BIG GARBAGE / BIG ARTWASH / BIG GREENWASH =
BIRTH / SHOWTIME / DEATH
"We gotta get outta here if it's the last thing we ever do" (The Newcastle Animals)
The following polemic-cum-factual account is broadly an analysis of the hiatus between the 1960s-80s fledgling green movement and the superficially sophisticated post-modernist oriented calamity which followed finding its feet around the millennium pivot. The early phase was characterised by a mixture of grass roots, semi-autonomous endeavours overlapping with often confusing statist initiatives involving guerrilla gardening and squatting, yurt style survival, nomadic motorised convoys, bean-field battles, Unibombers and Monkey Wrench gangs, tactics sometimes elaborated by often enlightened hands-on theorists in the manner of a Murray Bookchin - usually minus his academic status- refusing to separate social collectivism from an increasingly very threatened world of nature. Much of this was creative breakthrough the likes of which the world had never seen pitted against the immense odds of a brutal, couldn't give an eco-damn, hierarchy. Recognition seemed a mission impossible even though exhilarating for sympathizers and especially for those involved.
Then lo and behold like a bolt from the blue mission possible appeared on the horizon, quickly morphing into something akin to kicking-in an open door as the whole darned system proved to be susceptible to ecological enlightenment as green sensibility alongside glass ceiling feminism and racism became official pinnacle ideologies of major world states. Sadly this quickly proved to be nothing much more than surface appearance as everything changed in order to remain the same. In practice this meant that the later ecological phase became a much more over-arching bureaucratic totality from the moment climate change was taken on board as one of the lynch pins of the changing face of capitalism entering a neo-liberal, financially oriented, future trajectory. It was an ideology especially espoused by the growing global business power of the Internet giants inseparable from Big Data hand-in-hand with a new form of Big Government deploying the use of serious, seemingly committed ecological language only to exorcise it. Slowly but surely propaganda took over all genuine eco concerns reorienting away from grass roots action towards media events relying on never ending stream of greenwash conference promo stimulated by banal happenings and end of art type installations. It looked all so glamorous though these performances most certainly weren't a liberating art into life but art into death-in-life. In short it quickly became jam-packed with reputational insurance fanfares embracing economic neo liberalism spearheaded by Private Finance Initiatives and deal-making sponsorships facilitating trade in obscure financial derivatives. A new epoch of ultra-commoditization and a cornucopia of stuff dawned highlighting an accelerating planned obsolescence. All this was ably assisted by the digital revolution resulting in a faux great clean-up initiated by giant waste multinationals equipped with obligatory green veneers which meant sweet fuk all. At the same moment "the true became a moment of the false"(Hegel) as a newly financialised clean energy movement leapt ahead by leaps and bounds threatening to eclipse fossil fuel consumption ... And you never know at least that might succeed which would be all to the good. However regardless of whether they do or not, does that mean anything will fundamentally change? In a way this is the essence of a new gigantic fundamental contradiction; a conundrum posturing as its very opposite simply because this was and still is the game of a suicide capitalism laying waste to the planet locked into a trajectory of extermination and ultimate extinction for every living organism.
Never forget that early ecological critique from the mid 20th century onwards was essentially about changing lifestyles on a massive level and all based on personal efforts at de-commodification undermining the new substitutes for love – the baneful 'love' of things – replacing the open-ended possibilities of a finally fulfilling human love freed from all repressions. It failed but not without the birth pangs of a great fight that was massively thwarted. However, even after failing, change didn't stop but what followed became a kind of nose-dive as everything historically that marked the hope of a life enhancing future disintegrated. It was as if all possibility of human love and emancipation seemed to evaporate as pain and anguish began to mask a growing existential loneliness as all referentials related to personal relationships and community entered a dark tunnel from which there seems to be no escape. To avoid almost insurmountable pain all we are left with is a future of sex with robots programmed only to recognise reified past roles, as if underpinning the grim reality that decommodification must never be questioned again. Instead of love we are left with the poor substitute of waste leftovers; of stuff and things equipped with artificial intelligence inseparable from artificial feelings........
Today, we are presented with a situation of reinforced passive on-looking whereby all previous grass-roots initiatives have morphed into astro-turf fakes with all genuine ecological response marginalized and endlessly rubbished. It's a scenario reinforced by an ever-extending over-all gentrification; a hideous town and country planning involving ever-greater neatening, cleansing urbanisation and alienated domestication set to colonise every nook and cranny left on planet earth. It's like a post theatrical production in which The Noble Savage and The Wild Boy of Aveyron have been euthanized replaced with nice people saying nice things gazing at nice views, increasingly devoid of all passion except the nice glittering white teeth of the devious advertisers' smile whereby almost everything thrown at us by the mass media whether Fox News or Le Monde amounts to bullshit and lies.
Initially climate change - in what had seemed like a biblical apocalypse - in no time become something like a controlled program of bureaucratic maneuverings emanating from remote governmental depts. as a renewed sophisticated intelligentsia spieled out general truths like remote, semi-alive robots absent of friendly, imaginative human input; a situation so off-putting that the desire to stick up a middle finger became overwhelming and not only because these spielers smacked of dosh, privilege (and hypocrisy). No wonder in response to their manicured dissimulations they begat a growing phalanx of idiotic climate change deniers indicative of an intensifying pathology as psychosis and suicidal tendencies came at us from every conceivable direction. These are indeed grim times and on the street increasingly nobody breaks out into genuine smiles and laughter.
The essence of this 'new' fearful malaise is a mass-media manipulated response from an unknown almost automated hierarchy aimed at reinforcing this passive on-looking somewhat akin to old time fearsome parental-like control the likes of which we've hardly known historically. Today it reveals itself in devastatingly brutal though subtle ways and barbarism is indeed back within our midst. It's not simply present day populism via Playboy quasi-fascism – more Jarry's Ubu Roi than Adolf Hitler – but also via the heavily disguised cunningly discrete essence of the "extreme centre" minus that ultimate blinding flash of instant, nuclear extinction that could take place through some narcissistic whim of a Pere Ubu holding executive power. Even deadlier than any governmental edict this malaise has penetrated an all pervasive submissive psyche hooked on the visual. It is as if the 1950s The Hidden Persuaders of an enquiring American sociology has finally like the ultimate advertisement implanted its tentacles inside every individual's brain neurons implying that all outside, 'unusual' experience relayed via receptor cells, axons and dendrites be regarded as imminent threat hinged around a terrorist spectre endlessly replicated right down to the unwanted though suspicious spider climbing up a wall. It's no longer simply some semi-organised Islamic fascism but the disorganized outcome of a much more generalized pathological breakdown. Perhaps like an add-on we could make to Rimbaud's acute perception that the clock really has "not yet struck the hour of pure pain" but is dangerously close whereby even a delightfully strange, effulgent nature developing under its own bio-diverse dynamic is now psychotically perceived as a threat to human survival. The end result is an imperious call for maximum control and as by-product, the call of the wild is only acceptable as replicate nature, paid-up tourism or an aestheticised horticultural addition to some park and garden set-aside: an instant makeover, pop-up, faux nature; a colourful floral Fauvism of emptiness; Vlaminck-lite / Matisse-lite or, as Debord perceptively remarked, "A moment of life that has grown old cannot be revived through bright colours" in this instance- this addition - early 20th century modern art now applied on a world scale to the planned depredation of nature.
This aesthetic makeover, this emptiness, this void, is the very antithesis of engagement; and as for youth – who were always to the fore of real ecological adventure – why they seem to have been vanquished, passively suckered, eviscerated by a distraught Internet second life of entertainment with minimal human contact and perfect sop to the grim reality of growing pauperization as youthful hopes for a better world are increasingly nailed to the deck of economic imperatives.
Moreover, this essential missing engagement is still central to a quest pointing towards the supercession of money, work and commodification augmented by a revolution of daily life mores still mercilessly trapped inside repressive gender roles and the nuclear (unclear) family. As for real nuclear energy no matter how safe the technocrats now say it is (which it isn't) when will truly safe energy like solar or wind power be freed from the cash nexus?
A Third Way still beckons: the path of increasing autonomy. What's importance is what we do by and for ourselves, ever ready to increase experience in a hands on, ultra-sensitised, physical way. This implies down with passive sight-seeing and an equally endlessly funereal passive recording of the sixth extinction where the only thing of importance is to look the part wearing the politically correct gear, the green wellies, the wide-brimmed floppy hats with the binoculars slung around the neck. Ugh. Why not leave the obituary of nature entertainment behind in the mists of pre history! Simply get off your arse, get down and dirty, get stuck into the muck and the mud of subversive intervention where perhaps you might re-emerge as a more welcoming, fulfilled human being. Certainly more ready for greater individual and collective physical / theoretical autonomy beginning to see and live beyond the paradigms of a now seriously disintegrating capitalism reaching the internal limits of its self-reproduction and externally only able to foster anti nature barbarism – alongside other barbarisms - on an increasingly epic scale.
As for ourselves, we get the impression today in our longtime autonomous interventions cum provocations based largely within landscapes of contempt that we are of a satanic disposition. Hence we often write under the thinly disguised non-de-plume of The Monstrous Bastards as what we do seems to be interpreted as De Sadean in consequence as mostly everyone wearing the green runs away when encountering us among the haphazard, often delightfully crazy shrubbery of the spoil heaps. It's as if our intense sensuous engagement with nature has put us on par with the miscreant though enlightening sexual adventures of the Marquis de Sade, or perhaps like deranged writers of A Black Leg Miner folk song that now needs to be lustily sung backwards! And that panga we are carrying doesn't look good spied from afar by anonymous individuals carrying binoculars fearing the instrument could be turned on their official selves.( If these latter suggestions seem stupid, even paranoid, well try something similar yourself and see what happens).
But enough of these ramblings: For those willing to engage what you will find – almost immediately - and we can almost guarantee this having been hands on like this for years, is that the local people, (you know, those stereotypical anti-eco dunderheads as defined by the media) will spontaneously be right behind your interventions ever ready to give you a hand when not simply warmly welcoming your presence. This is exhilarating..... Alas, only then to be quickly followed by those that dislike or even hate you; the developers, the stooges, local council bureaucrats, surveyors and sadly, last but not least, the official green racketeers; the latter ever ready to sabotage your efforts when not (pardon a kind of pun) green with envy and malice.
Outlined Here: A Developing Table of Contents,
(possibly things will be added later):
• Caedmon & Dada, Piers Plowman: Surrealism & Eco-Situationist Revolution
• Eclipse and Throwback: Glaciations and the monetarisation of eco subversion
• Neo-liberalism and the birth of world waste management companies
• How the new concern for environment dovetailed with the ideology of privatization
• The failed revolution of May '68 in France followed by a long, drawn-out ultra-sophisticated recuperation.........
• "We don't want to occupy the territory; we want to be the territory." (ZAD). Many years on: Newbury (Berkshire) 1996
• The UK Road Protests in the 1990s
• Real Nature gives way to Reel Nature
• Today all Space is truly Occupied by the Enemy
• Voids and the loss of voids
• Postscript & Sheffield-on-the-lam
Caedmon & Dada, Piers Plowman: Surrealism & Eco-Situationist Revolution
Above: A pre Icteric moment around 1964 in a spatial montage of Whitby, Silloth, Carlisle, Leazes Park Newcastle, the Solway Firth and the mountain of Criffel. A two David's intense confab by Lesley (Young) Irving
At an early childhood age and rage, nature for us was inseparable from a class-in-itself chip-on-the-shoulder, specifically the railway and mining communities of County Durham & West Yorkshire where we endlessly played among the muck and dirt of spoil heaps or in and among those former seemingly endless, overgrown railway sidings full of broken down trucks with rusted wheels like as if they'd arrived centuries ago deposited on this forlorn terrain only to then mysteriously transform in exquisite ways. For sure a decade or so later we realized this was an emotive form of psychogeography full of the promise of revolutionary liberation. In between these two moments within an ever morphing perspective this transformation slowly became ever more formidable as poetic dereliction became inseparable from the former greatness of English poetry itself deeply entrenched in an often enchanted nature which was to begin to find its real cutting edge in early 19th century Romanticism. However, more modern additions were still needed and in no time this quickly elided into Dada and Surrealism - after picking up a decrepit book on a library shelf - with the stunning discovery at the age of 16 of a French guy name of Jacques Vaché who evidently pulled up weeds in-between paving stones implying all life – no matter how insignificant - was meaningless; his nihilist life similar to an equally fascinating figure we'd hit upon around the same time that of John Hornby. Hornby's life was the living parody of an archetypical imperialist oriented British explorer who just got lost - purposefully lost in icy wastelands in Canada's far north – simply because he couldn't be bothered to find his way out of them –or at least had become one of the first new primitives - preferring to die simply because he couldn't be bothered to hunt the food for his own daily survival. It was if a great laziness was more essential to the real human condition than something as trivial as food...So perhaps he got lost to find himself?.... Well anyway that was our naïve interpretation of Hornby and it probably doesn't quite fit the facts or fact the fits. And ten years later in 1966 Vaché's ground breaking War Letters were translated by Anne Ryder and published in Newcastle-upon Tyne's Icteric mag.
By then an itinerant home was Whitby - with its stunning wrecked abbey on that bleak cliff top heading towards the promontory of Saltwick Nab confronting an often wild North Sea - and we couldn't help but be fascinatingly aware of Caedmon, who amazingly became the "father of English poetry" though the guy couldn't write a word of English fitting well with our own useless English and somehow still inspirational precisely because he was a brilliant novice – an early non-master of non-specific artistic specialisms before its time had come. Yet here he was, Caedmon, the 8th century illiterate cowherd attendant miraculously able to recite a Christian song of creation in old English verse. The song comes to him in a dream just as Khubla Khan did to Coleridge centuries upon centuries later. Only Caedmon does not write it down when he awakes amidst straw and cow plats because he is illiterate; instead he recites it to the educated monks of Whitby Abbey who eventually write it down. It is a dream song of hope just as Khubla Khan is also – and most importantly - about the need to reconstruct a lost paradise ("I would build those domes in air") Coleridge's phantasm sub-architect (and incidentally the only architect that is permissible) replacing Caedmon's "might of the architect", i.e. the architect of creation, Genesis and the Garden of Eden. Khubla Khan is a newer type of creation myth one that required navvies and gardeners /cultivators; Coleridge the builder having swapped his pen for the hammer, pitching in alongside them. Caedmon's work had a newness that it has inevitably lost over time as, for instance, his Middle Earth became a beacon for the dreariest of late 1960s hippie ideology. Nonetheless, Caedmon's poetic innovation was a beginning Khubla Khan an ending and Coleridge himself was not clearly aware that it was leading directly to the creation of the new commons outside alienated labour, money, commodity production and the state. Nonetheless, the notion of the Pantisocracy of which he was a member along with Wordsworth and Southey was a terrific breakthrough even though remaining largely as a theoretical concept. The Pantisocracy was a more pregnant with possibilities version of pantheism which included the communal ownership of goods involving the farming of a new commons which they themselves would practically engage in creating. It was suggested that these 'poets' must learn how to use tools though typically Southey - who was to become a disgusting reactionary - did have the chutzpah to insensitively suggest that their servants must do the hard graft for them. More tellingly, these poets didn't know how to use the simplest of basic labourers tools! (How different from the last decades say with René Riesel and the Confederacion Paysanne – though more about them later). How different also from us! And we are still waiting on that cusp of the one real journey left –one beyond all decadent tourism - that must – MUST- be taken overcoming the last impediments to true communal creativity as we encounter a short transitional period of inspirational – even if difficult - social revolutionary turmoil as capitalism is finally left behind in the mists of pre-history.
To set this within the references of boring historical 'facts' it could be said that the poetry of Caedmon's period was also in a kind of – smaller - transition (just as indeed was Khubla Khan) poems and songs being translated with a view to being read in private, a gap develops between the inner and outer self between the public and private realm. Caedmon used a form of Anglo Saxon poetry traditionally used for the veneration of kings and princes, the monotheistic god of Christianity becoming the overall monarch and with it the abstract unreal equality associated with Christianity. It also reflects the dissolution of tribal society and the birth of civil society.
And then we have Langland ......and the beginning of heaven on earth even though Langland was even handed in his anticlericalism, though more an admirable, crazed dissident showing no respect for his superiors. For sure Langland was very poor providing firsthand accounts of what life was like for ordinary people living in England during the 14th century always attacking the corruption of the church and leading members of the nobility.
Piers Plowman is also a dream, a series of dreams. Piers Plowman is every (wo)man: an honest laborer. Later, with the formation of the industrial working class it signified a passionate desire to learn and establish the truth for Piers was a truth seeker, his knowledge a confirmation of what he already knew and bequeathed to him in dreams. He is a Surrealist before the fact, from way back in history. Piers Plowman was long thought to be subversive and rebellious, possibly encouraging the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Historical scholarship may well say otherwise, but such quibbles miss the point.
Piers Plowman is not an academic discourse; it is about an authentic history to do with meanings and what a text comes to signify, meaning in this context socially the revolts it has become associated with, even though it does mean bending historical facts and substituting a kind of fiction more consequential than the 'truth'. It's about what it has inspired, its afterlife.......
And then later, much later in 1894, William Morris and Wyatt publish the 9th English translation of the pagan mouthings of Beowulf. These tracts were initially learned by apprenticeship from one generation of illiterate poets to the next. The tradition on which it draws is oral, pagan, Germanic, heroic and tribal....IT'S NOT ABOUT LITERACY, though it is about accuracy. The Christian repurposing of Beowulf saw virtue manifest in a willingness to sacrifice oneself in a devotion to justice and to protect those in need of help. It had to be repurposed because pagan verse was dark and sinful, its monster satanic.....
And how can any of this verbal, sensory history outlined above be separated from English Romanticism working like a Middle Earth underground for decades and centuries and which remains buried within all of us. In England especially nature in all its rawness is hated like nowhere else; hated because it is also feared; feared because it is uncontrollable (something like the Incontrolados of the Spanish Revolution of 1936-8) inseparable from total revolutionary explosion: Ranter, Leveler and Luddite recombining into what exactly? Hence nature in these islands has to be endlessly contained, remodeled and subdued up to present times where it must be viciously destroyed in every nook and cranny – as previously stated - under a psychobabble of greenwash eco-sustainability. Once the patronage of the City of London financiers was enough to limit subversive potential, now total war has been declared.
So let's engage in reinterpretation regarding the last stepping stone: William Wordsworth.
During the heady years of the French Revolution, Wordsworth associated with the Girondins who were most under the influence of Jean Jacques Rousseau; the guy who placed untrammeled nature before our eyes though keeping it somewhat under wraps almost as a French philosophical quest. Why? Well in practice, the Girondins were afraid the deposition of the king would unleash an uncontrollable poplar movement as they were the expression of the lesse nobility, landowners and bourgeoisie. Nature for Rousseau was never the raw, amoral force it was to become under De Sade though we in olde Englande must never say such thing seeing De Sade has been liquidated by the buzz saw, of glass ceiling feminism. On another level it could be said the French were philosophically interested in nature and could not have understood Wordsworth's emotional intensely personal involvement so, at least in mitigation, we can mention this. Wordsworth's system was purely empirical, world history absent - even though profoundly influenced by the world historical event of the French Revolution - the results of inward experience of exceptional power extending back to the earliest recesses of his memory. To describe was perhaps the loneliest adventure ever undertaken by the human mind. The intensity of the interaction of "the mind of man" with nature was all Wordsworth needed. In the changed Preface to the Lyrical Ballads of 1800 he changed "language of conversation" of middle and lower classes to "the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation" because in that condition, "the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which to attain their maturity....and speak a plainer and more emphatic language." But wasn't this without explicitly acknowledging it recalling the passion speech of the Jacobin clubs? And weren't the revolutionary festivals an interaction of people and revolutionary leaders. And wasn't the Festival of the Supreme Being similar to Wordsworth's pantheism? And didn't this emphatic plain speaking suggest a world without literary figures, celebrities and 'important' people per se? Wordsworth's often reiterated dislike of publishing, both Coleridge and Wordsworth insisting on remaining anonymous: "Wordsworth name is nothing and mine stinks" said Coleridge. Back and forward, back and forward to Caedmon.......
Eclipse and Throwback: Glaciations and the monetarisation of eco subversion
As the neoliberal eclipse progressed like cancer over the last 40 years great throwback glaciations kicked in getting progressively worse by the day. At first between the 60s and 90s the eco movement was inventive –seeming like the only progressive cause from the late 1960s that was still alive and inventive: Audacious, Up-for-it. We were irresistible, even though feeling things were just too fluffy and somewhat worried about a growing parliamentary reorientation here, there and everywhere especially a vanguard German Green party. How naive our hopes and misgivings were! In the wings lay a massive monetarisation inveigling its way surreptitiously into everything green. In fact deadly forms of recuperation were kicking-in throughout the world, and specifically for us, the English tradition of nature subversion was eclipsed and cancelled as its distorted mirror-like reflections via a tradition of finance capital based in the City of London expanded like never before. Give me Money Honey became the name of the game as the social revolutionary implications of Romanticism morphed into the derailment and corruption of Romanticism in and among the general recuperation of contemporary subversive aspects of eco critique. Increased commoditization made certain of this as the possible liberatory implications of Vance Packard's, The Wastemakers was ground into dust. Polluted by profits, there was to be no genuine democratic, grass roots recycling, no repairing electrical goods, no change of life style, no sharpening of an implicit revolutionary critique which the original Wastemakers during the late 1950s in any case sorely lacked. Sadly recycling was to become the buzz word of the waste multinationals. Even so, 50 years since Vance Packard's Wastemakers wrote about excessive waste produced by consumerism (planned obsolescence) - principally how we are encouraged to buy things we don't need - The Wastemakers – still remains the Silent Spring of the waste world.
This was all so sad as there's no disputing the reality that the U.S. was way out in front in the 1950s-60s and early'70s regarding cutting edge, principled eco critique. Then almost at the speed of light everything changed as neo-liberal conservatism began to bury all memory of the late 1960s general insurgency. Within a few years reasonably straight talking American environmental groups were dismissing the only real solutions to climate change as "unworkable" and "unrealistic". What da fuk had happened as big eco organizations like Conservation International (CI) and the Nature Conservancy (NC) began shoveling up hard cash from the world's worst polluters whilst simultaneously burying science based environmentalism. In the middle of a swirl of bogus climate scandals trumped up by deniers, here is the real Climategate waiting to be exposed.
Prior to the 1980s U.S. environmental groups used to be funded largely by members and occasional wealthy individual supporters. Funds were small but Jay Hair, the president of the National Wildlife Federation from1981 to 1995, was dissatisfied. He identified a huge source of revenue: the worst polluters finding big oil and gas companies only too happy to give money to conservation groups. Hair said they sincerely wanted to right their wrongs and pay to preserve the environment and his organization and others began to give companies such as Shell and BP awards for environmental stewardship. In turn these predatory companies were delighted seeing the gesture as 'environmental insurance' knowing that from now on when threatened by government regulation they would wheel out their green awards. This tactic was condemned to begin with and Hair dismissed as a charlatan (by Murray Bookchin?). Nonetheless the rot was setting in big time and the once principled groups began to shrink while the corporate fattened groups began to swell - so they too started pocketing the dollario appropriately doling out praise even when the money was coming from the companies causing the environmental devastation in the first place. The green groups defended their behaviour by saying they were improving the behavior of the corporations, the addiction to corporate cash having changed the green groups at their core.
Then around the millennia we got the big compromise and the scam of the carbon off-set - that having your cake and eating it - alternative. In 1996 a coalition of Nature Conservancy and 3 big corporate polluters, BP, Pacific Corp and American Electric Power set up protected forest area in Bolivia called the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project. They said they would clear out logging companies from 3.9 million acres claiming it would lockup 55 million tons of CO2 which would justify them pumping out an extra 55 million tons. Greenpeace investigated the claim and found some logging companies had just moved elsewhere. This is known as leakage as the same amount of forest was cut down after all and a huge extra amount of CO2 had been pumped into the atmosphere. So the offset had not prevented emissions - it had doubled it!
At the Copenhagen climate change conference debacle of 2010 (see RAP web COP15: On the Failure of Ecology to Analyse and Subvert Suicide Capitalism ) these groups were the most passionate defenders of carbon offset. Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch at the time said, "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. These groups were positioning themselves to be the middlemen in the carbon markets. They are helping to set up in effect a global system of carbon laundering—that will give the impression of action, but no substance. You have to ask, are these conservation groups at all? They look much more like industry front groups to me." To sum up: after decades of slowly creeping corporate entanglement, some of the biggest environmental groups have remade themselves in the image of their corporate backers, increasingly resembling the forces of ecocide draped in a green cloak. It has taken two decades for this relationship to become the norm among the big green organizations. No wonder it was called polluted by profit. Worse still: the little green organizations began imitating this big green bro' antics though often without any money flowing into their coffers. It was simply imitation for imitation's sake.
And so it went on and on....By 2008 the Sierra Club - the biggest green group in the U.S. - was approached by the makers of Clorox Bleach who said if the club endorsed their new range of green household cleaners they would give them a percentage of the take. Christine Macdonald (who worked for Conservation International) said, "Not only do the largest conservation groups take money from companies deeply implicated for environmental crime; they have become something like satellite PR offices for the corporations that support them". Incredibly the Sierra Club tried to stop the restricting of CO2 to 350ppm from becoming law.
Neo-liberalism and the birth of world waste management companies
From the mid 1970s on, what to do with ever-accelerating waste was increasingly driven by a combination of privatization measures and environmental legislation, the market favoring larger companies with the benefits of economies of scale. The interim solution became waste management PFI's (Private Finance Initiatives) and CCT's (Consolidated Contractors Company) as local authorities required considerable investment to meet targets enabling them to move away from traditional reliance on landfill. Redistribution of general tax payers' money simply weren't enough to fund all this, compounded by borrowing restrictions on local authorities so there would / could no longer be community / local authority ownership of incinerators, etc. It was hoped over time these would prove profitable and pay for themselves generating a continuous revenue stream as energy from waste provided attractive opportunity for investors.
For sure the aim of well-intentioned municipal liberals trying to hang-on to a more benign status quo was augmented by the rapidly evaporating emancipatory, intensifying praxis of the late 1960s.What they wanted was a reduction in municipal waste based on a critique of packaging but that quickly proved to be Wobbly Joe Hill's "pie-in-the sky" something too late in the day. Simply put: more packaging (and consumerism) suited the waste multinationals. For them "big is beautiful", the bigger the size of the shit heap, the greater the dividends and truly –as they say up (England's) north "where there's muck there's money". Waste therefore becomes their primary resource, leading to the unprecedented commodification of waste. Formerly waste management was a sector dominated by small businesses and local authorities but by 2001, six companies - largely based in Europe - had almost half of market share and the biggest are as follows:
Cory (consortium of Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese financial groups)
Veolia (France) turnover £1billion plus, 13,000 employees
Biffa (UK) 5, 147 employees
Sita (France) 5. 055 employees
Since then of course, others have joined this select few notably Amey, the Spanish multinational, thrust into the media spotlight with its on-going (2016-7) wholesale attempted destruction- suitably disguised in the rhetoric of sustainababbble - of Sheffield's tree-lined streets resulting in a promising take-off of local direct action preventing this brutal depredation, though more about that later.
In 1992 the waste market was worth £3 billion according to Biffa. By 2001 it was £4.6illion and rose to £16 billion by 2015. All these major companies share a common view on future direction of waste disposal. They put this model in front of their investors emphasizing they are environmental services industries aiming to provide a range of waste management services rather than just concentrating on collection and disposal. AND THERE'S THE RUB and the nexus of eco recuperation press-ganged into the service of commodity production.
Over a 30 year period two phases can be distinguished. The first 19 years is marked by the introduction of markets into municipal services as an end in itself requiring lower taxes and reduction in public expenditure. This also massively entailed an attack on Trad Dad labor organizations honed especially by the Winter of Discontent of 1979-80, that great workers' strike wave and an event of crucial importance in the growth of big garbage in the UK. Ironically in itself the Winter of Discontent wasn't at all controlled by Trad Dad trade unionism but was the greatest wildcat uprising these islands have experienced , an event so drastic that immense measures had to be taken heading in the opposite direction in order to crush its brilliant spirit of defiance. (We can proudly say we probably wrote the best account of that event –underlined by an I was there ambience - which was published relatively recently in that excellent pamphlet, To Delightful Measures Changed - C/f RAP web Notes on The Winter of Discontent. Snowstrikes). Sadly we all know the outcome of that magnificent subversive moment as wildcat strikes along with so much else was from then on virtually outlawed as UK privatization mania kicked-in. But this new tyranny was subtle and often diabolically clever. The worsening of manual labour conditions in a rapidly decreasing state public service sector would in the future be effectively concealed behind environmental grants. Few were able to see through this PR stunt and big garbage if it was to become even bigger required even bigger "wastemakers". Thus the second phase saw the further development of marketisation and monopolization, and according to the requisite blurb "raised environmental standards" (our emphasis) requiring far greater expenditure. Incineration was also increased with an emphasis on a sublimated expression of a 1960s burn baby burn and although the new plant was costly it was attractive to investors because of long term revenue stream. AND THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS!
How the new concern for environment dovetailed with the ideology of privatization.
Big garbage became the politics of pollution control through a new municipal industrial complex and the ideology of privatization was from then on seen as the solution to the custody of the environment and human health. Subsequently financial manipulation was to conceal itself behind an ideology of sustainability and a world without waste and pollution became America's and then Europe's most plentiful resource as the New Wastemakers saw waste as an increasingly valuable commodity.
In the late 1980s further distancing processes from the business culture of traditional industry occurred. Highly skilled and politically well-connected managers replaced corporate acquisitions that excelled more as dealmakers than as custodians of the environment. The entrepreneurial phase of the modern waste disposal industry was thus forced into becoming aggressively manipulative in response to the environment movement and thus the corporate domination of waste trade occurs.
Previously, municipalised waste disposal was under-capitalized, cash poor and garbage disposal firms had little access to credits. Moreover, essentially they had no spare cash to set up such undreamed of luxuries as environmental protection funds and new alternative such as energy from garbage and recycling plants required multimillion even billions of investment. Municipalities also knew they did not have the mandate to balance the enormous cash outlays needed with the considerable revenues that would flow from proper long term waste disposal.
Within the UK municipal waste management was subtly but devastatingly altered. In no time at all the 1980s Tory programme of deregulation and privatization was confirmed by Blairite New Labour in the late 1990s and government intervention was geared to shape the market to meet environmental policy goals. Thus the UK municipal waste market was to become more concentrated than ever with coordination between the big players, Veolia, Biffa, Cory and Sita as the development of a more integrated approach provided economies of scale ironically producing a situation where the growth of local authority responsibility without direct control became a central feature of the marketisation of municipal waste!
The failed revolution of May '68 in France followed by a long, drawn-out ultra-sophisticated recuperation.........
It could be said in retrospect that the dismal life-sapping recuperation following the barricades of May '68 in France has proved to be a lot more enduring than the inspirational uprising itself. Certainly everything has been bent awry no more so than on the eco front - and it's a con from one end to the other. The huge French multinational Veolia waste management and its subsidiaries Sita / Suez / Vivendi are central to this sad state of affairs. Radical spieling and greenwash are central to Veolia's often crude and brutal operations where despite appearances to the contrary, cash is king. Sita / Suez promo's itself with oily seductions describing itself as "a recycling and resource management company with a vision. We want to live in a society where there is no more waste, a society where waste materials are reused, recycled or recovered for their energy content"... "We are at the dawn of a revolution, a revolution in which to challenge is to generate together, a secure and resourceful future for all." Even more mendaciously Veolia has acquired inflections of the most sophisticated radical theory from the German / French Valueists to the Situationists (more than hinting at Vaneigem's use of language??) whereby "every revolution begins at home" as these giant company jokers bang on about the "valorisation of waste" (shades of Robert Kurz here??) as well as desiring a kind of mild situ, "world without waste".
Well, dear reader you might say; "But what's wrong with this? Sounds benign enough if that's all you've got to say".
First though we need a few historical facts regarding Veolia. The multinational's origins go back to 1852 with the founding of a waste company, CGE (Le Compagnie Generale des Eaux). For 100 years the focus was on the water sector. Post the uprising of 1968 and the admittedly sophisticated reaction which followed things rapidly became much worse than they were before the uprising as Vaneigem pointed out in his interesting and revealing book. Self-Portraits & Caricatures of the Situationist International. Capital was changing becoming more international deploying much more aggressive marketing techniques. In the mid 1970s, Le Compagnie Generale des Eaux engaged in a series of takeovers diversifying into waste management, transport, construction and property. It also began to specialize in industrial vehicles which were later divided into Connex and Onyx Environment. In parallel moves CGE expanded into communications and with the deregulation of French telecommunications opened up more into a general media sector. In 1996 CGE changed its name to Vivendi, spinning off its remaining waste and water companies into Vivendi Environment later renamed Veolia Environment which emphasized corporate social responsibility with stress on 'sustainable' development activities. Redirection was everything. Take rubbish sites, garden organics were separated out and collected together and from this Sita now produces a variety of compost and market products for landscaping and horticultural use. It's produced on site then sold to retailers.
By 2012 Veolia had an astounding 318,376 employees in 48 countries though behind the green façade things were beginning to look as black as night. In the MSM limelight one Veolia CEO was convicted and fined $1m for fraud by the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission. However the real nitty-gritty lay elsewhere and well away from selective media spotlight. It quickly became apparent that the company spiel about the environment was only for promo as it reduced workplace environment to levels below safety standards. Moreover, a long history of attempted union busting was coming to light. There were strikes in Los Angeles, Florida, Boston, Sweden and Finland, and in the UK, Sheffield was hit, while in Wilton on Teesside, construction workers protested against low pay at a new energy plant and drivers in Crawley, Sussex in 2013 threatened strike action over a pay cut caused by the threat of a reduced working week. More recently in October 2016 Veolia workers went on strike in Sheffield and immediately the company brought in scabs from London. Around the same time a similar situation occurred in Norfolk...and so it goes on and on, though the eco bodies who benefit from Veolia's 'largesse' or rather reputational insurance, (e.g. Buglife, etc) never mention these inconvenient facts.... But more about these specifics later....
More importantly all the monetarised environmentalism was looking more like a scam. Veolia had rapidly become the world's largest water privatisation business, the thrust of which is discouraging water conservation in communities it is present in as accusations of untreated sewage dumped illegally into waterways came to light. In short, Veolia has built up an extensive history of questionable environmental practices. Even a conservative body like the Environmental Agency in the UK listed Veolia as the second worst polluter in Britain and a NGO like Profit over People have spawned dump Veolia movements. Recently, Veolia has been run out of town in Indianapolis, New Orleans, and in cities in Belgium, Germany, Romania and even Paris – its veritable home territory! Communities have taken back water and transportation systems from Veolia and restored some kind of local council control - minus the essential – an insurgent people taking full control themselves from the base. In Ireland, Veolia went for underhand unpaid internships under Ireland's Job Bridge initiative. Immediately the scheme was opposed by Sinn Fein claiming it amounted to free labor with the threat to withdraw unemployment benefit.
Yet, let's face it, most of 'the public' know nothing about this and the official ecos are no different; praps even some of the dumbest fukkers around swallowing all the 'good works' crap Veolia and others front their operations with! The Insititut Veolia was created in 2001 which the blurb says "has provided insights into major global challenges such as climate change and urbanization". Later, the Veolia Foundation created in 2004, says it supports non-profit activities related to that buzz word of 'sustainable' development. It also supports emergency relief operators in collaboration with humanitarian organisations. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Veolia Foundation dispatched 30 tonnes of emergency supplies - mainly water treatment units. It also has a unit built around social cohesion and job counseling (whatever that means) helping people outside mainstream society find a stable job (are there any left?). Indeed a lasting job is Veolia's priority objective. Since 2004, the Foundation has supported 1,350 projects, half outside France, often providing Veolia Environmental Trust Grants for environmental conservation and bio-diversity protection. Many of these things are partnerships with other big garbage monopolies and official, hierarchical eco organisations just love 'em willingly shutting their eyes to what these companies are really up to and the garbage monopolies eagerly return that love.
"We don't want to occupy the territory; we want to be the territory."
(Nantes ZAD. (ZONE A DEFENDRE) Le Sabot, Brittany 2012)
Perhaps it could be said that the somewhat mass phenomena and, more importantly, ecological coherence enmeshed within a total critique of alienated society that to some degree we find in the French ZADS is way ahead of the rest of the world. ZADS didn't simply appear from nowhere but are a product of that strong streak of subversion that has characterised French society for over two centuries at least. Here we especially point to the influence of the Situationists and the Nuisances collective. Because of this the appearance of the Zadistas has certainly marginalised or perhaps channelled the examples of the Invisible Committee and Tarmac Nine [EXPAND] who initially tended to extract something from the dead end of post modernist celebrities though putting some of the latter concepts to use in a more principled and subversive war against the system; a war that was never the remit of post modernisms' ironizing, (c/f ON THE SPOT REPORTS about Nuit Debout and Strikes plus France in Flames?
As is well known prior to the ZADS, Rene Riesel created a big stir in the mid to late 1990s in that great wilderness around Lozere set amidst the Larzac plateau in south west France. Riesel after playing a significant part in the semi-insurrection of May '68 in France then went through a bad personal breakdown product of the dreadful reaction to that great moment. (It could be said who didn't among those passionately involved in the uprisings of the late 1960s). Well, no matter picking himself up off the ground Riesel departed sophisticated, urbane Paris disappearing into the back of beyond becoming, as time passed, a sheep breeder. By 1991 he had joined a fledging Confederacion Paysanne largely made up of ex 1968 urban insurgents and quite unlike traditionally minded, somewhat god-fearing, peasant outfits. As the years rolled by Riesel along with others, especially José Bové, began to play a significant part in contestation including ecological sabotage in the Narzac area where GM soya bean experiments instigated by the Monsanto Corporation were destroyed. Both were sent to prison but significantly Riesel, unlike Bové, refused to ask the French president, Jacques Chirac for a pardon further criticizing Bové for his new role as rising media personality. Worse was to follow as Bové, became a Green party MEP which led to an irrevocable parting of ways with Rene Riesel. Proudly Riesel refused to become an opportunist remaining as nothing more than a humble sheep breeder though making some brilliant theoretical contributions inextricably connected to his own principled daily existence – some in partnership with Jaime Sempun from Encyclopédie des nuisances. However, instead of elaborating on this subversive contribution it is best here to simply put down relevant URL's for some of Riesel's texts thankfully published by libcom.org:
Never forget we are writing about France here and a guy as terrific as Riesel inevitably quickly attracted the attention of the mainstream media via Le Monde who duly published one of his articles on Dec 4th 2014 (see above). And yes, Un État qui règne au-dessus du volcan is a good article written in collaboration with fellow Nuisance-ista, Jacques Philipponneau referencing (in desperation?) Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano except this is On Top of a Volcano. Opportunism here? Hardly, because not a word has been altered to suit Le Monde's editorial prejudices. Nothing would have been more different if Riesel had had the misfortune to live in UK plc. Not only would The Grauniad have had nothing to do with a guy who in their imperious eyes they'd regard as little more than a buffoon, prankster and vandal. Moreover, even if by the slimmest of chances they had 'allowed' comment from such a no-mark, a bullshit 'moderator' would have altered every other word written by Riesel.
Well, we have never met Riesel, though inevitably influenced by his inspiring example but we know a few who have, never forgetting the exhilarating account of ex Os Cangaceiros Morgane's stay in his remote wilderness dwelling. Memorably Morgane said Riesel's partner – of North African descent – was in her general demeanour very similar to our good semi-Arabic companion Samia in a wild over-the-top constant flow of caustic, ribald comment throwing in comments about sheep-shagger friends. Ah, so at least we have somewhat similar tastes regarding stimulating, delightfully 'mad' companions!
The UK Road Protests in the 1990s
Nonetheless, Riesel and the Nuisances people were aware of the historically contemporary road protests in the UK during the late 1990s and the more recent French ZAD experience has explicitly given them much greater profile, especially in their many accounts of the Nantes Zad which can be found on the Internet. One Zadista recently and accurately noted, "The rise in security costs was one of several factors that decimated UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's megalomaniac road building programme in the 1990's. Following protest camps on numerous road sites – in the trees, on the ground and underground, with ingenious networks of tunnels inspired by the Vietcong; the British government cancelled 700 future projects".
The general problem with the UK road protests of the 1990s was that that their splendid active dynamic was never backed-up or elaborated through high-levels of revolutionary theory. It was action almost without words; a practise divorced from relevant thought and therefore unable to find anything like an on-going coherent praxis. Nevertheless, as we've recently stated, almost 20 years later, these road protests were rightly praised by the French Zadistatas; the latter now considerably relying upon – after throwing off an initial leftish post-modernism – the Situationist critique of space enhanced by the Nuisance-istas. It's made all the difference in the world. For sure – along with a few others in the UK – we have tried to supply some of the missing elements (if you like as a wayward, whimsical addition to the Elements Table) but only to be drowned out in a contemporary sound of silence, deliberately disappeared in an avalanche of trivia which today typifies the Internet. (C/F as mentioned elsewhere those webs related to Bradford's Eco-Peterloo).
However in detail what was this amazing eco protest that has yet to be bettered in these islands?
Up until the 1990s eco protest in the UK hadn't been inspiring in comparison to say America or Germany or the anti-nuclear protests in France. True eco issues were gaining a profile but in a fairly tepid way and organizations came into existence like the Green party and more forcibly, Friends of the Earth but the main thrust came from the growth of species protection groups who accepting the status of charity organizations were enfeebled and limp-wristed from the get-go despite having been influenced at a distance by the direct action-ism of the late 1960s.
Hardly anything prepared us for what was to take-off in the 1990s as the history of previous motorway protests in these islands was indeed feeble in line with the above comments and starkly in contrast with contemporary industrial workers' struggles which often had real cutting edge.
In the late 1960-70s what could be termed ecological protests was more urban such as those against new London motorway proposals proposed by both Labour and Tory governments. They tended to be based on local environmental and social issues especially the breaking up of old, often working class communities, which were to be flattened, erased or, split in two. Other related issues concerned noise and pollution. And although these concerns are still extremely important (if not more so), nothing much really took off (an exception was the Street Farm experiment c/f RAP web:: BRADFORD'S ECO-PETERLOO. TRUBLE UP'T GREEN MILL: A WIDE-RANGING INTRODUCTION ) that tapped into the revitalized spirit of inspiring direct action. More importantly - horrible shades of things to come - the middle classes who'd bought their homes-on-the-hill in those districts heading for demolition objected to elevated motorway sections because they depressed house prices, thus no sign of the abolition of money, prices and property here...quite the contrary!! However, squatting, especially in London council housing stock in comparison had a far greater, imaginative possibility and brilliance, though at times, there was an overlap. Thus, in Notting Hill, Westway protesters –which included a fair number of home owners - were able to afford representation hiring dissident professional transport planners. The result was that the GLC (Greter London Council) dropped their support of other London motorway schemes but it was all achieved in an ever so bureaucratic, behind closed doors, kind of way having nothing of the quality or communality of the magnificent Elgin Avenue squat close by.
But something else was creeping up right behind our backs. From the late 1980s much wider social and environmental concerns were being aired due to the loss of wildlife and natural habitat. Previously environmental impact was not given as much weighting as economic benefits. Then in 1992 at Twyford Down, things really started to take off with a protest against the completion of a section of the M3 motorway from London to the south coast which two years later was to be described as the most controversial British motoring project ever to start construction. IT SURE WAS! And what was the spark? In 1992, two travelers pitched a camp on the down and decided to gather support and the principal arguments of protesters were their concerns about making wildlife species, such as the chalkhill blue butterfly extinct as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) was partially demolished. Other people from all walks of life followed suit and a popular phrase amongst protesters was "I never thought that I would find myself doing something like this". And then jeez, did they get the book thrown at 'em. A very large contingent of G4 security officers had a field day, bashing and thumping people but then the MSM got hold of the story and the violence was immediately screened on prime-time TV. The then Minister for Road and Traffic in 1993 refused to order an inquiry and some protesters received prison sentences for refusing to be bound over or for breaking court injunctions. For instance Rebecca Lush went to Holloway Jail for two weeks in 1992 for breaking an injunction not to return to the protest site. She was then visited by the European Commission for the Environment and later in 1998 she successfully challenged the UK government's breach of the peace legislation in the European Court of Justice. The system was having to back down redressing the loss of 4.7 acres of SSSI, the old route of the A33 was planted with 18 acres of species rich grassland under supervision and monitoring of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.
The cat was out of the bag. Then came the proposal for the Newbury by-pass and in consequence between January 1996 and April 1996 nearly 10,000 mature trees were felled leading to possibly the largest anti-road protest so far in European history in what became known as the 3rd battle of Newbury and the name, in order of succession, chosen with reference to a significant battle which took place here during the English revolution in 1643/44 between the Royalists and Republican insurgents. Interestingly the Bradford post-punk group New Model Army (the name inherited from the Bradford based General Fairfax's insurgent army) commemorated the 3rd conflict in a song Snelsmore Wood though by then Tin Pan Alley had gotten in on the act with Swampy & The Swamp Girls. (Swampy, one of many tunnelers had by then become something of a mythical figure) In short, such inevitable banal recuperation was living proof that the real conflict was dynamic.
The cost of policing reached approx £35 million by December 1996 and an additional £30 million was spent on private security guards and security lighting. Only £7m was budgeted in the original contract but the final cost was £104m against the original contract price of £74m. The Highways Agency blamed cost blow out on protesters. But fuck who cares apart from the damned state with an umbilical cord attached to the heart of the financial elite?
The great stuff was all in the imaginative tactics and the sheer enthusiasm of those mucky protestors themselves who just couldn't stop digging, digging and digging, hence the mud-covered ubiquitous Swampy! And the public loved it along with all the tree-sitting and tree houses named "twigloos" - homemade tents made from hazel covered with tarpaulin known as benders. Many protesters claimed squatters' rights having letters delivered to them by Royal Mail. And then there was the terrific digging of underground tunnels a tactic borrowed from Vietcong as previously stated by the Zadistas. Conflicts between security guards and protesters were widely supported in British media and even mountaineers chipped-in condemning climbers from Richard Turner ltd of Chesterfield who got protesters down from trees even able to present the aforementioned company with a downside award at the British mountaineering festival in Llandudno in 1996.
Equally the official ecos then had no choice but to move their arses. Friends of the Earth put out a statement just before the battle of Newbury was about to begin calling for a campaign of civil disobedience "that would eclipse any other British environmental protest". Ironically, four years earlier in 1992 at the Twyford down protest FoE had argued that protests should be confined to the courts, judicial appeals and the planning process. Tony Juniper then deputy head of campaigns at FoE said, "For weeks people were seen being dug out of tunnels and from trees. Public opinion swung behind the protests and the first thing New Labour did was to cancel road program which would have destroyed something like 80 Triple SSSI's". These direct action protests were picked up around the world and possibly helped radicalize the anti globalization battles in Seattle two years later as well as other anti-globalisation protests. Cathy a former graduate working in marketing just ended up in Newbury and at the time said, "A lot of people like me went there, not so much because it was an environmental protest per se but because it was a way of fighting back against the status quo. We knew we were not just fighting a bypass but the whole political system ...You can't go back to marketing after something like that". Even many ex-army men stumbled into the anti-roads movement. One guy formerly a fruit picker and hod carrier after the battle of Newbury went on to set up Seeds Trust an environmental education charity that works with schools and adults with learning difficulties. Nowadays Greenpeace, FoE, The Campaign to Protect Rural England, Transport 2000, the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, and all the other major environmental groups have Newbury veterans working with them.
A simple engineering job taking a few months ended up costing £75m, £5m to police and £25m for 800 security guards. 35 protest camps were built high in trees, one called Middle Oak and not to be confused with Middle Earth pagans, when it comes to real protest, opting to cast spells not stones. John Major's Tory government cleared 350 acres of largely 'protected' ancient landscape and Swampy is now a 'happy' family man in Wales! The huge budget overrun caused the cancellation of 600 schemes, the Labour government abandoning the multi billion program when it was returned to power in the landslide victory of 1997.
But the stunning victory immediately had a sinister side which has proved to be on-going, unimaginable calamity. The roads protest marked a turning point in the funding of eco groups by big business that would now start to fall over themselves when it came to taking out this 'green' insurance blinder. This insidious patronage would have a deeply corrosive effect on the green movement, the conservation of nature becoming more and more identical with the survival of capitalism. In 1998 there had been a sit-in protest against the Bingley by-pass in West Yorkshire because, amongst other things, it went through Bingley South Bog, an ecologically sensitive area. 14 years later and not one local 'eco' came to our aid when a remarkable urban wildlife site was ruthlessly laid waste to by Sustrans / Bradford Council in the name of regeneration, the real target the privatisation (social cleansing) of the Windhill council estate. To local /national conservation bodies, including the Green party, we, nature and the tenants of Windhill were the problem, not the developers. A betrayal of fundamentals like this has few parallels in history and acts as a warning, recalling how supposedly 'internationalist' social democratic parties voted for war credits when the First World War broke out in 1914.
It could be said that the Battle of Newbury was the major event in creating the now high profile species preservation organization Buglife who getting involved, discovered on the site, the rare Desmoulins Whorl Snail which almost halted the building of the by-pass. The outcome was that a mealy-mouthed English Nature zoomed in and the snail was translocated to allow the 30 mile route to be rebuilt. The new location wasn't properly maintained and according to Buglife, Environment Agency budget cuts killed the whorl snail. Condemning English Nature for climbing into bed with the state sponsored Highways Agency; Buglife was to react by going in search of private funding becoming increasingly beholden to corporate capitalism, Buglife morphing into Bugdeath.
A little later and the South Essex Stepping Stones eco-project was funded by the Heritage Lottery and a Cory / Veolia, North Thames Trust. And the former dissident organization Buglife that grew out of late 1990s UK roads protests happily climbed into bed with them. A Buglife leaflet, December 2014 signed by Steve Backshall, Buglife vice president said the following: "Overall, 115 hectares of open mosaic habitat has been created and the conservation management of 460 hectares of Essex land has been improved (that's equal to 36.5 Chelsea flower show grounds). [Eek! Proves where these people are at in drawing such a horticultural display analogy]. The Stepping Stones project was underpinned by well attended bug hunts, workshops and community wild life events. These helped increase the invertebrate knowledge in the region, and ultimately reconnected people with nature and one another". Backshall then goes on to praise a similar project – a Cory / Veolia project nearby and a site strongly influenced by old time industrial activity contaminated with hydro carbons. Moreover, heavy metals have effectively delayed natural succession. However, varied topography, underlying materials and an absence of management have allowed a structurally diverse vegetation mosaic to develop. After some sensitive ecological tinkering as free draining soils were introduced, the site was cleverly and 'creatively' called Untidy Industries after new sand and chalk area was introduced in and among what is called "a periodic disturbance regime". Furthermore, according to Backshall, "Untidy Industries is a former vehicle wrecking yard and waste tire centre in Basildon the size of 4 football pitches and a partnership of Buglife, Natural England and Basildon Council with help from Wat Tyler Country Park. Hydrocarbons and heavy metals had contaminated soils and constrained any future developments .... [now] it hosts an amazingly varied group of bugs [Brown banded carder bee ,Shrill carder bee, Horned yellow faced bee, etc] Together with local partners we transformed it into a flower embellished haven for its rare insects. We welcomed the public onto the site for the first time and safeguarded it from development for 25 years".
Meanwhile Buglife has recently received £98,000 thanks to the players of People's Postcode Lottery. The funding boost from Postcode Local Trust will enable Buglife to develop and expand the national B-Lines network. Glass ceiling feminist Germaine Greer has now become Buglife's president illustrating yet again how celebrities have taken over from relatively anonymous eco intervention. To their credit Buglife in abandoning such things as silly butterfly and bee garden schemes - usually situated in some horticulturised set-aside total isolation - has more realistically adopted the practical notion of connecting eco corridors through their #beesmakeitgreen even though sadly instigating tame forms of city greening, when what's necessary is the creation of autonomous groupuscules dedicated to an open-ended, free form jazz-like, city wilding.
Buglife's target audience is children entertaining them through forms of "family friendly" pursuits involving a coming together of arts and sciences via an aesthetically-oriented nature suitably funded from charities and businesses. Their flagship project entitled Cold-blooded and Spineless is in the north Pennines project where, according to Buglife blurb, "Schoolchildren and artists have been busy around the shores of Derwent Reservoir in Northumberland, creating a Creepy Crawl trail that encourages walkers, anglers and visitors to discover more about our incredible invertebrates. A stone carving of a Juniper shield bug (Cyphostethus tristriatus) and a bejewelled mosaic of a Golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) are just two examples of the species highlighted on this family friendly trail."
As befits a PPFI, the North Pennines project is funded via the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northumbrian Water Ltd and such funding control means – despite been applied to a more relevant form of nature conservation - that the outcome is an anodyne, pretty, pretty scheme more greenwash than an ineluctably explosive, genuine ecological intervention like for instance we experienced and subsequently exposed in the Bradford Eco-Peterloo webs when confronting the brutal depredations of the Shipley and Canal Rd Area Action Plans. In exposing this holocaust we were stigmatised vilified and cast out (the archetypal Unforgiven) unless we were prepared to crawl back into their decrepit fold on our hands and knees). A few years later and the authorities have moved towards the inevitable dismal recuperation. Their revived plan now contains proposals for a "nectar highway" and "butterfly express" whatever the fuk that means and which is possibly nothing more than a bit of 'eco' planting business for the hipster Wakefield Eco Unit. In short no different from Dunnet's eco Fauvism of gaudy flower displays lulling passive onlookers –i.e. stoopid suckers – into something like the final amendment of the Big Sleep.....
The huge Cory waste multinational also supports a number of environmental bodies through landfill communities' trust but there again so does Biffa and a Biffa award is from £10,000 to 50,000 and managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. The criterion is that the project site is within 7 miles of a significant Biffa operation and within 10 miles of any licensed landfill site – and there are plenty of these in a remodeled, park and ride, Thames Gateway. Thus Buglife was able to push for the latest official eco solutions – corridors – and to focus on bees through B-Lines. According to a Buglife official, "B Lines are an imaginative and beautiful solution to the loss off flowers and pollinators. They link existing wildlife areas together, creating a series of wildlife-rich habitat stepping stones. They link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network that will weave across the landscape.........We are working with a variety of partners to demonstrate how a joined up approach can help our native insect pollinators ....... Funding from the Sita Trust, Biffa and Cory environmental trust has been fundamental in kick-starting our nationwide version of B Lines (our emphasis). Since our Yorkshire b-lines project in 2011, B-lines have been extended into Cumbria, Lancashire, County Durham, Greater Manchester, Norfolk, etc". And so the blurb goes on......
For instance £66, 000 came from the same company SITA (obviously off-set against tax returns) to reintroduce the Grizzled Skipper butterfly into five suitable sites in Nottinghamshire. And to top it all, Biffa is owned by the Montagu hedge fund, its landfill is a PR job and the Groundwork outfit that wilded part of Wormwood Scrubs in London is managed by ex-finance directors. And so it goes on and on and on.......
What really has been the outcome of this ecological slip-sliding? Initially brave, imaginative, inspiring autonomous actions pulled the established green organizations (they had not yet become part of the 'new' establishment) around from their passive, legalistic, somewhat ossifying disposition taking on more combative stances going for something a bit more like a do or die 'commitment'. Initially it worked well enough even though it was only a passing moment. Sadly – and this is the important point - once the momentum of direct on the ground or rather, underground action evaporated, many fine people joined the freshly re-invigorated official green bodies hoping they could create something more lasting having an even greater impact. Yet again, the old saw of partyism was the sad outcome of faltering direct action. At the same moment something unexpected was happening to official greenery as they became susceptible to the growing agenda of neo-liberal green marketing; to deal making and coalitions modeled on the neo-liberal PPP's and PFI's; something perhaps like an imitation of more bare-faced capitalist mergers and acquisitions. Money began to role in quickly as predatory anti-environmental companies headed for "reputational insurance" mode via a huge image clean-up oriented towards hipper sales hype with the aim of increasing market share. A few years later such coalitions were able to destroy the often nature-rich bare-back colliery spoil heaps –those 'landscapes of contempt' without a voice raised against them never mind instigating even minority direct activism. Sadly only our films remain as a bleak reminder, marginalized and purposely virtually buried, stigmatized almost as psychotic interpretations of what according to the new green powers that be, 'benignly' took place. A new samizdat was being born in response to growing neo-liberal totalitarianism.
In the late 1990s the anti-car movement Reclaim the Streets in Britain really was the heir to the road protests though as a movement it was taking place within and through a higher level of praxis combining more sophisticated theory deploying posters, etc., harking back to situationist like communications and montages redolent of the late 1960s in France even though the stylistic marker was influenced more by the 1990s rave scene in the UK. More importantly Reclaim the Streets was picking up on the capitalizing of greenery. This was signified via a guerrilla gardening invasion of Parliament Square in April 2001followed by an action at the Natural History Museum around the perceived greenwash and corporate rebranding of BP that was sponsoring an exhibition about climate change. Unfortunately this action created a slew of stupid "art not oil" protests (Tate Gallery, etc) when art / industry / finance capital are now an inseparable triad. We await the final apocalyptic crash of the whole sickening lot of 'em...
Real Nature gives way to Reel Nature
An ineluctable development? But isn't it more about progress in domestication encompassing arenas never encompassed before making them benign, insipid and tame, inseparable from the parking and lawning of landscape totality, urban and rural alike? Isn't it about the drastic reduction of experience within life itself, basically Disney-fying and infantilizing, press-ganging everything 'green' into an ultra policed, narcissistic space? The absolute lie of reel nature didn't hit us square in the gob until five years into the new millennia marking the moment when the photo-shopping of reality in cyberspace was developing almost at the speed of light. Previously all we had was David Attenborough as if that filmed phantasy of nature abundance wasn't bad enough. (C/f RAP web:ROTTENBUGGER: aka David Attenborough
This deeply damaging shift in outlook was accompanied by far reaching technological changes, resulting in an unprecedented mediatification of nature. In 1996 the Discovery Channel teamed up with the BBC to launch Animal Planet. By 2006 it was a media colossus extending into 170 countries with 1.5 billion subscribers. In 1997 National Geographic mag launched a 24 hour cable channel devoted to nature, science and the arts, now boasting an audience of 160 million viewers in 140 countries, its global reach enhanced by its partnership with Digger Murdoch's Fox Cable Networks. In 2005 March of the Penguins released by Warner Brothers Entertainment would gross $127m in worldwide sales. At the moment of its demise, nature breaks all box office records -and no one in the media dare say it is a key contributory factor to it.
In the mid-1990s TV's Discovery Channel rapidly expanded into the global communications marketplace and in1996 joined forces with the BBC to launch Animal Planet. Later in the same year Discovery Channel International became a media giant extending into 170 countries due in large part to an earlier partnership with Fox cable networks created in 2001. Altogether these resulted in nature eye candy and action packed adventure stories catapulting Steve Irwin (the crocodile hunter) to fame. Moreover, a kind of passive audience participation was becoming more skillfully manipulative and the Glasgow Media Group found that younger audiences wanted more informal less serious nature shows – hence animal sex shows, animal fights, etc.
The pivotal moment when nature really did become a form of passive entertainment came with the 2005 cinematic release of March of the Penguins directed by Luc Jacquet and produced by Warner Bros. At last Hollywood had found nature though in reality had found it wanting and demanded it be technically improved upon. March of the Penguins grossed earnings of $77 m in USA becoming the second highest grossing documentary behind Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 which grossed world-wide sales of $127m. More importantly March of the Penguins became a favorite among American conservatives as eco this time round really did lose its radical edge. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, it was a universal story of love and devotion crafted as much by clever scriptwriters as it was drawn from nature. Birds buttressed faith in god and traditional family values. Shit, things were going really wrong......
In 2007 Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar for best documentary and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the former American vice-president, a changing momentum that also fostered the birth of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the same year Sundance Channel launched The Green focusing on stories of eco heroes and visionaries endlessly calling the public to take environmental action. No wonder people everywhere were beginning to think eco = revolution was a ridiculous notion; we were pushing at an open door: capitalism and the state wanted the same thing as the eco subversives. Shit, how clever the system was becoming........ (Truth to tell –revealing the absurdity of the age - one of us saw An Inconvenient Truth in a brilliant tree-dwelling encampment next to Southend-on Sea's burgeoning airport development and a camp set up to stop the expansion covering up the burial ground of an 8th century Saxon king. The film was a resounding success whilst the camp was raised to the ground).
Everything in nature now had to become upbeat; not only TV and films but the magazines dished-out quarterly, half-yearly or yearly by multifarious nature species organizations (and the UK has the largest number of such dumb-fuk, useless organizations in the entire world). All we had to do was imbibe the same level of something like drug-high stupidity. Criticism, dissenting voices, even simple democratic discussion had become a virtual criminal offence. The backdrop to all of this was simple: wildlife films have largely become escapist fantasy - an industry driven by ratings, profits, and entertainment values. Bad news causes audiences to fall away. Truth on the simplest level was from now on to be viciously repressed. Nonetheless all this provoked something like a wide questioning of the value of the media as a force for environmental change, even if sadly, it was an insipid questioning without oomph and in 1997 BBC wildlife film maker Stephen Mills said, "as long as we sustain the myth of nature our programs find a wide and appreciative audience". Wow that was really punchy, wasn't it?
We only have to make a quick list of some of the greenwash shit to follow to get some idea of the dreadful age we were entering. In 2006, Happy Feet became something like an animated sequence to the former March of the Penguins though this time the environmental message was disliked by the right. Nevertheless, the film spectacular out-bigged Casino Royale though in fact both were intimately connected: greed and green had become good for public image.This deeply damaging shift in outlook was accompanied by far reaching technological changes, resulting in an unprecedented mediatification of nature. A few years previously in 1996 the Discovery Channel teamed up with the BBC to launch Animal Planet. By 2006 it was a media colossus extending into 170 countries with 1.5 billion subscribers. In 1997 National Geographic mag launched a 24 hour cable channel devoted to nature, science and the arts, now boasting an audience of 160 million viewers in 140 countries, its global reach enhanced by its partnership with Digger Murdoch's Fox Cable Networks. At the moment of its demise, nature breaks all box office records -and no one in the media dare say it is a key contributory factor to it.
In 2007 with Arctic Tale, a joint production between National Geographic and Paramount Classics featuring cute "veggie wannabees" there was an attempt to create a new genre "the wildlife adventure" cinéma vérité. Narrated by hip-hops first lady, Queen Latifah it followed the lives of Nanu the polar bear cub and Sela the walrus pup from birth to motherhood. Cleverly and with sickening smarm the film ends with kids saying they intended from now to "help save the lives of people and animals all over the world". But through what? Most likely some acceptable charity that thieves a third of the proceeds? Starbucks also got in on the act instantly seizing the opportunity to promote the film throughout its 6,800 outlets enhancing the coffee chains green image nearly ten years after some of their aesthetic food environments – hip foci of on-going gentrification - had been physically attacked during the splendid battle of Seattle in 1998. Starbucks had probably noted that unlike the March of the Penguins, Arctic Tale was attempting to connect the stories of animal and human lives and was more in line with their slick promo retailing which extracts the dosh from humans' pockets.
Moreover, never forget that Seattle 1998 was a hugely successful moment, the demonstrators succeeding in suspending the World Trade Organisation conference. It needed the soft coup following 9/11, to put the genii back in the bottle. But in the meantime, and as an essential part of the counter revolution, the theatricalisation of nature would massively increase and audiences the world over would become increasingly absorbed and pacified by this media circus of bread and nature to the exclusion of every external stimulus: welcome to the commoditised world of nature, folks, where reel nature substitutes for real nature and a cornucopia of representation covering up a fast disappearing truth.
To top it all, in 2008 the Walt Disney Company announced it was back in business making nature films noting well that environmental subjects were capturing a large market share of non-fiction film and Arctic Tale was improving the corporate image of producers and sponsors with the message it's hip to be green and by going to the cinema we are helping save the world. Yep, all you had to do now to be active was to be a passive consumer! The ground was being prepared for social media and the triumph of web-based participatory prat-tivism via the scourge of present times: CLICTIVISM.
The bridge to this wretched moment was via the film Sharkwater as we all climbed aboard the good ship Sea Shepherd with the aim of transforming the public image of sharks as savage predators to endangered mega fauna. The director, Rob Stewart, used web based marketing strategies like YouTube, My Space, the Viral Video and Facebook (aka Arsebook). A little later and an eye witness video, The Battle at Kruger was placed on YouTube and 28 million people watched it. It was also accompanied by 25,000 posted comments! This was it, the big breakthrough we'd all been waiting for! Apart from it wasn't. It was merely a more engaging (augmented) passivity as anybody who directly engages in attempted eco transformation will tell you. Getting down and dirty with real confrontation in mind means all eco goody two shoes literally somehow vaporize in front of your eyes. Ghosts and zombies everywhere, ghosts and zombies transfixed by Iphones........
All Space today is truly Occupied by the Enemy
We now have a uniform urban landscape more or less imitated by a uniform suburban landscape which in its turn is imitated by a uniform rural landscape. Nowadays it's as if there's hardly any point in travelling only to see things you've seen a million times before. Everything is mired in boredom, stasis and social glaciations. You might as well shut your eyes forever for what there is to see that could be remotely called stimulating and fresh. It's an impasse endlessly playing on Raymond Roussel's journey through Argentina decades ago in a taxi with the window blinds down. Everywhere we see nothing but vistas of consumption and thoroughfares. As for the countryside, we see nothing but arid green spaces of set-aside or insecticide drenched crops along with arenas of strimmed grass for recreation and parking; photoshoped images made real; thin unbearable shaped hills of an ever-extending domesticated habitation spectacle. The exchange value of urban space has become far more important than its social or natural value. And we cannot add culture to this mix simply because culture is over and out, i.e. heritage sites / industrial parks are victims of commodification and trivialization for tourist industry gain; frozen set pieces as if in an Iceland super market; former public spaces of an ever-extending privatised designer-cum-police control.
Voids and the loss of voids
There's no wilderness left in these islands in any acceptable sense of the term and nature is more under attack in these islands than possibly elsewhere in the world. Losing its way for centuries even Romanticism in the 19th was witnessing the last moments of looming extinction; a many nuanced visceral reaction to imminent death. In truth though wilderness was slowly morphing, in the process of being redefined by urban neglect and growing industrial decay, marked essentially by a working class on the brink of extinction superseded by automation, vagabond, or precarious – stretched to the limits of existence, possibly entering a void unprecedented in history. Today, former industrial landscapes resonate with messages of failure heavy with memories of human exploitation and environmental negligence oddly often becoming places of great 'beauty' – in the sense of Lautreamont's redefinitions, rich in unknowable opportunities and not only nature-rich; places where the time of commodity production is in suspension pointing to a new concept of time where it's possible to reflect on future landscapes that can be experimental, human (via a revolutionary redefinition of humanity) innovative and pregnant with multiform possibilities. It's where 'ugly' becomes the convulsive beauty Andre Breton desired in Nadja; a new convulsive psychogeography that has nothing to do with aesthetics.
These terrrain vagues were initially observed by on-the-lam photographers between the early 1950s to the 1970s conveying the beauty of abandoned spaces, noting that vague in French also means oscillation, instability, fluctuation. These spaces were absent of use ineluctably conjuring up a sense of freedom and expectancy - the space of the possible. They were becoming the most attractive part of a hugely urban landscape which is by enlarge the spatial measurement of the UK almost in its entirety; attractive because nobody had ever done anything here at least from the moment of decline onwards; a terrain fitting perfectly (and purr-fectly) the age of never work beckoning towards a new form of free activity where robots do most of the misery-making tasks, though only if capitalism is superceded in its entirety by a re-awakening of the peoples' of the world the likes of which we've never known.
As if sensing this possibility, authorities' world-wide feel threatened, realising these remarkable new wildernesses must be destroyed at all cost. Total war has therefore been declared on these terrain vagues, these "landscapes of contempt"; a process especially intensifying since the early noughties. Industrial ruins are largely understood by bureaucrats, city promoters and planners in particular as offensive to the character and aesthetics of the city and aesthetics matter more than ever in urban 'green' makeover. Basically they are imagined as sites of urban disorder and drug abuse where vandals and the homeless are drawn to wilfully ignoring their soul-full ambience as places one can withdraw to.... to linger and reflect. More importantly, they challenge the apparent safety of redevelopments where the uncanny must remain repressed.
But hang-on is this quite true? Isn't recuperation also making its mark here as a generation of designers, artists and skillfully wayward town planners have modified this rigid stance influenced in turn by the amount of bumph books that has come out on psychogeography, situationists et al? These creatures instead of journeying down the path of the negative towards great conclusions stop half way and smoke um pipe of peace with the powers that be keeping their decadent professions sickenly intact. For sure they discover the uncanny and sublime in wastelands only to turn 'em over into anodyne adventure playgrounds.
For sure it's not only the UK but wherever gentrification is taking its toll....
And wasn't a marker on this route to nowhere the Manhattan High Line in New York? The old disused elevated railway through Manhattan was long regarded as an eyesore; a long winding den of muggers and drug addicts that should be pulled down. Others more enlightened wanted to save this industrial ruin and their critical moment occurred in the long fight to save the High Line when Joel Steinfield published photos he took of the abandoned rail line in the millennium year. It was then said, "The haunting beauty of wild grasses growing on railway lines in the middle of the city captured the public imagination and helped galvanize support" and architectural firm Diller Scofidio & Renfo won the competition to redesign the High Line in 2004 with the "aim to create and preserve experiences of slowness, other worldliness and distraction as written about when featured at [New York's] Museum of Modern Art". Their design was conceived as an "organic ad flexible parts that will change with innovative use of plants and the spontaneous ways the public use the site." Thus art galleries and bo-ho ways of living played the gentrifiers' dirty game all over again!
It would seem the future began here as "landscapes of contempt" after "landscapes of contempt" became landscapes of content even from four years ago. In webs related to Bradford's Eco-Peterloo especially Bradford's Eco-Peterloo. Briggate: Dial M for Murder (Photos) the former amazing lignite mines between Berlin and Dresden were mentioned with something like wonder as one of most extreme and inspiring post industrial landscape in Europe today. It had been said that this "indeterminate landscape evokes the quality of the sublime so recently lost to us with the impact of tourism on overused wilderness". Fine, yet what has happened in the meantime? Yep flattened and made anodyne like some English Home and Garden colour supp replete with nice lakes and water features and ever so nice for some stupid apology for family life recreation. Tragic.
It seems to be that the failure of planners and designers to grasp the significance of spontaneous flexible and innovative development in public space highlights how much can be learnt from informal activities on wastelands is no longer quite the case. They have changed just enough to give their shitty roles a renewed lease of life; in fact ever since Nigel Dunnett in 2014 placed a burnt out car in a designer garden display for the Hampton Court Flower Show calling at the same time for "revolution" thus engaging in the now obligatory classic form of recuperation!!!. (In parenthesis we couldn't help but feel he'd read our Bradford Eco-Peterloo webs especially Bradford's Eco-Peterloo. Urban Unnatural Histories ; never forgetting that Dunnet played a major role in the atrocious northern pit spoil makeovers before the consumer wilding expo horror story of The Queen Elisabeth Park in East London's Stratford). Hipster capitalism with its endless search for 'creative' novelties to be purveyed and sold at ever higher prices has become a substitute new sublime. In consequence of this absurdity the ruins of the countryside and classical Rome are nothing in comparison to the adventures of say, Stalker, an Italian collective of activist architects and artists seemingly pointing towards the transcendence of art and architecture!! Stalker has initiated numerous prospects in abandoned urban spaces as self-appointed custodian guides and creators for these sites suggesting they are recovering within the profound heart of the city, the wild, the non-planned, the nomadic. Stalker argues that the most effective 'cure' for abandoned spaces is to leave them alone to be overtaken by nature and to be appropriated by those people who have nowhere else to go. But with this esthetic promo inevitably what's the going price? And is it much more than George Clarke's endless Amazing Spaces British Channel 4 TV programme; spaces that never get beyond the banal privatized non-solution where money is still the anchor.
Postscript & Sheffield-on-the-lam
This text is to be (hopefully) followed by wilding accounts interspersed with Lollard mumblings and laziness with nature as the fecund backdrop of rich human strange meeting; those chance encounters we are so much in need of in today's intensified alienation. In a way this juxtaposition was first coherently outlined in the ramblings of Lautreamont's utterly meaningful wild word improvisation in the 1860s. Lost and forgotten this method was reinstated some 70 years later in Aragon's Surrealist Traité du Style and thus readied for practical breakthrough outside of decomposing aesthetics and the written word opening up onto subversive terrains involving today greater and greater knowledge of nature's intricacies and waywardness; a path that helps lead towards the totality of genuine insurrection. First though here are some wonderful tasters from the Traité:
"The ferns! You are at home here. Your kingdom extends whenever these eerie plants appear, revealing in their abundance an untrustworthy subsoil and stagnant waters where the reader loses his way. Sphinx sentences of moss and moths. Osiers, marchantias, buttercups, plants that thrive in dark, dubious places, where a footstep will suddenly reveal a marsh, where the ochre earth will suddenly give, and beneath the low hanging branches of a haunted wood, the sprites of the deep slither and slide".
"Do not forget the splendours of the soil, where there is nothing to attract the painter's eye. Treasures of debris, beechnuts, straw, rolled leaves, shards of glass, dung, insects, and above all, dust dust, dust. Precious shavings. I am the jeweller of fallen matter, the setter of useless scraps".
"I ask the sifters for their chaff and the sieves for their mud once the gold has been removed".
"I gave Cleopatra mushy peas and she was ecstatic. Oh, the hydrangeas cannot hold a candle to the splendour of rat fur".
"The fate of fabrics which even the second-hand dealer has scorned illuminates with memories from bygone balls the heaps of garbage that are preferable to the dancers themselves".
"I speak the language of ruins where suns and rubble exist side by side".
Alas, Aragon couldn't get beyond the style in itself and finally after much agonizing, he emphasized the need above all else for quality literary writing as the rubble – the detritus – that is always part of revolutionary truth was cast aside. This was alas Aragon's initial failure beyond which lay the road to exactly the wrong ruin joining a Stalinoid French Communist party as well as desiring the literary honours the French state endlessly confers on miscreants who turn into respectable bourgeois. Aragon was no exception to the rule burying his promising initial insights as he went on to cobble together banal social realist novels and other such trash in a similar vein.
Today Lautreamont's poetic,contrary diction is marginalised as nature everywhere is described in the anodyne language of greenwash as the drip, drip, drip of the sixth extinction remorselessly proceeds on its way. All this is a perfect disguise the more nature in the raw is surreptitiously declared the enemy and its killers are on everyone's doorsteps always clothed in devilish disguises not least that of an imperious Health and Safety Executive ever ready to deviously protect capitalisms' immediate interests. Blood-curdling experiments serviced by giant waste multinationals are now commonplace with the goal of realising a spurious nature master race of unadulterated DNA whereby all 'illness' along with a kind of newly made-up origins of the species must be eliminated. If you don't believe this is the case, simply take a look at the following photos of trees stripped bare of their true character as a Care for Trees sub contracted outfit gets out the familiar chainsaw. Some call this pruning but isn't it mutilation and all about preserving property values along with the obligatory 4by 4 in the driveway?
Surely the time has come to destroy these latter day Nature Mengele's who now seem to be superseding the original experiments against Jews, Romany's, Twins, etc. (Well, with maybe the exception of twins for hadn't the Inuit always rather insightfully put the second born out on the ice? On the other hand the Native American Chippewa's of Montana, Wisconsin and Michigan believed twins were related to the Thunderers or Thunders who climbed through dizzyingly high clouds.... ) As for the fekking Wise Twins???? A bad jjjjjjoke.
If we are in luck maybe we are again on the cusp of revolutionary eco / social critique. Is what is happening in Sheffield on two separate fronts a pointer in the right direction? Well, yes and no, though rather than go into the ins and outs of this rebellion especially the revolt of the trees emanating from the rich, leafy suburbs fringing the Derbyshire Dales it's better perhaps to provide a few links so readers can come to their own conclusions. (C/F two Facebooks: STAG. Sheffield Tree Action Group and Sheffield Tent City) So far the Nether Edge revolt cannot be compared with the real edge of the 1990s motorway protests. Although a breakthrough, STAG is confined by legality and self-limitation restricting itself too much to trees in combating the brutal plan of AMEY, another big waste multinational destroying nearly every living, breathing tree in sight. Inevitably, the multinational is supported by Sheffield Council which speedily deployed crude divide and rule tactics proclaiming that Sheffield workers wanted the tree lined streets destroyed because they were a health hazard. This was immediately exposed as a lie as an open-ended passionate discussion took place on STAG's Facebook. Unfortunately this proved to be a double-edged sword as soon after STAG acquired a moderator who quickly deleted some of the best of the new stuff beginning to appearing on their Facebook threads such as comments from ZAD influenced individuals in France to anarchists who posted up some good cartoons captioned with re-arranged Lichtenstein-like good slogans. (Ah yes, that old time, quintessentially damned English disease had kicked-in yet again: that patrician elite superiority founded on the PUBLIC SCHOOL, in this instance the aforesaid unelected moderator there to curb the excesses of the great unwashed). Nonetheless despite this setback there's an invigorating drift in STAG but when will the real constraints be broken with the moderator sacked allowing perhaps the rebirth of total critique and praxis? Across the city in the centre of Sheffield there's a burgeoning movement of the homeless and destitute where a pop-up tent city – amongst other imaginative tactics – has been deployed on big road traffic roundabouts. These two movements - one from the relatively well-off, the other from the dirt poor – are aware of each other. We wait – and hope for – the fecund moment of concrete overlap
Above: a bark covered finger-up tree branch and anarchist Lichtenstein-ish cartoon
Above: Julie Dore, boss of Sheffield City Council Above: A bit of Tent City on a Sheffield city centre roundabout
Anonymous guerrilla/gorillaz intervention on hands-on Nameless Wilding sites
Well over a decade and a half ago we began by refusing compromise with all official eco organizations merely playing them for certain ends whenever it was deemed necessary deploying this tactic only after much bitter experience with these bodies. Also childhood was returning with another twist on playing, one of secret haunts and passages among urban / industrial decay that made our childhood a practical materialized fantasy; one without parental guidance ever dodging the police and the gadgy. We knew from then on it meant going it alone and we still continue to create our own path; still making our necessary mistakes in non-hierarchical collaboration; a coming together packed with open-ended, never-ending practical discussion in a kind of ambience of action-within–dissident, endlessly evolving opinion when not mouthing off against greenwash arseholes. Out of the necessary mistakes also at times have come brilliant successes. On the most banal level the organic organizations / compositions we have experimented with and which we propose to others means these autonomous bodies cannot be led by local council appointees or what have you who only redirect effort into compensatory bodies alleviating government austerity measures. We are not in the job of litter picks, mending fences, etc. Our remit is scientifically informed habitat creation the likes of which have never been known which fully includes free form human habitation, whether it be poor immigrants who have nowhere to live or people who simply want to live within nature and are against the commoditised home. What we have in common is opposition to the baneful remits of the developmental agenda. However, none of this habitat creation can be too cavalier and we would suggest it should be – to begin with at any rate - a more precise extension of Keats' "negative capability" – that seeing into the life of things - encouraging the organic (inseparable from our/ yourself) on the way to who knows where? As a rule of thumb no grants will be on hand or available to us for ours (or yours) is the path of dumpster addition; of ingenious, creative, daring translocation, etc. Grants are for greenwash hogwash. Real intervention means you will be denied dosh, so better to find new, more ingenious ways of robbing banks of their unreal hordes of fiat currency to pay for whatever is needed. It's all as simple and as complex as that......
Above: Zad house and Wormwood Scrubs installation
Above: Woolley Colliery slogans
Below: Wind 'em up on The Scrubs
Anonymous guerrilla/ gorillaz 2017