Free journalism training in #Manchester

Looks good!


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Job Alert: Project Coordinator, Carbon Literacy Centre

from here.
I have some fairly, ah, robust opinions (based on years of observation) about “carbon literacy”, but nonetheless, some people think that “this could be useful with the right person doing it”.  So therefore I am posting it.  Somehow I think I won’t be short-listed myself…

Freelance Opportunity: MDNW / Manchester Museum

Project Coordinator, Carbon Literacy Centre pilot
Status: Freelance Contract
Duration: March 2018 – April/May 2018
Fee: £6,000 inclusive of travel costs. Can be home-based or office-based in Manchester
Closing date: 26th February 2018

Cooler Projects/Carbon Literacy Trust, Manchester Museum and Museum Development North West (MDNW) are looking for a freelance consultant to undertake research and scoping for a pilot project to trial Manchester Museum as the world’s first ‘Carbon Literacy Centre’, where individuals can become Carbon Literate – creating a model that is adaptable to museums of different sizes and locations.

The Carbon Literacy Project, originating in Manchester, offers everyone who works, lives or studies in the city and beyond a day’s worth of Carbon Literacy learning: climate change, carbon footprints, how you can do your bit, and why it’s relevant to you and your audience. More than just small, personal changes, Carbon Literacy highlights the need for substantial change and supports each individual to have a cascade effect on a much wider audience – whether it’s in the individual’s workplace, community, school, university, place of worship, or other setting.

This first phase, running from March to April/May 2018, will scope and research different possible models of how to use Manchester Museum as a Carbon Literacy Centre to enable individuals to qualify as Carbon Literate, including how this might be funded and how the model could be replicated by museums of differing sizes, types and collections.

Subject to funding, the second phase will pilot Manchester Museum as a Carbon Literacy Centre during the Season for Change in June to December 2018. If Phase 2 is to go ahead any coordination or administrative support required for the project will be advertised separately.

 We are looking for a consultant with proven experience of working in museums, preferably with a learning background. Experience of working in environmental sustainability is not essential but an interest in the subject would be desirable.

For further details please see the full brief here – Carbon Literacy Centre brief. For any queries contact Lynsey Jones, Museum Development Officer, Museum Development North West,

Posted in Job Alert, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Letter to Mayor’s Green Summit organisers #Manchester #Climate

Dear x,

The wait is finally over! I’ve been on tenterhooks for weeks about whether I’d get a ticket for the Mayor’s Green Summit on 21 March.  I am delighted to have received/dismayed to not have received a place.

I’ve got a few questions (it’s a tic of mine).

Asking on my own behalf/other people’s behalf, what arrangement is being made for people who desperately want to come (for whom the live streaming just won’t give that full dose of much needed hope and faith in the capacity of Manchester’s climateriat to deliver the goods) but were not considered worthy of attendance?

For example, with these sorts of events, there are always people who can’t make it at the last moment (or, worse, don’t turn up on the day), leaving you with a large-ish number of folorn name badges, sitting there like sentinels of a fallen fort. Sorry, got all poetic there. Have been reading Shelley’s Ozymandias, that short poem about the hubris of those who are so sure that they have the answers, but end up dooming their civilisations to ecological devastation. Back to the point: is there going to be a wait list? If not, why not?

If there’s not going to be a wait-list: what if someone wants to gift their place directly to someone else? Surely that won’t be a problem, will it?

Asking on my own behalf/other people’s behalf, what were the criteria by which the decision to give some a ticket or not was made? Was it prior engagement with the issues? Was it for numbers of people broken down by age and sex (because I certainly fit that category)? Was it prior sycophantic and unquestioning engagement with the issues? (Cos then, soz, I don’t). Was there a cut off to exclude people who’ve submitted Freedom of Information Act Requests and written letters to the Manchester Evening News? Asking for a friend, you understand.

Out of curiosity, how many people applied? It would be lovely if you could break that down by borough, and separately, by week – was there an early rush and a tailing off of interest? In the interests of transparency and all.

What is the seating capacity of the venue (I am told it’s 800)?
What is your catering capacity (I am told it’s 400).  If catering is one of the limits (I am reliably informed that it is), then will you allow other people to come if they promise to ‘brownbag it?’

While I’ve got your attention, about these listening events. I must confess it seems a bit odd. Because after Andy Burnham’s election victory in May 2017, the Summit was initially pencilled in for September 2017. Then there was slippage, and last October or so, it was announced for March 21. I am told that ‘Save the Date’ emails went out to Very Important People.

The listening events though, seem not to have happened particularly early (though I did go to one in December last year). Despite six months notice, some are happening only three weeks before the summit itself, and AFTER registrations for the summit have closed (not quite sure how that works – people come along to those events, are told that the Summit registration process is already closed). Almost as if these listening events are an afterthought. Massive apologies if that seems unduly critical.

By the way, were all of the ten boroughs covered? Manchester has been, obvs. And Salford, Tameside, Trafford have single events which are all happening on Monday 26 February, a scant three weeks before the event itself

  • How many of the listening events were specifically designed with BME communities in mind?
  • How many of the listening events were specifically designed with young people in mind?
  • How many of the listening events were specifically designed with ‘hard to reach’ communities in mind (the illiterate, the poor, those with limited English language skills)? What OTHER means (besides filling in an online survey, which requires literacy, internet connection etc) were made?

If you’ll forgive me quoting myself

I’d also like to know what specifically the social media strategy was – twitter, facebook, youtube.

I’d also like to know what the mainstream media strategy was.  Was a press release sent out, were individual journalists at the BBC and Manchester Evening News contacted?  Did stories in fact appear – if so, when?


Very best wishes and looking so forward so very much to the radical, transformative speeches and powerpoints at the Summit, and the charter which will tackle head on the question of endless economic growth on a finite planet, the meaninglessness of the term ‘zero-carbon’,  and the Airport’s emissions for 1001 ft upwards.

Yours sincerely

Marc Hudson

Posted in Greater Manchester, Unsolicited advice, Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

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

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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</

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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.


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