Reclaim the Power Guest Blog

26th May 2015 by

RTP camp may - june imageSo, many of us are angry about the new government. But now is the not the time to mourn, it’s the time to organise and take action together.  On Friday 29th May 2015, Reclaim the Power will hold a family-friendly action camp near Npower’s Didcot power station and we want you and your crew to come!

 

The new Tory government are in bed with the fossil fuel industry.  They think they now have free reign to subsidise their friends and relations in the fracking industry and commit to another round of gas-fired power stations. They plan to build infrastructure that will lock us into burning carbon for years to come while killing off renewable technology. Like the communities who have held off fracking for four years, people on the ground will take action to stop them in their tracks.

The ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp will help to get us skilled up and ready to take action against corporate power and its stranglehold over our democracy. This camp is part of an international weekend of action against the fossil fuel industry’s  grip on the UN climate talks in Paris this December.  Didcot is owned by RWE Npower, one of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies who control the UK’s energy supply and one of Europe’s biggest fossil fuel polluters.  In Paris we know that RWE will put their profits first – no matter the cost to us – we can’t afford to let that happen.  

This doesn’t have to be the end – we all know that an alternative future is possible. Britain could be carbon neutral by 2030 using current technology. Even in Didcot, when a fire shut down the power station, it was wind power that kept the lights on. Community groups local to Didcot are building their own energy future through solar, wind and hydro projects that they control.

We’re inviting you because the struggle for a clean, safe and sustainable future is on, and it needs you. If we want to win, we have to stand together, build power and take action. And that is what the camp will help us do together.

Reclaim the Power has something for everyone – kids, families, seasoned activists and those who are new to taking action. Come along for the whole weekend, or pop in for an afternoon!  There will be workshops on everything from planning creative actions, fighting the housing crisis and austerity, to making your own solar panel.  We will provide a Kids Space every day.  Monday 1st June will be a day of decentralised actions against fossil fuel targets all over the country.

The camp will be fully accessible – please let us know if you have any specific access needs on accessrtp@gmail.com

Three ways you can help:

  1. Facebook and tweet about the camp!  Please share the facebook event through your social media channels – at the bottom of this email is a suggested facebook message and some tweets to inspire you.
  2. Forward this email to your members/group. We want the camp to be as open and diverse as possible
  3. Come! Drag out your tent and join us – in order to win, we need everybody.

If you’d like to come but want to talk to someone first, or have someone there to say hello to, please do get in touch with Reclaim the Power by emailing info@reclaimthepower.org.uk

PS: Head to http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/guides-and-info/didcot-programme/  to see our programme of exciting activities, workshops and entertainment

Green Jobs and Global Citizens

19th August 2014 by

A month or so ago, Otesha were joined by a group of wonderful volunteers from UCL’s Global Citizenship programme. Catherine, Catherine, and Julie spent two weeks learning about our Green Jobs programme, joining sessions, and conwindturbine2ducting their own research project into routes into Green Jobs. This document will become a valuable resource for future participants in our Green Jobs programmes. Their report is attached to this blog post – so check it out if you’re interested in the world of Green Jobs! A huge thanks goes to our excellent volunteers, for creating the report, donating us two weeks of their time, and bringing their energy and laughter to share with us.

Click here for the Green Jobs Report 

They also asked a friend to make us a great Green Jobs Infographic

 

 

 

Crafty Magazine blog tour: Sarah Corbett’s A Little Book of Craftivism

5th December 2013 by

Crafty-template-for-main-imagesWe were pleased as punch to be approached by Crafty Magazine to review A Little Book of Craftivism as part of their blog tour.  We’re the last stop this week and thrilled!

For those of you new to Sarah and craftivism, be sure to check out our Q&A and the fun had with our Patron Josie Long.

The Review: A Little Book of Craftivism

For someone who appreciates physical books, small things, clear and concise info, how-to create craft project instructions and social activism, A Little Book of Craftivism is a small piece of brilliance in your hand.

What’s even better is that for those who have no idea what the Craftivist Collective is all about, it’s an essential read.  It lays the concepts out very simply:

‘…craftivism is ‘slow activism’.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect in a way that I hadn’t really made time for before.’

‘…projects are small, attractive and unthreatening.  Our mini protest banners or cross-stiched masks catch the attention of passers-by in a respectful and thought-provoking way without forcing our views on them.’

‘With craftivism, we encourage people to meet up in small numbers to create craftivist projects in public places or on their own on public transport.’

Some of you may also be thinking - I have never picked up a sewing needle… help!    You’re in luck as the book lays out small projects you can follow carefully.  Also, an integral element at the heart of the Craftivist Collective is to join other crafters, find a group near you or better yet – create one.

A few final wise words from the author herself:

‘Craftivism isn’t the answer to everything: there is no quick fix.  But we can all be part of the solution and craftivism allows us to express ourselves, and to create safe spaces for honest, open conversations… Justice isn’t soemething we wait for, it’s something we MAKE.’ – Sarah Corbett

Pros: Clear, concise, exciting how-to’s, an easy read, informative and interesting! An excellent stocking stuffer so why wait?! Click here to purchase the lovely book.

Cons: none that our eye can see.

And don’t forget to check out all the reviews by various bloggers this past week:

Crafty Magazine
Mancunian Vintage
Tom of Holland

Inspiring Projects to make your own

7th November 2013 by

http://mariashriver.com/blog/2013/08/powered-by-inspiration-maria-shriver/Here at Otesha we’re always on the lookout for inspiration.  No doubt, there are hundreds of thousands of people, organisations, projects, and places that do the trick.  Recently we came across Revolutionary Arts and their list of 50 inspiring projects.  We like what they have to say: Revolutionary Arts is dedicated to new ideas, fresh challenges and radical thinking. It makes things for places and people.

Looking over the list below, I’d say it’s all about finding those precious moments/ideas/thoughts/people and celebrating the way they ‘inspire you to bring playfulness, pride, pop up fun, placeshaking and productivity to the place where you live‘.

Stay tuned as sources say there’s another list of 50 coming.  We can’t wait!

  1. Open a pop up bookshop
  2. Make some robots
  3. Plant more sunflowers
  4. Start a shop local campaign
  5. Walk to work
  6. Create an indoor charity market
  7. Open a cycle-powered cinema
  8. Ask people what they want in the neighbourhood
  9. Make your own roadsigns to encourage people to walk
  10. Start a weekend festival in a forgotten corner of the town
  11. Manage the empty shops to make it easier for people to use them
  12. Make the public spaces places for people to sit
  13. Turn the place you live into a Play Street
  14. Create a Cash Mob and support independent shops
  15. Print your own money
  16. Grow more food
  17. Fill the shops with swings
  18. Plant a sensory garden
  19. Think of the bicycle as transport, not just a leisure activity
  20. Install benches with bookshelves at bus stops
  21. Open a pop up playspace
  22. Design theatre posters and paste them up
  23. Find new uses for empty shops
  24. Only buy secondhand stuff
  25. Start a bicycle recycling project
  26. Tell people what’s made locally
  27. Collect photographs of things you’d usually ignore
  28. Make your street a 10 smiles an hour zone
  29. Give teenagers their own market
  30. Open a café that gives homeless people jobs
  31. Ride your bike naked
  32. Open a box shop
  33. Find the garden under the paving slabs
  34. Build your own mobile phone network
  35. Imagine what an art festival could do
  36. Meet up to celebrate local architecture
  37. Create interactive art in windows with digital technology
  38. Open a book exchange in a fridge
  39. Ensure that people can walk (not drive) to the town centre
  40. Clean up the place where you live
  41. Make buildings from shipping containers
  42. Open a pop up crazy golf course in a shopping centre
  43. Make the whole town an arts venue
  44. Turn the local park into a city farm
  45. Paint your own pedestrian crossings on streets
  46. Start a moveable museum
  47. Bring bees to the city
  48. Find out what makes a place special
  49. Make sure your high street balances
  50. Create a pop up thinktank and write your own list of ideas for making where you live better
via Revolutionary Arts

‘Eco’ Status Quo? Why We’re Growing Our Own Food

31st October 2013 by

Our friends over at Ashoka have been supporting social entrepreneurs’ solutions to the toughest social and environmental challenges for the past 30 years.  Here, they share a series of some of their relevant learnings and top stories for our Otesha readership – the first installment is by guest blogger Julia Koskella. Enjoy!

 

The past few years have seen a massive increase in demand for locally-sourced food in countries around the world. Fed by well-rooted concerns that processed food transported globally and treated chemically is not best for the planet or people, consumers are driving a new localism in supply chains.

Most consumption decisions are made by individuals at the supermarket shelves. But behind this change in consumer habits is a global league of leading social entrepreneurs, innovating, creating new markets, and understanding the key drivers of human behaviour.

Michael Kelly says “Grow It Yourself”

GIY 3 - Otesha photoThe latest trend to hit the local food movement is to go straight to the source and grow your own.  Increasingly consumers are asking themselves where their food comes from and how they can be sure it is safe and healthy.  Five years ago, this prompted a real “aha” moment for Michael Kelly, Founder of Grow It Yourself (GIY) and now an Ashoka Fellow. Picking up a clove of garlic in Ireland, Kelly was bowled over to see a “fresh from China” sticker on as small and cheap an item as garlic – a product which grows naturally and abundantly in Ireland.

Digging deeper, Kelly found Ireland imports no less than €4 billion per year of produce, which could be grown locally, despite being a net exporter of food and drink. His solution was to plant garlic himself and convince thousands of others to grow some of their own food too.  Through GIY, Michael aims to make it easy and sociable for anybody to start growing food for the first time. He has created a GIY network with dozens of locally-run chapters and events and an online platform to share tips and resources.  

Five years on, the GIY network connects more than 50,000 people and 800 food-growing groups. In Ireland, GIY is not just a network but a new cultural movement cutting across age and class divides. Michael is now ready to take on other global markets. Last July saw GIY formally launch internationally, with Michael leading a day-long UK event mobilising food enthusiasts, community groups, and growing experts from across the country.

Key drivers behind the ‘Grow It Yourself’ movement

Four key insights have allowed social entrepreneurs like Michael to have real impact on human behaviour and food consumption patterns.

1. Sustainability just got personal:

Localism is having great impact on the environment, cutting down food miles and chemicals from agribusiness. But social entrepreneurs like Michael know you must tap into a range of personal motivations and interests to create a successful mass movement. In the case of GIY, foodies know that locally-grown food is more tasty and cost effective. Cutting out the commute means your food will be on your plate fresher and faster, without losing vitamins B, C, and E.  If that’s not enough motivation to get you growing, then experiencing the simple pleasures of being active outdoors might: gardening is regular exercise and a dose of sunshine. And any food grower will tell you about the glowing pride they feel at watching their crops sprout, fruit, and harvest. So whatever market you’re in, make sure to appeal to people with a range of interests.

2. Cultivate food empathy:

The first-hand experience of growing food, even if it’s just a few basil pots on your windowsill, leads to a wider mind-shift change that Michael calls “food empathy.” Growing your own cultivates a deeper understanding of the value of food, the time and effort invested, and even awareness of the seasonality of food crops. GIY impact studies have found people who grow their own food start making more sustainable and healthy food consumption decisions throughout the week, not just when they’re picking a home-grown carrot.

3. Collaborate to innovate:

When you’re in the business of changing behaviour, social entrepreneurs understand they must collaborate, not compete, to affect change. For GIY’s launch in the UK, Michael received the collaboration and support of Ashoka Fellow Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Towns.  Many local Transition Town groups are also linked to the Slow Foods movement originally created by Carlo Petrini in Italy.  Petrini, originally elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2008, works through 1,300 local chapters worldwide to promote the greater enjoyment of food through a better understanding of its taste, quality, and production – again linking to the concept of food empathy.

4. Social networks on the ground, not the cloud:

Behind all of the leading local food initiatives is the act of bringing people together regularly on the ground.  Changing your behaviour away from the status quo – whether by putting up solar panels, biking to work, or growing lettuce on your windowsill – takes time, energy, and often money. To counterbalance these costs and shift behaviours on a large scale, social entrepreneurs know the power of bringing people together in a supportive community.

 

Social entrepreneurs are creating online communities that are just as smart, and often more vibrant, than their GIY 2 - Otesha photocorporate counterparts. But crucially, the Grow It Yourself movement is also bringing social ties back to basics at the local level, meeting a deep human need that can’t be satisfied on Twitter – especially when the sun comes out.  People are coming together in community gardens, local garden allotments, or starting their own “GIY Groups” – a structure Michael created so that any member of the public can facilitate new and deep conversations focused on lifestyle, food, and the joys and frustrations of food growing.

If you or a local group are already involved in food-growing, make sure to sign up to the GIY network and strengthen the movement world-wide. If you’d like to try growing even a small amount of food for the first time, or even set up a local GIY group, then check out the website for full, free tips and support. Happy GIY-ing!

 

This is part of a series of articles on Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs transforming environmental systems, originally posted on Forbes.com.  Ashoka is building a movement of leading social entrepreneurs innovating for sustainability. If you know of anyone whose work will truly change the system, please consider nominating them. Find them online, or follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Wild Food Cycle 2013!

8th August 2013 by

Speak out against unfair fare rises

19th December 2012 by

In early December the Chancellor axed a planned 3p fuel duty rise for individuals buying petrol and diesel for their cars. Working on the assumption that people couldn’t afford to pay more for private transport in a difficult economic climate, George Osborne gave up the potential tax revenue from private transport and made cuts elsewhere to fund his generosity to drivers.

So if it’s already too expensive for people to travel to work you’d expect that we’d see a similar freeze in train fares – or even a reduction as public transportation is better for the environment? Nope. Despite the fact that train fares are rising three times faster than wages, this January will see a shocking 4.2% increase in rail prices.

4.2%! I commute from Brighton to London and my weekly train pass costs me £87 – that’ll go up to £91 per week, an extra £208 per year. Honestly it’s getting to the stage where I can barely afford to commute and I work for a Living Wage employer – imagine the extra pressure this exerts upon people on minimum wage or those using their wage to support a family.

So I was pleased to hear that the Alliance for Jobs and Climate are organising ten protests in rail stations around England on Wednesday 2nd January under the banner of the Together for Transport campaign. I’ll be heading down to the Brighton protest and Tamsin will be rocking the London King’s Cross protest. If you fancy joining us (or maybe joining groups in places like Bristol, Newcastle or York?) drop us a line or email alliance@jobsandclimate.org.

Let’s put pressure on the Government to axe a fares increase which will force people into polluting cars!

Shout out for the Arab Youth Climate Movement on Saturday!

9th November 2012 by

Otesha’s friends at tcktcktck and 350.org have been supporting the formation and growth of the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM), a new group of young people across the Middle East and North Africa, looking to create a generation-wide movement to solve the climate crisis.

From 26 November, this 2012 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 18) will take place in Doha, Qatar, and it’s more important than ever that there is a strong youth movement calling for Arab leadership on climate change. To showcase their demands AYCM are holding their first ever Day of Action this Saturday 10th November.

There are actions happening in 13 countries around the region from Egypt to Palestine and Libya – young people are going to be taking action and spreaking the word. You can read a full list of all the actions here.

Otesha is calling for our friends to support the AYCM to make sure their message is heard internationally. With both traditional and new media we hope to make some noise that resounds both inside and outside the Arab region. We have heard first hand from these young people how important social media now is in their countries and we all know the role it played in recent changes that have taken place in the region and the young people assure us that social media is monitored constantly in their countries. If there ever was a time just to give 5 minutes of your Saturday to send a tweet then this is it!

We’re asking for your support on Saturday and throughout next week to make sure these young people’s voices are heard.

Sign up to receive updates from TckTckTck’s twitter and facebook accounts to watch out for content coming through as it happens and retweet, repost and share your thoughts. Easy, online activism in support of youth activists just like us sounds like a decent plan for the weekend!

The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold – When you bag a bargain, who pays for it?

30th September 2012 by

One of our Cycle Tours alumni Cressida Kinnear, is involved in an amazing and important film about cotton.  She so kindly offered to tell us her tales and background about Dirty White Gold.

One of my favourite Otesha workshops to facilitate is the fashion workshop – I love the part  when everyone in the group takes a look at the labels in their clothes and marks the ‘made in’ origin on a big world map. It’s a great way of visualising how globalised our wardrobes are and starkly displaying the imbalances within the supply chains that deliver our socks, skirts and shirts to our toes, bums and backs. The workshop goes on to raise discussions around the exploitation (see War on Want campaign against Olympic providers adidas) and the waste (500,000 tonnes of clothes end up in UK land fills every year) that are intrinsic to the supply chains behind fashion fads and luxurious labels.

Imagine one of those items of clothing festering in a landfill – a crumpled, dirty, white t-shirt. Zoom right in on it, further than the eye can see – to the individual matrix of threads that make up the material, and then imagine back along the production line to the seed that was sown to grow the cotton plant which produced the fibres of that thread. That seed is the start of the commodity chain and invisible on the map plotting where our clothes were made. There is a strong possibility that that seed was planted in India, where cotton is predominantly a small holder crop grown by the rural poor. In India, almost 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since the mid 1990s – a large proportion of those deaths are among cotton farmers.

These farmers are mostly killing themselves to escape debt – debts which are largely due to the ‘liberalisation’ of Indian trade policies from the early 1990s onwards and the corporate take over of small scale agriculture. This neo-liberal phase of policy has neglected agriculture (on which 60% of the population rely) by removing subsidies and exposing farmers to the volatility of the global market. Multinational corporations have been ushered into the Indian economy and now totally dominate the input market for growing cotton and seem negligent of the lives on which their commercial activities and continuing expansion impact. Increasingly severe droughts and soil degradation via pesticides (54% of the total pesticides in use in India are used on cotton, including many classified by the WTO as highly toxic) are making the situation worse.

These suicides are so far removed from the finished product which is strutted up and down a catwalk, or donned to keep cosy on a wintery walk that they almost seem removed from the supply chain of our clothes – which of course they are not – consumers are complicit in these deaths.

 The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold is a documentary feature film by trouble maker and journalist Leah Borromeo which will tell the story of how we get out cotton and find out what we can do to, not just look good, but to do good. Filmed in the fields and factories of India and on the high streets and catwalks of London, it will trace the entire supply chain of cotton products, from seed to shop, exploring the roles played by all parties – from multinational seed companies and fashion empires to farmers who cultivate just a few acres of land. Issues including the intense use of pesticides, the debate around GM Bt cotton, fairly traded cotton and the viability of organic cotton production will be explored in a bid to answer the question – ‘When you bag a bargain, who’s paid for it?’.

Because the film is being made by Borromeo – friend of The Yes Men and The Space Hijackers – it’s not all cotton loom and doom. It may not be your average Saturday night date movie, but it will be quirky, funny and have a subversive twist – think Newsnight with some brandalism in the background.

The film has recently launched a crowdfund appeal, each £1 donated will unlock £3 in funding and there are loads of great rewards up for grabs including limited edition art works, t-shirts and tickets to future screenings.  Check out their trailer.

And click the link to find out more: http://www.sponsume.com/project/cotton-film-dirty-white-gold.

Spread the word and help a project aiming to make ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry the norm, rather than the exception.

 

The sustainability wheels are coming off our democracy: shall we fix it?

11th September 2012 by

Nicolò Wojewoda works for the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development. He’ll be running a workshop with Otesha on 16 October so we can contribute to FDSD’s manifesto for a better future. 

Imagine this. You’re merrily queueing at the local coffee shop for a shot of espresso, while grinning from ear to ear about the sunny weather outside and how it is indeed a perfect day for a bike ride. When it’s your turn, you place your order, and the cashier says “that’ll be £1.50, plus £5 from the gentleman who came before you – which makes a total of £6.50”. Congratulations, you’ve just been the unhappy beneficiary of a whatever is the opposite of pay-it-forward scheme. Unlikely? Unrealistic, you could say? Think again. Just in the UK, the bill presented to young generations and those coming after them is a staggering £1,032.4 billion of debt. In the whole world, governments are leaving us with over $48,793 billion worth of IOUs.

At a public event in 2011, I asked then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Young Families, MP Tim Loughton, why the government wasn’t adopting a more long-term approach that would tackle not only ever-existing financial concerns, but also emerging environmental and social crises (unemployment and climate change, anyone?). His answer is worth listening to in full (segment ‘Young people and long term policy’), but to paraphrase the initial premise: the electorate is often asking for short-term results to start with.

Not being one of those who asked my government for short-term results, and knowing that most young people in my network hadn’t either, I puzzled: in this modern democratic governance of ours, are all voices represented? Is there something else that needs to be factored into the equation, in addition to individual needs and wants from those who enjoy representation? Is the system aiming at the right objectives to start with? Is it effective, in tackling common and urgent challenges (present and future)? And most relevantly: does it work as well as it could, to help build a cleaner, greener, and fairer world?

I now work for a small charity here in London called the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development. Our answer to that last question is: we think it doesn’t, and we have an idea on how to fix it. What we need is a manifesto that shines the light on the future of our systems of democratic governance, something we can use to foster debate and action around equipping democracy to better tackle sustainability challenges.

This is what we think the final manifesto could look like: it’s going to be short (2-3 pages); open to sign-ons by individuals and organizations; containing vision, principles, and actions; and possibly in a jaw-dropping graphic design that makes people “ooh” and “aah” and “yes, that’s exactly the kind of thing I want to do something about”. And, true to the democratic principles we so passionately argue in favour of, we want to make the process of drafting such a manifesto as open and collaborative as possible.

As part of this process, we’ll be organizing with Otesha a workshop (on October 16th), which you’ll read more about on these pages in the next few weeks. If you can’t come, it’s alright and we won’t hold it against you – being the modern global charity we are, you can participate in our online consultation as well, and your input will be counted!

Small actions bring to big change, and even the smallest adjustments to the way we function as a democracy can have ripple effects that go a long way. As part of the generation that will feel that ripple effect, let’s build a better system of governance so we can reverse the trend and actually start paying it forward instead (while still enjoying the sun, our bike, and that delicious shot of espresso).


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