Tis the season ....

5 reasons for me to be jolly:

  • Today's climate change march... thousands of people joyfully dancing through the streets of London to the sound of drums and chanting.
  • Wednesday's Fair Christmas Fayre. One Lord Mayor. 2 singing beauties. 8 brass bands men. 50 friends. 550 Fair Trade cupcakes. 1000 strangers. 10,000 fair trade gifts. 16,000 free chocolate bars. Brilliant.
  • This article in New Scientist- Happiness spreads through social networks to such an extent that a friend of a friend can effect your happiness by up to 6%!!! It is a social responsibility to smile!
  • Going to NZ on Monday... for 6 weeks.... the sun! The sea! Weddings! Friends! Family! 24 hours sitting down and actually doing nothing!
  • Google tells me that Word Aids Day was the most googled thing this week.... humankind does care.


The Marinade

The Marinade Advent blog is back for 2008. With 3 new contributors on top of the 5 others the Marinade collective will be throwing up some thought provoking advent musings in the lead up to Christmas 08.
Keep in touch at www.marinateme.wordpress.com


More than one bar of fair trade chocolate in the stocking . . .

Free Christmas! is a movement of people who want to do Christmas differently.

We love Christmas and think it should be much more than simply an act of consumption. We want it to be a creative display of love- not just for our friends and family but for people across the globe and for the earth.

At the moment Christmas has some pretty nasty side effects; tonnes of waste, millions of unwanted presents, huge amounts of debt and stress. We believe we can change this! We want our gifts to help poorer people across the globe (see our ethical pressie guide) or to be about time not money or to be made of recycled stuff to bring some healing to the planet.

We think that if enough people promise to celebrate differently in these ways Christmas really will be a joy to the world. (You will have to excuse any cheeseyness or Christmas carol puns along the way… it is far too hard to resist.)

So on Free Christmas! you will find help with presents, resources to inspire others and a whole crowd of people trying to do the same thing as you. Check all this stuff out but most importantly join the movement: pledge- along with your family if possible- to Free Christmas!


Solid as Barack

I am pretty sleepy but want to put this down. Yesterday we celebrated Parihaka with some Kiwi's in London. Parihaka is an amazing and beautiful piece of NZ history, of the worlds first modern movement of peaceful resistance. It occurred long before those we now associate with non-violence came along but last night as we lit our sparklers we couldn't help but follow the thread from this small group of people on the coast of New Zealand in 1881 and the momentous election of the first black President of the US. It is a simple track; Parihaka inspired Ghandi- his family have since visited in recognition of this- and Ghandi greatly inspired Martin Luther King, and of course if it wasn't for MLK and the civil liberties movement the dream of a black president would hardly even be a dream let alone reality. Little did the tribe of Ngati Te Whiti know when they laid down their lives back then, peacefully in the face of their oppressors, that they would lay a part of the foundation for Barack Obama! The ripples...

Amazing really.

It is incredible news. Not so much for the policies he is gonna implement- this is politics; he may be a bit of a radical but I predict nothing too crazy is going to happen. Everyone wants to go for the second term, eh? But for the potent symbolism! And for the fact that this act can single handedly liberate the dreams of a whole generation of young black people. Truly huge.


Power to the People

I went to the Climate Rush on parliament the other week, it was planned on the anniversary of the suffragettes rush on parliament. I was monumentally hit by the absolute urgency of us reducing our emissions. It is literally a case of now or never.

There was a great little article on the BBC website yesterday about the importance of communities in the fight against climate change. Check it out here.

How can we harness this huge potential?

I am sure there is more we can do then giving worms to every household. On that point the worms have stopped migrating and are now happily producing fertiliser. They rock.

Oh and you must check out:

This! A a great little interactive tool to finding out ways of reducing emissions in your house. And you can order Freebies like stickers to help you remeber to only fill the kettle for as many cups as you need. lets hear it for Freebies! Whoop Whoop!


Got Worms

2000 of them, in our laundry room. They are our pets, they all have names beginning with W (but we don't know them all yet.)

It is our latest experiment in urban low carbon living.

It is pretty gross. They are new- they arrived through Royal Mail yesterday- and seem to be in their escaping stage (I had to google it after we arrived downstairs this morning to find one wandering around our candy floss machine.)

They eat our tea bags and other waste. And turn it into goodness for our herbs.

But it is still pretty gross. I couldn't go to sleep last night because my brain was telling me their were worms in my hair, socks and ears.

Will keep you updated on the slimey little carbon heros.


Songs that bring hope

We went to the End Child Poverty: Keep the Promise march and rally through London yesterday. It was massive, at least 10,000 people turned up to hold the government to the promise they made 10 years ago to end child poverty by 2020. Still a third of UK children are living in poverty.

It was awesome. I love a good march, it restores my faith in change for two reasons. As I look about I see that not only do this many people care about an issue but also that this many people believe that turning up with a banner and a shout can make a difference.

Today I was listening to an old Delirious song and as I belted it out I thought of the thousands of different people who came yesterday, representing possibly just as many beliefs, faith positions,
philosophies. Yet I think I felt the darkness tremble and I think that yesterday, altogether, was a song that bought hope.

Did you feel the darkness tremble?
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokeness

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice


Christmas comes to soon...

BHS on Oxford St has already got it's first Christmas window.... waah.

However, I canny talk. I have been investing a lot of time on Christmas already. See, every year I despair that Christmas is such an extravaganza of materialism, stress and consumerism, it is truly season of worshiping mammon. So this year I am mobilising early to compete with this!

The first thing is Fair Christmas Fayre- an ethical/alternative Christmas fayre held in the church next door. Already we have some awesome people signed up to come. I am going to be investing some blogging energies into www.fairchristmasfayre.wordpress.com from now on. Please list it!
The second, even more exciting, thing is that as a result of Dream Date on Friday night (a dream/discussion/action night on social injustice) we are building a new Christmas movement! (Can you build a movement?) There is a team of us... we are going to produce a web resource for individuals and church groups on how to do Christmas differently- there is lots of good stuff already, hopefully we can add to it- and we are also going to host weekly shopping free zones on Oxford St where people can come and talk, make presents etc. Wanna join us?


peace one day

This Sunday is International Day of Peace. A few weeks ago a young women from my youth group suggested that we should do something - so we have commandeered the Sunday afternoon church service for the sole purpose of promoting peace; personal, local and global peace.
As the UK (see below) ad campaign asks:

"What will you do to make peace?"

Check out these stats from New Internationalist:
In recorded history since 3600 BC, over 14,500 major wars have killed close to four billion people - two-thirds of the current world population.
  • In armed conflicts since 1945, 90 per cent of casualties have been civilians compared to 50 per cent in the second World War and 10 per cent in the first.
  • Around 85 countries have undergone some sort of disarmament since the end of the Cold War in 1989, but 69 nations have been increasing their stock of weapons - mostly low income countries buying from the richer ones.
  • The United States is the world’s biggest arms exporter - supplying around 40 per cent of the developing world’s arms.
  • The U.S military budget is as large as the next ten, top-spending, countries combined.
  • Britain is the world’s second-largest arms exporter with a 25 per cent share of the legal global market.
  • Between 1990 and 1994 Britain supplied 13 per cent of total arms exports to sub-Saharan Africa - while at war from 1987 to 1994, Angola received $7.3 billion worth of British arms.
  • There are at least 250,000 child soldiers fighting in armed conflict.
  • Most countries consider young soldiers ‘volunteers’. But often coercion is involved - in Uganda around 8,000 children have been abducted for use as soldiers or prostitutes.
Here is a video on the idea and origins of Peace One Day. I love it; it paints a picture of a man with a dream to change the world, obsessed by it, making it happen, growing the dream-almost-reality until it is big.. really big....


Lend me some sugar...

On Saturday we ventured to Tearfund's Whose My Neighbour? Conference... it was grand. Archbishop Desmond Tutu amazed with the most simple of messages with regard to global poverty; a reminder that every last person is made in the image of God... is a God bearer and that we must treat them so. He pressed home God's bias toward the weakest and the idea that when we serve people, in particular those who are vulnerable, we must do so as if it was the Creator of the Universe. He is the most fun yet most convincing person I think I have heard speak ever. Go him. (Like he needs my cheer leading!)

This is one of my favourite gems as he speaks to that place we go to when faced with hard calls, safety.
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."


dreams are free

So the thesis is all finished, bound and handed in. Phew. That was a job. If anyone wants to read 9,919 words on the relationship between global citizenship and global inequality, just let me know.

On that note I am currently thiiiiinking about developing the social action calendar into a fully blown web resource for 2009, with the idea of inspiring action and fostering global civil society. (The Rubicon's Match Factory is currently closest to what it would look like- a guide to how to get active on some key dates for social change, the latest low down on September- October is now live.) This is pretty exciting and I am looking for reps who would be interested in maintaining a guide to their national social action scene (email if you fancy more info on this... or look out in your inbox for an email from me- cause for another winks really, eh).

And, lastly, because we don't devote enough time to d r e a m i n g, any locals are invited to Dream Date. Created with the sole purpose of imagining possible responses to local and global injustice. . .


just a spoonful of hope

I have been thinking about hope. It seems in the last week there has been an incident or a story almost everyday that has given me hope and restored my faith in people and God. I reckon it is vital that we make a thing of these things... otherwise the stealthy ink of despondence can just seep on in.
For me, someone that almost makes my heart burst with hope and the potential of the world to be transformed is Foy Vance and songs such as 'Gabriel and the vagabond', from the aptly named album Hope. Props to Mel W who pointed me in this fullas direction- he pretty much provides the soundtrack to the life of our house at the moment! Truly beautiful.
Here is a performance of Gabriel and the Vagabond:


it's a freebie too...

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is talking at a global poverty conference here in London on 6th September, wowzers.... Book your place here.


The Olympics are fun...

I really just got into the mixed badminton doubles, punching the air woot woot, thinking it was the finals. Really it was just a little heat (and Badminton??). But thrilling it was.

So the Olympics are fun and all that, but lest we forget...

You can follow the Gadfly project at this blog- a voice for the persecuted of China.

and you can follow the Darfur Olympics here.


addicted to oil

This is a fab little video from Good mag.

You know, I really dislike glad wrap/ cling film. I really do think our grandchildren one day will look at us in disbelief and say "You used up the oil to wrap up your sandwiches????"

As Good magazine say "if we're addicted to oil, our twelve-step program should begin with admitting that we have a problem."


It's been a while...

Been doing some thinking on holiness... and have found some scrawlings I did when I was in an awesome theological library back in NZ. What about this one from a chap called Barton:
Holiness as separation is displaced by holiness as solidarity...

That is surely what Jesus did eh, turned it from being an inward dilemma of purity to being about full engagement with the world in all its messiness.

So, life is good. I am job hunting at the moment (a pretty arduous thing) but it is giving me time to spend on some more creative stuff. In order to support my jobless state I am currently doing a couple of commissions for people so if you know anyone that is looking for some original art for their home or office, flick me an email and I'll send you the link to my online 'folio. (Sorry, abused my blog for marketing purposes there.)

Keep radical!


I don't normally get party political on this blog...

but I can't help it. This week leader of the opposition locked his bike up while he went to the shop and came out and it had been pinched. Not really that interesting except that he locked it up to a short post, meaning the thief just had to lift the bike up and off.

For over a year the press has hounded Gordon Brown, making his every move looking like a bumbling mistake- turning minor incidences into major "How- is- this- fool- running- our- country" dilemmas. (For what it is worth I think Brown is passionate, stoic and pretty wise, if not an oil painting which I fear is the press's main concern.) Yet when it comes to the shadow PM doing something so ludicrous as bothering to chain his bike up to a small bollard, not a word is mentioned about it. Not even the smallest ribbing. London, the place where 22,0000 bikes are stolen every year and the hopeful next leader of the country can't seem to work out the logistics of how bikes can be lifted clear of a short post. Crazy, I tell you, crazy.

(Obviously, if the press had gone nuts about the stupidity of this I probably would have posted saying "Come, on- its sweet that he had such faith in humankind") (Actually, na, probably wouldnt have. It is just thick.)


a worthy coup

A great article in the Independent today, about a take over of an arms manufacturer. Love it.


Summer read?

Ah, have returned from a splendid tour of the sunny pastures of Swizerland and France where we swam almost everyday, gorged on the fruit we picked, helped at our friends farm, spent 20 hours lost in paris on our bikes, canoed down the Dordogne, snorkeled our heads off on the border of Spain and took in the beauty of the alps and the pyrenees. Fabulous. And now we are back in the fun crazyness of 9 Princes St and I am tangoing with my thesis.

I just wanted to point out This book, produced by Oxfam and written by Duncan Green, From Poverty to Power. It is downloadable for free and is a pretty comprehensive look at current inequality and the solutions (Active citizens: you and me, people.) There is a little bit on the importance of faith in which Oscar Romero even gets props.

Hope you are well and radical as ever...


bit of an update

Phewza (Bit of a new word, a phew mixed with wowza, making it a high energy sigh.)
The exams are over, 5 of the bad boys, and I am pretty stoked with how they went.
I had a day off yesterday and then got stuck into my dissertation today, a huge meaty topic which I question choosing but am really interested in, it goes something like: Does the concept of global citizenship hold potential to impact on global inequality?
Yeah. I know.
Anyway, Some cool stuff has been happening.
  • We (the flatmates and I) did a thing at the church next door for International Childrens Day, it was an interactive look and pray at children in the world. It went really well.
  • We are having a house warming on Saturday, if anyone's around? There's a circus theme going on. That'll be fun.
  • We are trying to go to France next week, for a break. We really, really want to go swimming.
  • We have an amazing group of friends who come over every couple of weeks for discussion, we are using Ched Myers Sabbath Economics stuff. It is heavy lifestyle/social justice stuff. Tuesday was environmental and was very cool.
  • We prayer walk around the neighbourhood on a Friday at 6:30 and then normally come back here for beans on toast if anyone fancies coming? It is a cool time to just reflect on the happenings of the area, which you don't normally tend to do when just going to the market for vege's for tea.
  • Shelley and Tim did a photo shoot around Soho to show at church the other week, its pretty nice. Here it is:


I guess it makes me a realist

"Be realistic - demand the impossible!”
Anonymous graffiti, Paris, 1968

I just don't know how else life can be change for the 26,000 children dying everyday from poverty, if we refuse to think big.


A way to wile away the hours (that isn't facebook)

This little gadget allows you to select countries and compare progress on Gross Domestic Product (purely financial) with how it fares on the Human Development Index (a much more accurate picture of well being, health, education etc etc). It throws in another country for you to check out too.
(It is actually really interesting, not geeky.) (I hope.) (Otherwise I am way too obsessed with my studies and am far to easily enthralled with things that aren't actually fun, just more fun than my books. Wah.)


For a little laugh. . .

A fantastic piece of political satire in the Guide this week discussing the disconnect between the publics interest in some serious global issues and their apathy. It concludes...

"For all these reasons, people have become disillusioned with parliamentary politics (which probably suits parliament very nicely), and have found better ways to express their political views than through the imprecise oversimplification of voting; they go on protest marches, write blogs, or buy slightly more expensive bananas. So we comedians may try to hold up a mirror to society, but in doing so, we risk society grabbing the mirror, smearing cosmetics all over its own head, and telling itself it looks lovely. And then smashing the mirror on its bonce."


Off to get beheaded

Well, I have got my first exam in a couple of hours. ooh the trepidation. I feel like Anne Boleyn.

I've got 4 more in the next 10 days. On the 17th of June, when they are all over, regardless of whether I feel like I whizzed through or flunked, I will be one seriously free and happy soul.

Anyway, Saw this quote today courtesy of the Sojourners crew. Tis beauty.

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.

- Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966. (Today is the 40th anniversary of his assassination.)


A canon for each moment

Apparently Tolstoy once said:
"I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back.
It strikes me that this is like us every day! We join a march for climate change and and talk for all the world about the poor state of those in poverty, but we are not willing to do some of the most obvious things that could bring real reprieve. There was an article in the Guardian on the weekend about Plane Stupid. I admire them so much because they are willing to put their life on the line for justice. Where as many of us just can't seem to do the most simple things, that require sacrifice only of pleasure.

Loathe to use up two of my favorite quotes... Gandhi once said: "I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj (freedom) for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."

For those serious about poverty... oppression.. injustice... we do need some kind of mechanism like this, don't we. Sad as it is. (Particularly for people of faith- we have such a strong Biblical mandate for encapsulating local and global love in each moment, yet it doesn't seem to be having much impact.) It seems just impossible for people to connect their strong leanings of head and heart towards radical action for social justice with simple, everyday activity. We need this talisman, a reminder, a measure for when we are faced with decisions.

Shall we fly to Switzerland for 2 weeks by the lake?


Two things that rocked my socks

I checked out the street art tunnel that was given a make over by Banksy and co. It is amazing, and if you are ever by Waterloo you should fully check it out.
On Sunday I went to a church to hear Jim Wallis speak. I really dig this man, the first book of his I read, Gods Politics, was probably the first book I read that articulated all the things I was quietly leaning towards. He is doing other talks in the UK in a couple of days, see here. And is also doing the whole world I think.I love this picture, its from the Banksy tunnel. I don't know what it's intention was, probably not how I took it. But I took it to be like, here is this little Godly being, so clearly mysterious and connected with something Big, stamping out a denial of what so obviously created him. It is like what we do when we fail to be all about love. (Hehe, sorry, is that a bit of a big leap?!)

At the Jim Wallis talk, Steve Chalke also spoke and he just commented on the new atheism movement (E.g, the God Delusion by Dawkins) and pointed out that the place that Nietzsche and new atheism leads you to is that there is only one absolute- the survival of the fittest. Understandably this is the absolute opposite to the Jesus thing- laying down your life for others! So, instrumentally following Jesus would lead society into a healthy, well, cohesive space.

So I thought this was a good perspective, unfortunately history doesn't attest to this does it really. Which is pretty sad. But it's not unredeemable, its not too late for followers of Jesus to begin loving to the point of laying down your life for people so that the "God is Dead" idea and what it leads to not only becomes a horrible option, but an impossible one.


Beautiful Things

There are some awesome DVDs called Nooma's, with a guy speaking about various stuff. We watched one today called YOU. In it he says:
"These first Christians believed that Jesus resurrection had implications for the entire universe. Their tradition had taught them that the world is broken and desperately in need of repair and that at some point in the future, God was going to put it all back together. For them, this future restoration had nothing to do with leaving this world; it was all about the restoration, the renewing and the reclaiming of this world."

We also had to day in church, the kids choir singing a funky little song with the words "Do something beautiful, go do something Jesus would"...

And that is where Jesus, his life and words make sense, eh? In places where people are doing beautiful things, right here and now. Not looking to the ol' pie in the sky thing.

On that beautiful things note, a powerful 5 minute film and song by Stop the Traffick, a crowd of people and organisations passionately trying to bring about change in one of the worlds most evil scenes, is here.


A new home

This week we are moving in, along with two friends, to Nine- a flat at the back of our church. We have spent the best part of a year turning this derelict dump into livable lodgings, putting up new walls, pouring paint everywhere and ferreting around the streets and skips of london for household goods (We got some awesome carpet that way.) Finally we are ready to move in! We are pretty excited. Our hope is that it will be a loving home of:
simple living
responsible living
generous living
radical living...

It is based up in Soho so engaging with the community will be exciting but pretty challenging. We'll be taking it pretty slowly and seeing what happens.

We are inspired by:
New Monasticism
Boiler Rooms
and all the other little homes around the world that are carving out alternative ways of living in their community.

A wholly new chapter begins...


Spies, terrorists and ploughshares.

Check out some kiwi Jesus loving activists bursting their local war mongering bubble here, a little bit of news worth a watch. They are doing nice things with Isaiah 2- the chapter in the Bible that speaks about how God inspires people to turn their swords in to ploughshares. Nice work.

I read somewhere yesterday a crazy statistic about how 86% of the global arms trade comes out the only 5 permanent members of the UN security council. There is some proper nasty hypocrisy spinning around when it comes to arms and war. We desperately need some of these leading countries to get serious out peacemaking eh?
(Beautiful Picture pinched with huge thanks from this blog!)


I wrote this as I was revising for my Child rights Exam.. I don't think it's quite the ticket...

A match is on. In the blue corner we have the Transnational Corporations who make up over half of the 100 worlds largest economies. In the red corner we have the children of the world... 2.2 billion of them, one in two of which are in poverty. It is a David and Goliath match. Both are fighting for their rights.. the children for their right to life, an adequate standard of living and the right to an education. The Corporations; for the right to make as much profit as possible.

In the crowd, a noisy bunch fill one side; governments with banners waving the words "We are your fans! We will lower our taxes and subsidise you if you come to our country!", Neo liberal economists screaming "Go unbridled capitalism: Economic growth is good for all!" and small factory owners gushing "We love you! We will keep our wages so very low and conditions sparse to maximise efficiency and help your profits!"...

On the other side an equally fierce crowd made up activists chanting "Freedom from poverty for all!", Nuns yelling "Children are more important than business!!" and academics yeilding flags with the message "Child Rights over Profit!"

The children take a deep breath as the Corporations eye them up, a frightening gleam in their eyes remincent of that evil guy with the net in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The bell rings...

(PS If you haven't see the Corporation, it's a must)


Talking about poverty

I realise that a list of quotes sucks out any impact they may have on their own... but here's a random juke box selection anyway. I have been revising poverty for school today and have been stirred...

"Poverty is the principle cause of human rights violations in the world" Office of the High commission of human rights, 1999

"'Tis my maxim that there is no scandal like rags, nor any crime so shameful as poverty"
George Faquhar, 1707

Impoverished young people in Brazil are "losing the right to dream" President Lula
(da Silva, 2003)

"The worst thing about living in poverty is the way it gives others permission to treat you- as if you don't matter" Statement from Low income parents to the APPGP, 2002

"The need to lend a voice to suffering is a condition of all truth"
Adorno, 1973

and from my Head of Department, bit long but a pretty powerful:

If the term "poverty" carries with it the implication and moral imperative that something should be done about it, then the study of poverty is only ultimately justifiable if it influences individual and social attitudes and actions. This must be borne in mind constantly if discussion on the definition of poverty us to avoid becoming an academic debate worthy of Nero- a semantic ans statistical squabble that is parasitic, voyeuristic and utterly unconstructive and which treats "the poor" as passive objects of attention, whether benign or malevolent- a discussion that is part of the problem rather than part of the solution"
Piacaud, 1987


Oxfam gets animated

This is a video produced for the Swap It parties- www.oxfam.org.uk/swapit by Frater. They have done an amazing job. Let Mr Whistle inspire you to find your ethical rhythm! Warning, you'll be whistling this tune all day...

This is Oxfams new TV ad which I think is rather beautiful, too.


the children, the children...

I have been in the library today working on a paper for my Child Rights, Poverty and Development course. I have been exploring what the realisation of Articles 26 and 27 of the Convention on The Rights of the Child would mean for children in poverty. It basically requires that all children are given access to social security- essentially it is a childs right to be free from poverty. All countries in the world have ratified this treaty apart from, get this, Somalia and, yes, America.

Anyway, my readings today have been so powerful. I have been reading Child Poverty in the Developing world a report by Gorden et al (2003) that measures 8 deprivation indicators - deprivation of sanitation, education, food, information, water, access to basic services, shelter and health. This report found that one third of children in developing nations are in absolute poverty deprived totally of two or more of these things , and a half are severely deprived with no access to one or more of these. In sub sahara Africa the percentages reach 65% and 80% respectively. That is HUGE. I was quite overwhelmed visualizing these statistics.

How are we in this state? Economic growth across the globe has been momentous, yet millions and millions of beautiful children are left entirely behind.

What are we to do?


The Olympic Flame in Paris

Allo allo- those French know how to protest! Amazing amazing footage and powerful report here.
And San Fran already getting their banners out on the bridge. CCOME ON!
San Francisco will bring it. I watch in anticipation as people across the world speak out for our "One Dream"- of human rights for all.PS- And also, it was weird today as Tim and I had a few conversations with people being "disappointed" with the 'violent protests' of yesterday, and the way the press has portrayed it- it is as if we were igniting cars. I feel so sad about that- is a "peaceful protest" one that simply stays behind the barricades? Yesterday no one was threatened, assaulted, no property damaged, nothing thrown.... It was confrontational and it crossed boundaries but it was far from violent. (Apart from the coppas picking us up and flicking us off like flies!) To be sure, I can imagine admirable saints of old having a grand old stomp and shout about oppression and injustice.


Olympic Flame in London: yeah but, sport and politics don't mix!

We spent the day charging round London following the Olympic flame. It was the most powerful protest I have ever been a part of, with thousands of people enraged with Chinas human rights abuses and enraged at the Olympic committees tolerance of 7 years of broken promise. People were there on behalf of Tibet, on behalf of Darfur, Burma, even Zimbabwe (Chinese government has given billions to continue Mugabe's tyranny) and of course violations within China.

Some of todays sights and conversations will never leave me; standing with flags held high, a young guys stereo pouring out a Tibetan lament as rank upon rank of police gather to protect the flame, a middle aged women in a suit scrambling over the barrier as passion engulfed her, teenagers, grey haired guys and my husband running for miles alongside the flame on the Stratford leg calling Shame, Shame, Shame. For me 'shame' summed up today, and not just because it rhymes so nicely with 'flame'. Shame on the Chinese government for oppressing their people and the people of other nations, shame on Brown for turning a blind eye, shame on the International Olympic Committee for not holding China to account and Shame on the Olympics Association in the UK for gagging our athletes.
Yet still, today I felt a renewed faith in human kind as we raised our voices together to scream ourselves hoarse in the name of justice.

Interesting things that don;t exactly fit anywhere in this post:
  • An overview of the day by Angry Chinese blogger
  • A clarification: Anti- China protests? No, mate. China has some great stuff going on, first climate neutral city, great basic public education and health services, and Chinese people are for the most part I imagine, although I only know a small number, wonderful. This was an Anti-Human Rights Abuse protest and nothing else.
A couple of decades ago crowds of brave Kiwis stood up to the tour of the South African rugby team during Apartheid. The message was so strong that it became a part of a global pressure on that diabolical racist regime. Who said sports and politics shouldn't mix?Our SHAME sign (blood splatted A)

Thousands gather to meet the flame at the 02
The last leg: the protection was 4 people deep.



Today I saw a video from Amnesty. It is a beautiful imagination captor! Just the inspiration we need if we ever begin to doubt the effect of our action (or inaction) on people across the world.


Happy Political Easter

People in England love to think of Jesus as apolitical. This is understandable when we have an awful far right American rhetoric claiming Jesus bats on their team, but also sad. As while Jesus wasn't a socialist or a capitalist, communist or neoliberalist, he was deeply political. He didn't play party politics but his message has volumes to say regarding power and policy. To deny that is to follow a sort of neutered Jesus. (Yes, I have nailed my colours to this mast before!)
This weekend for me has been a fabulous celebration of Gods free for all love, path displaying light and soul bouncing life. 3 things that if we allow them to have much to say for society and politics.
The Guardian Newspaper ran a cool comment yesterday called "A funny kind of Easter" -its opening paragraph likens a nowaday version of Jesus' torture to the kind of torture current governments are using. It continues to discuss the absolute disconnect between the Christian faith modeled by those in world leadership and the founder of that faith. It is very brief, a bit controversial but quite beautiful and sums up a lot of how I feel about the implications of Jesus, the cross and Easter... here's a bit:

"Easter is not all about going to heaven. Still less some nasty evangelical death cult where a blood sacrifice must be paid to appease an angry God. The crucifixion reveals human death-dealing at its worst. In contrast, the resurrection offers a new start, the foundation of a very different sort of community that refuses the logic of scapegoating. The kingdom is a place of shocking, almost amoral, inclusion. All are welcome, especially the rejected. At least, that's the theory. Unfortunately, very few of us Christians are any good at it."

The last sentence seems to despair, but rather it is a well needed confession. This Easter I'm pledging to a life that more deeply reflects Jesus' outrageous kingdom of welcome and love for people constantly turned away.


and not a drop to drink!

“Water is Life. Yet this precious resource is widely mismanaged. Unless we change our ways of managing water we will face serious crises in the near future”. Ismail Serageldin, Chairman of the World Water Commission and Vice President of the World BankWorld Water Day it is. Tim and I are half way through our water fast. It is going okay, primarily because we haven't done any laundry and because we are attempting to time our loo breaks with other peoples so the flush doesn't count on ours. (That is so cheating, but if we were to flush even once it would use up our entire daily allowance!!!)
There is an interesting resource on how much water everything uses here. The chart really shows that mine and Tims attempt is basically a farce as our lives are set up to pour water down the drain. In revolt of this wasteful system The Simple Way have made a little guide to the "Grey Water flushing system"- reusing water as a flush. (Yeah, what most of the world has to do.)
Despite the fact that a UN report in '99 stated that more then 200 scientists from across the world have declared water shortage as one of the two most worrying problems of this century (alongside global warming) it gets little airtime. When we have such beautiful free flowing pure water on tap (forgetting for a minute that the Thames water we drink has already been through bucket loads of other Londoners!) its easy to forget that wars are being fought over this resource (Bolivian "Water War.")
Check out this BBC news article that goes into the intensity of the worlds water state from a different angle to the lack of access to sanitized water for those in poverty. Also, The Salvation Army has a great resource page here well worth checking out. A place where you can also find Mel Wiggins song, Watershed... (or just check out her Myspace) which has some potent words in it...
"Its time that we changed the noise... to rivers that rage and overflow... a well spring of justice and an ocean of unity to show that our dreams of this be turned to noble action..."


water, water everywhere

World Water Day this Saturday. The average European goes through 200 litres of water per day. (For Americans its 400) The average amount in the developing world is 10 litres. As a little thing of solidarity and to try and get to grips with this I am going to go Friday- Monday, the whole of the Easter weekend, using 10 litres each day. I'll let you know how it goes! Feel free to join me in this little challenge!!
  • 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water, this is roughly one sixth of the world's population.
  • 2.6 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is roughly two fifths of the world's population.
  • 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This amounts to around 5000 deaths a day.

  • Water-related disease is the second biggest killer of children worldwide, after acute respiratory infections like tuberculosis.


p r o c r a s t i n a t i o n

The project I have been developing for for Oxfam has just gone live: www.oxfam.org.uk/swapit
We are encouraging people across the country to hold parties for poverty on April 25th. Its all about swapping stuff in an attempt to model a more creative and less damaging way to consume AND to create a space for a conversation to take place about ethical consumerism. Check it out and sign up!!!

Tomorrow is my last day of classes- can you believe it?! The next 3 months are dedicated to essay writing (4), exams (5) and dissertation (1). Studying at LSE has been the most incredible experience. I don't think there are many other masters programmes in the world when you are sitting there being taught by a world authority on poverty when a fellow student puts up her hand and says "Sir, I have to disagree. When I was with the World Bank in Kenya...." OR where you come across Goldie Hawn in the corridor because she is meeting with one of your teachers about Happiness! (He also advising Mr Brown on the same topic) hehe.
I have always tended to read alot of books at the same time, but the last few month have been beyond a joke. At the moment by my bed I have:

Making globalisation work for the poor by Stiglitz
Development as Freedom by Sen (big time recommend)
The Bottom Billion by Collier
The Shock Doctrine by Klein
Global Citizenship by Schattle
World Poverty by Townsend
Global Social Policy by Deacon
Punk Monk by Freeman
The Trumpet Major by Hardy

Serious- I am at various stages with all of them. Craziness.

Anyway this is just to say that due to the onset of much essay writing and reading requirements I will probably be blogging everyday.


a paw and a claw

are inhibiting my typing skills. I broke a finger on each hand at a youth weekend two weeks ago. One break is sitting in a little plastic splint and is doing sweet as, the other was a bad one and needed surgery and screws and is now wrapped in one humoungous cast. I feel like a big grizzly swiping at honey. So blogging is not easy but still i wanted to point out three things:
1- thumbs are great.
2- Fairtrade fornight is going swimmingly despite a ludicrous report from the Adam Smith Institute. (the name comes from the father of capitalism and says alot) It has been one of the main focuses of the press and basically says FT is a hoax- this is a real shame as all cynics need is some silly piece of evidence and they run away with it. See the FT foundation's response here.
3- It is international womens day this weekend- 8th march. so far as poverty goes i think this is a fairly critical calender date- so long as gender discrimination exists poverty will never be eradicated*. I was drawn to something put out by Amnesty in the guardian on saturday, it made me so sad. It spoke of the choice women are having to make in Darfur about traveling to get water for their families and risk being raped or not getting water and having their families perish. Rape is regularly used as a weapon of war out there. We can write letters to the UNAMID about this here-please do.

  • 70 per cent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty are female.
  • There are twice as many women as men among the world’s 900 million illiterates.
  • On average, women are paid 30-40 per cent less than men for comparable work.
  • Above 80 percent of farmers in Africa are women.
  • A woman living in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1-in-16 chance of dying in pregnancy. This compares with a 1-in-3,700 risk for a woman from North America.
  • Every minute, a woman somewhere dies in pregnancy or childbirth. This adds up to 1,400 women dying each day, an estimated 529,000 each year from pregnancy-related causes.
Check out what is going on in your local region for womens day here.


Dear America

While studying this year I have become increasingly aware of Americas power in the world. I wasn't ever completely naive but just didnt know the extent to which the US impacts on the world's experience of social justice and human rights.
I seem to constantly be coming across sentences in readings that speak of Americas noncooperation with ideas/ other leaders that could lead to a better world. For example, they are the only state in the world save Somalia that hasn't signed the Child Rights Convention, they havent signed the Kyoto agreement(and they were the ones that threw the spanner in the works of last Decembers climate change deal), they have vetoed several ideas that would redistribute the worlds wealth such as a carbon/ currency tax and regularly veto trade agreements that would protect the global poor. Phew and wowzers. I am not meaning to be scathing, just expressing how some of the decisions the US leadership make have incredibly serious and damaging consequences. I also realise that many Americans are just as depressed about this as me, so am Bush bashing rather then America bashing. (And you are free to Blair bash! Just not Gordon Brown, I do think he is a little bit great.) (Plus I love America for: The Simpsons, Martin Luther King, Jazz, Donuts, pizza.) (Just kidding about that last one, okay)

However, times are a changing. I am really excited about this, just a little sorry I dont get a vote! But there are two things I can do-
one (this is a biggy) I can pray! I am so lifting up American voters, that somehow God would breathe into the global justice sphere through their decision, and will continue to sustain the newly elected leader. The thing is I just don't think I will ever have the ground to whinge about bad policy if I don't commit to this in the next few months!!
two - I can sign the Fabians letter to America!
It begins...
"Dear America,

As you choose your next President, the world will watch as the most powerful job in the world peacefully changes hands. In 2008, you will choose the man or woman who has the best vision of America's future and of your role in the world.

All of us, in every country, will be affected by the choice you make."

For some really good thoughts on the whole proceedings check out the Gods politics blog. It has regular reflections on the whole scene.


7 jumbo jets of kids a day

I was challenged on the weekend about Malaria- its the worlds single biggest killer, killing 3000 kids a day. This is an appalling fact when you think that it has been eradicated in several places including the U.S and most recently- in the sixties- the Netherlands. Surely the only reason we havent got rid of this easily preventable and easily treatable disease is because it is a poor peoples thing. Why would the developed world invest in something that doesn't effect them? (Just think about the impossible to cure HIV AIDS: it impacts people across the globe, so that becomes a priority research and action issue.)

I have just come across this website- a charity totally run by volunteers as it depends on your everyday people fund raising and putting on events in order to buy nets. Its all about nets. (Read The Economist if you think not.)
I think I might do a Coldplay/Angelina Jolie/Madonna and make this my one thing. (As well as the several other things that really get my goat too. Hehe.)


Fair Trade me please

Fair trade fortnight begins on Sunday. As promised here is something you can print off and slap on some non-fairtrade vending machines. (Send a pic if you get one good!) Please do send a letter as well though, letters generally get a good result.Tearfund have compiled a fantastic letter which you can copy and paste and adapt here.
Also EASTER is coming up, you can order Fair Trade mini eggs, normal easter eggs, baskets of chocolate easter yummies all here. Do Easter ethically!
And, lastly, if you are not busy on Sunday afternoon the young people at my church, The Rink, are doing a Fair Trade service, including brownies and a fair trade chocolate cake auction whoop whoop!


Genocide Olympics?

On Sunday I was completely appalled to hear that the British Olympics Association was asking all athletes going to the Olympics to, well, basically keep hush hush about the big, oppressive, human rights violating elephant in the room. Keep Quiet about Chinas business when in China or get on the plane home. I simply couldn't believe it, when all along the hope has been for some that at least having the Olympics in Beijing will get some of the issues raised and dialogued about. Well, not if everyone has been gagged. Shameful to be British.However, I just heard on the news that a little letter of encouragement I (and the thousands others) wrote a couple of months ago has paid off. Mr Steven Spielberg has resigned in his role of director for the Olympics. While he has been urging China to change policy and behavior towards Darfur, I like to think the public encouragement helped him realise that his pull out would be significant.
He says "...I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.... China’s economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change. The situation has never been more precarious..."
So, I just hope that more people, sponsors, athletes will have the courage to boycott the games too. I know it is complicated but working with China is essentially supporting their relationship with Darfur.A great website on all this stuff is www.miafarrow.org


Lessons in getting the British Public united on an issue:

suggest an exploration of Sharia Law in the context of Britain.
Which is just what the Archbishop Rowan Williams did last night. There has been an Almighty Outcry- the Sun and the Guardian, right wing and left wing, Christian and Atheist have all come together under the banner of "Ludicrous!" (Actually they have been a fair bit more aggressive and derogatory in their criticism.) The public, the press, the politicians- all are furious.

You might have guessed already from this blog and my mentioning of the AB and his writings that I do think he is a rather fab fellow, so, this may not be that surprising: I think it was a courageous and salient suggestion. We already have places where religion and law blur- the Jewish Beth Dihn- and he made it clear he wasn't advocating the violent part of Islamic justice and it was a c o m m e n t about a conversation that needs to happen- not a proposed bill. So, the brooha is unjustified but anyway i just want to make these points:

*The head of the Church of England was inviting a conversation about our multi faith society and the increasing significance of Islam in our society- this is a beautiful thing, both spiritually and for peace and cohesion in society.
*Why does every mention of Islam have to be so controversial? (An insight of our inherent racism/fears?)
*While the whole incidence has probably been awful for the AB, it has at least got the conversation going- which is what he hoped.

So, good on him I say, he continues to be a wise, insightful, adventurous visionary.


The Story of Stuff

If you have only 20 minutes to spare this entire week I recommend you sit down and watch The Story of Stuff. If you only have 3 minutes to spare each day then watch it in chapters on you tube. However you do it, watch it. It is an absolute masterpiece.
It is the most poignant and captivating portrayal of the consumer epidemic I have seen- perhaps so because of its beautiful simplicity and accuracy. (You can hold screenings and stuff which would be excellent material for youth/ home groups.) If you only have 6 minutes in your entire 2008 then watch this chapter:

As Annie points out it is suggested that our current unquenchable thirst for consuming crap stems from the post second world war period as great minds worked out a new framework for society. This quote from enormously important post war retail analyst, Victor Le Bow encapsulates the theory with this scary and non-satirical quote; "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate."
While I would argue our need to consume runs even deeper and further back then the middle of last century, the fact that people have collaborated to make us increasingly dependent on buying stuff is frightening, though not hard to believe. (In fact, Gillette created the concept of hairless, smooth female legs simply so they could capture a new market for their razor. Revolting. The advent of that knowledge was my descent into the world of the non-shaven woman where I still abide.)
There is a shop down the road from us that has a bit of a funny quote in the window "Why is there so much month left at the end of the money?" For some this is true because they literally do not have enough income to meet their most basic of needs, and it is a desperate truth. For most, i suspect, it is because our consumption has got a hold of us- our calender is re-worked around the arrival of the pay-check. Consumption seems to form the framework for living for most developed world citizens, and in turn our consumption re-defines relationships, desires, values and purpose.
Anyway, see the Story of Stuff, it's a must!


a healthy bit of sabotage

I was at a conference at the Salvation Armys Training College yesterday about living incarnationally. It was really good, great actually. But I'm not blogging about that (maybe another time). I'm blogging about what I saw in the canteen: 3 drink dispensers and not one Fair Trade coffee available! (Crikey you cry, is she still banging on about That?) These are the same hot drink dispensers that were around when I lived there 15 years ago (I remember them well cos we would grab the cup before the water went in so we could eat orange flavoured powder/ college kid sherbert.) It has been 3 years since the Salvation Army in the UK implemented a Fair Trade policy, why the fig do we still have Maxwell House machines in the training institution?! Is there anyone out there who can tell me?
But, you know, don't get mad get even and all that. So FAIR TRADE FORTNIGHT IS COMING UP ON THE 25TH FEBRUARY. Normally I advocate some tender letter writing and that is all good, but alongside that why not get the message across in some creative ways. What about this for a deal: In a week or so I'll put up here some resources that you can print off; a letter to your canteen/management/fave cafe but also some signs that say "Fair Trade Me". All you have to do is spend a couple of weeks scoping out all the non-fair trade machines around and decide who to write your letter to.
That way when Fair Trade Fortnight comes along we can all go armed with some signs, some of that fluro WARNING tape and some bluetack and attack the non-fair trade machines.
Are there any volunteers living around the college hood who will pimp those Maxwell Housers?!


Shop for Jesus

Argh. Sales. They have made the streets of London even more desperately crowded this month. Sitting on the bus on Oxford Street watching the masses sway and shove from shop to shop has burdened my little heart. "I shop therefore I am" seems to be a pretty common paradigm for people, which poses concerns on loads of levels- spiritually/well being of individual, society/ impact on global poverty/ impact on environment.

BUT, I am not ranting today, I am just going to point out a few little cool sites to do with consumerism, here they are- the cream of todays crop!

The Compact are a bunch of friends who decided to get out of the consumerism grid for a year, buying pretty much nothing for 12 months.

Buylesscrap- Is bit of a mockery of Bono’s RED concept (but also gives you the opportunity to donate directly to the RED charities.) I love Bono, he is radical, but I have always felt pretty dubious about the whole RED thing (you know buy a RED tee shirt from Gap and a few cents goes to charity) You simply can not shop your way to a better world!

Green my Apple is an exciting wee venture from Greenpeace- if you like Apple visit that site and get them doing the right thing.

Here are two truths:

We can impact big business through our ethical choices: that vote in your wallet matters!

To consume ethically we must consume less. It doesn't get much more simple than that!


Social Action Calendar 2008

I hate feeling like the year is gliding by on skates, last year I had too many "Shivers-can't-believe-I-missed-that-significant-chance-for-action" moments.
So in an effort to curb that from happening this year I have scoured websites and have tried to put together a pretty exhaustive list of International Dates around justice, peace, development. Some are a bit wacky, others are major, but all provide a chance for action. Here is the Social Action Calendar 2008.


The gate of the year

We have had a grand old week of adventures gallivanting around the south of England visiting- yes you guessed it- castles. (Plus a few other fabulous antiquities like Stone Henge, which is incredible) I think we came across 5 altogether including the currently lived in Windsor and the earthworks of Old Salem. One castle for each day we were away! In Windsor by the tomb of George the Sixth, I found this little quote:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown" and he replied "Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God. That shall be better to you than a light and safer than a known way."
What a true word. So as I stand here looking at 2008 I hope I can have the pure, simple faith to step out into whatever darkness, knowing that my hand in Gods is well enough. That is the key to an adventure, eh?