Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Geography of Flooding

Thailand is currently in the grip of widespread flooding owing to prolonged, intense Monsoon rains. Creating the worst floods experienced in the country for fifty years, 373 people have been killed, over two million people have been displaced, and at its peak, 30 out of 77 districts in the country were flooded. The floods are the outcome of an extreme weather event associated with climate change, government incompetence (including poor communication of risks to the public), poor flood management, and inappropriate development priorities. There has been a distinct geography to the flooding. Owing to excessive rainfall, dammed rivers have filled up and flood waters had to be released from the dams to prevent them from bursting. During the early stages of the crisis, while the countryside was flooded, the capital, Bangkok, remained untouched. Flood waters were intentionally diverted away from the city and its elites into surrounding districts. However, the volume of water that has been released from the North finally had nowhere else to go but to be carried south towards the Sea of Thailand through the river and other water systems. This has meant that slowly, Bangkok has finally had to experience its share of the crisis. However, even within the city some districts seem more protected than others. The government ‘sacrificed East Bangkok’ according to the Bangkok Post. As the Chao Phraya river overflowed its banks, the international airport must be spared at all costs; so too the Royal properties and as much of the business district as possible. The poor brace themselves for the flooding, while along the Chao Phraya river banks fish swim through the living rooms of people’s homes. A walk down a city side-street is instructive of a certain micro-geography of the flood. Along one soi, the Buddhist temple Wat Sam Phraya pumps water out of the temple grounds and into the streets of the local residents, flooding their homes.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Climate Justice Caravan in Bangladesh

Hi Folks:

Two excellent farmer’s movements in Bangladesh: the Bangladesh Krishok Federation BKF, (peasant farmer’s federation) and Bangladesh Kishani Sabha (BKS, peasant women's organization) the largest rural based peasant movement in the country, working on behalf of landless men and women. They have organized a 20 day “Climate, gender, food sovereignty caravan” in November and they’re inviting everyone to join them in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and sea level rise. Land degradation and scarcity have been growing in Bangladesh since the 1950s. Most Bangladeshis are poor and dependent on agriculture, and are thus more vulnerable to tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods, and droughts associated with climate change.
The purpose of the caravan will be to deepen and extend networks of grassroots movements in South and Southeast Asia and build international solidarity concerning issues of climate change and food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is one of the most important practices that enables peasant communities to both mitigate, and adapt to, the effects of climate change. Moreover, it also represents one of the most important solutions to the threats that climate change poses for the planet. The caravan will include a gender perspective on these issues throughout its duration.
The focus of the caravan will be on (i) movement to movement communication, learning, and the sharing of experiences, skills and strategies, for example concerning sustainable farming practices, and traditional and indigenous knowledges; (ii) education of communities about the effects of climate change; and (iii) holding trainings and workshops.

You can find out more about the caravan at

Please try and support this fantastic initiative.

In solidarity

Friday, 8 January 2010

Final Message from the Streets

Convergence Space: The People's Assembly

Activists gather outside the fences of the Bella Center to hold the People's Assembly.

On the morning of the 16th December, 2009, I cycled through a snowstorm to meet up with my affinity group – the Santa Swarm – to participate in the Bike Bloc, part of the global day of direct actions against the UN Climate talks being held in the Bella Center. The motto of the Bloc was to “put the fun between your legs”, and the Bloc formed part of the protests in Copenhagen. Resistance consisted of the Blue Bloc ( a police-approved march that would culminate in the People’s Assembly [see below]}; the Green Bloc ( a mobile demonstration following its own logic); the Bike Bloc ( a series of mobile swarms (affinity groups) on bikes; and an Autonomous Bloc who would pursue their own tactics.

The main purpose was for the Blue Bloc to march to the Bella Center and hold a people’s assembly, by which global southern delegates at the UN climate talks would disrupt the talks and make a mass walk-out to join the protestors on the outside in a people’s assembly. Here there would be a convergence of mass movements from the global south; NGOs’; government representatives from poor global southern states; and direct actionists. There were few Unions however. The people’s assembly was to be a show of solidarity between Global North and Global South activists. However, unsurprisingly 200 delegates were stopped from leaving the Bella Center and were then not allowed back in. Meanwhile legal protesters were met with pepper spray and police violence.

On reflection, mixing direct action with the people’s assembly seemed like a strategic mistake. Symbolically powerful, if it had worked, but in a sense we were all seduced by this particular narrative. It would have been more effective to have conducted direct action but to have had the UN delegates announce to the media the day before that they were going to boycott the talks on the 16th in order to come to the Klimaforum (where the alternative climate justice workshops, talks, films etc were taking place) in order to have a people’s assembly.

Naomi Klein and Michael Hardt (amongst others) were there and there was a lot of talk about this being the next wave of a global movement, building on the alter-globalisation mobilisations. No doubt there is a wave rising, but it appears to be one of overlapping, interacting, competing, and resourced networks rather than a coherent 'movement of movements'.

Convergence space: Indymedia

The indymedia center at Solidaritets Huset. One of a range of convergence spaces set up around Copenhagen to house and feed activists; construct bicycles; provide information; and produce media.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Message from the Corporate State

Climate Justice protests were largely peaceful and law abiding. However, the levels of police violence, provocation and intimidation were excessive. On the Climate Justice demonstration on 12th December 2009, 100,000 people marched demanding major systemic change rather than climate change. The police waded into the march, split off a section of the crowd and arrested them en masse irrespective of whether they had committed anything illegal or not (usually they had not). There were 968 arrests with virtually no-one charged. Activists were handcuffed and forced to sit on the ground in cold temperatures and in uncomfortable positions, Guantanamo style, for hours. Activists were also held en masse in cages. There were incidents of police pepper-spraying activists while they were in the cages, because they had the temerity of sing to keep their spirits up. Elsewhere, activist convergence spaces were raided by police and hundreds of activists detained. The autonomous district of Cristiana – where Reclaim Power had organised a range of legal events and meetings – was surrounded by police, and tear gassed. The place was shut down with free movement in or out prohibited. The Candy factor – where the Bike Bloc were repairing and constructing bicycles for the global day of action on the 16th December - was raided by police and those dangerous terrorist weapons, bicycles, were confiscated. Legal marches were pepper-sprayed. The message was clear. Buy the Hopenhagen brand or you will be punished.

The Message from the Streets