The mayor’s green summit – what to expect in the coming weeks, months, years. #Manchester #climate

In his  March 2017 manifesto for the Mayoral election, Andy Burnham promised to hold an environmental summit ‘within a year’ of being elected.  Originally scheduled for late 2017, there was “slippage” and the summit is now going to happen in late March, in Central Manchester..

This (too) long blog post gives historical background to Manchester’s past grapplings with environmental and climate policy,  some contextualisation of the present, and my best educated guesses on how it will all play out over the coming year(s).  (tl:dr – history doesn’t repeat, but she rhymes: first time as tragedy, second time as farce).

The Past is prologue, and a country where they do things pretty much as we are doing them now.
There’s a fascinating history to Manchester’s (achingly slow) responses in the 19th and early 20th century to the local environmental and social problems caused by the burning of coal  (aka “the first industrial revolution”), but you’ll have to buy me a beer to get it out of me.  Let’s skip forward: by the late 1960s a small but growing number of scientists and citizens were getting worried about environmental matters. For most that was about charismatic megafauna going kaput, or local air quality, but concerns about climate change caused by changes to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases goes back to then (I have a bunch of books, published then, which mention it. The most famous is the Limits to Growth (1972)).  It’s unclear to me if news reached Castle Grayskull (aka Manchester Town Hall) and what the response was if it did. This, after all, was the era of GBH.

In the next wave of environmental concern – late 80s and early 90s – climate change most certainly did reach Castle Grayskull. Giddy during the whole ‘Rio Earth Summit’ period, some Manchester types proposed that the city hold a follow up (what was known as the ‘Global Forum’).

The then Council Leader, one Graham Stringer, boasted at the time

““We would not have won this event if our green credentials were not already so good…. Manchester has a great reputation for pioneering work in environmental areas, ranging from smokeless zones to municipal parks, and we have developed a green strategy to ensure that the 2000 Olympics would have a sound environmental base here. Land reclamation, clean technology, tree planting and material recycling are all part of our Olympic bid,”

However, the John Major government didn’t come through with the promised cash, and the whole thing was a damp squib. To quote again from the defunct Aussie publication Green Week

“British Environment Secretary John Gummer last week attacked “the absolutists” in the green movement after demonstrators disrupted his appearance at an international conference.

First the tram taking him to the Partnerships for Change meeting at Manchester town hall was halted by protesters who labelled the summit a ‘whitewash’. Then Mr Gummer was heckled by a Twyford Down demonstrator over the M3 extension when he made a speech at the dignified opening session. And later a news conference he was attending was disturbed by two banner-waving women who had to be removed by Police.”

Anon. 1993. Extreme Greens attacked. Green Week, September 28, p.11.

However, another part of the Rio aftermath was something called “Local Agenda 21”, where a transparent and democratic local government sector (oh, how we laughed), was supposed to put ‘sustainability’ and ‘the environment’ at the centre of all their concerns.   A few glossy booklets and top-down meetings/processes later, it all fell over.

Then a few years later in response to various pressures (not least the rise of the Lib Dems in the Council- because of Blair’s crusade), Manchester City Council created an Executive Member for the Environment role.  The first one (Neil Swannick) was good, but it has been largely downhill since then.

Late in his tenure (2007), Swannick managed to get a ‘17 Principles’ document through the executive, and secure 1 million pounds of funding.  The document said there would be a stakeholder-led process to write a climate policy by the end of 2008.  It didn’t happen, and the money went unspent.    In 2009, with the Copenhagen conference approaching, the Council wisely adopted the methodology activists (this author included) had used to create “The Call for Real Action” document.   That resulted in a document called Manchester A Cretin Future. Sorry, Certain Future, aka Manchester Climate Change Action Plan.  Alongside this, Greater Manchester made a bunch of similar promises.

However, thanks to a change of National Government, staggering incompetence by bureaucrats and those who are supposed to scrutinise them, and the lowered importance of the climate issue, from  2010 to present has been one long increasingly unfunny farce (see Manchester Climate Monthly passim, ad nauseam).

Why is this summit  happening?  Let’s look at this from international, national and regional setting (not that any one of them is most important, and ignoring possible links between the levels.  Let’s call them Paris, Brexit, Burnham-Leese

There are very very good reasons to be cautious (okay, downright cynical) about the Paris performance and all that it gives us (1.5 degrees Celsius? Srsly?).  The MGVSS is an echo of that, with various actors, picking up on and amplifying leadership cues for reasons of their own, are joining in the collective hallucination.

While we definitely can’t agree on Brexit (and I will confess to remoanerdom status), we CAN, bar a few very very um, “interesting” people at local branches of Rotary International, agree that human-caused climate change is a Bad Thing, and that Something Should Be Done.

Till Burnham wood has come to Dunsinane
We also have a new actor, entering an existing power ecosystem and needing/wanting to differentiate himself.  Climate change offers one such issue on which the Mayor can do this, especially given the overall laughability of Manchester City Council’s climate efforts to date.  It’s not like Leese has a great record and can shoot back saying “nah, we’ve got this all covered.”
(For the benefit of any libel lawyers who have wandered in, this: I have zero doubt, and zero intention of implying that the honorable Mayor is anything but perfectly sincere in his concern over climate change. I duly and dutifully acknowledge that while in Brown’s cabinet he (and the rest of the cabinet) signed up for the 10:10 campaign
(not that, of course, anyone who signed that pledge actually got within shouting distance, but that can hardly be pinned on him). In 2015 he supported a moratorium on fracking.  The climate thing has been part of his ‘crowd-sourced manifesto’.)

No Future (“but the one you make”)

Let’s look at the coming weeks (the listening events and their outputs, the selection process for who is allowed to go) the summit itself, its aftermath  (the release of the Environmental Charter) and a year from now.  Then we can look why I might be wrong and what is to be done.

Short term

These wretched listening events will continue. The ones I’ve been to or heard from reliable sources about have been poorly designed, poorly executed exercises in meaninglessness.  There has been very little (or zero) actual network-building (let alone movement-building), instead they are based on the information deficit model and conducted to turn the attendees into little more than egofodder.  (see update at end of this post).

The “results” of these events will be “fed back into the writing process”, whatever that means.

Your ability to register interest for what is an ‘invite only’ event closes tomorrow.  Although the venue can cope with 800 people, recently it emerged that there have only been 300 expressions of interest.  Who knows, that may have gone up.

To quote a friend who knows about these things-

“Sources report that apparently it started off as a listening event, then became a telling event, then became a means to secure a mandate and then turned into an elite policy event. Now it seems to have turned into a playground event where you have to wait to see if you’re one of the chosen ones.”  


MCFly presumably excluded

Back in 2013, the last time the so-called ‘Steering Group’ tried to hold an annual stakeholder conference, the two editors of Manchester Climate Monthly (me and Arwa Aburawa) were explicitly excluded from attending.  Not docile enough, you see.

So, I am fully expecting the history to repeat.  Although I have registered, I am expecting to be told my registration has been declined.  I will then ask why and will be told there isn’t space/that there isn’t catering.  When I ask how many other people are on the waiting list/offer to brownbag it, I will be ignored.  When it is revealed there IS space, or someone else who did get a ticket says they are willing to give up their spot for me, I will be told I am not welcome because I have not been “constructive”.  (i.e. I have asked too many awkward questions, offended the wrong people by laughing at their horseshit).

There will be some minor grumbling about this, but those who care about these things are tiny in number and will go along anyway.

I will miss out on a minor anthropological opportunity.

The event itself

So, hundreds will gather.  There will be the usual blandishments and bullshit, a keynote full of motherhood and applepie statements.  If (and it’s unlikely) they try to do anything innovative (blah blah Open Space blah blah) they will screw it up as badly as Compass did all those years ago.  Because they are fundamentally incompetent.

(Btw, If someone promises to buy me two pints, I will write and post the speech that Andy Burnham SHOULD give at this summit.)

But the point of this is to virtue signal, to be seen to be Caring About a Problem.  It’s essentially potemkin democracy, populated by potemkin organisations.

The absolute best way of thinking about this, imo, is from the Grauniad a week or so ago.

Frozen foods had enjoyed a boost during the war because of tin rationing, and the first frozen ready meals were launched in 1952. More women were working outside the home, making the convenience of these meals especially appealing. Incomes were rising, too, during this postwar period, which gave families more money to spend on convenience items, and on trying out new dishes. Not all such products were new – cake mix, after all, had been around for decades – but in this postwar climate, the food industry assumed there would be a much larger market for them. And yet, cake mix sales were slow…..

Dichter’s groups for Betty Crocker diagnosed the trouble – women felt guilty that they were not doing the work of baking the cake for their families. Serving prepared foods made them feel inadequate….

Bill Schlackman, a colleague of Dichter’s, would recall years later, in this case the solution was to assuage the housewives’ guilt by giving them more of a sense of participation. “How to do that?” He smiled. “By adding an egg.” With this simple adjustment to the recipe, sales of cake mixes took off. It was an early focus-group marketing triumph.

We’re just adding eggs, is all, after our lords and masters have said ‘let them eat cake.’

Actually, this is a good point for a digression.  Who are the various kinds of people who will attend this event, who are engaged in going along with the Summit caravan?  In my distracted intellectual laziness/limited-capacity, I have been thinking there are three kinds of people/organisations.  (The borders between these groups can be fuzzy-  there is situational overlap, and of course traffic between the three by some individuals.)

Firstly, you have the hard-core ‘true believers’ who know that we are in the shit and are desperate for some hope, and will go along with anything on the basis that “it’s a start” or “it would be worse if this wasn’t happening” (which is usually code for “we have to be involved in this to get our vital resource needs met, where resource could mean a) money, b) ego (at an individual or organisational level c)publicity/reputational-with-the-public d) being seen to be doing what the big boys want needs are being met” (or some combination).

These are the most easily placated, especially as they have invested significant time, money, effort and political capital in the past year in getting all the right words into the manifesto, into the speeches.

Literally any old shit will do with them, because once they are inside the tent then – excuse the mixed metaphor – they won’t rock the boat for fear of being thrown overboard/out of t’tent. If these guys know anything serious about climate change (and some of them seem to know about the scale of the problem, if not its velocity) then they are also desperate for hope.

Secondly there are the dazed and confuseds. Attuned to the fear of the hard-core ‘true believers’, these guys Really Care. However, they know none of the history, think this is the first time anyone has tried to put climate change on the agenda, and believe that environmental “progress” (i.e. emissions reductions – for god’s sake don’t tell them about the sixth great extinction and the species’ EROI problems) proceeds by sincere statements from our Lords and Masters. They are like the audience at a very down-market TV show (Jeremy Kyle’s got talent?), applauding and laughing when the fluffer/illuminated sign says so. They are hoping for an invite to the Green Room, and maybe the financial/ego/whatever equivalent of a selfie and autograph with a star (e.g. Andy) at the stage door.

Finally, there are  the “along for the ride” types, in every sense. They are attracted by the noise made by Important People, not the so-called ‘content’ of that noise. The signal-to-noise ratio is a foreign concept to them, and anyway, there will be a new bandwagon of feed trough along in a while. That’s the nature of things. They’ll probably be meerkating as to what that is even as the ink is dry on the ‘Environmental Charter’.  Also in this category are those who can’t afford NOT to be seen caring.  Participation in these sorts of things offer some nice reputational stab-vestiness when someone asks awkward questions about the scope 3 emissions of all those football players and the fans, rather than getting entranced by the recycling bins at the various stadiums….

So, back to the process

The magna charter

An “Environmental Charter” of surpassing banality and irrelevance will be produced within, say, two months (could be longer of course).  The launch will involve photo opportunities with blond moppets telling us that the World Must Be Saved.

It  will be a series of vague “commitments” which are hard to measure and easy to wiggle out of.

  • The airport will be extolled as a leading example of environmental good practice.  Its actual emissions (i.e. above a thousand feet etc) will not be mentioned.
  • There will be talk of local jobs, biodiversity etc, all cut and pasted from similar documents over the last 30 years, not that anyone will notice or care.

The amount of attention it gets will depend on the day of its release and whether 22 millionaires are kicking a pig bladder between some white sticks, or if it happens on the day Trump tweets something sane (which would be huge news) or gets impeached.  So many variables…

At this point, many will have got what they came for, metaphorically. Their names will appear on the list of sponsors/endorsers, they will be either getting invites to sit on Environmental Advisory Panels, or emails about the wonderful outcomes of these EAPs.

Within six months, unless David Attenborough dies, then normal service will resume. For one thing, we will all be running around like headless chickens over Brexit, which will be Looming Large by then.  A few of the true-believers types will ask one or two awkward questions about the (lack of) specific progress, but will be fobbed off. They will be told, subtly, once or twice to shut up or else. If they don’t take the hint, they will suddenly find themselves on the outer – emails/calls unanswered, grant applications mysteriously lost/turned down, meetings with the Relevant People postponed. That sort of thing.

On the one year anniversary of either the Summit or the Charter’s release there will be another photo-op, perhaps with a report put together in the tedious house style (it’s not a creative concern of anyone’s) that lists all the wonderful “Achievements”, since the summit, with colour photos and big rectangular slabs of yellow or light green, with a few happy clappy and ill-informed grab quotes from Martin of Moss Side, Alison from Alderley Edge and Elijah from Eccles, with full page pictures of blond moppets planting trees and a ‘clear-eyed statement of intent’ from Andy (‘some progress… challenges…. more to be done’): bish bosh and we’re almost there.

The Mayor may try to kickstart the process with Mayor’s Environmental Hearings, but sensible people will say “meh”.

And normal service will have resumed.

In another four or five years, if (and it’s a big if) everything is still hanging together mostly (no wars, pandemics/zombie apocalypses, economic collapse, slaughterbots), then people will have forgotten the whole sorry process enough for Andy or his replacement to perform the whole ritual again.

I could be wrong:  the possible game changers?

Some people, who claim to want to change things, seem to be relying on Andy Burnham’s sincerity, integrity, courage and knowledge.  Who knows, maybe they are right and I am wrong and Andy’s s.i.c.k. will be enough.

Maybe, in contradiction of all evidence and psychoanalytic insights, some more ‘natural’ disasters will push people to realise that the future of human civilisation is in fact on the line, and they will start being involved in sustained and intelligent movement-building and mobilisation that leads on to more movement-building (rather than working against it).

Cough, cough.

And who knows, maybe Saint Jeremy will become Prime Minister and be able to institute all the wonderful things he suggested in a quite good speech last weekend, against the alphabet soup of opposition that he will face (MI5, CIA, CBI, BBC, etc etc: time to watch ‘A Very British Coup‘ again, methinks).

What next?

We are closer to the end than the beginning – I don’t just mean this article, I mean human civilisation.  And therefore a little gallows humour is therefore probably called for.   For those lucky lucky people who are going to the Mayor’s Green Summit, I think there should be either bingo cards and/or “I Spy” cards.  I will get the ball rolling.  Email me with additional suggestions…

Bingo cards
“First Industrial Revolution began here.”
“Planetary emergency”
“People power”
“When Jeremy becomes Prime Minister”
“We can’t solve climate change without reversing Brexit”
“We all need to go vegan”
“What about the airport”
“We have a plan. Now the hard work begins”
“The Tories have been a disaster for climate action”
“100 per cent renewables by next Tuesday”
“We have a plan. The hard work starts now.”
“No point dwelling on the past. I’m looking forward.”
“The steering group has done a terrific job”
“We need a low carbon culture.”

I spy
Virtue signalling by groups wanting “more ambition”
Some clown using the “first industrial revolution began here, so does the next one”
Studious avoidance of the failures to keep promises since 2010 onwards
Bureaucrats and their colourful organograms of who does what
The Airport like the mad racist Uncle – everyone knows, everyone tries to stay off the subject.

Disclaimer: Of course, I am writing this all from a position of relative ignorance – for reasons of thesis and sanity I’ve not bothered following all the dreary and predictable meetings and manifestos as closely as I once would have. I no longer bother blogging most of what I do go to (for example, in the last three weeks I stumbled into an egregious ‘listening event’, went to a rancid book launch and endured an unintentionally hilarious denialist powerpoint. Nowt of it reported on MCFly.

And who knows, maybe I just have Relevance Deprivation Syndrome, and can’t hack the fact that others are ‘succeeding’ where I ‘failed’.  Maybe, but what little I have heard on the grapevine is that the listening events are not well-attended, well-planned, or meaningful.  But maybe people don’t bother sharing Good News with me?


Update:  This from facebook today (15 February).

I went to the food listening event and must say I thought it was well facilitated, with very short presentations to help get us thinking and discussing in pairs, what we would like to see happen, what would the value be, and what would the specific ask be. We then discussed in bigger groups, before feeding back main points and looking for key themes emerging across the room from that feedback. The room was booked for longer than the advertised meeting, so those who wanted to follow up any conversations could do so. There are probably some good listening events and some bad ones as they’re all organised by different groups. Just wanted to bother sharing Good News with you 😉

Posted in Greater Manchester, Low Carbon Culture, Manchester Airport, Manchester City Council | 1 Comment

“Energy Democracy” “listening” event in #Manchester tonight re: Mayor’s Green Vomit. Sorry, “summit”

Tonight at Partisan Collective in Cheetham Hill there’s a two hour “listening event”, the results of which feed into a hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya “Summit” in March, which will produce another vapid statement of peace-love-and-understanding.

Fun fact- wildlife numbers have dropped to less than half of the 1970 level.  Which is a fun way of saying there probably are not enough wild horses left on the planet to drag me along to these sorts of boss-focussed “listening events” where the products will mostly be fed back into a maw of bureaucratic incompetence and contempt. They will chew it up, spit it out and call it “democracy”, and then continue on their merry way, protesting – in the unlikely event that they are ever actually challenged on their hopelessness- that they have ‘consulted’ with the public.

Maybe groups in Manchester could take if not an outright cynical view (because that would mean that people you know, learnt from history, and didn’t assume that the last lot of people who tried failed for lack of effort or smarts, but because – as they say in the Wire –  the. Game. Is. Rigged.) then at least a slightly critical one?

And maybe people could think that by playing this game, they are propping it up? One of the few groups which is holding these ‘listening events’ to come out and ask vaguely adult questions is the “Energy Democracy” lot. Their questions are below.

The blurb follows in italics, the questions in bold. My answers, dashed off because they will be ignored anyway – are below, mostly bullet pointed.

In March 2018, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham is holding a Green Summit for Greater Manchester to inform a new environmental vision for the city region and to draw up an Environment Charter.
Listening events are being held in the run-up to the Summit to bring networks and communities together to discuss, debate and share ideas about what they want from a green, zero carbon city.
Given this develop we thought now would be a good time to bring Energy Democracy Greater Manchester back in to action.
Our listening event seeks to gauge the views of our activists and the wider community on energy democracy issues asking questions including: (see below)

(This two hour workshop will feature presentations and small group discussions.

The results of the workshop will be documented and fed back in to the Environment Charter writing process.

What kind of role should citizen, workers and communities play in the energy transition of Greater Manchester?

  • Citizens should inform themselves and each other – not by reliance on the frankly useless mass media but by using Freedom of Information Act requests to find out what is actually going on. Workers in trades unions should come together in the spirit that some workers have done (e.g. the Green Bans in Australia in the early 1970s). ‘The wider community’, whatever that means, needs to build its collaborative, coordinative and absorptive capacities to be able to cope with the inevitable “baffle them with bullshit” strategies that the bosses will use if things get at all hairy.

What role should the Mayor and Greater Manchester authorities play in facilitating citizen, worker and community engagement and control?

Hmm, there’s actually two questions here, within this  naïve/too emollient question. What role “should” they play (a normative question, about the correct role, morally, that they should adopt) and a what role WILL they adopt. And the two are a very very long way apart.

What they should do is this

  • Be honest about past failings and the underlying reasons (i.e. don’t just “blame the Tories”)
  • Be specific about future targets (not just vague motherhood and applepie statements
  • Sack the idiots in charge for the last 8 years as incompetent
  • Explain how to keep tabs on them, and design the system for maximum accountability
  • Towards other people
  • Create mechanisms by which existing and new groups can become actively and usefully involved in a critical way, beyond being a figleaf/photo-op once a year. Make sure that disparities of finance and informational capacity are minimised (e.g. via simple language, short and accurate summaries of what is going on, on video (many people in Manchester are not literate in English, especially in the grotesque bureaucratese these clowns ‘communicate’ in.

Look, sorry for shouting but: THE LAST THING THEY WANT IS CITIZEN/WORKER/COMMUNITY ‘ENGAGEMENT’, let alone ‘CONTROL’.  They want a few  groups and individuals around to give the APPEARANCE of these.  Not because they are especially evil or cynical, but because this is how the bosses roll.  It’s just how they roll.

What they will do, if past form and present capacity is anything to go by, is this

  • Bluster and bullshit and vagueness in their targets
  • Or make specific targets and then simply ignore them when they are missed
  • Blame the Tories for EVERYTHING
  • Sort out the sheep and the goats, finding some groups willing to be fig leaves etc
  • Ignore the airport (apparently because they are counting the emissions below 1,000 feet, that’s good enough)  (I was told this, by a very senior climatocrat. He kept a straight face while he did it. Which is presumably why he’s so well paid.)

How do we ensure that the ownership of this transition is controlled by the many ensuring that class, gender and race inequalities are not replicated?

That, for once, is an excellent question.

  • That would involve making sure meetings were genuinely welcoming, designing and facilitating them so they weren’t dominated by the confident/middle-class/university educated types, but also so they don’t get derailed by the randoms. Those are largely invisible – and unvalued- skills in the “activist” “community”. And flipcharts and so-called “open space” are not magical solutions
  • Accept that many many people cannot or will not come to meetings, no matter how beautifully designed and facilitated they are, and help people be involved/stay involved in campaigns. All hard, unglamorous and unrewarded-within-the-subculture work that requires a rather odd collection of skills. It won’t be done.

How can civil society, grassroots activists, community energy and workers effectively collaborate with municipal organisations?

That is another excellent question.

  • When you sup with the devil, sup with a long spoon. They will be looking to separate sheep and goats, people they can control now, or hope to come to control. They will want to make sure that anyone in the awkward squad is excluded. That’s how they roll. But their soothing blandishments about ‘working together’ are catnip to those with a personal or organisational need to (be seen to) be ‘changing the system from within.

What mechanisms and tools should we use to hold those in power to account?

Good question, especially given the elective dictatorship in Manchester, and the likelihood that a Corbyn victory will at the national level will lead to all sorts of grotesque shenanigans.

  • Freedom of Information Act requests, then publicised in blogs, newspaper articles, letters to the editor, podcasts, videos, discussions with OTHER civil society groups.
  • If you aren’t holding their feet to the fire, in a systematic, sustained and sustainable way, you may as well sit home and watch netflix. MCFly did some of this for a while, but I can’t be arsed anymore, because frankly, it’s too late to do anything meaningful on climate change. The Age of Consequences is upon us
  • Keep beavering away at creating working alternatives, obvs.


Also – what ELSE should we be doing to build our long term power and ability to protect our communities.

  • Identify individual skills that people have and figure out how they can easily share them with people who don’t have them
  • Identify bottlenecks/single points of failures in groups
  • Create and maintain a culture in which individuals are constantly able to learn new skills/increase the level of skills they have, especially around areas where groups are vulnerable to “the guy who does the website left” syndrome
  • Be honest about the activist subculture and its invisible barriers and then take MEANINGFUL AND SUSTAINED action to lower the barriers.
  • Change the culture of boring and ‘smugosphere’/sage-on-the-stage meetings
  • Make sure people who can’t come to meetings are still able to contribute meaningfully
  • Think serious about disaster preparedness and get conversations and actions going about this topic


There’s lots lots else, as I’ve written about and intermittently demonstrated over the years… And the more time and attention that goes on meaningless drivel like the Mayor’s green vomit and the Environmental Charter, is less time that can be spent on those.  #justsaying

Posted in Unsolicited advice, Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

MCR Debate:How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Climate Change #Manchester Feb 27

MCR Debate:How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Climate Change

All good things come to end and civilisation isn’t a exception.

Scientists would largely agree that climate change is happening, and it’s set to the biggest challenge our species has ever faced. Politics now engages with our impending environmental catastrophes, how ever are their proposals enough to deal with the problem?

A growing number of scientist and environmentalists are coming to the conclusion that we have already gone past the point of no return, drastic climate change is happening and there is nothing we can do about.

MCR Debates discusses; Is it too late to stop climate disaster? And if it is to late, what do we do then?

MCR Debates is a non profit group, however we do ask for a £3 pounds donation to cover room hire and promotion costs.<

Tues Feb 27, 7pm to 9pm
Partisan Collective
19 Cheetham Hill Road, M4 4FY Manchester, United Kingdom</

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

CANCELLED. Upcoming Event: “Digital Technology: Environmental Saint or Sinner? #Manchester 22 February

Ooops.  Sorry, didn’t realised I had scheduled the post. The event has been postponed until later in the year.


“Digital Technology: Environmental Saint or Sinner?” by Professor Chris Preist, on Thursday 22nd February (room C1, George Begg Building, Sackville Street)

at 1.00pm.

Digital technology is responsible for substantial environmental impacts globally. It has roughly the same carbon footprint as aviation, and is one of the most widespread sources of hazardous substances in waste streams. Furthermore, its emissions are growing currently. However, it has also been argued that digital technology can play a key role in the transition to a low carbon society. Progressive IT companies are making significant efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their activities, and searching for new ways of supporting lower impact ways of living.

In this talk, I will look at the big picture and arguments from both sides. I will also present more detail on how to understand and mitigate the environmental impacts of digital services such as websites, Google search, Facebook, YouTube or BBC iPlayer. Where in the system are the ‘hotspots’ and what can we do to tackle them?  What are the longer term trends in such patterns?  What can service designers – both architectural and interaction designers – do to mitigate these effects?

 Chris Preist

Chris Preist is Professor in Sustainability and Computer Systems at the University of Bristol. He leads a team of researchers who combine the disciplines of Industrial Ecology and Computer Science. His research partners include the BBC, Guardian News and Media, the Environment Agency, the Carbon Disclosure Project and EDF Energy.


Posted in academia, University of Manchester, Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Fundraising appeal: Family #Fracking Action Court Costs #Manchester

All details from gofundme page


Family Fracking Action Court Costs

On 12th July 2017 three generations of one family and a wonderful crew of friends carried out an action at the Cuadrilla fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire, UK. Under the banner of Families Against Fracking we locked ourselves by the site gates for six hours to protest against Cuadrilla’s activities and to raise awareness of the dangers of fracking. The action was part of the Rolling Resistance month of action coordinated by Reclaim the Power.

Six months on we have been taken to court and convicted of Obstruction of the Highway. Six of the seven of us have to pay £270 each in court costs, totalling £1620.
We are asking here for help in paying these penalties. If you are able to and feel moved to support the action and the group in this way we’d be very grateful. Thank you for all and any contributions!

Check out the  video of the action

The action and court case made national and regional headlines. Here are a couple of examples:
Gillian in the Guardian 
– Big Issue article

The group in full is: Bea Patrick, Gillian Kelly, Megan Kelly, Molly Hopkinshaw, Paul Martyn, Sebastian Kelly, Toby Fairlove

(Should we raise more than our initial target, funds up to an additional £380 will go towards our travel to trial. Anything raised on top of that will be donated to another of the groups who carried out an action last July and also have court costs to pay).

Posted in Campaign Update, Fracking | 2 Comments

Job Alerts: Fairfield Environmental Services #Manchester

Please share with anyone who you think would be interested in applying for any of these three jobs…

Business Development Manager Salary from £34,098 p/a (gross)

Finance Officer Salary between £18,768 and £20,465 (gross)

Human Relations Officer Salary between £18,768 and £20,465 (gross)

Now is an exciting time to take on a role at Manchester’s Fairfield Environmental Services – the trading arm of Fairfield Environment Trust – providing sustainable waste management for businesses, local authorities and the third sector in Greater Manchester.

Having recently won a new contract that has generated significant growth, FES is seeking three full-time staff members for new roles, as part of a restructuring undertaken to reflect rapid business growth and to replace Fairfield’s retiring founder staff member.

These unique job opportunities will place you at the heart of a dynamic and youthful team in one of Greater Manchester’s most successful social enterprises. Working closely with the Board of Directors, you will be part of a management team working to ensure the smooth, effective and efficient running of FES. As well as bringing experience in the specified fields, you’ll enjoy varied working, and have the ability and practical skills to ‘muck-in’ on site when necessary!

As the trading arm of FET, one of Greater Manchester’s most impactful environmental charities, FES is part of a family of environmental organisations operating in partnership across a range of sectors including building management (Bridge 5 Mill), and food and farming (The Kindling Trust), working together to bring real change to Greater Manchester. As you grow and develop FES, you will be responsible for generating significant income for the Trust, and you will have the opportunity to shape and grow both the business and our charitable work over the next decade.

The post is based at New Smithfield Market in East Manchester and easily accessible by public transport.

For more information about us visit:

To apply, visit and download the job descriptions and application form.

Return the application form and other relevant information to

Closing date for applications:    Midnight on Sunday 25th February.

Interviews will take place on:     Monday 5th March & Tuesday 6th March.

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“Green Week” events in #Manchester 12-16 February

A few years ago the City Council’s “Green City Team” (since abolished) promised councillors on the relevant scrutiny committee that the Council would organise five events for the following year’s “Green Week”.  It organised…. none, and wouldn’t admit that, so Manchester Climate Monthly put together a Freedom of Information Act request.  This is fairly typical for the incompetents who run the City Council.  Fortunately there are still pockets of competence elsewhere in this city.  One of them, if coming first in a People and Planet league table on more than one occasion is any indication, is Manchester Metropolitan University.  Here’s an email they sent me.

Manchester Metropolitan University has once again been awarded 1st Place in the People & planet University League based on ethical & environmental performance, we are proud to be involved in their national Go Green Week.

SEEG will be supporting various events throughout the week (12th-16th February), Click here to see the full calendar of events, where you book on to numerous sessions through Eventbrite. The activities aim to educate and inspire you to take action on environmental issues such as Climate Change and plastic pollution.

Clicking “here” takes you to this list of events –

lease see activities you can get involved in below. These are open to all staff & students at Manchester Met unless stated otherwise, registeration is via Eventbrite.


CPR Training. Monday 12th February. Hourly (10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm) Business School Room 3.05.

Thanks to Give It, Don’t Bin It!, our student move out campaign raising money for the British Heart Foundation, the BHF are offering free CPR training for staff and students at Manchester Met. Every year 30,000 people in the UK have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but the survival rate is less than 1 in 10. The BHF is on a mission to change that by creating a Nation of Lifesavers where everyone knows how to save a life. Sign up for Free CPR training today. Register for one of the sessions via Eventbrite

Film Screening: Before the Flood. Monday 12th Feb (2- 3.45pm) Business School LT G34.

If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change, would you want to know? Before the Flood, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change first-hand. Free screening, open to all, sign up here.


Recycling Game. Monday 12th Feb (12 – 2pm) Business School.

At Manchester Met, we have committed to recycling 60% of all waste by 2020. To get there, we need your help to reduce contamination and recycle right on campus. During Go Green Week, our Sustainability Ambassadors will be around campus testing staff and students, playing our recycling game. Visit their stall, play the game, test your knowledge and receive a free sustainability –themed gift. No need to register, just visit our stand near the main entrance. 


Film Screening: A Plastic Ocean. Tuesday 13th Feb (12.30 – 1.00pm) Business School LT G34.

In the centre of the Pacific Ocean gyre our researchers found more plastic than plankton. A Plastic Ocean documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissue, and eventually are consumed by us. Free screening, open to all, sign up here.


Robert Angus Smith Energy Centre Guided Tour. Tuesday 13th Feb (12.30 – 1.30pm) Meet at Brooks Reception.

Our Energy Centre at Birley uses Combined Heat and Power (CHP), water storage and boiler systems to provide heating and hot water to the campus. Join our guided tour to learn how our innovative technologies help us to generate our own heating, drinking water and electricity reducing costs and our carbon emissions. Open to all, sign up here


Celebration: 1st Place University League. Wednesday 14th Feb (12 – 2pm) Business School North Atrium.

This year we can again celebrate being top of the People & Planet University League. Assessed on a range of environmental and ethical factors, management practices and policies, and performance in carbon reduction, energy sources, waste and recycling, and water reduction, we have climbed from 91st position in 2007 to top of the table in 2013 and back there this year. Join us in celebrating our achievement and all the hard work that goes into being a leading sustainable university, with a locally-sourced lunch and sustainability showcase. Open to all, sign up here.


Basic Bike Maintenance. Wednesday 14th Feb (12.30 – 2.30pm) The Union, Main Hall.

Making sure your bicycle is kept in good working order is as important as your riding skills. The ‘basic’ maintenance course is a practical session led by experts. You’ll be taught how to carry out checks and repairs on your bike, keeping you safe while saving you time and money. Delivered by Transport for Greater Manchester. MMU staff & students only, sign up here


Smart Cities – Presented by Siemens & Triangulum. Wednesday 14th Feb (2 – 3.30pm) Business School G27.

How are cities going to work in the future? How does a city get its energy and reduce emissions? Find out more at this seminar from Siemens’ Global Centre of Competence for Cities & Triangulum the EU Horizon 2020 lighthouse project – looking for solutions for the city of tomorrow, developing smart urban districts. Speaker: Mark Jenkinson, Siemens. Part of the Smart Energy seminar series. Open to all, sign up here. 


Green Drinks. Wednesday 14th Feb (5pm until late) Sand Bar.

Green Drinks Manchester is an informal monthly gathering featuring guest speakers networking and opportunities for collaboration. Aimed at anyone with a passion for environmental issues. Join us for an informal drink just look out for the Green Flag!

As well as the usual informal networking this event will also give the opportunity to give your opinions about what you want from a green, zero carbon city. This will feed into Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham’s Green Summit for Greater Manchester which aims to inform a new environmental vision for the city region. More details can be found here.


Carbon Literacy Training for Staff. Thursday 15th Feb (1 – 5pm) Business School Room 3.01.

Are you worried about climate change and want to find out ways you can act on it? Want to improve skills to live and work more sustainably? For the first time, we are offering this opportunity to staff as a trial with the hope of offering it to all University staff in the future. This session is for staff only, if you are a student interested in becoming Carbon Literate visit Staff members can register here.


Recycling Game. Friday 16th Feb. Brooks.

At Manchester Met we have committed to recycling 60% of all waste by 2020. To get there we need your help to reduce contamination and recycle right on campus. During Go Green Week, our Sustainability Ambassadors will be around campus testing staff and students, playing our recycling game. Visit their stall, play the game, test your knowledge and receive a free sustainability–themed gift. No need to register, just visit our stand near the main entrance.



Film Screening: What the health. Friday 16th Feb (2- 3.45pm) Business School LT G33.

What the Health is the ground-breaking follow-up film from the creators of the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy. The film exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollar, and keeping us sick. Open to all, register here





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