John Vidal

Charles Clover: “environmentalists are very boring”

How 2009 became the year of the campaign movie from RSA Arts & Ecology on Vimeo.

Charles Clover energised the campaign to alert the world to approaching fish stock collapse earlier this year with the film The End of the Line. It was a great example of how a single coordinated attack using the right media can produce a quantum leap in awareness. I spoke to him and  the Guardian’s Environment Editor John Vidal about how an imaginative, passionate and above all clever approach can galvanise action and force suppliers and politicians to rethink their strategy.

But he’s scathing about how the broader environment movement has failed to grip the public imagination. Responding to a recent IPPR survey that said the public were “bored” with climate change:

It’s because environmentalists are very boring, he says. They used not to have jobs when I got into this business. They had something very burning and interesting to say which quite a lot of people wanted them not to say, and people tried to shut them up. They were very exciting people to know, and they didn’t have a pension fund. Now they have pension funds and sit around in offices and try and think of something interesting to say, and not a lot of them achieve it.

Has the professionalisation of the climate movement creating a beast that feeds itself? Is that part of the reason the public finds climate activists, in the words of the report “smug”?

Charles Clover and John Vidal were in the house to discuss The End of  the Line at a screening organised by RSA Events who run the best public lectures series you’ll find in London – and you don’t have to work here to think that. Follow them on

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Quick Friday notes…

Transition Town innovator Rob Hopkins noted that Ed Miliband used the notion of “transition towns” a lynchpin concept in the launch of his White Paper on Energy and Climate Change Policy. Determined to discover whether his movement was being used as window dressing or not, he publishes his own review of the paper giving the proposals 6/10.

John Vidal at the Guardian has given it credit for seizing control of the levers of control of the energy industry, saying that this sort of thing has never been attempted on this scale before:


Meanwhile, LA continues to surprise by confounding its image as a megalopolis on on the road to hell. This Arts:Earth Partnership initiative, greening the city’s performace spaces, is interesting.

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The new Banksy?

I’m drawn to any news item that lurks in that Venn diagram space between art and activism, but I’m totally baffled as to why John Vidal of The Guardian is calling the mystery person who broke in an dshut down the Kingsnorth Power station yesterday – apparently cutting Britain’s CO2 emissions by 2% for four hours – “the new Banksy”.  Does that make anyone with a pair of wire cutters an artist? This would, of course, open the door to the Michael Stone defence becoming widespread. Michael Stone is, as you will recall, the convicted paramilitary murderer who was arrested trying to burst into Stormont armed with a gun and pipe bombs to murder Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, but justified his act by claiming it was “performance art”. And, as several performance artists from Northern Ireland pointed out last year, such designation would not be a Good Thing.

Photo: CEOs from RSPB, WI, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, WWF,
Tearfund, Greenpeace and Ashok from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition
get together at Kingsnorth to protest the building of a new coal power
station, Oct 6 2008. Thanks to Stop Climate Chaos Coaltion for the picture.