Category Archives: Music

The Bike Song

Go Mark Ronson!  This is one cool video :)

Plug the Holes or We Won’t Go

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zIxlsDZOmM]

We will return to the Arco station every week to peacefully block the Fell St. entrances until BP plugs the holes in the Gulf and until the City plugs the dangerous driveways on Fell and makes it safe for people to live less oil dependent lives.

Fridays 5:30pm-8:30pm Fell and Divisadero San Francisco

Special thanks to Janel Sterbentz for producing this video- if the BABC won’t put her talents to use then we certainly will!

Full text of speech available here.

Alternate Green Festival This Saturday

There is more to preserving life on planet Earth than hemp jewelry! Now that the Green Festival is happening twice a year in SF, we think it’s time to ask some serious questions about the message that the festival is sending to the wider society- namely that if everyone drove a Prius, put solar panels on their home, and offset their annual flights to Thailand, that we could “save the planet.” The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

How did the term “environmentally friendly” come to mean “slightly less environmentally destructive”? The truth is that human beings have the ability to be truly “friendly” to the environment, crafting a new reciprocal relationship with nature rather than the current exploitative one, based on wisdom from indigenous cultures we’ve nearly wiped out.

What would such a modern world that prioritizes environmental health and human welfare actually look like? How do we get there from here?

Though many of the individuals who put on the festival are well intentioned, trying to “green” a fundamentally destructive culture can only perpetuate the damage and delay real solutions.

Promoting false solutions like “green” cars and carbon offsets is counterproductive to the cause. With the threat of climate catastrophe looming, it really is all or nothing if we want to avoid dangerous tipping points. Nature-unlike the federal government- doesn’t do bailouts

We want to create a space outside the “Green” Festival where ideas about real solutions can be shared, music is made, dancing is encouraged, and a culture of resistance is nourished. Come and bring your ideas (to voice, or printed on leaflets). Bring instruments, signs, and other fun stuff. The space will be welcome to all.

At 6pm, the people will enter the festival to attend a debate about carbon offsets, and whether green capitalism is a real solution or a distraction and oxymoron.

Note that this event is not sponsored or condoned by either Global Exchange or “Green” America.

It will be what you make it!

Saturday April 10th 2010 12-6pm (speakers and music from 4-6pm)
Out in front of the Green Festival
635 8th Street @ Brannan

Guardian Article from last November

Blog post from Cheatneutral action at the Green fest

More info about carbon trading debate

Alternate Green Fest Facebook page

Copenhagen, The Shame of a Generation? Not if This Generation has Anything to Say About It!

As our representatives at the Copenhagen Conference descend to a new low, drafting secret agreements that exclude the developing world,  there seems to be a new peak of energy, creativity and determination being demonstrated by people through art, music, film, and simply putting their bodies on the line to demand climate justice.  Check it out below.  Do send in more examples and I will add them.

By the way, what’s up with Canada?   My Canadian friends have begin talking about moving to the US in protest.  O dear.   It’s all about the tar sands it seems.

Survival of the Fattest

If one piece of art can sum up what is happening at Copenhagen, it’s the one above. Jens Galschiot’s sculpture Survival of the Fattest depicts the developed world, represented by an obese goddess of justice, tipping the scales of justice as she gets a free ride on the back of the developing world, represented by a thin African man.

The inscription reads: “I’m sitting on the back of a man. He is sinking under the burden. I would do anything to help him. Except stepping down from his back.”

The Story of Cap and Trade

Annie Leonard brings her simple, no nonsense, and populist style to the seemingly complex issue of cap and trade, which forms the basis of U.S. climate legislation, and is (dubiously) supported by a number of mainstream environmental organizations like the NRDC.  Find out “why you can’t solve a problem with the thinking that created it…”

Having a Good Time…

A great song and hilarious video by Theo Bard, addressing the entitlement of consumption.  Theo was arrested for blocking a coal train around the time he wrote this song.   I love it: “if you’re having a good time everything will be fine…”

Become the Bike Bloc

This lot has energy and a creative plan to harness human power to resist false solutions at Copenhagen.  Their mysterious large device, pioneered with Bristol cycle engineering prowess, is being assembled at an ultra secret location in Denmark to prepare for actions on the 16th.

The Great Climate Swoop

In October, hundreds of people converged on the Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal burning power station in Nottinghamshire, England with one single goal- to shut the mother down.  This is one of an increasing number of direct actions directed at the source of greenhouse gases.  I was speaking with a friend who was there, and he said he saw the mass action as having been successful, even though the plant remained operational.   “At least now it’s pretty clear that they can’t build a coal fired power station without spending millions of pounds on barbed wire and electric fences in order to defend it against their own people…”  Rumors are that there will be an attempt to reclaim the negotiations on Dec. 16th.  I wonder how fast the water cannons will come out.

I don’t believe in global warming

This is a good one- hits the nail on the head “If I believed in global warming then all I would think about is global warming.” (as opposed to more important things like sex, presumably) Welcome to Planet Earth circa 2010.

Polar Bear

Produced by Plane Stupid, this is clearly a response to those cuddly and friendly appeals by environmental organisations to ‘save the cute polar bears.’  This video reminds us that climate change caused by aviation means a grizzly and sad end to these beautiful creatures, as seen in tragic new photographs of a polar bear eating its own cub. (Warning this is reality.  And yes even more graphic than the video)

Rap News: Lord Monckton Rap Battles Al Gore

The Australian outfit Juice Media have created quite the stir with their spot on, tuned in rap news- the presenter Robert Foster lays down the lyrics: “it’s tempting to cry victim when the system tries to curb behaviors, but are we the victims, or are we the perpetrators?

Carbon Offsets or Car Ban, Off Streets? A Tussle over the Meaning of Green

In the days leading up to Copenhagen, it seems that everyone has been talking about false market based climate ‘solutions’ such as carbon offsetting and trading. A couple of weeks ago, I cycled over to the Green Festival in San Francisco, put on by the non-profits Global Exchange and Green America (formerly Co-op America), to find out why carbon offsetting continues to be promoted as a solution, despite evidence that it can actually worsen emissions, and provide psychological cover for carbon-heavy lifestyles.

With this in mind, I put on a suit and tie, bought a half dozen helium heart balloons, tied them onto the back of my bike and coasted into downtown, red balloons flailing wildly in the wind as I flew down the Post St. hill.  The romantic descent was only quelled somewhat by a sudden waft of urine as I navigated around garbage trucks through the Tenderloin.   Luckily the balloons were hard to miss, and (I hoped) would act as airbags in case of assault by four wheeled death monster– an idea actually in development according to the blog Copenhagenize.

Why was I doing such a thing on a sunny Saturday afternoon in November when I could have been out riding on beautiful Mt. Tamalpais overlooking the Pacific Ocean?  Screw nature.  Forget love.  I was heading to the Green Festival obsessed with profit.  Yes that’s right.  My mission was to gauge American consumer interest in an innovative new product created by 3 young entrepreneurs in the hills of mid Wales.

CheatNeutral.com, the company created by Christian Hunt, Alex Randall and Beth Stratford, promises to ‘offset’ your indiscretions by channeling your fee to another couple so as to “buy” their fidelity.   The idea is that the overall ‘heartbreak, pain, and jealousy in the atmosphere’ would thereby remain stable.   Romantic candlelit interludes and carnal pleasure fests alike- quantified and fed into the capitalist system, a privatisation of the most private areas of your life.

According to Operations Director Beth Stratford, Cheatneutral is one of a growing number of ‘guilt management tools’ now being marketed to assist in the rationalisation of a whole range of immoral and selfish acts.

But would San Francisco, the sex positive playground of the West, the home of the polyamorous burning man hipster, the Lusty Lady and the Barbary Coast take the bait, buy the snake oil and pay to break their partner’s heart?  Or would it click that carbon offsetting is a dangerous distraction from the changes in behaviour that are now essential if we are to avert a future catastrophic crumbling of civilisation?  Perhaps both.

Eager to find out, the new San Francisco marketing director for Cheatneutral.com strolled into the giant hall with hundreds of exhibitors flown in from around the country, thousands of attendees from the Bay Area and the vibe of a giant Whole Foods Market.  My mission: to separate the sneaky cheaters from the loyal and faithful- to see whether the Green festival is really green– or just greenwash.

I handed out Cheatneutral Flyers, and explained the valuable service that we offered.   Past stalls with hemp dresses, organic lotions, yerba mate beer, and assorted green sundry, I plied the trade, and neither the humour (nor the serious message) seemed to be lost on people, besides a few who started inquiring about prices and who I had to hurriedly explain that it was actually a joke.

Walking down the hallway, I ran into none other than Gavin Newsom the San Francisco mayor who has had his share of embarrassing extramarital affairs.   A moment like this only comes along every so often.  I strode up to him, his handlers visibly nervous at the approach of this suited man with a walrus moustache grasping a bunch of heart balloons.  “Mayor Newsom, I’d like to tell you about our company.   We’re Cheatneutral.com and we’re proud to be able to offset your sexual indiscretions for a small fee.”   He looked confused for a minute, then smiled broadly.  Apparently, he has been waiting for just such a service.  He accepted the flyer, then continued down the hall, the gallons of product in his coiffed hair leaving a slime in his wake that would rival the Exxon Valdez.

I approached the booth of a company called “Brighter Planet” who sell carbon offsets- even allowing you to earn them for every dollar you charge to your credit card!  Talk about missing the point.

Here are the chilling words from their website:

“At Brighter Planet, we’re proud to be pioneers of a new environmentalism: one that is accessible to everyone, fits easily with one’s lifestyle, and is fun to share. We invite you to sign up and join our growing community!”

I had a genial conversation with the guys from the company- one of them couldn’t stop laughing, while as soon as I started taking pictures he became very huffy and kicked me out of their booth.    I guess it’s hard to admit that you are making a living by lying to people, making them feel green when they’re really not.

The day ended with a rap and ride by Fossil Fool, with his phenomenal new pedal powered mobile sound system:

“Don’t be greenin’ it if you ain’t meanin’ it

Only hurts the movement for those who believe in it…”

The Low Down on Offsetting
Offsetting isn’t going to deliver us a stable climate any more than clicking your heels together and saying “there’s no place like home”.  Offsets and other carbon trading measures simply allow the global rich to continue their unequal, immoral, and selfish appropriation of the Earth’s atmosphere.  Offsetting and other false solutions to the climate crisis need to be stamped out and ridiculed at every opportunity.

Put simply, carbon heavy behavior like excessive consumption, driving and flying need to become so socially repugnant that if you choose to engage in them you will lose your friends and everyone will hate you.  Period.  Full Stop.  It cannot be overstated the dramatic and tectonic- yet potentially sudden changes that this will require.

Guys who speed around in fancy cars must be deprived of the sex that presumably results from this primal macho display.  Nothing like starving Africans and flooded homes to extinguish a girl’s appetite.  But don’t worry we at Cheatneutral will compensate you for your flaccid moments with our Offset Project Program.™

Joking aside, bottom line is that we need to make this into a battle for individual hearts and minds- and that inevitably means behaviour shift as well.   For too long we have been afraid of confronting each other’s oil addictions, discouraged by green organisations petrified of “offending the motorist” or being seen as too marginal.

Yet a major intervention, with all the family and friends round, sitting us down, smiling, and telling us that things can’t go on like this, is now what we desperately need.  That for our own lives and happiness we should move back into the neighbourhood where we live, stop working so much so we can buy stuff we don’t need, get acquainted with our neighbours and ride a bicycle.  Doesn’t sound that bad to me.

A climate friendly world would be a better world- but not for corporate greed (photo: Ecotopia)

The implications of the science are far more radical and marginal (by today’s standards) than even the most rabid hairshirt hippie ever dreamed up in a haze of cannabis laced idealism.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be translating into personal limits.

We need to put the science of climate change first- not our heavily ad-influenced assumptions about personal mobility and Victorian attitudes about our relationship with the natural world.  Let’s figure out how much damage we’ve done, what it’s going to take to limit the worst of it, how much carbon all six billion of us can safely continue to emit, and restructure our societies to allow that to happen.

I’m talking- if not cold turkey- then a pretty cool bird.   Using fuel simply to meet basic human needs, and to assemble infrastructure we will need over the long term, before the resource becomes unaffordable and out of reach.  A pre-planned soft landing, lifting our heads out of the thick tar sands of oil addiction and see the forest for the trees (don’t get excited Green America- trees won’t offset the Alberta tar sands!).

As I understand the science there may not be even enough atmospheric space left for the global south to meet their basic needs like food, water, clothing and shelter and for us in the North to meet our own, without taking unacceptable risks to our safety (sorry, Donald Trump, your flight to the Bahamas is not a basic need).

The battle is not so much political or economic as moral.   We are not powerless automatons, a society destined to perish in our own effluent just because some asshole in a suit wants to sell us the latest product.   Presumably we all have free will and determine our own course in life- the effects of propaganda aside.

If we don’t buy their shit, and don’t buy into their insane growth-at-any-cost worldview, then their climate-wrecking machine will grind to a halt just as surely as a car without oil will sputter.

Anyone who’s been watching ongoing international climate negotiations can say it with confidence.   Copenhagen will not yield a safe, sensible plan for climate stability.  Governments and the corporations propping them up cannot be trusted it seems with such a basic function as protecting life on planet Earth.

It’s time to drop the pretense that the plane and the car aren’t selfish symbols of a 20th century level of unprecedented personal mobility that we can no longer afford- personally, culturally, or globally.  We can no more neutralise the billions of tons of carbon that we are responsible for ejecting into the atmosphere as offset that selfish and ill-advised cheat that tore apart our lover’s heart.  Love is not for sale.   Neither is the atmosphere.

The credit for the title of this post goes to Zach Houston, who I found in a corner typing poems for people on an old manual typewriter at the Green Festival.  Cheatneutral inspired a poem:

the car ban off streets
will be the only true
beauty is not even
having to travel
because we can
already be
there by
thinking
green
growth can
some how
hold out
against
predatory
marketeering
of sarcastic
surface fix
for sale:
nature, used

Take me to the Riot: The Soundtrack to Love and Revolution in the 21st Century

Categorized into a number of unlikely genres by critics: “Canadian post-rock,” the “Canadian Invasion,” “baroque pop,”……. whatever you want to call it (I call it fucking awesome), a number of bands and artists from Toronto and Montreal are putting out extraordinarily good music that’s got both the heart to feel what’s important in life and the balls to confront a failing system—a pretty potent mix if you ask me….

This all seems to have begun with the musical phenomenon known as Broken Social Scene, a 19 member musical collective out of Toronto (though not all 19 members always play with the band). I used to think BSS was a little noisy, abstract and hard to listen to, but then I saw them perform Kevin Drew’s Spirit If…. live last month in Bristol, and was blown away. It’s amazing how sometimes seeing a band live puts you suddenly on the right wavelength and their music has a new resonance after that…the chaotic moments have become rich with meaning, and these make the uncluttered melodies all the sweeter when they come. You can download three great live tracks from Austin’s KVRX sessions here.

Many members and friends of BSS have gone on to form their own bands and musical careers, including Emily Haines, frontwoman of Metric as well as Feist who has recently broken into the mainstream. Most of these bands are found on the Arts and Crafts label, which is more than just a record company, as you’ll discover if you poke around their website. Arts and Crafts is home to a plethora of great and innovative new bands such as the Constantines, Young Galaxy, The Stills, and Apostle of Hustle.

My favourite band, however (and I’m getting butterflies-in-the-stomach- tingles-up-and-down-the-spine just typing this…) is STARS, made up of Torquil Campbell, the quirky, irreverent, loveable (and definitely outspoken) co-lead singer of the band along with Amy Millan, whose voice drips with honey and seduces as it implores. Their interactions on stage and in their studio albums are without doubt some of the finest duets ever recorded. STARS includes Chris Seligman, Pat McGee, and Evan Cranley (Cranley and Millan are also part of the Broken Social Scene). Stars is not just a band that records songs- through their music they have woven a world of romance and revolt- a dynamic and inviting movement that isn’t afraid to be vulnerable (the Smiths after all are one of their biggest influences). In fact I don’t think I’ve been so in love with a band since I clutched desperately to one of Morrissey’s thrown gladiola after one of his shows in San Francisco when I was sixteen.

After a sold-out UK fall tour, Stars returns to this green and pleasant land for a second go this winter, coming to the Koko in London on January 29th and the floating Thekla nightclub in Bristol on January 30th. Also, Young Galaxy play the Thekla on Dec. 4th. You can get tickets for these shows at the Bristol Ticket Shop in Broadmead or online here. I suggest you (as they say) book early to avoid disappointment.