Tag Archives: transition

Stand aside George

People’s budgets

The Chancellor George Osborne was talking of his plans to cut a further £10 billion from the UK’s annual welfare budget as I drove through rush-hour traffic to Kingston-upon-Thames.

News of his crowd-pleasing speech to the Conservative party conference spouted from the radio as I wondered how such questions might be decided with more accountability to the public.

Just what might UK finances look like if ordinary people had greater say over how much money gets raised in taxes and where to spend it?

Read on here….

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Food and land: base camps for community building

Pogo Cafe in Hackney, London (Copyleft photo by Patrick Chalmers)

I wrote this blog entry for Stir magazine, which has a kickstarter campaign underway to raise funds for printing offline versions of the wonderful work it does already online. Have a think about the stuff you usually fritter your money away on, petrol for the Porsche, a Lear jet flight to Monaco, private banking advice and so on, then consider giving some of that money to Stir instead.

The Pogo Café in Hackney is everything we’re told modern Western consumers aren’t capable of doing, which makes it a treat to visit. The place serves great-quality vegan food, it’s staffed by enthusiastic volunteers who host a space that nurtures alternative culture, co-operative working, exhibitions and events.

Just the place for an evening themed on Land & Liberty! — stories from communities across the world that are trying to control where their food comes from and how it’s grown. London food-growers recounted tales from their visits to like-minded souls in Ljubljana Slovenia, Jaos Palestine, Chiapas Mexico and Havana Cuba.

For the rest of this post, read on here.

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Spreading the word – media training for London Transition Initiatives

A DVD of In Transition 2.0, the latest film to describe what’s up around the world of transition, recently dropped through my letterbox. What a great piece of work. It recounts what people are doing to try to meet the twin challenge of climate change and peak oil, working from within their communities.

One of the things I liked most, in addition to all the inspiring stories, was the promotional schematic on the back of the box. Sixteen stories, 7 countries and no flights taken – what a great way to make a documentary. Wisdom from far-off parts of the world came alive in my living room thanks to the wonders of modern communications technologies. That no flights were taken was the 17th inspiring story as far as I was concerned.

My response to all that is to do more reporting on those sorts of stories myself and to help teach others to do the same. That’s the idea behind plans for a video training weekend, or weekends, for Transition Initiatives in or around London. You can read more about it here in a blog post here.

If the idea of video training is for you, register your interest and possibie availabilities in a comment below or email me via patrickchalmers [at] orange.fr

That way maybe your work and your stories can feature in the next transition film.

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Industrial agriculture meets peasant farmers – who wins?

I’m due to interview Bettina Borgfeld for visionOntv later today to talk about Raising Resistance, a film she co-directed with David Bernet about
the fight of the small farmers of South America against industrial agriculture.

The subject is one close to my heart, I covered a version of it over many years while working for Reuters as EU environment correspondent in Brussels and then again as an independent journalist following the trials of French farmers fighting against genetically modified maize produced by Monsanto and others.

Today’s film depicts this conflict as it plays out in Paraguay, describing the global impact of most of today’s genetic engineering on people and on nature. The film makers describe their documentary as a parable on the suppression of life, the diversity of plants and cultures, and how resistance arises both in people and in nature.

I will be working again with fellow independent journalist Glenn McMahon as part of visionOntv’s coverage of the Human Rights Watch Festival 2012 in London. He will be using an iPhone and iRig mic to shoot a no-edit video interview based on the visionOntv mobile phone interview template.

Before that happens, I need to watch the preview. Below you can see a trailer for the film, which is due out in May this year.

If you’re in London, you can catch it at the Curzon Soho at 6.40 pm or tomorrow at the Ritzy Cinema at 8.40 pm.

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Democracy, journalism and film nights

It’s never been easier to complain about our politicians and our journalists – neither species has covered itself in glory over the last little while. The big challenge is what to do about all the problems they leave unresolved.

Rather than railing against the failures, it’s far more uplifting to investigate alternatives. This post, which I wrote for the Transition Network, describes some small-scale responses, ones I absolutely would encourage you to try at home. Many might be familiar, some you may even be doing already, their combination is probably less so. In time, they raise the prospect of something truly powerful, a global network of reporters focused on the way we run our communities.

A big part of that equation is the staging of regular film screenings, wherever it is that you live. They bring local people together, stitching together community where there may not have been one before. Added to that is the staging of free video journalism trainings for anyone who’s interested, creating a pool of local reporters who focus on how their communities are governed. Linking these with reporters elsewhere, nationally or internationally, starts to look like a virtual news agency focused on how we are governed.

These are the bones of a proposal I lay out in Fraudcast News: How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies.

I went to Totnes in Devon this week to a film screening there – featuring Michael Moore’s Capitalism – A Love Affair. His film remains as relevant as ever.

I took the chance to demonstrate the potential of video journalism to Ben Brangwyn, co-founder of the Transition Network, using nothing more than a smart phone and a dodgy microphone. You can watch the outcome here or below.

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Marrying revolution and transition – can it be done?

These are two apparently very different films that I see as being totally on the same page.

The first How to start a Revolution, is already out, garnering jury prizes at film festivals around the world. I haven’t seen it yet but I love the book on which it’s based, From Dictatorship to Democracy. It lays out a radical, non-violent message of change.

The second film, In Transition 2.0, wears its politics less obviously but ultimately raises the same questions of power. Its focus is on peak oil, climate change and community resilience in the face of both. I haven’ t seen the second film either though I did see In Transition 1.0 and I know the work of the Transition Network. Its message, too, is one of radical, non-violent change.

The challenge is how to marry the thinking and actions of the films’ constituencies to address a problem that is common to both – namely the poor quality of Western representative democracies and their effective capture by global corporations and banks.  The revolutionaries and transitioners would do well to work together or rather it would be in their mutual interests to do so.

I count myself as being in both camps.

My approach is to do and to nurture local, citizen journalism focused on the transparency and accountability of government. We need to learn how to do it ourselves and to teach it to others who want to learn. Having built such journalism up locally, practitioners can soon stretch out to focus on political accountability and governance at higher levels, linking up with other reporters doing the same. The result would be a reporting network focused on improving the quality of our governance, locally to globally.

That way, we might have a chance of bringing about the sort of radical political changes that both these films talk about.

I’d better watch them then.

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