all-volunteer group of citizens who have decided to leave their previous party affiliations out of disillusionment with the lack of solution-based conversation in American politics. Beavan’s campaign will issue a series of policy positions in the coming weeks, all of which will be based on strengthening community health, happiness and security in the 8th Congressional District. The campaign will launch a series of listening meetings, to solicit the views of the community in two weeks.

Meanwhile, basic campaign policies, based on strengthening local community include:

·         Corporate money out of politics
·         A constitutional amendment making the right to vote inalienable
·         Massive voter registration and civic engagement promotion
·         Keeping youth out of prison (treatment not incarceration)
·         An end to stop and frisk
·         Food stamps for use at farmer’s markets
·         Tax breaks for sole proprietorships
·         Massive shift of military spending towards education
·         U.S. leadership on climate change mitigation and adaptation
·         Community-based assisted living programs for the elderly
·         Encouragement of service rather than product-based economies
·         Prioritizing human connection before goods consumption

The non-electoral goals of Beavan’s campaign include:

·         Instigating conversation about emergent world issues effectively ignored by Democrats and Republicans
·         Modeling civility and cooperation in politics
·         Massive voter registration
·         By running a volunteer campaign organization, modeling renewed civic participation to community, nation, and world
·         Promoting community self-determination

All the relevant documentation has been filed with Federal Elections Commission to make Beavan’s candidacy official. He is uncontested in his congressional district’s Green Party primary and will go straight to general election in November. The Green Party’s ballot status in New York State means his name will appear on the ballot.

Colin Beavan rose to prominence as a spokesperson on environmental and quality of life issues after his year-long experiment in extreme environmental living, No Impact Man, exploded in the international media. He is the founder and executive director of No Impact Project, an international non-profit that empowers citizens to make choices that support the planet, their  communities, and help them live a happier, healthier life.
A long-time activist, he sits on the board of directors of New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, and is on the advisory councils of Just Food and 350.org , a global organization dedicated to solving the climate crisis. Prior to becoming a champion of the environment, Colin earned his PhD at the University of Liverpool, spent a decade helping social housing providers, drug treatment agencies and hospitals get funding, and wrote books.

The campaign website is at www.votecolin.org.
Hi-res images can be found at www.votecolin.org/media
For further information or to arrange an interview with Colin Beavan, please contact Ryan Harbage at (347) 470-0210 or info@votecolin.org.