Chapter 6 of the Pollinating Change audio book
Chapter 6 of the Pollinating Change audio book
Here’s this week’s Chapter 3 of the audio book
As part of the free samples of the audio book, we’re pleased to give you Chapter 2.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting chapters of the unedited Buzz Tour audio book for you to enjoy for free.
So sit back, relax, and let me tell you a story…
I was delighted to be able to interview one of the brand new stockists of Fit Pit on just their fourth day open. Zero Waste Larder in Worthing is run by Jean and exists to give locals a way to get their goods without plastic or excessive packaging.
It’s wonderful to see a wave of new plastic-free businesses opening around the UK, and we wish Jean every success for her wonderful new rebirth of their family shop.
The trial of the Stansted 15 for terrorism is drawing near to a verdict as the human rights protesters face prison for stopping a suspected unlawful deportation flight.
Many other groups have in the past peacefully prevented flights from taking off, whether because of environmental or human rights concerns. The usual charge for such an action has been ‘being air-side without permission’ or ‘aggravated trespass’, but for the first time the government is using terrorism laws designed for bombers against non-violent human rights protesters.
Amongst the defendants are our friends Mel Strickland who came on the Buzz Tour and Joe McGahan whose interview you can see on the website about hempcrete. Five other defendants are also well known to me, as kind and highly principled people who have done a great deal for equality and their communities.
A year and a half ago the Stansted 15 entered a remote part of Stansted runway wearing pink, with pink protest banners and locked on to a Titan Airways chartered flight to prevent the deportation of at least two people they knew whose lives would be at risk should they be deported – one a lesbian threatened with death by her ex-husband in Nigeria and one a man whose family had already been murdered. One of these refugees has since been granted asylum. The group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) took the action after receiving information about the 15 asylum seekers who were being deported and believing that the Home Office was again acting illegally in it’s deportations.
During my observations in court I saw a video of the defendants walking calmly to the plane before any of the passengers had arrived, erecting a three-poled tripod and locking themselves to it and the front wheel of the plane. In another video police were seen laughing and joking with the group after they were locked on. Stories of violent treatment of asylum seekers were heard including handcuffing them to a bus after it caught fire and a man on another flight who was restrained to death. No charges were ever brought against the G4S employees for his killing.
The trial opened with a solidarity protest of around 100 people at the start of October and has been observed throughout by Amnesty International because of their concerns of the use of terrorism laws to punish ‘human rights defenders’. All the prosecution and defence evidence has now been given so what follows will be around a week of legal argument before the jury delivers their verdict probably the week after.
You can find out more detail about the trial by reading the daily court blog of End Deportations Now. You will also find a template on their website to help you write to your MP and a rota if you would like to observe at Chelmsford Crown Court.
The dictionary definition of a terrorist is
someone who uses violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
The UK anti-terrorism laws are frighteningly and intimidatingly powerful, people can be detained without charge for months and imprisoned for life if found guilty. You can be dragged through the court system for months or years at huge expense and stress, risking losing your job. Coming close on the heels of the imprisonment of anti-fracking protesters I think we should ask whether we trust our system to wield such power. As powerful laws are twisted into new purposes it is important to remember the meaning of our words and the power they hold. The non-violent actions of LGSM likely saved lives, and they do not deserve to be treated like terrorists for it.
My final stop in Scotland was at vegan cafe and shop The Wildcat in Fort William.
It was beautiful to be reminded of the great difference between business’ doing social good because of self interest versus those who do it because of their own ethics. The difference between grudging changes because of customer pressure and businesses who lead the way with passion and heart, even in areas their customers will never see.
Making so many dishes from scratch really shows in the flavours of their organic food. The three part salad I tried looked like a beautiful plate of primarily beetroot and carrot but the flavours really blew me away, both in the salads and in the varied deeply flavoured dressings. The sandwich I had was an unusual vegetable filling mix and again it was really satisfying both in it’s rich savouriness and how filling it was.
I recommend trying as many unusual dishes as you can whilst you sip your ethically sourced coffee and browse the positive environmental books. Whether you normally eat vegan or not, if you are near the Scottish Highlands, make a beeline for The Wildcat and your taste buds will celebrate you for it.
It is with great delight I can update that the Frack Free three were freed (anyone want to make that a song?) from prison on Wednesday after a successful appeal.
The appeal judge ruled the custodial sentence to be ‘excessive’ and they were freed on a two year conditional discharge. Thank you and well done to everyone who supported them and the campaign during this difficult time. The judge who originally sentenced them case has a family connection with the fracking industry which is being investigated. There is a lot more work to stop fracking and in the words of the campaigners:
UNTIL WE WIN!
During my work with Reclaim the Power I had the pleasure of working with Richard, Rich and Roscoe, friendly, kind and dedicated campaigners who now as part of the Frack Free Four have shockingly become the first anti-fracking protesters to be sent to prison… for 15 months. And who need support, both personally to keep their spirits up and to keep the campaign going.
Last July they helped blockade a site in Preston where the company Cuadrilla is trying to fracture the land (fracking) in order to extract fossil fuel gas. The process generates large amounts of released greenhouse gases as well as generating toxic chemical waste water which usually gets put back in the ground (because it is too toxic to go to a sewage works). The blockade was part of the Rolling Resistance month of action with Reclaim the Power.
During their trial they were not allowed to use the reasons for their actions (stopping fracking) as a defense. So their actions were reduced to ‘sitting on trucks for several days’ and they were convicted of public nuisance. The difficult and courageous work of protecting our communities and country from fracking is about as far from a public nuisance as it gets.
At this very moment people are gathered in Preston for a ‘Free the Three’ demonstration, but if you can’t be there there are still many ways you can help.
2. Please sign and share the petition to the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the declining space for civil society to meaningfully oppose the fracking industry:
3. Financial donations to the campaign support fund:
4. Hold an event to spread the word
5. Join the Week of Action against Permitted Development from 8th – 14th October:
The Conservative government are proposing to make exploratory drilling for fracking a ‘permitted development’ – which would bypass the need to submit planning applications to local councils and remove the right of communities to raise objections. This represents a huge attack on local democracy. Find or create an action near you: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/let-communities-decide/
Richard is a piano tuner from London, Roscoe is a soil scientist from Sheffield and Rich is a teacher from Devon. Imagine the impact on your life if you were suddenly in prison for months. It took a lot of courage and commitment to do what they did. Let’s get them out of prison and back where they belong – out in the world making it better.
We’ve begun work on an audio book version of Pollinating Change!
It’s been several years since we published Pollinating Change – The Buzz Tour, and an audio book has been in mind for all that time but it’s finally begun. We’ll initially be releasing the chapters one at a time for you to listen to for free online and then you’ll be able to buy the whole book. We’ve recorded about a quarter of the 34 chapters so far and aim to start releasing them this winter.
In the south of Glasgow sits the grocery store and cafe Locavore which has been farming and supplying local produce for the last six years. I spoke to Kim from the social enterprise about the newly expanded shop and the range of goods they stock to keep packaging low whilst providing great environmentally responsible food and products.
Locavore organically grows much of its food at three sites, just 3 acres in total, within 10 miles of the city. They also run a scheme called Grow the Growers where they help growers gain experience and skills whilst supplying the shop. The founder Reuben started Locavore after working in community gardens around Glasgow and wanted to use a social enterprise to make a bigger difference for sustainable food.
We think at the root of all these big overwhelming global and local problems is the basic model of the big corporations who run the food system. They exist to extract as much money as possible from customers for the benefit of their shareholders. With supermarket chains in the UK holding 97% of the grocery market, it’s not much of a surprise that things are in such a dire state.
The shop stocks a great range of refillable goods including dry foods, spices, household cleaning products and even milk. At the cafe you can enjoy a seasonally grown organic menu with a good range of vegan dishes, salads, a stew, sandwiches and ploughmans. Locals can also enjoy the abundant vegbox scheme. With business in their new larger shop already three times what they expected it looks like the demand for more sustainable options in Glasgow is growing well. I also spotted some hemp tea on the shelves from our friends at Hempen 🙂
Locavore’s principles: Fairness, A healthy environment, Using money to do good, Honesty and Great food
Over the next year I’ll be visiting my amazing stockists around the country, to interview them about their businesses, from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands.
The first stop is Anything But Plastic, an online shop based in Glasgow, which as well as our Fit Pit deodorant also sells soap, laundry soap, toothbrushes, tooth tabs, floss, shampoo, makeup, containers, bags and cleaning products. In the beautiful setting of Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens I interviewed Jenny about her first and very successful year of Anything But Plastic.
ABP is here to help you cut down your plastic consumption. Plastic is the most pervasive man-made material ever, it doesn’t just go away when you throw it in the bin, it’s here to stay. So if you want to help contribute to a world with less plastic, you are in the right place!
My sister Suzanne and I approached a local hotel a few years ago to use their waste jam jars for our business and Jenny told me that she also now reuses hotel jam jars for products. “You guys definitely inspired me and I’m looking for more hotels to get them from too.” When collecting from the hotel Suzanne used to encourage them to stop using single use jars all together. Week after week they would see the jars pile up in the buckets and we would take them away. Until one week they said that they were sorry but they would be stopping using the little disposable jars and were switching to refillable pots on the table. Far from being disappointed we were delighted at the reduction in waste, so it was really exciting for me to hear that Jenny too was influencing her local hotels.
Anything But Plastic has seen a great interest from customers as well as the media and is part of a growing trend of plastic-free businesses. It gives me hope that we can look forward to disposable plastic becoming history.
Eve visited Buddhafield festival for the first time this July to give two climate change related workshops. The festival near Taunton is a alcohol and drug free, celebrating community and connection with the land through music, dance, crafts, yoga and meditation. There are Buddhist teachings and ritual open to everyone.
The two workshops Eve gave were Overcoming Fear and Change the Culture not the Climate.
Overcoming Fear in the Wetheuncivilized lodge. Looking at the nature of fear and techniques so that it doesn’t hold us back. The process can be applied to many areas of our lives but the examples in this workshop were drawn from climate activism.
Change the Culture not the Climate in the Social Change Area. Drawing on many of the experiences of the Buzz Tour we be looked at the types of social change to protect the environment and how we might create system change.
It was the first time I’ve returned from a festival feeling rejuvenated!
The Buddhafield program was packed with workshops, talks, meditation, music and so many options on the giant notice boards that you have to relax into the certainty that you can only do a small number of the activities available. The sound system was turned off at 11pm and I made frequent use of the sauna area so I actually could relax and sleep well. My friends from Hempen hemp farm were there with their CBD food stall as were the Peasants Kitchen with intense seabuckthorn berry drinks. Seabuckthorn grows in coastal areas and the bright orange juice has extremely high amounts of vitamins including vitamin C. A diet of raw chocolate CBD flapjacks, with apple juice and seabuckthorn to wash it down had me glowing by the time I left the festival.
When we have the time to reflect on our lives, we can make a choice. We’ve explored a lot of tactics and ideas in the Buzz Tour, and for New Year I’d like to bring them together to look at an overview.
It could be that you’re seeking inspiration on what work to give your purpose to, or it could be that your work has begun to take, rather than give, you energy. A change is as good as a rest, so I hope this summary is a useful tool for your reflections.
I use three categories when thinking about change work: System Change, Inner Change and Protection & Restoration. They overlap and we need all three types of work. Different people and at different times in their life will act through different methods. System Change involves changing the system and the choices we live within, Inner Change is about changing the way that we and others think and feel, Protection and Restoration is drawing a line to protect earth’s remaining resources and bringing them back. These categories are similar to Joanna Macey’s three dimensions of the Great Turning.
A great deal of the environmental work that we are familiar with would come under Protect and Restore – traditional environmental ‘conservation’ as well as protest/protection for specific places. With the devastating collapse in biodiversity and life around the planet it is essential that life be protected if we are to have anything left by the time we succeed in changing our culture’s direction. However, Protection and Restoration work only slows the erosion of the planet – there are too few of us to defend everything, all the time.
Inner Change would include facing and processing our thoughts and emotions so that we can work more effectively and make better choices in our lives. We could change a system to one less harmful, but if we do not change ourselves, we will eventually change it back and repeat our mistakes. Joanna Macy’s Active Hope or the courses at Embercombe are work of this kind – to assist people to change themselves. If a group of people experience an inner change leading to shared behavioural change, we effectively see a cultural change in that group. However, Inner change is usually slow. We can not expect the majority of people on the planet to have a change of heart in time to save us.
System Change work is harder to pin down. Most of what we do in our lives is predetermined by the system of choices we are presented with. The emotionally connected planning officer who agrees with the protectors and doesn’t want to see a ‘development’ will still approve it, if that is what the remit of her job and rules dictate. So what does it take to change a system?
The power to change a system is dispersed amongst different roles and people who make up the system. Usually each member of the system believes the power to change it sits with someone else. Believing you have power, and using it, is the first step.
Let’s say that our planning officer speaks up to other officers around the country and they agree the planning system is wrong. They coordinate and within their councils, internally call for the system to change…but nothing happens. Then they publicly call for it to be changed…and are disciplined, bringing members of the public onto their side and involving trade unions. Then they publicly resign in protest, leaving councils in turmoil, making news and leading to sympathy strikes. The escalating public pressure leads to a change in development legislation.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will…If there is no struggle there is no progress… I am aware that the insurrectionary movements of the slaves were held by many to be prejudicial to their cause. This is said now of such movements at the South. The answer is that abolition followed close on the heels of insurrection in the West Indies, and Virginia was never nearer emancipation than when General Turner kindled the fires of insurrection at Southampton.
We all believe we are powerless on certain issues we care about. But it is a lie. However much others may use the threat of power to contain us we always have some measure of choice and power. How can you use your power with others to change our future?
MPs may believe they are powerless to change the law without large public pressure against the pressure from developers. In the story of our planning officer, she doesn’t make law yet she takes the power to change it. If we want to change a system, we must believe that we can. If we want change, we must reclaim and use our power to get it. Standing together, we must step out of silent acceptance and into the future that we create.
I wish us all a happy new leaf.
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time on an organic hemp farm, and although I knew that hemp was an amazing plant, I knew it in an abstract sort of way. But let me show you just one of the twenty thousand odd uses for this wonder plant – hempcrete to build and insulate our houses.
Wet the hemp stalks, break out the white fiber inside and break it into small peices. Then mix with lime and pack into a frame in the wall. When it dries it will insulate and moderate the temperature and moisture of the building! The hempcrete is not load bearing, so if you aren’t putting it onto an existing wall, your timber or other building frame is the load bearing part. Because the hemp is a plant, you will be locking up carbon out of the atmosphere, so you can sequester carbon whilst improving your home.
If you’d like to learn more about hempcrete check out UKHempcrete.
Do you have that feeling that the housing market isn’t quite working? That developers are making money but communities don’t benefit much? Community land trusts are one way that communities are taking back the power over their housing. I spoke with Charlie from Oxfordshire Community Land Trust about their work and their latest campaign to create affordable housing in Oxford.
A community land trust protects land and property assets and makes them affordable for the community, whether it be for work, housing or leisure.
Their legal structures could be Industrial and Provident Societies for the Benefit of the Community, Community Interest Companies, Charitable Trusts or Companies Limited by Guarantee, but the principles are the same – ensure that assets benefits the community and not outside companies.
In Oxford at the moment Homes for Oxford, another community group is working with the trust to fundraise for their own housing development. You can learn more and donate to the work here.
What are some of the ties that hold us down and prevent us from living a life that we believe in, a life that benefits those around us and makes us feel fulfilled? For many people the answer is simply needing to pay the bills, being caught in a cycle of work to pay the rent. If we can remove the wealth extractors from our housing market we have a chance to create housing that benefits our communities, and helps give people more freedom to do what they think is right.
A collective is a group of people motivated by the same issue or working together for a purpose. It’s a little different from a commune in that with a commune you don’t necessarily have a common issue. Why might people choose to live together in a collective? Around the land of La ZAD in France there are many different collectives. I spoke to members of the collective at La Rolandiere about what it was like to live there together.
After a six day ride from Grow Heathrow in London, the Time to Cycle crew arrived at La ZAD to share and hear stories about the resistance of airport expansion.
I caught up with some of the cyclists to find out why they had decided to undertake the journey and how it had gone.
Part of the aim of the ride was to build solidarity between the community in Grow Heathrow and that in La ZAD and one of their activities was to deliver letters from residents at Grow Heathrow to ZAD residents. Many residents are shy of cameras and video, having had terrible experiences with media and also the risk of being singled out by police so few were keen to be filmed. The bemused expressions on many of their faces as we in broken French explained that we were delivering a letter I hope will turn to smiles once they are translated.
There are a great deal of differences between the UK and French anti-aviation occupation cultures with, for example, the French being much broader based and not as climate change orientated. On one of the evenings some of the cyclists gave a presentation about the UK aviation resistance and throughout the week of their stay the cyclists were learning about the zone. If you want to find out what’s going on on the ground, a great way to do it is to just get on your bike and go find out!
If you’d like to find out more about future Time to Cycle rides you can sign up for updates on their website.
The ZAD (Zone A Defendre or Zone to Defend) in France is variously described as an occupation, a no-go area of radical militants, a resistance community, and the proposed second airport for Nantes. During my first visit to La ZAD I explored some of the reasons that people have made this beautiful place their home.
Cycling or driving into La ZAD you may be unaware that you have entered it but after a time you may come to a signpost which no longer has a place name, but instead has ‘ZAD’ spray painted pointing in each direction. Or you may come across a road with artistic barricades, a burnt out car with plants growing through it, or damaged tarmac. Whilst now, all is peaceful farmland, gardens and communities of hand-built houses, it’s clear that something big happened here a few years ago. If you want to orientate yourself and begin to explore this special place, the best place to start is La Rolandiere.
The approximately 1600 Ha of the zone is a place of creativity and independence, of living on the margins and finding a way to make it work. People build knowing that in the future the police and airport will try to tear it down, to build an airport next to another one which is only at 30% capacity. Some of the farms use machinery whilst others use only hand tools. Some choose the way they live for ideological reasons and others out of necessity. Police don’t visit the zone, but there seems little or no crime – people leave their doors unlocked and one woman told me that social disputes are discussed quickly (and at length). You won’t find a supermarket, but you can still buy your food. You can buy local vegetables, bread made with flour from La ZAD, or patisseries made with butter from the zone. If you need clothes you can go to one of the ‘free shops’ or ‘swap shops’ where unwanted clothes and objects have been carefully hung and stacked, waiting to be found by a new owner. On a Friday you can read La ZAD news about what’s been happening and upcoming events, and attend the no-market. The no-market is where people donate things and other people pay what they feel for them. The money is then used as a community fund. One of the functions of the weekly resident’s meeting is to decide on the spending of the community fund.
Each weekly resident’s meeting is attended by around 50 residents and can take anything from one hour to four, including times of silence. “I hated them at first,” Koen from Rolandiere told me, “I was really frustrated, but now I really like them. You have to get used to it, it’s a very different meeting style, it can feel very slow and like nothing has been decided. But it is important. The silences give space for people who would not normally speak to say something. And decisions can be revoked later in extreme cases if people were not present.”
To finish the week off, after building, farming or making, you can find residents swimming in the large beautiful lake (it is warm and wonderful, I checked) and playing on the salvaged pedal-lo. Yep, don’t ask, I have NO idea how they got that one.
I’ll be posting more blogs about La ZAD over the next few months as I revisit, but in the meantime you can find out more from their website.
We all need a little emotional help from time to time, and for activists the temptation can be to put their cause before their own well-being. In the UK we have an organisation called Counselling for Social Change which offers low cost counselling and retreats to help support activists in their work. This vital work is able to be offered at low cost because of donations that are made, and you can support them by giving to their crowdfunding appeal which has 15 days left.
I spoke with Emily one of the trustees of the charity about why she got involved.
We want to be part of the world we want to create – and creating that world has to take mental health seriously and offer proper support. This will enable us to be stronger, build stronger movements and help in our aim of achieving effective change.