Just transition and Port Talbot

July 20, 2020 § Leave a comment




Two fantastic climate webinars

July 10, 2020 § Leave a comment

Thursday 9 July 2020

Friday 10 July 2020 “Organising on the Climate Crisis and Just Transition”, 1-2pm UK time, session in TUC’s Organise 2020 conference

  • Key point: transition needs to happen (as a result of decline of carbon-intensive industries and growth of green industries), and the key issue from the perspective of the trade union movement is who pays the cost of the transition – big companies, small companies, workers, communities living next to polluting industries, ‘the taxpayer’?
  • Both Sue Ferns and Sam Smith were excellent.
  • Lots of young people are totally on board with the need to address climate change, but have zero understanding of the role the union movement could potentially play in this colossal task. So one of the tasks of the union movement is to change this.

Further details:

Organising session

Abstract: The climate crisis is now urgent. The UK, along with many other countries, have adopted a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. A just transition is necessary to ensure that we do not save the planet at the cost of workers’ jobs and communities.
The Global South, meanwhile, suffers most from global warming, despite having contributed least to the problem. A just transition is needed for workers in both the Global North and the Global South. Climate change is a major trade union issue and, having galvanised young people like few other challenges in recent years, is an important organising opportunity for trade unions in the months and years ahead.

Chair: Tim Page, senior policy officer TUC, with responsibility for industrial strategy and energy and climate change. Tim represented the TUC at the COP25 UN climate change summit in Madrid in December 2019.

Speakers: Lebogang Mulaisi, labour market policy co-ordinator, Cosatu, South Africa, Sue Ferns senior deputy general secretary, Prospect and the TUC general council lead on energy and climate change, chair of the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee, Sam Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre. Before this, Sam was the global climate and energy leader for WWF.

That’s just how it goes these days

June 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

“Fire up the scanner and keep your eyes on it
Don’t speak unless someone speaks to you” (John Darnielle, Mountain Goats, “Home Again Garden Grove”)

Love in the time of COVID-19 – Part Deux

April 14, 2020 § Leave a comment


Working from home with a small kid

I’ll keep this super-short because if you’re currently working from home with a small kid (WFHWASK) you don’t have time to read anything long. In what follows I am mainly addressing my fellow WFHWASKers.

Here’s a good, upbeat place to start: well done, you’re doing great, and when this is over you’ll look back and see you had an opportunity to spend time with your kid/s that most working parents never get. When this is in the past, you’ll cherish your rose-tinted memories of this time. And even now, when in it’s in the present, there will be moments of pure joy. For me, one such moment was hearing my four-year-old daughter presenting a strong case for why we should only listen to the songs she wants to listen to: “because when I was in mummy’s tummy you chose all the music.”

Today is the start of the fourth week of my wife and I WFHWASKing, and I’m watching suspiciously to see what this week’s “phase” will look like. Here’s how it’s gone so far: week one was “@$?%*^&! there’s no way we can do this, I’m so tired!!!”, week two was “ok we’re starting to figure out a routine here, maybe we can survive this,” and week three was “how long are we going to have to keep inventing new activities for her?”

One reason I have it good: my wife is amazing, and we have now accumulated enough years of parenting experience to know some of the tricks.

Another reason I have it good: my colleagues have been fantastic. Really, really fantastic. I hear lots of stories about people whose colleagues and managers have not been so fantastic. So I’ll conclude with some half-joking, half-serious advice to colleagues of WFHWASKers.

  1. Don’t say “I hope you’ve got a garden for her to play in, at least,” because the answer might be “no, we don’t.”
  2. Don’t say “I remember when my children were that age,” because when your children were that age we weren’t all stuck at home 24/7.
  3. Don’t say “Others have got it worse,” because we know that.
  4. Do say “Read the HR guidance, do what you need to do to look after yourself, and I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

Stay safe and good luck! And I’m here if you want to talk about it!

A response to a friend

Thanks for sending your piece of writing. At first I wasn’t sure how to respond but now I have decided to respond with a piece of writing of my own. Unintentionally, my piece of writing has also been prepared in slightly similar circumstances to yours: I woke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep, and here I am at 4am, writing this.

I don’t want to second-guess your reasons for writing and sending your piece, but I think it’s worth noting that you haven’t sent something like this in the past, and that the current situation we are all in is extremely – unprecedentedly – weird and strange. I think we’re all trying to make sense of it, and are doing so in circumstances that push us to face and live with what is within us. Me writing this to you, right now, is part of the process of me trying to make sense of this time we’re living in, and it’s the fourth written attempt I am making to process my thoughts.

The first written attempt was an email I sent to about 5 anthropologists I know, and in that email I tried to argue that COVID-19 is like an anthropologist in the sense that it makes us re-consider our taken-for-granted everyday behaviours and ways of seeing things. (I also wrote that COVID-19 is not like an anthropologist because anthropologists don’t tend to kill people, and no one pays any attention to what anthropologists say or do. I didn’t get much of a response to my email.)

The second written attempt was a journal I started writing (it’s on my blog, which effectively means I’m probably the only person who has read it). From conversations with friends and things I’ve read, I think a lot of people have started some kind of COVID-19 journal. A very clear, strong impulse drove me to start writing the journal and then at a certain point, after about two and a half weeks of self-isolation, the impulse faltered and I became unclear about why I was writing it, and stopped. My third written attempt was a blogpost I wrote for my organisation’s intranet about the challenges of working from home while looking after a young child. I’m glad I wrote that piece, as I know it helped me get a clearer sense of the life I’m living right now.

All that I have written so far, here, is me trying to say: I don’t know why you wrote what you did, but the current situation has driven me to write, too. One last thing I want to write before commenting on your piece of writing is that the impulse that drove me to pick up my laptop and write this to you now came from reading The Left Hand of Darkness, which has been my main COVID-19 reading.

It’s not a novel about COVID-19, but there is something in it that resonates with the experience of self-isolation. The main character is an envoy, representing his civilization, his organisation, on an alien world. He is among people but isolated because he is the only one among them from a different world. At a later point in the book, the part I am reading now, he and one of the aliens are traveling on foot across the icy polar region at the northern extreme of the world. What struck me about this part of the book, as I read it just now, is the characters’ constant watchfulness: over their food supplies, their energy and health, their direction of travel, and their relationship. Because one false move in any of these areas could mean the difference between life and death in the extremely hostile environment they are in.

Without wanting to sound melodramatic, there is some similarity with what all of us are living through with COVID-19.

Vertical gardening – pea frame

April 13, 2020 § Leave a comment

Recording my lofi album

March 22, 2020 § Leave a comment


The following is a distraction from the daily reality of social isolation. Also a creative outlet.

Taking far too long to understand what lofi is


Pavement were merely the revenge of those who never had more than tuppence to scrape together to visit recording studios, who wallow in the strange, distorted shapes their music consequently throws up, freed – if only by circumstances – from the restraints of chart complacency. True 1993c, cited on page 288

Wasting additional time reading around the subject


How to Send a Killer Email to Anyone in the Music Industry

Getting stuff on bandcamp

All you need is love… and a band name, some audio files in the right format, and some image files the right size.

https://www.zamzar.com for converting music files into the format required by bandcamp

Image: In the Preview app on your Mac, open the file you want to change. Choose Tools > Adjust Size, then select “Resample image”. Enter a smaller value in the Resolution field. The new size is shown at the bottom.

And finally…

Hey presto, a lofi singer-songwriter is born: https://fish-in-venice.bandcamp.com


Love in the time of COVID-19

March 15, 2020 § Leave a comment


Monday 16 March 2020

In the next few weeks, it is likely that we will see a great many changes because of the pandemic. It is essential that as a community we come together, with kindness and compassion, to help each other generously. As we learned today, 15 March 2020, all those over 70 years old or with underlying health issues may very soon be asked to self-isolate for a significant period and all these people, our neighbours, and others self-isolating will need help. Authorities are likely to be overloaded so it is down to those neighbours who are able to help – always remembering, that anyone could be the next person to be isolated!

At RVR, we are beginning to organise help for those who need it. To get help, please click on the relevant button below. If you can help (and, really, given the scale of the problem that we are likely to see, this means everyone who is fit and not in a vulnerable category) please click on the volunteer button.

This is a new initiative by my local Residents Association, Ravensbourne Valley Residents. It’s an example of the goodness, kindness and care this situation has brought out and will continue to bring out.

A friend shared videos of Italian neighbours sharing music as a way to keep spirits high during self-isolation/quarantine (see here and here). Apparently this way of coping through music has been copied in many places around the world including Wuhan, Spain, Lebanon.

Scottish novelist/poet Jenni Fagan (@Jenni_Fagan) suggested on Twitter

If there is lock down or isolation periods – I propose all the writers offer story time live streams on here.

It won’t save anyone but each small act might be worth something to somebody.

Ditto musicians/artists/anyone who can cook/tell a joke/or just swear with elegance.

Things are changing rapidly. On Sunday night my wife C pointed out we are reaching out to friends and family now in a way we otherwise might not. She didn’t mean Karaoke over Zoom. But now a friend has sent us this:

How about some karaoke this week?

I’ll share a how-to on sourdough baking in the next couple of days. Shipton Mill still have flour, apparently, unlike my local supermarket.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Day two of C and me working from home and taking it in turns to look after our 4-year-old daughter, who is now going to be at home for 14 days because, in her own words, she was “running around outside, got warm and tired, and sat down”, then nursery staff took her temperature, found it was up slightly, and said we had to keep her at home for the next 14 days because that’s their policy during the coronavirus pandemic. She’s completely fine. We made it through day one without breaking a sweat, but day two has been harder. This picture gives a sense of how we’re feeling at this point:

working from home

More seriously, the image that comes to my mind is of driving a heavy vehicle up a hill, and shifting into a lower gear so the engine can manage the gradient. An economist might summarise the situation by saying productivity is going to be reduced. There’s a lot more to it than that though, as indicated by a joke made by a colleague, stating that after this is all over there is likely to be a surge in divorces as a result of couples spending more time together in a confined space than they are used to. (There might be a surge in births about 9 months from now, too). Productivity is going to be reduced because it will take more resource to get the same amount of output because we’re all finding new ways to do almost everything.

Friday 20 March 2020

Some thoughts at this point.

Abundance vs scarcity/rationing. I’ve had a tension headache for more than 24 hours. In the past I’d just take paracetamol or ibuprofen without thinking, but right now it’s not clear how long our current supplies of these are going to need to last for, which means I need to weigh up and consider whether I have exhausted other possibilities for tackling the headache: eating, sleeping, yoga, meditation, taking a bath. In other words, taken-for-granted decisions suddenly become things to deliberate on – not simply as a way to pass the time but because they now need to be considered carefully.

Collaborating to find new ways of doing things+forming new habits+climate change. One of my colleagues suggested that we are currently in a transition period, and during this period, as we adjust to this new situation, “the ratio of talking to doing is going to involve much more talking than previously.” Someone else suggested that it takes a month to properly integrate a new habit into how you do things. It increasingly looks like we’re going to have at least a month of this. This is a headache – and an opportunity. Because the scientific consensus is that climate change needs us to change our habits right now, and we won’t unless we are forced to do so. Coronavirus is forcing us to do so.

Boomers. I don’t have a statistically robust sample size, but anecdotal evidence from similarly-aged friends suggests a lot of our boomer parents (individuals born between 1946 and 1964, during the post–World War II baby boom) are really struggling with the idea that they really shouldn’t continue to do what they would normally do (meet up socially, go to restaurants, go to the theatre, travel on public transport). An article on this subject published in the New Yorker a few days ago is, from my perspective, difficult to take seriously because of the opening sentences in its third paragraph, which I can’t really relate to:

This role reversal was . . . novel. I still think of my parents as the grownups, the ones who lecture me about saving for retirement and intervene in squabbles with my little sister. It took a pandemic to thrust me into the role of the responsible adult and them into the role of the heedless children.

The author (Michael Schulman) goes on to say he’s 38 years old. I don’t think many of my similarly-aged friends would recognise their own experience in these sentences. Instead, they would say that for a long time they have been trying (and frequently failing) to play the role of responsible adult in relation to their parents. Coronavirus simply raises the stakes (quite considerably).

Wednesday 25 March

I’m now well past the myth of silver linings. Fear and tetchiness have set in. A certain amount of anger, some of it misplaced. Fed up with all the people without dependent children sending photos of their lunchtime strolls or discussing which film they’re going to watch next. Today I worked in the morning and then, after relinquishing our ‘office’ to my wife for her shift, I found myself caught up in a complex make-believe game in which two unicorns, a bear and a bee took on ‘The Trump Brothers’ (so-called because of their MAGA hats; not sure that’s what Playmobil call them). Needless to say my daughter was involved. Also needless to say that things didn’t work out well for the villains.


Highlight of the day was reading a piece written by a colleague on the psychological impact of the current situation and how to handle it. Key takeaways: reach out to others, take care of others but don’t forget to take care of yourself too, and if you find yourself worrying about whether you are going to get through this then remind yourself that as of now you are getting through this.



Anthropology in Action (Vol. 26, Issue 3)

March 12, 2020 § Leave a comment

The new issue of Anthropology in Action has published!

Just a reminder, Anthropology in Action is Open Access through Knowledge Unlatched.

Please visit the Berghahn website for more information about the journal: www.berghahnjournals.com/aia

Volume 26, Issue 3

Ethical Dilemmas and Moral Conundrums: Negotiating the Unforeseen Challenges of Ethnographic Fieldwork
Jocelyn D. Avery

Learning in Collaborative Moments: Practising Relating Differently with Dementia in Dialogue Meetings
Silke Hoppe, Laura Vermeulen, Annelieke Driessen, Els Roding, Marije de Groot and Kristine Krause

Pedagogy in Action: Rethinking Ethnographic Training and Practice in Action Anthropology
Mark K. Watson

Food Knowledge and Migrant Families in Argentina: Collective Identity in Health
Mora Castro and Giorgina Fabron

Book Reviews
Fredrik Nyman, Roberta Zavoretti, Linda Rabben, and David M.R. Orr

Books and Resources for Review

Sign up for Email Updates: http://bit.ly/2tmBMoR

Ravensbourne river

December 29, 2019 § Leave a comment


Speedy Wunderground Interview

December 28, 2019 § Leave a comment

“When you’re recording something, there’s a moment that comes just after everyone having learnt the song enough to be able to play it, where it just sounds amazing, because it’s slightly on edge, because no one’s 100% sure – I want to record that bit,” says Dan Carey. “Not the bit once it’s been rehearsed and played and played. It could be better once it’s been gigged for a while and turned into a real thing, but it’s that moment where everyone’s like ‘oh, shit!’”


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