Event report: #Reclaim the hour #Manchester #ReclaimMCR

NB This post is nothing to do with/about the excellent “Reclaim” project

On the plus side, this time there were chairs to sit on and decent speakers. On the downside, this time there was no wine to wash down the general incompetence and the same delusional self-congratulatory irrelevant wankery by the so-called “Manchester Climate Change Agency.” (It is not actually an ‘agency’ in the sense of a statutory body which can be forced to release basic information about itself’; instead it is a community interest company with delusions of competence, entirely funded by Manchester City Council).

The event called “Resource, Reuse, Reclaim” and was held in a noisy and hard-to-find building on Manchester Metropolitan University campus. The forty or so (overwhelmingly white, and young but for a few old farts like me) people were treated to a rambling introduction that pointed out that we are toast (sort of – it was mostly about the increase in resource use since the 1950s, what Anthropocene scholars call (though this wasn’t mentioned tonight) ‘the Great Acceleration‘.

There was of course nothing on the Great Deceleration in Manchester since 2010 – the endless broken promises and missed targets of the Council and the ‘Steering Group’ that created this so-called ‘Agency’; the broken promises on carbon literacy training, the abolition of the stakeholder conference (it was supposed to be annual, and a day long. After one in 2010, they couldn’t get their shit together to do one in 2011, held two half-day wastes-of-time in 2012 and 2013 and then abolished it), the failure to EVER hold the promised elections to the Steering Group, the failure to hold meetings in public, the failure to put up minutes, the failure to achieve anything etc etc etc. No, mustn’t talk about how far off track we are. Because you know, blaming the Tories only works for so long…

Instead we had four excellent (and props – all female) speakers. There were people from

  • Stitched Up – sustainable fashion, teach you how to sow look good on a (carbon) budget
  • Unicycle – stopping landfills filling up with students’ detritus, making people feel good
  • Freecup – trying to decrease paper cup stupidity (272,000 a day in Greater Manc?!)
  • Emerge – lots of stuff.  Need vollies to stop food ending up in landfill.

Then there was just too much time for some closing “observations”. The person opened (and this is verbatim) “I’m going to do a terrible job…”

Yes. Yes, indeed.

And then it was over. People headed for the door, I was one of them.

So why go? Because it aggravates a few people? For the giggles and shits, as the young folk say? Or because I want to confirm that they still don’t know anything, and are still incapable of learning? Or d) all of the above. But hell, apparently I am supposed to be “constructively dissenting” , or whatever that means. So here goes, not that they are willing or indeed able to listen.

  • Name badges to lower the difficulty of mingling (lots of people do struggle and either sit on their own or clump with someone they know, making it even harder for newbies to meet. That I am having to type this in the general direction of people who claim to want to create networks is embarrassing for everyone.
  • Have a high-energy start. Thank people for coming, get people to talk to the person next to them/behind them.
  • If you’re not going to talk loudly enough either a) shut up or b) use a microphone, especially if the acoustics are shit.
  • Actually mention the existence of the Climate Change Action Plan, and the so-called “Strategy”. Mention the decarbonisation goal and the ‘creation of a low carbon culture; goal. Explain that the only things that have happened towards the former have been from the national level – the decarbonisation of the electricity grid and improvements in appliance efficiency- the Manchester “climate “policy” gains have been non-existent. Explain that the latter is dead in the water but desperately needs reviving.
  • Mention the hashtag at the beginning of the event, not the end.  Social media #epicfail as the young people tweet…
  • FILM the goddam event and put the videos up on youtube.
  • If you have speakers who are supposed to keep to time, keep them to time. One way to do this is pecha kucha – 20 slides, each of 20 seconds, equally 6 mins 40.
    A bunch of slides for what the project is, what it does, then four at the end for

a) what could Manchester City Council do to help our organisation/idea spread/replicate/grow in the next six months, but won’t because they don’t actually give a shit and are totally incompetent anyway

b) what could the Manchester Climate Change “Agency” do to help our… anyway.

c) what do we need from you, the punters here tonight

d) what could you, the punters, get from being involved in our project

  • have a general Q and A. Oh, and actually answer the questions this time.
  • Have a feedback sheet that isn’t about the single shitty event, but actually finds out what questions people have (and then research those questions and put the answers up on the website) and finds out what skills people have that might be useful.

None of this will happen. The “agency” will stagger on, staging these feel-good events that achieve little beyond warm-inner-glowism until the Council pulls the financial plug and the staff are de-seconded. Cannot happen soon enough.

Posted in Climate Change Action Plan, Event reports, Steering Group, Unsolicited advice | Leave a comment

Training in #Manchester on #divestment 11 March

11-marchFrom March 4th to April 1st, 350.org and People & Planet are running creative action and media trainings in 10+ UK cities, ahead of the Global Divestment Mobilisation and local elections this May.

The fossil fuel industry have been driving the climate crisis and delaying action on climate change for decades. That’s why from 5th-13th May, people everywhere are coming together for the Global Divestment Mobilisation.

Now’s the time to get organised, grow our power, and demand action on the climate crisis – get skilled up to take action for divestment in your community!

WHERE? Central Manchester, TBC
WHEN? 11am-4pm, Saturday 11th March

For three years, the divestment campaign in the UK has been challenging the power of the fossil fuel industry, but now, in 2017, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Climate change has already started to ravage communities across the world. We’re also seeing the industries responsible fighting back – desperately cling onto power and sacrificing our future in the name of profit.

Trainings are open to all, no matter your campaigning experience or involvement in divestment. If you have any questions get in touch with ellen@350.org.

More information on the Fossil Free Trainings Tour here

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#Manchester City Council’s £3m on communications, almost zero ‘carbon literacy’

The wage bill for Manchester City Council’s “communication directorate” was £3 million pounds last year.  Sadly, only 12 of the 77 staff employed within it have completed their ‘carbon literacy’ training – you know, that thing that the Council promised was a priority, that was a major plank in creating a ‘low carbon culture.’

If the people doing the communicating aren’t ‘carbon literate’, what does that tell you about whether this is a priority? It tells you everything you need to know…

Further, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request (basically the only way you can get any information out of the Council), it emerges that there is NO tailored package of carbon literacy specifically for communications staff. It also emerges that NO analysis has been conducted on the efficacy of the carbon literacy programme for comms staff has been conducted, nor is any been planned.

How’s THAT for leadership?


PS  In the reply to the FoIA the council helpfully adds The Communications Directorate is made up of print and mail services, event management, creative design, translations and interpretations, web and digital, media and marketing. Many of these services are income generators for the Council including: print and mail; event management; creative design; and translations and interpretations. The total wages bill for the Communications Directorate in 2015-16 was £2,999k.”


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#Manchester City Council refusing to release environmental minutes (letter)

On Saturday 18th February, the Manchester Evening News kindly published the following letter.
2017-02-18-letter-menManchester City Council has (or had) an “Environmental Strategy Programme Board” of bureaucrats. Its job is/was to turn all the fine words about environment and climate change into deeds.  The minutes of its meetings should be on public display, but on the Council’s own website says  “Minutes from meetings can be requested by email from the Environmental Strategy team at green.city@manchester.gov.uk

In late January I requested the minutes, including the Executive Member for the Environment (Cllr Rosa Battle) and also the Chair of Neighbourhood and Environment Scrutiny Committee (Cllr Kevin Peel) in the email.  A week later, after zero response from anyone, I emailed them all again.  Another week passed without response, and so  had to resort to using the Freedom of Information Act.

Such is Manchester City Council’s commitment to transparency and democracy. We are quick to condemn President Trump  and Theresa May for broken promises and secrecy, but for some reason refuse to be angry at local politicians.

Posted in Letters to the MEN, Manchester City Council, Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Constructive dissent or destructive consent? #howyoucansleep

How does any of us sleep? How do we sleep while the planet burns around us, while the chances for a tolerable old age for people now children (let alone unborn generations) a boiled away in a frenzy of apathy and bullshit as usual?  How do we tell our children – if we have them – that we are doing our best to make Manchester etc sustainable? How do we sleep during the sixth great extinction?

I don’t know. But I suppose, as Alice Walker said, activism is the rent you pay for living on this screwed-over planet. And activism worthy of the name is about ‘constructive dissenting.’ It is not about ‘destructive consenting’, about being a fig leaf for whatever the powerful want to do today. You know who you are.

“While at the individual level this involves changing attitudes, mental models and cognitive frames (see for example Kahneman and his colleagues suggestion about using ‘mental bias’ checklists before important decisions; Kahneman et al., 2011), at the social-psychological level this implies the formal or informal institutionalization of the norm of ‘constructive dissenting’ instead of the ‘destructive consenting’ (Grint, 2005b) characterizing many of our institutions today.
(Kiraly et al. 2017: 141)


Grint, K., 2005b. Leadership: Limits and Possibilities. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Kahneman, D., Lovallo, D., Sibony, O., 2011. Before you make that big decision. Harvard
Business. Review. 89, 50-60.

Kiraly, G. Koves, A. and Balazs, B. 2017. Contradictions between political leadership and systems thinking. Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 140, (1), pp.134-143.

Posted in Unsolicited advice | 3 Comments

Upcoming Event: Low Carbon Heat Infrastructure, 23 February #Manchester

Free seminar, no need to book.

Tyndall Manchester would like to invite you to attend the next talk in our seminar series on “Low Carbon Heat Infrastructure” by Dr. Mei Ren, on Thursday 23rd February (room C1, George Begg Building, Sackville Street) at 4.00pm. 

Low Carbon Heat Infrastructure

Dr. Mei Ren, BuroHappold and The University of Manchester (biography attached)

We have taken our energy supply for granted in the past. A step change is required to understand the challenges we are facing and to achieve the potentials of energy infrastructure which present a huge opportunity not only for unlocking growth but also in achieving environmental and social goals.

This talk will first set the context of why the low carbon heat infrastructure is needed, followed by the initiatives and policies that the government has currently put in place. Successful delivery of low carbon infrastructure needs strong leadership from local authorities and private and public partnership. Business models can be developed to suit individual cities and towns, embracing private sector investment with local authority leadership.

This talk will also describe available technologies and use a number of case studies (which are in varying stages of development) to explain the rationale for selection of appropriate technologies, business model and the lessons learnt.

The seminar will take place in room C1, in the George Begg Building on Sackville Street– number 17 on the map here-  http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/maps/interactive-map/?id=14

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

Having to FoIA #Manchester Council for minutes of #environment meetings…

So, the Council has (had?) a thing called the Environmental Strategy Programme Board. It was supposed to be chaired by Howard Bernstein, but they dropped that fiction after about a year (to my recollection, he never attended a single meeting).  The minutes used to be available on the website, though the council did have to be nudged on a few occasions.  Now this


So on 31 January I wrote to them, and cced in various councillors (the Executive Member for the Environment, the chair of the Neighbourhood and “Environment” “Scrutiny” Committee, et al.).

Dear all,

I do not know why the minutes of the Environmental Strategy Programme Board are only available upon request.

This seems extraordinarily untransparent

I request the minutes of its last 8 meetings  (please note, I am NOT using the FoIA, because then there will be a 20 working day delay.  This page does NOT say there will be a month’s delay in getting the minutes.

I also request that

a) they are posted on the Council’s website

b) they are forwarded as a matter of course to all members of the NESC.

Looking forward to all the leadership on climate change!!

Marc Hudson

PS If the ESPB has been disbanded I would like to know when this decision was taken, by whom, and on what rationale.  And I still request the minutes of its last 8 meetings.

Dear Sir Madam I am requesting copies of the last 10 meetings of the Environmental Strategy Programme Board (ESPB).

I got a reply from one of the other councillors, but not from the “leadership”.  Nowt from the bureaucrat.

A follow-up email sent on 6 February. No joy.  So, this went to informationcompliance@manchester.gov.uk on Tues 14 February.

Dear Sir Madam

I am requesting copies of the last 10 meetings of the Environmental Strategy Programme Board (ESPB).

Given that I originally requested these minutes on 31 January – and repeated the request on February 6 –  and that the website declares that they are “available on request”
I would also like to know;
a) how much this FOIA cost (in terms of hours and expense) to complete, given that I have repeatedly asked for the minutes WITHOUT invoking FoIA.
b) which officer has responsibility for responding to enquiries sent to the green.city@manchester.gov.uk email account and why they have not responded to multiple emails about the minutes
c) when the decision was made NOT to post ESPB minutes on the council’s website, who made that decision and what the rationale was for not simply posting the minutes and being minimally transparent.
d) copies of all communications between councillors and officers about the ESPB minutes from January 1st 2016 to the present day (14 February)
Please consider this a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000


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