How I’d design a film showing and discussion

I’ve been challenged to explain how you could design a film showing that involved a facilitated small group discussion that generated ideas of what we can do in Manchester, and built connections between people who didn’t know each other, THAT would be something.”

This instead of the usual platitudes and evasions and invocations to ‘Build A Movement’ from a bunch of people at the front? No, that won’t work. How do I know? Because we’ve been running that experiment for a Very Long Time.”

See here for more on the pathologies of the Q and A session, and the institutional sexism of traditional meetings

So, it starts before you even show the film. As people come in you have people tearing tickets and and welcoming people, saying “Please feel free to talk to other people. They probably are as concerned about climate change as you are. There’s a flipchart up there with questions you have either about climate science or climate politics. ‘No question too stupid!'” [And you get those questions answered, with reliable links and sources, very quickly, and the whole lot put up on the website of the sponsoring organisations].
You also have the screen that the film will be shown on saying

“This film talks about the need to build movements to challenge climate change. You can do that by talking to the person to someone you don’t know. Why did they come? What are they interested in getting involved in in Manchester? Food? Transport? Energy? Democracy? Aviation campaigning? Something else.”

Then you welcome everyone
“Thanks everyone for coming. We’re going to show the film, then have a short comfort break. And after that, instead of doing the usual Q and A that is dominated by a few people, we’re going to do something a bit different. I know that might seem unnecessary and hippy, but the traditional format has not worked to build a movement. So we are going to innovate. Now, before we show the film, please turn to someone you don’t know and just exchange names and say hello.”

After the film.
“Right, that was pretty heavy. Just turn to the person next to you and have a very quick chat about what you thought – how it made you feel. Or if you don’t do emotions, what you’d like to take action on here in Manchester. Then we’re going to have a five minute of comfort break before getting into lots of discussions and networking about what we DO here in Manchester.”

Five minute break.

“So, just to recap with everyone about what has been happening in Manchester over the last few years on climate change. Way back in 2009, Manchester City Council and stakeholders came up with the “Manchester Climate Change Action Plan”, which said there was going to be a 41% reduction in carbon emissions from the city – not just the council, but the whole city, by 2020, and that there was going to be a “Low Carbon Culture”. They are way off their emissions targets, and the low carbon culture thing is dead in the water – only a quarter of the councillors have even done the one day “carbon literacy training”. So, that’s pretty depressing. The point is though – we already HAVE a bold and radical plan. We don’t need more plans, we need groups of people who are able to take action, and force the council and businesses to keep their promises.”
“We are NOT going to do a traditional Q and A session, because those tend to get dominated by the confident, the male and they leave other people thinking that they will never know enough or be confident enough to get involved in action.
So, we’ve got teams of people – facilitators and scribes – who’ve agreed to get conversations going on whatever topics people want to talk about, learn more about.
Listen up, because we’re going to have different groups in different parts of the room. I’ll first say what the groups are, and then say where they’ll be. There will also be someone holding a stick with the key word standing there, waiting for you all to come over!
If you want to talk about food – food growing, being vegetarian, encouraging people to eat less meat –
If you want to talk about transport – public transport, cycling, getting cars off the road
If you want to talk about energy – how to decrease the amount we use, how to get involved in campaigns to insulate more houses…
If you want to talk about democracy – why the council has broken almost all of its promises and what we can do about it – over here
If you want to talk about the film – what you liked, what you didn’t, then over here.

“We’ll do this for 20 minutes. The facilitator will make sure nobody dominates and that new people get a word in edgeways. The scribe will capture the main points of discussion, but not use anyone’s name.
Then we will gather for a VERY quick summary of each group from the facilitator.

“If you want to switch groups, that’s fine, but please listen to whatever group you go to for a few minutes before jumping in with your opinions.
If you’ve other comments or suggestions that don’t fit into those groups, please put them up on the flipcharts here.

All the summaries, and answers to your climate science and policy questions, will be put up on the website xxxxxx in a few days’ time.

“Any questions?”

For this you will need 5 facilitators and 5 scribes, of course.

You could also have someone making a short film about what people thought of the film, what they want to see happen in Manchester.

Some people will leave because of this format.  I’m guessing three broad reasons for this;

a) some of them wanted a chance to pontificate and dominate and realise they’re not going to get it. Good riddance

b) Some will have wanted to sit there passive and not venture opinions or ideas.  There’s a collusive relationship between sages on the stage and the ego fodder. This format challenges that. So be it.

c) Some people will just be too freaked out to contribute, since this isn’t what they expected. That’s a pity, but by comforting the ‘lowest common denominator’ you would lose the other energy and connection.  You can’t have everything.

Of course, event organisers who are opposed to this format (because they’re used to dominating) or are too scared to innovate, will point to the fact that some people leave as “proof” that the format is exclusionary.  That’s to be expected, and is precisely how innovations are killed, and how incumbents defend themselves.


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Professor Kevin Anderson on INDCs, IAMs, BECCS and much else!

Here’s another part of the interview with Professor Kevin Anderson. It covers some of the same ground as what has already been posted (see below for explanation)- the inadequacy of the Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (the pledges for Paris), but goes into much more detail on the nature of Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage, the problems with the “Integrated Assessment Models”, the problems of reductionism and the limits of human intelligence/governance.

On Monday 23rd November Professor Kevin Anderson kindly did an interview. I failed to double-check the position of the camera, and so after 20 minutes realised that the framing was off. We started again, covering the same ground (thanks Kevin!). When I looked at the footage I saw that while it was bad, it wasn’t totally unusable, AND Kevin went into interesting detail about a few things that we glossed over more in the second attempt. So, while it is “part three” in terms of what has been put up already, it’s actually “part one”, i.e. first attempt.


The INDCs – what they are and why you should be cautious about them

2 mins 52 What are negative emissions?

Goes into BECCS in a lot more detail

5mins 45 What is an Integrated Assessment Model?

7 mins 40 – Is this any different from the CDOs, the jiggery-pokery that blew up in our faces less than 10 years ago?

10 mins So, they’re admitting that Paris won’t deliver 2 degrees, but the Paris PROCESS will set us on the pathway – what is your response to that? Isn’t near enough good enough?

13 mins 20 What questions are we not allowed to ask?

20 minutes in – reductionism. Has been very successful, on its own terms…. But now facing systemic challenges…

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Professor Kevin Anderson on #Climate, #hope, 2 degrees and #Paris

Climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson spoke to Manchester Climate Monthly on Monday 23rd November.   In the two separate videos that follow, you can see him outlining what is at stake in the upcoming Paris climate conference – the nature of the individual nations’ pledges (INDCs) and how they actually add up to 3 or 4 degrees of warming, not the 2.7 that’s being widely quoted.  He believes there is still a (very) slender chance that we can keep warming below two degrees, but it will require a much larger effort than anything currently on the table, and within months the option will be gone.

He looks at the heroic assumptions involved in “Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage” before turning to the history of the “two degrees” claim and what it means, the question of ‘what is to be done’, of hope, responsibility and much else.

As ever, Kevin’s answers are comprehensive, carefully modulated around what is fact and what is interpretation, and compelling.

First video

0 minutes What are INDCs?  And why should the claim that the INDCs add up to roughly 2.7 degrees of warming very questionable?

INDCs are the “voluntary contributions” (pledges), only go out to 2030, hard to quantify because being submitted in different forms.  LOTS of assumptions in this. UNEP Emissions gap report released recently suggests 3 to 4 degrees.
And all the assessments assume that we will develop techniques to suck carbon out of the atmosphere – “BECSS” – Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage, and roll them out.  Lots of very heroic assumptions in all this

7 minutes and 30 seconds – “It’s the responsibility of intellectuals to expose lies and tell the truth”

Must be careful ascribing intentionality to deceive – it’s an “emerging conspiracy”, of iterative failure, making it harder and harder to do anything.

10 mins. You live in hope?

“We are incredibly unlikely to succeed on two degrees. We are unlikely to hold to three.”  Paris is probably the end-game for two degrees C. We’ve lost all the our carbon budgets for that…”

13 mins Explain what two degrees means and why it matters?

Second video

O mins – what did we agree at Copenhagen?

We agreed at Copenhagen to take action to stay below two degrees, consistent with science and on the basis of equity. And didn’t do it- the INDCS are not two degrees, not consistent with science, and massively inequitable.

1 mins 40 Why are you going to Paris?

2 mins 30 What should we as citizens be doing in 2016?

5 mins 40 Who do we push then?

7 mins 30 There seem to be no levers that people of good faith can pull on to even slow down the acceleration of the juggernaut.

“We’ve come to a consensus of apathy” … we have all been co-opted…

9 mins 50 “But then you become a voice in the wilderness”?

10 mins 50 What changes do we expect – food prices, wetter winters?

If only it were that. And who for? People living near the sea level in Bangladesh, or rich people in the Northern Hemisphere? We think we can get by, build big enough walls to cope with 2 or 3 degrees warmer.

“We need imagination, clarity and courage.”

14 mins 10 Is there a country or a region that is doing things in the right direction, even if not at the right speed or scale?

16 mins 35 Anything else you’d like to say?

On optimism, pessimism, personal carbon allowances

Posted in academia, Signs of the Pending Ecological Debacle, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Timeline of UN climate negotiations

Paris is a waste of activists’ time. Still, here’s a timeline of the UN negotiations, fwiw.

Timeline: UN climate negotiations

Marc Hudson, University of Manchester

1988 marked the first mainstream call for climate action from scientists. It’s been a bumpy ride over nearly 30 years to the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris.

To navigate the timeline below, hover your mouse on the right and click on the arrow to move forward (and on the left to move back).

The Conversation

Marc Hudson, PhD Candidate, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Upcoming Event: Carbon Co-op social 11th Dec #Manchester

Carbon Co-op header image

Carbon Co-op Social – Friday 11th December 2015

Meet other members, socialise, discuss

This December’s social will be in the cosy Britons Protection. As well as sampling the pub’s fine selection of whiskey, mulled wine and mince pies we will hear Andy Hamilton talk about Germany’s energy revolution and compare it to the Center for Alternative Technology’s work on Zero Carbon Britain.

There will be lots of time to socialise and mingle, and as always there will be complimentary snacks and drinks.

Please RSVP to let us know if you will be attending (the event is open to non-members).

Additional Info:

  • The venue is wheelchair accessible.
  • The nearest train stations are Manchester Oxford Road or Deansgate, and the nearest metro is Lower Mosley Street/Gmex.
  • The nearest bike park is on the railing outside.
  • The nearest car park is NCP Car Park Manchester Bridgewater Hall,Little Peter St, Manchester, M15 4PS.
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Re-post: Pomona Island Planning Hearing Report Back

Reposted from Hulme Green Party website.

Pomona Island Planning Hearing Report Back

Trafford Council Planning Committee gave planning permission for 2 blocks of flats on Pomona Island on Thursday evening (12th November).
The site has not been in use for decades. In that time it has evolved into a rare and mostly undisturbed rich habitat for wildlife, including rare species.Opponents of the plan want more imaginative use of the space than another spate of the same overpriced blocks of flats that have sprung up in the Manchester area. They are also deeply concerned by the ecological impact of development. 

The land is owned by Peel holdings and is probably most well-known to Mancunians who pass it on the tram route, alongside the Manchester ship canal on the border of 3 boroughs, Manchester, Trafford and Salford. 

Although there has been a campaign group against building, the likelihood of lots of locals organising to protect the site is hampered by there not being many locals around in the first place. Across the water in Salford Quays there are some abodes of a similar demographic to those planned, often fairly transitory inhabitants not too likely to get involved with local activism. Also, being on the border of boroughs (or wards for that matter) can often make the geographical politics and identity of a location somewhat opaque

Pomona Island was very attractive, even to non-ecologists. But plans to build will have been bubbling under for a long time and a few years ago a large amount of vegetation was cleared, making it look less attractive. Funny that. 

The plan for the towers had been knocked back once for being below standard, but the development firm, Rowlinsons, had returned with some improvements, though they still look completely bland and identikit.

The development has been awarded £10,000,000 or our money via the dodgy democracy Devomanc scam, sorry…scheme.

The spooning out of money is detailed here, along with other background info.

A key theme at the hearing was that of councillors clearly being not very happy or impressed with the plans (though many were flat ignorant of the ecological importance of what is officially designated as a brownfield site). Still, most of those who spoke were minded to approve the plans, not least through fear of being taken to court if they weren’t. The option to kickback the plan for improvements and consideration for environment didn’t seem to be an option for them.The council had asked Peel Holdings for a masterplan of their overall vision for the whole area. Peel didn’t bother, but disrespecting the council turned out to be no great problem. A further disappointment that turned out not to matter was the total lack of affordable or social housing in the plan, despite the £10m bung from public funds.

The underlying message from the committee was one of “We don’t like it, but we’ll bend over anyhow, what can we really do?” (they are only elected representatives after all)

Trafford Council have sent a signal that banality, disregard for environment, lack of co-operation or clear strategy are all fine really.  One might wonder if they have the imagination to sense this.

It’s an object lesson in how corporations trump people and planet time again via stultified and cowardly politics, and why so many have lost faith in that political system.

It is to be hoped that if/when future plans are submitted, the council won’t allow themselves to be a case study in “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.
Notable exceptions in opposition to the plans were Labour members Delores O’Sullivan and David Acton (who is not on the committee).
It’s not too late for future development to be more eco-friendly and for Trafford Council to find some spine. It would be great for the area to be utilised as much needed urban park space, possibly in concert with an “Eden of The North” vision in contrast to Osborne’s dubious Northern Poorhouse, er… Powerhouse.For those who deem such ideas unrealistic, a realistic compromise would be housing that is in harmony with habitat and wildlife as well as social goals of affordable housing and employment. But so far it’s just another instance of death by a thousand cuts for the ecology, including evictions of rare schedule 1 bird species, the Little Ringed Plover and Kingfisher not to mention, Sand Martin, Jacksnipe, Pipistrelle Bat, Daubenton’s Bat, Water Vole, Cormorant and many other species, all found to have been happily inhabiting the site. Rowlinsons could easily have earned brownie points and added green roofs to their designs but alas no and so another eco opportunity lost.

Urban green space is vital, yet almost every individual development can be legally / politically excused on it’s own merits, especially in the light of housing and employment difficulties. However, the collective effect is calamitous. There is more to ecology than rainforests, Polar Bears and the contents of a David Attenborough documentary. It is the very life that surrounds us wherever we are, and it is being systemically destroyed for profit with scant regard for consequence.
Such awareness, and the necessary vision for 21st Century sustainability, elude too many politicians, stuck in the last generation, and too many of the current generation of capitalists.
Steve Durrant
Posted in Campaign Update, Event reports, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

#Manchester #climate rally – 8 out of 11 ain’t bad.

We are so doomed.


So, of the 11 hypotheses, I was right about 8 of them. I was definitely wrong about

  • the size (but not the demographic) of the audience,
  • the gender of the first questioners, and the
  • capacity of the chair to bring speakers in on time [a valuable skill!].

Random observations

  • The lack of a roving microphone seriously disenfranchised the elderly/hard of hearing, one of whom voted with her feet.
  • Rabble rousing is all well and good. But if you’re going to be on a stage, perhaps bludgeoning people with statistics isn’t the way to go? I looked around from my filming and a lot of people had a mask of apathy rather than a mask of anarchy.
  • Become a University of Manchester student you have been trained and trained yourself to think that there is One Right Answer. In this case learning to reflect, admit mistakes and failure [even if it wasn’t your fault!!], is not in the skill set. That’s not how you get to an ‘elite’ (god help us all) university. So is perhaps very unsurprising that people were incapable of hearing that a plea for learning and reflection is not the same as a plea for a time machine.
  • Conflating Corbymania and a climate movement is more delusional than I can stomach.
  • The Civil Rights movement didn’t start with [the totally awesome] Rosa Parks. It really really didn’t. FFS.
Posted in University of Manchester, Unsolicited advice | Leave a comment