Fieldfares in flight – migrating to Britain from the tundra with the coming of winter

The days tip towards the darkness of Winter. The world of the North comes into our lives. The year stops and takes a breath. It pushes me to reflect on the months past. It makes me think of you Doreen and how you would have loved these times.  You’d have been everywhere. In your element, plugged into the energy of new beginnings. I have missed your presence but I know that you’ve been here, and honour of that I’ll post these words.

Hannah Arendt, when deep in the study of Rahel Varnhagen, declared that this late eighteenth century German-Jewish writer was her ‘very closest woman friend’, despite being dead for over a century. It is over a year and a half since your death Doreen, and you remain of course a friend very dear to me.

As you know, the eighteen months since you passed have been ones of extraordinary political convulsion with the Brexit Referendum, the US Election, the first months of Trump’s Administration and then the UK General Election. At the conference held in your honour a year ago so many attendees, dazed by the turbulence, said “I wonder what Doreen would have made of this?” or “I wish Doreen was here to ask her opinion”.

But have you really gone? I feel now the need for another conversation with you. Let this one unfold in a myriad of directions as they always have done.

I once saw the Catalan musician Jordi Savall[1] perform a concert in memory of his late wife the singer Monserrat Figueras i García. (You too love Catalonia. How you would have been gripped by recent events there.) At one point, he announced “The dead only die when the living cease to remember them”.

Strangely in our discussions we’ve never talked about death, nor about faith. I suspect that you are profoundly atheist. That for you death is final. That when the body ceases to function, there is no existence. I think of the lines of Sylvia Plath:

‘The heart shuts,

The sea slides back,

The mirrors are sheeted’.[1][2]

And a most beautiful passage by John Berger:

‘What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) The hundred bones of our feet are scattered like gravel. It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough.’[2][3]

Perhaps this is how you foresaw it, to be mere phosphate of calcium? Perhaps this is how it is for you? But for me, in these same hours, you are vital and constantly present. Is it not possible that these two realities can co-exist?


Professor Doreen Massey – in the flight of conversation

I’d had the great fortune to meet you through Platform’s work. You somehow came across our Homeland project in the mid 1990s. I think you were drawn to the fact that we too were trying to grapple with the questions of globalization and geography, and to find ways to explore them through the arts. We had the odd exchange until Platform participated in a performance and seminar event organised by Alan Read at the LSE in 2002 called Civic Centre. From then on we became allies and you wrote about Platform’s work and participated in events such as a Gog & Magog performance in 2004 and the launch of the Remember Saro Wiwa Living Memorial [4]at City Hall in 2006 with Ken Wiwa, Angela Davies and Ken Livingstone. Indeed, it was typical that you were the one who built the link between us and the then Mayor of London. Later it was through you that we were invited to contribute to the Kilburn Manifesto[5], a commission that resulted in Platform’s collective essay ‘Energy Beyond Neoliberalism’ [6]which has become a foundation stone for our ongoing work. You have been such a generous ally, and knowing that you are there wishing us well gives us strength and comfort.

You and I began to meet for dinner at Small & Beautiful, a restaurant near your flat in Kilburn, in January 2008 and we continued to do so now and then for the next seven years, with increasing regularity. We talked of everything from class to bird watching, from the Faroe Islands to the Tories.

Of course there was so much that we did not get to. I do not know if you were baptised, or whether your parents were church-going. I imagine that like me, you were ‘ethically, culturally Christian’ but that you lived your days outside the light or shadow of Christ. For me the spirit realm exists in the life world of animals and plants, in mountains and oceans. Your love of birds was intimate enough that surely you too had experienced that moment when, after many years of looking at another species, you were aware that they were looking back at you. The owl turns its head and for what seems like an eon it stares directly at your open mouth. It scrutinises you. It asks who are you? What are you doing? Why are you here?

Diagram of Krafia Fissure, Iceland

I’m looking at what I think was the last postcard you sent to me. It shows a volcanic eruption at the Krafia Fissure in Iceland, an orange burning gash in the grey wasteland. On the reverse you wrote:

“The planet ‘blowing a gasket’? I love this place – it’s the line of fracture where EurAsia and the Americas are most clearly moving apart”

Here is the Earth undergoing its changes with immense energy, regardless of humanity. (How you love migrant rocks).

So what do you think about the political eruptions of the present times? From you I’ve learnt of the idea and the language of ‘settlements’. Of the notion of the social democratic realm and its destruction by the Right giving birth to the ‘neoliberal settlement’. We have talked at length about the question as to whether the neoliberal settlement is closing and a new realm is being born. The evidence for this has been gathering since you passed: now comment pieces everywhere talk of the ‘death of neoliberalism’ and the ‘end of globalisation’.

You witnessed, and wrote about with immense clarity, the destruction of the industrial zones of social democratic Britain and the evolution of the city of globalisation. How then to interpret the shifts that we see around us now in terms of geography? It is potent just how much the politics of the Right are expressed through symbols of space, through the definition of space, from the deportation of ‘migrants’ and the calls to tighten the UK’s borders, to the icon of Trump’s ‘Mexican Wall’. The current battles between political visions are not only fought over race and faith, but also over space.

It is good to talk with you right now about this. Almost all that I learnt from you I learnt via conversation. I confess that I’m a slow reader and I have not read all the books of yours that I should have. Not yet.

Many is the time in conversation that you’ve insisted that a settlement determines not only the political and economic structures but also the way we are. That a person living in 1950s Britain, was a quite different type of person to one living here in the 2000s. Who we are changes as the settlements shift. What then of the nature of the person that is now being formed as the settlement shifts out of neoliberalism into something different? Who are we becoming? Trump, and a number of others that play similar roles, appear to value brazen egoism, ruthlessness and a disdain for moderation over and above notions of truthfulness or respect. And they are profoundly anti-egalitarian. Is this a model of the future? Is this how we are becoming? Or is this the thing that we are fighting against, the shadow to a possible light?

You have always been a fighter. Even in the weeks before you passed you were busy with talks and meetings, papers and articles. Your work has taken place in dialogue, in the heady back and forth of discussion. And you have never given up, despite the political set backs of Britain in the 1980s and the dwindling of the Left in Latin America more recently. You’ve always thrown yourself into the throng, never retreated into cynicism or nostalgia. It seems you were always looking forward. So I’ve no doubt that you are looking forward now.

The passing of your body does not mean the passing of your imagination. It would be a grave error of mine to think that I cannot learn from you now in the way that I have done over meals in that Kilburn restaurant. Of course I can gain insight from looking at the world through the lenses that you ground.

Architectural drawing of the Maes Howe Tomb on Orkney

Several years back Jane and I went to see Maes Howe, the Neolithic tomb on Orkney. I’m sure you visited it too and would remember how in order to gain entrance you stoop along a narrow passageway. After several yards, you stand upright and find yourself in a stone chamber. In each direction there are stone shelves in the alcoves. It is said that when the tomb was in use the bones of the dead would be placed on these shelves. That the living would stand in the chamber and look upon the skulls of their forebears, perhaps some of whom they’d known, and see them at eye level.

Nearby, in the room where I am working, there are shelves with copies of your books upon them. They are at eye level. Your lines of thought are present to me. You built a palace of ideas, a people’s palace with many doors and no guards, and I am fortunate to be one of thousands who find shelter inside it. You may only be phosphate of calcium but your ideas are singing.

I need to linger a while in that palace, to sit in seclusion with your writings. I’m sometimes plagued by regret that I did not meet you more times in that Kilburn restaurant. That I missed out. Perhaps I can overcome that feeling by giving my time in your absence to make you present? What luck to have your words held in your books. Now I can pick them up again and be able to carry on this conversation, trying to interpret the nature of these turbulent times.

With thanks to Jane Trowell & Anna Markova

An earlier version of some of this text can be found in ‘Cultural Studies’ – journal ISSN 1466-4348

[1][7] Sylvia Plath – ‘Contusion’ – 1965 – in ‘The Collected Poems’ – Harper Classics – 2008

[2][8] John Berger – And our faces, my heart, brief as photos – Writers and Readers – 1984 – p101

  1. Jordi Savall:
  2. [1]: #_ftn1
  3. [2]: #_ftn2
  4. Remember Saro Wiwa Living Memorial :
  5. Kilburn Manifesto:
  6. Energy Beyond Neoliberalism’ :
  7. [1]: #_ftnref1
  8. [2]: #_ftnref2


Earlier this morning, a group of us demonstrated outside the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to demand that the bank rescinds its Oct 18th commitment to finance $500 for TANAP – the middle and largest pipeline of the Southern Gas Corridor, and does not fund the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) or any part of the BP led Southern Gas Corridor.

The 3,500km BP led Southern Gas Corridor project – consisting of the TAP and TANAP pipelines – is a gigantic piece of new fossil fuel infrastructure intended to bring gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. If built, it will lock Europe into 40 more years of fossil fuel dependency. The mega project is against the will of communities – all along the route communities have subject to repression, and not been properly consulted. The pipeline is simply not possible without corruption, violence and gross human rights violations. When public banks like the EBRD and European Investment Bank (EIB) fund gas pipelines like TAP and TANAP, they are funding corruption, violence and human rights abuses.

We read out messages from the NO TAP resistance in Italy, from farmers in Greece, and from human rights activist Rasul Jafarov, who was imprisoned by the Azerbaijan dictatorship for 6.5yrs for criticising repression in Azerbaijan and the alliance between the dictatorship and BP:

“TAP is a socio-environmental issue, it is a democratic issue, and it is also an issue of organised crime. It is a global issue, that we are fighting locally, by building networks of relationships and solidarity.”  – No TAP activist, Italy

“Olive trees have always been our bread, our economy, the way of life that this territory has chosen. Olive trees are our memory, like those landscape that they want to excavate, destroy, erase, and that our children may never be able to see and enjoy.” – No TAP activist, Italy

“I believe it is time to demand respect for human rights and democratic principles, including the rule of law and pluralism from the EBRD as well other financial institutions. They must hear voice of ordinary people in countries they foster to assist, and refrain to ignore realities! I fully support current protest and believe much more should be done in the nearest future. Let’s act together!” –  Rasul Jafarov, human rights activist, Azerbaijan

“We are going to resist and fight. If the company wants the pipeline to pass through our region, it will have to pass over our bodies

We have filed complaints, such as work carried out without permission. We have stopped the police and the TAP company. They’ve entered our land without permission, we have started lawsuits but nothing has changed. On the contrary, after a while executives of the company mocked us saying “you see nothing has changed.

Who governs our country? TAP or the government? We would also like to answer that.”  – Themis Kalpakidis – President of the Kavala’s Farmers’ Association, Greece

In solidarity with communities in Azerbaijan, Greece and Italy resisting this mega project, we delivered an olive tree to the EBRD. The olive tree marks our support of local olive farmers in Italy, who have been peacefully resisting construction of the pipeline since the Italian government overturned the decision of the local council and granted approval for the project.

Our protest is part of a coordinated set of actions throughout Europe taking place under the banner No TAP. Not here. Not anywhere. As recently as Sunday night, a massive military action in Salento (the Italian region where the pipeline ends) has resulted in roadblocks and the multinational company has restrained NO TAP activists, using heavy aggression against locals peacefully resisting the project. [2]

The total cost for the BP-led project is estimated at around $45 billion, with $8.6 billion being made available for this project from public banks. The EBRD has already agreed to fund $500 million towards the project, while the EIB is considering granting its largest loan to date – up to €2 billion. Not only is the pipeline against the will of the communities, If built, the pipeline would be disastrous for the climate and will undermine Europe’s commitment to the Paris Accord. Public money should not be irresponsibly invested to generate profits for private fossil fuel companies especially when demand is falling and existing European gas infrastructure is operating at as low as 20% capacity.

The EBRD and the EIB should do the right thing and stop funding gas infrastructure expansion now. 

. Not here. Not anywhere

For stories from the frontline:

  1. [Image]:
  2. As recently as Sunday night, a massive military action in Salento (the Italian region where the pipeline ends) has resulted in roadblocks and the multinational company has restrained NO TAP activists, using heavy aggression against locals peacefully resisting the project. :

Road to Justice. Artwork by Alfredo Jaar, Sokari Douglas Camp, designed by Jon Daniel. See below.

10th November 2017 marks the 22nd anniversary since the executions of nine Ogoni men from the Niger Delta who had been protesting against the exploitation of oil in their homelands. These Nigerian activists – outspoken author and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine – were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha and buried in Port Harcourt Cemetery. The executions provoked international condemnation, yet the continuation of the Ogoni struggle is an object lesson in how a numerically small people can reach way beyond their borders.

Their struggle has intervened in the profit-driven logic of a filthy extractive industry, an industry which thrives on a cocktail of environmental racism and an economy (Nigeria) where oil is 90% of GDP. Yet justice on the ground is still a battle being fought.

The Ogoni Bill of Rights[2] was co-drafted by Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1990, and published by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). It remains a landmark document in what we might now call indigenous struggle. Twenty-one years later, in 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produced its report ‘Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland[3]‘, which contained specific recommendations for the restoration of over 50 years of oil pollution in the land and rivers of Ogoni. Since then, civil society pressure forced Shell to honour its promise post-UNEP, and commit $1 billion[4] to the clean-up. Six years on from UNEP, there are now signs that some steps are being taken in Bodo[5], but the pace is criminally slow. Meanwhile, earlier this summer, Shell caused outrage and alarm by entering Ogoni [6]without prior and informed consent of the people, backed by Nigerian military, to lay and relay pipelines. This brings back echoes of the extreme state violence[7] against Ogoni people of the 1990s.

Last night, together with Culture Unstained[8], we held a public meeting in London on ‘The Future of the Oil Industry[9]‘. Lazarus Tamana, President of MOSOP Europe, ended the evening with a call for international allies to keep the pressure up, to prevent the Nigerian government and Shell from hiding in plain sight. In such a long-term struggle, new waves of energy from international groups, NGOs, cultural organisations, individuals are essential in bolstering morale, but also saying to the oil companies that

We refuse environmental racism. We still see you, Shell, and we condemn your actions and inaction. We demand change.

The Ogoni Bill of Rights remains the foundation stone. An exceptional document, it ends by calling upon those beyond Nigeria to act. And action continues: on 21st November 2017, lawyers Leigh Day will be in London’s Court of Appeal representing an appeal on behalf of over 40,000 villagers[10] from the Niger Delta in the latest stage of their legal battle against the oil giant Shell. This appeal is challenging the decision that Royal Dutch Shell plc has no responsibility for systemic pollution of the Niger Delta by its subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd.

Yet Shell still puts itself forward in England as a good corporate citizen with its sponsorship of the Science Museum in London, and its annual lavish ‘Make the Future[11]‘ event. It believes it can make statements like this with impunity: “We believe the answers to tomorrow’s energy challenges lie in the power of people’s ingenuity, and that together we can #makethefuture today.” Shell’s disingenuousness is staggering, and watch this space for more actions around the Science Museum and Make the Future. But their statement is also a challenge to people in the global north working on low carbon and just transition: as Lazarus said last night, we can sit here in London and talk about electric vehicles, say, as part of a solution to climate change, while in much of oil-rich Nigeria, there is no mains electricity, and worse absolutely no prospect of it. We must square the circle of environmental justice in our organising.

In honour of the Ogoni 9 and the ongoing Ogoni struggle, here is the last page:


  1. Prevail on the American Government to stop buying Nigerian oil. It is stolen property.
  2. Prevail on Shell and Chevron to stop flaring gas in Ogoni.
  3. Prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria to honour the rights of the Ogoni people to self-determination and AUTONOMY.
  4. Prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay all royalties and mining rents collected on oil mined from Ogoni since 1958.
  5. Prevail on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to stop giving loans to the Federal Government of Nigeria; all loans which depend for their repayment on the exploitation of Ogoni oil resources.
  6. Send urgent medical and other aid to the Ogoni people.
  7. Prevail on the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity and the Commonwealth of Nations to either get the Federal Government of Nigeria to obey the rules and mores of these organisations, face sanctions or be expelled from them.
  8. Prevail on European and American Governments to stop giving aid and credit to the Federal Government of Nigeria as aid and credit only go to encourage the further dehumanization of the Ogoni people.
  9. Prevail on European and American Governments to grant political refugee status to all Ogoni people seeking protection from the political persecution and genocide at the hands of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
  10. Prevail on Shell and Chevron to pay compensation to the Ogoni People for ruining the Ogoni environment and the health of Ogoni men, women and children.

If you need to connect or reconnect with this struggle, I recommend this: last month, the good people at University of Maynooth published a new expanded edition of the powerful book ‘Silence Would Be Treason[12]‘  – letters and poems by Ken Saro-Wiwa written to his friend Sister Majella McCarron while he was imprisoned in the last eighteen months of his life. It is a searing, yet intimate, clarion call.

Below are copies of the stunning Road to Justice poster (folds to A5), designed by Jon Daniel.

Contact [email protected] if you would like one. We can also send out bundles for events or educational uses, for the cost of postage.


  1. [Image]:
  2. The Ogoni Bill of Rights:
  3. Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland:
  4. commit $1 billion:
  5. Bodo:
  6. Shell caused outrage and alarm by entering Ogoni :
  7. extreme state violence:
  8. Culture Unstained:
  9. The Future of the Oil Industry:
  10. appeal on behalf of over 40,000 villagers:
  11. Make the Future:
  12. ‘Silence Would Be Treason:
  13. [Image]:
  14. [Image]:
  15. [Image]:
  16. [Image]:
  17. [Image]:

Today we’re releasing new data analysis showing that UK councils invest £16.1 billion in fossil fuel corporations through their workers’ pensions. These investments are bankrolling the companies most responsible for climate change, like Shell and BP.

The councils with the biggest investments in fossil fuels – Manchester, Galloway & Dumfries, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Torfaen – all invest nearly 10% of their total pension pot into fossil fuel company shares.

You can check what your local council invests into fossil fuels using our interactive map here[1], email your councillor about this[2], or get in touch about supporting divestment campaigns through your union[3].

The message couldn’t be clearer

We’ve teamed up with, Energy Democracy Project, Community Re:Invest and Friends of the Earth to release  the data to coincide with the UN annual climate conference that is happening right now in Bonn. We know that only 100 fossil fuel companies, like BP, Shell, or BHP Billiton, are responsible [4]for  71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is what 5.6% of the UK councils’ pensions are invested into.

Image credit: FoE Scotland


It is apt that Fiji holds the presidency for the conference as the country bears little responsibility for climate change but is extremely vulnerable to the sea-level rise and extreme storms that climate change is bringing. Last year’s super-cyclone Winston led to a state of emergency and 42 people losing their lives. During the Climate Conference, The Pacific Climate Warriors representing grassroots, frontline and indigenous communities from across the Pacific have come together under the banner ‘we are not drowning, we’re fighting’ to demand the end of the fossil fuel era in their Pacific Climate Warriors Declaration on Climate Change[5].

George Guivalu Nacewa, Fiji Climate Warrior attending the climate conference, says:

In the Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not a debate, it is our reality. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We no longer have time to talk. Now is the time to act.

Two years ago, governments agreed the Paris Treaty to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees, but the actions of fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP are driving us far beyond this vital threshold. Halting the expansion of fossil fuels is a matter of survival for many communities around the world so the message to councils couldn’t be clearer.

What can council pensions invest into instead?

While the moral case for divestment is overwhelming, it can also be an opportunity for councils to reinvest in public goods, create jobs, boost local economies and drive the clean energy transition.

Photo credit: Westmill Solar Co-operative

Strathclyde Pension Fund invested £10 million in Albion Community Power, that owns hydro stations with capacity to power 4,000 homes. Falkirk Pension Fund provided £30 million for a major programme of 190 new homes, including council housing, in the Forth Valley. Lancashire County Council invested £12 million into Westmill Solar Co-operative, a community owned solar farm.

Instead of risking pensions in an industry that is on its way out and driving our destruction, councils can invest in clean, just future we want.

Pension-holders and unions for divestment

In June, following a campaign by UNISON members that Platform supported, UNISON[6] and the Trade Union Council[7] voted to support fossil fuel divestment. Unison is the biggest trade union representing members of the the local government pension schemes. Its representatives sit on the boards that make investment decisions.

Stephen Smellie, Deputy Convenor in UNISON Scotland and National Executive Committee member for UNISON, says:

Our priority always needs to be to ensure our member’s pensions are protected. We are increasingly aware that investments in fossil fuels are not only harmful to the environment but put the sustainable future of our pensions at risk. We have made progress with a few pension funds taking the steps towards divestment. We need to wake the rest up before our pensions are put at risk with investments that will lose value as governments take steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Take action

We know we can win. Waltham Forest and Southwark local government pension funds committed to divest. The Environment Agency Pension Fund, Haringey, Hackney,and South Yorkshire will also cut their fossil fuel investments. This is just the start.

Three things you can do right now to push for councils to divest are:

  • If you’re a member of a trade union – fill out this form to get in touch[8] and hear about how you can push union-based campaigns for divestment
  • Email your local councillors[9] and tell them to divest now!
  • Share this story on social media. 


Fuelling the Fire is a joint project from[10], Community Reinvest[11], Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland[12], Friends of the Earth Scotland[13] and Platform[14].

Platform would like to thank everyone that donated their time to make this data release possible. It could not have happened without you!

  1. our interactive map here:
  2. email your councillor about this:
  3. get in touch about supporting divestment campaigns through your union:
  4. are responsible :
  5. Pacific Climate Warriors Declaration on Climate Change:
  6. UNISON:
  7. Trade Union Council:
  8. fill out this form to get in touch:
  9. Email your local councillors:
  11. Community Reinvest:
  12. Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland:
  13. Friends of the Earth Scotland:
  14. Platform:

New Report out on the gas industry’s lobbying power[1]

This year we have seen devastating hurricanes and floods, deadly wildfires, and other extreme climate catastrophes. But rather than facing up to the problem and focusing on renewable energy and energy reduction, the European Union is locking itself into another 40-50 years of fossil fuel infrastructure.

A new report by Corporate Europe Observatory exposes the power of the gas industry lobby in Brussels, and the impact it has had on the EU’s energy policies. It explains who the big players are, the tactics used, and the role lobbying has played in the construction of new gas pipelines such as BP’s scandal-ridden Euro Caspian Mega Pipeline from Azerbaijan to Italy and MidCat, the Franco-Spanish interconnector.

According to the research[2], the gas industry:

  • spent over €100 million in 2016 and had more than 1000 lobbyists on its payroll. Some of the biggest spenders are well-known polluters such as Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, who each declared up to €4.75 million last year.
  • secured 460 meetings in the last three years with the Commissioner for Climate and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete, Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič and their cabinets .

By contrast, public interest groups working to stop the new generation of gas infrastructure:

  • spent just three per cent (€3.4m) of the gas industry’s lobbying budget.
  • have one tenth of the lobbyists (101)
  • secured one ninth of the meetings (51) with the two European Commissioners in charge of Climate and Energy policy in the last three years.

Across the industry, millions are spent on PR merchants and marketing campaigns to present gas as a ‘clean’ and ‘renewable’ fossil fuel, providing a ‘bridge’ from coal to renewable energy, or a ‘partner’ to unreliable renewables. But ‘natural’ gas is another name for methane, a greenhouse gas over 100 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a ten year period, and huge amounts of it leak into the atmosphere during drilling and transportation. Therefore it is equally as bad for the climate as coal, if not worse.

Current EU gas plans are not just a disaster for the climate, but also threaten to devastate the communities and environment around extraction and infrastructure sites. The fact that many of the governments lined up to supply the gas are involved in blatant human rights abuses casts further doubt on the trajectory of EU gas policy.

But industry influence has seen the Commission and national governments embark on a multi-billion euro gas infrastructure building programme. It is based on a list of ‘Projects of Common Interest’ (PCIs, projects prioritised by the EU with boosted political and logistical backing) proposed by industry, refined by governments and finalised by the Commission. One example is the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), part of the Euro Caspian Mega Pipeline that would bring Azerbaijani gas to Italy via Greece and Albania.

Rather than transforming the energy system towards wind, sun, and wave power and reducing energy use, the might of the gas lobby is locking us into 40-50 more years of fossil fuels, making it impossible for the EU to live up to the promises it made two years ago at the UN climate summit in Paris. Ironically, more than 100 governments and civil society groups have been urging the UN to remove the fossil fuel industry from the talks due to their blatant conflict of interest in profiting from climate change, but Commissioner Cañete and the EU have been blocking.

We need to break the gas industry’s grip over policy-makers, particularly in Brussels. The EU needs to stop supporting the fossil fuel industry in the UN talks, and get behind those governments calling for a conflict of interest policy. That also means taking action at home and ending the current cosy relationship with the gas industry. The climate needs to come before industry profits, which means introducing a moratorium on all new gas projects until they are assessed against the EU’s commitment to keep global temperature rises to 1.5oC.

If not, either Europe will be locked into gas until the second half of this century, or its taxpayers will be left footing a bill racked up by the gas industry as the infrastructure becomes a stranded asset.

Download the full report here[3].

  1. New Report out on the gas industry’s lobbying power:
  2. research:
  3. here:

A few weeks back, Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife, tweeted the chart underneath. It shows Platform apparently outstripping other UK environmental organisations in terms of our impact relative to our income. We were startled by this, and looked into the criteria and source.


The data was collected for the Environmental Funders Network’s  interesting 2017 report ‘What the Green Groups Said. Insights from the UK Environment Sector’[2]. Ninety-two CEOs of UK environmental organisations responded to a survey about effectiveness in the sector. It’s important to consider that these are CEOs, suggesting not grassroots organisations. The organisations that responded range from the National Trust, Carbon Tracker, Fresh Habitats Trust, Corporate Watch, Soil Association to Greenpeace. It’s also important think about those who didn’t (see p.28 for list of respondents and p.30 for the organisations surveyed in the report[3]).

We contacted Matt to ask how the calculation in the above chart was made. He responded “The calculations were based on the number of votes in the Environmental Funders group (92) divided by income in the most recently reported full year – derived from their websites or Charity Commission records”. Platform got only 3 votes on effectiveness out of a total of 92, but this low number still put us joint 9th in the total list.

Here’s the report’s chart below for the 92 CEO’s views on the overall most effective environmental civil society organisation, where Platform comes joint 9th.


I’ll try to unpick this. Firstly the report is limited by the number of votes/number of organisations/type of organisations who responded. This cannot claim to be representative of the whole UK sector in any way at all, but it is a measure in its own terms. We should therefore approach the statistics and methodology quite cautiously due to the low numbers, and the kinds of organisations.

Despite some wariness about the sample and methodology, it is interesting to consider the finances here. The turnovers of the top four above range from a whopper £137,400,000 (RSPB) to £7,311,514 (Client Earth). Platform’s turnover in 2015/16 was £450,250, and the next lowest turnover in joint 9th place is ShareAction at £1,031,043. The highest is the Soil Association with £12,576,698.  The calculation in the first chart therefore represents the impact that we have relative to our far lower income.

As stated, the data is influenced by who exactly responds, how many respond, who does not. The group of environmental organisations that did respond, or many those that were surveyed, aren’t necessarily those who we would see as natural close allies, although we were happy to see the hard work of UK Tar Sands Network, People and Planet, London Mining Network, Global Justice Now, and BP or Not BP, among other allies voted for their effectiveness. There are also many more grassroots groups whose work is not visible by respondents to this survey, from Wretched of the Earth[5] to Reclaim the Power[6].

This list also in effect promotes a white-dominated environmental sector. For example, the report features a 13-person list of “environmental heroes” – best public advocates for environmental issues as named by the respondents – and it is entirely white. This huge issue is not mentioned by the report. Time for some more caution with the data.

Matt also kindly shared a second chart with us, the one below, where this time the data was calculated by staff numbers.


Both Platform and Buglife still ‘do well’. Platform has 11 staff, all part-time. Buglife’s website shows 29 staff, and Carbon Tracker 25 staff (of whom we can assume some are part-time). The ‘top performer’ Carbon Tracker’s turnover in 2015/16 was £2,576,580, roughly five times Platform’s, and roughly a million more than Buglife’s. Where does this leave us?

Even with some misgivings over the data, what is useful to us is that it gives a measure of visibility over our effectiveness compared to our income.

So, yes, Platform is lean and mean, even cut-price, but you know what,

there’s so much more we could do.

We want to do more, and we want to do it better. We want to share what we have, learn more, spread resources and skills. We want to do better to ensure that marginalised voices are amplified at the centre of UK environmental movements. We want to carry on challenging power and revealing new futures.

And we are constantly seeking greater financial backing at our core to ensure our time is spent as effectively as possible making these changes happen.

So, a big thank you to those who voted for us. But also a very big hello to those of you who would like to help us do this work better, bigger, and more sustainably.

One commenter on Facebook wrote this when she saw the chart: “What great work, and consistently over so many years”. Join us by helping us do it better as we enter our 35th year.

You can donate here[8] as a one-off or join our group of Sustainers, or, email [email protected] if you want to get in touch.

And the other very useful thing about the report is it encourages us to ask:

how do we measure effectiveness?

Who should get to define whether an organisation or movement is effective? Who’s framing the question, in whose interests?

What criteria and methodology would you use?

Thank you to Matt Shardlow and EFN.

  1. [Image]:
  2. ‘What the Green Groups Said. Insights from the UK Environment Sector’:
  3. report:
  4. [Image]:
  5. Wretched of the Earth:
  6. Reclaim the Power:
  7. [Image]:
  8. donate here:

A worker led movement for climate justice came one step closer to reality yesterday as the UK trade union movement unanimously passed a motion calling for a just climate transition for workers, divestment from fossil fuels and putting energy under public, democratic control.

The motion was passed unanimously by the 5.7 million member TUC.

What a stunning win! We’re excited to work with unions and communities to make this vision a reality. Bring on the transition.

Full text of this historic motion is here:

Congress notes the irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment such as the devastating flooding witnessed in the UK in 2004.

Congress further notes the risk to meeting the challenge of climate change with the announcement of Donald Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Similarly, Brexit negotiations and incoherent UK government policy risk undermining measures to achieve the UK carbon reduction targets.

Congress welcomes the report by the Transnational Institute Reclaiming Public Service: how cities and citizens are turning back privatization, which details the global trend to remunicipalise public services including energy and supports efforts by unions internationally to raise issues such as public ownership and democratic control as part of solutions to climate change.

Congress notes that transport is responsible for a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and believes that a reduction in carbon dioxide levels must be the basis of the UK’s future transport policy in addition to building public transport capacity and moving more freight from road to rail.

Congress believes that to combat climate change effectively and move towards a low-carbon economy we cannot leave this to the markets and therefore need a strong role for the public sector in driving the measures needed to undertake this transition. Congress notes that pension schemes invest billions of pounds into fossil fuel corporations.

To this end, Congress calls on the TUC to:

i. work with the Labour Party and others that advocate for an end to the UK’s rigged energy system to bring it back into public ownership and democratic control

ii. advocate for a mass programme of retrofit and insulation of Britain’s homes and public buildings

iii. lobby to demand rights for workplace environmental reps

iv. lobby for the establishment of a Just Transition strategy for those workers affected by the industrial changes necessary to dvelop a more environmentally sustainable future for all, and develop practical steps needed to achieve this as integral to industrial strategy.

v. consult with all affiliates to seek input into the development of a cross-sector industrial strategy that works towards delivering internationally agreed carbon emission reduction targets

vi. investigate the long-term risks for pension funds investing in fossil fuels, promote divestment, and alternative reinvestment in the sustainable economy.

Mover: Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union
Seconder: Communication Workers Union
Supporters: Fire Brigades Union, ASLEF, TSSA



Joseph Beuys’ action – ‘I like America and America likes me’, (Coyote), photographed by Caroline Tisdall, New York, 1974

I’m sitting talking with Caroline Tisdall, a friend who has known Platform since 1986. We first came into contact with her via the producer and curator Richard Demarco: along with him, she was among the first to champion artist Joseph Beuys in the English-speaking world. Beuys’ art and politics were critical influences in Platform’s formation, as well as the insurgent green movement in Germany at that time in which Beuys was heavily involved.

It was Caroline’s photography that helped immortalise many of Beuys’ iconic actions including Coyote (above) in 1974 and it was she who curated Beuys’ seminal exhibition at the New York Guggenheim Museum in 1979. In 1977, she was pivotal in organising the Free International University at the Documenta VI art festival in Kassel, West Germany, where activists such as Mike Cooley spoke about the Lucas Aerospace ‘transition initiative’ and Barbara Steveni described the work of the UK-based ‘Artists Placement Group[1]‘. Far from being too busy to talk with us, from the first moment of telephoning Caroline in 1986, she was extremely supportive, putting us in touch with friends and allies in Germany and helping Platform set sail on a voyage of discovery.

My memory is that in the 1980s when Platform’s early members were in their twenties, we had very little sense of the events that had unfolded in the previous turbulent decade which so influenced our own. Now, over thirty years later, the conversation flows this way and that, and I am able to get new insights into the politics and art of that crucial decade.

Caroline was an art critic at The Guardian throughout the 1970s. She was in her 30s, strongly to the Left, and most significantly a committed supporter of a whole field of politically engaged art that was often formally challenging and conceptual. At the time, Caroline’s politics and position on art was considered provocative. Many voices were raised in opposition to her, yet she persisted in positive reviews of artists such as Judy Clarke, Mary Kelly and John Latham (who with Barbara Steveni formed the Artists Placement Group). Not only did she cover this field in her column, but she also wrote catalogue essays for the exhibitions of those that she supported – for example, Conrad Atkinson. Likewise she later encouraged artists who had been her students when lecturing at Reading University, such as Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn, who went on to form ‘The Art of Change[2]’.

Free International University at Documenta 6 , Kassel, West Germany 1977 – photograph by Bobby Durini

In February 1972 Caroline covered Beuys’ first public action in England. She wrote in The Guardian:

‘Joseph Beuys’ marathon discussion at the Tate Gallery on Saturday was, to use his own title, a ‘Fat Transformation Piece’. The statement on the blackboard behind him read: ‘He who in 1972 can live care free and sleep peacefully despite knowing that two-thirds of humanity are hungry or dying of starvation while a large proportion of the well-fed must take slimming cures to stay alive, should ask himself what sort of man he is, and whether, moreover, he is a man at all.’

I read back over these words and I find it comes as a shock to be reminded just how direct Beuys’ political challenge was to his audience (acknowledging 1970s unreconstructed use of ‘man’). The subsequent public discussion, which lasted 6 ½ hours, covered everything from the question of a radical economic programme to what was to be done about the ‘Special Powers Act’ in Northern Ireland. This one newspaper article reminds me just how deeply engaged many artists were with the political debate and activism in the 1970s.

As we talk Caroline explains how after the Guggenheim exhibition in 1979, she began to weary of the role that she had. The Palestinian struggle for survival gripped her and she took a year out to report from the Middle East and North Africa, during which time co-authored ‘Beirut: Frontline Story’, a ground breaking report about the fate of Palestinians in Lebanon. Once again her work earned her constant criticism and attacks, partly from within Fleet Street and partly from the Israeli government.

By the time our paths crossed in 1986, Beuys had died and the ‘artworld’ had taken a decisive turn. Italian and American male artists such as Jeff Koons, Julian Schnabel and Francisco Clemente typified the move towards an all-powerful Art Market: all attention was focused on the objects of high capital value, and on an artwork as a means of generating capital and storing capital. It was only a matter of time before the phenomenon of 1990s Brit Art, fostered by collector Charles Saatchi, gripped the British art scene and filled collectors’ pockets.

Platform had brushes with that world, but it held no allure for us. We’ve always looked to a river of politically engaged art that ran so strongly through the 1960s and 70s, but was pressured underground or into confrontation. We engaged deeply in the thinking behind Beuys’ work – linking with those he’d worked with, creating artworks in Kassel in parallel to Documenta VIII in 1987, and setting up the FIU England which ran in London for a few years.

‘Oil’ by Conrad Atkinson (2014) – created in response to the campaign to stop BP’s sponsorship of Tate and given to Platform

What Platform made in the 1980s was critiqued by some as deeply unfashionable (I remember one person commenting “You want to go back to the Seventies!”). However, over the past three decades, when capital has reigned supreme in the art world, we’ve sustained friendships and connections with those who fought back against the prevailing orthodoxy, including Barbara Steveni, Loraine Leeson[3], Peter Dunn[4], Conrad Atkinson[5], Margaret Harrison[6], Lucy Lippard,[7] Peter Kennard[8], Suzanne Lacy[9], Suzi Gablik[10], Shelley Sacks[11], Ian Hunter & Celia Larner[12]. We’ve taken courage and inspiration from their dedication and resilience.

‘Honey is flowing in all directions’ Beuys at work on his sculpture ‘Honigpump’ installed at the Documenta VI eluding to the necessity for ideas to remain constantly fluid

These days, I’m filled with the sense that the times are changing rapidly and radically. In the realm of politics and economics, Left ideas considered an anathema since 1979 are rising, against all odds. Caroline says of the 70s that there was a great sense of fluidity, that everything was being rethought, that boundaries between disciplines melted and radical ideas flowed. As Beuys said ‘Every idea must be seized’ and ‘Honey is flowing in all directions’. Perhaps now, that older river is resurfacing? Perhaps it never went away? Now is the time of movement, after the long winter of the intense capitalisation of art.


  1. Artists Placement Group:
  2. The Art of Change:
  3. Loraine Leeson:
  4. Peter Dunn:
  5. Conrad Atkinson:
  6. Margaret Harrison:
  7. Lucy Lippard,:
  8. Peter Kennard:
  9. Suzanne Lacy:
  10. Suzi Gablik:
  11. Shelley Sacks:
  12. Ian Hunter & Celia Larner:

Earlier this week, the Guardian’s Azerbaijani Laundromat[1] investigation uncovered thousands of covert payments totaling £2.2bn from Azerbaijan’s ruling elite to prominent Europeans through a network of opaque British companies. Today, Platform and other organisations had a letter published in the Guardian[2], filling in the blanks in the story.  Azerbaijan is particularly keen to present a positive image in Europe because it needs significant support for its flagship project – the Southern Gas Corridor – despite the regime’s serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and election rigging.

Stop the pipeline – sign the petition and add your voice[3].


Pipeline construction in Greece, June 2017

Just over 3,500km in length, the Southern Gas Corridor is a gigantic piece of new fossil fuel infrastructure intended to bring gas from Azerbaijan across 6 countries to Europe. Earlier this year we traveled to North West Greece to speak to farmers resisting this pipeline.  Here, the Greek section of Southern Gas Corridor – known as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)-  crosses highly fertile agricultural land. Farmers fear they will lose their jobs, their land and their homes. For them, this is a life or death issue and they are putting themselves in front of the bulldozers to stop construction.

Our journey begins in Kavala. Many speak about intimidation tactics by the company, the lack of government oversight and the damaging economic model being pursued. Most of the jobs that will be created are temporary construction jobs, which will disappear once the pipeline is built. In Serres, a gas compressor station is also planned nearby on a floodplain and the communities’ safety concerns have been ignored. There is no emergency plan in place and protests have erupted.

We were born in Filippi and we are going to die in Filippi but we can also die for Fllippi. If the company wants the pipeline to pass through our region, it will first have to pass over our bodies.

Themis Kalpakdis – farmer, Kavala

The story is the same all along the pipeline route with communities pointing to the lack of consultation and repression. In Italy, local residents are standing up to the riot police violently attempting to enforce construction[5]. Threats of night time operations and militarisation of the area are becoming a reality. The pipeline threatens to bust through internationally agreed climate targets at a time when gas demand is declining in Europe and is projected to fall by all models. So why is this project being pushed through against the will of communities and at the expense of human rights and a safe climate?

For the Alivey regime, this pipeline will allow it to maintain its dictatorship – in the last 23 years the Alivey regime has siphoned $48 billion of $135 billion in state revenues from fossil fuel extraction to offshore tax havens[6]. For the fossil fuel industry and especially BP, this pipeline and other planned infrastructure  will allow them to lock in fossil fuel use for the next 40 years entrenching business as usual as the UK and Europe phase out coal. This is why the industry is pushing the myth [7]that gas is a clean fuel necessary for the transition to renewables despite gas’ dangerous methane emissions [8]indicating otherwise. Despite this, the EU has shown extraordinary support for the pipeline, designating it a “project of common interest” and waiving state aid rules[9].


TAP construction in Greece, June 2017


This autumn, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are due to decide on ‘make or break’ billion dollar loans for the project. Turning it down should be a no-brainer. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights binds the European Investment Bank not to finance projects that would encourage or support human rights violations. In March this year, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) suspended Azerbaijan’s membership [11]as a result of a crackdown on civil society organisations. Both banks say that they support transparency and good governance and are official stakeholder partners of the EITI.[12] But there are indications that the Banks may fund the pipeline anyway. After Azerbaijan’s suspension from the EITI, it appeared to do a u-turn [13]and weakened its support for EITI. This week, we learned that EBRD board member, Kalin Mitrev, received covert payments from the Azeri regime[14]. The bank needs an internal investigation to make sure that no other board members have received payments. Right now, it must suspend any decision on loans to its flagship South Gas Corridor project and force Mitrev to make the details of his consultancy work public.

Powerful interests from corrupt dictatorships to fossil fuel corporations such as BP are at play here and communities in Greece and other transit countries are caught in the crossfire. Governments, the EU and public banks need to decide whose interests they represent in this struggle for Europe’s energy future.







  1. the Guardian’s Azerbaijani Laundromat:
  2. had a letter published in the Guardian:
  3. Stop the pipeline – sign the petition and add your voice:
  4. [Image]:
  5. In Italy, local residents are standing up to the riot police violently attempting to enforce construction:
  6. offshore tax havens:
  7. pushing the myth :
  8. dangerous methane emissions :
  9. state aid rules:
  10. [Image]:
  11. suspended Azerbaijan’s membership :
  12. official stakeholder partners of the EITI.:
  13. do a u-turn :
  14. received covert payments from the Azeri regime: