Tag Archives: oil spill

That 10:10 video

2 Oct

Wowzas. That 10:10 Richard Curtis film, “No Pressure”, has stirred up quite a debate. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about you can at least get up to speed with 10:10’s apology here.)

I don’t want to defend 10:10’s decision to go ahead with the film, I found it really hard to stomach myself and felt really a bit sick after watching it. I completely understand people who have been offended by it, or who simply don’t really know what the message was supposed to be.

But. I was very, very interested to observe today and yesterday, that quite a few of the requests asking 10:10 to take the video down referenced the bombs in Nigeria on Friday. For example, on twitter @AshleyRRB said: @1010 have scored an own goal with new campaign video. As events in Nigeria today show, blowing up people you don’t agree with isn’t funny.

Of course, I agree, blowing people up isn’t funny. It’s abhorrent, tragic, disgusting. But not one person mentioned why those bombs went off in Nigeria, which I think is important to note in this case, especially if we are to make such links.

The bombers were part of the militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend). Mend come from the oil-rich southern delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, and have been fighting for years for a greater share of the oil revenues. The delta is also the location of huge environmental catastrophe, at the hands of companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, with oil spills and devastation that apparently dwarf even the scale of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Massive corporations are going into countries like Nigeria, destroying the environment, taking the resources and then exporting them to the US, Europe etc and pocketing the profits. That is why Mend’s warning email about the bombs said, “For 50 years, the people of the Niger delta have had their land and resources stolen from them.”

I am in no way sympathetic to the actions of Mend or condoning them. It is devastating. But we are blind if we do not acknowledge that this tragedy is a clear example of the consequence of our relentless burning of fossil fuels (which is contributing to climate change) and exploitation of our natural environment.

If anything, the events in Nigeria on Friday should be spurring us on harder and faster to the clean energy future that we need, to prevent more awful incidents like these occuring. 10:10 might have missed the mark with their video, but the people that work there are some of the most hard-working, good-natured and good-hearted people I know. They are working towards the low-carbon future we need and they need more of us on board with that. That’s all they meant. And I think they’re right.

Crude 2010 – Liberate Tate

15 Sep

Ultra cool vid from Liberate Tate action at Tate Modern yesterday – wish I’d been there!

Liberate Tate action against BP sponsorship

1 Jul

This is cross-posted from The Multicultural Politic

After Monday night’s mini-spill outside the Tate Britain, enacted by the artist-activist group Liberate Tate, there has been a flow (‘scuse the pun) of press coverage from around the world, opening up the debate around corporate sponsorship of the arts (which is, in my personal opinion, a victory in itself).

Much of the arguments that are critical of the action taken, have followed along these general lines – that we, as activists, should be targeting BP, not the Tate; that we should be targeting all oil companies, not just BP, as other companies such as Shell have a high stake in our cultural institutions too; that oil has been sponsoring the arts for the past 20 years, so why bother protesting about it now; and that the Tate and the arts in general have no choice but to accept corporate sponsorship, especially in the light of further cuts in public spending.

In quick response, I would say to those – well, we have and are targeting BP, you may count any number of actions going on right now in the world that are doing just that. Targeting the Tate is about recognising our responsibility in all this mess. It is easy to blame the fat cats in suits, but here we are with big cultural institutions and artists (very well regarded ones at that, such as Grayson Perry and Cornelia Parker), endorsing companies that are causing massive environmental catastrophes and hastening climate change. Public concern about climate change is lower than last year and that is quite understandable. Political failure at Copenhagen, along with seeing oil companies endorsing our major public events and exhibitions, must of course give the general public the impression that it’s not that urgent.

In terms of targeting all oil companies – well that’s just a silly argument. Concerned citizenry willing to take action are currently made up of less people than those who work for big corporations. We’re trying! But if Shell are feeling left out and would enjoy 5 gallons of molasses on their doorstep, I’m sure that can be arranged.

And yes, oil has been sponsoring the arts for the past 20 years. Was Monday’s action the first action against it? No. Rising Tide and Art not Oil have been doing marvellous stuff for years. Even if this wasn’t the case, is that a coherent argument for not taking action? No. The Tate was founded on slavery money, and then sponsored by the tobacco industry. When this became unacceptable in public opinion, out those sponsors went. Something being rubbish for a long time is no excuse to keep on doing it, otherwise we would have a zero percentage divorce rate, amiright?

And lastly, to the argument that the arts have no choice but to accept corporate sponsorship. This to me, is the crux. I work for a charity, and believe me, I understand how hard funding is to come by. I also understand the vital need for art and culture, the very things that speak to me about what it is to be human, that make me feel alive. But to say that the arts have no choice in the matter, is doing us all a great disservice, and spectacularly undermining the role of art in the public domain. Are we merely to wait for corporations to stump up the cash before we can enjoy anything that we call art? Has art become such a commodity, that we must wait in line for the next big exhibition, buy a ticket and then wonder around for 45 mins with a furrowed brow, and that be the limitation of our experience? I have had an amazing time with Caravaggio at the Tate Britain, Picasso at the Tate Modern, Goya at the Prado. But have we forgotten what it means to create? Some of my best experiences of art have been small, intimate happenings – acoustic gigs, spoken word, craft nights – where the atmosphere is electric and alive with creation. So I have to wonder, who is art for? If it is for us, then we must ask whether or not corporate sponsorship limits the freedom of the artist to truly create. And it is wise to remember that Liberate Tate was born out of just such a limitation.

When I say green jobs.. I don’t mean this

6 May

This is cross-posted from The Otesha Project UK blog

I was on the train the other day and picked up an abandoned copy of the Evening Standard. Flicking forward a few pages was an article about the BP oil spill, with this picture:

These are inmates from a Louisiana prison who have been recruited to clean the oil off birds affected by the spill. It’s great matching up men who can be trained up in important skills with work that needs to be done… but when I talk about green jobs, I don’t really mean this.

Green for All and the Apollo Alliance over in the States have been doing amazing work over the last few years, matching up court-involved youthand those formerly incarcerated with training in green construction, weatherproofing homes, material deconstruction and reuse, and energy-saving techniques.

Youth who would be bouncing in and out of the criminal justice system have been given a new option – and new role models too. For those mired in unemployment or minimum wage jobs, these schemes are igniting new hope.

Green jobs can prove to be an invaluable way of helping people out of potential poverty and the risk of re-offending, leading them to essential work that will help us make a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

It is admirable that the inmates from Louisiana have been put to work to help conserve life and the environment, but I have to say I can’t wait for a world where we won’t have to work so hard to protect the world from oil companies. Where we can take a lesson from Green for All and others, and match up people that need it to the work that needs to be done. And that work is clean, not dirty.