Protest

Readings in Performance and Ecology (What Is Theatre?)

This ground-breaking collection of essays focuses on how theatre, dance, and other forms of performance are helping to transform our ecological values. Leading scholars and practitioners explore the ways that familiar and new works of theatre and dance can help us recognize our reciprocal relationship with the natural world and how performance helps us understand the way our bodies are integrally connected to the land. They also explore how environmentalists use performance as a form of protest; how performance illuminates our relationships with animals as autonomous creatures and artistic symbols; and how performance can help humans re-define our place in the larger ecological community.

CSPA Director Ian Garrett contributed a chapter about the carbon footprint of theatrical production.

Purchase here Amazon.com: Readings in Performance and Ecology (What Is Theatre?) (9780230337282): Wendy Arons, Theresa J. May: Books.

Art for oil; protest and dystopianism


St Pauls – a late afternoon plunge, from Flooded London, 2009 by Squint Opera, a series imagining London in 2090.

The 2010 Art For Oil Diary is available now, price £5, full of illustrations like Squint Opera’s depiction of a man diving into the flooded ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral in a London flooded by rising waters. It’s a good snapshot of art as agitprop, containing works by Peter Kennard & Cat Picton PhillippsBeehive CollectivePedro Inoue and the Ultimate Holding Company.

If you want to argue that agit-prop strenghtens the resolve of the converted and increases the distance between them and those whose minds really do need to change then this is a casebook study, but hey, as a mass of work it does have real energy. The works that don’t beat you over the head with visions of a dystopian future often work better, like UHC’s trees breathe, ads suck taken from their Spring Shrouds series, originally commissioned by agit-comedian Mark Thomas, in which the Manchester collective covered 100 ad shells with plain white shrouds.

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Vestas: what is the protest about?

This morning I was handed a flier by a nice man standing outside Brighton station: “Vestas Workers fight to defend their jobs and the environment.” Featured on it, that photo of the two workers clenching fists above the banner that reads, “Forced to occupy to save our jobs.” An old blogging colleague of mine Justin aka Chicken Yoghurt was at the Isle of Wight yesterday and took the photo above.

Three points to make:

One. This is a pivotal protest that’s not going to go away in a hurry. It’s about the gap in what the government say they’re going to do – Ed Miliband’s fine white paper and the 2008 Climate Bill – and the absence of any real infrastructure to achieve those carbon goals. It’s about how the most substantial part of Gordon Brown’s “green recovery” plan has been the looking-glass scheme to scrap cars before they need to be scrapped. Vestas is closing because of “lack of demand”. It is absurd that, at this late stage, there is lack of demand. To blame that lack of demand on Conservative councils turning down planning applications for wind turbines as Ed Miliband does in his response to LabourList’s Alex Smith is the “dog ate my homework excuse” – a silly attempt to turn this into a divisive party political issue.

Two. This protest has to watch out it doesn’t unfold  to a dangerous script. The lockout has quickly turned it into a workers versus employers dispute, in the mould of Grunwick and Wapping.  Not only do those disputes traditionally end very badly, but this script kind of misses the point.  However poorly the employers may have acted towards the workers, and their contradictory statements that they’re closing for “lack of demand” and that the factory makes “the wrong type of blade” for Britain indicates a certain slipperiness, they too are victims of the government’s failure to support demand for renewables. This should be about how the goverment needs to pull its finger out.

Three. Last year’s meeting between the National Union of Miners and Climate Camp protestors showed how far adrift most eco-protestors were from workplace politics and how little they understood the more old-school union levers of power. This is a chance to learn how to build bridges instead of burning them.

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“Civil resistance”, science and ethics

We are in for a season of civil disobedience. The Save Vestas campaign has gone national.Kingsnorth rumbles on, as does the Heathrow protest – which is likely to be the focus of the next Climate Camp at the end of August. Next month also sees Wales‘  and Scotland’s first Climate Camps. As COP15 focusses minds, there are even plans to disrupt the Copenhagen meeting.

A generation of jobless students will now swell numbers. But should those less used to participating in civil action also be getting stuck in?

In a recent newsletter [PDF 147KB], climate scientist/activist James Hansen concludes with a short section titled “Civil Resistance: Is the Sundance Kid a Criminal?”, suggesting the urgent need for what Gandhi called “civil resistance” rather than “civil disobedience”, especially directed towards companies who are guilty of passing the bill for carbon clean up to future generations. Even though his choice of gun-slinging Western hero rather shows which era he’s coming from, I guess he’s qualified to talk, because James Hansen himself was arrested alongside Daryl Hannah last month for his part in the West Virginia coal mining protests.

The excellent climate science blogger Jo Abbess has just raised his arrest in a post which argues that such action by scientists is vital because, as George Marshall of the New Scientisthas been saying, the public as a whole are not changing their behaviour in the way that those scientists know they should be .

This argument implies that scientists, as the people who really understand the bottom line, are now ethically bound to start to do more than produce data. They must join with scientists like Hansen. But if scientists remain hesitant to get start linking arms and chaining themselves to fences, Hansen’s own reputation as a leading climate scientist is an example of why. The man warned Congress back in 1988 about the perils of global warming has been under assault ever since he turned activist. Despite his role as a leading scientist and head of the NASA Gordon Institute for Space Studies, his name has been dragged through the mud by global warming sceptics. His arrest last month prompted the New York Times headline “Does NASA’s James Hansen Still Matter?”

What are the responsibilities of those who know to act? And what are the consequences if they do?

“Well done ThWART” photo by darrangange

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Postlethwaite protest over Kingsnorth

Actor Pete Postlethwaite is considering handing back his OBE if the UK government gives the go-ahead to the Kingsnorth Power coal-fired power station, linking the Kingsnorth issue to the Iraq War protests, the largest in modern UK history. “We tried to stop Tony Blair going to war in Iraq. But this time we’re not having it.”

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