Tag Archives: environment

Hope makes babies

I squirted this out just after the 2017 U.K. General Election and then didn’t post it.
And now I did.

   The good news of a genuinely socialist government in the UK within reach (and against all the odds), changed everything for me. It feels as if there might be sunshine at the end of a long tunnel full of excrement. With so many years of bad news (41 years of bad news from where I’m standing), and then additionally we’re facing the realities of climate change, species extinction, and leaders everywhere who do little or nothing about it, or minus nothing by advancing the will of corporations at ours and the planet’s expense (which is the same thing). Then to ice this cake with more turd we climaxed with Brexit and then Trump, and then, well really – the dominoes of detached right-wing politics have been falling around the world…

                    Dark times. 

   But more than half the votes this time were for a peace maker, a Green agenda, a Scotland that might be independent of the neo capitalism directed by a pack of arseholes in London etc. Despite their best efforts to brainwash with division and smears for years, the ideas of care and hope and solidarity broke through the created fears. More than half of us want to be in it together, rather than for living in isolated ivory towers of accumulation. The political campaign from ‘New Old New Labour’ was mostly carried off with integrity, and by simply delivering the messages and the ideas in the manifesto and we liked that, a lot.

   So I’ve been writing a book (in case you just joined the party), with the aim of being one more positive voice, and I’ve begun to think what’s the point? We’ve wrecked the climate, the masses are brainwashed beyond repair and I’ve wasted my time. I’d have been better off building a bunker and living it up while I can.
The weight of it all had even pushed my mojo to the periphery, and the good news had herded it back to where it belonged; I now understand why after the 2nd World War people made so many babies. It’s all waking up again. Hope has a pervasive effect throughout the carcass and soul; it is a powerful medicine.

Hope makes babies

The evil self-interested neocons are still in power, but I can breathe a bit again. And I know it isn’t as simple as good and evil, but when the ‘evil ones’ cut subsidies to renewable energy at this time, and dismantle the most civilised project this country ever created – the NHS (the free National Health Service), and all their other mad schemes, then you have to wonder if they are possessed – nah not really. But they look flippin’ spooky don’t they, most of them). This ‘evil’ force has still got a vacuous puppet leader, and they had to get into bed with a seriously backward party to stay a Government. In other words, people are beginning to smell the smoke (and it stinks), and their mirrors are cracking. 

   So if you’re someone looking to raise children who might inherit a livable world for example, then don’t give up just yet. Support the progressive representatives who are in parliament or congress or whatever they call it where you live – in any way you can. Let’s also correct them – give them ideas. Let’s be a part of it beyond the walls of Facebook and Twitter etc., in the real world outside Zuckerberg’s bubbles. And of course, don’t stop at politics: Start something good, or give your time to a utopia building organisation doing world-saving stuff like 350.org, or Rainforest Rescue, or one of ten thousand others – just pick one. Keep irritating people about climate change, keep thinking more inspiringly about how to live together on planet Earth. Love more – yourself and everyone else. Without persistence and hope, we’re buggered – we really are. So thank you everyone who voted for peace, and helped me get laid. (Nah, made that last bit up – pity).

   I helpedin a small way (with old buddy Ross in the rain), the day before the election delivering leaflets, and on election day with what they call ‘getting the vote out’ – which means getting the (Labour) voters out to vote, obviously. It was easy and I enjoyed meeting random people I’d never normally meet on their doorsteps. (I’d have helped the Green Party but the Green candidate pulled out in my area to give Labour a chance, and I would be happy to have Jeremy Corbyn as PM). It felt good to do something, and being more invested in ‘the game’ made the result more exciting too. I only wish instead of helping the constituency of Southampton Test (where Alan Whitehead won by thousands of votes), I’d helped Southampton Itchen, who might also have a Labour MP now too – had I managed to get just 31 more Labour voters out of their house and into the polling booth! Sometimes it’s a really close call, and if more of us made the effort… we might survive the next 100 years. It’s going to be tight. Thanks.

   The most powerful instrument against political change is spreading cynicism. They say ‘oh well they’re all the same, they’re all corrupt, you’ll never win’, and pessimism can demoralise people engaged in a battle, so you have to believe that you can win, and history is made by people who do things. – Tony Benn.

Peace on earth

Gyula Varnai’s Peace on Earth at the Venice Biennale 2017. (see text image below)

Gyula Varnai

Text from Gyula Varnai’s work at the Venice Biennale 2017. (see above)

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The incredible tube in my throat

Get yourself a cup’a tea or a Brandy… I went off on one a bit…

me-as-patient

This isn’t another advert for my unpublished book, I promise, but in my book I’ve been writing (naively) about making utopia a goal. That dream that only gets mocked or disregarded. Despite the carnage we’ve wrought, I’m allowing myself to entertain the possibility. It’s a long haul project and I know I won’t be there for the grand opening. But it’s like that film ‘As good as it gets’ – Jack Nicholson looks around a psychiatrist’s waiting room and asks ‘what if this is as good as it gets?’ Have we given up to fizzling out under the insanity of corporate/elitist stupidity/greed and apathy?

pants

National Health Service pants

I’ve been inspired to write something because last week the NHS breathed for me, literally. I didn’t realise until I was about to be drugged into oblivion that a general anaesthetic inhibits your bodies reflex to breathe, and a machine takes over the rhythmical delivery of gas, – pumping it through the pipe they slip down your throat. Completely nuts, and unnerving, – but it seems to work.
I guess I’ve got slightly crap knees, or I’ve put too much strain on them working in the theatre, and as a carpenter over the years. Without a previous knee operation eight years ago there’d have been no tree climbing.

inside-knee-pre-op

Inside me’gammy knee, – fluffy frayed meniscus.

So that’s twice now I’ve had life support in this way courtesy of the NHS – for free. (I even forgot to pay my National Insurance as a result of being abroad so much writing, which for those people not familiar with the British system, comes in at about £80 per year. It’s supposed to cover a state pension and social security. I mention this to further embarrass, or inspire those wealthier nations with archaic insurance-based health care that simply doesn’t work for everyone).
The NHS gave me (a bad guess) of 50 people, with numerous skills, to deliver my repair, – from bureaucrats to programmers and nurses and cleaners etc. Care like this is one of the benefits of a complex society; that has given time for all these people to learn very specific skills, and keep an artist/ filmmaker/writer/‘carpenter’ fit enough to keep going. With this in mind, I feel a greater duty to contribute to the betterment of this society, and that’s one of the intrinsic benefits of a social system, – that we feel we’re in it together. So far my way of returning the favour is translating what most of us know about the state of the world into rousing activating art, so we might snuff out our apathy and do something; that we might actually get to keep going for the next few hundred thousand years; that we might even thrive alongside other species. Not long term thinking at all. (I’m still working out how to get the rouse into the art).

A free, or should I say collectively paid for an egalitarian health service is progressive and compassionate. I believe that beneath the veil of our fostered individualism it is actually second nature – ‘you look after your tribe’. In a complex society, it is logical and utopian. The multicultural team at the hospital was from everywhere, which is also a facet of a utopian vision – a global tribe of tribes. I take these many different faces for granted, but it’s pretty ‘futuristic’ when I think about it.
What a gift to be born in a place where the visionary Minister for Health Nye Bevan inspired people to this dream, and made it happen, even in a bombed and stress out Britain.

Documentary The Spirit of 45 gave me a perspective on post-war socialism in the UK that I’d not grasped before. It’s actually an incredible story that was barely mentioned during my education.

I’m guessing the surgeon who reshaped my knee’s meniscus was Iranian – a softly spoken gentleman who humbly sat down beside me on the floor to explain the operation (because there was nowhere else to sit, and I suppose he didn’t want to be looming over his patient). He also came to see how I was doing afterwards, and a nurse told me he always does, implying most of the surgeons don’t. When we spoke beforehand, I asked him to look after my knee and be as least invasive as possible, because my knee is important to me. He looked me in the eye and said that I was important. There’s a great vulnerability to being gassed to sleep and opened up, and in my case, the whole team gave me confidence in their ability.

inside-knee-post-op

Fluff removed from inside the knee using key hole surgery. Amazing.

I’ve revealed a little of the surgeon’s humanity to put flesh to my gratitude, and also context to my disbelief that any of these people should feel extra life-pressure as a result of where they were born. These are strange Brexity, anti-immigration, refugee paranoid times, and it’s all whipped up by an insidious media, and a government with an ongoing agenda to sell as much of our stuff before they’re voted out again. A debt-stressed public lap it up because they’re rightly angry and confused. ‘Fantastic – we have someone tangible to blame’.
Come to think of it, it makes me f***ing furious – not only people who give their energy to heal the ‘British’ people are again being made to feel second-rate, but at the other end of this polarising society, children are left to fend for themselves in those burned down Calais camps. Many of our MP’s (on both sides of the fence), the Corporation lobbyists, the CEO’s and large sections of the media machine appear to be quite frankly disgusting heartless people, insulated from the realities of the world. To distract from their corruption at robbing us blind, they turn us ‘little people’ against each other.

There is an additional uncomfortable and ironic reality for my operation: the UK is now ranked the second largest seller of arms in the world. We know arms from the UK are fuelling the Syrian conflict for example – forcing people to leave their bombed homes and float in limbo for years. Some of them arrived in Calais, perhaps following their families who arrived here to the UK before them, – who were perhaps among those engaged with fixing my knee. And finally, coming full circle, those weapons we sold causing this trouble, paid for the treatment.
On that note, there’s a bronze Winston Churchill standing beneath a tree, in the shadow of Big Ben. (A tree I was stopped from climbing by the Police and Heritage Wardens, but that’s another story). Winston’s bloody-minded genius may have helped win World War II, but what is less frequently mentioned is that he was also responsible for the starvation of four million people in India. He was at the centre of exploiting the Middle East for their oil, which helped set the scene for the current animosity. The man who is constantly put on a pedestal was an elitist, racist, psychopath.

tree-57

Churchill is hiding behind the tree, – that little sneak.

It was the socialist Labour Party who maintained any ‘greatness’ in Britain, in the post-war era. It was Labour’s solidarity ideals that lifted us to a new chapter of collective consciousness; we were in it together in war and then finally also in peace. I’d like to see a statue of Clement Attlee (socialist post-war PM), or Nye Bevan of equal or greater stature on Parliament Square, to give balance to our beloved warmonger. I’m actually a member of the Green Party so I’m not canvassing for Labour (though I’d be very happy with Jeremy Corbyn as PM).
Even more pressing than statues: I’d like the NHS staff celebrated with all the honour they deserve, – not pushed to their limit and begging for more resources with patients suffering from the stress. (I know horror stories exist in a stretched NHS, but I blame those cutting corners for profit, rather than employees, which is what the Daily Mail would have us think). It’s a service at the front line of our lives and our deaths.

   Dismantling the NHS and the wider erosion of solidarity is a challenge to our complex society’s most sacred utopian achievements, – a culturally global team working together for the care of all citizens.

And yet, whether or not Theresa May and her government continue selling our health service to their friends becomes insignificant when faced with her disinterest in climate change and biodiversity degradation. We’ve recently heard the good news that we’ll hit the 2/3rd mark of wiping out the animal kingdom by 2020, which means we’re pretty close to achieving that already. Coral reefs are bleaching out and dying with acidification of the oceans. If we only consider the singular factor that one billion people rely on fish for their sustenance, – when the food chain in the seas collapses entirely (90% has already been rinsed out by our practices), there’s going to be a serious mass migration of desperate people. If ignorant white people are worried about immigration, they should get with the climate change program.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s new film Before the Flood is a little toothless in my book, (which isn’t that surprising since Rupert Murdock now owns National Geographic), and the film gives most of the solution to carbon taxation and technology. For example, he interviews Elon Musk who has built one lithium battery ‘giga-factory’, and he claims 100 of them could transition the world to clean electrical storage capacity. He doesn’t mention where all the lithium is going to come from, – from mines under the forests? And Elon is a smart guy, – it’s as if you can tell he’s not mentioned the lithium problem because it makes Leonardo so happy to hear how easy transitioning could be, – ‘just build another 99 factories’. ‘We barely need to change our lifestyles at all’.
Carbon taxation is a good idea to some extent however, it would only go to support the inequality already present in the financial system, so the rich can just pay to pollute. Dr.David Fleming, who I’ll give you more of shortly has devised an energy quotas system that would avoid marginalising the poor in the process of transition. Have a look at Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs). Before the Flood is still well worth a watch. It is rousing and that’s what we need. To quote marine biologist Jeremy Jackson:

   “There will always be life in the ocean, but it’s not going to be necessarily the kind of life we want. We could go back to three billion years ago and just have a whole lot of slime”.

Wow. That’s one hell of a monoculture, and this is the world the elites are selling to each other on our behalf. It’s obviously ironic, – what they get for their money is not a capitalist paradise with cocktails on sandy beaches and ‘little people’ in white suits at their service. They’re buying the setting for an apocalypse and a clean slate for Mother Earth to birth something new.

While I’m writing this, the postman arrives with a glistening new copy of Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive it, by David Fleming who I was lucky enough to meet.

lean-logic-book

I bought the first version (complete with some typos), printed six months after David Fleming’s untimely death. Now it’s been tidied up a bit by Shaun Chamberlin and released again by publisher Chelsea Green. It really is a beautiful book; old skool qualidy.

The dictionary imagines the world post cheap energy, and a world in which there is still enough stability of climate for us humans to live. He imagines perhaps the collapse has arrived before we completely polish off the last vestiges of hope, which sounds like an oxymoron. In other words, the collapse is our last hope if we don’t change our ways ASAP.

lean-logic-play

The first page I opened to was David’s entry on PLAY. Appropriate for me, with an even more appropriate and beautiful woodcut print! (Reproduced without permission. I hope you don’t mind Chelsea Green).

I’m wondering what David Fleming has to say about Health Care in his post market economy scenario…

lean-logic-lean-health

…And then there are several pages to describe the general picture of Diet, Medicine, Treatment, Behaviour, Exercise, and in general, one of the foundations of David’s Lean Logic: the informal economy. Looking through this lens made me think that already, the NHS doesn’t stop at the walls of the hospital. I was collected by my good friend Leonie, and fed, and made to feel safe in her home while the anaesthetic was still stewing my brain; she was an informal economy nurse you might say. Our NHS would be less than half of what it is without the love of our communities. Lean logic in this way, makes the future with less resources and complexity look possible, and to some extent desirable. Though we’re unlikely to have MRI machines and such if / when this thing collapses. For me, when the shit hits the fan I’d better hope my elbows don’t give in as well. Buy Lean Logic here. I highly recommend it.

Getting back to a less viable projection of the future…

Everything the British government is doing is leading us to that ocean of slime. Literally everything. From slashing support of renewables, to approving hydraulic fracturing, nuclear at Hinckley, the third runway at Heathrow Airport, and demoralising us all with their overall welfare cuts and tax breaks for corporations and banks. They are the lovers of money, individualism and power, and totally detached. THEY MUST BE STOPPED.

lean-logic-death

I’m simply repeating the warnings we’ve heard for nearly 60 years. The difference now is the signs are revealing their deadly outcomes. The difference now is we’re getting numb to it all, and they’ve made us feel we’re powerless. It’s as if we’re all anaesthetised by confusion and consumption and work (to pay invented debts), and we’re letting them get on with harvesting our organs while we’re asleep, – harvesting our souls.

 

tree-260

Fossil fuels are keeping us alive unnaturally while we’re out cold; powering the ‘machine’ supplying oxygen to the tube in our throats; the food on our tables, our means of earning a living, – everything. When the dominoes of biodiversity fall for real there will be no team of experts with a defibrillator, because they too will be scrambling to breathe, staggering around in an anaesthetised stupor. Then we’ll just become part of that sludge washing about in the ocean. How about that!? You think I’m a drama queen king?

   If nothing else, I just think it’s humiliating to end this at the mercy of a detached group of pompous, greedy, deluded people wielding a financial system that’s so obviously a massive con.

choose-your-weapon

It’s the 5th of November but I’m not calling for gunpowder or beheadings, – they are my cousins after all. They just need different jobs with much less responsibility. I’m hoping for a very civilised and utopian revolution ASAP. What if two million people arrived at Parliament, or the Daily Mail, or the Sun newspaper HQ and just told them it’s home time? It’s not as if the Government was voted for by an informed public, – or I should say the information given to the public was flawed. Therefore the government’s legal status to decide hasn’t come from any kind of real democracy. There have to be two million people in Britain who have woken enough from sleep to act? A Peaceful Green Coup? Hmmmmm. Crikey. Naive? Yep. Frightening? Surely 2 million of us can put our heads together and come up with something? At least, everyone ‘conscious’ needs to be acting. Dong something beyond signing petitions and recycling.

I can walk with confidence again and so I’ll end with a massive thank you to the formal and informal NHS! Writing a blog post to try and save us from slumber isn’t enough thanks, and Nye’s dream wasn’t only built on ideals and knowledge and speeches. The time to wake and act is now, ‘the ‘end’ of the world is…’

I’ll keep you informed of my actions…

 

Surviving the Future

Naivety is a small word to describe my belief that I could write the Art of Climbing Trees in three months. In June of 2014 I started my crowd fund and planned to deliver the book by December. It was just going to be a case of editing my tree climbing diaries and interviews. Easy. I’ve been at it for nearly two years now, plus the year of collecting all the material. People are tenacious all the time, and it’s true that maintaining belief is a curious journey. I’m in a kind of purgatory of my own design and it’s very strange.

Surviving the Future

The kind of concerns you might expect in writing a book that other people might actually read, (and the cabin fever induced madness) have often been made a little lighter when I remember Dr David Fleming (who I interviewed for my book in an Oak tree on Hampstead Heath), who spent decades writing Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive it. He was literally just finishing the enormous work when I met him. He was amusingly self effacing about it, and I’m relating to what he said more by the day. Here’s an edited section of our conversation. Beth Barton was also with us, who was working with David as researcher and editor:

Henrik: So you are a holistic economist? David: Yes, yes. Beth: Well there is a lot of anthropological stuff actually isn’t there, in Lean Logic, which is interesting. D: Yeah, and it could be taken to the cleaners.. I keep getting constant flack from friends and people, people pointing me in the street, ‘see how that poor fellow over there ..he’s been writing this book for the last 20 years. He will never finish it’, but then they say ‘he is a nice fellow, just don’t mention the book’, (laughing) ..I am in real trouble. Henrik: I really want to read it. David: I am very glad you said that, I am very glad.

I feel lucky to have met David before his untimely death just a few weeks after our meeting. Is that what’s called tragic irony for him, as a writer? Certainly grief for those who knew him, and a great loss to the world without anyone realising it. Rob Hopkins wrote:

“I would unreservedly go as far as to say that David Fleming was one of the most original, brilliant, urgently needed, under rated, and ahead of his time thinkers of the last 50 years”. 

I had no idea really who I was in a tree with, and that is further credit to David. He was clearly brilliant and equally modest. His masterpiece lives on however. The 600 page dictionary is newly republished (and really should be on every book shelf of every home in every land), and there’s also an ‘abridged’ version (pictured above), edited and reorganised by David’s friend and colleague Shaun Chamberlin.

Here’s the review I wrote for Surviving the Future on Amazon:

Never a more appropriate title for a book right at the very moment it is needed. And the contents hit the spot too… We’re living in strange, unsettling illusory times at the end of the market economy bubble. When that bubble bursts we’re going to need solid grounded ideas for how to collaborate as a society; as communities without money being the central pivot. For me the exciting question is what could the future be like? How could we function in a healthier way without the mechanics of corporate infrastructure and fossil fuel? How do we make it go round, and with more personal autonomy, joy and contentment thrown in too? (What! Not joy!? Surely not!) This book summarises the practical and philosophical challenges ahead and offers solutions with clarity and humanity. Alright! Tempted?

Chapter and subheadings include:
A framework for community.
Rediscovering a life of place and play.
The path from here to there.
Manners.
Slack.
Post market-economics.
Eroticism.
Needs and wants.
Growth.
Population and food.
The wheel of life.

Surviving the Future - David Fleming

I’m honoured to have made a small contribution to this story, – a photo I took of David on that blustery afternoon in 2010 was chosen for the book by publisher Chelsea Green.

I’m saying two things with this post:
To myself, ‘keep running / writing and drink lots of water’, and the same goes for you in your world saving endeavours. And secondly, it should be obvious, while you’re ‘waiting’ for the Art of Climbing Trees, get yourself a copy of Surviving the Future, and if you really want to survive the future get the dictionary as well.

A little more from:

David: ..After the shock we will be thinking of building a new world.. We won’t have capitalism, it won’t exist, and therefore we all will be extremely poor ..We may not even have a government but they won’t have any income, they won’t be able to raise any taxes because we won’t have any jobs and ..they won’t be able to pay for education or police service or defence or hospitals or social security or any other thing you can think about. Under these circumstances how do we organise our communities without all these things being provided by government? ..With great difficulty is the first answer to that.. And then I develop lots and lots of ideas about how to do it, and some of the ideas are more successful than others. For example Lean Defence is very difficult..

Tree_172__12_uptrees.net

The Great Dr David Fleming, (1940-2010). Humour, intellect, humility, kindness. A man with his head screwed on and heart warm.