The Elderflower Project

A wonderful woman called Pat gave me a lift to the Green Gathering last summer and during the festival she came to one of my workshops. Afterwards, she was overflowing with suggestions for involving the older generations. I said “I think they’re all fantastic ideas, but I think you should do them.” Tomorrow, at age 66 Pat Smith will embark on The Elderflower Project, an eight month cycle ride round the British Isles to gather tales of wisdom and insight from older people she meets.

DSC_0019

Pat aims to travel around 8,000 miles, pedalling from the Shetlands to the Isles of Scilly, the Dingle Peninsula of Southern Ireland to Lowestoft in East Anglia, starting tomorrow in Ireland.

It’s the best way to travel. I have thermals and waterproofs so I’m prepared for most things. You go slowly enough to meet people – in my case, very slowly!

Two years ago Pat cycled the scenic route home from southern France, a journey of 1,000 miles. Her first long-distance cycle ride was through Romania in 1990, the year after the dictator Ceausescu was overthrown by the people. “Temperatures often soared to a hundred degrees and at times roads would simply disappear but the countryside was beautiful,” said Pat.

Pat has an extra ambition on this journey.  “Wherever I go I want to ask our elders to share a piece of wisdom and a story about why it matters. Older people can be sidelined in society but they have so much experience of life. I’d particularly like to visit people living in eco-friendly ways who want to make a difference to the way we see the world. They are actually doing what so many people simply talk about.”

You can follow Pat’s adventures on her blog and add your own stories. We will feature stories during her journey as well as supporting with an Elderflower Project facebook page. If you’d like to get in touch you can email Pat on pat2africa@yahoo.co.uk.

The Buzz Tour would not have been possible without all the kindness along the way so if Pat passes your way please do give her your support and love to help make the Elderflower Project a beautiful life changing journey.

 

Sama: I invited my mum to a protest

by Sama Bakr

As I look back on 2015, human connections and growth are the two elements that come to my mind. I feel that we are riding a new wave of positive change and this wave is getting bigger and stronger, pulling more and more water into it. It is happening across cultures, across struggles and even across generations.

Version 2

While I had been fed information about what life should be and how I should fit in it when I was a child, I then went through the turbulence of vomiting it all out as an adolescent, to finally find in my young adult years that I also had the possibility to feed.

Last spring, I revisited Palestine in solidarity with the population resisting the illegal Israeli occupation. This scared the people who loved me because the media bombards us with information that is selected and distorted. It dehumanizes populations and gives us the sense of being powerless to situations. It is always the unknown (or the “misknown”) and the feeling of powerlessness that respectively scares and prevents us from acting. So I asked if my mum would like to come and join me.

Sama suggested I join her in Palestine  – I thought of course I can’t – then 10 days later I was there! It was an extraordinary experience being in a country which I have only thought I would read about and being able to spend time with Sama following what she does. Roles were reversed and my daughter planned and directed the trip inspiring confidence and opening up to me a world of like minded people who are doing the things they believe in – fighting for equality.

A few months later, my mum joined a five-day cycle ride that I had co-organised. Heading to the climate negotiations in Paris, 125 of us were building a movement together to take action against climate injustice. On one of the days, we all took part in a mass consensus meeting to discuss how to react to the French state of emergency. On another, we were kettled on the Champs Elysée by riot cops. On the last day, we swarmed the streets of Paris with our bikes, surrounded by anti-capitalist chants and then danced under the Eiffel Tower.

bikeparis

I am so encouraged by grass roots activism and proud of Sama for her involvement.

Activism is a form of global breathing. If we are not active we are letting everything around us die. The more we are to breath, to be active, the more we are keeping this planet alive and staying connected on human level. Our identity in activism is defined by what we chose to focus on and the methods we use to go forward. For this reason, it is crucial for me to share it with the people around me, and most importantly, those who brought me into this world.

It has been an honour to have my mum come on board with some projects I was involved with. Not only did I feel understood and notice a balancing out of our relationship, but also felt I had built an ally in my fights.

None of the learning-teaching stages ever actually end. I am still learning from the elders, still battling to define what my own beliefs are and will still have something to offer back. It is this realization, which happened through practice, of the importance of intergenerational cooperation that has been one of my biggest learnings and joys of 2015. It may not be as simple and beautiful as it was for me to invite your mum to your next protest, but you don’t ask, you don’t get. Balancing out our family relationships can only help grow our solidarity in the world.

Deciding how to decide

The format of how a group makes a decision has an effect on the decision that is made with different methods being more suitable for different situations. So what are a few of the different approaches we could use?

groupdecide

Factors which influence the choice of decision making include: urgency, importance, future lifespan of the group, personalities in the group, group size and expertise. In any group some people will have more personal power than others and this can be beneficial or harmful. It can be managed with a facilitator or by having leaders with the consent of the group.

Chinese parliament

Useful for urgent but not instant decisions. A leader has been appointed and the rest of the group give their ideas and proposals and the leader makes the final decision.

Simply picking a leader does not give them authority on the ground. If the group is not disciplined or practised in following that person’s authority, when it comes to the crunch they may simply make their own choice or follow someone else. This was seem on the D12 Paris demonstration when people followed someone they knew or someone highly visible rather than the person that had been designated.

Hand score voting

Useful where urgent consent is wanted from all in a small group (less than ten). A few proposals are stated, then for each proposal on the count of three, everyone votes with their fingers. They vote on a scale from 0-5 – five fingers for agree completely, none for blocking the proposal. People feel pressurised to agree which can help get a quick decision but the bias is that the most dominant person will speak first with their proposal, so this is likely to be adopted. This is why it is important that several proposals are heard first, so that people know what their options are. The group decides in advance how many fingers is the minimum for consent depending upon the risks – three, four or five.

Majority rule

Used in democratic voting so most people are familiar with this. Suitable when less broad consent is needed because decisions do not infringe greatly on the minority. How you prepare and decide which proposals to vote on will determine a lot of the outcome.

Working groups

Creation is most effective as individuals or small groups. Working groups are a useful model where a small number of people are given authority by the group to come up with proposals. These are then questioned and altered by the main group. The choice of people for the working group is obviously very important for their expertise and breadth of opinion. It is not advisable that everyone in a group should be ‘an expert’ as they will have a similar narrow worldview on the topic that could make the decision less robust.

Consensus

For long term decisions as the process is time consuming. Can be used for large groups as long as the group has a shared purpose and a level of trust. Proposals best prepared by smaller working groups. Useful when decisions affect everyone and the power and personal choice of all people needs to be respected. Proposals are discussed and then voted on. Skilled facilitation is required to ensure that different voices are heard. Points are not repeated, if others agree with points raised, then they wave their hands/fingers. If anyone in the group feels the proposal is against the ethics of the group or would cause them to leave the group, they can ‘block’ it. If someone does not wish to be part of the proposal but is willing for it to happen, they can ‘stand aside’. If there are significant stand asides then the proposal should be discussed further.

Taking a step back and looking at how we make our decisions is essential for us to understand their influence on the outcome and to work with others. As the environment movement joins with equality movements we need to make group decisions with people who have different decision making cultures. Great social shifts are preceded by a coming together of previously unrelated social movements and now is one of those times in history. So when you’re in yet another meeting, with a room full of frustrated people struggling to work together, remember to decide how you decide, and to appreciate the wonder that these passionate people from diverse movements are finally coming together.

Climate Games continue!

FIRST WE HAVE THE LAST WORD, THEN WE HAVE THE LAST DANCE

Attending the climate games award ceremony in Paris was not your standard awards do. What it was however, was undeniably cool. The awards were laser-cut stencils and spray paint, many of the award winners had to disguise themselves or send a delegate to collect the award. The hip band Filistine brought their wireless instruments down into the crowd. And throughout the night the crowd would break into chant. “Ah-A! Anti, anticapitalist-ah-A! Anti, anticapitalist-ah-A!” “What do we want? CLIMATE JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!”

Over 120 teams registered their actions in the climate games and the incredible array of team actions made it feel like a historic night to be a part of. Rather than individually acting to the mainstream media we played with each other and to the crowd. Hacking into the FM broadcaster on the Eiffel tower, replacing hundreds of advertising boards, storming a VW showroom dressed as animals, were all great winners. A highlight amongst the runner ups was the group that had the IPCC report printed onto 150 rolls of toilet paper and smuggled into the COP21 so that as delegates formed the inadequate agreement they were literally shitting on the science of the IPCC.

And it’s not all over yet… The Climate Games website will continue in 2016 for groups to enter their actions. Whether you’re planning and action or just want to cheer up your day you can visit the Climate Games website to see what others around the world have been up to.

We are not fighting for nature. We are nature defending itself.

 

 

 

 

Around 400

Solidarity with the UK’s first climate prisoners

This week the 13 people who blocked Heathrow’s northern runway last July were found guilty of aggravated trespass and being airside without permission and the judge told them all to expect to receive prison sentences. Amongst those facing up to three months in prison are Buzz Tour’s Mel and Kara.

verdict

As their trial began last week, a solidarity demonstration of over 60 people including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, was held outside Willesden court. With banners, giant inflatable cobble stones and solidarity songs we created “the best atmosphere at a court demo I’ve ever seen” according to one participant. The 30 seat public gallery at the court could not hold all those who wanted to observe. And as the guilty verdict was given on Monday people again gathered to show their support. But why am I telling you all this? Why does solidarity matter?

Building up your capabilities and overcoming your fears to take action is sometimes just the beginning. To know that your work is supported and that people will stand by you will make everything that comes next easier. After their arrest, the 13 have travelled back and forth to court, prepared their defence, been through the court system and been cross examined. If they are imprisoned they will become the UK’s first climate prisoners. But there will be many more over the coming years. With climate changing emissions still rising, direct action from the public (for example Groundswell) is also on the up, with increased numbers of people risking prison sentences.

If imprisoned for more than a few weeks you may be unable to maintain payments on your accommodation or fulfil your obligations to your job. As a result many people lose their home and job when they go to prison. Amongst the Heathrow 13 are a lawyer, a environmental scientist and an atmospheric physicist, who all risked their jobs to defend our future and life on this planet. Whether you send an email of support, write a letter to your newspaper, attend court, bake cake, donate money or offer work to those who lose jobs, the support of the environment movement is essential and deserved by those who take risks for the sake of us all.

The defence case was based on the premise that the 13 were defending life with their actions. The judge however refused to allow them to call expert witnesses on climate change, saying that she accepted the threat of climate change but that she did not accept that their actions were to save lives, and were instead symbolic.

As she gave her guilty verdict, the judge called the 13 “principled people”. History is made by principled people taking action. All it will take for a collapse of the ecosystems of this planet is for good people to do nothing. We live in an unprecedented generation of information and choice, where we can no longer avoid responsibility. Although the system we live within makes denial easy and action hard, we can take inspiration from those who do act, and we can give them our full support and solidarity when they do.

How do you practice a resolution?

On one point I disagree with Jedi Master Yoda. There is a try. I’m not saying that effort alone, without wisdom or strategy will win the day, but if you’re thinking of making a resolution this year, I’ll invite you to look at it a little differently. If we’re trying to change the culture of destruction, a good start could be getting the hang of changing ourselves.

For any behavioural change you’re looking at at least a year to make it habit, so the first thing to realise is your resolution doesn’t ‘fail’ the first time you don’t do it. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen, it’s just the start. You don’t ‘keep’ a resolution, you practice it.

To help your resolution succeed here are some tips:

  • Understand the emotions behind why you want it
  • Make yourself accountable by telling others
  • Use role models, supportive people and positive peer pressure
  • Plan the details of how you will do it
  • Record and monitor your progress (we all love those little lies we tell ourselves)
  • Be positive and encouraging to yourself when you manage it AND when you don’t. The point is to keep trying
  • Don’t set unrealistic aims, no one is perfect, so plan for imperfection
  • Only do one big change at a time

persistentThe devil’s in the detail, but so is success. If you’re trying to do something you weren’t able to do before, there are probably some good reasons why it was hard. So how do we plan ways around these?

What are the trigger events that tend to make you slip? What are your detailed plans to deal with these? How are you going to get back on track? What motivational rewards can lie in store for you? What tips and plans could you share with others to help them?

To encourage us to help each other, if you share this post on Facebook with your resolution and a tip for how you’ll practice it, you could win a free copy of Pollinating Change. The people posting the five most interesting tips before the end of January 1st will each get a free book.

If plan and persist you do, succeed you will! Hmmm!