Tuesday, 27 November 2012

OccupyXmas and the current climate talks in Doha

We've just finished a Good Lives weekend course at Woodbrooke, the last of the current Good Lives Project, that has been running for the past four years.

The event was called 'Good Lives - preparing for a changed world'. The main speakers were two British Quakers in the early stages of their respective careers, each with enormous contributions to make in relation to these difficult issues. On Saturday morning, Ruth Wood, a research fellow at the Tyndall Centre of Manchester University gave us a lucid and helpful trip around the current state of understanding of climate change. Oliver Robertson, Associate Representative at the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva then helped us consider the implications of climate change for the movement of populations and 'climate migration'.

In the afternoon, Ruth's option group led people through an interactive online tool that lets you look at energy futures for Britain - if we insulate our houses, build windfarms, reduce our transport miles . . . and so on - how much contribution will that make to the decarbonising of Britain that we need to achieve? The tool was created by David MacKay and is based on the same data that you can find in his book, Sustainable Energy – without the hot air; the printed book may be bought in the usual way but it is also available as a free download. If you want to try the tool for yourself you can find the description and explanation (including a video of David MacKay explaining it) and also the interactive tool itself.

Oliver's option group led people through a kind of reverse 'balloon debate' - you know the kind of thing: you have six famous historical figures in a hot-air baloon that's losing height; who do you jettison and who is important to keep? Oliver had scenarios of people wishing to immigrate to Britain - we can't take everyone in, so who do you let in, and why?

My option group was about practical preparations now for a world in which governments aren't going to do enough, soon enough, so we all need to anticipate interruptions in our normal supply of energy, goods and services. How do we prepare? It's quite possible that electricity supply could start to become unreliable in the next five to seven years.

All this was very timely as Oliver had to leave Woodbrooke mid-morning on Sunday to join Jonathan Woolley (Director of QUNO Geneva) in Doha, Qatar, for the current round of climate talks. This is the first time that QUNO has had a formal presence at any of the climate summits. Oliver asked us to uphold the talks, the negotiators and the Quaker presence there.

It's also very timely in terms of UK politics around climate change. Greenpeace has recently released a secretly recorded film demonstrating apparent attempts by senior government figures to dismantle UK renewable energy commitments, and undermine the 2008 Climate Change Act. You can read the press release and watch the short video.

In amongst all these conversations at the weekend, the phenomenon of OccupyXmas was mentioned. This starts from Black Friday in the USA - the day after Thanksgiving, the day that Christmas shopping begins in earnest, the day that retailers say their accounts go from the red into the black (so this is black as a 'good' thing!). Anti-consumerism campaigners have chosen Black Friday to target as Buy Nothing Day. There's been a campaign this year to extend this to target the whole of the excessive consumerism of Christmas, and it's acquired the name of OccupyXmas.

So, everyone, here's a suggestion for an OccupyXmas action for next Saturday (1 December): that day will be the middle of the two weeks of the climate talks in Doha; so how about a vigil in your local shopping centre with explanatory posters and leaflets that say:

Buy Less
Save carbon
Pray for the climate talks

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