Thursday, December 17, 2009


Coming up on Radio Ecoshock - hot from Copenhagen, American energy - and the destruction of Africa. Two continents adrift in hard choices. We know climate change is upon us. It's just a matter of how fast, and how bad. The struggle stretches from Washington to Denmark to Kenya, where the President's family live, among the growing millions of climate refugees.

RADIO STATIONS: Background music for our feature on Africa is: "Talking Timbuktu" Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder. Note, each half of the program can be run as separate half hour features. Paul Kingsnorth interview is 27:24; Copenhagen Digest is 29:30. Links below.

Stick around, in our second half hour, we're off to Copenhagen, with voices you've never heard from the mainstream media. What Obama can do - no matter what watered down roadblocks Congress puts in the way. And why the fragile culture of Africa will boil away, with just 2 degrees of global temperature rise. Guess what! People there are not willing to die for our energy economy. From out of the darkness, Radio Ecoshock, with a digest of the best of independent radio coming from the Copenhagen convention center - courtesy of Phil England of

Radio Ecoshock Show "Uncivilized" 1 hour CD quality (55 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

But we open with the question: when does doubt become realism?

"...civilization as we have known it, is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system, and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world."

That's the starting point for our next guest, Paul Kingsnorth, a founder of The Dark Mountain Project. Paul is a well-educated, well-published environmentalist in England. He's been arrested at a protest, helped edit the Ecologist magazine, and Greenpeace publications. He appears regularly in British newspapers, radio, and television.

ALEX SMITH: Let's start with current events: was there ever any hope that climate change could be stopped, by our current political leaders, at Copenhagen?

PAUL KINGSNORTH: I don't think so, no, not at all. The conclusion was pretty foregone from the beginning. I think that the ways we look at climate change are probably the wrong ways.

If we look at climate change as a "problem" that we can solve within a certain amount of time, if we can just get the technology right, and if we can get the political will, and if we can build a big mass movement of people.

I don't think that's really what it is. I think climate change is almost an existential problem for us. It's a predicament we have to live with, rather than a problem we have to solve.

And I think the root of that is the fact that we treat climate change as if it's something that's external. It's a sort of problem we've created that we can solve with human genius. But climate change is our society, climate change is who we are.

Climate change is our computers, our televisions. It's our flights. And we're all complicit in it, those of us living in the rich world.

And the system that the political leaders who gathered in Copenhagen have to promote, because it's what their voters want them to promote, and it's what global corporations and the global economy wants them to promote, is the system that creates climate change.

So it's almost impossible to believe, I think, that they can turn around and suddenly flick a switch and turn it off again.

And I think we're having real trouble understanding that. I think that applies to environmentalists as well as the public as a whole. We still see climate change as a kind of challenge that we can tackle with the old fashioned methods of protesting, and marching, and letter writing, and campaigning. And I don't think it's responding to that at all.

ALEX: One thing brought home to me, by the alleged "leak" of the Danish text, - we in the West are committed to the expediency of atmospheric imperialism. We'll keep polluting, even if we lose whole countries and continents in the less developed world. Am I being pessimistic, or realistic?

PAUL KINGSNORTH: This is one of the things the Dark Mountain Project was set up: to try to distinguish between pessimism and realism.

I think that the whole of the environmental movement, in which I've been involved for a long time, is built on this edifice of hope. And hope can be a very good thing. But if it's false hope, it's a very dangerous thing.

And we've almost come to believe that anything's possible if we just hope for it enough. And I think we need to take a cold, and a hard, and a realistic look at the way the world is, and the way that human society is. And the way that human society is rubbing up against the ecological reality.

It's all very well, taking to the streets to kind of urge our leaders to act at Copenhagen. But our leaders are running this enormous machine, and this machine IS about cannibalizing resources from the rest of the world. It's about keeping the consumer economy going. You can't just turn that around, however much mass action you have.

And the problem is with climate change, is that actually you're never going to get millions of people on the streets to campaign against climate change. Because they'll be campaigning against their own way of life. They'll be campaigning against their own comfort, in the West at least.

And so we're all complicit in that system. The voters are complicit, the corporations are complicit, the politicians are complicit. We might want to stop climate change, but actually I don't think that we can, at least within the time scale that's apparently available to us.

I think we need to be honest about that. Because only when we're honest about that, can we start to think about what we do next....

Hear this interview with Paul Kingsnorth. (27 min, 6 MB)

Find out more about The Dark Mountain Project

or Paul Kingsnorth


There is no single story coming out of the Copenhagen climate talks in December 09. There are hundreds. Today we'll cover the struggle of two continents: North America, the great wealthy polluter, and Africa, the poorest victim of global climate change.

We'll do it as only radio can. On a shoestring, a band of radio activists found the voices we never hear in mainstream media. They broadcast it daily to London, to Resonance FM, and to the States through Democracy Now! You'll hear Amy Goodman, Phil England, and Frederika Whitehead, plus audio from More importantly, you'll get first hand the voices of the dispossessed, the representatives of Africa.

In spite of my years of studying climate change, my many interviews with top climate scientists, I never understood until now the real impact of climate disruption on Africa. Where hundreds of millions depend upon simple rain-fed agriculture, the rains are not coming, or flood everything out when they do. Wealth measured in cattle is now mile upon mile of skulls strewn across the widest part of the continent. Lake Chad, Africa's largest lake, has almost disappeared, drying out into a few marshes. Even farming rich South Africa is drying out, with worse to come in the next decades. We all need to wake up and listen to the distress calls from Africa.

Here is a map of some climate change impacts on Africa.

Meanwhile, the oil empire of America is trying to decide what to do. We'll begin there, with a quick news bite from Amy Goodman, an interview with Cassie Siegel on the legal moves, and then Naomi Klein on Obama's damage.

Does America have to gut the Clean Air Act to make new climate legislation? Hear Phil England of with Cassie Siegel, of the Center for Biological Diversity....

Incredibly, in oil-dependent Nigeria, there has been a major conference calling for a halt to further oil exploration. Leave it in the soil, to develop a real economy, and to save the climate of Africa. Listen to Phil England of climateradio with Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth, Nigeria.

But African representatives at Copenhagen were aggrieved and angry to discover their Danish hosts colluded with the biggest countries to write a polluters treaty, called the Danish Accord. We play a clip from the spontaneous protest that broke out in the main conference hall. It's heart-breaking - a deal that condemns millions of Africans to drought, more diseases, and heat deaths.

And it all links back to the United States, historically the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. We wrap up with a passionate letter to Obama, written by the African delegates. Really, it's a letter to Americans as they decide about their energy future - and the right to go on polluting the atmosphere.

Listen to this digest of alternative radio. (29 min 30 sec, 7 MB)

It's official, this past decade was the warmest ever recorded. Doubt and despair, as the world hurtles into more decades of climate change.

Alex Smith

No comments: