Posts Tagged ‘consumerism’

Past Time To Act On Climate Change?

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Past Time To Act On Climate Change? Seven years ago on Saturday 7th March 2015, 20,000 or so protesters marched through London to remind government and the nation it was Time to Act on Climate Change. Seven years on, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released a week ago warns “that climate breakdown is happening faster than expected and that the window to take action is closing fast. The report is a call to governments and private sector players to take drastic action against climate change.”

It’s a report that has largely been lost to public sight, pushed together with the stories about Tory sleaze and lies out of the news by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, though it has even more far-reaching implications. Not that I want to in any way minimise Putin’s criminal action and its terrible consequences for the people of Ukraine, largely innocents caught up in a situation of others’ making.

Of course the invasion of Ukraine has now raised the spectre of a nuclear war, which would almost certainly lead to mass extinction rather more rapidly than climate change, but the very dramatic prospect fortunately makes this almost unthinkable. Were it to happen it would almost certainly be by accident, something we have come close to several times in the past. Even our maddest politicians realise there is nothing to be gained by mutually assured destruction, and there would be no profits in it for the oligarchs or billionaires.

Climate change doesn’t happen in a massive flash, but is relatively slow and insidious. Even in the richer countries we are just beginning to feel its effects, and some in the Global South have long been suffering extreme hardship. But unless we heed the report and take drastic action without delay it will be too late to stop; many systems are coming close to their tipping points, past which there is no chance of recovery.

Scientists have been warning about the dangers for many years. Even 50 years ago when I was a student I spoke about the need to change the way we used the Earth’s resources and move to renewable systems of energy and agriculture, as many aspects of our current way of life were unsustainable.

Over 50 years ago it was clear to me that we needed to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, not just because of the carbon emissions and other pollutants, but also because thinking in the longer term it seemed a waste to burn what was a limited resource and an important chemical resource for plastics and other materials. I sold the only car I’d owned in 1967 or 8, because we needed to move away from a society based around private cars. It was clear too that we needed to farm in ways that conserved the soil and that many modern agricultural practices destroyed it – my father had joined the Soil Association which was established in 1946.

But of course there were huge profits to be made from fossil fuels and other industries that were driving up global emissions – and huge campaigns of obfuscation and lobbying. Most politicians in most countries were doing very nicely out of exploiting our natural resources – and the workers, who needed to be kept happy by more and more consumer goods as well as a huge and almost universal media promoting consumerism. Bread and circuses is of course nothing new.

Countries around the world, whatever their politics, are almost entirely run by politicians who have prospered from ‘business as usual’, and usually business corruption which they have colluded in by allowing money laundering, allowing huge tax avoidance and evasion and more. They have now learnt to talk the talk about climate change, but, as Greta Thunberg pointed out, it has been all “blah, blah, blah”, promises but little or no action.

There were many different groups taking part in ‘Time To Act on Climate Change’, including the Campaign Against Climate Change who have organised regular protests in London since 2002, Friends of the Earth who I’ve supported since the 1970s, the Green Party, anti-fracking protesters including the fabulous ‘Nanas’ of Frack Free Lancashire, campaigners against Heathrow expansion – and I list a few more in Climate Change Rally, which also has pictures of some of the speakers.

At the end of the rally I went on to photograph a protest by ‘Art Not Oil’ who invaded the steps of Tate Britain with their ‘longship’ and ‘oil spills’ in a protest demanding the Tate give up taking sponsorship from BP, who used their support of the arts to give themselves a positive public image despite the pollution and climate change their activites cause. It’s time to end this ‘greenwashing’.

Viking longship invades Tate steps has a few pictures of the event. The Longship first sailed to the British Museum where BP had sponsored a show on the Vikings. As I commented, the plastic oil spills used by the protesters “are a lot easier to clean up than the real ones BP has created such as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, and which could be truly catastrophic in the Arctic.”

More on all these on My London Diary:
Viking longship invades Tate steps
Climate Change Rally
Time to Act on Climate Change


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Valentine’s Day 2015 – Reclaim Love and Release Shaker

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Valentine’s Day 2015 – Reclaim Love and Release Shaker – two events I photographed on St Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2015.


Venus CuMara Reclaim Love 13 at Eros

I’ve photographed the Valentine street party at Piccadilly Circus most years, though I missed the first one, but it seldom takes place actually on the 14th February, as since the event began in (I think 2003) there have been only two years where that has been a Saturday – 2009 and 2015.

A 2010 article in ‘Resurgence’ described the intentions of the event well:

Valentine’s Day, which has its origins as far back as the Middle Ages, is traditionally a day where people show their affection by sending each other handwritten ‘love notes’. But again, this simple affirmation has been hijacked by corporations to the point where cards, chocolates, jewellery – even weekend breaks – are now expected.

But not everybody wants to participate in this orgy of consumerism. Now in its seventh year, Reclaim Love is a global movement away from celebrating Valentine’s Day with flowers and chocolates towards a day of celebrating Love itself. All around the world people are taking to the streets, parks or organised venues to link hearts and minds to send a warm message of love, unity and joy out into the world

Resurgence magazine
Venus Cumara

The event was conceived and coordinated by Irish poet Venus CuMara, and spread to a number of cities around the world, where at 3pm UTC also join hands in a large circle and recite together the mantra ‘May all the beings in all the world be happy and at peace’, an English translation of an ancient Sanskrit prayer.

Before and after this there is a great deal of celebration, with drumming, dancing and various free gifts of food and often t-shirts bearing the mantra. I have a couple of these, though have to admit I have seldom worn them, though I did give one away to one of my sons.

It wasn’t possible to hold a public gathering in 2021, but Venus asked for people to meditate at 3.30pm and hosted a livestream. I missed the event in 2020 as I was busy elsewhere, but it was very small, probably because of the abysmal weather.

2018

The last time I photographed Reclaim Love was in 2019, when we were all delighted to see Venus who despite suffering from cancer which is spreading through her body, was in great spirits and able to speak about her message of love. She had missed the previous year’s event as she was in Indonesia being treated for her cancer.

Venus in 2019

Venus asked people to go to Piccadilly Circus for Reclaim Love on 12 Feb 2022 in a video on the Facebook page, though this was only posted the previous day, and she apologised for not being able to be there in person. I went along to see if anything was happening a little after 3pm and found nothing, waited a few minutes and then left as I had another event to attend. Later I saw a photograph of around five people who were there at 3.33pm, the ‘circle’ time. Perhaps next year there will be more.

Venus CuMara Reclaim Love 13 at Eros


Valentine Day – 13 years for Shaker Aamer

Earlier in the day I’d walked with protesters from Parliament Square to a rally opposite Downing St calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he arrived has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

He arrived at Guantanamo on the 14th February 2002, and there has been subjected to several hundred incidents of beating and torture, including one notorious occasion in June 2006 where he was taken to a special secret interrogation site; three men who were taken with him for similar treatment that day died from asphyxiation, but he survived similar treatment.

Long cleared for release he continued to be held, probably because his evidence would be embarrassing both for the US and UK authorities. He has a British wife and resident status, and a campaign led to the UK government eventually making requests for him to be freed after he was cleared for release in 2007 and again in 2009. Despite this they UK had also spent over a quarter of a million pounds in legal fees to prevent his legal team gaining access to evidence to prove his innocence.

He was eventually released at the end of October 2015.

Valentine Day – 13 years for Shaker Aamer


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Eight Years Ago… 27 July 2013

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday 27th July 2013 my working day began with the Rev Billy on a small green space on Victoria Street preparing the Stop Shopping Choir and volunteers for a “radicalized midsummer cloud forest dream” performance against the support given to fossil fuels and climate chaos by the banks and the City of London.

I’m not sure what staff and customers at the HSBC close to Victoria station made of the event, which pointed out that in the two previous years the top five UK banks raised £170 billion for fossil fuel companies, with HSBC in the lead. The Golden Toad costumes were for the Central American species forced into extinction by climate change in the 1980’s and recent weather events have now forced even the more sceptic to take the crisis seriously, even if so far to take little actual action.

After the performance in the bank, and as police began to arrive the group made their way to a wide area of pavement outside and staged another performance watched by pedestrians in the busy street close to the station, before leaving to celebrate in a nearby café.

I left to go to Trafalgar Square where as a part of an international day of action the Bradley Manning Support Network held a vigil at St Martin-in-the-Fields. The ‘gay whistleblower’, now Chelsea Manning, was being celebrated in countries across the world for passing documents to WikiLeaks which exposed a great deal of illegal and immoral actions by the US and other governments and had recently been awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize and was then on trail in Fort Meade. She was later sentenced to 35 years in a maximum security jail, but this was commuted to around seven years by President Obama and she was released in 2017.

From there I made my way to the US Embassy, then still in Grosvenor Square, for a rally before the start of march organised by BARAC against Global Racism and Injustice in solidarity with families of Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Azelle Rodney, Jimmy Mubenga and many others, aimed a highlighting the reality of racism and demanding justice, both in the UK and US.

Although the march had been prompted by the acquittal in Florida of the murderer of Trayvon Martin which had led to a global outcry, the emphasis of the speeches at the Embassy was very much on events here in the UK. In his speech Lee Jasper of BARAC after mentioning the Martin case went on to say:

“We march to support the call from the Lawrence family for a full and independent judicial led public inquiry into the allegations that the Metropolitan Police sought to smear both the family and supporters through a covert police surveillance unit.”

“We march for Jimmy Mubenga, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell, Smiley Culture and Azelle Rodney. We march for justice and equality in the 50th anniversary year of Dr Martin Luther King’s 1968 March on Washington. The truth is that his dream is a threadbare vision here in the UK where racism is on the rise amplified by austerity.”

My London Diary

After an hour or so of speeches the marchers left to march to a further rally at Downing St, but I left them as they went down Oxford St.

Against Global Racism and Injustice
Free Bradley Manning Vigil
Rev Billy at HSBC


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Telling the Story – 19 July 2019

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I often find myself thinking about my role as a documentary photographer when I’m taking pictures of protests. And of thinking about how I can carry out that role.

Clearly I’m not their to take part in the protest – though often I support the cause of the protesters I’m making pictures of. I’m an observer rather than a participant, though there are occasions when I will intervene in some way, largely the kind of actions that I would expect anyone to take, like stopping people walking into traffic or helping someone who has fallen down or dropped something.

There have been times too when I reminded police of the law (not always advisable) or protested at their use of unnecessary force. And on some occasions when marches have got lost or taken a wrong turning I’ve pointed this out to the marchers. Some embassies and companies are quite hard to find.

I never set up people or groups, though sometimes when photographing people I may ask or gesture them to look at me or to hold their poster or placard higher or lower. But it isn’t a portrait session and I don’t ask them to smile or scowl or act up for the camera. It would have been much easier to make the picture of the XR symbols in those dark glasses in the studio and it took a number of attempts to catch him looking in exactly the right direction and catch those reflections from a banner which I’d noticed moving across them earlier.

But it isn’t just a matter of passive observing. I’m choosing my position, framing my pictures, selecting the moment, working to try to present the story clearly and effectively.

It isn’t essentially about making dramatic or attractive pictures, though I always hope some might be.

Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Requiem for a Dead Planet’ at Northcliffe House, home of the Daily Mail, Independent, Mail on Sunday, London Live and Evening Standard demanding they publish truth and end lies about climate change was a tricky one to cover, with heavy rain falling much of the time and a very limited area under cover for protesters and photographers. As we’ve seen in the past week, the weather is becoming more violent and this seemed appropriate if making the job more difficult.

Here’s some of the text I wrote at the time – the link below has more and more pictures:

“XR say avoiding climate & ecological devastation needs the media to tell the truth and stop publishing fake science denying climate change as well as advertising and editorial material that promotes high-carbon lifestyles, whether about fashion, travel food or other consumerist content so government can take the drastic action needed.

The protest included suitable requiem music by a small group of musicians in XR Baroque, a eulogy for lost species by a priest, speeches, poems, skeletons, banners and a die-in.”

Requiem for a Dead Planet at Daily Mail

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.