This piece is a guest post by the brilliant by Suzanne Dhaliwal, [1]Director of No Tar Sands.[2]

If any other outlet would like to host this piece on their website as well, we’d be delighted to share it with your audience. Please contact us at [email protected], for original photos, graphics, and text. 


Reopening of Lloyds underwriting hall grand washed out by demands to halt fuelling climate catastrophe. 

Climate justice activists welcomed Lloyds of London employees back from furlough this morning[3] with the clear message that nothing short of “washing their hands of fossil fuels” would make the financial giant any different from who they were in March when the building closed. 

A picture of a group of activists outside Lloyds of London, with a quote from campaigner Robert Noyes.

Activists welcome staff back to Lloyds of London, in solidarity with indigenous frontline campaigners.

In an attempt to catch up to the sweeping demands for social and ecological justice in 2020 Lloyds of London had planned to reopen its doors[4] to its famous underwriting room in an attempt to rebrand as the ‘woke’ innovative financiers of Century.[5] However, the shiny new  “connectivity bar” and private “digital booths” which will support those returning to work in a world changed by coronavirus adapt to shifts in digital systems and to meet the demand for increased virtual meetings are inadequate to meet the needs of a world reeling from daily climate catastrophes, increased land grabs, sexual violence and exploitation of indigenous lands amidst coronavirus.


In recent years[6] insurance has become a central target for climate campaigners given the need to increase the levers to pull both investments and underwriting out of carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal and tar sands[7]. Whilst other insurance financiers are finally bowing to the pressure and making definitive plans to withdraw investments and underwriting of highly polluting fossil fuels, Lloyds continues to perform as though they were immune to the climate crisis, market forces of their competitors and the global call for social and racial justice that goes beyond stop-gap diversity tactics and shiny refurbishment. 


In September last year, a survey by the Banking Standards Board revealed that 1 in 12 staff had seen sexual harassment in the market over the past year, while more than a fifth said that people in their organisations had turned a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour. Speaking two weeks ago to the Financial Times, Lloyd’s chief executive John Neal stated that “it is abundantly clear that we have much work to do, and that we must be impatient in our resolve to get there”. 


However, The standards for accountability from policing, governments and corporations have undergone a seismic shift and it is not enough to present staffing restructuring, basic diversity goals as progress anymore. 


Lloyd’s of London, is proud to be credited with having invented the concept of insurance in a coffee house in 1686, however with that legacy[8] comes complicity in the slave trade and colonial explorations which brought with them death, disease and destruction.  Although Lloyds has acknowledged its role in the global slave trade[9] it seems to lack the awareness that reparations need to go beyond the staffing decisions in the London headquarters. 


Colonialism never really ended, the exploitation of Indigenous lands, the violation of their sovereign rights, and the social devastation from comes from the violence which accompanies extraction projects continue more so than ever to this day, and have seen an increase of the risk posed as construction has not been halted on indigenous lands due to coronavirus, if anything they have increased as mining companies to take advantage of the lockdown. 


This summer Zurich withdrew financing of the Trans Mountain pipeline, one of the planned tar sands pipeline expansion projects which was scheduled to move bitumen from the Alberta tar sands coastal British Columbia[10] and going forward will excludes companies dedicated to tar sands transportation infrastructure including pipelines and railways. 


“Trans Mountain Pipeline is a white supremacist pipeline. It’s white supremacy when they say they have the right to put a pipeline through when Indigenous people continue to say no.” Kanahus Manuel stated.

Kanahus Manuel, of Tiny House Warriors, situating the pipeline in a white supremacist tradition

Manuel has been pivotal in raising the alarm bell on the social impacts of the proposed pipeline, including an innovative campaign which placed small houses built by the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa people, to assert their rights over un-ceded Indigenous land, through which an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline which was slated to carry diluted tar sands oil[11].


The Trans Mountain pipeline was opposed due to concerns around the climate impacts of tar sands extraction, the environmental risks associated with oil spill and significantly the lack of consent and adequate consultation from indigenous communities opposing the project and the epidemic of Missing & Murdered Indigenous women which routinely occur alongside construction projects that employ temporary workers in work camps[12]. 


“Indigenous resistance to tar sands has proven to be an imposing force and it shows no signs of stopping. We call on all insurance companies to stop supporting the tar sands industry. If you are providing insurance to tar sands projects, you are willingly supporting the theft of Indigenous lands and the violation of our inherent rights.” said Dallas Goldtooth, from Indigenous Environmental Network in response to Lloyds dragging its feet on the Trans Mountain Pipeline .

Dallas Goldtooth, from the Indigenous Environmental Network.


Lloyds of London remains one of the few remaining insurers of the Trans Mountain Pipeline despite the high profile pressure to follow market leaders like Zurich who are taking meaningful action[13]. In this current milieu meaningful action means promptly withdrawing underwriting and investment in projects that violate indigenous sovereignty, go against the Paris agreement and face international high profile opposition for their climate impacts or else they can expect to see more action like today from climate activists who clearly see the links to ongoing white supremacy, colonial violence and climate catastrophes that they are are complicit in.


“Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of drawing a line on toxic investments and underwriting and for Lloyds to continue to delay on pulling out of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Adani projects show that they are out of touch with the reality of the risks and pressures that the insurance industry is reacting to when it comes to Indigenous sovereignty and climate leadership. As far back as 2017 we have seen the insurance industry moving in the right direction  French company AXA announced its sell off of €700m of tar sands investments[14].” said Lindsey Bacigal – Indigenous Climate Action[15] “When we found out that Aviva plc held major passive investments in corporations operating in Alberta’s tar sands, including Teck Resource Ltd (Frontier Open pit mine[16]) we turned down a $150,000.00 cash prize in early December 2017, Lloyds is significantly behind in responding to the risks associated with Indigenous opposition to projects.[17]”


The UN has acknowledged that without the respect of the rights of Indigenous People who safeguard 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity and are calling for meaningful impact assessments of the ecological and climatic impacts of fossil fuel projects we stand no chance of tackling the climate crisis head on.[18]

Suzanne Dhaliwal, Director, UK No Tar Sands Network


Without a significant culture shift Lloyds will continue to remain behind the times, amongst its peers since the escalation of Black Lives Matters protests and the successful call from Indigenous Peoples to withdraw from projects which have not sought adequate consultation and consent dropping Trans Mountain and making commitments to withdraw from projects that violate Indigenous rights and future climate chaos is the bare minimum. 


Lloyds also continue to provide back to the Adani coal project, which last week saw the Wangan and Jagalingou Indigenous People’s re-established tribal control of their lands in central Queensland, and have blocked workers from reaching the mine construction. Indigenous People are sending a clear signal to investors and the global community that this project will continue to meet opposition for its climatic impacts and violation of Indigenous Rights.[19] 


The action today at Lloyds was the marker of a new era of market forces, sustained direct action that won’t be satiated with diversity quotas and hollow techno-fix gestures, the coordinated global movement standing with the frontlines of Indigenous sovereignty movements has only just kicked up momentum after activists have been in lockdown. 


The true cost of the ecocide & industrial genocide that has taken place on Indigenous land is incalculable. Right now the possibility of planetary survival & our legacy to the future depends on insurers taking a stand & pulling the financial plug on tar sands pipelines & expansion.

  1. Suzanne Dhaliwal, :
  2. No Tar Sands.:
  3. this morning:
  4. reopen its doors:
  5. ‘woke’ innovative financiers of Century.:
  6. In recent years:
  7. coal and tar sands:
  8. legacy:
  9. global slave trade:
  10. British Columbia:
  11. diluted tar sands oil:
  12. work camps:
  13. who are taking meaningful action:
  14. €700m of tar sands investments:
  15. Lindsey Bacigal – Indigenous Climate Action:
  16. Frontier Open pit mine:
  17. responding to the risks associated with Indigenous opposition to projects.:
  18. no chance of tackling the climate crisis head on.:
  19. violation of Indigenous Rights.:

Photo credit: Anthony Jones at Pexels

Last month I spoke on behalf of Platform at an online event[1] on the theme of ‘People Over Profit and Covid-19’ organised by our collaborators Kate and Ryan at Friends of the Earth Scotland. It was a really engaging event with two other speakers followed by breakout groups and a wider discussion afterwards. I looked at the past and possible future of North Sea oil and crises. The other two contributions were on the history of economic shocks in Latin American and how care workers are dealing with the current crisis. It was great to take part in a discussion with this mix of perspectives. What follows is a summary of my contribution, how it links to the themes raised by the other two participants and the developments that have occurred in the four weeks since. 


Crises in Latin America 

The first speaker was Alberto Villareal, the Economic Justice and Resisting Neoliberalism Latin American Programme Coordinator with Friends of the Earth International calling from Montevideo. He discussed reconstruction capitalism or ‘shock doctrine’ responses that occur after economic crises. He outlined how under bilateral trade agreements, investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) are often agreed which allows private foreign investors to sue the national government for impacting their perceived ability to make a profit.

When the Argentine economic crisis occurred in 2001, due to intense neoliberal policies in the decade before that privatised many public services, large multinational corporations seized on this opportunity and sued the government successfully for a total of $9.3bn in ‘reparations’ because the country was not run exactly as they would have wished. The largest of these was the Spanish oil corporation Repsol who were paid $5bn in government money.

Another shock that was discussed, although this time one directed at the predatory multinational corporations operating in Latin America, was the response that progressive governments in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador made to deal with the crises at the start of the last decade. These governments tried to redirect the economy to value people over profit and to take control of their natural resources and energy provision. But again, they faced numerous legal challenges that are legal under these trade agreements. The UK company National Grid also used the UK-Argentina bilateral trade deal to sue the government for mismanaging the economy in their response to the crisis. Over $17bn has been paid back by these four countries to transnational oil companies. Overall, $32bn has been paid via Latin American countries in these tribunals over the years. Just two-thirds of that amount would pay for the elimination of extreme poverty on the continent.

Under the current crisis following from the outbreak of Covid-19, governments in Latin America like others around the world have restricted non-essential services and travel, have introduced compulsory licensing of medicines and equipment, have nationalised infrastructure and hospitals, reduced foreign investment, restricted exports and implemented bailouts. These all seem like the only reasonable responses that a government could take in response to the Covid-19 outbreak but, again, due to the agreements of ISDS rules, all these measures are potential points of litigation. Alberto pointed out that the legal threats have already begun.

As for what can be done, Alberto stressed that all countries in the global south need to be able to immediately suspend these ISDS agreements. As well as this he said we must:

  • resist the outflow of financial capital from emerging economies,
  • only allow bailouts without strong social and environmental conditions attached,
  • end abusive pricing in the retail sector e.g. supermarkets,
  • ban corporate mergers and acquisitions where small and medium sized enterprises are currently being bought for a fraction of their true value and only making massive corporations stronger.

To build the capacity to fight for these demands of the government, in Uruguay at the national level trade unions, food and housing co-ops, SMEs and the unemployed have begun to form cross-sectional alliances. Alberto emphasised that while this work is vital, we need both international solidarity and solutions. For him, we cannot go back to business as normal and the talk of a ‘Green Deal’ for Europe will mean nothing if the response is not global and just. He reminded us that such a response is possible and that it has happened before. After the Second World War, when the Marshall Plan was developed with the correct scale and ambition, it was designed to aid devastated economies and not just to benefit the donor country. Whether such a response will come remains to be seen, and is up to us to fight for. But having the details of the story explained so clearly was very informative and empowering.


Crises in North Sea Oil 

What is also evident from Alberto’s talk is that these companies are well prepared for these crises. In order for these laws to be written into trade deals that can take many years to be passed, it is clear that intense planning and lobbying must go into them.

This is exactly the same topic that I tried to stress during my talk where I focused on how the UK oil and gas industry deals with crises, what their lobbying looks like and what we should expect to see in the future. By briefly looking at crises from 1976, 2010, 2014, and the present, some themes begin to emerge.

As my colleague James has pointed out many times, the first thing is to say is that fossil fuel companies are used to crises. This is clear from a quick glance at a chart[2] of the price of oil since the 1940s to the present, it goes up and down wildly. These corporations have the experience and the money to be prepared for crashes like the present. 

Furthermore, companies like Shell and Exxon Mobil have been planning for global warming for decades[3]. Not only did they not tell the public they knew of this, they went on to fund climate change denial and lobby against even the most modest climate policies.

In their planning, these companies don’t worry too much about how to get out of the immediate problem, say, a 50% price drop in the price of a barrel; instead they look at how to use that crisis to their own ends. They plan for what is going to happen in two, five or ten years’ time and use crises like this to push governments to change the terms on which they are operating.

This has been evident since the development of the UK oil industry. In 1974 the British state owned 68% of BP. The Minister for Energy at the time was Tony Benn who planned to take BP into fuller nationalisation, and to use the profits in much the same way that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund would go on to. Part of his strategy was to slow down the rapid pace of development of the oil fields.

Benn was also deeply committed to strengthening the role of trade unions in industry, and to expanding industrial democracy in all parts of the economy. Here was a relatively new sector, the offshore industry, that for a decade had followed American culture in which the companies resisted the unionisation of the workforce on the rigs and in the construction yards. Benn wanted this changed but BP were determined that it would not be.

In June 1976, Prime Minister Callaghan revealed that the Chancellor was in negotiations with the IMF for a national bailout. Under the conditions of the loan, as is so often the case, the IMF demanded changes to the way the UK economy worked. BP responded to this time of crisis in the national government and lobbied hard for six months to include selling off 17% back to BP, and they won. They seized on the opportunity to win what they had fought for two and a half years to achieve. Two years later, Thatcher came to power and immediately the new Tory Energy Minister, David Howell, and BP set to work on a further sale of BP shares, raising £290 million for the government and reducing the states’ holding to 46% less than 6 months later. What initially seemed like a set-back for corporate greed in 1974 was transformed in less than five years to the effective removal of the government from any direct influence over BP.

The same trend was to continue for years to come as became evident again in 2010. Since the 1960s it has always been a question of who would pay for decommissioning the rigs when they were eventually shut down. The question of what would happen to the seabed was debated for nearly fifty years. Clearly the oil companies wanted to make the state pay. They had failed at this absurd proposal but after the 2008 global financial crisis, when oil prices had fallen drastically in 2010, and these companies claimed to be on the ropes, they took that opportunity to finally convince the then-Chancellor George Osborne that the state should pay for almost half of a bill estimated to reach £60bn in total. Again these massive oil companies used this crisis to get the government to sign legal guarantees to prevent any future elected government from even changing these rules. Already by 2019, the Treasury had committed £357m to covering one company’s default.

Whereas the two examples show the ability of oil giants to plan for years, government responses tend to be only in the short-term. In 2014, OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, started an overproduction war in order to kill off the burgeoning US shale oil industry- which it virtually did by driving oil prices down, at one point to $14 per barrel. It is estimated that there was a loss of 75,000 offshore and onshore support jobs as a result.

During this downturn in the oil and gas industry, the Scottish government took the decision to respond to this crisis by establishing the Transition Training Fund. This fund was set up to help maintain the highly skilled energy workforce in the North Sea region by offering grants to individuals to support their redeployment through retraining or further education but – crucially – only for such retraining and education in the oil industry. As of 2019, 68% of participants on this scheme kept their jobs or gained new ones in the sector. But the fund was wound up in 2018.


Nicola Sturgeon said in 2019;

“The North Sea will continue to produce oil for decades to come. It still contains up to 20 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. Our primary aim – and I want to underline and emphasise this – our primary aim is to maximise economic recovery of those reserves”

This clearly illustrates that the various UK governments’ responses are more about the short-term, perceived economic benefit than the social and environmental realities that they continue to ignore. What we see here is a government that will respond to a crisis in the oil industry by paying to retrain workers for what they perceive to be a key sector, but would not commit in the same way to pay for training to transition these workers to the fossil free energy industry or indeed any other new career they wish to pursue. 

The Scottish government should be funding oil and gas workers to develop and apply the skills they already have to other key sectors and especially to those with employment shortages such as healthcare, construction or caring services. At the very least, they should be consulting oil, gas and supply chain workers about what they need and want from any energy transition. And if they don’t, then we must, as campaigners push for a Just Transition. If we do not meaningfully consult workers as part of a just transition then we misdiagnose what jobs these workers want, what skills they need and arrogantly calculate that they will be willing to give up what are sometimes relatively secure jobs for worse conditions in other industries. At Platform we have started to do this[4]. And after all, if we don’t consult workers on what they want, how can any transition of their livelihoods ever be called ‘Just’?

In terms of the present crisis in oil, which began before Covid-19 but has clearly intensified as a result: at the moment, it is estimated that, globally, more than 1 million workers who provide oilfield services will likely lose their jobs in 2020. The UK North Sea region in particular is not in an attractive position. Close to a quarter of fields are running at a loss, and cost per barrel is high. Many are reaching the end of life stage. If the industry goes into harvest mode a premature end is definitely a possibility. Already, as of mid-June, 4,500 jobs have been lost in the North Sea[5], with more expected to follow.

All non-essential work has been cancelled and companies have cut down to a skeleton crew. Not only does this mean thousands of layoffs, it also suggests dangerous health and safety standards. It has been reported that before these layoffs were announced an estimated 200 workers, often living in close quarters with one another, were sent home from work with suspected coronavirus symptoms.

The current crisis and economic catastrophe to come has already led to the oil industry obtaining support from the public purse. In the US, the industry was effectively bailed out in May. Last week, the Scottish Government unveiled a £62 million ‘Energy Transition Fund’ for the region. Although in name it promises, amongst other things, a ‘Net Zero Solution Centre’ and the ‘Energy Transition Zone’ we should remain cautious about believing that these will lead to anything close to the radical changes required. How these plans will actually be implemented remains unclear, and it is too soon to fully evaluate them.

However, we know that the oil and gas industry never lets a good crisis go to waste. Deirdre Michie, the chief executive of the industry lobby group Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), has emphatically welcomed the new Energy Transition Fund. She said it is ‘good news for jobs, supply chain companies and energy communities’, and that the ‘significant funding recognises the essential role of Scotland’s offshore oil and gas industry in realising a net zero Scotland by 2045’. It is hard not to think that if this fund was really about a meaningful transition away from fossil fuels at the speed required then OGUK would be more worried. It was only a few years ago, when there was a crisis in oil jobs, that the Scotish government was only willing to pay for retraining in the oil sector. It also seems unlikely that Sturgeon will have changed her ideas quoted above much since just last year. Globally, the oil industry’s new and very public support for renewable energy over the last five years has never  matched their spending[6]. Globally in 2019, 92% of oil and gas industry capital investments have been spent on fossil fuels, and just 0.8% on renewables and carbon capture and storage technologies.   

OGUK continually claim that they are essential in leading the way to a net-zero transition and will develop carbon capture technology, hydrogen and offshore wind better than anyone else. Bernard Looney, BP’s new chief executive, has staked his tenure on a promise to set the company on a path to “net zero” emissions by 2050, with the full detailed plan on this to be unveiled in September. But we have to be suspicious of organisations like OGUK and BP positioning themselves as essential to a clean energy future. This is like tobacco companies saying they should take a lead on getting people to quit smoking. The IQOS brand of vapes, which stands for ‘I Quit Ordinary Smoking’, is a branch of the Philip Morris tobacco company. 

For months now OGUK have argued that without significant government support there will be 30,000 jobs lost permanently in the next year. Yet their industry in the UK has long benefited from government support via tax breaks and other means, and they are using this crisis to claim even greater need for support. Just to be clear, over the last few years companies like Shell and BP have received more money in government subsidies than we make from them in tax[7] – on top of the environmental destruction, it is costing us money just to have them here. So when we speak of a ‘bailout’ it is important to be clear this has already been happening for years. 

And this crisis isn’t just a momentary blip. Goldman Sachs have said that the oil market remains “massively oversupplied”, which will continue to push prices down. The Financial Times has said that the lack of storage for oil won’t improve based on current conditions. We can’t just shut these pumps off, it is extremely expensive to do so and, because they are mature fields, if this were to happen they would probably never be turned on again.

But in terms of the future, the principal asset of that offshore industry – its workforce – could be easily redirected to a green economy understood in the broadest sense. Scotland was promised 130,000 low-carbon and renewable energy jobs by 2020, yet direct employment in 2018 was just over 23,000, down slightly from what it was in 2014[8]. The Scottish government appeared eager to intervene in the recent past when jobs in the oil sector were directly at risk. It remains to be seen if they will act with the full commitment required to meet the long-term challenges that they have so far failed to address for years. 

Whether it’s Nicola Sturgeon, Deirdre Michie or Bernard Looney, we don’t need another set of meaningless platitudes about the essential role of oil multinationals in a net-zero transition. Instead, we need a government funded, worker-led transition to lead us out of the latest in the long line of North Sea oil crises.


Crises in Care 

Following my talk, Carmen Simon, care worker and a UNITE Edinburgh Not For Profit Branch rep, spoke about how workers in her profession are being directly impacted. She succinctly highlighted the link between the work she does and the topics dealt with by Alberto and myself. Workers from many sectors are under increasingly precarious conditions and the response must be to protect all. As Alberto said we must work both internationally and in a cross sectoral way.   

Carmen outlined how workers in the care industry are underpaid, undervalued and the conditions are getting worse. When she started her career in 2008 she was better paid than she is currently. This is because after the neoliberal policies of the Blair government, social care became separated from the provision of health and medical services. It was decided that social care should almost entirely be left to private companies and some charities. Neoliberalism is partly characterised by governments creating markets where they did not previously exist. Large multinational companies lobbied for these changes for years and when they got them passed they acted swiftly and drove down the quality of care. The creation of this market has led to a race to the bottom that leaves clients and workers the worst off.

This has been made extremely evident by the Covid-19 outbreak. The rate of death among care workers is twice that of health workers. Carmen stressed that for all the talk of mismanagement in care homes at the present, in-community care is still being ignored. Aside from the chronic lack of PPE, the government only published guidelines for care in the community workers on the 5th of May, and only did so in English.

Carmen, her colleagues and UNITE have been working together to resist these dangerous and exploitative practices and are in dire need of our support. Personally I think the environmental movement could nearly always do more to highlight the fact that care work is essential in the future we want. This is not only because it is relatively low-carbon work, but much more importantly, it is part of a properly functioning society that we should want to be members of.[9]



After the three contributions we had a brief Q and A followed by smaller breakout sessions. It was really interesting to be taking part in a talk organised by Friends of the Earth Scotland and with most of the attendees very familiar with the situation in the North Sea we were able to discuss the nuances of the sector and problems in quite a lot of detail.

One theme that emerged from the discussions was how to be prepared for what is to come. As was mentioned a number of times, a lot of the corporate deals take place behind closed doors and the public don’t find out about them until it’s too late to mount an effective resistance. How we can be better prepared this time remains an open question. One positive that has perhaps evolved is the ease and accessibility of doing group webinar calls like this with over sixty participants sharing information and experience from different sectors and nations. 

Like everybody in every industry at the moment, we will need to adapt to these disconcerting new circumstances, but there may be some silver linings to be found together.

All the examples discussed by myself, Carmen and Alberto shared in common the idea that a crisis, or at least the constant threat of one, is a necessary condition of modern capitalism, from climate change to care homes. To resist this, we first need to reject the idea that capital and crisis hold a monopoly on our futures. From increased union activity to the government being forced to pay workers’ wages, we have begun to see glimpses of an alternative. Lots of comparisons between the global financial crash of 2008 and the present are made. Although many of these are quite a stretch, there is now a much greater public awareness of alternatives to simply building society back to how it was with a few minor tweaks until the next crisis hits. The examples discussed above alone prove we cannot afford to make this mistake again. Instead we must raise our ambitions much higher and fight together so people always and meaningfully come first. 



Some links were made available by each speaker for further reading by each speaker and are available here:

Alberto Villareal, Economic Justice and Resisting Neoliberalism Latin American programme coordinator with Friends of the Earth International

  • Principles for a European Green New Deal[10]
  • How foreign investors could make billions from crisis measures.[11]
  • Big pharma deal blocking Latin America from accessing coronavirus treatment[12]

 Ben Lennon, Divest/Invest Campaigner at Platform:

  • Sea Change report on UK Just Transition for oil and gas[13]
  • Centre for Alternative Technology report on how fast we could technically transition to net zero[14]

Carmen Simon, care worker and UNITE Edinburgh Not For Profit Branch:

  • Fair work in Scotland’s social care report[15]
  • STUC campaign for a £2 pay rise for all key workers[16]


I would like to kindly thank my colleagues Rob, James and Gaby for their guidance and support with this work.


  1. online event:
  2. chart:
  3. decades:
  4. we have started to do this:
  5. 4,500 jobs have been lost in the North Sea:
  6. matched their spending:
  7. received more money in government subsidies than we make from them in tax:
  8. yet direct employment in 2018 was just over 23,000, down slightly from what it was in 2014:
  9. it is part of a properly functioning society that we should want to be members of.:
  10. Principles for a European Green New Deal:
  11. How foreign investors could make billions from crisis measures.:
  12. Big pharma deal blocking Latin America from accessing coronavirus treatment:
  13. Sea Change report on UK Just Transition for oil and gas:
  14. Centre for Alternative Technology report on how fast we could technically transition to net zero:
  15. Fair work in Scotland’s social care report:
  16. STUC campaign for a £2 pay rise for all key workers:

[From the #ShakeTheSystem team][1]

It’s 2020 and we’re celebrating 10 years of Voices that Shake![2] with an anthology, toolkits, workshops, showcases and more.

This is #ShakeTheSystem: A Decade of Shaping Change

Over 200 marginalised and underrepresented young people have directly been part of the deep personal and community transformation that the unique space of Shake! offers. Many of us have gone on to start our own collective projects, social change action, art initiatives. 

We have influenced 1000s of people, in and beyond the UK, through our politics, artworks, short films, poetry, critical writing, events, trainings, actions, talks, activism, and community support. From our family, our friends, to people in youth work, education, youth policy, funders, arts/culture, community and social movements – we have made an impact.

For the major 10 year anniversary, Shake! celebrates with our family and supporters by: 

  • sharing the bigger picture: the breadth and depth of ten years of Shake!rs’ creativity
  • distilling and communicating Shake!’s impact
  • creating workshops, trainings and showcases to amplify, upskill, provoke, inspire, sow seeds, deepen legacy, influence change. 

What will we make and do?

  • an Anthology of Voices That Shake! movements 2010-2020. Creative writing, poetry, artwork, photography, zine pages, and essays, conceptualised and designed by young people, guided by Art Directors – Sai Murray and Shake! alumna Tiff Webster. Publication and launch, Autumn 2020
  • Showcases of Shaker!s creativity through live performance, also promoting the Anthology, across four cities in England – London, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Autumn and Winter 2020/21
  • Commissioned youth-led research into how and why Shake! makes its impacts modelling new non-extractive methods. During 2020.
  • Youth-led workshops and training with young people, NGOs and relevant sectors, including youth work, education, youth policy, funders, arts/culture, community and social movements. During 2020/21.
  • a Toolkit of Voices that Shake! Methods and Interventions. Youth-written report Toolkits for Transformation, launched and workshopped, sharing the research to create structural change. Winter 2020/21

The Team

#ShakeTheSystem is being led Rose Ziaei – Producer; Tiffany Webster – Associate Art Director; Sai Murray – Art Director and Strategic Mentor; and Farzana Khan – Strategic Consultant and Mentor. Rose and Tiff were participants on the Shake! programme, and bring their insider experience and high-level skills to the project. Farzana was the pioneering Director of Shake! from 2012 – 2018, working alongside Sai as Co-Artistic Director. Sai was in the founding team of Shake! from 2010.


The #ShakeTheSystem programme has been honoured with financial support from Arts Council England for the anthology and showcases. Also from the Act for Change Fund (Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and #IWill Fund) for Toolkits for Transformation.

Also we are very grateful to Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation, and other loyal private supporters. We are always looking for new funders to show their support for Shake!’s work. Get in touch – [email protected]


Voices that Shake! is a project that was initiated by Platform in 2010. It was founded by our colleague Ben Amunwa and team, coming from a burning desire to make a space where young black and brown, working class people could explore and act on the connection between environmental injustice on a global level, with systemic injustices at home. Shake! also aimed to develop a fertile place from which a new generation of powerful creative activists could grow together, to sidestep but also disrupt exclusionary mainstream white-dominated activism.






  1. [Image]:
  2. Voices that Shake!:
  3. [Image]:
  4. [Image]:

27.02.2020 For immediate release 

For further information and media requests: 

Contact: Kennedy Walker E: [email protected]

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal as not in line with the government’s climate change commitments

This comes after charity, Plan B and others brought the challenge. The ruling is a world first to be based on the Paris agreement and could open the doors to further challenges to other high carbon projects in the UK and beyond. 

Heathrow is already one of the busiest airports in the world, with 80 million passengers a year. This new runway would bring more than 700 more planes per day and lead to a huge rise in carbon emissions. This comes at a time with the government’s commitments to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and public awareness of climate emergency. 

Rob Noyes, Divest Campaigner at Platform said: 

“This is bad news for big oil businesses and investors in the oil economy and great news for the rest of us. It comes at a time where the public is becoming more aware of the climate emergency and we know we have to move to a carbon-neutral economy in the next decade. This is a win. The Prime Minister should do the right thing and draw a line under these plans”.


Notes to Editors:

Platform combines art, activism, education, and research in one organisation. This approach enables us to create unique projects driven by the need for social and ecological justice.

Platform’s current campaigns focus on the social, economic and environmental impacts of the global oil industry. Our pioneering education courses, exhibitions, art events, and book projects promote radical new ideas that inspire change.

For further information and media requests: 

Contact: Kennedy Walker E: [email protected]

Author: Gabrielle Jeliazkov (Just Transition, Lead Campaigner) 

Boué’s forensic analysis of the UK’s North Sea oil tax regime[1] explains how tax arrangements have redefined the economic frontiers of the State, handed super-profits to international oil companies and left the taxpayer footing the bill for decommissioning.

The report starts in the 1970s, endeavouring to understand how the quest to break the power of OPEC shaped the British tax regime. The new status quo, built on a liberalisation of petroleum and company profits as the exclusive centre of attention, would “seek to redefine the manner in which states approached the exercise of their private property rights over the hydrocarbon resources within their territories, above all at the level of the fiscal regime applicable to upstream oil and gas activities.”

There are a few important takeaways from Boué’s analysis of British financing decisions. For one, the government’s departure from a proprietary understanding of resource extraction means that they believe that the value of oil and gas resources can only be realized through investment. In doing so, the government casts themselves as consumers of capital, rather than holding ownership over the resources within their land. The sovereignty over Crown resources is then reduced to bargains struck while inducing investment. 

Boué finds that the result, which is essentially the government propping up industry, does not translate into increased exploratory drilling activity or higher rates of profit reinvestment than other places with higher taxation. From 2002-2015, the difference between the hydrocarbon taxes actually levied by the UK government and the fiscal yield if the UK had achieved the same effective tax ratios as Norway was a staggering 324 billion dollars. The UK reduced its sovereignty over Crown resources and does not benefit from the taxing of industry, but does not experience the expected higher investment they used to justify this decision. 

The other takeaway is how important government intention is in energy production. The government has pushed the development of North Sea oil with absolutely no regard for the financial future of taxpayers contractually bound to pay decommissioning costs or the profitability of government subsidising industry exploration. If this entire revolution of the fiscal regime and redefinition of state sovereignty is possible in the name of oil exploration, then a concerted effort by the British government to transition to renewable energy immediately, and do so justly through worker consultation and oversight, is an easily achievable task in comparison. 

Boué’s report is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how the British oil industry came into existence and why its fiscal policies have developed the way they have. 

  1. Boué’s forensic analysis of the UK’s North Sea oil tax regime:

Today is 10th November 2019, 24th anniversary of the judicial murders of the Ogoni 9.

Due to unstoppable widows of the Ogoni 9, new evidence has come to light on Shell’s complicity in their arrest and corruption of their trial.


Ogoni 9

The nine men were elders and community leaders from the Niger Delta who had been successfully protesting against the devastation of Ogoniland’s fertile lands and rivers by international oil companies. The men, including outspoken, acclaimed writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, were tried on false charges and hung by the Nigerian military government.

That Shell was complicit in human rights violations in the oil-rich Niger Delta we knew from Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people’s own Bill of Rights,[2] their irrefutable testimony, their successful peaceful protest, the Ogoni 9’s appalling murders. We knew it from our own research such as Counting the Cost[3] on Shell’s abuses of human rights in the Delta (2012) and Dirty Work[4] on Shell & the military (2013). We knew it from the assiduous work of many others before us, and after us, including investigative journalist Andy Rowel[5]l and the still tireless Amnesty International.[6]

But how much more damning evidence is out there? It seems there is no end to the uncovering of Shell’s crimes when unceasing demands for justice keep calling Shell to account.

We steer you to a blog by Andy Rowell of Oil Change International. It tells of October 2019’s latest shock revelations.

These prove Shell’s intentional corruption of the Ogoni 9 trial, via bribery and witness coaching.

These prove Shell was hell-bent on ensuring a guilty verdict for the men.

The new facts have been forced into the open due to the Kiobel vs Shell case currently being heard at The Hague. After over twenty years of demanding the truth, Esther Kiobel and three other widows of Ogoni 9 – Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula – are determined to get justice through The Hague, accusing Shell of being complicit in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of their husbands.

Andy Rowell’s piece [7]tracks through the sustained work to bring Shell to justice…

…and then comes the lightning strike: live tweets from witnesses on Shell’s bribery and corruption, at The Hague on 8th October 2019. Keep reading.

Esther Kiobel vs Shell, we salute you


Esther Kiobel. Photo: Amnesty International

Justice for the Ogoni 9 – Justice for Ogoniland

Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Barinem Kiobel,

John Kpuine, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Ken Saro-Wiwa


Thanks to Andy Rowell and Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International, and an ongoing tribute to Lazarus Tamana, European Coordinator of MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People).

  1. [Image]:
  2. Bill of Rights,:
  3. Counting the Cost:
  4. Dirty Work:
  5. Andy Rowel:
  6. Amnesty International.:
  7. Andy Rowell’s piece :
  8. [Image]:

This blog is a version of our presentation of the report Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs, and Managing the Phase-Out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction, at its launch event in Edinburgh on 11 September 2019. An abridged version has appeared in the Herald on Sunday[1]. 


We know that tackling the climate emergency means quickly scaling back the amount of oil, gas and coal that we take out of the ground and burn. This means oil-extracting countries have a choice: Option A: start scaling back the drilling now, in a gradual way, with time to build up alternative industries and take care of the communities that depend on oil now. Option B: wait until later and face a much quicker, chaotic shutdown. I know which option I’d choose, but what does it look like?

Scotland’s potential for clean energy industries is huge, with an estimated 46GW viable fixed offshore wind resource (with only 5 GW already planned), and an even bigger potential for floating offshore windfarms (over 120 GW), not to mention pioneering centres for tidal and wave energy. And offshore renewable energy is a viable pathway for firms and workers in the oil and gas supply chains. Many Scottish specialist scaffolding and construction firms as well as marine crews already work interchangeably on oil rigs and offshore windfarms. Other oil and gas supply companies will find applications in advanced water or waste treatment and innovative heat networks, according to research by Arup. Undoubtedly, workers and supply chain firms need support and guarantees to make the leap from old industries to new securely.

Two big questions remain. First, can there be enough jobs in the clean energy economy?

The Methil Offshore Wind Turbine in Fife is the only wind installation currently in UK public ownership. Photo: William Starkey / Fife coast at Buckhaven / CC BY-SA 2.0

We modelled how many jobs could be created over time in some of the most compatible clean energy industries – wind, wave, tidal, and energy efficiency retrofits – in three possible futures (see graph below). In the first future, neither the Scottish nor UK governments do anything else to help the industries grow. In this case, the number of jobs in wind energy is similar to the number of oil and gas workers potentially affected by the transition, but nowhere near enough to actually replace oil and gas employment.

But in the second future, if Scotland and the rest of the UK build as many new windfarms and tidal and wave energy generators as industry and politicians currently say is possible to aim for, and retrofit their housing stock to boot, over three new clean energy jobs can be created per oil worker affected. And in the third, ‘fully renewable’ future (i.e. enough clean energy sources to fully replace oil and gas), job creation over the next three decades is even greater.

For more detail, see Sea Change: Climate emergency, jobs and managing the phase-out of UK oil & gas extraction[2]

So it’s possible to fully replace the economic contribution of the oil and gas industry by betting on renewable energy – if government does its job right. This brings me to the second question: how to make sure jobs appear in the places where they’re needed, and are secure, well-paid, and unionised?

Let’s face it, the offshore wind industry at the moment has a patchy track record as an employer. Hundreds of workers at two construction yards in Fife were left without contracts that EDF Energy promised them (look up the Ready for Renewal campaign if you haven’t heard of it). On the other hand, the Siemens wind turbine blade factory in Hull has provided over 500 stable unionised jobs since 2016.

There’s a lot governments can do to make sure that the transition creates enough good jobs (more like the latter example, less like the former). In countries from France to Taiwan, governments impose conditions on energy companies bidding for contracts to create manufacturing jobs locally. In Germany and Canada, national investment banks work to help new industries set up – exactly the job that the Scottish National Investment Bank could be taking on, and a useful instrument to influence the industry by setting requirements on job conditions, pay and union recognition. Over on STUC’s blog, Francis Stuart suggests several other tools[3] the Scottish government could use.

That’s why we need our governments to change direction, and fast. Instead of doing everything they can to keep the oil industry clinging on, they can make sure that the clean jobs of the future arrive, and are good, fulfilling, secure jobs.

  1. appeared in the Herald on Sunday:
  2. Sea Change: Climate emergency, jobs and managing the phase-out of UK oil & gas extraction:
  3. suggests several other tools:

The US development finance corporation OPIC has just loaned $450 million to a large fracking project in Argentinian Patagonia – despite objections from eight US senators, Indigenous rights concerns, and the climate crisis. The two loans will fund Vista Oil & Gas and Aleph Midstream (respectively sister company and subsidiary to London-listed Riverstone Energy) to frack 110 oil wells and build processing plants for the oil.

Our new research shows: OPIC’s loans are only part of efforts by US public agencies and branches of government to push ahead fracking in Argentina.[1]

OPIC’s Board made the loan decision at its last-ever meeting: the agency will soon merge into the US International Development Finance Corporation, incorporating USAID and other agencies. On the eve of the decision eight US senators published a letter objecting to the loans:

What has OPIC just funded?

According to an analysis conducted by FARN (Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) [6]with Friends of the Earth US and CIEL, Vista Oil and Gas’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project, as submitted to OPIC,

  • Fails to explain how Vista plans to control oil or drilling mud spills, despite these already being a common occurrence in Vaca Muerta operations;
  • Fails to disclose what contractor company will be managing and treating solid waste, and evaluate the risks and impacts of waste treatment. Waste site Treater Neuquén S.A., just three miles outside the town of Añelo, is the subject of a lawsuit led by the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquen. According to Greenpeace analysis cited in the lawsuit, the waste treatment plant has been dumping industrial waste containing hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and radioactive elements directly on the ground in violation of provincial and national environmental laws.
  • Professes incomplete information on some of the most serious local environmental risks: “it is not possible to assess” compliance of the levels of hexavalent chromium, cadmium and arsenic in processed treated water with guidelines; it is “difficult to prove” whether or not Vista’s activities lead to earthqukes; and “details on specific air emission sources are not yet available”.

As FARN points out, Vista negates the need to consult indigenous communities, on the basis that no indigenous populations have been identified within or near the Projects’ sites. However, the Convention ILO 169, signed and ratified by Argentina, indicates that all indigenous communities not only in the directly affected area by the project but also the ones that could be indirectly affected by it (in this case, for example, by transportation, silica mining, or waste treatment) should be consulted.

Although Vista claims to have held a public consultation on the project, the Neuquén Environmental Under-secretary advertised this consultation as only referring to an oil pipeline, not the drilling of 110 wells and construction of pipelines.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry meets with Argentina Minister of Energy & Mines, Juan Jose Aranguren on April 27, 2017 at the Department of Energy. Credit: DOE photographer Ken Shipp

What else are US public agencies doing in Argentina’s oil and gas sector?

OPIC’s newly approved loans are only one of a variety of ways US public agencies and government branches are pushing for fracking in Patagonia.

More Like Texas: US state involvement in the Vaca Muerta mega-project in Argentina. Briefing cover.[7]

Read the briefing (pdf)[8]

Exchanges between US and Argentinian energy officials – at least ten official visits over two years, six of them at ministerial level – have focused on maximising US oil company and investor presence in Patagonia.

The US State Department has taken a strategic interest in promoting shale gas drilling in Argentina, with a multi-year capacity-building programme where US-based academics and officials make recommendations on fiscal regimes, negotiating with communities, and environmental safety to their Argentinian counterparts. There is no public information on the legislative and fiscal proposals the State Department is promoting to Neuquen Province, and whether the province is adopting these.

And OPIC is still considering another $350 million loan to a pipeline to bring fracked gas from Patagonia closer to export terminals.

Read more in our new briefing, More Like Texas: US state involvement in the Vaca Muerta mega-project in Argentina.[9]

  1. Our new research shows: OPIC’s loans are only part of efforts by US public agencies and branches of government to push ahead fracking in Argentina.:
  2. @SenJeffMerkley:
  3. @opicgov:
  5. September 10, 2019:
  6. analysis conducted by FARN (Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) :
  7. [Image]:
  8. Read the briefing (pdf):
  9. More Like Texas: US state involvement in the Vaca Muerta mega-project in Argentina.:

New data shows: last year the UK government supported oil, gas and coal projects in other countries to a tune of £1.8 billion – through UK Export Finance (UKEF), a government department that purports to support UK businesses operating elsewhere. We’ve analysed UKEF’s annual list of loans and financial guarantees, and here’s some of the things this public money will support:

  • Singareni Collieries, a coal mining company in India. This at a time when the UK government has been proudly declaring[1] its ambition to “power past coal”;
  • Subsea equipment for Petrobras – the third part of a line of credit to the Brazilian oil company at the centre of a huge corruption and money laundering scandal[2];
  • Several tranches of direct loans to GE and Siemens to build or upgrade gas power stations in Iraq.[3]

To make matters worse, right after publishing this data, UKEF also confirmed another $500 million insurance package for an oil refinery in Bahrain. In its announcement[4], the agency explains that it considered various environmental and social risks associated with the project. The greenhouse gas emissions, astonishingly, were not one of the risks considered.

These loans and guarantees made up nearly a quarter of UKEF’s overall commitments for the year. How much did the agency support renewable energy projects, in comparison?

0.01% of UKEF’s commitments, or under £0.75 million.

“Stop Backing Fossil Fuels” – projection by Feral X on UK Export Credit HQ, December 2018. Credit Alban Grosdidier

That’s right: renewable energy received less than 0.0005 of the support that went to oil, gas, and coal. While Big Oil walks off with government handouts worth in the hundreds of millions of pounds, the biggest deal in renewables – to a provider of cables to an offshore windfarm – is worth just over £200 thousand.

But there was one fascinating U-turn in UKEF’s investments. You may remember[5] that two years ago the UK government announced a new £1 billion credit line for UK businesses operating in Argentina, and then invited BP and Shell to a meeting in Buenos Aires to encourage them to apply.

What did UKEF support in Argentina in the following year (2017-18)? One oil drilling services company working for Pan American Energy (i.e. BP’s Argentinian arm).

Activists re-enact UKEF’s deals with BP outside UKEF HQ in December 2018. Credit Alban Grosdidier.

In the same year, we showed up at UKEF’s headquarters with a fake fracking rig[6], leafletted every single person working in the building, hundreds of people signed our letter[7] to UKEF calling to redirect this investment, a prominent MP wrote an article[8] criticising UKEF’s approach to fossil fuels in general and to the Argentina credit line in particular, and two different Parliamentary enquiries challenged UKEF on fossil fuels.

What did UKEF support in Argentina in the year after that (2018-19)?

Two projects in road construction, and two exporters of magnets for research uses.

It may just be that public pressure is starting to work.

The parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee recently called[9] on UKEF to end its fossil fuel investments altogether. Now is the time to end these dirty deals once and for all.

PS You can review the full dataset of UKEF’s investments and our analysis here[10].

  1. proudly declaring:
  2. at the centre of a huge corruption and money laundering scandal:
  3. build or upgrade gas power stations in Iraq.:
  4. announcement:
  5. You may remember:
  6. showed up at UKEF’s headquarters with a fake fracking rig:
  7. letter:
  8. wrote an article:
  9. called:
  10. You can review the full dataset of UKEF’s investments and our analysis here:
  1. [Image]:
  2. Fuel for Action: Activism & Climate Change’:
  3. ‘Fuel for Thought’ :
  4. Sokari Douglas Camp:
  5. Nnenna Okore:
  6. Alfredo Jaar:
  7. Ed Kashi:
  8. Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou,:
  9. ‘Ken Saro-Wiwa Lives on!’:
  10. [Image]:
  11. [Image]:
  12. [Image]:
  13. [Image]:
  14. [Image]:
  16. [Image]:
  17. [Image]:
  18. [Image]:
  19. Esther Kiobel, and three other widows:
  20. court documents have revealed:
  21. report published two years ago, Amnesty International:
  22. a previous legal deposition,:
  23. [Image]:

Everywhere is the city. And everywhere is not the city.


The tent at Stave Hill Ecological Park, 2019. Photos: Platform

A small congregation, just a dozen of us, are guided in careful-footed silence along the central path through the cathedral of Russia Dock Woodland in London’s former Docklands. It is 04.30 am on 5th May. Our guides, John Cadera and Richard Page-Jones, draw our attention to the calls of Blackcaps, Wrens, Blackbirds, Robins and Great Tits. There is a gentle atmosphere of quiet reverence on this Dawn Chorus Walk around the woods and ponds of the old Surrey Commercial Docks.

I am struck by how the walk reminds me of a religious service. We the attendees are expected to be quiet. John and Richard, binoculars denoting their office, are the priests, intercessors between us and the birds. They interpret, they explain, they guide us through the time they have been allotted. And we? We pay attention. We put aside our daily cares and attend to the world around us, to these companion species, to ‘Nature.’

The walk is part of Soundcamp 2019[2], the sixth in a series of extraordinary twenty-four hour long art & nature events, held with Stave Hill Ecological Park[3], London. The heart of the festival is a day spent listening to creatures of the Earth through a continuous dawn chorus. Around the globe are at least 75 participating groups – ranging from individual ‘streamers’, to a cluster of ‘amateurs’ or a university research project – who ‘live stream’ the sound of the dawn chorus as it begins to unfold in their woods or forest, their mountains or beaches. Sitting in The Shed at Stave Hill, Grant Smith, Maria Papadomanolaki and Hannah Kemp-Welch, co-ordinate the 24-hour broadcast on the internet, fading in a live stream from Queensland Australia as they fade out one from the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, fading in Kathmandu as they fade out the sounds of dawn in Kolkata, India. And so on, hour after hour, as the sound moves around the Earth.

On the laptop screens arrayed on a table in The Shed, we see the locations of the different live streamers dotted around the Earth like stars in the firmament. The sound from each one floods into this small room as the suns rays opens up the day in Santiago, Chile or Tower Hamlets, London. The map on the screen shows a gently arcing band of darkness and light, this is the blissful curve of the sun’s light, the ‘grey line’ that comes just before the dawn and opens up this singing planet.

Screengrab of Locustream Soundmap during Soundcamp ‘Reveil’ – with Goodluck George live streaming from Mtwara, Tanzania

The event is titled ‘Reveil’ – meaning ‘wake up or alarm clock’ in French – but what is also taking place here is ‘reverie’, a reverie for the Earth. An extraordinary act of celebration, an act of listening to, paying attention to, a beautiful planet. And this ‘planet’ that is being listened to are the calls of birds and animals, the sounds of trees and insects, that are audible to the human ear. These are the songs of the ‘more-than-human’, the voices of our companion species, around the world who we co-inhabit the planet with on this day, in these hours. (Only occasionally are their voices disturbed by, or accompanied, by the low rumble of ships engines, the dull roar of road traffic or the distant drone of a jet.)

Soundcamp coordinates this global event, and central to the initiative are sound artists Grant Smith and Dawn Scarfe. Dawn researches and coordinates Reveil. This remarkable project is tracked across the globe not from some research lab or some arts centre, but from a gem of an ecological park in South London. Soundcamp’s Reveil is in itself a celebration of Stave Hill’s pioneering vision and extraordinary resilience as an urban nature refuge over many years.

In the UK of the late 1970s there was a growing movement for Urban Ecology, which lead to the Trust for Urban Ecology[4] (TRUE), pioneered by Max Nicholson. This gathering of activists argued that ‘Nature’ should not be seen as existing solely in the realm beyond the metropolis, in the ‘Countryside’. But rather it does, and could, exist within the City. That although the urban environment is predominately the space of the human, we are not alone, that we live in these places together with a myriad of other species, from House Spiders to Wasps, from Carrion Crows to Blackbirds, from Plane Trees to Buddleia. That we should see these creatures not as encumbrances to be removed (witness the felling of trees in Sheffield or Walthamstow), nor as sources of anxiety or vectors of disease (as with House Spiders and Feral Pigeons), but these are fellow inhabitants of the city, fellow citizens, companion species and together we make this place that we call London.


Donna Harraway, inspirational biologist and thinker on the ‘more than human’ and ‘companion species’.

Arising from this movement came initiatives for ecological parks, areas of land and water, woods and meadows, set aside to create havens for ‘wildlife’ as it was known then, but which forty years later we might now refer to (in the shadow of the thinker Donna Haraway) as the ‘more-than-human’.

‘Wild in London’ – David Goode’s pioneering book on Urban Ecology published in 1986, with an image of William Curtis Park on the cover. Note too, that it was sponsored by Shell – A Shell Book.


The first park was established in 1976 by TRUE on the land of former dockside next to Tower Bridge and was named ‘William Curtis Ecological Park’ after the 18th London botanist William Curtis. The area of a few acres combined ponds and reed beds, grass meadow and some young trees. But it did not last long. The land once owned by the Port of London Authority, came under the control of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) when it was established by Thatcher’s Conservative Government in 1981, and directly managed by the Minister for the Environment, Michael Hesseltine MP.

The park was closed down in 1985 and when Platform came to be based around the corner at 7 Horselydown Lane five years later, I remember it as an area of ‘wasteland’ hidden behind plywood hoardings and beloved by Foxes. Now the land is the site of the GLA’s City Hall, the Bridge Theatre and a block of many stories of luxury flats. The land itself, and the whole of London Bridge City stretching between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, is now in the ownership of St Martins Property Group, an arm of the Kuwait Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of Kuwait. Oil underpinned the ‘development’ of this land and the owners of that oil-derived capital now generate returns on it through rental. Land which had been abandoned by capital, disregarded as ‘wasteland’ that could be set aside for an ecological park, was now a generator of returns and had ‘value’, indeed today it is said to be some of the most ‘valuable’ real estate in the world.

But all was not lost. TRUE cut a deal with LDDC, and in early 1984 the latter gave over another area of ‘wasteland’ on the site of the former Russia Dock in Surrey Commercial Docks near Rotherhithe. Here was established the Stave Hill Ecological Park.[5] The ‘gift’ of this land by the LDDC took place in the midst of a ferocious battle between the Development Corporation and the communities that were long established throughout the docklands, central among those campaigning against LDDC was the Docklands Community Poster Project, driven by Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn[6] and involving others such as the artist Sonia Boyce. The powerful resistance doubtless encouraged the LDDC to set aside at least some things for the local community, amenities such as the land for the ecological park. (During Soundcamp, Charlie Fox of Inspiral London[7] created a walk from William Curtis Park to Stave Hill, taking attendees through the streets of South London.)

Four years later Platform sited ‘The Tree of Life, City of Life’ Tent on Greenland Dock only five minutes walk from the Ecological Park. John Jordan, Jens Storch, Ana Sarginson, Pete Durgerian and myself all worked around the tent and across the neighbouring area for two weeks as we endeavoured to explore the ‘metabolism of the city’, inspired by a concept evolved by Herbert Girardet. We were visited by some other members of the project team, which included Herbert, Rodney Mace, Teresa Hayter and Nick Robins. On one if these visits Rodney was interviewed on the top of Stave Hill and as he discussed the past and future of the area Pete’s camera panned over the saplings and scrub that covered the infant ecological park, the dock-infill of rubble that had been landscaped and handed over to TRUE.

Now, thirty years on, the Tent returned to the area, invited by Soundcamp 2019 to pitch at Stave Hill Ecological Park (now run by TCV) and hold an intergenerational discussion between three original participants Herbert Girardet, myself, John Jordan, with two younger interlocutors Will Essilfie and Hajra Gulamrassul. The aim was to make a place to reflect on what has happened in the past thirty years and what might happen in the next thirty, to reflect on the period 1989 to 2049.


‘Vision’ by Jessie Brennan. Installation on Stave Hill, spring 2019, overlooking Stave Hill Ecological Park. Photograph: Jessie Brennan 2019; Original photograph: Rebeka Clark, 1986.

Among the audience tightly packed into the Tent, was Jessie Brennan who had also been commissioned by Soundcamp 2019 to produce an artwork. Jessie’s piece was in two parts, one a sound installation in London Bridge Station and the other on the crest of Stave Hill. This latter, an artificial mound, created by the LDDC in the early 1980s, overlooks the Surrey Docks area. (It was from here that Rodney had looked out across the fledgling ecological park.) Jessie had installed a billboard-sized blow up of a photo taken from Stave Hill in 1986 allowing the viewer today to juxtapose the image of bare earth and fences with the woodland that now covers the park.

The piece is, like the Soundcamp, a hymn of praise to the resilience of the ecological park. It has survived, it has resisted and survived. For the land all around has sky-rocketed in capital ‘value’, mirroring the rise in the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf just across the river on the Isle of Dogs. The park has been under constant pressure, from developers who want to obtain the site, and from others who’ve committed arson or stolen equipment from the park compound. But it has survived, and now it has official nature reserve status so its future is legally secure. Far more important it has survived because it has become loved by the community that lives around it, loved by children and parents, by dog walkers and volunteers, by those who look out for it, and by those that feel they ‘possess’ it and indeed are ‘possessed’ by it – including the organisers of Soundcamp. Without doubt fundamental to the park’s survival and flourishing, has been the indefatigable determination of its committed site warden, Rebeka Clark who has fought for and developed the project since the mid 1980s.

Its survival is all the more remarkable because it stands in the lee of Canary Wharf, in the shadow of one the most intense concentrations of finance capital on Earth. There is something hypnotic about the contrast between those well-known towers of glass and steel and the densely packed woodland of Alder, Hawthorn and other trees. These species seem to stand in defiance of the skyscrapers of corporate offices, these other species speak of an other way of being, they speak of another way in which the city could be.

The structures of Canary Wharf and the ceaseless building upon Docklands appears to drive out the other, drive out other species, and suggest that the city is a purely human space. However  Stave Hill Ecological Park suggests that this is not the case, suggests that we can live with the other, we can live with other species, indeed the joy in our lives is enhanced when we do live in companion with other species.  Soundcamp’s Reveil proclaims the same reality, that we live on this Earth with a multitude of other creatures and we can, and shall, revere them.

This way of being, distinct from the world described by Canary Wharf, becomes evermore important in the light of the UN Report of Biodiversity published on the 6th May 2019 and revealing that over 1 million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction in the coming decades if we continue with ‘business as usual’, or rather continue to have business, or capital, determine what is a ‘usual’ way to live.

In the 1989 ‘Tree of Life’ project, the Tent had been located at the Mouth of the River Wandle in Wandsworth just prior to coming to Greenland Dock. There we had erected a banner, many meters long, across a stretch of ‘wasteland’ (or rather of land with little value to speculative capital). On the banner were the lines that seem as relevant as ever:

‘The Measure of the New Days is a Love of the Surface of the Earth like the skin of a Lover’



Platform banner – Measure of the New Days, 1989, Mouth of the Wandle. Photograph: Jens Storch

Thanks to Grant Smith, Dawn Scarfe, Rebeka Clark, Jessie Brennan, Charlie Fox, Jane Trowell



  1. [Image]:
  2. Soundcamp 2019:
  3. Stave Hill Ecological Park:
  4. Trust for Urban Ecology:
  5. Stave Hill Ecological Park.:
  6. Docklands Community Poster Project, driven by Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn:
  7. Inspiral London:
  8. [Image]:

En el día de hoy, una delegación de representantes del gobierno y del sector empresarial argentino se encuentra en Londres para tratar inversiones en fracking. Argentina Solidarity Campaign, Reclaim the Power y Fossil Free London se reúnen para oponerse a la expansión del fracking en Argentina, y al rol de las empresas y el gobierno Británico en la expansión y el financiamiento de esta industria.

Desde Lancashire hasta Sussex, comunidades a lo largo del Reino Unido se encuentran en este momento luchando contra la amenaza del fracking. Experiencias de distintos puntos del mundo han demostrado que el fracking causa sismos y contaminación, y que es una técnica que consume volúmenes descomunales de agua, un recurso muy preciado. Mientras algunas compañías locales impulsan el fracking en el Reino Unido, las grandes petroleras como BP y Shell prefieren no fracturar en su territorio local, con el fin de ‘evitar el tipo equivocado de atención’, en las palabras del CEO de BP, Bob Dudley. En cambio, tratan de explotar una de las reservas más grandes de gas de esquisto, Vaca Muerta, en la Patagonia Argentina.

Oposición al fracking en Lancashire, Inglaterra. Foto por Frack Free Lancashire


El fracking en la Patagonia es una expresión descarada del modelo extractivista que atraviesa a América Latina. A la vez que la frontera extractiva se expande hacia nuevas áreas en búsqueda de más hidrocarburos y minerales, y se empiezan a implementar nuevas técnicas de alto riesgo en la extracción, las industrias extractivas generan más daños ambientales, más problemas de salud para las poblaciones locales, y se debilitan enormemente las otras economías regionales, como es el caso de la agricultura familiar. Los inversores extranjeros colectan las ganancias, y lo que queda en la región son daños irreversibles. El modelo extractivista no da lugar a desarrollo sustentable y a una redistribución de la riqueza, como muchos proclaman, sino que conlleva a economías inequitativas que son vulnerables a los precios de los commodities, y en las que la riqueza se concentra en las manos de unos pocos.

En la Norpatagonia, comunidades originarias como Lof Campo Maripe ya han enfrentado situaciones de represión violenta por ejercer sus derechos territoriales y defender el territorio ante la extracción. El gobierno provincial de Neuquén ha prometido destinar 400 oficiales de gendarmería para proteger las operaciones de fracking.

Bloqueo de basurero petrolero. Foto por Confederación Mapuche de Neuquén.

Sin embargo, comunidades rurales y originarias en la Norpatagonia como la municipalidad de Vista Alegre y el Lof Campo Maripe se han organizado para detener el avance del fracking en sus tierras. Su resistencia al fracking resalta la amenaza a los ecosistemas locales y fuentes de trabajo y sustento, y reivindica los derechos territoriales de pueblos originarios y la defensa de la vida humana y no-humana.

El gobierno británico ha anunciado una línea de crédito de 1.000 millones de dólares para realizar negocios en Argentina, y BP y Shell han sido invitados, entre otros, a ofertar. Esto es lo que representantes del sector empresarial y de los gobiernos argentino y británico están tratando en Londres en el día de hoy.

Estamos aquí reunides en solidaridad con comunidades en la Patagonia argentina que están luchando contra el fracking.

Estamos reunides para decir NO a las empresas británicas que quieren hacer fracking en Argentina, y NO al financiamiento de esta actividad por parte del gobierno británico.

Decimos juntes, en Argentina y en el Reino Unido: No al fracking!


Argentina Solidarity Campaign


Reclaim the Power

Fossil Free London